The Best Wine Bars in San Francisco
From edgy natural wine bars to urban wineries and more, here’s where to get a glass around SF.
San Francisco is a drinking town. We love our Fernet and have more than 20 local breweries in our little 7x7 city. As for wine — well, being surrounded by wine country basically requires us to have a bevy of wine bars as well. Plus, the proliferation of funky natural and biodynamic wines looks like it’s here to stay, at least for a while. Natural wines come from minimal-intervention processing, with no additives or adulterations, including pesticides, herbicides, or commercial yeast. “Skin contact” and “zero zero” are terms to ask your winetender about. Biodynamic wines are made according to a holistic farming philosophy—basically how wine was made before modern technology.
The new kids on the wine bar block are also leaving the stuffy attitudes in the past, with places offering chill drinking experiences without the pretension of wine country. Combine the natural and chill trends for the city wine experience de rigueur. That said, there are still also old favorites offering familiar sips to love, whether in a candlelit nook for a date, or a big cellar for loud happy hours. Here are some of our favorites.
Cantina Los Mayas
This brand-spanking new wine bar deserves early accolades for doing something that probably no other U.S. wine bar is doing — serving exclusively Mexican wines. San Franciscans are already born with a love of Mexican food, so why not also the wines? Mostly from the Valle de Guadalupe in Baja California, the proximity to the sea lends a slight ocean taste to the natural and conventional wine list. Try the Isabella from Emeve, an interesting white blend of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and viognier. Since the wine bar is the brainchild of folks behind nearby Taqueria Los Mayas, the food is also a big draw. The Yucatean menu includes Paunchos (Mayan crispy tacos), and Pipian Con Pato (squash seed puree over seared duck).
Linden & Laguna
R.I.P. champagne and caviar bar The Riddler, but yay for its replacement of Linden & Laguna. Just opened in 2021 in the corner, Parisian-style beaux arts building, Linden and Laguna focuses on independent, family-produced Californian wines like Ministry of the Interior’s spicy Russian River pinot noir. There are also craft beers and local bites, like a clam dip served with homemade chips. Sidle up to the gorgeous marble bar, get close at the tiny tables, or enjoy more space and fresh air in the parklet.
Those who mourned the closure of The Hidden Vine in 2020 should be happy to know that the proprietor of the wine bar that took its place in 2021, the San Francisco Wine Society, was actually the manager of The Hidden Vine. More importantly, the outdoor bocce ball court in the neighboring alley is still there and open for reservations. The bar might also have the best parklet in the city, mimicking a vintage home library complete with plush velour seating, a 1980s cassette player, and two (reservable) electronic fireplaces—enjoy it while you can, sadly, the parklet will close at the end of the year due to repeated vandalism. If the glass and bottle lists look intimidating, the flights menu has cheeky themes to guide you, like several dedicated to 2022 goals such as “Learn to Speak Spanish” (includes a Viognier from Uruguay by Experimental) and “Get Finances in Order” (includes Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars cabernet sauvignon from Napa). Don’t pass up the snacks, either, like Smoked Sturgeon Pate with Ritz crackers or a Serrano Ham and Pesto Flatbread.
Bar Part Time
Housed in the former Thieves dive bar space in The Mission, Bar Part Time captures a San Franciscan vibe—a casual-yet-curated ambiance made up of natural wines plus dance parties. Find European natural wines, as well as California producers like Petaluma’s Slow Dance and Santa Cruz-born Stagiaire Wines. Let the bubbles from Stagiaire’s Let’s Get Fizzical sparkling wine go to your head while twirling with the lights of the disco ball during a Hyde Radio Takeover. BPT also has a monthly wine club that, beyond offering three bottles a month for local pick-up, also includes swag like a branded motel keychain, stickers, and more.
Presenting a welcoming, inclusive atmosphere, Key Klub is the second wine bar from the team behind North Beach’s popular Bodega, as well as from a force behind Cellarmaker, resulting in an offering of natural wines plus fresh craft beer on tap. Sip on a funky Grosjean Petite Arvine or hoppy Galaxy Blaster I.P.A. The food isn’t too shabby, either — think Steak Frites Au Poivre or French Toast with Duck Liver Mousse. The original vintage sign of an earlier incarnation of Key Klub from the 1940s or 1950s remains above the entrance of the building, inviting patrons to ponder the past before entering a paper lantern-canopied venue showing the original exposed brick mixed with modern decor. There’s a five-year lease on the venue before it gets turned into a condo development. Try to drink everything on the menu before then.
The Inner Richmond isn’t known for wine bars, like, at all. So High Treason has been a welcome addition to the neighborhood since it opened in 2016. It attracts a larger swath of wine fans with not only a menu of up to 50 wines deep, but also decent beer and food menus (currently Unco Frank’s Island Grindz with plate lunches like Mochiko Chicken and Coconut Shrimp), plus a love for vinyl records. Founded by fine-dining somms wanting a more relaxed ambiance, expect both rare wines like the Bordeaux Petrus, and $6 cans of beer, all with an SF vibe that skews creatively casual—the walls may be lined with wooden skate decks burned with images of Japanese printmaking-inspired waves. Don’t overlook the wine club, either, which for $79 a month, lets you choose whether to pick up one, two, or three bottles.
The crew at Woods Beer & Wine Co. doesn’t stop. They’re everywhere, but in a way you want them to be. Each outpost of this local empire is tailored to the neighborhood and offers a different aesthetic, whether it’s a vintage maritime island theme on Treasure Island or a cerveceria in The Mission. Now, Woods also calls the chill Lower Haight its home with Lowside, offering an extensive list of natural wines (the most out of all its locations), like a light and tropical white blend of gruner and albariño from Edna Valley. Of course there is also plenty of beer, plus Detroit-style pizza and cheesecake from the current pop-up residency by Joyride. With high ceilings, plenty of plants, and ample parklet seating, Woods Lowside earns its spot as the replacement for British pub Mad Dog in the Fog (which, on another note, is supposed to open at another location at some point).
Terroir helped set the bar for serving natural wines in SF, being an early purveyor of the good stuff exclusively since 2007. It’s proud to serve Morgon, a top Beaujolais cru that’s considered to be one of the first natural wines of our time. Terroir feels cozy, but not claustrophobic, thanks to its high ceilings. With wooden beams, exposed brick, and dim (but not too dim) candlelight, the bar has an upstairs area for those wanting an even more intimate space. And there’s always vinyl popping in the background.
Fig & Thistle
This beloved Hayes Valley wine bar is one of many in the neighborhood, but is the only one that has its own classy dispensary next door, which is tucked away on a side street. The bar actually turned its original space into the dispensary and moved to the bigger corner spot next door, complete with a beautiful parklet. Oh, the wine is pretty good, too. With a decently large menu of mostly natural wines, try a zippy Piedrasassi Carbonic Sangiovese from the Central Coast, or a skin-fermented Slovakian Pivnika Čajkov Feteasca Alba. Fig & Thistle also hosts a food pop-up daily by popular pandemic-born pizza purveyor Outta Sight, which offers its signature Orchard pizza that tastes like Olive Garden’s breadsticks(!). Wine, weed, and pizza? Yes, please! Fig & Thistle’s owners turned the sister location in the Castro into a wine and sake bottle shop and bar called Millay. What’ll this crew think of next?
Every place needs its schtick. Arcana stands out from the pack as a plant store by day, and natural wine bar with plant-forward Mediterranean bites plus art-and-music venue, but still also a plant store hybrid by night. Get off the beaten wine path and choose from the selection of small-batch orange and pink wines, such as a stone fruit and citrus-tasting Chilean semillon or a dry and earthy blush. Pair them with house-made Iranian Barbari bread and pomegranate molasses-drizzled red pepper hummus, all while seeing a Brazilian jazz trio amongst the lush flora. There’s also an outside seating area in front for people-watching and loud talking.
Occupying a corner spot in a former record store with the original neon signage still intact, 20 Spot’s cool and laid-back vibe invites patrons to linger long enough for small plates, a Potato Pizza or Pappardelle Pasta Dinner, and a few glasses of wine. The heated parklet lets customers spill on to the sidewalk from its Victorian home venue, like an extended house party. Bottles to-go are 40% off the list price, and the menu is particularly big on pet-nat and Hungarian wines.
It’s big. It’s noisy. But it’s oh-so-conveniently located near Yerba Buena Gardens —easily accessible by public transportation (no driving required!), and a reliable happy hour option for downtown workers who are actually back in the office. For such a big place, the service is quick, the wine list is huge, the food menu is full of seasonal small plates, and there’s plenty of comfy seating in the subterranean wine bar and lounge. If you can’t decide what to drink, try a Dealers Choice flight—four of the “winetender’s” favorite sips for $25, including ones that are biodynamically farmed.
Those missing the cluster of urban wineries that used to call the south side of Treasure Island home can currently find many of them in this joint tasting room in Fisherman’s Wharf. Reunite with Sottomarino’s Italian-inspired wines like the full-bodied, 92-point 2014 Aglianico red, or Vie’s limited-production Rhones. The brick-façade Winery Collective is a one-stop shop to sip wines from more than five small wineries across California, along a shiny wooden bar or high table. It’s advertised as local wines for locals, so it’s a welcomed pit stop for those taking tourist friends or relatives around town. You can book tastings online.
This narrow storefront is easy to miss while walking down quaint West Portal Avenue. The cute, 500-square-foot venue has a surprisingly large selection of small-production wines grown both locally and around the globe. If you can’t decide on what to drink, try a regional flight, such as reds from Paso Robles or whatever the husband-and-wife owners offer for the week. Small bites like empanadas and charcuterie plates are just enough to keep you satisfied while imbibing in an unpretentious neighborhood gem.
With more than 1,200 wines available in the 2,500-square-foot bottom level of a former car dealership, Tofino Wines is an impressive and friendly retail shop-wine bar hybrid. With an emphasis on small, family-run estates in Europe and California, you’ll find that the owners favor Champagne and sherry. An earth-toned tiled motif graces the stairway arch and accents above the marble bar, lending an old-world feel that feels airy when the natural daylight floods through the huge windows. Snacks include tinned fish, burrata, and marcona almonds.