Fancy craft cocktails made with approximately 400 ingredients -- and a hefty price tag -- are delicious (and have totally taken over the SF drink scene), but sometimes we want to enjoy a drink that doesn’t take 20 minutes to concoct. Something that’s not beer, but also glug-glug-glugs out of the bottle in the happiest way possible. A drink that feels appropriate for a date. A drink that’s often born right in our very backyard... that’s right: once in a while, we really appreciate a great glass of wine. Lucky for us, San Francisco is full of kick-ass wine bars, from cozy alleyway haunts to swanky lounges to a pub where the wine flows from taps and fried pickles grace the menu. Here are our 10 favorites (most of which also have beer, if you really insist).
When the fog rolls in (and in the Inner Sunset, you know it’s gonna), escape to InnerFog, a cozy bar with an extensive wines-by-the-glass list that focuses heavily on small-production wines from California (no surprise there), but which has some tasty options from Italy and France, as well. There are also small plates, like flat breads and a cheese platter, and an extensive beer selection. They have 10 beers on tap and over 20 more in bottles, and their happy hour deal is one to make note of; Monday through Friday from 4 to 6pm, with select glasses of wine sold at $6 and four rotating beers for just $3.50.
The Hidden Vine is one of the best date wine bars on this list, which is saying a lot, since all wine bars are date wine bars due to the very nature of the fact that they’re wine bars. This spot, located in a “hidden” alley in the Financial District, has a “monthly focus,” on a specific region, showcasing a variety of wines. If you don’t like the wine from that part of the world, however, no worries; there are over 180 different wines available, and 40 of them are poured by the glass -- a few are even offered by the flight. The food menu is good, and kind of what you’d expect -- flat breads, cheese, and charcuterie. However, this spot gets bonus points for offering sliders and extra special bonus points for the feature that makes it such a sick date spot: the bocce ball court. Bocce ball dates are winning dates.
If no one told you about InoVino, you might miss this tiny 30-seat wine bar on Carl St in Cole Valley, but that would be a shame -- especially if you’re a fan of Italian wine. Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with the wine list; just tell one of the helpful staff what you like and how much you want to spend, and they’ll bring out something you’re sure to love. There are almost 30 wines available by the 3oz and 6oz pour, as well as a 12oz carafe. It’s easy to eat an entire meal here, or you can just stop in for their aperitivo hour, weekdays from 4 to 6pm (and 3 to 6pm on Saturday), when their pizzette, wines, and cocktails are just $6.50, and a Peroni only sets you back $3.50.
If you like champagne or sherry, an evening at Tofino Wines on Geary should be a priority. You can also take home over 700 bottles from small, family-run estates in California, France, Italy, and Spain. Unlike many wine bars, Tofino is actually housed in a big (2,500sqft, to be exact) open, and airy space, which is a pleasant change from their often cellar-like atmosphere. Grab a seat at the bar or by the window, and enjoy one of 30 wines by the glass -- or a craft beer on tap.
It doesn’t get more SF than Yield. The owners are all about sustainable and organic wines, as well as supporting family owned and operated wineries. The good news is that the wine they feature also tastes great, and oftentimes it’s wine you won’t stumble across anywhere else. The food is also exceptional -- and not “for a wine bar.” Yes, there are flatbread pizzas (it’s apparently the law that if you serve hot food at a wine bar in SF, flatbread must be on the menu), but our favorite is the warm artichoke, kale, and parmesan dip served with fried leeks and fresh bread. On a sunny evening (and in Dogpatch, there are plenty), you can grab a seat outside. On Tuesdays, bring your brain because Trivia night starts at 7:30pm.
Thanks to its prime location on Chestnut St., California Wine Merchant is definitely one of the most action-packed wine bars in SF. The focus is on California wines, which is fine by us, and the relaxed vibe makes this a perfect place to sit in the window on an afternoon and sip a glass -- or wait till the sun goes down and the place gets a little rowdy (for a wine bar, anyway). There are about 45 wines by the glass available -- and the list is constantly changing -- as well as hundreds of wines available to take home. California Wine Merchant keeps the focus on the wine, but they also keep four beers available, and if you’re hungry, you can snack on a cheese plate, a bowl of pistachios, or chocolate truffles.
It’s a wine bar. It’s a pub. It’s a wine pub! Jamber is different from your typical wine bar: to start, all of the wines are from California, and even more unusually, all of their wines are on tap.That means all of the wine is youthful and fun -- and meant to be guzzled while fresh. There are also over 10 beers on tap, plus they have a really, really good food menu that’s a total departure from any other wine bar. Good luck choosing between the fried pickle spears, poutine, nacho grilled cheese, mac 'n' cheese pizza, or parmesan and rosemary mashed tater tots. Happy hour runs every day 3:30pm to 7:30pm, during which you can get a wine sampler for $18 and a beer sampler for $10. Life is pretty good sometimes.
The Press Club is by far the loungiest wine bar on this list, which is why it’s also one of our faves. You’re guaranteed to get a comfy seat (the space is huge), while a staff member (they all seem knowledgeable) leads you through the wine list. In fact, you’ll probably (definitely) need some help since there are 50 wines by the glass, 18 wine flights, and over 230 bottles. There are also almost 30 beers by the glass and a couple of beer flights. Head there on Saturday or Sunday for happy hour, and you can get 50 percent off of bottles $70 or more. The food menu is similar to other wine bars, but our go-to snacks are truffled popcorn and the deviled eggs with caramelized bacon. They pair perfectly with just about everything.
Hotel Biron is not the most accurately named spot on our list: it’s not a hotel at all, and is instead a romantic wine bar tucked away in a charming alley (because really, all alleys should be charming and reserved solely for wine bars). The exposed brick, low lighting, and tiny rooms make this place pretty much the perfect spot for a third date (so pack a toothbrush). The wine menu is accessible and organized by region, and at least half of the bottles are available by the glass. There are also a good number of beers (including a $3 Tecate if that’s your thing on romantic dates). The menu is all about cheese, charcuterie, and chocolate, but if you insist on a proper meal, head to Zuni before or after.
Go to the Barrel Room for the wine and the food; stay for the secret speakeasy underneath the main floor. Seriously though, The Barrel Room is a great spot if you’re meeting friends or colleagues after work because they have a great range of drinks available: while the hero is definitely the wine, there are also plenty of cocktails and beer. Happy hour is from 3 to 5pm and a totally sweet deal: $6 house wine, $2 off draught beer, $10 cocktails, and a yummy selection of snacks. Their wine flights are great, but if you prefer something brown, they have flights of whiskey as well. Win/win.
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Daisy Barringer is an SF-based writer. She finds that a glass of wine is the perfect companion to good conversation with friends, a bag of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish, hours of trashy TV, and just, you know, being awake. Follow her on Twitter @daisy.
1. InnerFog545 Irving St, San Francisco
2. The Hidden Vine408 Merchant St, San Francisco
3. inoVino108B Carl St, San Francisco
4. Tofino Wines2696 Geary Blvd, San Francisco
5. Yield Wine Bar2490 3rd St, San Francisco
6. California Wine Merchant2113 Chestnut St, San Francisco
7. Jamber Wine Pub858 Folsom St, San Francisco
8. Press Club20 Yerba Buena Ln, San Francisco
9. Hotel Biron45 Rose St, San Francisco
10. The Barrel Room415 Sansome St, San Francisco
This cozy Inner Sunset wine bar and eatery is a class act. A relaxing, lounge like space to sip on boutique wines by the glass or by the bottle, InnerFog Wine Bar & Kitchen is known for their extensive selection of red and white New and Old World varietals. The small plates menu isn't bad, either; munch on grilled flatbreads, veggie tapas, and bar snacks.
Because nothing complements bocce like 800+ bottles of wine, hit the FiDi's brick-laden wine tavern tucked away in a somewhat hidden alley (get it?) for wine flights, the type of sustenance you'd expect to pair with wine flights (cheese, charcuterie, flatbreads, etc.), and, oh yeah, bocce! Take note: there's a $100 minimum for an hour of bocce time, so arrive hungry and thirsty.
InoVino's a charming European wine bar and cafe in Cole Valley owned by Tuscan-born Claudio Vallani, who was previously the sommelier at Michelin-starred Quince. Given the owner's provenance, it's not surprising that the menu is mostly comprised of Italian wines. The food menu is also Italian-focused, featuring cheeses, house-made pizzettas, and pasta dishes. The tiny 30-seat space is great for a laid-back but romantic date.
We love a wine bar, but sometimes they feel just a little too intimate. Not the case with Tofino Wines, whose 2,500sqft of space includes 20ft-high ceilings, a 32-seat bar area, and an entire wine shop featuring 500+ carefully chosen wines, including a dynamic selection of Champagne and sherry. Come in, grab a seat, order one of 10 wines by the glass, six wines on tap, or three beers on tap (Almanac, Fort Point, and Deschutes), and snack on burrata, sardine pâté, or a charcuterie plate. Perfect for a date. Or, you know, just drinking really good wine.
In a classic San Francisco fashion, this Dogpatch wine bar (and sister spot to Pause in Hayes Valley) only serves sustainable and organic wines from family-owned and operated wineries. Since Yield's standards are so high, its wine is excellent and hard to come by anywhere else in the city. The food is also exceptional and not just "for a bar." There are grilled flatbreads (vegan-friendly, of course) and bites like goat cheese-stuffed dates and artichoke, kale, and parmesan dip.
A casual wine bar and retail shop, California Wine Merchant's got lots of wine from the Golden State all in one place. Specializing in bottles from small batch California vineyards, CWM's curated selection is definitely worth checking out if you enjoy sipping something a bit more unique than the everyman's Two Buck Chuck. The on-site wine bar offers cheese platters and bar snacks in addition to wine flights and bottled beer.
Jamber isn't a typical wine bar, it's a wine pub. All of the wines are from California, and they're all on tap. There are also over 10 beers on tap, also from California. To top it off, the SOMA spot has a really, really good food menu with things like mac & cheese pizza, poutine, and bacon-wrapped meatloaf. Oh, and one more thing: Jamber opens at 11:30am during the week and has outlets for your computer, so it's kind of the perfect place to wine and work.
This massive and cavernous multi-winery tasting room is the perfect spot to grab a comfy seat, taste through the 50 wines by the glass and over 230 bottles, and snack on truffled popcorn & deviled eggs with caramelized bacon. We recommend going with the one of 18 wine flights or chatting with your knowledgeable server about what to order, but this vino bar doesn’t just stop at wine — there are almost 30 beers by the glass and beer flights as well.
Although not an actual Hotel, Hotel Biron is just as relaxed and cozy, and perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of San Francisco. This quaint wine bar has a menu categorized by region, handful of great beers, and a menu filled with cheese, charcuterie, and chocolate.
Go to the Barrel Room for the wine and the food; stay for the secret speakeasy underneath the main floor (it's called The HogsHead Reserve). Seriously though, The Barrel Room is a great Financial District spot to meet friends or colleagues after work because it has a huge range of drinks available. The rotating wine menu focuses on a new region every three months, and wines are served by the glass or as flights. If you prefer something brown, they have flights of whiskey as well. Win/win.