Wine aficionados who hate to trek to Napa or who have simply tired of the standard bars and clubs will be thankful for San Francisco's selection of wine bars. Just like a comfortable neighborhood dive, some wine bars are fun and crowded once the night kicks into gear, while others are more low-key. Try Heart in the Mission District, a triple threat that is three parts: wine bar, art gallery, and event space. Hayes Valley visitors will enjoy Hotel Biron, a charming hole-in-the-wall wine bar that also doubles as an art gallery. No matter what their vibe, all of San Francisco's wine bars offer something to titillate the palette.
1270 Valencia St., San Francisco CA 94110; Tel. +1 415.285.1200
Heart isnít just a wine baróitís also a restaurant, event space and an art gallery. Located in the Mission District, it invites patrons to sip artisan wine in mason jars, get cultured at the latest gallery opening or make a new friend or two at the barís communal tables.
1666 Market St., San Francisco CA 94102; Tel. +1 415.241.9463
Pause, a Hayes Valley wine bar by veggie enthusiast Chris Tavelli, offers a list of eco-friendly global wines and a veggie- and seafood-friendly menu.
1954 Hyde Street, San Francisco CA 94109; Tel. +1 415.928.2633
If you walk into Bacchus early on a Sunday evening you might be struck by how small and empty the space is for a chi-chi wine bar near the top of Russian Hill. But you'd soon discover that copious pours and friendly locals make this a great place to wind down a weekend. Of course, most battle for bar space during the extraordinarily crowded Thursday through Saturday scene while waiting for a table at Sushi Groove down the street, which might be worth it if you're into rubbing elbows with San Francisco's hoity-toity. There are certainly a plethora of excellent wine choices by the bottle or fancy sake cocktails (and even designer leather love seats in the front window). On an "off night" though, you can pull up a bright blue Art Deco stool and chat the bartender up or just kick back with a very full glass of wine and listen to some smooth electronic melodies.
3232 Scott Street, San Francisco CA 94123; Tel. +1 415.567.3838
Boasting 51 wines by the glass and a selection of 23 exotic beers, Bin 38 Wine Bar and Restaurant in San Francisco's bustling Marina district is a great place to relax and unwind with the company of friends. Head chef Glenn Christiansen crafts a fresh, local, shared- plates menu inspired by seasonal ingredients and organic offerings and with an eye to complementing the bar's extensive wine list. With its sleek interior, heated sidewalk seating and outdoor back patio with a fire pit, Bin 38 offers the comforts of great food and drinks.
1666 Market Street, San Francisco CA 94102; Tel. +1 415.437.1770
Opened just a year ago, Cav already has a vivacious following despite being nestled between the well established Zuni Cafe and Espetus Brazilian Churrascaria. Sleek lines, juxtaposed color themes, and an angular layout define an Łber-modern style that caters to the nouveau riche and allows Cav to hold its own against these more traditional dining options. Black and white San Francisco photography adorns one wall while a creative cork board and free-for-all chalkboard face opposite. Bare incandescent bulbs drop from above next to stainless steel ceiling fans while up tempo dance music comes through the airwaves. This "Wine Bar & Kitchen" has substance too; as the name suggests, the menu features all things French from small production appellations to exquisite charcuterie. To top it all off, an eager and attentive staff will keep you in the lap of luxury guaranteeing a return trip to this trendy San Francisco wine bar.
901 Cole Street, San Francisco CA 94117; Tel. +1 415.566.3063
Eos is imbued with the comfortable, classy vibe characteristic of Cole Valley. Though only a few blocks off Haight Street, Eos serves mostly thirty-something locals looking for a quiet night and good eats. This is an ideal spot to have a glass of wine while waiting for dinner at the adjoining Eos Restaurant that crafts a unique menu of Pan-Asian tapas like the Ahi Tuna Tower and Edamame Risotto. Bring a date to the bar and do a sake tasting for a break from grapes. The candlelit atmosphere and hands-off staff keep things at a leisurely pace conducive to intimate conversation. Artwork done by local painters hangs from the wall and adds a mellow aesthetic. And no worries if you hate doing laps looking for parking, the N-Judah line runs right to their front door. Definitely your choice for a pleasant (albeit tame) evening of wining and dining.
620 Post Street, San Francisco CA 94109; Tel. +1 415.674.3567
This subterranean lounge might just have the best wine bar ambiance that San Francisco has to offer. Tucked away down a back alley in the run-down hotel district between the Tenderloin and Nob Hill, the Hidden Vine is a true vestige of the Prohibition era. But the personality here is more antique parlor than salacious speakeasy thanks to good southern hospitality. Well-to-do gather after work to sample an outstanding wine selection that features a new global region each month. Thursdays are especially popular when you can snack on a complimentary cheese and salami platter. For the novice, be sure to enlist the expertise of co-owner/sommelier David Cahill to find the perfect wine to suit your tastes. Beware though: a flight includes substantially more than the purported three 2-oz. servings, so arrive thirsty.
45 Rose Street, San Francisco CA 94102; Tel. +1 415.703.0403
Head up Gough half a block off Market Street to find Hotel Biron, a combination art gallery and wine bar. Exhibits rotate monthly and feature a kick-off party on the first Thursday with plenty of bubbly and a chance to meet the artists. With understated art, the space's cellar aura permeates. Only candles and dim spotlights illuminate this long and narrow cavernous space. Unfinished stone floors and rough brick walls are accented with rich wooden beams, supporting the illusion that huge oak casks filled with wine are fermenting around the corner. There's ample seating at small tables with rustic wrought-iron frame chairs stretched with rawhide seats. But this authentic motif comes at a price with hardly a thing under $10 per glass. However, there are some quality non-wine options if you know your specialty European beers and an interesting assortment of cheese and fruit platters from which to choose.
3316 17th Street, San Francisco CA 94110; Tel. +1 415.863.3061
This diamond in the rough is the new entrepreneurial endeavor of
Michael Pierce and Scott Youkalis, formerly of Laurel Heights' swanky Sociale restaurant. Maverick, the rogue cousin, is nestled into one of the grittier blocks of the Mission District amongst authentic taquerias, seedy dive bars and the neighborhood's hallmark junk and thrift stores. But you won't find the local hipsters at this "American Eatery and Wine Bar" that serves up a veritable fine-dining experience to a more genteel brand of epicureans. Truth be told, it's more restaurant than wine bar, open only for dinner on weekdays with an added brunch on the weekends. The wine is carefully chosen, however, and you won't leave disappointed if you're willing to part with a little cash. Try the "Bubble Flight" to jumpstart a rowdy night on the town. Seating is limited, so arrive early (or better yet, make reservations) and be prepared for a lively crowd.
795 Valencia Street, San Francisco CA 94110; Tel. +1 415.255.2102
In Greek, Paréa means a gathering of friends, and the billing for this San Francisco wine bar is quite apropos. The dim lighting and bold, primary-colored interior make for a warm atmosphere that brings intimacy to an open floor plan. Simple furnishings, spartan decor and Latin rhythms are the signature of a subtle, Mission-chic vibe designed for imbibing with good friends rather than impressing out-of-town guests. While the wine list is extensive, don't come looking for your California favorites. The focus here is on Mediterranean vintages and features many rarities from Spain, Italy and Greece. Prices are reasonable for a bottle, glass or tasting, and a small menu chalked on the wall offers light starters and salads to whet the appetite. Grab a booth in one of the windows up front for great people watching and a view of Mission district nightlife kicking into high gear along the Valencia corridor.