‘Tis the season to be jolly. If your ears have been filled with enough Christmas music to last a year, and you’d like to escape the madness of the malls, let us suggest reeling in the holiday cheer with some wine. And what better place to start than San Francisco’s Bay Area? Don’t worry, we’ll navigate the sled on a voyage to the vineyards and vino. After all, the holidays should always include a no-stress guide to eating, drinking and being merry. Its time to rosy on-up those cheeks, because we’re hitting San Francisco’s best wine bars.
In vino veritas is an old Italian proverb that translates to “In wine there is truth.” This is also the namesake of Cole Valley’s newest niche. Focusing on wines from the volcanic regions of Northern Italy, InoVino’s wine list is one that dabbles into the rich, obscure flavors of the mountains.
Reasons to go: Volcanoes. But really, you’ll sip something smoky from Aosta Valley or get into an earthy bottle of Piedirosso from the Campania region. Not to mention owner ClaudioVillani is a present and hearty host.
Encuentro Café & Wine Bar
Encuentro, meaning “to meet” or “to gather,” is the most recent addition to the casual dining scene of the New Jack London District. Encuentro offers an extensive wine menu in a coffee-shop atmosphere: bench seating, artisanal chocolates and sweets, brewery beers and organic teas and coffees.
Reasons to go: Vegan. Mellow. Engaging. Spring salad: strawberries, rhubarb, hazelnuts, wildflower honey and goat cheese ($9).
The name Ordinaire, refers to vin ordinarie, or “everyday wine”. This is the stuff that never even makes it into the bottle, but right into the winemaker’s glass. So naturally, Ordinaire highlights Californian winemakers with high standards, with at least six wines on tap at all times made by local producers.
Reasons to Go: Ordinaire brings you–according to the owner– life’s bare necessities: wine, cheese, and meat. They also request casual attire.
Sushi Ran is one of the highest-rated Bay Area restaurants, offering carefully crafted Japanese and pan-Pacific cuisine, complimented by an extraordinary 300-bottle wine and sake list. Sushi Ran’s expertise lies specifically in the partnership between food and wine.
Reasons to go: The restaurant’s manager, Yoshi Tome, is one of Northern California’s most respected restaurateurs. After a six-month teaching stint in the San Joaquin Valley, Yoshi decided to purchase the restaurant he managed, redirecting his career entirely in pursuit of his passion, food and wine.
Étoile at Domaine Chandon
Étoile is French for “star,” or the highest rank of dancer in the Paris Opera Ballet, and it’s also the name of yet another top-rated restaurant at the Domaine Chandon winery in the valley. Étoile is family-owned, focusing on authentic Parisian cuisine and French-style in-house wines.
Reasons to go: It’s the only fine dining restaurant within a winery in all of Napa Valley. Innovative cuisine paired with aware-winning wines and a beautiful and elegant atmosphere make for an unforgettable wine-country experience.
RN74 (or Route Nationale) is the main highway running through Burgundy, France. Michael Mina’s Mission Street wine bar and restaurant highlights wines from the Burgundy region, as well as Burgundy-inspired dishes locally sourced.
Reasons to go: The 7 Dollar Happy Hour. From 4 until 6, Monday through Friday, all salon cocktails, sparkling wine du jour, and red and white wines are only $7. The Burgundian Escargots are $7 too.