San Francisco is arguably best known for the Golden Gate Bridge, fog, steep rolling hills dotted with trolleys, architecture, Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf, and its Chinatown district. It’s an incredibly walk-able city (if you don’t mind a few hills) with beaches, piers, eclectic neighborhoods and a thriving dining scene. Each year more than a quarter million tourists visit the City by the Bay seeking various thrills and sights as well as a taste of the local culinary scene, but what about the wine scene? Of course, Napa and Sonoma are a short drive across the Bay, but if you’re stopping through San Francisco for business or pleasure, there are also plenty of wine bar options to delight your palate.


Winetraveler Tip: While we don’t mind putting in the steps as we walk the urban landscape, Uber and Lyft are also widely available and reasonable options – particularly if you’re doing a night on the town.


Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant

1 Ferry Building, Shop 23
San Francisco, CA
 

Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant is conveniently located inside of San Francisco’s Ferry Building, a ferry transit center and artisan food market. Both a shop and a wine bar, you can choose from over 25 different wines (new additions added each week) available in two-ounce tastes, five-ounce glasses, bottles and in some cases, half bottles. The wine bar also offers flights, and being a shop too, anything from the store shelves can be purchased and poured for retail price plus a small corkage fee.

Menu items include items from Cowgirl Creamery and the Acme Bakery (both located within the Ferry Building) as well as other charcuterie and small plate options. And if you happen to live in the area, or travel through frequently, the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant also offers a wine club with various options and discounts both in the shop and bar.


Winetraveler Tip: Visit the Ferry Building during the Farmers Market for a wide selection of foods and crafts – including fresh shucked on-site oysters! Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.


West Coast Wine & Cheese

2165 Union Street
San Francisco, CA
 

Located in the central part of the Bay in the Cow Hollow district, West Coast Wine & Cheese is a small, neighborhood wine bar, restaurant and bottle shop specializing in showcasing premier winemakers from California, Oregon and Washington. Here you’ll find your wines perfectly chilled according to style, and the staff well-educated on both wines and high-end service. The bar offers $2-off select glasses and 20-percent off bottles during happy hour Mondays through Fridays for the first two hours of service. Be sure to check the event calendar for opportunities to meet West Coast winemakers or taste a special selection of wines.


Winetraveler Tip: Half glass options are available and are a great way to sample more than one West Coast wine or create your own flights!


Cultivar

2379 Chestnut Street
San Francisco, CA
 

In San Francisco’s hopping and trendy Marina District near the Golden Gate Bridge and Crissy Field, you’ll find a fabulous little spot with a tucked away patio and fireplace called Cultivar. Cultivar San Francisco is an intimate restaurant and wine bar by Cultivar Wine, featuring a menu of locally sourced and seasonal ingredients. They offer both their own wines produced from grapes sourced in both Napa and Sonoma as well as wines from around the world. Cultivar also offers a wine club membership with discounts and wine club pick-up parties for members.


Winetraveler Tip: Cultivar is a great stop for brunch Saturday or Sunday on your way to the Golden Gate or Lands End (a hike worth taking)! Make sure to book in advance.


Tofino

2692 Geary Boulevard
San Francisco, CA
 

Tofino Wines towards the University of San Francisco and also on the way to Lands End, is a retail wine shop and bar specializing in unique, natural wines. The space is big, airy, bright and inviting, and it features more than 800 wines from across France, Italy, Spain, Austria and the US. These wines were selected for their quality, integrity and representation of terroir.

Tofino also offers a by the glass selection of more than 30 wines that changes every few weeks. With this ever-changing selection, weekly tastings and in-store events with small wine importers and wineries, there are many opportunities to discover lesser-known wines or revisit favorites. And if you’re lucky, one of the super knowledgeable partners — Mark Nevin or April Sack — will be on hand to walk you through your wine selection. Their expertise and passion are tangible.


Winetraveler Tip: Grab a bottle to go and some snacks at neighboring Trader Joe’s, then head to Golden Gate Park – where alcohol is permitted – for a memorable picnic.


The Riddler

528 Laguna Street
San Francisco, CA
 

Are the Painted Ladies on your agenda? (Does Full or Fuller House ring a bell?!) Well, even if they’re not, bubbles should be and you’ll find a wide range of them at The Riddler just a few blocks away. “Hello, old friend” is the bar’s motto and it guides what they do and how you’ll feel.

This female-owned and operated neighborhood spot offers more than 150 Champagnes by the bottle and dozens of sparkling wines by the glass. A serious but unpretentious place, you can find caviar served with potato chips and free popcorn day and night! And as clubs seem to be the thing, you’ll find one here too, but with a twist! The Riddler offers the 100 Club in which they’ll track the Champagnes you drink. Once you’ve enjoyed 100 bottles of bubbles, you’ll earn a bomber jacket with your name embroidered in gold as well as early access to events, special parties, tastings and more swag.


Winetraveler Tip: Take note of the wooden back-bar lined with vintage Champagne buckets and glassware! Très chic!


BONUS SPOT

Bellota

888 Brannan Street
San Francisco, CA

Sure, this is more restaurant than bar, but people, there’s Spanish Sherry on tap at Bellota! In addition to an extensive list of Sherry by the glass and bottle options, (even a Palo Cortado by the glass), the all-Spanish wine list offers wines not to be missed from Priorat to Rías Baixas. And if you haven’t yet discovered Spanish Sherry, a flight is a great way to explore the different styles and expressions of this fortified wine. Reservations are recommended – as is the paella!


Winetraveler Tip: Truffle covered Manchego. Period.


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    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Kristy Wenz is a Wine & Travel Writer for Winetraveler. She is a writer, entrepreneur, wine lover and avid traveler. She first developed a passion for wine travel at random in Southern California. Since that first experience, Kristy has explored wineries in over 20 states from coast-to-coast as well as multiple European wine regions. When she's not writing about wine, wine traveling or updating her cellar in Vivino, she can likely be found sipping a Cab Franc from her travels while cooking dinner with her family.

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