Verve

The best wine shops in SF that offer something extra

By Marcia Gagliardi

San Francisco is a wine swillin’ city, with fantastic neighborhood wine merchants, corner wine shops older than most of us, and even some excellent larger places that still maintain a personal vibe. Even with all this, a few of them rise above the rest, and these seven each do something a little extra—from unique tastings to food offerings to steaks—while topping it off with a hospitable attitude. Cin cin!

Arlequin Wine Merchant
Hayes Valley has been lucky to have this wine shop almost as long as Absinthe has been open (since 1998!), offering an impressive variety of premium wines, a strong focus on Old World wines, and they have a hard-to-pass-up area with some great bargains, too. The staff is as helpful as you need them to be as you navigate the dense selection. Ready to crack into a bottle right now? You can pay $7.50 corkage and enjoy it on the garden patio of neighboring Arlequin Cafe (with their famed croque or lamb meatballs), and they’ll even give you some glasses. Don’t miss the Thursday evening tastings and annual blowout grower Champagne tasting and annual Beaujolais Bash during the holidays.
Neighborhood: Hayes Valley MAP

Little Vine
A charming North Beach shop, Little Vine contains everything you need for the perfect night in—or party, or picnic. This means wine, of course, plus quality cheeses (they really know their stuff), artisanal salumi, pantry items, and snacky items. And then there’s the daily $11 sandwich, a thing of perfection, available from 11:30 a.m. until it’s sold out (or 2:30 p.m.). Owners Jay Esopenko and Melissa Gugni have impeccable taste for good things, whether it’s a natural NorCal wine from a small producer (their speciality) or a gorgeous seasonal cheese. Check out their Vintage & Rind wine and cheese club, and Thursday tastings, to learn and taste more.
Neighborhood: North Beach MAP

Biondivino
Ceri Smith’s Russian Hill wine boutique is a favorite of any SF Italophile, since her selection is based on quality, small-production Italian wines, with biodynamic, cult, and natural wines in the mix, along with plenty of bubbles. The chic space is far from wine store fusty, with a palette of punchy bright orange and white. Sign up for the mailing list to keep up on tastings and events—it’s your opportunity to meet some amazing producers in town. Biondivino also hosts pop-ups and secret garden parties (shhhh), and there’s usually a fun crowd of people in the space imbibing.
Neighborhood: Russian Hill MAP

DIG
Here’s the thing about running your own wine shop: You get to be as opinionated as you want. And in the case of Wayne Garcia’s highly personal Dogpatch neighborhood wine shop, it’s all about French and Italian wines. A visit here means you’ll walk out with all kinds of new discoveries. You’ll also want to sign up for Wayne’s personal newsletter, full of tasting notes and education, where he highlights what’s in the weekly tasting (usually six or seven wines) on Friday evenings from 5 to 7 p.m. (or until the bottles are empty). He’s also an accomplished cook with his wife Sher Rogat (of neighboring Piccino), so follow @digwg for some epic pairings.
Neighborhood: Dogpatch MAP

Maison Corbeaux
This spacious high-end bottle shop is on a Pacific Heights corner that was previously London Market. Owner Kyle Nadeau offers everything from well-known wine faves to a strong selection of Champagne to some lesser-known Bordeaux options (since they’re doing some direct importing) to small producers (they love Poe)—local wine savant John Herbstritt is behind the wine buying. There’s also an incredible selection of whisky, spirits, and well-curated beers. But the latest addition is the satellite Avedano’s Deli in the back (open Wednesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7.p.m.), offering hot and cold sandwiches (the pastrami is house-made), an excellent smoked trout salad, pizza, and cuts of meat and sausages in the case that you can bring home to cook for dinner, along with some extras from the pantry area to complete the meal.
Neighborhood: Pacific Heights MAP

Verve Wine
This chic newcomer to Fillmore Street is the West Coast location of the Tribeca (New York) wine shop from master sommelier Dustin Wilson (Eleven Madison Park, RN74; you may have seen him in Somm), wine merchant Derrick Mize, and sommelier Eric Railsback (of Santa Barbara’s Lieu Dit). We’re talking choice wines, from New Californian to natural to Old World—around 500 labels in all. They’re big on pairings here, so check out the site for fun suggestions. Verve also hosts a monthly tasting to accompany their wine club, The Grand Tour, which is free for club members (plus a guest), and $10 fee for non-members—though if you join for The Grand Tour club, your fee is applied toward membership. The Next one is Thursday, September 13.
Neighborhood: Pacific Heights MAP

Tofino Wines
This wine merchant and bar is in an unlikely spot, but once you know about it, you’ll likely return. Mark Nevin and April Sack’s highly personal selection of over 1,200 wines highlights cutting-edge, natural, and small-production bottles, with some great Champagnes and sherry. There’s a bar where they offer more than 30 wines by the glass at any given time, tables where you can plunk down with friends, and vinyl playing on the turntable. You’ll definitely find great food-pairing wines here, and good thing, because they now have the former chef of Tosca Cafe, Josh Even, expanding their menu of bites with seasonal small plates that extend beyond the omnipresent cheese and salumi.
Neighborhood: Laurel Heights MAP

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