Wine bars in San Francisco are neither new nor uncommon – but as in most things, the older, more established places tend to be unpretentious (pretense being a serious danger with wine bars), full of expertise, and enjoyable.
The California Wine Merchant in the Marina district defines such a place – in business as a wine retailer since 1974, the bar highlights local California wines that have attracted the attention of the connected and knowledgeable owners and staff, but also offers the best wines from around the world.
The rustic, cellar-like bar offers wine by the glass from ephemeral, limited bottle selections that rarely last the week, and carefully chosen selections that offer a great assortment of varietals and regions. The staff willingly shares their opinions and typically, tastes of their favourites to help you decide. In addition to wines by the glass, the California Wine Merchant offers nuts and cheeses to snack on, as well as a full retail service, so you can take a bottle of the wine you just tasted on to the party or to one of the many exceptional restaurants nearby. Check the website or sidewalk chalkboard for Monday night tasting events.
On warm afternoons when I am able to escape work early, I head straight there – the bar opens the large folding windows onto Chestnut Street, providing a great view of the passers-by on the main drag of the Marina.