I have to admit I hadn’t done my research right, in fact, I had given up quite early on finding natural wine bars and shops in San Fran. I was terribly wrong, because there was a lot more than I expected - much of it just “happened” to me.
For those of you who didn’t know, I am travelling the world! I didn’t feel for any big announcements on this, because it’s probably the most relaxed thing that ever happened to me. So I am now taking you on a natural wine journey with me, from London to London, flying west.
The first and literally only place I was going to visit for natural wine in San Francisco was Terroir, a wine bar in SoMa fully and only stocked with natural wine bottles. The wine bar itself was a really cool space, with shelves full of natural wine and simple but quirky decor. It was also fairly busy for a Tuesday night and it was nice to see the locals’ interest in natural wine, with many people even just walking in to buy a bottle to take home, orange wines being in high demand. We were just there for a by the glass experience and the wine list didn’t let down - lots of French natural wines, plus some Italian and Spanish and a couple of Californian wines (which is what I was really there for). Here is what we tried, from smooth to funky!
Black Trumpet, Syrah, Sonoma & Mendocino County, 2016
Small production of natural wine from organic and hand harvested grapes, wild yeast fermentation, low to no sulphur plus no filtering. This wine is so smooth, low tannin, easy drinking, simply delicious. Aromas of black fruit are very round and clean, overall a very relaxed wine that I would like to drink over and over again.
Les Galuches, AOP Chinon, Wilfrid Rousse, France, 2017
Organic 100% Cabernet Franc, grown on sand and gravel soils in central France by the Loire riverside. Here you can smell a more funky aroma from natural fermentation and taste a mineral character, together with round red fruit aromas. Very easy drinking and with that vin vivant kick.
Runz, Lucas & André Rieffel, Alsace, France
This was the funkiest of the three - which I like. Pinot Noir with natural fermentation aromas all over the place. Elegant red berries flavour, high acidity and easy drinking, ok chilled. Natural yeasts, low to no sulphur.
This trio of living wines could have been enough for my 2 nights stay in San Francisco, but the day after I found another natural wine bar/shop right next to the coffee shop where I had breakfast. From that moment I knew couldn’t miss it.
I’m talking about Ruby Wine, an exclusively natural wine shop/bar that offers an elegant disco-ball illuminated display of living wines by artisan producers - selling the wines they love. Very tiny and cosy space in Potrero Hill, I was enchanted by the amount of natural wine bottles from all over the world they have on their shelves. They run a wine club which must be great for locals, but as a visitor I was only left with the choice of two wines of the day, one being a Riesling and the other one being an Italian rosato, which is what I went for. You will probably get me if I tell you I was a little sad abut the limited choice for a glass, but I understand that this is not your regular wine bar and their business model is a little different - I was just as happy to let the wine find me.
Intensely coloured and fresh red berry perfumed wine from organic grapes (Nerello Mascalese 40%, Perricone 30%, Syrah 30%), natural yeast fermentation, it’s a wine that you just do not expect. It’s a funky natural, like we like, earthy, refreshingly high acidity and pretty unique, to be served chilled. I was also fascinated by the label - it seems to convey authenticity.
This is not all, because walking the steep streets of San Francisco you can be sure that at some point you will run into some natural wine, like when I came across PlumpJack Wines & Spirits in Noe Valley, only to discover a beautiful selection of natural wine and craft beer, another thing I love.
I’m sure there is more natural wine in San Francisco and if you know any other places then maybe we can put together a real guide someday! For now, I hope this was a little useful if you are planning a visit to San Fran or even just if you want to find out more natural wines to add to your collection.