Self Guided Walking San Francisco Urban Wine Tour in SoMa

August 7, 2015

Think the Napa or Sonoma Valley are the only places in the Bay Area to have an unparalleled wine experience? Well think again! The city of San Francisco is home to many an awesome urban winery and you can absolutely have a wine country adventure without ever setting foot outside of SF. It’s a little known fact that before the 1906 earthquake, most of the wine that Northern California produced was made in San Francisco, specifically the neighborhood South of Market Street known as SOMA. The grapes that were grown in Sonoma and Napa were shipped to SOMA where over 160 wineries and commercial cellars had set up shop. The destruction of the earthquake combined with prohibition forced most of the wineries to shut down. However, in the past ten years a thriving urban wine community has developed in this area.

Assuming that you will partake in a tasting or glass of wine, our self guided walking San Francisco Urban Wine Tour will take several hours, so block off an entire afternoon to leisurely enjoy each location. It will visit 6 unique wine spots, three wine bars and shops and three urban wineries. If you’re thirsty for more places to wine taste in San Francisco, there are plenty other excellent spots just a short cab ride away.

1. Tank18
2. Terrior
3. Bluxome Street Winery
4. Les Clos
5. District
6. Jax

Tank18 Urban Winery in San Francisco1) Tank 18

Tank18 is an urban winery on Howard Street that sources grape juice from all over Northern California including Napa, Sonoma, Lodi, and Santa Cruz. All of the wine is produced on site in metal tanks, which is where Tank18 gets its name. There are nine red varietals, three whites, and a rose. The warehouse-style space is airy and industrial. With barrels and bottles lining the walls and tables made from wooden palettes, it’s just what you would expect for an urban winery. A tasting involves a flight of 4 wines accompanied by a cheese sampler plate. Address: 1345 Howard Street (at Dore Street) Phone: (415) 799-7161

Terroir Natural Wine Bar and Merchant winery in San Francisco2) Terroir Natural Wine Bar and Merchant

Leave Tank18 and head toward 9th Street. Walk up 9th to Folsom and after a short five minute stroll down Folsom, you’ll arrive at Terroir Natural Wine Bar and Merchant, a cozy unpretentious wine bar and bottle shop. Terroir has a makeshift old world feel. The space has rust-colored exposed wooden beams, wine bottles on every wall, and an assortment of wine related tchotchkes that decorate every nook and crannie. The majority of Terroir’s lesser known wines are natural, organic, or biodynamic. If you haven’t heard of the varietal or producer, don’t worry, simply chat up the staff that’s welcoming and informed. Sip a glass of natural red from Rioja or purse the bottles for something interesting for you to add to your cellar. Address: 1116 Folsom Street; (between 7th and 8th) Phone: (415) 558-9946

Bluxome Street Winery exterior in San Francisco

3) Bluxome Street Winery

It’s a twenty minute walk or six minute taxi ride to the next stop, Bluxome Street Winery. As was in the early 1900s, Bluxome Street grows their grapes in Sebastopol in Sonoma County and transport them to the city for crush, barreling, and bottling. The tasting room is a small side glass room in one corner of the large warehouse, which doubles as an event space in the months when they are not using the facility to sort and crush grapes. The Bluxome Street winemaking team focus on leaving the wine as pure as possible. Most of the reds are native fermented — this means that as little as possible is added to the juice and there is no filtering or fining. The resulting wines are balanced, more European in style, and pair wonderfully with food. There are three, four, and five taste flights that allow you to try a sampling of Bluxome Street’s offerings. The company is young, so they experiment with a lot of wine side projects, like an orange wine and an ice-like dessert wine. If you have the chance to taste these test wines, do so. They are unlike any wine you’ll ever sip. Address: 53 Bluxome Street; Phone: (415) 543-5353

Les Clos urban winery in San Francisco4) Les Clos

The next stop, Les Clos, is a five minute walk: leave Bluxome Street and turn right, then another right on 4th Street and left on Townsend. Just past Lusk Street you’ll find Les Clos, a charming coffee shop and wine bar from star sommelier Mark Bright. Everything about Les Clos, from the intimate couch in the front to the bistro style crowded two tops in the middle to the racks of wine in the back, feels European, Parisian to be exact. It’s the sort of place where locals will pop in for a coffee and inadvertently stay for a glass of Chardonnay, but not just any glass of Chardonnay, the cleanest, crispest, most elegant Chardonnay around. Bright is a Burgundy connoisseur, so if you’re a fan of this classic French region, browse his bottle section. After several glasses of wine and a few walks, you’re probably hungry, right? Well, snack on Les Clos’ menu of bistro fare. There are house made duck rillettes, smoked salmon tartines, and croque madame or monsieur. If you’re feeling fancy, there’s also oysters on the half shell and caviar by the ounce. Address: 234 Townsend Street (At Lusk Street); Phone: (415) 795-1422

District Wine Bar in San Francisco5) District Wine Bar

This loft-like bustling wine bar and restaurant is the perfect place to fuel up after a day of imbibing. Of course, if you want to keep sampling wine, District offers an assortment of exciting flights. There’s the Aromatic Whites flight that features three light whites from around the world. An Oak vs. Stainless flight that teaches one how to taste the difference between aging styles and a Spices and Berries flight that features lush, fruity, and peppery reds. All of their wines are by the bottle, so when you sample something you can’t get enough of, simply order the entire bottle. District has plenty of seating to choose from. You can sit at the bar, a high table, a wide booth, or low couch. As for the food, it’s upscale wine bar eats: melt in your mouth cheese-filled arancini, finger-licking good mussels, and savory lamb meatballs. There’s also crisp pizzas, raw oysters, and deviled eggs. Address: 216 Townsend Street (at 3rd); Phone: (415) 896-2120

Urban Wine Tour at Jax Vineyards in San Francisco6) Jax Vineyards and Tasting Room

If Les Clos transports you to France, and District has taught you how to identify oak vs stainless steel aging, the next stop is a seven minute walk up Townsend. Turn left on 3rd Street, and right on Brannan, and you will be transported to the Napa Valley. Jax Vineyards and Tasting Room is a lush oasis in the middle of SOMA. The indoor outdoor space has a roomy patio with plenty of seating (the prime spot is an L-shaped couch with a glowing fireplace as a centerpiece) and an industrial bar with old barrels standing in for tables. The vibe is friendly and peaceful and the wines are super drinkable. Jax is run by a sister and brother team and there’s a sense of community that can only come from a homegrown family business. Jax produces two labels, an estate label and a second label, Y3, that’s more for everyday drinking. You can taste a variety of their labels on any given day; a personal favorite is the Y3 Taureau, a lovely red blend that’s structured yet fruity. Address: 326 Brannan Street (in between 2nd and 3rd); Phone: (415) 446-9505

Other Noteworthy Mentions:

*Sol Rouge Enjoy bocce and beautiful views of San Francisco at this intimate tasting room on Treasure Island. (address: 400 California Avenue, Building 141; phone: (415) 756-2254)
*Winery SF is also on Treasure Island and boosts a lively upstairs tasting room with a wide vaierty of bottles to taste including a light fruity sparking wine. (address: 200 California Avenue, Building 180 North; phone: (415) 735-8423)
*Chateau Montelena Winery is known for its Chardonnays famed wine in a blind tasting in Paris in 1976. The winery has a small tasting room at the Westin St. Francis in Union Square. (address: 335 Powell Street; phone:(415) 677-4033)
*Dogpatch Wineworks Experience making your own wine or tasting locally made wine in their tasting room. (address: 2455 Third Street; phone: (415) 52504440)