In part because restaurants and wine bars can be a little quieter after the start of the new year, it is often a good time to check them out. They’re usually less busy and you might get a little extra personal attention, if that is what you want, and you won’t have as much difficulty finding a table or bar stool.
In the past year, a few new places have opened and others have gone through some positive changes, giving the Bay Area some spiffy new spots for wine drinkers. Be sure to check these three out.
Last spring, 20 Spot opened on the site of the former Force of Habit record store on 20th Street. No one likes to see a vinyl shop go, but this is about as good of a replacement as you can get. Bodhi Freedom, who also owns Bacchus Wine Bar in Russian Hill, dove in further here with a full kitchen to match the 70-odd international wine selections. The section of older German rieslings is especially tempting, with deals such as the 2003 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Schlossberg Kabinett ($50). Twenty wines are available by the glass, and there is a weekly flight with three wines.
3565 20th St. (near Lexington Street), S.F.; 20Spot.com, (415) 624-3140. 5 p.m. to midnight Monday through Wednesday, 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Thursday through Saturday
Wine Kitchen joined the Divisadero Street corridor last spring, merging the talents of Greg Faucette and Jason Limburg, who have worked in some of San Francisco’s best kitchens (Spruce and Bar Tartine, to name just two). The real focus here, though, is on wine, and since the kitchen’s opening the 50-wine list has continued to evolve. Including the four wines on tap, there are more than 20 available by the glass, such as the 2010 Shoe Shine Petite Sirah from Solano County ($13 per glass) and 2012 Arregi Txakolina ($11) from the Basque region of Spain.
507 Divisadero St. (between Hayes and Fell streets), S.F.; winekitchensf.com, (415) 525-3485. 4:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday
This San Francisco landmark is now owned and run by Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield, the same folks behind the Spotted Pig in New York. Ceri Smith, the owner of Biondivino, and Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon are co-wine directors. Naturally, Italian wines are the main act and you can find anything from the 1995 Giacomo Conterno Barolo, Cascina Francia ($475) to the 2011 Fattoria de Fubbiano Rosso ($42) from Tuscany. Some of California’s most exciting vintners, like La Clarine Farm, have also found a rightful place on this extremely fun list.
242 Columbus Ave. (between Broadway and Pacific Street), S.F.; toscacafesf.com, (415) 986-9651. 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., Tuesday through Sunday
Pamela S. Busch has been working in the wine industry since 1990 as a writer, educator and consultant and co-founded Hayes & Vine Wine Bar and Cav Wine Bar & Kitchen. In 2013, she launched TheVinguard.com.