The two most ideal places to drink wine are on your own couch while wearing fuzzy socks, and at an actual vineyard with the winemaker’s border collie named Riesling sitting faithfully by your side. But when you’re running low on laundry and realize the dog is actually a figment of your buzzed imagination, you do have other options.
That’s why we have this guide. It’s our 20 favorite places in SF to drink wine - some of which play great music, others have food worth going out of your way for, and the rest you’ll just want to be your new clubhouse. Whether you’re meeting a date for drinks, catching up with people you haven’t seen in a while, or trying to impress clients, if you want to drink wine while you do it, these are the spots you should check out.
There aren’t a ton of bars in the Financial District that don’t revolve around sports, margaritas, or cramming yourself between five groups of people. Then there’s Verjus. It’s a wine bar in Jackson Square that’s big and open, but still feels like a cool private club. If you’re just here for a quick drink, they have a small by-the-glass selection. If you’ve have time, though, you can pick a bottle from their long list of mostly natural wines while you split a few small plates, like pate en croute or the morel ragout, with some friends after work.
This place in Presidio Heights has red walls and deep-cushioned chairs that make it feel more like a cigar bar or a hidden room in House of Prime Rib than a wine bar. Aside from the comfortable seats, what makes this place so great is the live band that they somehow fit in here six nights a week. And even though the band takes up roughly 10% of the available space, somehow the music is never so loud that you can’t hear the people around you. It’s a great last stop of the night when you’d rather drink a glass of cab franc then go somewhere that requires taking tequila shots to catch up with the rest of the bar.
Decant SF feels more like a friendly book shop than a wine bar, with its bright light, colorful walls, and happy staff that will ask you if there’s anything they can help you with before you even get close to the register. It’s mostly a bottle shop, but you can also drink whatever you buy here or try a glass of something. There’s no food menu, but the people behind the bar will set up a cheese and charcuterie plate for you to enjoy with your glass of nebbiolo if you want.
If you want to learn about natural wines, Ruby Wine is the place to go. This tiny shop in Potrero Hill feels like you’re in a friend’s living room, and the people behind the counter will talk to you about wine the same way you would discuss fan theories from your favorite Netflix show with your deskmate. On Fridays, this place does tastings with winemakers whose bottles they sell, and they’re so casual that it feels more like a housewarming party than an opportunity to learn about wine - so there’s no pressure if you’re the person who was always too afraid to ask questions in class.
Bodega is a small spot that’s hidden away off Columbus Ave, and almost feels like it was churned out by a wine bar algorithm, but in a good way. There are plants, white tile, a neon sign, and a small menu of things to eat while you drink from their by-the-glass list, like short rib tacos, mushroom toast, and a burrata that changes with whatever’s in season. It’s the kind of place you meet up with a few friends after everyone comes back from vacation to compare notes and secretly rule on who had the best time.
Bacchus is tiny, and if you end up in one of the roughly 15 seats here, consider yourself lucky. It’s a pretty great place to hang out, with vinyl playing all the time and wine that gets served in glasses that look like they were stolen off a high shelf from Williams Sonoma. If you live in the neighborhood, this is a cool place to drop in on a random Tuesday, but it’s also a great place to kick off a weekend night with a glass of sauvignon blanc or sake while you’re waiting for a table at Elephant Sushi next door.
Whenever we have visitors staying at one of the hotels around Nob Hill, we skip meeting them for drinks at their hotel bars and tell them to come to Altovino instead. This place is a full restaurant, but the front room has a bar that’s the perfect place to catch up with someone over drinks. The wine list is all Italian, and if you get hungry there’s a small menu of things like oxtail-stuffed olives and speck-wrapped breadsticks to snack on while you decide if you want to go to dinner somewhere else or just cave and order some pasta here.
If your plans to go wine tasting in Napa with your coworkers always fall through, but mostly because you’re not sure if you could spend an entire day with them outside the office, go for a test run at Maritime Wine Tasting Studio. This place on Columbus is big, so you can come here with a group, and they have a variety of flights that are all under $20. They even do bookings for larger events, so if your startup wants to do some sort of team bonding activity, you can skip the escape room and just come drink here instead.
Fool’s Errand is the perfect launchpad for a night out on Divis. This small wine bar only has a short menu of things to snack on like cheese boards and popcorn, which will hold you over while you wait for a table at Che Fico or Nopa nearby. If you’re going to be here long enough for a bottle, they have a good-sized list, but if you only have enough time to branch away from your usual glass of pinot noir to try some zinfandel, their small by-the-glass selection has you covered.
If you’ve ever dreamed of writing a book in a garden somewhere while drinking wine, you were probably imagining Arlequin Wine Merchant. This place in Hayes Valley has one of the best back patios in the city, and while we used to love sitting here when we needed a caffeine boost from the now-closed cafe next door, it’s just as good for drinking wine. Arlequin is mostly a bottle shop, and they have stuff that even your friend who brags about having two wine fridges won’t recognize. If you’re mostly just looking for some great scenery, though, grab a bottle of prosecco from the cooler, have it opened for you by the incredibly knowledgeable staff, and find a table out back.
If you get one of the window seats at Union Larder, it almost feels like you’re watching Hyde Street go by in front of you like it was an aquarium - but with cable cars instead of schools of fish. You might get hungry while you watch the world go by and Union Larder has a great menu of things like charcuterie boards, salads, and a burrata to enjoy with a bottle of cab or rose. They also have a cheesemonger here to help you make the best cheese-related decisions possible short of going to Whole Foods and asking for a million samples.
Noir Lounge is many things. By day, this place serves huge and delicious sandwiches. By early evening, it’s a casual spot to grab a drink and a bite. By the time darkness rolls around, old movies are playing on the walls and a piano player may appear. The one constant here is that there’s always wine.
This is probably the quietest bar on Union Street, which isn’t saying a ton considering the other options, but West Coast Wine and Cheese is a great spot for a one-on-one catch up or pretending you bought out the entire bar with a few friends. All of the wine here is from California, Oregon, and Washington, and they have a great menu of things like cheese boards, shishito peppers, and grilled cheese if you’re a little bit hungrier.
Press Club is an underground wine bar in SoMa that’s so large it feels like it takes up a whole city block. With its lack of windows and multiple bright lounge areas to sit in, this place looks a bit like the set of a Tom Ford photoshoot. But even if you’re not wearing a tailored suit, you can still hang out here while you make your way through a wine flight after work.
This is the only place on the list that makes their own wine, at least legally and that we know about. This big spot in the no man’s land between SoMa, the Mission, and Civic Center is only open Wednesday to Sunday, and the huge space makes it a great place to come with a bunch of friends and drink well-priced sangiovese and chenin blanc for around $10 per glass. If you hang out too long, you might start thinking that you can make your own wine at home too, but that would definitely void your lease, so just come here instead.
We once saw a waitress pour wine into a mug and drink it behind the bar here, and that’s exactly why this place rules. The setup is warm and inviting, and the staff is exceptionally nice. Etcetera is the ideal place to grab wine before or after dinner in the Mission. Or if you want to just stay put, the steak tartare and French-style pizzas (basically flatbreads) will do you right.
Amelie is the place you go to when you say that you want to finally start learning more about wine, but really you just want to drink well and not pay a lot of money. They have one of our favorite Happy Hours in the city with discounted flatbreads and cheese boards, but our favorite part of it is that you can get three heavy pours to “taste from” for $12. Sometimes they have live music, and it’s fun when they do, but that’s just a bonus for what you’re really here for.
Fig & Thistle feels a little hidden from the rest of Hayes Valley because it’s located down an alley away from the center of the neighborhood, and even though it’s not a secret, that adds to the fun of walking in here. They have a good by-the-glass list of all Californian wines, and a good beer menu too if you want to change it up. This place is pretty tiny, so it’s great for a casual date when you actually want to hear about whatever work drama is happening to whoever you’re going out with for the fifth time.
20 Spot is a super laid-back spot in the Mission that you could hang out at forever if the staff wouldn’t kick you out every day so they could retreat to their actual homes. It’s the perfect size to come with one person and have it feel intimate, but it’s still large enough to bring a group without an issue. Split a few bottles from their small list of wines from places like Germany and Croatia, and if you get hungry, they have things like oysters, steak tartare, and flatbreads.