Wine Country is lovely, but sometimes we want to taste wines closer to home.
Good news: There are an increasing number of makers, restaurants, and wine sellers in San Francisco and the East Bay that offer tastings and special events aimed at introducing us to new vintages. Even better news: These experiences are gratis. Happy tasting!
Flatiron Wines & Spirits
Flatiron focuses on small producers and family wineries. The shop stocks hundreds of wines under $20 and thousands of bottles from organic producers, in addition to an assortment of artisanal spirits. In the small tasting room, you can sip for free during special events. Check their Facebook page for announcements of upcoming tastings. // 2 New Montgomery St (FiDi), flatiron-wines.com
At this urban tasting room in Oakland, all you have to do is check in on Yelp in order to receive a free sip of their Sonoma and Livermore Valley varietals. Keep an eye out for Nero's 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, a pretty blend of pear, green apple and honeysuckle notes. // 477 25th St (Oakland), nerocellars.com
Alta at Minnesota Street Project
On the first Friday of every month, there's a little something special to complement your meal at Alta's new location in Dogpatch. At the restaurant's free Meet the Winemaker series, you can mingle with vintners and taste their wines. On Friday, September 1 (4-6pm), sit down for a three-pour tasting with Calistoga's Phifer Pavitt Winery. We dare you not to stick around for dinner. // 1275 Minnesota St. (Dogpatch), altaca.co
Fat Grape Winery
Treat yourself to a free flight of Patrick Bowen's sulfite-free wines at Fat Grape's Treasure Island tasting room. On Saturdays, the winery takes things up a notch with live local music to pair with pours of small batch wines from grapes grown throughout Northern California. Check out their award-winning 2009 Amador County Syrah, with the full-bodied notes of dark fruits and black pepper. // 1080 Ave. M, Bldg 670 (Treasure Island), fatgrapewinery.com
These atmospheric liquor stores in SoMa—from the team at FutureBars, the folks who brought us Bourbon & Branch and Rickhouse—Cask offers a deep-dive into small batch whiskey, beer, wine and other spirits. As if that weren't enough to draw us in, both locations offer free tastings. On August 18, head to their Third Street shop to sample Australia's Four Pillars Gin. // 17 3rd St. (SoMa), caskonthird.com; and 101 Spear St. (SoMa), caskatrincon.com
Top of the Mark
There are just a few weeks left to indulge in Top of the Mark's summer wine and movie series, an annual summer tradition at this restaurant on the 19th floor of the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel. On Tuesdays this August, get effervescent with tastes of Domaine Chandon Brut, with its hint of brioche, and Rosé, sparkling with aromas of plum and pink peppercorn. If you can manage to pull your gaze away from the stunning views of downtown San Francisco, classic movies such as 1967's Barefoot in the Park (August 15) or 1968's The Odd Couple (August 22) will keep you in your seat long after the tasting is over. // 999 California St. (Nob Hill), topofthemark.com