In a SoMa alleyway, the first juice from five tons of sauvignon blanc begins to drip from the press at Bluxome Street Winery, a full 60 miles from the grapes' Russian River Valley origin.
If it sounds odd, consider this: In the early 20th century, more than 100 wineries operated within San Francisco city limits before earthquakes, pests, and prohibition brought down California's wine industry. These days, you can catch the aroma of fermenting grapes mingling with asphalt as a handful of entrepreneurs bring back urban winemaking to warehouses in the industrial pockets of the city. And yes, you can stop in for a taste.
Bluxome Street Winery
Before being devastated by the 1906 quake, SoMa was the hub of San Francisco winemaking. Bluxome Street Winery pays homage to the neighborhood's history, producing cool-climate wines such as pinot noir, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and viognier, mostly sourced from the Russian River Valley. The most polished of the city's urban wineries, Bluxome is a prime happy hour gathering spot, open Tuesday through Sunday, barring events (check their website calendar). Or, you can stop by their heritage-brick tasting room in Ghiradelli Square. // Bluxome Street Winery, Tues.-Sun., 1-8 p.m., 53 Bluxome St. (SoMa) and Daily, 1-8 p.m., 900 North Point St. (Marina), bluxomewinery.com
(Courtesy of Dogpatch Wineworks)
This winery is housed in an old textile mill, built in the early 1900s. Dogpatch Wineworks operates mostly as an event space, but they do open their doors to the public at noon on Sundays for tastings. You can order by the glass and bottle, or for $22, try six selections of their 14 wines, including classic Bordeaux varietals and a few that are lesser known, like vermentino. They don't mind if you bring your own food—we suggest grabbing some barbecue from Smokestack just a block away—and if you get there first thing, we're told you might even luck into a private tour of their winemaking facility. // Dogpatch Wineworks, Sun., 12-6 p.m., 2455 3rd St. (Dogpatch), dogpatchwineworks.com
The fact that Bryan Harrington makes his wine in the back of a metal shop somehow adds to this winery's charm. Harrington purposely sources his grapes from everywhere but Napa and Sonoma, and brings back unique varietals from Europe every year, like nebbiolo and fiano from Italy. One of his bestsellers is mission, California's oldest, and mostly-forgotten, grape. With 20 years in the industry under his belt, Harrington does things old school, storing all of his files in a binder, not computer, and even crushing some of his grapes Lucy Ricardo-style. Fittingly, a visit to Harrington is nothing like tasting in Napa or Sonoma, but you'll be hard pressed to find a more authentic experience. // Harrington Wines, by appointment only, 1559 Custer Ave. (Hunters Point), harringtonwine.com
(Courtesy of A.P. Vin)
Schedule a tasting at this Mission warehouse before your next visit to their neighbor, Southern Pacific Brewing. Vintner Andrew P. Vingiello left a career in finance a decade ago to pursue making high-quality, single-vineyard pinot noirs. A one-on-one tasting with Vingiello takes place among the barrels and winemaking equipment at a custom-crafted, 200-pound, rollout wood slab bar. // A.P. Vin, by appointment only, 622 Treat Ave. (Mission), apvin.com
August West Wines
Nestled in the produce district, a tasting here is a 3-for-1 deal. August West, named for that Grateful Dead lyric, is the result of a partnership between longtime San Francisco resident and winemaker Ed Kurtzman and two growers, Howard Graham and John Peterson. You'll get to sample August West chardonnay, pinot noir, and syrah, in addition to wine from Kurtzman's personal label Sandler, and Peterson's label Mansfield Dunne, which are all made in the same facility. // August West Wines, by appointment only, 540 Barneveld Ave. (Hunters Point), augustwestwine.com
Also sharing the warehouse space with August West is Betwixt, wine made from Englishman Tim Telli. He studied under fellow San Francisco vintners Kurtzman (August West) and Vingiello (A.P. Vin) before finally starting his own label, under which he currently produces grenache, syrah, and pinot noir. Telli uses minimalist and organic winemaking practices, interfering with the grapes as little as possible. The resulting wines are unrefined and unfiltered. // Betwixt Wines, by appointment only, 540 Barneveld Ave. (Hunters Point), betwixtwine.com
Carl Sutton has been crushing in San Francisco since 2010, following 15 years working in wine country. He's best known for his dry vermouth infused with 17 dried herbs, which you can enjoy in cocktail form, and his wine by the jug, a match made in late-night-pizza heaven. He favors somewhat unconventional winemaking practices, such as not filtering his wine, not using yeast, barrel-aging rosé, and aging some of his wine in large glass demijohns that greet you as you walk in. Set yourself up at a wine-barrel table, on the threadbare orange couch, or at the old-school desk for your $10 tasting, served on tap from kegs, not bottles. // Sutton Cellars, Thurs.-Fri., 5-8 p.m. and Sat.-Sun., 12-5 p.m., 601 22nd St. (Dogpatch), suttoncellars.com