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Barrique: A New Wine Bar with Just the Juice

The barrels are for looks; beneath them stainless tanks hold the wine.

The past year has seen more and more creative wine programs. At Cotogna, wine director David Lynch has his Everything's-$40 wine program. At Frances, Paul Einbund serves his house blends for $2 an ounce. At Dcantr, you're encouraged to make your own blends.

Barrique, the wine bar that just opened in Jackson Square, is up next. Opened by owner Jim Howell, the bar is capitalizing on the philosophy of the bulk bin (without the hippy stigma) and taking out the middle man. Instead of paying for the bottling and pretty labels—which is where a lot of your wine dollars go—the new Jackson Square wine bar is serving up wines straight from the barrel.

Well, not really. The barrels are there for display. Beneath them lies the stainless tanks that the wine is kept in.

Curious to see what Barrique is all about, I stopped by last night to check it out. When we arrived, the place was full of people sitting at the rather Euro, off-white bench seats and tables, a stark contrast to the exposed brick walls and wooden ceiling beams. If you don't get a seat, you're out of luck. Oddly there's not really a true bar at this wine bar; only a slightly awkward place to stand.

So stand we did. Or kind of lean. Although there are plenty of wines that actually come in bottles, we tried a few different selections from the barrel list—all wines from California. I had a Sonoma Coast (the "real" Sonoma Coast it clarified) that tasted a bit of cherry cola, as the sommelier said. My husband and friend had a couple of different Cabs, which they kindly poured by the half glass so we could compare and contrast. It was refreshing to get to try something without knowing anything about its origin. No cult winemakers, no labels. Just drinking wine for what it is.

Barrique has a short and sweet menu of the usual wine snacks—cheese and charcuterie—which should stave off any hunger until you've had your fill of wine and move on to the next spot. There's more good wine drinking to be done in this neighborhood between Bocadillos down on Montgomery and Cotogna, which is directly across the street. I see a wine crawl in here somewhere.

Barrique, 461 Pacific Ave., 415-421-9200