Ruby Wine in SF has Everything You Need

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Fairly recently, it came to my attention that there was a great little wine shop perched atop Potrero Hill that I had never been to. I knew of its existence through social media, but hadn’t made time to visit. I knew that they had a great wine selection from word-of-mouth and that there were often winemaker-hosted tastings featuring wines that I really loved. I finally got off my butt to pay Ruby Wine a visit, and I am so glad I did.

Let’s get one thing straight: This is no K&L. This great shop is nothing if not small. Don’t let the size of it fool you, though. The owner, Aran Healy, is the curator of all of the wines in this shop and he has impeccable taste. Lots of the wines are organic, biodynamic or ‘natural’. He carries wines from all corners of the earth so you will definitely find something you love. The best part is that most of the wines here are in the $15-$30 range, which means you can easily find a bottle to take home and enjoy on a Tuesday night. He also carries a great selection of high-end wines and grower Champagne (his personal favorite).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn addition to the staggering selection of natural wines, Ruby Wine also does tastings and wines by the glass every single day. You will never see the same wine being poured from one day to the next because Aran takes it upon himself or leaves it up to the staff to decide what they want to pour for the day. Usually there are four wines open and all of them are available to be enjoyed by the glass in the intimate little shop, which has plenty of seating. The prices are very fair and you can expect to pay much less for a glass of wine here than you would at a restaurant or downtown wine bar.

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In addition to the lovely European wines being sold here, there is a very good selection of domestically made natural wines to choose from. Right now these wines are all the rage and you can find selections from many of your favorite small, local-ish producers such as Dirty & Rowdy, Jolie-Laide, Matthiasson, Forlorn Hope, La Clarine Farm, Arnot-Roberts, Porter Creek & Dashe Cellars. It’s not often you see so many of my favorite wine producers in one spot. I can only think of one other wine shop that can even get close.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you find yourself to be so dazzled by the selection that you simply can’t decide what to buy, you can join their wine club which includes 2-4 wines every month. You can opt in for two reds, two whites, one red & one white, or two reds & two whites. This is a great way to expose yourself to new wines that you wouldn’t normally try, and rest assured that you will love them. Aran has a gift for picking great wines for wine novices and geeks alike.

Ruby Wine is open from Tuesday through Saturday from 1PM-9PM, on Sundays from 12PM-8PM, and is closed on Mondays. The shop is located right next door to Chez Maman on 18th Street. Do as the locals do and stop in for a glass of wine while you wait for your table at the restaurant next door. This lively neighborhood spot is busy every night of the week and you certainly won’t leave disappointed.

Ruby Wine
1419 18th Street
San Francisco, CA 94107
(415) 401-7708

Chez Panisse is back and better than ever

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A very sad thing happened recently. Chez Panisse caught fire and had to shut down for several months while the restaurant was rebuilt. I was quite sad about this for a few reasons: First and most importantly, the restaurant’s cultural significance in the Bay Area fancy food scene. Secondly, I wanted to go for my birthday again this year. I had gone last year and it was amazing.

Several weeks ago, I caught wind that Chez Panisse was going to be reopening and they were taking reservations. Serendipitously, the first night they were to open for dinner was June 24th, my birthday. Meant to be? Absolutely. I called and called until I finally got through and made reservations for my birthday dinner.

I was excited to find out that Monday happens to be their local’s night. They tend to have a more rustic menu and it’s a little cheaper than their typical menu. Considering I just left my job, this was perfect for us. I looked up the menu on the website the day of our reservation and saw that they would be serving one of their signature dishes, the seafood bouillabaisse. Three courses were $65 per person and the wine pairings were an additional $30 per person.

We arrived right on time for our reservation and I got a few snaps of the new patio dining room from the outside.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe inside of the restaurant didn’t look too different from the last time I was there. Considering I had only been inside once, it seems plausible that it has changed a bit and I simply didn’t notice. It was still a lovely copper hue with classy fixtures and comfortable seating. We were seated promptly and got to catch a glimpse of Alice Waters buzzing around the restaurant, greeting friends & customers and basically looking all business.

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The first course was a salad of haricots vert, roasted sweet peppers and frisée served with a crouton topped with fresh porcini mushrooms. The wine pairing was the highly sought-after Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé which has incredible roundness, richness and complexity for a rosé wine. The pairing was lovely.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe second course was the classic Chez Panisse seafood bouillabaisse. The broth made with fennel, tomato and saffron was very rich and complimented the local white fish, shrimp & clams beautifully. The wine pairing for this was a 2007 Domaine de Terrebrune Bandol (80% Mourvédre & 20% Grenache). At first I was surprised that such a rich red wine was being paired with the fish stew, but upon inquiring about the pairing with the server he told me that it’s a classic. Sure! Sounds good to me, and it was actually very nice.

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The final course, dessert, was a lovely Santa Rosa Plum galette with wild fennel ice cream. It was definitely the highlight of the meal and it even came out with a cutesy birthday candle. I’ve had a lot of galettes in my life and this was definitely one of the best. It showcased the complex flavors of the Santa Rosa plum and the wild fennel was an incredibly harmonious compliment to the galette. The wine pairing for this course was a sweet muscat, but I didn’t catch the producer or vintage. What does it matter, anyway? I love sweet muscat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have to say I am glad I came back here for my birthday. It’s an institution and sets the benchmark for restaurants all over the Bay Area. I was so honored to be able to enjoy dinner on the opening night of the newly rebuilt Chez Panisse. If you have ever thought about going, I highly recommend it. The easiest way to get reservations is by calling a month to the day before the night you want to eat there at 9AM until you are able to get through. It’s worth the redialing, I promise!

New Wine Bar hits SF’s Union Square

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEvery now and then, I do a Yelp search for new wine bars in our beautiful San Francisco. I am always on the lookout for a new place that is the right mixture of casual and elegant with a great wine selection. At the end of the day, I expect a wine bar to be about the wine. If there was ever a city where the restaurants and bars get popular based on the quality of the food/drinks and service they provide, NOT gimmicks or trendiness, it’s San Francisco.

The last search I made yielded a new wine bar in San Francisco’s Union Square called Eno. I have to admit that my expectations were low at first – Union Square is a tourist trap, after all, and I could only assume this new wine bar was going to cater to a tourist’s palate. Regardless of location, I decided to pay it a visit and catch up with some of my lovely lady-friends in the process.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I first arrived, my friend had already gotten there and she was on her laptop catching up on some work. A wine bar with Wi-Fi? HAVE I DIED AND GONE TO HEAVEN? Yes, it was true – Eno has free Wi-Fi for their customers to use. Not only is it free, but it’s decently fast. I could easily see this becoming a frequent spot for me to come to and catch up on my Winelandia correspondence while waiting for my husband to get off work, who works just 2 blocks away.

The big surprise was next. I opened the wine list and was very impressed. Pinot Gris from a volcano in Hungary, a slightly oxidative Chenin Blanc petillant-naturel from Montlouis-sur-Loire, a red wine made in our neighboring Berkeley by Broc Cellars, Chardonnay from Green Valley. Not only did they have an impressive bottle list, but they served a ton of wines by the glass and even have a tongue-in-cheek list of reasonably priced flights to choose from. You can get your bubble fix with the “Sekts, Bubbs & Rock ‘n Roll” (3 wines for $17), take a tour of Italy with “This Boot was Made for Drinking” (3 wines, also $17), or an impressive selection of mineral wines called “Kick Ash Whites” (3 wines, also $17). Great wines? Check. Lack of pretense and a sense of humor? Double-check.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn to the food! What good is wine without some delicious snacks to nom upon while you are drinking your selection of 3 different wines, using their free Wi-Fi to get some work done and also chatting with your hilarious lady-friends? The first thing I noticed upon walking in to Eno was their huge case containing whole wheels of cheese (another indication I might be in heaven?). Next to the cheese locker was a case of fancy-looking chocolates of all shapes and colors. They also had an inventive and interesting menu featuring seasonal foods at reasonable price points. I had the Grilled Peach & Buratta Salad with Black Pepper Vinaigrette for $11. It was lovely and inspired me to make one at home with some fresh nectarines from the farmer’s market. They also have a nice selection of cheese & charcuterie plates, sandwiches and bruschetta. You can view the full menu here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat more could you ask for if the place has great wines at a reasonable price-point, attentive service, delicious and creative food, free Wi-Fi and a very easy-to-get-to location? Well, the next thing on the list is ambiance and Eno has plenty of that. The decor is modern yet casual and slightly masculine while still being cozy. There were wood-paneled walls, cute bistro tables, and comfy chairs in the back next to a fireplace. Yes, you heard me. Eno also has a fireplace and right in front of it are two comfy seats. This is not only an excellent Get Work Done and Drink Wine spot, but also a superb Date Spot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI highly recommend you check out this great little wine bar before it gets popular and you can still catch that fireplace seat during our fair city’s most popular hour, Happy Hour. While this may be the best seat in the house, there is also an ample amount of window seating where you can watch tourists, business-folk and transients alike try to make their way down Geary Street. Eno may be my new favorite spot, I’ve already been there three times in less than a month. Maybe you’ll see me at a window seat, quietly banging away on my laptop while enjoying a flight of delicious and obscure wines that are hard to pronounce. Just make sure you say Hi!