Regular readers will know what a fan I am of the Ferry Plaza Marketplace, or the "San Francisco Gourmet Trap" as it might be better known, and one of the reasons is the wine bar at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant.
Situated dangerously near the Recchiuti chocolate store (double trouble) the wine bar offers marketplace shoppers an opportunity to take a load off with a glass of wine, and gives serious wine buyers the opportunity to sample a few things before buying. The bar is set up as a somewhat enclosed area as part of the store, and is strictly a bar format with high stools and few amenities other than the view of the wine store, or, more to my preference, fellow shoppers passing by.
One of my favorite aspects of the wine bar is their open door policy with regards to food: buy anything at the Ferry Plaza for lunch or a snack and you are welcome to bring it into the bar to have with a glass of their wine. When I was working downtown last year, it was all I could do to keep from getting a sandwich and a glass of wine for lunch every day.
The menu of wines on offer changes significantly week to week, and is remarkably free of commercial schlock. I find it always an interesting mix, and one that mirrors the international and eclectic offering in the store, with everything from small producers of California to grower Champagnes, good Burgundies, a nice Austrian and German selection, and bits and pieces from Spain, Australia, South Africa, Argentina, and more. The selection tends to highlight small producers and often good values, as well as the occasional opportunity to taste older wines and exclusive wines if you're willing to pay a bit more for a glass.
My one complaint about the wine list has to do with its brevity. The bar does a good job of creating different flights of wines, and changing them quite often, but the variety of wines to choose from is somewhat limited compared to other wine bars around town. Certainly this space is a complement to the retail store, but it could stand prouder on its own as a legitimate wine bar with a bit more depth by-the-glass. Having said that, the knowledgeable staff is very helpful in steering customers to wines they will appreciate and enjoy.
While the atmosphere is not much more than an upscale mall, this wine bar is a great place to stop for a glass over lunch, and has hosted more than a few of my own impromptu business meetings, if anything for an excuse to get out of the office and smooth out a conversation with a little wine. This is not a social destination to be sure, and does not attract groups of people out for the evening (especially as it closes around 8:00 PM), so it tends to fill up with businesspeople from the nearby financial district, tourists looking to get off their feet, and local gourmands.
Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant Bar
San Francisco Ferry Building
On The Embarcadero at the end of Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94111
Toll Free: 866.991.9400
Open 7 days a week with the following hours:
Valet parking for marketplace customers is available, and various downtown parking garages are open on Saturday for the farmer's market, but parking is usually a pain. I recommend public transportation, either BART or MUNI.
Dress is casual.
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