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San Francisco Wine Bar: The Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant Bar

ferryplaza_card.jpgRegular 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 fpwm.jpgthe 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.

WINE LIST: two and a half stars

STEMWARE: three and a half stars

SERVICE: three and a half stars


ATMOSPHERE: one and a half stars

OVERALL: two and a half stars

Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant Bar
San Francisco Ferry Building
On The Embarcadero at the end of Market Street
Shop #23
San Francisco, CA 94111
Phone: 415.391.9400
Toll Free: 866.991.9400
[email protected]

Open 7 days a week with the following hours:

Monday: 11am-8pm
Tuesday-Wednesday: 10am-8pm
Thursday-Friday: 10am-9pm
Saturday: 8am-9pm
Sunday: 10am-7pm

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.

Comments (5)

Antonio wrote:
02.11.07 at 6:39 AM

I believe they also allow you to open a bottle purchased in the shop...

Jack wrote:
02.11.07 at 8:25 AM

I get to the Ferry Plaza a dozen or so times a year but end up having a glass at the FPWM wine bar about twice a year. I think the reason is that they seem to practically choose the more boring wines in the store to sell by the glass. It's a bad sign when I no longer bother to check the wine list each visit.

Wednesday evenings is different, however, when they have a special flight - some of these are really, really great. Often the winemaker is in attendence, too.

Michelle wrote:
02.12.07 at 8:55 AM

I get to the San Francisco area maybe once a year if I'm lucky. Because of this, I've developed a rather romanticized notion of the place, all wrapped up in fact, fiction, history, and, well, shopping. Most years, my husband attends a huge conference and I tag along. He spends days and nights at the conference and I wander around the city rather haphazardly, doing all the touristy things, shopping, and trying to find non-touristy things. Each year I end up spending a lot of time every afternoon at the Ferry Building. There's a cheese shop there I love. And I always grab a glass of wine at the Wine Merchant Bar. There's a sandwich shop near the back where I'll grab a sandwich and sit out back, staring at the Bay Bridge. (Really, my hometown of Cincinnati just can't compare with my romanticized San Francisco.) My favorite part though, is sitting at the Wine Merchant bar, chatting with the amazingly friendly people around me and people-watching the folks shopping in the Ferry Building.

sam wrote:
02.12.07 at 11:57 AM

I like the people at FPWM.
Whenever I bump into Heidi we seem to end up sharing a glass of bubbly there.
I am glad that they have opened up the T-Line Muni so I'll now be able to get there on public transport and try some more of the wines.
I love that you can take whatever food you like in there too.

heidi wrote:
02.12.07 at 9:52 PM

I live in Germany and visit my daughter 2 a year and always head for the Wine Bar after I get in-wonderful experience and love to sit and watch people go by.

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