Strolling along Polk Street the other day we ducked into local favorite William Cross Wine Merchant. From the front WC looks like a shop, but if you head past the bottle racks you’ll find a full bar area with stools, tables, and a couple of beer taps to boot.
William Cross is such an unpretentious laid back setting. To be honest, I thought I might feel a bit self conscious or exposed having a quick taste in the shop, but when I was finally sat there, glass in hand, I realized that’s not the case at all: it’s a very relaxed and even rather lively spot.
There are wines by the glass or flights (changed weekly), and of course you can buy any bottle from the shop and add $5 for corkage. The flights are usually between $10 and $15 and you get to try three (generously poured) different wines. We tried the Italian and the ‘Strange’ flight, both of which were excellently chosen.
Of all the six, my favorite was the Birichino Cinsault from the cult vineyard Bechthold in Lodi. The back label states these Cinsault vines might be the oldest on earth! A claim that might not be far off as the vineyard was planted in 1886 (let us not forget that most of Europe’s vines died in the great phylloxera epidemic of the late 19th century). An odd little side not here – I first met the co-owner of Birichino, Alex Krause, about 8 years ago at a random, tiny wine tasting of Bonny Doon in the back room of a pub in deepest darkest Sussex County, England. Alex is the current export sales director of Grahm’s wine and was regularly in the UK, flogging the good stuff.
This wine had a multilayered depth to it not usually found in Cinsault and the fact that is was on Cross’ tasting list shows the wide variety at this bar. It’s a good spot for a date, a jolly afternoon with wine-appreciating pals. or even a drink by yourself. In fact there is a huge library of wine books all around the place, so why not catch up on the odd region while you try the wine (that’s exactly what we did with the Cour-Cheverny we had).
They don’t mind if you bring food to eat at one of the tables, and it’s also a perfect place to wait for a table at one of the many restaurants nearby. A serious but unpretentious wine bar for even the geekiest of fans. I can’t wait to go back, and maybe check out one of the Wednesday night tastings next time.
2253 Polk Street (at Green)
San Francisco, CA 94109
Phone: (415) 346 1314