San Francisco Drinking: 20 Spot Wine Bar and Restaurant

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20 Spot has won me over. The unassuming Mission canteen is now my favourite wine bar in San Francisco, beating out some stiff competition, but also capitalizing on the diminishing of the SOMA wine bar Terroir, which was sold a while ago and has lost much of its charm.

20 Spot's unassuming exterior

20 Spot’s unassuming exterior

The recipe for success is all in the details. The space is a renovated old record shop. It is warm and inviting during daylight hours and after dark. The long bar is a perfect place to chat with the superb staff, particularly owner Bodhi Freedom who has a great personality, chats up his customers and has a wealth of passion for and knowledge about wine. There are also tables and lounge areas for larger groups.

The food is outstanding too, with small and medium sized plates by chef Caleb Jones. The dishes are quite sophisticated and pair extremely well with the by the glass offerings, which are varied and interesting.

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For instance, over a couple visits I tasted Pascal Ponson Prestige Champagne, a delicious briochey Champagne, paired with smoked salmon profiteroles; a 2006 Stefan Bauer Riesling – superbly delicious 11 year old dry Riesling for a song; and a Karl Erbes 2008 Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Spatlese, paired with the house bread pudding.

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The wine list curation is creative but focused. It is non-ideological in the sense that it isn’t ‘naturalist’ or purely local. It’s based more on superb quality for a very reasonable price. And there are always several interesting options by the glass for a variety of moods and preferences – and many more by the bottle. There is a strong focus on Pinot Noir and Riesling – with at least a couple aged Rieslings by the glass. Oh, and they manage to bust out the vinyl all day – none too easy in a busy service environment.

In a word, if I lived in SF I would be a house regular.

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