Close

September 10, 2019

For those who like to go au natural

September 10, 2019

For those who like to go au natural

Natural wine” is a spectrum that encompasses a range of wine-growing and winemaking practices, from 00 (say: “zero zero”), that is, nothing added or removed during the winemaking process, to minimal techniques that help ensure a certain final product. One of the biggest goals of the natural wine movement, though, is to strip out pretense and enjoy wine for what it is: delicious, a little boozy, and great to share with friends and food. Accessibility is key: Natural winemakers often want their bottles to be enjoyed by a wide variety of drinkers, not just those with money to spare. Most of these winemakers are farmers as well, focused less on marketing and self-promotion but on making a product that they themselves want to drink. Imagine that your favorite organic farmers’ market vendor made something that will get you tipsy: How could you say no to that?

These wine bars and restaurants are some of the best stewards of natural wine in the Bay Area, showing off what’s finest about the world of natural wines. They’re focused on low-intervention, high-enjoyment bottles in a judgment-free environment – the purest expression of what wine should be.

1. Ordinaire Wine Shop & Wine Bar

3354 Grand Ave
Oakland, CA 94610
(510) 350-7524

Visit Website

This popular Grand Lake-adjacent wine bar is a bit headier than most others. It embraces the spiritual, mystical side of natural wine and encourages learning about natural winegrowing and winemaking practices. Saturday flights feature winemakers pouring their own wares – a great opportunity to ask more about the process (and a bargain at $10 for 5 pours). The shop also has one of the best wine clubs around.

A bartender pouring wine in two glassesCaleb Pershan

2. The Punchdown

1737 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94612

The Punchdown, just above the 19th street BART in downtown Oakland, presents its extensive by-the-glass list not simply by color but by flavor profile: a wine might be described as cherry/cocoa/vivant/glou glou (French for “chuggable,” more or less). The list, presided over by wife-and-husband owners Lisa Costa and D.C. Looney, is thoughtful and flights are encouraged; the “Oakland Rent Relief” is an inexpensive gateway into the world of natty wines. The Punchdown also has a small but noteworthy bottle shop on site with well-priced rarities.

3. minimo

420 3rd St
Oakland, CA 94607
(510) 891-1024

Visit Website

Named for the Italian word for “minimal,” Minimo, in Jack London Square, is a wine bar and shop that wears its heart on its sleeve. Its wines are defined by minimalism throughout the whole winemaking process, mostly from small makers. Unabashedly dedicated to creating community, the space has a shared long table, perfect for a group or for sharing a bottle or three with new friends. Biweekly winemaker tastings, on Wednesday evenings and Saturday afternoons, offer an opportunity for education.

4. Verjus

528 Washington St
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 944-4600

Visit Website

A few years ago, it would have been difficult to imagine that one of Eater’s 16 Best New Restaurants in America would be a natural wine bar. Sure, it was opened by superstar wife-and-husband restaurateurs Lindsay and Michael Tusk, of Quince and Cotogna fame. But it also indicates that natural wine, in some ways, is entering the mainstream. Verjus managing partner Matt Cirne maintains the French-leaning wine list — he’s just as comfortable discussing funky garage wines as premiere producers — and the staff is composed of a who’s-who of somms from other natural wine bars.