Natural Wine Bars Take Over | San Francisco

Two new spots for little-known wines

Natural wine bars are multiplying like indigenous yeasts.

The lists at the Bay Area's newest vinous watering holes–The Punchdown in Oakland and Pause Wine Bar in San Francisco–are both veritable farmer's markets of the wine world. Each is packed with bottles from small, rarely seen producers who focus on unusual grapes and organic, sustainable and biodynamic winemaking and growing.

But don't get caught up in semantics. What this means for the wine lover is a chance to try your next epiphany bottle–made by someone, somewhere or with some grape you've never heard of before.

How about a bottle of refreshing, orange-tinted Pheasant's Tears Rkatsiteli ($35) from Georgia? Let Lisa Costa and D.C. Looney, the duo behind The Punchdown, pour you a splash, and give a tutorial on qvevri, clay aging vessels used in Georgian winemaking since 6000 B.C.

Or visit Mendocino native Chris Tavelli, co-owner of Yield in Dogpatch, at the new Pause in Hayes Valley, where he'll pour you a wine from his own backyard. A recent example: the sleek 2009 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir ($56) from artisan winemaker Cesar Toxqui.

And yes, both serve food to ballast your belly for further wine adventures.

The Punchdown, 2212 Broadway (at Grand Ave.), Oakland, 510-251-0100 or; Pause Wine Bar, 1666 Market St. (at Gough St.), San Francisco, 415-241-9463 or

[UPDATE: The Punchdown closed in November 2013]