InoVino Wine Bar Cole Valley | Tasting Table San Francisco

Claudio Villani's Cole Valley wine bar aims high, altitude-wise

When Claudio Villani, owner of the new InoVino wine bar in Cole Valley, says that his wine list focuses on high-altitude European wines, it almost sounds ridiculously esoteric.

But when the former wine director of Perbacco and Bartolotta in Las Vegas explains that he's looking for wines that are approachable, affordable and yet idiosyncratic, we realize he's speaking our language.

So we asked Villani for the oenological equivalent of a mix tape.

The three wines Villani says exemplify his list

2012 Graci Etna Bianco ($13 for 6 ounces, $38 for a bottle). Grown on an active volcano in Sicily, this white wine is made from an indigenous grape called Carricante. "It has an electricity that lingers," he says. "Intensity without heaviness."

2010 Weingut Niklas S├╝dtiroler Lagrein ($12 for 6 ounces, $39 for a bottle). Lagrein, a red grape from the Italian Alps, is a favorite. Why? "It's a little smoky, with licorice, white pepper and bright red fruit."

2009 Proddutori di Nebbiolo di Carema ($13 for 6 ounces, $35 for a bottle). A cooperative in the north of the Piemonte makes this wine from the same grape used in Barolo. "It has the same haunting aroma as Barolo," he says, "but it's more gentle. Like Burgundy, but at half the price."