By George Calys.
Photos by Regina Connell.
I gave the door at 53 Bluxome Street a nudge, it creaked open, and a voice inside said, “You looking for someone?”
“Web,” I said, “I’m looking for Web. The guy that makes the wine.”
“That’s me,” the voice replied and I entered into San Francisco’s first urban winery since before Prohibition: Bluxome Street Winery.
Northern California’s Napa and Sonoma counties are internationally known as home to some of the finest wineries in existence. But a winery in the heart of San Francisco’s South of Market district?
Winemaker Webster “Web” Marquez pushed a chair my way in the tasting room of the Bluxome Street Winery. Lined up on the table were half a dozen of his latest creations: Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs. Web opened the first bottle and began philosophizing on his approach to these varietals.
“I’m one of those winemakers who believes in letting the wine become what it wants to be,” Web began. I began sipping the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc and listening.
“We don’t inoculate our wines with commercial yeasts,” Web continued, “We just let the native, natural yeasts present on the grapes do their thing.” I moved on to the 2010 Russian River Chardonnay, now taking bigger sips. It was a nice, big, round Chardonnay, with no hint of the over-oaked flavors often found in that varietal.
Then it was on to my personal favorites, the elegant Pinot Noirs. “This is my life’s work,” opined Web, “trying to make unbelievable Pinot.” Swirling, sniffing, sipping the Russian River Pinot as Web poured, I was hitting my stride.
But the best was yet to come: Bluxome’s single vineyard Pinot Noirs, of which there are three. Without boring you with wine geek details, the single vineyard offerings exhibit the fine typicity of Sonoma and Mendocino Pinot Noirs. Medium bodied, complex, and rich, they will pair equally well with seafood, poultry, or beef.
But why a winery in the middle of San Francisco?
The building certainly lends itself to wine production. A solid, brick masonry warehouse, common in this part of town, its high bays easily fit the stainless steel tanks and stacks of oak barrels that wineries use. A cozy tasting room and bar have been inserted right inside the entrance. There’s no question: it’s a funky, character-filled space.
There’s no economic incentive to locate in the city, though. In fact, grapes have to be trucked in from Sonoma. Similarly, the winemaker resides in wine country and drives in several times a week. And we San Franciscans all know the herculean expense of doing business in this town.
Bluxome Street Winery has partially made up for that expense by positioning itself as an event space. In a nice nod to the artisan food community, the winery hosts a monthly “Meet Market” where local producers of crafted foods show off and sell gourmet goodies.
Still, if I were to put my finger on why Bluxome located on this short alley in the city, I’d say it’s the coolness factor. The humble warehouse hidden on a back street is just a downright cool place for a winery.
And in the end, a winery ought to be a cool place, the wines ought to be delicious, and the experience fun. Happily for San Francisco, there’s now a winery that scores on all three within the city limits.
Bluxome Street Winery
53 Bluxome Street
San Francisco, CA 94107