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November 6, 2014

The Best New Wine List in San Francisco Belongs to Alta Ca

Since opening in the mid-market section of San Francisco last year, Alta has become a go-to place for food and wine industry professionals as well as those who just want inspired food and a wine list to match. The kitchen stays open until 1 am so it is a natural spot for restaurateurs but it has also turned into a major destination for wine geeks.

With about 100 wines, the list is a manageable size. At a minimum, General Manager and wine buyer, Ben Hetzel, has made sure that every wine is sustainably produced with many also being certified organic, biodynamic or both. Within these perimeters, there is a fair amount of diversity. Here's what you should try:

Bottles

  • Two wines made from Aligoté, a minor white wine grape from Burgundy. Priced similarly, Pierre Morey’s 2011 ($42) is a classic expression of the grape with its crisp minerality while Julien Altaber’s 2013 ($49) has an oxidative note and broader palate. Both are stunning, but different and go well with a range of dishes on the menu.
  • Up and coming California producers such as Gamling & McDuck’s 2011 Cabernet Franc ($62) from Napa Valley and the 2012 Ryme Vermentino “His” ($61) from Carneros.
  • France’s representation goes beyond Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Loire and the Rhône to Corsica, the Jura and southwest. Selections that are hard to come by are must-trys like La Stoppa’s 2007 “Machiona” ($76), a Barbera-Bonarda blend from Emilia-Romagna and the 2009 Riesling “Shieferterrassen” ($49), from the Mosel in Germany. 

Wines By the Glass

Twenty wines are available by the glass and with a few exceptions all are prided under $15.

  • Bertrand et Lise Jousset’s 2012 Rose Pétillant, “Éxilé” ($12), made from Cabernet Franc
  • NPA’s 2013 Sauvignon Blanc Frizzante ($14), from Mendocino County
  • 2009 Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($29)

When news spread that Alta was first opening up, the expectations for the kitchen were high since it is one of renowned chef, Daniel Patterson’s restaurants. However, for many it has also functioned much in the same way as a wine bar, with the food playing a supporting role. This does not in any insult what chef, Yoni Levy, is doing. On the contrary, the wine list at Alta shows its respect in the best way possible – by matching its level of excellence. 

Alta CA
1420 Market Street, San Francisco (Van Ness and Polk)

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