A Guide to Wine at Commonwealth
Commonwealth pays a huge nod to molecular gastronomy, and this can make wine and food pairing more challenging. The dishes are intricate with ingredients that range from popcorn powder to ginger gelée. And, they are well executed. As such, it demands a wine list that meets it every step of the way and under wine director, Francesca Minace, it has, in a big way.
Before getting into the caliber of the selection, kudos to Minace for organizing it in a way that makes it easy to navigate. Broken down by country and color, the grape varieties are listed in capital letters, so those who are looking for a specific variety can choose a wine as easily as customers who are more regionally driven.
There are about 80 wines in total, from Europe and the United States. Diners who are well versed in wine will notice a bias towards “natural wines,” (those that are made from grapes grown without chemical treatments and are vinified with native yeast and few additives such as sulfur), but it is not inaccessible to customers who just want a good glass of wine to go with their food.
The list is slightly more wine white heavy, which makes sense with this cuisine. If you want something crisp yet intense, Pépiere’s 2013 Muscadet “Clos du Briords” ($40) from the 80-year-old vines is a no brainer. Yet should you be yearning for a richer wine, Régnier-David’s ’08 Saumur, “Cuvée de la Guichardière” ($49) complements the food beautifully, standing up to the heavier dishes and cutting right through them with blazing acidity.
Both of these examples are from the Loire Valley but you can have fun with Teutonic Wine Company’s 2013 “Rust Bucket” ($49), a Riesling and Pinot Noir blend from Oregon, or travel to Croatia with Terzolo’s 2013 Malvasia ($40). Notably, one thing that makes this list stand apart from others that share a penchant for natural wines is that it does not dismiss some of the great classic wines such as Karthäuserhof, which is represented by the ethereal 2008 Riesling Kabinett ($88).
The reds are just as exciting. From the 2013 Minimus Blaufränkisch ($55) that comes from the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge to Vignai da Duline’s ’11 Schioppettino ($87), the choices are just as adventurous as the food.
The dozen wines by the glass are also a mini European Union, spanning the continent with the 2012 Királyudar Furmint ($14) from Hungary to the 2014 Luberri Rioja “Orlegi” ($10) from Spain. The US is usually represented here too, with a red and white.
If wine is not your thing, the beer list is small but crafty, literally and metaphorically. There are also Sherries and vermouth, if you want to really live on the edge.
Minace is great at explaining the selections and while professional, she is hardly a stuffy sommelier or aloof natural wine hipster. This kind of a list will only work if the staff is also well informed and her love for these wines seems to have rubbed off on the servers, too.
Commonwealth donates $10 from each tasting menu to local non-profits. This is in itself a great reason to go. You could always go somewhere with good food though maybe not at this level, and bring in a bottle of wine at your choosing. However, few places anywhere – even in San Francisco – offer a wine adventure of this caliber.
2224 Mission Street (18th), San Francisco