Places to Drink Wine: Bluxome Street Winery
Before the 1906 earthquake, what is now called SOMA had over 100 wineries. The destruction from that event and later on Prohibition wiped all from the map. As wine production moved closer to the vineyards, none were to be found in the ‘seven by seven’ borders until 2010 when Bluxome Street Winery put a stake in the ground. In 2012 the tasting room opened and now, this 5100 case facility has become a local favorite for both its Sonoma county wines and the location that doubles as an event space.
Founded by 4th generation San Franciscan, Kevin Reidy, Bluxome Street pays homage to the city’s past. A TV screen showing footage that was shot two weeks before the earthquake loops in images of old trolley cars, men wearing Derby hats, what are now landmarks and Market Street, known at the time as “the Slot.” Jack London famously wrote about it in 1909, pointing out that the Slot was San Francisco’s socioeconomic dividing line with the haves living north of Market street and the have nots living south. But, Peter Chouinard, Reidy’s partner at Bluxome Street is quick to mention that south of the Slot was where everyone went to have a good time.
With its clubs and bars, SOMA once again provides much of San Francisco’s nightlife, thanks in part to the earthquake in 1989 that ushered in a new era of construction and renewed business interest. Reidy, who owns the Balinard Vineyard in Green Valley, was a garage winemaker and saw there was a great opportunity to bring a piece of the wine country to this area for SF residents and visitors who cannot or, or don’t wish to leave the city.
Since the tasting room opened in 2012, Bluxome Street has witnessed a steady increase in business. With a focus on Russian River Valley wines, they make a total of 12 at present, six being Pinot Noir. A number are vineyard designates and some are for wine club members only.
At any given time, there are half a dozen wines by the glass and three flights. There are about to be some vintage changes but currently, some of the highlights include the 2011 Russian River Chardonnay ($9gl/$30bt) and 2011 Russian River Pinot Noir ($10gl/$32bt), which are good expressions of the respective varietals with nuance and balance.
The 2012 Hurst Vineyard Pinot Noir ($45 bt) is available in “The Red” flight ($10 for three wines). My personal favorite, it has perfumed strawberry and spice aromas with bright, delicate red fruit on the palate. They are adding the first release of a “South of the Slot Pinot Noir” (2012 vintage, $45 bt) that is made from the Balinard and Michael Valentine vineyards. Floral with pomegranate, cherries and blood orange, it has a little more weight than the Hurst but is not as heavy as the 2011 Balinard or even 2011 Sonoma Coast.
In less than four years, Bluxome Street has nearly doubled its space, adding a room that is strictly for winemaking and operations. The main space, with its glass-encased wall of barrels lit by moving Italian glass carboys, functions as a multi purpose room, used for events and winemaking.
The facility can be rented out for parties and tastings but on Friday nights it becomes a food fiesta with rotating food trucks, wines paired to match the evenings cuisine and local bands.
Not least, the Reidy and Chouinard take wine education very seriously. In May they are going to start a series of classes and tours that will be taught by their staff, who are well versed in San Francisco’s wine heritage and go through level two of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust.
While you might miss out on the vineyards that accompanies a trip to Napa or Sonoma, taking a sojourn to Bluxome Street Winery is can be just as enjoyable. With its winemaking facility, history and the social aspects of the tasting room and events, it truly provides a unique experience that is also reflective of the San Francisco today.