Places to Drink Wine: Hotel Biron
Hotel Biron had a quiet opening in 2001. Located on Rose Alley, just off of Gough Street and around the corner from Market Street, this wine bar/art gallery was under the radar for a long time but eventually became a favorite post work hang out for restaurant professionals and as the word got out, hip wine drinkers started coming.
Even though the entrance to the enormously popular Zuni Café is on the opposite end of the alley, people who have never been here wander up and down the street, looking for Biron, which serves as a perfect juxtaposition to Zuni’s “see and be seen” atmosphere. If you want to have a conversation with someone, Biron is the place to go. It’s a perfect first date spot as even when it is busy, it seems pretty low key. Not least, if you are looking for a glass of wine, it is the best spot in the area.
Chris Fuqua, who was a cook at Zuni Café for many years, founded Hotel Biron. Even though he left the nest, he was not far away and the influence of Judy Rodgers’ kitchen, and its standards, followed him down the street. The wine selection has changed over the years but there has always been an very good selection of inexpensive choices. For instance, the 2010 Gabutti Grusappoli Langhe Rosso, a delightful blend of Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto that oozes with terroir doesn’t require a second thought at $39.
There are about fifty wines on the list, of which half are available by the glass. The pours are extremely generous. Fuqua and Hotel Biron’s Wine Director, Laura Brennan, seek out wines that are above all, well made and accessibly priced but they have a preference towards wines that are made without chemicals in the vineyard and minimal additives in the winery. Other places around town share this philosophy but what makes Biron stand apart is that the wine list is more affordable than a lot of other spots.
With the current incarnation of the list, you should start out with Bainbridge and Catheart “Cuvée la Danseuse,” ($14 gl/ $42 bt) a Vin de France sparkling rosé made from Grolleau, a light bodied red grape that is enjoying a resurrection throughout the Loire. Then take a very long jump to the Sierra Foothills and get a glass of La Clarine Farm’s 2013 “Jambalaia Blanc,” ($11 gl/$33 bt), a Viognier based white wine blend that is has a bouquet of mixed flowers, herbs, citrus and stone fruits. If you move on to red, order a glass of the 2009 Viña Enebro Quercus Red ($15/$45), an oak aged Monastrell that has body but doesn’t feel too heavy.
There’s an ample selection of artisan beers if you are going with someone who doesn’t drink wine. The menu has typical wine bar fare – cheese, charcuterie and olives.
45 Rose Street
Open seven days a week 5 PM - to 2 AM