Places to Drink Wine: Press Club
The original concept at The Press Club when it opened in 2008 was that it would be a shared wine bar space for eight Napa and Sonoma wineries. It has evolved over the years, now becoming one of the best spots in San Francisco to taste a variety of wines not only from California but also from many regions throughout the world.
While the focus of the Press Club’s wine list began to shift in 2011, a lot of the credit for its impeccable selection goes to Mauro Cirilli, who took over as wine director in May 2012. Cirilli, who moved to the United States from Italy in 2001, had been steeped in Italian wine at his prior position as the wine director at Perbacco and Barbacco, yet upon taking the position at the Press Club took the ball and ran with it, adding more boutique California producers, a wider range of European wines and numerous wine flights.
With 300 bottles ranging in price from $38 for Mercat Cava, an elegant, well crafted sparkling wine to $660 for Sine Qua Non’s 2008 Grenache “Duel,” a “cult wine” if there ever was one, the Press Club has many choices stylistically and price wise for the diverse clientele. Located on Yerba Buena Lane at the foot of the Four Seasons, it attracts out of towners and Bay Area residents alike.
If you are looking for local flavor but want something a little bit different, off the beaten path California wines are well represented with selections such as Martian Ranch and Vineyard’s 2012 Mother Ship made from Grenache Blanc ($58), a full-bodied white wine from Santa Barbara and Scholium Project’s 2012 Gardens of Babylon ($70), a Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Cinsault blend. However, better known producers including Ridge, Chateau Montelena and Kistler provide some familiarity.
For those who like wines with age, there’s quite a trove from Bollig Lehnert’s 1999 Riesling Kabinett Trittenheimer Apotheke ($49) from Germany to CVNE 1994 Rioja Gran Reserva Imperial ($185) from Spain.
You won’t be missing out if you decide to order by the glass as there are 50 plus wines available including some very old and pricy wines that are preserved by Coravin, a technology that inserts argon gas into a bottle immediately after siphoning off some wine to prevent it from oxidizing. Corilli was one of a handful of sommeliers hired to consult to Coravin when the product was being developed and tested, and he created the world’s largest selection of magnum BTG (30) using this device for the Press Club.
At first glance, $105 for a glass of the 2000 Vieux Château Certan might seem like a lot of money but given its pedigree, age and the quality of the vintage, the Press Club is actually affording an opportunity to try a world-class wine without having to order an entire bottle. This is just one example and at the moment, the most expensive.
Most of the wines served by the glass are $10 - $20 and the assortment mirrors the diversity of the bottle list. There are also seventeen flights, small groupings of wines in three-ounce pours that start at $16 for “White Progression,” a three wine grouping of whites from different regions.
Given the breadth of the selection and fairly esoteric nature of some of the wines, there is no underestimating the importance of having a knowledgeable staff and the folks behind the bar are usually helpful and share Cirilli’s passion.
When the Press Club moved away from its initial idea some were concerned but the current wine program pays just as much homage to California wines by serving them side by side with great wines made in other parts of the world. While this venue may not be as focused on particular styles or regions as others, it has above all else very high quality wines that will please a wide spectrum of palates.
The Press Club (20 Yerba Buena Lane)
San Francisco, 94103