We’d recommend Verjus wine bar for:
Dates and catch-ups with small groups
Those seeking new takes on classic regions, including a different dimension to California
Fans of natural wines
An evening trip to dimly-lit Verjus in San Francisco’s financial district reveals a venue that exudes style but manages to blend this with the casual, cosy air of your neighbourhood bistro; that’s if your local café-bar also has an extensive wine list going well beyond the usual suspects.
Verjus is a newbie in a city that hardly lacks for food and wine options, having opened its doors in January 2019.
That said, its founders, Michael and Lindsay Tusk, are also behind nearby restaurants Quince and Cotogna, so this isn’t exactly their first rodeo.
Together with the team, including new managing partner Matt Cirne, they have put together a wine list that encompasses several smaller-scale producers and particularly those working organically.
There’s a natural wine vibe running through the list, from Georgian orange wines to a silky union of Zinfandel and Carignan by up-and-coming, California-based winemaker Martha Stoumen.
Cirne said that he prefers not to be too prescriptive in his definition of such things, preferring well-managed sulphur levels to arbitrary limits, for example.
Very broadly, you can expect to find new takes on classic regions, with a strong emphasis on Champagne/sparkling, Loire, southern France in general and Italy. These share space with fresher styles from California.
You’ve probably guessed that this isn’t the typical place to be for a blockbuster Napa Cabernet, but there isn’t a particular air of superiority about this.
When it comes to food, Manchego sausage meets pâté en croute in an open-plan kitchen serving up sharing plates with a clear French and Spanish influence.
Diners choose options from a cinema-style film board above the kitchen in the main dining room, while the adjoining room has more of a tapas bar service, including an excellent Spanish tortilla.
To pick one pairing, duck pâté with pistachios and cherries went down well with a Les Lunes Zinfandel from Venturi Vineyard in northern California’s Mendocino County – a good representative of California’s lighter-touch, fresher Zinfandel movement.
While the menu is subject to change, the pain perdu is a must-try dessert if listed.
Reasons why you might think twice about going
Nowhere’s perfect for every occasion, of course. There is not a huge amount of choice for vegetarians here. If you’re visiting San Francisco and want more of a classic introduction to California wine, then this might not be for you. That said, the wines here are certainly a strongly emerging part of California’s story. There are no reservations, an advantage for late planners in such a bustling city, but it does of course mean you’ll have to take your chances.