07-01-2013

Wines, bites, and et al

Sadly, a little while after publication of this article, this wonderful space closed…

Sometime back, we mentioned that our good friend Ceri Smith, the owner of the lovely Italian wine shop in San Francisco, Biondivino was opening up a new wine bar just around the corner in her Russian Hill neighborhood called, Et Al. As things typically go in San Francisco, it took some time for all the planets to get aligned (as those are where San Francisco permits are issued) and for the bar to open. We hadn’t had a chance to check it out until we were back in town for the holidays and a presentation of Empordà wines alongside our enotourism guide for the region.

Photo by Vinologue

We met up at the spot with Jason from his aptly named, Jason’s Wine Blog who we were curious to meet in person after reading about his trip to Croatia last summer and many Twitter exchanges. The first impressions of the space were good; great actually. It’s a general fact that wine bars in San Francisco drift heavily towards the feminine side of decoration. It’s not that they’re all pink, frilly, and have a “bitch about your man” area, it’s just that they present themselves in a way that two girls after work would appreciate meeting up at rather than two dudes. I wouldn’t say that the bar is masculine by any degree, but it approaches something of a neutral space more than any other in SF and the chandelier made of wine glasses is a nice touch.

As Biondivino’s focus is mainly Italian, Ceri wanted to have a bit more freedom with the bar and have wines from all over the place. This is where it really shines as so few bars in San Francisco give a shit about trying to find interesting wine and focus more on having pretty much the same thing as everyone else given that it drives a healthy profit margin (one bar in our old neighborhood actually has the gall to do a markup of 400%.) But at Et Al, on the menu were a couple of Georgian wines, the new “hot thang in wine”. We tried a Rkatsiteli Amber from Pheasant’s Tears ($9.50 per glass). How many places have that? It even came with the traditional clay dish (the piyāla, pictured here) that they use to drink it which does indeed make a difference. Or what about all the dessert wines by the glass? That’s rarely done as well.

Photo by Vinologue

We also had two French wines. The first I didn’t care for as it smacked of carbonic maceration. The second was quite good and actually tasted like a French wine unlike the Trader Joe-esque “French” wines that Air France serves to Economy and many restaurants feel are okay to dole out as well. Memory does not fully serve as to what Jason had (a sparkling?), but all in all, it was a tight selection that will undoubtedly get even more so as Et Al gets a few more months under its belt.

Ah yes, there’s the food as well. Wisely, Ceri opted to have most of the bites provided by Boulette’s Larder (whose owners are her partners in crime in this new venture) so that she could focus more on the hospitality side of things. It makes for a tasty, small food menu that pairs well with the wines.

We have no idea how Ceri is running both the shop and the bar at this point, but she hints that you can get no end of things done if you stop bothering to sleep. Surely, everything will get well oiled in to place and it will make for a smashing “Wine Ghetto” in Russian Hill.