Sometimes we just need a little motivation to try something new. Enter the Financial District’s laboratory for the wine curious: San Francisco Wine Society, a wine bar with a mission to support global wine exploration in an unpretentious and festive way. There, proprietor Danielle Kuzinich ensures that going out on a wine limb is as easy as ordering an irresistible flight with a playful name, an amusing story and an artfully curated collection of pours.
Get Your Finances in Order ($134), for example, provides a play on splurging before tightening one’s belt with a trio of top tier taste treats ( Dominus Cabernet Sauvignon Blend, Napa Valley, California 2006 Ducru-Beaucaillou Cabernet/Merlot, Saint-Julien, France 1985 Dal Forno Romano Corvina Blend, Amarone della Valpolicella, Italy 2012). While Visit Italy ($45) takes wine travelers on a tour that includes Terre Frappato, Sicily, Italy 2020 Renato Fenocchio Nebbiolo, Langhe 2019 Biondi Santi Sangiovese Grosso, Brunello di Montalcino 2011. In cozy digs designed as conversation nooks, kitted out with wingback chairs, a fireplace, cushy couches and chandeliers, Wine Society features 255 bottles (including a magnum of 1985 Petrus ($10,500), 65 wines by the glass—ranging $8 to more than $100 each—and 15 uniquely enticing wine flights. There’s always a sommelier at the helm to guide your journey or simply share the joys of discovering new wines among friends. Check out San Francisco Wine Society’s website for a variety of entertaining educational courses launching this year. We took a tipple with Danielle (wine buyer, chef, interior designer, sommelier and all around cheerleader for worldwide wines)
to find out more.
HL: Why does wine matter in life?
DK: Wine matters because it brings people together. The celebrations, the cherished moments, the friendships built, the heartbreaks, the laughs, the tears. Wine is a part of all of these events. Wine also gives us a window into different cultures; it bridges gaps between generations and keeps thousand-year-old traditions alive. Plus, it’s just damn good.
HL: Some might call you bold and confident for bringing an unpretentious, but clever, globally-focused wine bolthole into a region that can be a bit haughty about wine. Has that been weird? Or, is that what motivates you?
DK: Introducing people to quality wines from all over the world in an unpretentious way absolutely motivates me. For me, the fun part is creating a dependable space for our guests to not overthink what they are ordering and just go for what sounds interesting to them. Watching them get out of their comfort zone, get excited about wines they have never heard of or have been too nervous to order before and then seeing the aha moment on their faces is what makes everyday worth it. Having those customers become regulars because they know when they come back there will always be a new adventure for them to explore is when you know you are doing something special.
HL: Where do you source and discover your wines?
DK: I’ve built a lot of great relationships with my wine reps over the years who know I am always looking for interesting wines as well as quality classics. That’s part 1. Part 2 is having a constant curiosity myself. I travel a lot and really enjoy exploring wines from all over the world. Whenever I see a wine I have never heard of, I always order it. Then the fun begins: sourcing the wines in SF or trying to convince importers to bring them in.
HL: From where do some of your most unique wines hail?
DK: Right now I am in love with our Madeira list. We have eight available by the glass dating back as far as 1862. The depth of flavor on these wines that are 73 to 161 years old is unreal. Sipping those wines transcends you back in history. We also have some incredible Pinot Noirs from Patagonia and delicious reds from Uruguay. Not to mention the wines from Hungary, Slovakia, and a Solera style Chardonnay from Austria. There are so many.
HL: Wine education is important to you—that is, sharing your knowledge and opening people’s minds and palates. How do you go about this?
DK: By making wine accessible and having an incredible team.
Our flights and by the glass program are geared towards allowing our guests to explore different wines and encourage conversations. I try to think about every curiosity I can imagine people have about wine and find a way to fill those curiosities. Whether you are just learning about wine and want to try everything and anything or you are seeking out those unicorn bottles you only have on special occasions, having these wines in flights and by the glass gives accessibility to them. Keep in mind accessible can take on different meanings throughout your wine journey.
The most important key to this is having a staff that understands hospitality. They are educated, friendly and make our guests feel comfortable no matter if they are ordering a $9 glass of wine or a $1,000 bottle of wine. Everyone on the team is a certified sommelier and happy to answer questions.
HL: You opened SFWS in 2020 during tough times, developing a concept and logo that embodied the idea that San Francisco needed a space where “society” could come together. Tell us about that.
The logo represents two things. First it represents a bunch of grapes going through veraison. If you are not familiar, veraison is the onset of the ripening of the grapes – it is when they the grapes turn from green to red. To me veraison represents change, growth and maturity – which is what I felt the country needed the most at the time.
The second meaning represents Society. Each color of the dots represents different ethnicities that make up our “Society”. Each dot is represented equally in the logo with the darkest shade, lightest shade, and shade in the middle anchoring each corner so one dot doesn’t overpower the other. At Wine Society – everyone is equal. sanfranciscowinesociety.com