Written by Tiffanie Wen. Find a quality wine-tasting experience in a city near you.
Nearly everyone loves a fine glass of vino. With such beautiful vine-friendly terroir from Napa, California, to upstate New York, it’s no wonder that in the past decade wine consumption in the United States has nearly doubled. But you don’t have to travel to the countryside to try America’s most quaffable vintages. Urban wineries are cropping up in cities like Austin, Texas, New York and San Francisco, creating some of the coolest tasting rooms around.
The area south of Market Street in San Francisco (SoMA, formerly known as South of the Slot), had more than a hundred wineries before the 1906 earthquake that destroyed the area. Today a number of wineries have reemerged in SoMA, like Bluxome Street Winery, a chic warehouse space less than 2 miles from Omni San Francisco Hotel. Opened in 2010, Bluxome includes a tasting room and glass wall to watch the winemaking process and projections of early 20th century footage of San Francisco. In 2015, it opened a second tasting room in Ghirardelli Square.
Bluxome Founding Partner Matt Reidy says the demand for urban wineries is growing out of a larger focus on craft products and the desire to know where our food comes from. “There is a whole generation of people who are emerging from microbreweries and the locavore movement whose tastes are refined, and they’re curious about wine,” he says. “I take great pleasure when I see people realize that we are creating a product that was made with a great deal of care.”
Bluxome owns a vineyard in the Russian River Valley area in nearby Sonoma County in addition to purchasing grapes from family vineyards. The result is some of the best pinot noir and chardonnay in the country.
Urban wineries are also taking hold in Texas, with the Austin Winery (located less than 10 miles from downtown) as the first in this growing hub. Opened by Cooper Anderson and Ross McLauchlan, it ferments, ages, blends, filters and bottles everything on-site on Tuscany Way.
Anderson expects to see more urban wineries in the future. “I think the more the demand for thoughtfully crafted food and drink increases, so will the population of urban wineries,” he says. “Rather than trying to change the landscapes they are in, urban wineries [are] conduits for the culture and identity of the city they occupy. We are always trying to catch up to the social climate of our town.”
Indeed, urban wineries are proving very popular with consumers. Since City Winery founder Michael Dorf opened his first winery in New York in 2008, the company has opened several more locations in other major cities, including Atlanta, Chicago, Boston and Nashville, Tennessee.
These spots double as music venues, combining concerts by artists like Elvis Costello who play surrounded by wine casks. The wines are made from grapes harvested at night and shipped in a refrigerated container at 35 to 45 degrees.
But Dorf emphasizes that cold-soaking grapes before crushing them is nothing new. “Some of the better wines around the world focus on cold-soaking, which is a three- to four-day process where the wine sits on the skins and takes on more flavors, colors and saturation,” he explains. “We’re not reinventing the wheel, but we are processing it differently and putting the winery next to the consumer.”