Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant — Thomas Hawk Seal of Approval, Two Corks Up

The Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant offers an outstanding selection of good value wines personally selected by a knowledgable and dedicated staff.

Well for those of you who have read thomashawk.com for a while you know that every now and again I just can’t help but go off on a good tangent about wine. I love wine — particularly white Burgundies from Montrachat, full bodied California cabs, non malolactic processed California Chardonnays, Tuscan Brunellos, and of course the sweet nectar of the god’s also known as Sauternes. I drink wine, collect wine, savor the wine / food combinations of the world and I’ll let you in on a little secret, if you are reading a pm post on thomashawk.com there is a good chance I’ve already had a few glasses as I settle down at the keyboard. So off on one of my wine tangents I just have to take a few minutes out to blog about one of my favorite places to buy wine in San Francisco, The Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant.

The Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant (FPWM) is located in the recently renovated historic San Francisco Ferry Building downtown on the Embarcadero. If you are one of the few remaining individuals who still has not visited the Ferry Building you should. It’s a fantastic smorgosbord of gourmet food, specialty products, the Slanted Door, Taylor’s Automatic Refresher (mmmm..) and yes wine.

FPWM is a wine lover’s paradise. The store is an interesting wine concept project — one half retail store, one half wine bar — and boy does it work. The store is overseen by the very capable managing partners Debbie Zachareas, Peter Granoff and Bo Thompson.

Inside the FPWM you will find an amazing collection of the some of the finest wines in the world. Whatever your palate or budget you will find something just right for you. The partners have put significant thought into their collection

But as good of a retail store as FPWM is, here is where it gets interesting. It is also at present the best wine bar in San Francisco. Each week Debbie, Paul and Bo and their staff put together a rotating wine list in a relaxed contemporary atmosphere. They sell wine by the half glass or taste, the glass, the half bottle and the bottle. And they have all kinds of good and interesting relatively inexpensive wines for you to try.

Tasting Wine at the Ferry Plaza Wine Bar

In addition to the wines on the tasting list though, in my opinion the best feature of the wine bar is that they will allow you to purchase any bottle of wine in the store and will uncork it for you for a $6 charge and let you enjoy it there. Now I know what you are thinking, $6 corkage, yeah right, on marked up wine. But the wine is really priced well and is as cheap as you are going to find anywhere even with the store being in the high profile Ferry Building.

For example last week I stopped by there with a few colleagues and drank a very nice bottle of the 2002 Shafer Firebreak. Firebreak is mostly sangiovese and is a really remarkable wine. I’ve been a huge Shafer fan for a while am lucky enough to have a coveted spot on the Hillside Select mailing list.

So the price on the Shafer at FPWM was $36. Just for fun I pulled out my Audiovox SMT 5600 smartphone and while sitting at FPWM logged on to K&L;’s website. K&L; is one of the cheapest places to buy wine in the United States and as a deep discounter I was curious at how much more I was paying for a bottle at a place as nice as FPWM. So K&L; was selling the same bottle of wine for $35. $1 more.

I also tasted a remarkable Sauterne, the 2003 Chateau Hallet at the rock bottom price of $15 a bottle — a great bargain and huge value that had been culled out and placed on the wine tasting list by the capable staff at FPWM.

FPWM also has wonderful tastings and special events at their store as well. Recently I had a unique opportunity to taste 5 different bottlings of Grace Family Vineyards’s cabernets at the store. Now that is something that you will not see pretty much ever anywhere. Patz and Hall recently was there pouring wines and many Wednesday afternoons they feature winemakers and their wines.

By the way Businessweek online did a nice write up on Peter and his business a while back.

The store is open from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Mondays, 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Saturday and 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Sunday. The tasting bar has a limited food menu but the store is also fine with you bringing in food that you’ve purchased from other vendors there in the Ferry Building as well. Try some Cow Girl Creamery Cheese with you ACME Bread company loaf to complement your bottle of wine at FPWM.

So if you are in the mood to do some great wine tasting and exploring make it a point to stop by The Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant. You won’t be disappointed

The Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant, One Ferry Building, Shop 23, San Francisco. Phone: 415.391.9400. email: info@fpwm.com

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  1. Wes says:

    Thomas…. what’s your favourite Aussie red or white?

  2. Thomas Hawk says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever met a Penfold’s Grange that I didn’t like! I’ve also had lots of great lesser priced Australian Cabs and find that these are frequently some of the better value wines out there.

    I had a good friend from Australia, John Heine, who unfortunately passed away. Although I can’t remember the names specifically, John would always bring the most wonderful Australian wines. Although not a favorite of mine he even brought an Australian Sparkling Cabernet once. The one and only time I’ve ever had sparkling cabernet in my life.

  3. Wes says:

    How ironic…I live in Adelaide and the new house I just finished building is 2 mins away from Penfolds estate where they make the stuff! Alas I have never had the opportunity to taste a quality Grange – but one day 🙂

    There are quite a few sparkling Shiraz’s and probably one of the best and happens to be one of the cheapest for some reason is Andrew Garretts http://www.andrewgarrett.com.au/ very moreish and great on a hot summer day.