Opening of a playful and all-natural wine shop from a Tartine baker in the Castro

San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood is getting a rare retail store exclusively focused on natural wine from a former Tartine baker.

Bottle Bacchanal opens Tuesday, offering small-production spirits, vintage glassware and cocktail kits in addition to bottles from California and around the world.

“It all fell into place pretty quickly,” owner Beth Hughes said of finding the roughly 800-square-foot space at 4126 18th St. near Collingwood Street. “During the pandemic, there were so many vacancies.”

Going from baking to retailing wine was instinctive for Hughes: “I have a weird thing about fermentation,” she said. Although she spent a year in France studying wine after college, her professional career focused on pastry, first at Tartine and then as pastry chef at the Mission Blue Plate restaurant. When the pandemic hit and work in restaurants started to feel more strained, the idea of ​​opening a wine store began to sprout.

Natural wine is a loosely defined term, and vendors in the Bay Area interpret it in different ways. Some bars and stores, such as Bar Part Time and Ruby Wine in San Francisco, take the most extreme approach by stocking only wines that qualify as “zero-zero.” This term refers to wines without chemical adjustments, including the addition of sulfur, a very commonly used preservative.

Bottle Bacchanal’s natural wine selections include Where’s Linus red blend (center) by local winemaker Chris Christensen.

Provided by Bacchanal Bottle

Bottle Bacchanal will not be a strictly zero-zero store. Rather, Hughes takes a more open approach to natural wine, she said, seeking bottles made with minimal, but not necessarily zero, intervention.

“There’s so much misinformation and stigma” about natural wine, Hughes said. Although she personally likes cloudy wines with wild and unconventional flavors, she wants to impress on customers that natural wine doesn’t necessarily taste like that. “You can just get a bottle of white wine that happens to be natural, and just tastes like good wine,” she said. “It’s not just funky, volatile stuff.”

The bottles on the shelves will range from amber wines from the Republic of Georgia — Ocho Wines is a favorite producer — to juicy California efforts like Grenache from Southern California’s J. Brix winery.

Most important to Hughes, she said, is showcasing winemakers who are women, gay or people of color. She’s particularly excited about wines like red Where’s Linus, a Petite Sirah-Zinfandel blend from Healdsburg winemaker Chris Christensen, and Future Gin, a women-owned distillation project in Southern California using California-grown botanicals. .

The store will be complemented by a selection of vintage glassware and bar equipment, much of which was purchased by Hughes at estate sales over the years. It’s a passion she acquired as a child while hunting in her native Connecticut with her father. Expect items like mid-century cups and hand-painted gold filigree tumblers.

Vintage glassware and barware at Bottle Bacchanal, a new boutique opening in Castro on January 25.

Vintage glassware and barware at Bottle Bacchanal, a new boutique opening in Castro on January 25.

Provided by Bacchanal Bottle

Like many wine shops these days, Hughes will also offer wine clubs. A $50/month option offers two bottles and a $90/month option offers four. They’re meant to be accessible introductions to people just getting started with natural wine, with Hughes selecting a different set of bottles each month. She’s also setting up a cocktail club ($75/month), which will include at least two bottles of liquor, other mixers and recipe cards so customers can learn how to make new drinks at home.

Hughes said she’s especially thrilled that Bottle Bacchanal is joining the ranks of women-owned independent wine shops in San Francisco, citing Millay, Gemini, Biondivino and Decant SF as other examples. “I’m just thrilled to be a part of this,” she said.

Bacchanal bottle. Opening Jan. 25. Open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday. 4126 18th Street, San Francisco. 4159137381 or

Esther Mobley is the principal wine critic for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]: @Esther_mobley

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