Photo Credit: Courtesy RN74
San Francisco restaurants with exceptional wine offerings share a major dilemma: They are located less than 90 minutes from Napa and Sonoma, one of the world’s most fabled wine regions? (Ok, three hours with excessive traffic.) To entice wine lovers to stay in the city limits, RN74, the Michael Mina stalwart that has held culinary court for years to the movers and shakers in its Millennium Towers South Beach location, and 1760, the new Polk Street dining sister to the established Acquerello, have created weekly wine programs that are imaginative enough to titillate even San Francisco’s been-to-that-wine country, drank-that-cab oenophiles.
Expressing Your Inner Sommelier at RN74
Minna Group’s wine director Rajat Parr and the restaurant lead sommelier David Castleberry now offer glasses of wine poured from magnums, rare or “unicorn” bottles of wine by the glass, and, on a daily basis, blind flight tastings, complete with a fun interactive multiple choice question sheet on the characteristics of the different tasting wines. Answers are on the back.
The blind flights are fun for those who may not be able to readily distinguish whether a white wine possesses the color of straw or yellow or quickly identify fruit quality (tart, ripe, jammy, dried, or oxidized). But for wine veterans who can identify wine structure—or even know what wine structure is–the blind tastings help refine the palate.
“We started doing the blind flights because several of our customers had seen the film “Somm” and they asked for something similar,” Castleberry says, referring to the recent documentary about the intense blind taste tests required for Master Sommelier certification.
“The Magnum Mondays program allows us to serve wines by the glass that we normally do not pour. Magnums tend to contain wine that is intended to age longer.”
Some of those magnums arise from the personal collection of Parr, a partner in RN74 and the James Beard award-winning wine director of MINA Group. RN74’s celebrated collection (the restaurant has maintained Wine Spectator¹s Grand Award since 2010) was Parr’s brainchild.
“We showcase the wines of Burgundy here but we also have wines from other international regions as well. These programs help lead our customers through the list.”
Diners can ask for assistance in pairing the special program wines with the restaurant’s consistently innovative yet sumptuous French menu, which runs the gamut from yellowfin tuna crudo with green apple, white soy, beech mushroom and wild herbs, to Lobster Thermidor with coral veloute, swiss chard and garlic streusel.
1760’s Commitment to an Emerging Type of Champagne
The atmosphere may be casual at this upstart dining establishment but Wine Director Gianpaolo Paterlini has amassed an impressive list of 70 different types of champagne. Many of them are “Grower Champagnes,” sparkling wines made in France’s Champagne region of France but composed with grapes grown on the producer’s estate. Most of the big name Champagnes use grapes sourced and blended from various vineyards. “Grower Champagnes are the farm-to-table of sparkling wines,” says Paterlini.
Naturally, the champagnes, priced from $80 and up (several half bottles are available), pair well with 1760’s menu of small tastes—Hamachi Crudo, Mushroom Tempura, Corn-Coconut Ravioli, to name a few—as well as their larger plates of grilled pork ribs, seared bavette steak and fried duck sandwich.
To showcase the burgeoning category of grower champagnes, 1760 instituted “Grower Champagne Mondays,” when the restaurant offers 20% off any bottle.
These new SF wine programs allow San Franciscans and visitors to further explore the greater world of wine without undertaking the trek to Napa, Sonoma or beyond.
Photo Credit: Wes Rowe