B3 … and The WINEMAKER’S SPEAKEASY
1152 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
Tue-Sun, 3pm-2am (wine happy hours: 3-6pm; 10pm-12am)
I had the privilege weeks back of a sneak preview test dinner with friends at B3, a new project set to soft launch June 15 in the former Senses space on Valencia, which they are currently repainting and decorating in warm, neutral tones [as of early June, the owners have to postpone opening. The new date should be end of June but I will update this page with actual date once it is confirmed.]
I’m excited to give you the preview scoop as I have been following this concept since inception. Once they are fully up and running, you won’t see a similar wine list elsewhere.
Wine guys, Johnny Gato and Ron Elder, invested personal passion into a hand-selected list of affordable local bottles difficult to procure (much less taste), from such small production winemakers, most do not even have a wine tasting facility at their wineries. Many are influenced by Old World technique with modern interpretations.
In the soft opening phase, selection will be limited, but I have seen (and tasted) what’s coming down the pike and it is good. Be patient with the initial launch as these wine lovers plan long term to offer a range of options from tasting pours to bottles and cases for consumption or take home, sold at un-inflated, retail prices. Just start talking to Gato and Elder and you’ll begin to discover all kinds of Wine Country gems you had no idea were there… these are not your typical California wines.
Through Gato, who has worked at Moussy’s and Bouchon in Napa, I have discovered such incredible wineries as Napa’s Forlorn Hope, bittersweetly named after the term used to describe the front line of soldiers in a high-risk military operation. I’m smitten with their floral, bright ’08 La Gitana Torrontes, fabulously layered ’07 Nacre Semillion, and ’05 Gascony Cadets Petit Verdot. Then there’s Poem Cellars in Yountville, who’s wines are often sold out completely, particularly their light and spicy 2006 Tastevin Napa Valley Red (only 140 cases produced). Or Beaucanon’s ’07 Cabernet Franc, Y. Rousseau’s ’08 Russian River Valley Colombard and ’08 ‘Milady’ Mount Veeder Chardonnay, Peripolli’s ’06 Sauvignon Blanc. These are the kind of wines you’ll find here. Just ask Gato, who has followed these wineries closely in his years up in Napa, and he can tell you not only about the wine itself but stories behind the winemaker and winery, making each glass personal, fascinating.
Though they’ll start off small with 10-15 bottles (under $25), the selection will continue to expand, evolving into what they call a Winemaker’s Speakeasy, with a wide range of under-the-radar tastes and bottles to take home at minimal mark-up.
Chef Kevin Ahajahnian is keeping it real and straightforward with cheese and charcuterie platters and burger and dog-themed menu. Wine will be the star, but if the test dinner I tried is any indication, you won’t suffer on the food front. The menu is developing since I was there, but I filled up on juicy, gourmet burgers, crispy, addictive fries, fresh, lush salads, overall hearty deliciousness.
It all bodes well for Valencia Street… and with a twice nightly happy hour, it’s going to be a casual wine bar where you can discover and fall in love with what you never knew was there.