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Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Wine Lover's Ode to NOPA, S.F.'s Newest Zone of the Grape

Posted By on Thu, Sep 30, 2010 at 1:08 PM

click to enlarge Restaurants like Nopa have helped this corner of the Western Addition remake itself as a wine-friendly district. - DJ DRÜE/FLICKR
  • dj drüe/Flickr
  • Restaurants like Nopa have helped this corner of the Western Addition remake itself as a wine-friendly district.
I've lived on the corner of Broderick and Grove since 2004 and have watched my little neighborhood prosper and grow into one of San Francisco's thriving corridors. It's a district that's shed its Western Addition roots and earned its own distinctive name: NOPA.

Restaurants such as Bar Crudo, Nopa, and Bistro Central Parc, and bars such as Fly, Mini Bar, and the 821 now quietly cater to the hip and economically burgeoning thirtysomethings here, an area that combines the artistic mindset of the Mission with the family feel of Cole Valley. As a 31-year-old I still love my beer and whiskey, don't get me wrong, but over the years I've also garnered a deep passion for wine. As a result, I'm thrilled with how this neighborhood has embraced wine culture and given it its own unique spin. Neither as stuffy as SOMA or the Marina nor as hipster as Lower Haight, NOPA takes a more casual, less ostentatious approach to wine. And the neighborhood seems happy to deliver it.

click to enlarge Drinking the afternoon away at Fly Bar. - SCOTT K./YELP
  • Scott K./Yelp
  • Drinking the afternoon away at Fly Bar.
Ten years ago I would have been intimidated to order a glass of wine at a nice restaurant. Eating out at quality establishments seemed sort of pretentious, and thinking we couldn't pronounce "Châteauneuf-du-Pape," tell the difference between a Brunello and a Barolo, or afford a glass of DuMol Pinot Noir compelled many of us to resort to the comfort zone of cocktails, or good ol' reliable beer.

The opposite was true for homey, darkly lit neighborhood bars where suspiciously cheap glasses of wine came from bottles opened the week before, poured to the lip in short, dusty glasses, and were available in three colors: white, red, or pink. Now restaurants in NOPA offer affordable wines, from a selection that typically ranges across four continents.

The connoisseur can still partake of Château Margaux, but it's now possible for any ordinary person on a third date to spend $40 on the kind of well-selected, well-stored bottle of wine that enriches a meal (if not the post-restaurant part of a date). Or you can plop down on a comfy barstool at the Fly on a weekend to watch the football games and enjoy wines that have been just as carefully selected and stored, served in the appropriate stemware.

Of course, it's not surprising to see San Francisco wine culture progress, thanks to our proximity to wine country and the amazing restaurants that dot the city. But to see it occur in this former pocket of the Western Addition has been remarkable, surely a mark of Americans' changing mindset about wine in general. See you for a glass of Bridlewood Syrah at the Fly on Sunday to root the Giants on to the playoffs.

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Brant Foehl

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