There's something romantic about barrel tasting, whether wine, spirits, or even vinegar, the thrill of liquid in flux, at a precise moment of its evolution.
That's the atmosphere that Barrique, the new Jackson Square wine bar near Quince, tries to capture. A rack of barrels behind the bar are just for show, since Barrique's eight private-label wines are actually dispensed through a custom-made tap system. According to the folks here, tapping real barrels of wine isn't feasible, since the quality of the wine would start to decline immediately after opening with exposure to air ― unless you could guarantee selling a whole barrel (about 55 gallons) in one night.
The eight house wines are available by the glass ($7-$14), the flight ($15), or half-liter ($21-$42). All are of good- quality, sourced from wineries in Mendocino, Napa, and Sonoma counties, though Barrique doesn't reveal which winery a particular pour is from. As a result, your attention is on the wine itself, free from labels or expectations, so you focus on the grape and the winemaking talent behind it. That's the idea, anyway.
Find a seat up front if you crave a more rustic feel, or grab a table in the back, where there's a bit more designer flair. Draft and bottled beers are available. And if you're not the type to just let go and enjoy the unknown, bottled (and labeled) wines are on offer, too. The staff is knowledgeable, and flights Barrique's menu described as "guaranteed to be interesting" actually were.
From the bottle (part of a flight we tasted), we loved an unusual Botani dry Muscat from Málaga in southern Spain - it had a fragrance of orange blossoms, yet was crisp and subtle. From the "barrel": a Petite Syrah made from grapes grown in Sonoma County's Rockpile region, all blueberry pie on the nose, fruity without proving overwhelmingly big or sweet on the palate.
Barrique: 461 Pacific (at Montgomery), 421-9200.