Yes, it is indeed hidden, but you can find it.
The Hidden Vine is a perfectly-named wine bar in San Francisco. Sitting on the edges of Nob Hill, The Tenderloin, and Union Square, owners and master hosts, Angela and David Cahill pour wines for the masses with, what cannot be stated in any better terms than “down home” hospitality. Amazingly, no matter how busy it is on any given night, you will always feel like you are their only guest and they are very excited to show you what new wines they have that month. Ah yes, that’s an important element to their wine bar that’s always fun in that they feature a different region each month to taste, so in addition to their wine list always being updated and tweaked, returning guests can enjoy something brand new, 12 times a year. But more on this in a little bit.
The history of their wine bar starts back on the East Coast. David and Angela bopped around New Jersey, Maryland, and North Carolina for awhile. It was in Chapel Hill that they encountered the West End Wine Bar. They had great times there and liked the whole setup of the place. They had had the idea to work in wine for some time and so they came out to the West Coast with this idea in mind.
Bottles and candles get along
In February, 2005, they officially opened up their doors as, The Hidden Vine. With all of the wine bars sprouting up in San Francisco that seem to be some play on ‘vine’, ‘wine’, ‘uva’, or the like, the name may seem too clever for its own good to those who haven’t visited the bar. But, it is true that they are rather hidden, basically in the basement of the The Fitzgerald Hotel, their main entrance being on Cosmo Alley (pictured above) right across from Le Colonial. It’s definitely a cozy space, where groups over five are tricky to fit in, but they make it work exceptionally well, bedecking it in big overstuffed chairs and nice, warm colors that ask you to sit, be mellow and have a glass with friends. And as they say on their website, their focus is to have it be low-key. You never have to shout over your glass of wine to your companions sitting next to you.
But cozy, “speakeasy-esque” setting aside, it is really the choice of wines that make this bar, and it is where the real enjoyment begins with The Hidden Vine. Their regular menu always has stellar choices in both glasses and bottles, covering an array of prices, regions, and varietals, both in the old and the new world. However, it is their featured regions of the month where the fun is for anyone who visits their wine bar regularly (such as the author of this article…), which gives them an opportunity to try wines and varietals from regions that they might have never tried before. For instance, I was in no hurry to try the wines of Washington State only to be pleasantly surprised at the selection of whites and reds that the duo of Cahill and Cahill chose for that month.
Lounging at the Vine
Some of the regions that have been featured in over their nearly three years in the business include: Germany, New Zealand, North Eastern Spain, Portugal, Southern Italy, South Australia, West Australia, Oregon, Argentina, Bordeaux, and Austria to name just a few. The last of which, Blue Danube supplied a number of tasty vintages for. Currently, they are featuring wines from Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, and Montenegro, which Blue Danube has been happily supplying. People have been enjoying the likes of the Törley as well as Batić, Dingač, Kozlović, and Plantaže. They tell me that people have been very interested in the wines overall and greatly enjoying the Kozlović Malvazija and Törley Fortuna while excitedly learning about the link of Californian Zinfandel to the Dingač Plavac Mali that they’re pouring. For those interested to partake, they will continue to pour through all of December and possibly in to January when they do a recap of their favorite wines for the year.
These wines they have selected are not the standard fare found in other wine bars and when asked why they decided to choose these wines now, Angela said that they like to balance out traditional regions with those that are new for most people or being discovered.
Wine in our favorite spot in The Hidden Vine: The Nook.
This set of wines from Eastern Europe are giving them a jumping off point for possibly more in the future. Speaking of the future, some of the regions regulars have to look forward to in 2008 might include a return to Austria, another part of Spain, and maybe some other US States.
So, at their essence, The Hidden Vine is a wine bar that continues to have great service, great wines, great cheese/meat plates, and blindingly good olives (which seem to be impossible to find in other places). When asked if they had any far-ranging plans for the future other than these consistently great goals, David simply said, “Nope.” which is the best thing any of us could ever hope for.