Come for the Wine, Stay for the Food!
If you are looking for a wine bar in downtown Oakland with a friendly vibe, local wines on tap and great food, this is the place! It’s BART accessible, and conveniently located near offices (for non-COVID times). Whether you are looking for a glass of organic local wine or want to try something unique from Europe, there are plenty of options. There is always a featured flight on the menu, but if you aren’t sure what to choose, just ask the proprietor, Susanné Breen and she will be sure to steer you right.
Wine Delivery to Survive the Pandemic
Downtown Wine Merchants opened in 2014, and survived the pandemic by being nimble and creative. When the Bay Area shut down for COVID, Downtown Wine Merchants started doing deliveries of wine. A loyal and concerned patron helped them out by creating an online wine ordering page – pro bono!
When asked where they deliver, Susanne said they deliver pretty much anywhere in the Bay Area, as long as the purchase is a minimum of one case. If you are unsure what to choose, Susanné is happy to curate a case for you based on your preferences. In either case, who wouldn’t want a case of wine delivered right to your doorstep?
One of the benefits of being a small wine merchant, according to Susanné, is that she gets to know her clientele. Susanné usually sends her husband to do the deliveries, but warns him that it will take longer than expected to complete his delivery route because the clients will want to catch up on the doorstep and find out how the wine bar is doing.
The vibe on a Friday afternoon, was comfortable and calming. With regulars lining the bar, and friends catching up at spaced tables, the clientele is as diverse as Oakland. Some come for wine, some come for dinner, all come for a place to hang out and enjoy wine. Despite the wine bar being open again – albeit at limited capacity – they still do a good take out business, with Chef Chris Ahr at the helm. Many regulars continue to order their favorite meal that they pick up along with their wine order.
Sustainability and Reuse
With an eye towards sustainability, the decor uses recycled wood from barrels and re-purposed wine bottles that have been cut to form lamps or utensil holders.
In order to promote reuse, they offer wines on tap with optional refillable wine growlers for purchase. Susanné explained that wine on tap, or wine dispensed from a keg, provides a fresh pour for each wine by the glass or wine tasting order. The wine kegs save packaging materials, such as a bottle, cork, wine labels, and are refillable.
In addition to the wines by the glass, clients can purchase a Downtown Wine Merchants logo wine growler (which holds about 4 glasses of wine) and can bring them back for refills. Don’t worry, each growler purchased comes with detailed instructions for cleaning before refilling. One additional added benefit is a lower price point that Downtown Wine Merchants gladly passes on to the customer.
The Food: Beyond the Usual Wine Bar Fare
Wine and food naturally go together, so when Downtown Wine Merchants got a new chef, it all came together so well. When Chef Chris Ahr joined the wine bar, the food offerings were pretty minimal and predictable (charcuterie platter, cheese platter, small plates). Now the food menu has a wide assortment of options, including entrees and dessert.
Chef Chris, sources ingredients locally, visiting multiple farmers’ markets to pick the freshest ingredients and he has high standards! When he couldn’t source a bun for his pork sandwich, he created his own, which is just an example of the lengths he will go to for a dish. Some of the favorites on the current menu include: Summer Peaches and Prosciutto salad with frisee and pickled green strawberries, Maitake Mushroom and Brie flatbread (perfect for vegetarians). And the desserts are amazing, as Chef Chris started his culinary career as a pastry chef. Be sure to pair dessert with wine: the Buttermilk Summer Peach Shortcake paired wonderfully with the Vietti Moscato d’Asti from Italy, and the Chocolate Pot de Cremè was delectable with the Graham’s 10 year Tawny Port from Portugal.
Whether you want to sip some wine after work or try something new, Downtown Wine Merchants is the place to be!