House wines with a true sense of place

They’re not Two Buck Whoever, but the house wines at Frances, a restaurant in San Francisco’s Castro District, are modestly priced and areĀ ”as distinctive as the address,” as a New York Times headline proclaimed this morning (April 30, 2010).

If you order the house white or red wine, you’ll get a tall, slender flagon, etched at two-ounce intervals. You drink what you want and will be charged one dollar an ounce. This isn’t a unique idea, but it isn’t all that common.

What’s unique is the way the house wines are specially crafted to go with many of the restaurant’s dishes. Beverage director Paul Einbund right now designs a white containing vermentino, chardonnary, sauvignon blanc and pinot gris; his red blends syrah, zinfandel, petite sirah and viognier. You can’t get these blends anywhere else. He orders several kegs at a time from Miraflores winery in the Gold Country town of Placerville, which makes the blends only for him.

These are quality wines with middleman markups, packaging and marketing costs bypassed. And, Jordan Mackay reports, the house wines definitely reflect the ambiance of the house.

For a good many years I’ve blended at least two wines when a bottle has disappointed me. Just a bit of experimentation usually produces a pleasant wine that rescues a loser. I recommend it. –Bob Cramer, The Fearless Taster.