On the Trail

The Best Bar in Town

David Driscoll

As you walk down Brannan Street between 2nd and 3rd, maybe on your way home from work or perhaps on the way to AT&T Park, you pass numerous office buildings and other typical SOMA structures—brick, stone, glass, and steel. But then suddenly there's a small opening into a quaint and cozy courtyard that you forces you to stop and take a few steps back. "What's that doing here?" you ask yourself. That's what happened to me the first time I visited the Jax Vineyards tasting bar in downtown San Francisco, and that's literally what happened to a group of girls yesterday who were walking by as I approached the location. "Whoa, did you see that?" one of the girls said as they all hit the brakes. "There's like a beautiful bar back in there! And there's a fire pit!"

Yes, ladies, you're correct. There is indeed, like, a beautiful bar back in there. It's the Jax Vineyards Brannan Street outpost, the Jackson family's alternative to a Napa tasting room. You see, rather than wait for the wine country tourists to come to them, Kimberly and her brother Trent decided to bring their wines to the customers and open up shop right downtown. It's absolutely genius. It's a stylish, comfortable, perfectly-located tasting room that allows you to get the Napa experience without having to leave the city. More importantly, you can hang out there as much as you want. Grab a glass of rosé before the Giants game, or have a quick taste of chardonnay with friends after a long day. You can sit inside or outside.

You might remember Kimberly Jackson Wickam from an article I wrote here this past February about her property in Napa. We sell the Jax wines at K&L and they're absolutely fabulous. They're balanced, expressive, varietally-correct California wines. The whites are crisp, refreshing, and clean. The reds are fruit-forward, but restrained. I can't say enough good things about them. Back then I was encouraging our customers to try a bottle of their cabernet. Today I'm encouraging you to go hang out with her. She's there behind the bar quite often, pouring flights of the numerous expressions they have to offer.

And order some food while you're at it. They have beautiful cheese and charcuterie plates if you're hungry. You can call ahead to reserve a table and you can also rent the place out if you want to throw a party (which is something I definitely want to do there very soon). The fact that Jax is in walking distance from K&L is both exciting and dangerous. 

Since it was warm out yesterday I sat on the patio with my colleague Jason and opted for the rosé of cabernet, currently only available at the tasting bar. The place was packed. Plenty of other folks had the same idea.

Check out their website here for local events and specials.

-David Driscoll