Cozy upholstered couches and velvety flocked chairs gather around close-packed tables. Walls the color of a glass of ripe Burgundy are adorned with gently glowing, hand-painted golden maps highlighting the wine-growing regions of Europe, California, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. Dark wine wallpaper in an artichoke print inspired by William Morris adds an Arts and Craft touch, while suspended wine bottles, lit from within, take the place of Edison bulbs as light fixtures over the bar stools.
Welcome to Pacific Heights' latest hangout spot, Scopo Divino. While the rest of the country may be sweltering out on the sidewalk, longing only to slurp down yet another double frozen daiquiri, here in the foggy depths of a colder-than-February San Francisco July, it's red-wine weather, cheese-plate-weather, drink-rosé-only-because-the-calendar-says-you-should weather.
Wait, scratch that last one. The three rosés on offer here–Bonny Doon's much-loved Vin Gris de Cigare, a Bargemone pink from Provence, and Media Luna's Argentinian rosé–are worth drinking no matter how thickly Karl the Fog blankets the City outside.
Owner Tim Hayman, formerly a marketing and advertising executive at the SF Weekly and the San Francisco Chronicle, has an enthusiast's passion for wine, with an affinity for Burgundy balanced with a third-generation Californian's love of the local juice. Growing up in Marin, he can remember his parents taking him along to the more rustic Sonoma county wineries of a few decades ago, with their laid-back feel and evocative cellar scents of earth, wine, and wood. A wine bar in an actual cellar was his first idea; but below-ground spaces being few and far between (those pesky seismic shocks), Hayman and restaurant/bar consultant Erik Reese, along with their team, took over the old Food Inc. space on the corner of California and Divisadero instead. With the much-loved b.patisserie right across the street, it's now possible to go from coffee and breakfast (and/or lunch) to happy hour (and/or dinner) without ever needing to even leave the block.
The list of 36 wines by the glass (or bottle; there's also a separate "library" list of bottle-only wines) is extensive without being esoteric; at the moment, this isn't the place to look for bragging rights on a Macedonian xinomavro or a Georgian saperavi, although there is a nod to recent trends with an orange wine, Monastero Suore Cistercensi "Coenobium" from Umbria. But there are plenty of interesting wines worth tasting, and enough choices to encourage return visits, like a lively vermentino from Cantina de Gallura in Sardinia, or Cleto Chiarli's light, festive sparkling rosé lambrusco. Right now, the sole California cabernet comes from Paso Robles, not Napa; instead, the famous valley represents with a zinfandel from Oakville Winery. While European wines dominate the list, there are close to a dozen New World offerings, from Argentina, Chile, Oregon, and California (plus two New Zealand picks).
Of course, you can get a suitably international cheese plate--Gouda from Holland, blue from Point Reyes, goat cheese from Humbolt, manchego from Spain--as well as a choice of house-made charcuterie. There are snacky fried things--olives, smoked pepper hush puppies, corn griddle cakes, along with popcorn lavished with truffle salt and the ubiquitous marcona almonds. But it's worth postponing the easy fill-up of grease and crunch for the "small plates," which, for once, are more like entrees than doll-sized appetizers. Light entrees, admittedly, but for a clientele that might be ending the night early to be up for Pilates and barre class before work, this single mushroom-stuffed boneless quail with pea shoots, or this tidy chunk of salmon dotted with socca-like chickpea "croutons" and a length of charred romaine lettuce might be just enough. (The salmon looks raw but is cooked through and meltingly tender; the texture comes from a slow sous-vide poaching in olive oil.) Left to my own devices, I wouldn't share this bowl of house-made cavatelli pasta studded with small bites of lobster in a summery, pale green English pea sauce with anyone unless we also shared an address, and a bed (and even then, the phrase "You know, you can get your own" would not be far from my lips.)
So, come early and nab a couch, order a quail (or two), pop a seared scallop atop your roasted cauliflower, and curl up with a glass of red. After all, summer--true September/October San Francisco summer--is still a long, gray, chilly month away.
Scopo Divino (Grand Opening 7/20)
2800 California Street [Map]
San Francisco, CA 94115
Ph: (415) 928-3728
Hours: Wed-Sun 3-11pm (kitchen closes at 10pm), Happy Hour: Wed-Sun 3-6pm (dollar oysters)
Facebook: Scopo Divino