Haydn’s Review of Cav Wine Bar in San Francisco
May 26, 2009 | Beyond Napa Valley Wine Blog
Haydn’s Synopsis- Good geography of wine, with bottles ranging from Argentina to Greece. However overall quality, service and wine faux pas trumped the world wide wine range.
I was a bit intrigued when I received the call from a good friend of mine to check out Cav Wine Bar in San Francisco. Sight and review unseen, I dashed out of Marin, found a parking spot close by on Gough St., and hopped on in.
It’s a bit small but yet still fairly cozy inside. The ambient noise was a bit louder than it should of been, and the person across the table kept asking us to repeat ourselves due the fact that she was situated right underneath the table. The music was more hip hop, and upbeat—not generally found inside of a wine bar, but to each is their own. All the nuances aside, I was here for the wine.
My party already selected a bottle from their visual menu, aka wines on a shelf when you walk in. While that is fine for visual appeal, I’d be concerned with overall storing temperatures. The room was quite warm and I’d be afraid that they might overcook their bottles on a hot day. For my party, visual appeal did win out and the wine of choice was selected on what was displayed on the label.
The slightly overcooked Italian wine
I’ve picked wines simply by cool designs so I’m all in favor of that direction. The wine that was selected was the Trimpilin from Italy. It was a red blend of some sort, my guess being Sangiovese dominant. However, all the label said was “rossa” or red in Italian, which meant no single varietal pushed past 75%. The wine did open up a bit over a good 15-20 minutes, but it still lacked a great deal of structure.
The wine displayed a very minerally nose with a bit of dark fruit. The bottom dropped out on the mid-palate and I had to take another sip just to figure out what exactly was going on. After a few sips, the blackberry and strawberry components began to shine forth. However it didn’t last long and it quickly faded into the sunset. It was not that pleasant to drink, and I’d have to wonder if too much sun got into this bottle and did a little damage to it. Overall a fruit bomb.
I also had a sherry to go with a chocolate dessert. On par with what a Sherry should taste like, but nothing to rave over.
The wine menu at Cav Wine Bar
The wines did range far and wine across this world, and I have to give them props for selecting such a diverse collection of wine. Unfortunately, they could have selected done a better job of selecting varietals from appropriate growing regions. With advances in technology, one could probably grow Chardonnay in Iceland (they may already do that, but don’t quote me), but I’d easily go for one coming out of Santa Ynez Valley. I felt they could have maximized on their world wine wine picking and really found wines that were the apex of the region.
A really great (and at the same time could be confusing) part of the menu was that they listed the blends seperately on the wine menu. It’s helpful if you know what the blend is (like a Syrah, Granache, Mouvédre is a Rhone style blend), but on the other hand, it could be difficult to figure it out if you are new to blends. The description next to the grapes in the wine helped out a little, but not as much as it could have.
They did have a few good bottles, but you’d really have to know what you were looking for to figure them out.
Cav Wine Bar has a lot of potential to be a great wine bar. And from a bigger perspective, one might see it as that. But from the waiter pouring more wine into my glass before I had finished it (so not cool in my book, especially at a wine bar), to the lack of Bordeauxs on the menu (please, just one, that’s all I ask), compared to the overflowing Beaujolais (which should be served slightly chilled, compared to the wines sitting on the shelf getting a tan).
The service was mediocre and the food was average, nothing to write home about. I feel they are trying to be “cool” and resting on their “Top 100″ restaurant listing in the Chronicle. Yet, you’re only as good as your previous meal served and that could have been my last. I might go back to try a few of their wines, but in no way was I blown away from the food served. I appreciated the diversity in geography of their wines, but I’d rather have 10 top-notch wines from 3 or 4 well-renowned growing regions than 10 wines from 10 regions that can simply grow wine. And please, please—store the wines properly.
Haydn Adams is the author of the book, Wineries Beyond Napa Valley: Dry Creek and Alexander Valley, an insider’s tasting guide to the hidden gems region. He also contributes to the Beyond Napa Valley Wine Blog, writes for vinvillage.com, and can be found roaming the hills of Sonoma County looking for the next hidden gems. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org