House Wines as Distinctive as the Address

Guests who are lucky enough to claim any of the 47 seats at Frances, Melissa Perello’s hot new restaurant in the Castro, are offered not only the wine list but also the choice of house wine, red or white.

The house wine is presented in a tall glass carafe, more vase than pitcher. The instruction from the waiter is simple: “Pour your own, and we charge you at the end only for what you drink, a buck an ounce.”

Though novel, the serve-yourself strategy has been used elsewhere. What’s compelling at Frances is the beverage director Paul Einbund’s spin on house wine — he himself blends the wines, which are brought in bulk straight from the winery to the restaurant in kegs and served on tap.

California needs the kind of country wines you find in Europe — simple, distinctive, regional wines that are inexpensive and go wonderfully with food. Mr. Einbund’s house wine at Frances is the closest I’ve seen to the realization of that vision.

That the wines are unconventional blends from the unheralded Sierra Foothills region doesn’t matter.

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