Next time you’re craving an upscale wine-tasting experience, there’s no need to trek to Napa or Sonoma. With the arrival of Eco Terreno’s new Urban Tasting Room in North Beach's storied Jackson Square, you can sample delicious wines in a gorgeous setting here in town. And enjoy attentive service worthy of wine country’s finest establishments.
“Though Sonoma is close to San Francisco, a trip to wine country requires a generous amount of time,” says Mark Lyon, founder and owner of Eco Terreno Wines and Vineyards, a leader in biodynamic and organic farming. “It’s for this reason that we chose to bring the essence of our farm in Alexander Valley to the city. We also wanted to engage with a community where people could learn about and appreciate our strong environmentally conscious ethos.”
After searching for a place for several years, he and Rob Izzo, Eco Terreno's CEO, found the historic building at 140 Columbus Avenue in 2018. The white lion’s head above the entry seemed a promising omen. But it was the building’s legacy of inclusivity, a value that's always been part of the Eco Terreno culture, that won them over. (Lyon was one of the first prominent, openly-gay members of the California wine industry.) In 1918, it housed The Jupiter, a black and tan club owned by Jelly Roll Morton. (These clubs provided safe spaces for interracial folks to socialize during a time of segregation.) Later, Mona's — the first lesbian bar on the West Coast — opened her doors here. And by 1952, the building was home to the Purple Onion, the famous Beat-era comedy and entertainment club that launched the careers of legendary performers like Lenny Bruce, Phyllis Diller, and The Smothers Brothers.
With large windows overlooking bustling Columbus Avenue, the tasting room exudes a relaxed yet elegant vibe. Decorative touches such as hand-painted murals of vineyards and a color palette infused with sage green and deep burgundy nod to the room’s ties to the land and wines of Alexander Valley.
“It’s just a beautiful space that is so warm and welcoming,” says Dawn Agnew, Eco Terreno’s hospitality director. “We are really excited to bring this kind of tasting room to the city.”
Eco Terreno wines. | Photo credit: Frank Frances
Tastings showcase wines from Eco Terreno’s old vines and are paired with small plates designed by Executive Chef Joe Ball, formerly of La Folie. Food pairings change daily according to what’s in season at Eco Terreno’s produce farm and other local organic sources. Ball concocts his dishes around the profiles of the wines being served. Tastings begin at $50 per person for the Bee Classic, which features five wines. For $130 a head, the Lyon’s Pride includes a glass of Champagne followed by a five-course wine and food pairing.
“We knew we wanted to offer more than just a tasting room with wine and cheese pairings,” explains Agnew, who worked for Hamel Family Wines and Restaurant Gary Danko before joining Eco Terreno. “There’s a bit of a learning curve for some guests until they actually experience all that we offer. Then it’s like ‘Oh, I just left the French Laundry.’ We are 100 percent service-driven. It’s all about the guest and what they’re comfortable with.”
On the top floor of the tasting room, there’s an executive kitchen with exhibition and education space for private events and Eco Terreno wine club members. And a 250-gallon tank for making wine on-site.
The executive kitchen on the top floor of Eco Terreno's Urban Tasting Room. | Photo credit: Frank Frances
Downstairs, you’ll find Lyon & Swan, an underground supper club featuring French-California cuisine and nightly live music. The room is small and intimate — it seats about 54 guests. But bold décor from design firm StudioHEIMAT makes a big statement. There’s lots of exposed concrete and eclectic artwork that honors the building’s diverse, hedonistic past. Streaked with chartreuse, brown, and gray ripples, the onyx bar is itself a work of art. So is the large modern light fixture that dangles in a web of glass strands above a quad of plush orange and tropical-patterned chairs. The lounge area faces a dramatic fireplace, a perfect spot to linger with a cocktail or glass of wine before dinner. Russet leather banquettes line the walls; mid-century-inspired tables and chairs are sprinkled around the stage so you can savor a bird’s eye view of the entertainment along with your meal.
“There’s no door charge or per-person minimum in the supper club,” Agnew tells Hoodline. “Dinner, live entertainment, cocktails—they all work together seamlessly and harmoniously. And Matteo Villano, our beverage director, has put together the coolest wine list I've seen in the city in a long time."
Live entertainment and French California fare await in the Lyon & Swan supper club. | Photo credit: Frank Frances
A supper club starter from Executive Chef Joe Ball. | Photo credit: Frank Frances
Eco Terreno Urban Tasting Room, located at 140 Columbus Avenue, is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Lyon & Swan (124 Columbus Avenue) is open Wednesday through Monday, from 5 to 11:30 p.m. For more information or reservations, visit www.ecoterreno.com and www.lyonandswan.com