Noe Valley Voice June 2012

Store Trek

By Karen Topakian

Store Trek is a regular Voice column profiling new stores and businesses in Noe Valley. This month we introduce a wine shop that’s creating a buzz near the corner of Church and 24th.


Owner James Mead (right) and manager Rebecca Rapaszky are ready to pour you a taste of their latest offerings at Noe Valley Wine Merchants on 24th Street.    Photo by Pamela Gerard

Noe Valley Wine Merchants
3821 24th St. near Church Street


Noe Valley Wine Merchants opened its doors on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day. “We figured it would be good luck, considering the proprietor [James Mead] is Irish,” says manager Rebecca Rapaszky.

Two months down the road, the store is toasting its early success.

Located in Urban Cellars’ former home on 24th near Church Street, the shop carries craft beers, “artisan spirits,” and more than 450 wines, ranging from Chidaine Touraine sauvignon blanc to Volver tempranillo to Bishop’s Peak pinot noir.

Mead says the business, like Rome, is divided into three parts—a neighborhood retail store with tasting bar, a cellar building for collectors, and a website through which customers can buy online.

However, “first and foremost, we’re a local bottle shop,” says Rapaszky. “We serve the needs of Noe Valley’s daily drinkers—people who want to enjoy wine with every meal.”

Because most of their customers are looking for “food-friendly” wines, Rapaszky and Mead often give advice on pairings.

And if you take a bottle home, they’ll ask for your review. “We want to hear all about it the next week when you come in or two years down the road, whenever you decide to consume it,” says Mead, the longtime owner of Ansley Wine Merchants in Atlanta, Ga.

Mead says San Diego–based beers from Mission Brewery and Stone Brewing Company have “really been hitting” these days, along with imported beers from Belgium. A six-pack of Mission Brewery is $9.99; Belgian brews run $8 to $15 for a 25-ounce bottle.

“Rosé also has been flying off the shelf,” says Rapaszky, who chills every pink in stock. “When the warm weather strikes, customers know they can run in, grab some picnic bottles, and run out the door.” Prices for rosé, from dry to sweet, range from $10 to $15 a bottle.

The store holds wine tastings on Saturdays, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 to 9 p.m.

“If it’s hot, we open three bottles—a rosé, a light crisp white, and a medium red,” says Rapaszky, who formerly managed the Vin, Vino, Wine tasting bar in Palo Alto. “If it’s breezy, if it’s cold, we’ll open something heartier, just to suit people’s moods.

“We do throw beers into the Saturday tasting,” says Rapaszky. “We’re trying to open something different every weekend.”

Noe Valley Wine Merchants’ customers are very tuned in to local brands, says Rapaszky. They want to support local winemakers, she says. “Anything that is produced in and around San Francisco, if not California, is very popular.”

Before opening the shop, Mead looked as far south as Glen Park and as far west as the Inner Sunset. But 24th Street hit the spot. “Everything hit here. We’re right on major lines—buses load and unload here,” says Mead, who can walk to work or ride his bike from his home on Folsom Street.

Mead spent three months renovating the 1,060-square-foot space. “We went down to joist and studs.” He chose a robin’s-egg blue for the walls,  and blue-grey hardwood floors—to make the wine stand out, he says.

Rapaszky says customers appreciate the light that pours in from large storefront windows. “We’ve had a great response [especially] from the women of Noe Valley,” she says. “They come in and say, ‘It’s so open and bright and airy. It’s not just another dim sort of liquor store.’”

After selling wine for 30 years, Mead says his philosophy is simple. “People tend to overcomplicate the wine business. At the end of the day, it makes your food taste better.”

Noe Valley Wine Merchants is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. To hear about discounts and special events, sign up for the shop’s email newsletter at or visit the NVWM Facebook page.