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By Olivia Boler
Browsing antique shops, sampling wine and cheese, sipping an ice-cold beer, or even a martini, on a patio terrace under the sun--these are a few of the draws of the California wine country in summer. Yet, facing the parking lot that is Highway 29 on weekends keeps many San Francisco residents at home in their foggy environs.
Fortunately, several neighborhood establishments have figured out ways of bringing summer ease to Noe Valley. From the free weekly wine-and-cheese open houses in Church Street's antique shops to traditional happy-hour fun at the bars and pubs along 24th Street, we have enough Napa in Noe to lift our spirits and roll back those clouds to Twin Peaks all summer long.
The Church Street Stroll
Each Thursday at Lynn Antiques and Beautiful Things at Church and 27th streets, customers can sip wine or bubbly water while browsing the goods, courtesy of owner Lynn Ingham. Brent Albert, who works at the store and does "design work" there, hinted that there will be various tempting in-store specials each week as well. "Something might be on sale. There might be some discounts," he says. "There'll be all kinds of surprises." In July, the shop will celebrate its "second birthday," as Albert calls it, and he promises some extra special savings in celebration throughout July.
Lynn Antiques has been hosting the Thursday evening open houses from 5 to 7 p.m. since May.
"Some of our regular clients really like it," Albert says. "It brings people out. By August we hope to have the whole [Church Street] block involved."
So far, Lynn Antiques has been joined by a fellow purveyor of antiques and artistic objects. Dona Taylor and Kimberly Karnes of When Modern Was down the block on Church Street, began offering complimentary wine and cheese to customers from 4 to 6 p.m. every Thursday afternoon in June. They plan to continue the weekly fete at least through the winter holiday season. "We're open until 6:30 Wednesday through Sunday, so why not?" says Taylor with a laugh. "I'm a chocoholic, so chances are we'll start having some chocolate on hand too."
Like Albert, Taylor hopes to get more of her neighboring shopkeeps involved. "We're thinking about calling it the Church Street Stroll," she says. And, if you happen to literally stroll by the shop with a stroller, she says there's plenty of room for those. Four-legged friends are welcome too.
Flights of Wine Fancy
Maybe one of the best bargains to be found in Noe Valley is a monthly wine tasting cosponsored by PlumpJack Noe Valley on 24th Street and Bliss Bar across the street. Every first Friday, from 5 to 7 p.m., oenophiles get a chance to sample six kinds of wine in Bliss Bar's main room near its cozy fireplace--and all for five bucks.
"Since we don't have the permit or room for tastings [at PlumpJack], it works out well for us," says Elio Longobardi, assistant manager at PlumpJack. There's usually a tasting theme, which varies: cabernets from all over the world, or wines from a particular country like Italy or Spain. "We like to explore different varietals and stay away from the usual suspects," says Longobardi. He has noticed that there are regulars who come in for the tasting each month, and some even bring their own cheeses to go with the wines.
"It's become very popular," says Bliss Bar owner Pierre Letheule. The bar also offers a daily happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. Well drinks are $4, and all other drinks are $1 off. Letheule says the most popular happy-hour drinks are martinis, cosmos, and lemon drops. "A $4 martini is pretty inexpensive."
In July, the Bliss BarPlumpJack wine tasting will be held on the second Friday rather than the first because of the Fourth of July holiday.
Here is a short list of Noe Valley shops and taverns offering wine and cheese tastings this summer.
Lynn Antiques and Beautiful Things
1478 Church Street at 27th Street
Open house serving wine every Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. Free.
When Modern Was
1504 Church Street at 27th Street
Open house serving wine and cheese (and maybe chocolate) every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. Free.
4026 24th Street between Castro and Noe streets
Wine tasting co-sponsored by PlumpJack usually every first Friday (second Friday in July: July 13). $5. Daily happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. with $4 well drinks and $1 off all other drinks.
Hours of Happiness
Other local bars are hosting Fourth of July barbecues, games and contests, and everyday low prices:
1600 Dolores Street at 29th Street
Annual Fourth of July barbecue starting 10 a.m. until the food is gone. Free with purchase of a beverage.
3838 24th Street at Church Street
Daily happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. with $3.50 well drinks and $3.75 beer specials. Free drawing for a trip for two to Dublin, Ireland, in July.
4054 24th Street between Castro and Noe streets
Daily happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. All well drinks are $3.50 plus weekly beer specials. Free Monday-night trivia game starting at 8:30 p.m., with prizes ranging from pens and bottle openers to $50 bar tab.
1199 Church Street at 24th Street
According to manager Nancy Emery, "prices haven't changed here in 20 years. It's always happy hour!" The bar's well drinks are $3.
1316 Castro Street between 24th and Jersey streets
Free Fourth of July barbecue (also held on Labor Day). No happy hours, but beers are $3, well drinks $3.50.