Building upon their commitment to California’s natural wine community, Gemini Bottle Co. founders Alex Pomerantz and Dominique Henderson have opened Bar Gemini in San Francisco’s Mission District. Located four blocks from the couple’s wine shop, the intimate, 40-seat space is a place to enjoy — and explore — natural wine with friends.
Whether standing at the drink rail, seated at the bar for a quick glass of locally produced wine from a limited-edition keg or tucking into a booth to share a few bottles with friends while ordering small plates from Ernest chef Brandon Rice and cheese, charcuterie selected by Sarah Simms from Lady & Larder or our own curated selection of tinned fish, Bar Gemini was created as an accessible hub for a choose-your-own-adventure good time, as well as a platform for the community making these wines.
Working with their talented friends and interior designer Margaret Ruiz of The Strand Design, they worked together on designing the space. Using dark greens, caramel leather and redwood evocative of Northern California, the candlelit room feels intimate and original, offering seating that ranges from a bar with 14 generously sized stools to four booths beneath a latticed wood drop ceiling that seat from 4 to 8, as well as 6 outdoor seats and a standing area with a drink rail for, say, a quick glass of California beer or cider. (The space is also available for private events.). Mark Rogero, the founder of Concreteworks — the custom concrete design firm that fabricated the terrazzo bar designed by Henderson and Ruiz — also co-owns Open Hand Ranch, a 100-acre property in Hopland, CA, where Subject to Change leases 10 acres of grapevines and manages the farming. Adam Alspaugh (of Black Crate Design) built all of the booths and custom lighting and Sam Buchanan sourced all the redwood and fabricated the millwork for drop ceilings and the bar. Friend and colleague Daniel Castro, who designs the labels for Subject to Change, created the brand identity and menu design for Bar Gemini.
Chef Brandon Rice is another close friend: He and Henderson worked together at the Rich Table, where he brought his experience at Coi, Noma and Quique Dacosta to his role of chef de cuisine for five-and-a-half years. At Ernest, his approachable, market-driven menu reflects his global curiosity and refined techniques using local ingredients. His By Ernest menu for Bar Gemini includes snacks like cacio e pepe deviled eggs and marinated Rancho Gordo gigante beans with lemon, fennel and roasted garlic; dips such as smoked whitefish with dill and potato chips (Tsar Nicoulai caviar optional) and labneh with ginger, scallion and seeded crackers; and a pressed grilled cheese on Rize Up bread with pickled onions and tons of cheese. (Olympia Provisions mortadella and ham can be added as well.)
In a unique collaboration with their friend Sarah Simms of the Santa Monica cheese and charcuterie purveyor Lady & Larder, guests can order domestic cheeses and meats, as well as tinned seafood ranging from Fishwife x Fly By Jing’s Smoked Salmon with Sichuan Chili Crisp to Conservas de Cambados Mussels in Pickled Sauce (which are also for sale down the street at Gemini Wine Co.) curated by the in-house team.
The wines offered at Bar Gemini extend the couple’s commitment to both making natural wine accessible and turning the well-deserved spotlight onto American producers — essential from an environmental and sustainability point of view, which Pomerantz is especially committed to, both at Bar Gemini and his own winery. “The natural wine world is obsessed with imported wine, but as the environment is a key concern for our industry, drinking and supporting locals makes sense,” he says in a statement. “It’s more possible and tastier than ever to drink natural American wine.”
Inspired by the nonchalant ease and enjoyment of European wine bars, Pomerantz and Henderson want to make sure that everyone feels comfortable to ask questions if they want, but that, above all, people leave feeling that they had a great time. Guests can engage with the wine experience…or not. The servers — all of whom have roots in the wine world, from restaurants to winemaking — are happy to provide guidance or education, depending on each guest’s interest level.
“We’re obviously very intentional about wine and love to talk about it,” says Pomerantz in a statement, “but I think it’s important that sometimes it’s playing a supporting role, acting as a conduit to other relationships, conversations, etc., rather than only ever being the star of the show.”
Bar Gemini will offer a changing selection of 12 wines by the glass and carafe (equal to a half bottle), 6 of which will be a rotation of hard-to-find bottles off the list, for exploration. Curated by Henderson and operations manager John Parent, the list focuses on wineries that think of wine as an agricultural product — the same way food is treated at restaurants.
Bottles have been selected from under-the-radar names in California, France’s Ardèche and Auvergne regions, the Penedès region of Spain, Germany’s Rheinhessen growing area, Hungary and more to celebrated producers from Champagne, Burgundy, Piedmont, Sonoma and beyond. There will also be 8 beers and ciders, 2 vermouth cocktails (created by David Ruiz) and several nonalcoholic offerings.
“We’re focused on being leaders in natural wine — making natural wine accessible rather than exclusive — and helping this segment emerge as the new face of the industry,” says Pomerantz. Adds Henderson: “Natural wine can be seen as this cool-kids club. It’s not always inclusive. We love for people to feel comfortable asking questions and, above all, to leave feeling happy and satisfied.”
Bar Gemini will be open Wednesday-Friday: 5-11pm, Saturday: 5pm-midnight and Sunday: 1-8pm.