Category Archives: PlumpJack Wine & Spirits – Marina

Top Five Beer Bars for Beer Week

Since it’s SF Beer Week, DJ from our PlumpJack Wine & Spirits Noe Valley team has comprised a list of some of his personal favorite places beer bars in San Francisco.

The places I have chosen each share a passion for providing quality beers and passion for all things beer. Many of these places are crowded each and every day because of the level of service that they provide. Below are my top five places to enjoy a cold glass of sudsy goodness.

Beer Bars of San Francisco: The Opening Act
Mikkeller Bar
34 Mason Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

One of the first American spots to find the popular Denmark beer Mikkeller, this beer bar boasts 42 tapped varieties of both local and European beers. The modern look and feel is surpassed by the timeless beer selection and the food pairings that go along with it, ranging from beer braised sausages and a charcuterie selection that is straight out of the European countryside. Mikkeller is serious with the way they handle and present their beers; each beer is categorized by which temperature it will be served at. Overall this venue is a great place to get a true European beer experience and a fantastic environment to enjoy new and old styles of beer.

Beer Bars of San Francisco: Part Deux
Tornado Pub
547 Haight Street
San Francisco, CA 94117

This San Francisco classic is a true gritty beer bar.  From the dark setting to the Giants game being played on T.V. this dive is filled with a great sense of local pride.  Not only does Tornado Pub celebrate the great local sport scene but they also provide their customers with a great selection of local beers amongst many others from all over the world. If you are going to order make sure you know what you want before one of the bartenders gives you a look. They will not shy from making you feel bad if you are not prepared. It’s an old school beer bar with a great beer drinking vibe. Note: One of the few places to serve Pliny the Younger on tap.

Beer Bars of San Francisco: Thrice is Nice
Pi Bar
1432 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

What this bar lacks in street side advertising, it TOTALLY redeems itself with a marvelous portrayal of true craft beer.  Pi Bar is the place to go and enjoy a craft beer and some truly delicious pizza. This is not a fancy bar that has a uptight attitude, plain and simple you go to this bar to sit down and enjoy a pint with a friendly knowledgeable staff. They have options on draft as well as an extensive bottle collection that includes some of Russian River Brewery’s finest. If you have a question about a style of beer you have never had, the staff will not hesitate to pour you a sample and let you try it before you buy it. Plus, you can’t go wrong with a bar that has a weekly special everyday from when they open at 3:14 pm to 6:28 pm for a pint and a slice of cheese pizza for under seven bucks.

Beer Bars of San Francisco:  May the Fourth be with You
Monk’s Kettle
3141 16th Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

To say that beer is only 25% of the focus at Monk’s Kettle would be a bold faced lie; Monks Kettle is a pure brew pub and they showcase their love for the fine bubbly elixir by offering a rotating menu of roughly 200 beers. This upscale neighborhood gastropub specializes in Belgian beer, yet has many other styles to offer. With their newly added outdoor seating you now have the option to enjoy your cold glass of beer while baking in San Francisco’s “warm” sunny days. This knowledgable staff will guide you through their extensive beer list if you have any questions or are looking for a particular style.

Beer Bars of San Francisco: Strive for Five
Magnolia Pub & Brewery
1398 Haight Street
San Francisco, CA 94117

Sausages and Beer! Whoever doesn’t enjoy eating a tasty pork sausage while sipping on some fine suds has to be crazy, Magnolia Pub & Brewery marries these two gifts to mankind together in a perfect way. With a rotating menu of beers and seasonal eats this pub does a great job at offering a great compliment to some truly delicious local and international beers. Upon entering this gritty San Francisco Pub you experience a feeling very similar to a brew house in Bavaria, the aroma of all things beer permeates the air and you are left with a smile upon your face (If you enjoy that sort of thing). Keep an eye out for any tap handle marked with a star for a great deal, stars indicate a four-dollar pint. If you find yourself on the corner of Masonic and Haight be sure to stop by and enjoy some delightful beers and pub grub.

Love beer? Join our Beer Club 

Five Ways to Host a Festive New Years Eve Bash

Get the streamers and noisemakers ready because it’s just about time to ring in the New Year! If you’re hosting a New Year’s Eve bash make it fun, get creative and welcome 2015 in style. From the delicious drinks to the festive entertainment, use these tips to keep your guests having a great time. From the moment they show up until the ball drops. 

1. Champagne
New Year’s Eve is all about the bubbly. Stop by both PlumpJack Wine & Spirits locations for a wide selection of champagnes. The PlumpJack Wine & Spirits team can help you pick out the perfect bottle of bubbly to impress your guests. Our Champagne Club features our favorite bottles, ranging from tête de cuvées to some of the best farmer fizz we can find.

Wine & Spirits buyer, Paul Birman has been with PlumpJack Wine & Spirits for 19 years. Here are Paul’s picks of champagnes he believes are fitting for celebrating the New Year. All available at our Fillmore Wine Store.

Paul’s Picks
1. Billecart – Salmon Brut Réserve
2. Bollinger Brut Champagne Special Cuvee
3. Louis Roederer Brut Premier’
4. Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label
5. Billecart -Salmon Brut Rosé 



Click here to watch this simple raisin trick, on how to revive a bottle of Champagne that’s gone flat. And use this guide to easily pick out the perfect champagne.

2. Festive Decor
Create a festive atmosphere with decorations that will get your guests in the spirit. When it comes to New Year’s, the more sparkle and pop the better. We love these DIY Confetti Wands from The Haunted Interior. For a creative twist on the countdown, number your champagne flutes for a countdown toast. Have each person yell out their number when it’s time, and then drink to the New Year!









3. Food
Keep it to the small bites. Let guests nosh on hearty apps throughout the night. Check out our Pinterest board, Small Bites for delicious appetizers to keep your guests going until the clock strikes midnight.

Crab Cake Poppers with Spicy Aioli

Crab Cake Poppers with Aioli

Mushroom Tartlets

Mushroom Tartlets








4. Entertain
Keep your guests entertained! Get out the playing cards – like these that feature New Year’s resolutions – turn into a fun guessing game. Gather the cards, read them aloud randomly, then let everyone determine who wrote what. Download the playing cards here.

Set up a jaw-dropping backdrop for the perfect photo booth. Take a look at this chic backdrop from Style Me Pretty. You and your friends can take pictures throughout the night! Have a Polaroid camera ready and your guests can take home their photos as a souvenir.









Don’t let your guests leave the party empty handed. As a favor create fun care packages for New Year’s Day. Fill them with ibuprofen, Alka-Seltzer, vitamin C and maybe some baked goods..

5. Sweet Treats
We save the best for last! Any good party has delicious desserts to help round out the night. Strawberries pair well with champagne, dress up your chocolate covered strawberries with some glitter. If you want to wow your guests even more and keep them going, consider an espresso soaked Tiramisu.








Celebrate the first day of 2015 the right way, with Balboa Cafe San Francisco. Brunch will be served from 10am until 3pm! Enjoy a delicious meal from our special New Year’s Day Brunch menu and pair it with our famous Bloody Mary, for the perfect kick off to 2015!

If you’re someone who loves hosting but without the fuss of planning, try PlumpJack Catering.



Holiday Cocktail Creations & Recipes

The holidays are officially here. There is a chill in the air and holiday music on air. What better way to celebrate, and get through, the holidays than to try some new cocktails. Whether entertaining guests or cozying up to the fire with a loved one, we found some creative and festive drink options for you to imbibe in this season. Tell us in the comments what your favorite cocktails are to celebrate this time of year, and we may just choose yours to feature in one of our cocktail lists at one of PlumpJack’s restaurants and bars.

All of the spirits and liquors featured in this post are available for purchase at both PlumpJack Wine & Spirits stores. Delivery is free on orders of $100 or more in San Francisco or stop in to peruse our selections. Happy Drinking!

English Harvest 
Contributed by Food & Wine






In a pitcher, combine the apples with the orange, apple juice, lemon juice and brandy. Just before serving, add the hard cider. Serve over ice.

1 ounce London dry Gin
3/4 ounce bounded apple brandy
3/4 ounce dry vermouth
3/4 ounce unfiltered apple juice
1/4 ounce oregeat (almond flavored syrup)
3 dashes of Angostura bitters
1 spiral-cut orange twist for garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add all of the remaining ingredients expect the garnish and shake well. Strain into a small chilled coupe or snifter and garnish with the orange twist.

Cranberry Gimlet
Contributed by Genna’s Lounge







Combine the vodka, lime juice, cranberry juice and agave nectar in a shaker over ice. After you shake, pour into a chilled martini glass. Add garnish with fresh cranberries or a lemon twist. This twist on a Cosmopolitan, delivers a perfect balance of sweet and tart.

Serving size 1
2 oz. citrus vodka
¾ oz. fresh lime juice
¾ oz. unsweetened cranberry juice
½ oz/ agave nectar
Lemon twist or fresh cranberries, for garnish (optional)

Apple Barrel
Contributed by






Cognac, apple brandy, and an apple-mint vermouth are combined for a decidedly autumnal cocktail.

1 oz. vermouth, preferably Uncouth Vermouth Apple Mint
¾ oz. apple brandy
¾ oz. cognac
¼ oz. Becherovka liqueur
2 dashes apple bitters

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Strain into an old-fashioned glass with a large ice cube. Twist a 1″ strip orange peel over cocktail; drop peel into glass.

Fig Thyme
Contributed by Honestly Yum

First make the thyme simple syrup. Add sugar and water to a small saucepan and stir on medium, heat until the sugar dissolves. Then add the thyme and let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the thyme and pour into a heat-safe glass jar. Let cool before using in your cocktail. Label your jar with the date and refrigerate for up to two weeks.



1 ½ oz. Pisco
¼ oz. Cointreau
½ oz. thyme simple syrup
½ oz. lime juice
1 fig (quartered)
Thyme Simple Syrup
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
5 sprigs of thyme

Contributed by






This rich and creamy rum-spiked Coquito is a classic Puerto Rican holiday cocktail recipe. Combine all the ingredients except the rum in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat, let cool and stir in the rum. Transfer to bottles (making sure that at least one cinnamon stick goes into each bottle), seal and store in the refrigerator. Serve over ice in rocks glasses and garnish with cinnamon sticks.

2 (15-oz) cans Unsweetened coconut cream
2 (15-oz) cans Cream of coconut (such as Coco Lopez)
1 Vanilla bean (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
3 tsp Ground nutmeg
8 Cinnamon sticks
1 (750-mL) bottle Añejo or spiced rum
Garnish with a Cinnamon stick

Try these at home or come into one of PlumpJack’s Restaurants and Bars for our own take on the holiday classic cocktails.

Cow Hollow Microhood

What’s the story behind the PlumpJack Wine Store?

PlumpJack Wine Store was started in 1992 as the first business for the PlumpJack Group, by then founder Gavin Newsom. It’s mission is to make the wine-buying experience approachable and to remove the intimidation factor. In 1992 we had more than 100 wines priced at under $10 per bottle. We now have more than 300 selections that are $25 or under and an expansive collection of spirits and domestic craft beers.

What is a little known secret(s) about your business?
If you buy a bottle of wine from the wine store and take it across the street to the Balboa Cafe, there is no corkage fee. And we will deliver your wine and spirits for FREE in San Francisco proper for all orders over $100. Gift wrapping and enclosure cards are complimentary.

Can you tell us a little about your clubs?

Our Monthly Wine Club (2 bottles) has been operating for more than 20 years, and in that time we have featured wines from all over, from California and Oregon to France, Portugal, Greece and beyond. Our members love that the club gives them a chance to discover new wines from different regions every month. These wines are carefully chosen and are always small production, hand-crafted wines with unique stories.

Our Red Rogues (not rouge) club is a quarterly club that no one else is doing. This is where we pick three red wines that have a unique combination of character, varietal, viticulture, and appellation that members can experience the difference in style and terroir. For example, past features have included three Amarones from Italy; three Pinot Noirs from Oregon; or three different Shiraz from the same winemaker, but from different appellations. It’s a fabulous way to compare and contrast wines that have similarities but display differences as well.

The Case Club is a perfect way to design your own parameters on a monthly or bi-monthly time frame so that you always have a stash of wine to drink, to give as a gift, or to take to someone’s house. Become a member if you don’t have time to shop, if you have unexpected guests frequently, or you are tired of grocery store selections. You set the pricing parameters as well as the varietal type, countries, all red, all white, all rose, or all sparkling—then we do the work so you don’t have to trouble yourself with parking or picking up. We deliver right to your door.

PlumpJack Gift Baskets & Wooden Boxes

Purchase one of our gift baskets for the holiday season. Gift baskets and wooden boxes are filled with wine of your choice and our gift baskets are packed with gourmet foods to your delight. For more information visit our site here.

Blazing Down the Bourbon Trail

Woodford Rickhouse

Woodford Rickhouse

The popularity of bourbon is at an all time high. With a whiskey crisis looming in the US, PlumpJack Wine and Spirit Noe Valley‘s General Manager Josh Thinnes set out on a journey to secure as much bourbon as he could. The booming popularity of our American Whiskey club is so large that a barrel is pretty much the best way to buy it. Not to mention how cool it is to have selected bourbon exclusively by the cask, to ensure that our customers get only the best. Come along for the ride!

Four Roses Barrel Tasting

Four Roses Barrel Tasting

Day 1-2 – Louisville:
Kentucky is truly a unique state, often referred to as the Southern most Northern state, or Northern most Southern state, in the US. Louisville is like America’s largest small town. Even with the largest city in the state boasting a population of nearly 600,000 people, it feels smaller than a town half its size. Many people have raved about the bourgeoning nightlife scene with loads of new bars and restaurants popping up all over the place. I decided to put my big city standards aside and enter with an open mind. Happily, it over delivered.

brown hotel

The Brown Hotel

While in Louisville we stayed at The Brown Hotel, one of Louisville’s oldest and most prestigious hotels. This place oozes old school southern charm and class, with loads of character boasting an excellent downtown location right on the redeveloping 4th street. Back in the roaring 20s, nearly 1,000 people would fill the Brown’s ballroom on the weekends to dance the night away, stopping downstairs for the signature ‘Hot Brown’ breakfast in the morning before going home.

610 Magnolia

The dining room at 610 Magnolia

Willett Distillery

The Willett family Distillery

We had dinner the first night at 610 Magnolia, a self proclaimed contemporary approach to southern cuisine, serving the people of Louisville for nearly 30 years in a quaint refurbished carriage house. I’d seen the chef on a recent season of ‘Top Chef’ on TV, and luckily was reminded of his establishment just before departing for my trip. The prix fixe menu is seasonally inspired and designed by chef Ed Lee. The staff was exceptionally welcoming, and Ed took at least ten minutes to chat with us about our trip and recommend some other favorite eating spots while in the city. I highly recommend this place, excellent atmosphere and character, delicious food, great wine list and cocktail menu.

Day 3 – Bardstown, Willett Distillery
On Monday, we set off for a morning appointment at Willett Distillery, located about an hour south of Louisville in the sleepy old town of Bardstown. Bardstown has the feel as though everyone should be riding around in a horse-drawn carriage; the town center is about two blocks long in each direction centered on a roundabout with an old church, turned visitor center, in the middle. The Willett distillery is just five minutes from town, with a long winding driveway leading up to the property. Willett is family owned and operated, a rarity in today’s bourbon world. Hunter, the son-in-law, was there to guide us through the facilities. It was the smallest operation we visited in Kentucky, and the attention to quality and detail was evident everywhere. Hunter wanted to be sure to show us the warehouse, or ‘rick house’ where all the whiskey was aging. 

Willett Rickhouse

The Willett Rickhouse

We climbed up to the fifth floor of the rick house via the rickety and dark narrow staircase in the center, taking notice of the thermometer posted on the wall, which depicted a nearly 25 degree difference in temperature between the bottom and top floors. We took a spin around the still house; stopping to taste the new-make, white un-aged whiskey straight out of the still. Out of all the distilleries I’ve been to over the world, Willett’s new make whiskey was the smoothest tasting of them all. Not bad for 130 proof! We concluded the tour with a stop at lab to taste through a few of their older single barrel bourbons. The journey was off to a smooth start.

Seelbach Hotel

The Seelbach Hotel

That afternoon after returning to Louisville, we visited the historic Seelbach Hotel, home to one of the world’s greatest bars. While at the Seelbach, one must order their signature cocktail, The Seelbach Cocktail; made with Bourbon, curacao, bitters and champagne. The bar is 50 feet of solid mahogany, the kind of place you could imagine smoke filled with a jazz quartet blaring in the corner until 3 am.

Seelbach Cocktail at the Seelbach

sippin’ on a Seelbach Cocktail

That evening, we had dinner at Holy Grale, a recommendation from chef Ed Lee of 601 Magnolia. This was one of the coolest spots. Holy Grale is an old church converted into a beer bar/restaurant with more than 30 beers on tap and a menu that is heavily-German influenced with food designed to work well with the beer. This place was awesome. It seemed to be a foodie-like crowd, and we even noticed our waiter from the night before at 601 Magnolia, drinking as a patron in the corner. The pickle plate was the highlight, as well as the burger served on a pretzel bun.

Holy Grale

The backyard at Holy Grale

Holy Grale Food

Pickle plate and pretzel bun burger

Day – 4 Bardstown, Heaven Hill Distillery
Heaven Hill’s bottling facility, where we would be taking our tour that day, is located just off the same road that Willett is located. They couldn’t be more different. Heaven Hill, home to Evan Williams, Henry McKenna and Rittenhouse whiskies, is aging more barrels of whiskey than anyone else in Kentucky, with more than 1.4 million barrels. The distillation happens at the Bernheim distillery located in downtown Louisville, but the bottling for all their brands (including many different vodka labels) happens at this facility.

Heaven Hill

Heaven Hill’s Vodka Bottling Line

The distillery used to be located onsite, but burned in a fire in 1996. This was by far the largest and most corporate of the operations we visited, even though it is 100% privately family owned. As luck (bad) would have it, we visited on an election day, so they were unable to serve any alcohol or worse yet, sell any bottles! The tour was very cool to see how a company of that size bottles and packages their products, but it was less bourbon centric, and not nearly as charming as the Willett experience the day before.

After arriving back in Louisville we had dinner at another recommendation of chef Lee, Jack Frys. This place was great, an old school take on fine dining – think Mad Men era white tablecloth. They had a live jazz trio playing, great food, and the cheapest Van Winkle pour we had seen in Kentucky.

Jack Fry's

Jack Fry’s

Day 5 – Cox Creek, Four Roses Distillery
Four Roses was the most highly anticipated part of the trip, and thankfully it lived up to the expectations. With a mission to source bourbon for the store, and specifically the whiskey club, we had arranged for a barrel tasting with Master Distiller, Jim Rutledge. The stories I heard about Jim before arriving built him up to be some type of wizard of the bourbon world. It all lived up to the hype.

Josh, Jim Rutledge, and Josh's dad Steve Thinnes

Josh, Jim Rutledge, and Josh’s dad Steve Thinnes at Four Roses

As we entered the bottling facility, we were escorted to the back, where 15 barrels were laid out, all ready for us to sample. Four place mats with 15 glasses on each were situated on a table in front of us. Jim walked in about two minutes later, and we got  to it. He pulled out a bag of tortilla chips and six bottles of water and said, “One time a client brought his own bag of tortilla chips to the barrel tasting to clean his palate in between tastes. It worked so well, we now do it every time.” Pulling samples directly from the barrel, we filled all the glasses, sequentially in order of the barrels on the floor. Jim, his assistant Mandy, my Dad and myself all got to work sampling through the first five. We each made notes on our favorites and compared them after everyone had chosen a favorite. Surprisingly everyone shared the same favorite, which made my choice pretty easy. We then sampled through the next ten, each a different recipe. As soon as barrel #8 hit my glass, I could smell how amazing it was. I knew after the first whiff that it would be my favorite. I narrowed it down to a second favorite and we all compared. Amazingly again, Jim and I shared the same favorite, while Mandy and my Dad shared the same favorite. Their favorites turned out to be Jim and my second favorites. The decision was tough, so we decided to take both! We closed up the three barrel selections, signed the barrels, and took a few pictures. Then Jim took us on a tour of the rest of the facilities. We spent the entire day, rummaging through the warehouse and the still house, soaking up all the information. Just hearing him speak about bourbon and his passion for quality was contagious.

four rosesBarrel selection at Four Roses

Day 6 – Frankfort, Buffalo Trace distillery
The morning we arrived in Lexington, we set off for Buffalo Trace distillery. Buffalo Trace distillery is situated on the prime location of the Kentucky River. When you think of Kentucky, with the picturesque horse farms and green pastures, you picture this area of Kentucky. The distillery produces a slew of extremely popular premium bourbon brands:  Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, Blanton’s, Sazerac Rye, Weller, Pappy Van Winkle, and many more. Our private tour was in-depth and very behind the scenes, climbing up to the top of the mash room and across the catwalk to the still house. The size and capacity of this place was HUGE. They had the largest fermenter tanks in the industry at 90,000 gallons, and certainly the largest column still out of all the distilleries we visited. After a small tasting, we had some lunch at the company BBQ hut, and got ready for the most exciting part of our visit: selecting another barrel of Eagle Rare bourbon for the store. We were taken to warehouse where four barrels were arranged for us to sample. That will mark the 14th barrel of Eagle Rare 10 year bourbon that our store has purchased.

Buffalo Trace Distillery

Buffalo Trace Distillery

Barrel Selection at Buffalo Trace

Barrel Selection at Buffalo Trace

That evening we went to one of the countries best bourbon bars, the Bluegrass Tavern. The place was packed, but we managed to snag a seat at the bar. This place was ridiculous, they must have had more than 400 different bourbon selections, more than half of which went from $100 to “You can’t afford that” per shot. It’s a good thing it was walking distance from the hotel.

Bluegrass Tavern

Bluegrass Tavern

Day 7 – Versailles, Woodford Distillery
The next morning we journeyed to Versailles to visit Woodford Distillery. This was even more in the heart of horse country. We must have passed over a dozen horse farms on the way to the distillery, all with manicured landscapes divided by black wooden fences. The distillery grounds were pristine and equally well manicured. Woodford has a number of unique features in the bourbon world. They have longest barrel rolling line from filling room to warehouse. The barrels actually roll across a track on the ground, crossing a road on the grounds, hundreds of feet from one building to the next. Unlike any other distillery in Kentucky, Woodford uses three Scottish pot stills for distillation, instead of one column and one single pot still. We took a spin through one of the warehouses and the bottling line, and concluded with a tasting in the old tax excise office building.

Woodford Pot Stills

Woodford Pot Stills

Day 8 – Back to SF
All in all it was a great trip to Kentucky. I was thoroughly impressed with the food and bar scene in Louisville. It was also a great pleasure to be able to select the barrels exclusively for our store, and I look forward to another trip in the future to secure more!


5 Rosés to Drink All Summer

Kelly of PlumpJack Wine and Spirits Noe Valley has a decision to make

Kelly of PlumpJack Wine and Spirits Noe Valley has an important decision to make.

Just because Karl the Fog is an SF summer resident doesn’t mean we can’t emulate the sunshine via a frosty bottle of rosé. Our ancient PlumpJack ancestors even said that drinking rosé attracts sunlight! In all seriousness, rosé is the bomb, just ask Rick Ross or . Pick up a bottle or five at your closest PlumpJack Wine and Spirits, in the Marina or Noe Valley. Sip through this list with us and you’ll be seeing the world through rosé colored glasses.

  1. Domaine Amido, Tavel – The fuchsia-tinged wine of Tavel was a favorite of French King Louis XIV. It’s easy to see why with its gorgeous cherry, strawberry and almond flower notes. Sip alongside a pork roast or chicken salad.RoseTavel
  2. Skylark, “Pink Belly,” Mendocino – Bright, fresh, and lively, this 100% Grenache rosé is summer in a glass with notes of strawberry, ripe cherry, and watermelon.Pink Belly
  3. Dominique Piron, Beaujolais – This rosé of Gamay boasts mineral driven fruit with violets, strawberry, crisp acidity and overall deliciousness. It’s begging to tag along with you at your picnic.BEAUJOLAIS-ROSE-NV
  4. Ostatu, Rioja – Grenache and Tempranillo give this pale salmon colored wine its mineral, blood orange, peach, and honeysuckle flavors that invite pairing with marinated green olives and sheep’s milk cheeses. bodegas-ostatu-rosato-rioja-doca-spain-10361551
  5. Liveli, Puglia – Coming from the heel of Italy’s “boot,” this rosé of Negroamaro exhibits fragrant fresh fruit aromas of plum and strawberry and gets along well with a variety of antipasti like prosciutto, burrata, and summery salads. masseria-li-veli-salento-rosato-igt-puglia-italy-10345244

The Blackthorn Cocktail Recipe & St. Patrick’s Day: A Perfect Pair

Josh Thinnes, our spirits expert and general manager of PlumpJack Wine & Spirits in Noe Valley sent over this classic cocktail in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day weekend. The Blackthorn Cocktail is a rare cocktail choice that was once made with slow gin when
politics and wars made it difficult for the English to get their hands on Irish Whiskey. So, if you find you’d rather order it than make it, make sure and specify you’d like the Irish Whiskey version. Here is Josh’s rendition with his favorite spirits:

The Blackthorn Cocktail

2oz Irish Whiskey we prefer Tullamore Dew
1oz Sweet Vermouth we suggest Carpano Antica Formula
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Rinse the glass with Absinthe

Garnish with a lemon twist, and serve straight up in a chilled martini glass

Bring the luck of the Irish to your home with this festive drink or try something new at the bar by ordering an old standby, the Blackthorn. Cheers!

About PlumpJack Wine & Spirits – Noe Valley
Established in May of 2001, PlumpJack Wine & Spirits Store in Noe Valley is a neighborhood institution. General Manager and buyer Josh Thinnes takes great pride in sourcing an exciting assortment of wines, spirits and craft beers. You’ll find the largest selection of Belgian Ales and microbrews on the shelves and in the cooler, along with vintage Ports and Madeiras dating back to the early 1900s, unusual artisan spirits and liqueurs from small producers around the world including an American Whiskey collection that rivals any wine and spirits store in San Francisco and beyond, plus more than 80 Single

Malt Scotches.


Valentine’s Day Five Ways from PlumpJack

Valentine’s Day, it’s almost here. Whether you LOVE this holiday or IGNORE this holiday, it’s here to stay thanks to Hallmark. PlumpJack thinks that no matter how you feel about it, you can make it fun and an excuse to do something different than the average dinner and red rose. Here are some ideas:

  1. Tasting By Candlelight at Odette Estate – Indulge in Odette’s award-winning reds while delighting in artisan chocolates that complement the robust nature

    of the wines. Available through the 18th of February with advanced reservations – call (707) 224-7533 ($50/person).
    Why we heart this? How many opportunities do you have to do a wine and chocolate tasting by candlelight in one of the most beautiful wineries on the Silverado Trail

    in the truly romantic Napa Valley? We think this one is a winner.

  2. Get your heart racing on the slopes at Squaw and then settle in for a romantic dinner at PlumpJack Cafe. View Valentine’s Day Menu
    Why we heart this? Squaw Valley recently picked up a boat load of snow and new terrain is opening up every day. What better way to bond on Valentine’s Day than to share some chair lift rides, steal some kisses and then head down the mountain for Apres Ski by the fire? To top it off, a prix fixe Valentine’s Day menu by Chef Wyatt Dufresne at PlumpJack Cafe. This one gets our hearts

    racing just thinking about it.

  3. Celebrate Romance Package at The Carneros Inn, includes two-nights accommodations, sparkling wine at check-in, and dinner. Book Now
    Why we heart this? A stay at The Carneros Inn is the most romantic, no matter what time of year it is and the Celebrate Romance Package is available year round. Some things we think you and yours will love is the outdoor shower, couples spa treatments,

    a romantic dinner at FARM and picnic goodies from MARKET that you can take back to your cottage and curl up in front of your own crackling fireplace.

  4. Champagne & Caviar or a Valentine’s Day Gift Box – both available at PlumpJack Wine & Spirits – Marina. View Gift Ideas
    Why we heart this? Need we say more, Champagne and Caviar. Just two things that embody love and indulgence. Splurge on these two things and, well, enough said.
  5. Chocolate is the way to anyone’s heart – get the recipe for Pastry Chef Jon Howard’s Chocolate Torte.
    Why we heart this? If you’re going to shun the outside world this Valentine’s Day and stay in with your true love, there is nothing that says I LOVE YOU more than baking for that someone special. This chocolate torte is rich, chocolatey and can be enhanced with liqueur and fruit.

Happy Valentine’s Day from everyone at PlumpJack. May your heart be filled with love, wine, chocolate, Napa Valley getaways, caviar and romance!

Conversations with Hilary: Rich Higgins, Master Cicerone

Rich Higgins Photo 1 (2)

Rich Higgins, Master Cicerone

For this edition of Conversations with Hilary, I was able to connect with Rich Higgins, one of seven Master Cicerones in the world. Rich has been curating our beer program in partnership with at PlumpJack Wine & Spirits in Noe Valley and has attracted a cult following to our store and our Beer Clubs. I was able to get Rich to participate in my Conversations with Hilary series and he obliged with some thoughtful and inspiring responses. Enjoy!

What do you believe to be your greatest accomplishment?
Turning my passions and hobbies — studying and sharing the intersections of beer, food, and culture — into my profession, while applying a little humor and humility into what I do.

Do you have a prized possession? What?
Since most of my possessions are edible or drinkable, they don’t tend to stick around for very long. I care more about experiences than possessions, but I’ll admit I get extremely excited when I have a kitchen counter full of perfect, in-season, ripe peaches, tomatoes, and figs.

What do you love about yourself? What do you think others love about you?
I value my curiosity, and I think it makes for good conversations and experiences with others. I’m convinced that there’s always more to learn in life, and I think other people — from experts and elders to novices and kids — have things to teach and share. I’ll never know all I can about beer, food, or neurosurgery, and learning more about them from others is mutually rewarding.


Beer Selection at PlumpJack Wine & Spirits – Noe

If you could be anything other than what you currently are, what would it be?

I really like working with my hands,

working with nature, and producing food, so I think it’d be rewarding and satisfying to be a farmer. The work would break my back, but at least I’d finally learn to wake up early.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?
Look at the clock, think about

how I’m probably not ready to be a farmer yet, and go back to sleep.

What’s your favorite thing to do on a Friday night?
Have friends over to my apartment, cook a big, usually over-ambitious meal, and share beer pairings with each course.

What do you like most about what you do for a living/career?
I love playing matchmaker. Part of my consulting business is built on knowing great brewers, farmers, chefs, sommeliers, and bartenders, and then knowing when one’s products showcase and elevate another’s skills. It sounds lofty, I guess. But it’s really fun to hang out with a brewer, drink a delicious beer straight from the fermenter, then talk with a chef about a dish, and to know that that new beer is the perfect complement to the dish that the chef is coming up with. Then, when I bring that beer onto a restaurant’s beer menu, the chef is blown away by the pairing, and a week later the brewer gets in touch to say that he or

she stopped by the restaurant and was also amazed by the pairing. The brewer’s beer looks good, the chef’s food looks good, and the guests have a delicious experience. Everybody wins.

What were you passionate about when you were a kid?
Chronologically, my life has gone through hobbies and phases with Lego, guitar, improv comedy, city planning, and cooking and brewing. I guess the common theme is that I like to create and put things together that are greater than the sum of their parts.

What are you passionate about now?
Broadening and deepening my knowledge about food and beverage. With English and French (mostly) under my linguistic belt, I’m learning German. Flemish (Dutch) is next. I’m also planning to start my Sommelier accreditation process. I look forward to the first-level class and test, and in the meantime, I’m trying to taste both great and terrible wine and food pairings to learn about them.

What’s your favorite season? Why?
Though the San Francisco weather is a little tiresome during the summer, you just can’t beat the seasonal produce. When the weather’s the foggiest, the farmers markets are bursting with tasty reminders of sunny, summer weather. White truffles make autumn a favorite, too, but my wallet thinks otherwise.

If you were a cocktail or drink what would it be?
Since I’m curious and into agriculture, I’d probably be a classic Belgian Lambic. I say classic because some of the newer, more heavily-marketed ones are Kool-Aid-sweet with back-sweetening. The classic gueuzes, krieks, and framboises are incredibly complex and spontaneously-fermented in oak, and they get dry, tart, and barnyardy the way sherry and orange wine can get. Like me, they’re beers that are very curious, and they love to be paired with stinky cheese and white truffles.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you want?
My wife, a Full Belly Farms CSA delivery subscription, and a little farmhouse brewery.

If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?
I’d head to the homes of people in Belgium, Germany, and England and observe, unnoticed, how they incorporate traditional, local beer and cuisine into their daily life. Beer is such a big part of culture in those places, and I’d love to see, outside of the pubs and festivals, how cuisine à la bière complements celebration, salves sorrow, and elevates real life.

What’s the #1 most played song on your iPod?
Honestly, I just checked and it’s “I Want You,” by Bob Dylan. Who knew I listened to that much Bob Dylan? I would have guessed some Zeppelin, Otis Redding, or Jurassic 5.

If you could have lunch with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
Michael Jackson (nope, not that one). The other Michael Jackson: the English beer and whisky writer, who had a TV show in the ‘80s called “The Beer Hunter.” He passed away in 2007. To the beer and whisky worlds, he was a legend in his own time, such a talented, insightful observer of culture and a great writer.

If your life was made into a movie, what would it be called?
The Fermentalist: Rich Higgins’ Incredibly Amazing and Ridiculously Interesting Explorations and Explanations of Beer

Do you have any regrets?
When I was a professional brewer, I let a batch of beer get past its prime right when a big craft brewers convention came to town. It was a bummer. I had to take my biggest seller off line when I wanted to be able to share it with my fellow brewers and industry.

Define Freedom.
Freedom is the ability to create a perfect, satisfying experience whenever you want to, without it harming others.

What are your personal core values?
Humility, cooperation, hospitality, compassion, altruism are all big ones for me.

Rich is one of seven Master Cicerones in the world. He curates the beer programs at San Francisco restaurants like Lolinda, Delarosa, and Starbelly, and has orchestrated beer events in San Francisco, New York, Washington, DC, Denver, Columbus, and Indianapolis. In addition to working with restaurant, brewery, and distributor clients, he teaches beer and food education classes and Cicerone training courses, curates the Beer of the Month Club at Plumpjack Wine & Spirits – Noe Valley, runs corporate team-building seminars, and develops private, in-home events. Now a full-time Beer Consultant, he spent eight years as a professional brewer and brewmaster, in addition to three years as the President of the San Francisco Brewers Guild and the Event Director of SF Beer Week. Contact him at

Celebrate The Great American Spirit with Three Bourbon Whiskey Cocktails

bourbon-whiskey-varietiesWhile celebrating the USA this week with Fourth of July, why not embrace the most American of spirits and enjoy three refreshing Bourbon cocktails. Josh Thinnes, of PlumpJack Wine & Spirits – Noe Valley curates some of the finest American Bourbon Whiskeys for his American Whiskey Club and for the shelves of his store. He also has a Cocktail Club where club members get acquainted with obscure ingredients and spirits and then are invited for a cocktail club party.

Josh as our resident expert was the perfect contributor to help our readers craft the perfect summer Bourbon cocktail in honor of the good ol’ USA. Enjoy!

strawberrybourbonsmash (2)Strawberry Bourbon Smash
2 oz Bourbon
2 strawberries
2 lemon wedges
2 small sprigs of mint
.5 oz simple syrup

Strip the lower leaves from several sprigs of mint. Place the leaves at the bottom of a double old-fashioned glass. Add the simple syrup then muddle gently. Add the strawberries and lemon wedges and muddle again. Fill with ice cubes and add the bourbon. Stir until well chilled and garnish with the top of a few sprigs of mint.

mintjulepMint Julep
2.5 oz bourbon
.5 oz simple syrup
Several sprigs of mint

Strip the lower leaves from several sprigs of mint. Place the leaves at the bottom of a double old-fashioned, Collins, or Julep glass. Add the simple syrup then muddle gently to extract the flavor of the mint. Fill with crushed ice and add the Bourbon. Stir until well chilled and garnish the top of

a few sprigs of mint.


Bourbon Old Fashioned Collins
2 oz Bourbon
2 oz Q Kola.
5 oz St-Germain
3 dashes Angostura bitters
Garnish with lemon or lime or grapefruit wedge

Pour Bourbon into a Collins (or rocks) glass filled with ice, then top off with Q Kola. Stir gently and garnish with lemon or lime wedge.