Mary Lynn Slattery was in the right place at the right time. Halfway around the world, a revolutionary new way to taste wine was being developed: the automated self-serve tasting room. Mary Lynn saw it’s potential for the thirsty U.S. market and VinoVenue was born in San Francisco, CA. Now after nearly 2 years, the thriving business has a list of 500 people interested in franchising, and the store is doing great. As of late, the tasting room has received quite a few imitators, but experience and initiative has kept them on top.
On a recent trip to the city, I had the opportunity to cash in on an anniversary gift and experience VinoVenue with a $40 gift card. (The money went quick, but I think it was spending someone else’s money syndrome.). Here’s how it works:
- At the front desk, exchange funds for a encoded card
- Insert the card in a number of kiosks
- The price of each wine it easily read above each bottle.
- Place your glass beneath the metal spout, push the button, and get your 1 oz. squirt
- Your card automatically reflects the difference and displays the remaining balance.
The wines are diverse, and change regularly. One of my favorites was the 2003 Hourglass Cabernet Sauvignon, and at 12.50 per 1 oz. pour, it was one of the more expensive wines, but where else would you be able to try such a hard to find bottle like this? Most of the wines tasted are available for purchase, unfortunately, the hourglass was not.
You can purchase the minimum $10 card and actually get a lot out of it, as there are a bunch of wines around $1 a taste. If there’s a wine that’s more expensive than the amount left on your card, the system simply gives you the corresponding lessor amount of wine.
The wine bar is conveniently located on 3rd and Mission near the SFMoma and the Metreon. Experimenting is the name of the game, whether with varietal, producer, or region. However, I found myself gravitating toward varietals and regions that I was already familiar with. I think we naturally find comfort zones, and at a place like this, you have to tell yourself to branch out, which becomes easier the longer you’re there. Just don’t be surprised if you have to add funds to your card.
686 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA
(Note: Save the phone number. Katie and I arrived after the opening time of 2 PM to find the place still locked up. 20 minutes later I decided to call and Mary Lynn finally opened the door. She’s a busy gal.)