For Beth Hughes, every wine invokes a memory. With the first sip of a white wine from Basque Country, she’s back in Madrid, where she lived when she was a culinary student.
“That was a really pivotal point in my life, where I decided that I wanted to commit my life to food and wine,” she recalled. “So I have a very soft spot in my heart for Basque Country briny white wine.”
Now Hughes is bringing natural wine and specialty spirits to the Castro at Bottle Bacchanal, a boutique shop she opened in January of 2022. With its lofty ceilings and earthy green walls, the outpost is poised to become a community hub.
The idea for Bottle Bacchanal started as a quarantine daydream. She was furloughed from her position as a pastry chef when the pandemic upended in-person dining. Hoping to get back into wine, Hughes landed a deal on a storefront on 18th Street.
Focusing on femme, BIPOC and LGBTQ producers, Hughes hopes her business can help to lift up underrepresented winemakers and producers of specialty liquors. Perhaps, she added, it could “inspire someone to do something that maybe they wouldn’t have done, because they thought there wasn’t a space for them, but there’s definitely a space here.”
Bottle Bacchanal supports a variety of artisanal producers, like Lady of the Sunshine, a winemaker in San Luis Obispo County, and La Gritona Reposado Tequila, the first female-owned distillery in Mexico City. Earlier this month, Hughes held a tasting event with Barr Hill Gin, a juniper-forward spirit distilled with raw honey in Vermont.
The name of the shop, which pays tribute to the euphoric revelry of Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, is her attempt to capture that energy in alliteration.
A Connecticut native, Hughes originally moved to San Francisco to attend culinary school. Though she’s a restaurant veteran, she faced the same unexpected challenges as any first-time business owner.
“I had no idea what I was doing,” she recalled. One morning, she opened the shop to discover her fridge had frozen, exploding several of the bottles within it. “But working in restaurants for so long, I’m kind of used to the chaos.”
Bottle Bacchanal stocks its shelves with varietals from Napa to New Zealand, reflecting a wide breadth of growing climates. Terroir, or the natural environment in which a wine grows, is essential to the flavor profile of any wine, and when asked to describe the terroir of her own life, she doesn’t hesitate.
“I would say hectic and seasonal, because I just go with the flow. So I adapt and figure it out,” she said. “Maybe like a nice limestone.”
Bottle Bacchanal is located at 4126 18th St. Open Monday 1-7pm, Tuesday-Friday 1-8pm, and Saturday/Sunday 12-7pm. Follow them @bottlebacchanal to find out about upcoming tastings and other events.
Sarah Holtz can be reached at [email protected]