This new SF bar may be the first in the country to serve exclusively Mexican wine

When Cantina Los Mayas opens July 14 in San Francisco, its owners believe it will be the first wine bar in the United States to offer exclusively Mexican wine.

“We want to teach San Francisco about Mexican wine,” said wine director Joe Bonadio. He said Mexico’s main wine region, Valle de Guadalupe, “is rapidly emerging as one of the world’s most important new labels.”

The bar, which comes from the team behind Taqueria Los Mayas on Clement Street, is located in the former Sushi Bistro space at 431 Balboa Street in Inner Richmond. (Sushi Bistro moved across the street during the pandemic.) Like Taqueria, the menu for Cantina los Mayas — overseen by partner Juve Carrillo — will specialize in Mayan and Yucatecan dishes, whose signature dishes include panochos (tostada filled with black beans) and cochinita pebble (pork). slow roast).

Taqueria Los Mayas, which opened in 2017, has been serving a small selection of Mexican wines for the past two years. But until recently, Mexican wine was hard to come by, said partner Morgan Anderson (who also owns Richmond’s Bella Trattoria), since there weren’t many Bay Area wine distributors selling it. This has changed. Bonadio said they are now working with four local distributors for Mexican wine.

Carillo had always wanted to open something more upscale than counter-service Taqueria Los Mayas and Panuchos, the North Beach restaurant that he and Anderson opened in 2016. He had considered expanding into Taqueria’s backyard, but couldn’t make it work. Then they learned that a Sushi Bistro space was available a few blocks away.

The wine list at Cantina Los Mayas has 45 bottles, and 20-30 bottles will be available any day. Molded glass will cost between $10 and $20, while bottles will run upwards of $100. The team hopes to offer educational trips and plans to host a set dinner every two weeks with guided wine pairings. But for now, “the hope is just to encourage people to try new things,” Anderson said. Reservations are available but not required.

From left: Partner Morgan Anderson, Director of Wine Joe Bonadio and Partner of Yves Carrillo at Cantina Los Mayas, a new Mexican wine bar in San Francisco.

Esther Mobley / The Chronicle

The popular grape varieties of Valle de Guadalupe – as well as the nearby Baja regions of Valle de Parras and Valle de San Vicente – will be familiar to many Bay Area wine drinkers: Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon. Winemakers there also have an emerging interest in Nebbiolo, a tannic red grape in the Italian region of Piedmont. Cantina los Mayas carries four different Mexican nebulos.

Valle de Guadalupe wine, especially white wine, is known for its distinct salty flavour, as a result of the salinity levels in the vineyard’s soil. “Whites have very little sea area,” Bonadio said. “It’s not something you’ll find in a Continental wine.”

Natural wine lovers may recognize Bichi’s playful bottles, a product with Lucha Libre-style graphics on its labels that’s already taken a big bay area. Pet-Mex, a Petillant-naturel sparkling wine, is served in Cantina. There is also orange wine from Bodegas Henri Lurton, another famous winery founded by a Bordeaux wine.

Food-wise, the menu will consist of 15-20 small dishes and about 5 entrees, including filet mignon rubbed with chile and duck mole. All tortilla chips are made in-house using masa; Everything is gluten free. Mayan seasoning such as sequill back, a dip made from pumpkin seeds, would also be a focal point.

Natural wines from Mexico: Bichi's Pet-Mex wine, sparkling wine;  and orange wine from Bodegas Henri Lurton.

Natural wines from Mexico: Bichi’s Pet-Mex wine, sparkling wine; and orange wine from Bodegas Henri Lurton.

Esther Mobley / The Chronicle

Each dish has some Mayan influence, Carrillo said, but the menu as a whole isn’t as traditional as in Taqueria Los Mayas. “There will be a lot of smoky, spicy, and sweet flavors to Mayan cooking,” he said.

The space doesn’t hold a full liquor licence, but Cantina Los Mayas will serve cocktails made with agave wine (a low-alcohol alternative to tequila made from agave sap) such as tropical michelada, negrones and margaritas.

However, over time the owners hope to adjust the menu and format based on the feedback they receive from customers. “Mexican wine is still very new to a lot of people here,” Anderson said. “We’re excited to see how people love it.”

Cantina Los Mayas. Opening July 14th from 5-10pm Thursday through Sunday. 431 Balboa Street, San Francisco.

Esther Mobley is the San Francisco Chronicle’s premier wine critic. E-mail:
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