The Bay Area has entered its moment of natural wine ubiquity, when seemingly every new bar is a natural wine bar and every new restaurant has a natural wine list.

That means that the cycle of what feels new, cool and interesting moves quickly. For now, at least, the latest, hottest natural wine spot is Key Klub, which opened in lower Nob Hill in December. The rise of this particular bar reveals a lot about the state of natural wine in San Francisco, showing how this subculture has evolved from something extreme and exclusive to something quotidian and inclusive. Key Klub is proof that the category of the natural wine bar is closely approaching the point of meaning everything and nothing.

This is a natural wine bar for everyone, the sort of place where Zoomers could bring their parents and all would feel at home. Earlier in the evenings, before the dancing kick in, it can feel like a restaurant, with diners enjoying a relatively quiet steak dinner. Next to a group drinking cloudy, sharp, recognizably natty wine might be a couple splurging on a $220 bottle of Barolo. Later, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, it grows into a shoulder-to-shoulder, four-people-deep bar scene.

While the party atmosphere is definitely not “the full-on dance club of Bar Part Time,” as co-owner Lalo Luevano put it, Key Klub often does feel like a party.

The wine selection at Key Klub is playful, organized into categories like “Thicc Boys.”

The wine selection at Key Klub is playful, organized into categories like “Thicc Boys.”

Yalonda M. James/The Chronicle

Its cavernous two-story space, formerly home to the craft-beer bar Hopwater Distribution, has been carefully lit with paper-lantern orbs and a neon-pink Key Klub sign that gives a moody, glowing aura to its exposed brick walls. They were going for something that feels “Brooklyn,” Luevano said (which I take to be code for exposed brick).

Leave a Reply