What does one do when traveling to San Francisco for the first time? Tour Alcatraz? Check. See the Painted Ladies? Check. Head to wine country and indulge in all things good? Check. Buy vinyl and whiskey? Absolutely! Besides eating and drinking our way through what quickly became one of my favorite cities and regions, I had two musts on the list and one was to visit at least one local record shop and the other was to stop in to Cask, the curators of our Whiskey Explorer’s Club.
I decided to turn to social media for a recommendation on which record store to visit, because there were a handful in the city (mostly in the Haight, of course) and I was trying to not completely monopolize our time. Who better to turn to than my Instagram connection, GrooveNarrative, who happens to be an SF based vinyl enthusiast? He gladly offered up a number of suggestions, and while I can’t wait to check out the rest of the shops on his list during a future visit, I opted to go for one of his first mentions, Rooky Ricardo’s – plus, I just dug the name.
It turned out that the shop was in the midst of making a move to a location down the block, but most of the vinyl was still in this original location, along with a handful of listening stations set up, which the owner encouraged us to use while he bounced back and forth between the locations. I appreciated the trust to leave us alone in the store, and while I realize we don’t exactly look shady, I suspect vinyl folks tend to be generally trustworthy. I mean, what kind of jackass would try to steal vinyl?
A few minutes after digging through the stacks I didn’t even feel the need to use a listening station, at least not for the purposes of checking out the condition, because this vinyl was so clean. It was obvious that the owner cared about what he was offering up in the shop. The hardest part was deciding what to take with me, given that whatever it was would need to make it’s way back on the plane with me. After forcing myself to limit the haul to 6 spontaneously selected albums, we said our goodbyes and headed back out to make the steep uphill trek towards some of the best whiskey cocktails we had in the city. We had worked up quite a thirst by then, those hills are no joke! If you find yourself in the Haight, stop by the Alembic, you won’t be sorry.
Our final day in San Francisco left me feeling like there was still so much that we hadn’t experienced, and as much as I wanted to hit Groove Merchant and Amoeba Music, I decided those would need to wait for the next trip and instead we made our way to Cask in the Rincon Center. To paraphrase an Instagram follower, if there was ever a zombie apocalypse, this is where I’d like to hide out. The gentleman operating that store that day introduced himself as Greg and asked if we were looking for anything in particular. When I told him that I was a member of their Whiskey Explorer’s club, he immediately set off to see if he had anything special in the back, and brought out a couple of bottles that neither of us had come across before – Parker’s Heritage and Elmer T. Lee. Sold. Also sold on the Cask Exclusive Gordon & MacPhail Caol Ila single malt – which might be the smartest purchase I made while in the city. One taste and I was in heaven, so it’s a good thing that my husband isn’t as much of a scotch fan as I am because I’ll be hanging on to this one for as long as possible. I also suspect that these beauties will make their way into a Whiskey Vinyl Vibe one of these days.
We had a couple of slots left in the niftiest wine shipper that I’ve ever seen, called the Wine Check. It’s a wine shipping box inside of a bag designed to check on the plane, and it was brilliant! No one said we had to only fill it with wine, so the last spots went to these glorious bottles – and our San Francisco haul was complete.
I could go on and on about the food, wine, and the cocktails that we experienced during our trip, but more than anything it was the people that made this so special. San Francisco and the Napa Valley region are filled with friendly folks, from my social media contacts who were so helpful, to the best bartenders and servers, the most gracious Air BnB hosts, and everyone in between – thank you for making our trip a memorable one. We will definitely be back.
A quick list of some of our other favorites:
Best Lunch: Yank Sing (Come hungry!)
Best Dinner: Quince (A very special evening out to celebrate our 10-year anniversary)
Best Tiki Bar: Pagan Idol (The best bartenders around!)
Best Winery Tour while in the Napa valley: This is a tough one, but I’d go with the Chateau Montelena estate tour, followed closely by the cave tour and tasting at Schramsberg
For the best Air BnB experience in St. Helena – shoot me a message and I’ll gladly share!