If you walk into Bacchus early on a Sunday evening you might be struck by how small and empty the space is for a chi-chi wine bar near the top of Russian Hill. But you'd soon discover that copious pours and friendly locals make this a great place to wind down a weekend. Of course, most battle for bar space during the extraordinarily crowded Thursday through Saturday scene while waiting for a table at Sushi Groove down the street, which might be worth it if you're into rubbing elbows with San Francisco's hoity-toity. There are certainly a plethora of excellent wine choices by the bottle or fancy sake cocktails (and even designer leather love seats in the front window). On an "off night" though, you can pull up a bright blue Art Deco stool and chat the bartender up or just kick back with a very full glass of wine and listen to some smooth electronic melodies.
Small means super intimate, in a good way, when describing shoe-box sized Bacchus Wine and Sake Bar (1954 Hyde at Union), a classy Russian Hill lair. It's not spacious, but what it lacks in space, it more than makes up for in style and atmosphere. Outside, the cable car rolls by on its journey along tree-lined Hyde Street to Fisherman's Wharf. Inside, dim lights, flickering candles, extravagant floral arrangements, and soft beats lull you into a state of luxurious ease. This romantic den is the place to bring the one you want to impress (but probably not on a first date). The expert lighting is bright enough for you to take in the local art, yet dim enough to give you a luminous glow (especially important if it's that romantic evening). The art, for sale by local artists and photographers, rotates on a monthly basis. Sit in one of two soft leather loveseats by the window, perch atop one of the eight stools at the bar... excerpted from the Wine Galleries article below by Sarah Sung