About Us

Susanne Breen, the proprietor was born and raised in Germany and has spent almost 30 years in the American hospitality industry. After traveling the US working in some of the best restaurants in New York, Chicago and Santa Fe, she came to San Francisco, fell in love with it’s vibrant food & wine scene and decided to make the Bay Area her home. Working for several well known restaurants over the years and holding the title of General Manager or Wine Buyer, she has gained extensive wine knowledge and likes to put her own twists on her wine lists. In 2007, she decided it was time to go work harvest and joined an internship program at a small winery in Sonoma.

I felt like, even though I had been teaching and training my staff about wines for many years, I had no physical relationship to how wine was actually made.  I was craving that complete immersion, working hands on with a winemaker who shared my philosophy about wine.

~Susanne

She then worked as a Wine Educator at an iconic winery in Napa Valley before finally realizing her long time dream of opening a Wine Bar. Together with her husband Damian, she designed and built Downtown Wine Merchants, the gorgeous space that has been housed in the Lionel J. Wilson Building since 2014.

Proprietor Susanne Breen
Owner Susanne Breen

My goal has always been to discover unusual wines sourced locally, where I live and from Europe, where I was born. When creating a wine list, I think of myself as the guest and understand that we all have different budgets, but still want to love what’s in our glass.

~Susanne

Chef Christoher Ahr was born and raised in Georgia, where he began his love affair with food by watching his father, the local High School Principal, prepare meals for the family after getting back from their day.

I used to do my homework at the kitchen counter and remember just being amazed at what my dad could do behind the stove!

~Chris

He became inspired spending hours of his childhood watching PBS cooking and baking shows and at age 19, he began his culinary career by enrolling in San Francisco’s California Culinary Academy. He then honed his skills by gaining experience working in various well known Bay Area restaurants. In 2014, he returned to SF and immersed himself in large scale, iconic hotel restaurant kitchens, until Covid-19 shut things down for everyone. Now he is taking on something entirely different, a small Wine Bar Kitchen just around the corner from where he lives.

Chef Chris Ahr
Chef Chris Ahr

I love this Downtown neighborhood and look forward to exploring the surrounding Chinatown, Old Town and Jack London, sourcing my ingredients for this menu from the many Produce and Farmer’s Markets around here.

~Chris