Susanne Breen, the proprietor was born and raised in Germany and has spent the past 20 years in the American hospitality industry. After traveling the US while working in fine dining restaurants in New York, Chicago and Santa Fe, she came to San Francisco, fell in love with it’s vibrant food & wine scene and made it her home. Over the years she has been a General Manager and Wine Buyer for several well known restaurants in the Bay Area.
In 2007, she decided it was time to go work a 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 real relationship to how wine was actually made. I was craving that complete immersion into production.
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, thus she designed and created Downtown Wine Merchants, the gorgeous space that is now housed in the Lionel J. Wilson Building.
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.
Mitch Steller, Chef and partner in the business has been at Downtown Wine Merchants since the beginning of their journey. He began in the Front of House but after just two short years, took over things in the kitchen. Mitch focuses on creating dishes that have a rustic ‘wine country’ feel to them, yet there is such purity and honesty in his cooking that is truly unique, just like he is.
The vision for our menu is simple and very similar to how we select our wines. I work with the freshest, locally available ingredients from Farmer’s Markets and keep our preparations focused and as hands off as possible, so that the flavors of the food remain intact.