January 24, 2014
With tens of thousands of acres of vineyards cloaking the hills and valleys, it’s no wonder Sacramento wineries and tasting rooms are popping up like mushrooms all over town. Craft breweries flourish, too – and that’s great news for travellers, who can walk between downtown venues and sample locally sourced tasting menus en route.
Kate Chomko had a long career in the storied Napa Valley before moving to Sacramento to open Downtown & Vine two years ago on a vibrant block of K Street, just a short walk from the Capitol and downtown hotels. “We deliberately picked Sacramento because we thought no one was telling the incredible stories about wines in the area,” she says.
What started as a farm-to-glass showcase for 12 regional vintners practicing sustainable farming has since expanded to offer selections from six wine regions surrounding Sacramento, plus offerings from France, Spain and Italy. Some three dozens wines are available by the glass, along with flights and guided tastings along themes like “history of zin,” “cab is king” and “tasting with our eyes.” The food menu includes scrumptious, locally sourced cheese and charcuterie plates and an award-winning selection of grilled-cheese sandwiches.
For those after something a little less fruity, a different kind of tasting experience awaits a few doors down at Tequila Museo Mayahuel, a high-end Mexican eatery and tequila showcase with a bar specializing in tequila-based cocktails and flight tastings.
Rail Bridge Cellars’ Penthouse Lounge Tasting Room on the 14th floor of the 1926 Elks Tower is worth seeking out for the visuals – high-ceilinged, Italian Renaissance-style architecture; rustic-chic décor; wine-barrel bar; skyline views”” as much as for the wines produced a few blocks north of downtown. Named for the historic I Street Bridge nearby, Rail Bridge is simultaneously an urban winery, a custom-crush facility, a tasting room, and an art showcase and event venue that also hosts “Speakeasy Series Unplugged” intimate concerts and wine tastings on the second Saturday evening of each month.
The first full-production winery to operate within Sacramento city limits since Prohibition, Revolution Wines opened eight years ago with the goal of producing vineyard-to-table wines expressing the character of the local terroir.
Revolution’s Tasting Room & Bistro offers tastings of its own and other regional wines, wine and food pairings, and a full menu of seasonal tapas and entrees. The complex shares a dog-friendly patio with next-door Temple Coffee, a popular breakfast venue whose clientele fills the tables in the mornings while Revolution patrons take over in the afternoons.
The tasting room and patio get pretty busy during Tuesday-Friday happy hours featuring $4 and $5 glasses of wine alongside smartly paired small plates. Friday-night specials showcase seasonal entrees paired with a glass of wine for $15, while a Sunday special for two attracts mellow afternoon crowds enjoying cheese and charcuterie plates and bottle of wine for $30.
Sacramento loves craft beer, as witnessed by the more than three dozen breweries in Sacramento and surrounding counties. Three “” Rubicon, River City and New Helvetia “”are within Sacramento’s walkable Downtown/Midtown grid, but they’re not the only places to whet one’s thirst for variety. At least a dozen pubs with a dozen or more taps also beckon within this relatively compact area.
Set to open a little later this year, Der Midtown Biergarten will serve around 32 different German, Belgian and regional craft beers on tap from its German-style outdoor venue – the beer garden will be the place to be in Sacramento when the sun is shining, but be warned, they will close as soon as it starts to rain. Offerings range from alcohol-heavy Duvel, served in a proprietary goblet with pour marks on the side; to Hofbrau Dunkel, poured by the hefty, liter-size stein; to a broad assortment of pilsners, lagers, wiezenbiers and others.
Just as yummy is the menu of Belgian-style waffle sandwiches and sausages from local butcher Morants – and, of course, fresh, plate-size pretzels, served with two kinds of mustard on the side. For out-of-towners who want to meet locals, this is the place: Der Biergarten’s long, narrow picnic tables guarantee an interactive, communal experience.
Urban explorers can also sample regional wines at these venues within the walkable downtown core:
Underground Tasting Room:The sunken-courtyard setting in the Old Sacramento historic district, directly across from the acclaimed California State Railroad Museum, is a great place to escape the tourist throngs and sip a glass of wine from Fenton Herriott or Twisted Twig, two premium wineries in the Sierra Nevada foothills.
The Grand: This pocket-size wine bar in a corner of a car park in the heart of the Midtown nightlife district is a popular oasis with the after-work and late-night crowd. The Grand offers a global wine selection, full bar, distinctive beer offerings and great people-watching from the sidewalk tables.
58 Degrees and Holding:This combination wine bar, retail outlet, restaurant, and storage venue offers three- or six-ounce pours of 58 boutique labels along with seasonal appetizers and desserts.
Ficklin Wilcox: Wine tasting, high-end kitchenware and in-store wine pairing classes and cooking demos share this multipurpose Midtown space. Modesto-based Ficklin Vineyards, specializing in estate-grown Portuguese varietals, is the featured winery.
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Have you visited any of these Sacramento wineries or tasting rooms? Where would you recommend? Share your thoughts with us below.