An Urban Wine Tour

You don’t have to go to Napa to have a fine wine experience.
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urban wine tour showing Ro Sham Beaux
Ro Sham Beaux

NOT LONG AGO, wine bars and urban wineries were a bit of a rarity in Sacramento, even though the capital city is surrounded by hundreds of wineries. Over the past few years,  however, the tide has turned, and wine is becoming central to Sacramento’s identity. Wine bars, wineries and wine tasting rooms are popping up at an astonishing rate, led by creative, passionate entrepreneurs. As a younger group of wine drinkers explores and experiments, they are choosing wines that are not only delicious but have interesting stories or styles. Here’s a look at today’s burgeoning city wine scene.

Fizz Champagne & Bubbles Bar

VIBE: Casual but chic tasting salon

Fizz Champagne & Bubbles Bar

If champagne were a person, it might just take on the form of Raymond James Irwin. He is the ebullient, energetic “chief champagne officer” at Fizz, Sacramento’s only lounge dedicated specifically to sparkling wine. Since Fizz’s opening in DOCO in 2018, Irwin has been singularly focused on bringing bubbles from around the globe to the Sacramento masses, making the beverage an everyday go-to, rather than a drink reserved only for special occasions. The concept has been so successful that Fizz plans to open a second location in Walnut Creek later this year.

Fizz Champagne & Bubbles Bar

While you’ll find some familiar favorites on the wine list, many of the selections are fizzy creations from unknown producers or underrepresented regions of the world. The menu allows you to travel to new places, such as Slovenia or South Africa, by way of a glass of bubbles. Fizz’s staffers are passionate, well-informed and more than willing to make suggestions and guide you through your sparkling adventure, no matter your budget or taste. While sipping, you can enjoy sparkling-wine-friendly bites that are thoughtfully curated and prepared, from the rustic (white bean crostini topped with fried sage) to the upscale (oysters on the half shell, caviar service). Fizz has a wine club and offers events such as themed tastings, champagne dinners and organized trips to sparkling-wine regions. 615 David J. Stern Walk; (916) 573-3909; fizzinsac.com; IG @fizzinsac

Bailarín Cellars

VIBE: Traditional tasting room that pays homage to Sacramento’s history

Bailarín Cellars

Perhaps friends are visiting from out of town, and you want to treat them (or yourself) to a wine-country outing, but you don’t want to drive two hours to get there. You might consider Bailarín Cellars, located in The Hardin on K Street in downtown Sacramento, situated along a strip of bustling restaurants and bars including Kodaiko Ramen & Bar, Ruhstaller and Tiger.

The name Bailarín is Spanish for dancer and, says executive director Chris Ryan, “is meant to represent people who love what they do,” including the farmers who grow the fruit from which Bailarín Cellars’ wines are made. Winemaker Will Weese oversees production of the wines, which include Russian River chardonnay and pinot noir, Alexander Valley cabernet sauvignon and more.

Bailarín Cellars

You can order from a small food menu that features truffle popcorn, lavosh flatbreads, and cheese and charcuterie boards. The tasting room also doubles as an espresso bar that serves locally roasted Insight Coffee drinks. 720 K St.; (916) 754-2937; bailarincellars.com/tastingroom; IG @bailarincellars

Lucid Winery

VIBE: Winery meets microbrewery

lucid winery part of the urban wine tour

While wine is the focus at Lucid Winery, the atmosphere is more like that of a brew pub, a place where you can play cornhole or beat on a drum while sipping your wine.

Kevin Luther started making wine under the Lucid label in 2017, and he originally planned to open a tasting room in March 2020. However, the onset of the pandemic delayed that plan, and Luther was forced to pivot hard. Lucid morphed from a traditional winery to a virtual one, and was wildly successful doing so. Much of the wine was sold through sampler sets shipped across the country for both corporate and private customers.

Earlier this year, Lucid opened a brand-new tasting room and event space on Sacramento’s R Street. At 5,000 square feet, the space is cavernous, but the welcoming staff and décor bring a sense of coziness and comfort. On display is a variety of plants, eye-catching local art and lots of books, and there’s lots of room to wander and play. The feeling of community is strong, and the winery donates to charity for each bottle sold.

interior of lucid winery

Lucid’s core offerings are organic, vegan and naturally made wines served via tap. That said, the menu includes more than just traditional wine. Luther calls himself a mad scientist, and you can enter his laboratory and taste his experiments, which include “brewvins” (wine/beer hybrids) and herbed piquettes. For nonimbibers, several creative mocktails are available. You can purchase prepackaged snacks or order food from surrounding local eateries. 1015 R St.; (916) 384-0076; lucidwinery.com; IG @lucidwinery

Nico Wine

VIBE: Willy Wonka’s wine cafe

nico wine

A visit to Nico Wine might make you feel like Willy Wonka just took over your local hangout. With colorful wine labels lining the walls and a breezy patio, it feels cheery and whimsical—more like a candy or soda shop than a traditional wine bar.

Nico, which occupies a compact space in the popular Ice Blocks complex in midtown Sacramento, features wines that are thoughtfully and responsibly made. Create your own adventure and take a taste trip as you sample wines from underrepresented regions, like the Canary Islands, or wines made from grape varieties you won’t find on grocery shelves, like Mission and Cortese. Says proprietor Nicholas “Nico” Corich: “Basically, I care about the winemakers and what they want to produce. If they love their farms, they’ll take care of the wine . . . I want to have a conversation about the winemaker’s journey: what risks have they taken, what have they learned since the last vintage, what are they excited to grow and experiment with.”

nico wine interior

Nico Wine is big on education and engagement. Events are offered frequently, and guests are invited to come drink wine with winery owners and winemakers, learn their story, appreciate their artistry and create connections.

Nico offers wines by the half glass (starting at $6), full glass (starting at $10) and bottle, as well as flights for those who want to experiment or experience variety. Prepackaged snacks are available for purchase. Among the options: artisan cheeses, madeleine cookies and bonbons. 1710 R St.; (916) 400-9925; nicowine.co; IG @nico_wine_sac

Ro Sham

Beaux VIBE: Fun, chill speakeasy that doesn’t take itself too seriously

ro sham beaux part of the urban wine tour

Practice your strategy for a game of rock-paper-scissors and bust out your best thumb-wrestling gear for a trip to Ro Sham Beaux, a creatively conceived wine bar from Irish Hospitality Group, owners of The Snug and The Butterscotch Den. This midtown spot is tiny but cozy, with plenty of hipster vibes to go around.

You can enjoy an eclectic selection of natural wines, by the glass or bottle, that are environmentally friendly and responsibly farmed. Many of the wines featured reflect lower levels of alcohol and sulfites. The wine list is reasonably priced and user-friendly, with abbreviated but descriptive tasting notes for each wine. But if you’re feeling stuck, the staff is always happy to make suggestions and guide you through the choices.

ro sham beaux door

The food menu is concise but offers plenty of satisfying and full-flavor options like brie grilled cheese on sourdough. For a small, simple nosh, you can purchase tinned fish or a pack of chips. Artisan sodas, beer, craft cocktails and nonalcoholic highballs are also available. 2413 J St.; (916) 365-1216; roshambeauxbar.com; IG @roshambeauxbar

Good News Wine

VIBE: Wholesome neighborhood diner

good news wine

Walking into midtown’s Good News Wine feels, well, good. It’s a spot where you can meet friends or take a date. Bright and welcoming, the décor is reminiscent of a diner from another era. It feels both retro and modern, and you’ll find it easy to settle in and get comfy at one of the counter seats or booths.

The wines at Good News are chosen based on several criteria. Says owner Bennett Cross: “We require that the wines that go on the menu be very delicious, be made from grapes that were farmed organically or biodynamically, fermented with native yeast without anything added in the cellar except for a smidge of sulfur from time to time.”

You can order by the half glass, full glass or bottle. The wine list is eclectic but thoughtful, and it’s been designed to be user friendly for any level of wine enthusiast. From a quick survey of the list, you can glean the type, origin, composition and alcohol level of each offering. Additionally, a concise three-word description is provided for each wine. Quarticello’s Le Boccette (a sparkler) gets the words “pear—brioche creamy,” for instance.

good news wine interior

Good News also serves up sherry, vermouth, beer, ciders and nonalcoholic beverages. The food menu offers an array of simple but tasty options: bread and butter, olives, cheese and meat boards, toasties (toasted sandwiches) and seasonal salads. If you want to bring home a bottle of wine and some noshes, shop the Good News pantry (where you’ll find pastas, beans, tinned seafood and crackers) or the refrigerated section (for cheeses and charcuterie).

Good News regularly hosts DJ nights, dinner and brunch pop-ups and producer tastings. The big event for fall will be Good News’ one-year anniversary in September, with a week of events. Check social media for details. 1050 20th St.; (916) 400-0533; goodnewswine.com; IG @goodnewswine

The Pip Wine Bar & Shop

VIBE: Comfortable and casual

the pip wine bar and shop

Judging by what you can see from Interstate 80, you might assume that Dixon is nothing more than a pit stop for gas or fast food on your way to somewhere else. You would be wrong. Take exit 66A onto CA-113 South, drive about 2 miles and you’ll find yourself in a quaint business district populated by antiques shops, salons, restaurants and an unexpectedly hip little wine bar with an impressively diverse selection of wines from around the world.

Amy Grabish founded The Pip Wine Bar & Shop just before the pandemic shutdown and managed to sustain her business with unique wines and a firm commitment to developing community and customer relationships. “I love that we’re both a wine bar and a retail shop,” she says. “We strive to represent small wineries that aren’t available at the big stores or the grocery stores.” You can taste any wine on the menu before committing to a glass. Says Grabish: “We don’t want guests to order a glass of wine and then not be happy with it. Life’s too short.”

pip wine slushie

The Pip offers events that allow people to incorporate wine into their lives in fun and sometimes unexpected ways. Grabish partnered with The Good Scoop (a Dixon ice cream shop) and Skinner Vineyards of Fair Play to come up with wine-infused ice cream flavors. The Pip also hosts themed events and “Pip Trips,” like its Rosé All Day party at Cache Creek Casino, where pink-wine enthusiasts quaffed Lorenza 2021 Rosé by the pool on a summer day. 116 N First St., Dixon; (707) 693-3069; thepipwinebar.com; IG @thepipwinebar

Franquette

VIBE: Modern sidewalk cafe/wine bar

franquette interior

Located in West Sac’s hip Bridge District, Franquette is a French-inspired gathering spot from the team behind Canon, the Michelin-recognized restaurant in East Sac.

At Franquette, like at many of the wine bars that have opened in the last few years in Sacramento, the focus is on lesser-known producers and regions whose wines are reasonably priced, terroir driven and made with a light hand. Franquette offers French wines that are bright and balanced, making them agreeable partners to a wide range of foods. Settle in with just about any glass of wine on the list—its brightness and acidity will make your mouth water. It’s time to order food. You can go simple and order a French cheese, such as a luscious Brillat-Savarin served with baguette and wildflower honey. Or you can indulge with a heartier dish such as duck confit or potatoes au raclette. The food is delicious and noticeably understated, and the wine is integral to the enjoyment of the food. Franquette does everything right and nothing to excess. 965 Bridge St., West Sacramento; hellofranquette.com; IG @franq.uette

exterior of franquette

Acheson Wine Company

VIBE: Carefree gathering spot for wine and dog lovers

acheson wine company

Lemon-yellow walls greet you as you enter the tiny tasting room that is Acheson Wine Company in midtown. On one wall, you’ll see posters of murals and artwork that can be found in neighborhoods around the capital city. On the opposite wall, you’ll see a chalkboard listing the available wines, many of which are sourced from Lodi vineyards. What you won’t see are cases upon cases of wine stacked anywhere, because you have walked into a “winery on tap.”

The Acheson label started in 2015 as a traditional wine project but morphed into something less conventional by the time the tasting room opened in 2019. Founders Brian Scott (sommelier) and Steve Burch (winemaker) knew that glass wine bottles were heavy to transport and rarely recycled, contributing to the issues of global warming and ever-filling landfills. As a solution, they send wine lovers home with refillable 1-liter wine bottles (with flip tops instead of corks) and encourage them to reuse and refill those bottles with Acheson wines that are stored and poured from kegs.

acheson wine company

Acheson makes wine accessible and fun and doesn’t stand on pretense. (Watch the videos on Acheson’s website and you’ll agree.) It offers free delivery within 3 miles of the tasting room. 1629 19th St.; (916) 329-8928; achesonwinecompany.com; IG @achesonwinecompany

Revolution Winery + Kitchen

VIBE: Family-run restaurant and winery

revolution winery and kitchen

Joe and Gina Genshlea started Revolution Winery in 2007 with the idea of bringing wine back to the city as it had been in pre-Prohibition times. Since then, the operation has expanded, and now Revolution serves not only as a full-production urban winery, but also as a tasting room and restaurant.

“We believe that good wine tells a story,” says Revolution’s winemaker, Colleen Clothier. “Our wine celebrates the diversity of our farms, community and city.” The grapes are harvested from local vineyards within a 60-mile radius of the midtown winery. Revolution specializes in low-intervention wines that embody a sense of place.

revolution winery and kitchen interior part of the urban wine tour

Revolution’s restaurant offers a menu of seasonal and locally sourced foods, with a wide variety of plant-based and gluten-free options. The vegan charcuterie board features house-made vegan burrata, smoked carrot lox and crostini, and there’s a vegan chocolate mousse for dessert. 2831 S St.; (916) 444-7711; rev.wine; IG @revolutionwines