New Sacramento Wine Bars Showcase Capital Region’s Natural Wineries
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At Ro Sham Beaux, a natural wine bar in Midtown Sacramento that opened in January, the shelves are stocked with a range of bottles from around the world, but only a handful is available by the glass each day. Patrons seated at the faux terrazzo bar (made from recycled furniture shavings) pair their glasses with small, Barcelona-influenced bites like canned octopus, bocadillo sandwiches, and airy cheddar mousse inspired in equal parts from the restaurant. molecular gastronomy El Bulli and Cheez Whiz. The design is also inspired by Barcelona: the fossil floor tiles are a replica of those in Antoni Gaudí’s Casa Milà.
The wine list, however, is up to 75 percent local, depending on what piqued the interest of wine buyer and business partner Addam Reagan at the time. On the shelves, bottles from Fair Play, Clarksburg and Northern Yuba County share space with European vintages. “What I like about natural wine is that it kind of comes back into people’s hands; anyone can understand it, ”Reagan says. “It’s not meant to be a mystery, it’s meant to be about fun.”
Natural Wine is a movement inspired by the preindustrial roots of wine with principles that include the use of organic grapes, avoidance of additives, and fermentation with native yeast instead of purchased strains. The movement is thought to have started in France in the 1960s, spread throughout Europe in the following decades, and began to develop in major cities in the United States around 2010. But the wave took longer time to reach the capital region, despite (or because of) its proximity to some of the country’s largest wine producers.
Having first taken root among local winemakers, a natural wine scene is finally starting to bloom in the capital region. Two natural wine bars opened in Sacramento this year, with a third expected to come. All the high-end liquor stores and gourmet supermarkets worth renting have run a selection of natural wines, and Sacramento pizzerias like Majka Pizzeria & Bakery, Pizza Supreme Being, and OneSpeed pair them up. to pies.
Businesses and oenophiles are now reaping the crop that natural winemakers in the Capital Region have sown for years. These iconoclastic little wineries and vineyards could impact the California wine scene in the same way the microbrewery boom challenged ‘Big Beer’.
A foment in the foothills
In the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, a natural wine scene has been brewing for at least two decades. The area is dotted with organic vineyards that produce natural wine or supply natural wineries statewide, including Frenchtown Farms in Yuba County, Mountain Misery Wine in Nevada County, The End of Nowhere in County of Amador and La Clarine Farm in El Dorado County (the oldest of the bunch, with vines dating back to 2001). Winemakers say the region’s elevation and arid conditions create idiosyncratic flavors – and foothill grapes cost a fraction of anything grown in Napa or Sonoma.
“Granted, we couldn’t afford a place in those areas (Napa and Sonoma), but, quite frankly, we wouldn’t even have looked,” says Aaron Bryan, who started Conduit Wine, Divergent Vine and Tag + Jug. . Cider Co. in San Francisco in 2013 and last year moved to 21 acres of land in Somerset with his wife and 2 year old son. Before purchasing the property, he sourced grapes from the foothills vineyards and fermented them in a co-op space on Treasure Island. “The more time I spent here and met some of the people who lived here, the more I really liked the area,” he says. “And we knew the region makes a really killer wine.”
“I think bars like Ro Sham Beaux are not only going to interest the youngest and educate them about wine, but also help your ‘I only drink cabernet or chardonnay’ people to broaden their horizons.”
Craig Haarmeyer, Owner, Haarmeyer Wine Cellars
Foothills grapes and other Capital Region appellations, such as Clarksburg, also supply urban natural wineries like Haarmeyer Wine Cellars in western Sacramento. The Haarmeyer building – yellow stucco with blue wooden doors in the style of a French country mansion – is sandwiched between an auto repair shop and a truck depot along one of the most industrial hallways in the city. Winemaker Craig Haarmeyer launched the label as a custom crush operation in 2008, moved into the building in 2016 (it’s been a winery since 1972, originally under winemaker Charles Myers of Harbor Winery) and now runs the business with his son Alex Haarmeyer.
Haarmeyer spent the first decade of his winemaking career traveling across the country from San Francisco to New York City to find buyers as there was little interest in natural wine in his hometown. He is delighted to see the younger generations adapt. “A lot of young people have generally seen wine as something their parents or grandparents drink: ‘Wine is for the elderly,’” he says. “So I think bars like Ro Sham Beaux are not only going to interest young people and educate them more about wine, but also help your ‘I only drink cabernet or chardonnay’ people to broaden their horizons.”
Temples of the cult of viticulture
Ro Sham Beaux, which is owned by Irish Hospitality Group (the group behind the Irish Pub in Vere and other Sacramento bars), was the first natural brick and mortar wine bar to open in Sacramento – although a pop-up bar, Jeune, tested the waters in 2019 and went live in 2020. Reagan, a native of Elk Grove, introduced the concept of the bar to IHG when he was the company’s wine buyer.
This role showed him why wine trends take a long time to come to Sacramento: the city is in the blind spot of the top wine sales reps who are assigned to large regions like East Bay, Central California or Los Angeles which may not overlap with the capital. . Sales reps also rarely show an interest in wineries in the Capital Region, most of which are too small to pick up for national distribution. But with the region’s wealth of vineyards and organic producers, “Sacramento could possibly be the greatest natural wine center in the world,” Reagan says.
Nicholas Corich, owner of Nico Wine in the Ice Blocks, saw the divide between the Capital Region’s wine bars and its natural wine producers soon after arriving in Sacramento last year. “It didn’t take me more than six months to say, ‘Oh, my God, the city needs it. I can afford to do it, so it should happen, ”says Corich, who was born in St. Louis and moved to California to work for Square in Oakland.
“It’s really a rising tide-float-all-boat type situation. The more people have access to positive wine experiences, the more it will help all these businesses. ”
Bennett Cross, Owner, Good News Wine
Corich sticks to a wine list that consistently draws at least 80 percent of the West Coast, with an emphasis on wineries in the capital region. He hopes to evangelize new converts to natural wine in his sunny 454 square foot space (with a 200 square foot patio), where there are fresh bouquets at every table and where Alicia Keys benevolently gazes at a work of art made. of his concert posters. He believes it is the prerogative of the Sacramentians to drink wine from their own region. “For me, proximity is everything, and it’s so neglected,” says Corich. “Most California wine is exported and should really be enjoyed by the people who live next door. ”
When Good News Wine opens later this year, Midtown will have a trio of natural wine temples. In the deli-inspired space, complete with red-top stools and a selection of groceries, guests can either order wine by the glass or take away a bottle with ingredients for dinner. Owner Bennett Cross, who was previously the general manager of Urban Roots Brewery & Smokehouse, says the goal is to make the wine less intimidating by nesting it in familiar surroundings. He’s been working on the concept since 2019 but doesn’t mind being the last to walk through the door. “It’s really a rising tide-floats-all-boat type situation,” he says. “The more people have access to positive wine experiences, the more it will help all these businesses. ”
Haarmeyer, who became a regular customer of Ro Sham Beaux soon after it opened, agrees. “I think that’s great,” he says on an afternoon bar visit, swirling around a glass of organic zinfandel-apple coferment made naturally in Berkeley. “I have waited decades for something like this to happen in this city.”
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