Capital Wine: Come thirsty to Sacramento's tasting rooms

wine grapes

Are you a wine-lover seeking an alternative to the standard Napa and Sonoma scenes? The tasting rooms and urban wineries flourishing in Sacramento might be just what you're looking for. Sacramento County's vineyards -- all 27,000+ acres of them, as of 2012 -- have established the region as a wine destination, and now you can imbibe the tasting room experience without ever leaving metropolitan Sacramento. 

Some quick history: While it might seem like urban wineries are a new development, the reality is that prior to Prohibition, the majority of American wine was warehouse-made in big cities like San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles. In the 1960s and '70s, the idea of bucolic vineyards as winemaking and tasting centers became idealized, and the concept shaped the American wine industry for many years. 

The winemaking business became steadily more exclusionary, as acquiring land in the nation's winemaking regions requires a fortune roughly equivalent to the GDP of a small country. The return in recent years to making wines in cities -- trucking in the grapes, but doing the crushing and fermenting on site -- has meant that more start-up winemakers have been able to break into the vino game. It also means that wine tasting -- and in some cases, witnessing the winemaking process itself -- has become that much more accessible to consumers as well. 

Sacramento is one of the cities changing the face of wine tasting. The proliferation of municipal wineries and tasting rooms is fantastic news for travelers, particularly guests of the Sacramento Hostel, which is within walking distance of five(!) tasting rooms, and only a couple of miles away from a functioning winery.

Driving or paying for a bus tour to a rural vineyard is a nice occasional luxury, but for a more practical and budget friendly option, follow our map to quench your thirst at these city-dwelling tasting rooms, and discover a sophisticated side of Sacramento. 

Rail Bridge Cellars 
Prime your taste buds at the Rail Bridge Cellars Penthouse Lounge Tasting Room, located on the top two floors of the Elks Tower, just 3 blocks from the Sacramento Hostel. The Penthouse is open every Saturday from 1- 8 p.m. and private tastings for ten or more people can be scheduled during other days and times. Sip six wines for $10 while you savor the Penthouse's rustic-chic decor and striking views of downtown Sacramento and the Capitol building. 

The Penthouse Lounge is currently hosting free live music every second Saturday at 5 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. through October, and also showcases the work of a new artist each month, making a visit to the Penthouse a multisensory experience.

Downtown and Vine
Downtown and Vine is a tasting room that offers 36 wines from 12 local wineries which represent the four wine regions surrounding Sacramento. Only a half-mile from the Sacramento Hostel, it's the perfect place to explore the diversity of grape varietals and wine styles. 

Make an online reservation for one of eight guided tastings like the "Taste of Italy" or "History of Zin," Mondays - Thursdays from 12-8 p.m., and on Fridays and Saturdays from 12 - 9 p.m.

The Underground Tasting Room
Enjoy a leisurely 8-block stroll from the Sacramento Hostel to historic Old Sacramento, home of The Underground Tasting Room. Located directly across the street from the California Railroad Museum, The Underground hosts two award-winning Sierra Foothills wineries: Twisted Twig and Fenton Herriott.

Savor your wine amidst the Old Sac nostalgia of a sunken all-brick courtyard and fountain, Wednesdays - Sundays from 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Ficklin Wilcox
Ficklin Wilcox, a combination kitchen store and tasting room located just under a mile from the Sacramento Hostel, is well known for their award-winning ports made using only Portuguese grape varietals. Founded in 1946, Ficklin Vineyards is America's oldest Port winery, and though they do offer five red and three white wines for tasting, it's their 31 Ports -- including rare vintage varieties -- that really get the wine critics raving.

Every 2nd Saturday of the month from 6-10 p.m., enjoy live music and food and wine pairings at Ficklin Wilcox. Check their Facebook page for the latest line-up, photos of past events, and recipes to enjoy with their wines. The $6 tasting fee is deducted from the price of a bottle should you want to take the party home with you, and they feature two types of locally made dark chocolate and cheeses for pairing. 

Closed Mondays, Ficklin Wilcox is currently open Tuesdays - Thursdays from 11 a.m. - 8 p.m., Fridays from 11 a.m. - 10 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. -  5 p.m., and Sundays from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. From the Sacramento Hostel, take the 30 line bus or earn that rich port and chocolate with a (less than 20-minute) walk. 

The Grand Wine Bar
This tiny bar offers unique wines and an ideal people-watching locale in the heart of the Capital's nightlife. The Grand Wine Bar is a great choice if you're with people who aren't big wine drinkers because, in addition to wines from all over the world, they also feature a full bar and a distinctive beer selection. 

The Grand sells wines by the three- or six-ounce glass and by the bottle, and serves up a handful of small appetizers in an intimate setting less than a mile from the Sacramento Hostel, easily accessible by the 30 line bus. Stop by Mondays - Saturdays from 5 p.m. - 2 a.m.

58 Degrees & Holding Co.
58 Degrees & Holding Co. is a wine bar, shop, and full service restaurant also located along the 30 "just call me the wine line" bus, and one mile from the Sacramento Hostel.

Like The Grand, 58 Degrees offers three- or six-ounce pours of their 58 boutique-style wines and the retail store stocks over 500 wines for purchase. Pair a glass with an appetizer or a seasonal small plate from their artisanal food menu. Closed on Tuesdays, 58 Degrees opens at 11 a.m. every other day.

Revolution Wines
If you're willing to travel a bit further afield for your fermented grape fix, Revolution Wines is the place to go. The first full-production winery to operate in the city of Sacramento since Prohibition, Revolution offers a peek into the process behind the wines that are crushed, vinted, matured, and bottled at their urban winery.  

From 5 -10 p.m. every Friday night, Revolution features a different, seasonal entree paired with a glass of wine for only $15. They host a trivia night on the first Wednesday of the month at 6:30 p.m., and on Second Saturdays, enjoy live music and art by local Sacramento artists as you sip revolutionary wine on the charming patio. 

Revolution is open Tuesdays - Sundays for lunch and dinner. Wine tasting tours cost $10 -- the fee is waived with any bottle purchase -- and are held every other hour in the afternoon and evening. Located just over two miles from the Sacramento Hostel, the 38 line bus will get you there in 20 minutes. 

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If You Go 

Stay at the beautiful Sacramento Hostel, a restored Victorian mansion in downtown Sacramento.