A new take on the grape

Downtown & Vine

Downtown & Vine

1200 K St.
Sacramento, CA 95814

(916) 228-4518

With all the recent talk about “farm to fork,” we seem to be neglecting some unique local “farm-to-glass” experiences. Only in California—where everyone and his brother seems to be a home-brewer or winemaker—would such an oversight occur.

Microbreweries and pubs abound, but our vintner friends seem less celebrated here. Downtown & Vine, slightly hidden on the K Street block near the Esquire IMAX Theatre, is here to change that.

This tasting room and wine bar opened in December 2012, with Gregg Lamer, who holds the title of certified sommelier, and chef Kate Chomko, who trained at the Culinary Institute of America and Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.

These terrifically knowledgeable owners have mostly been operating under the radar, but have big plans afoot. With a new wine-bar license allowing them more event latitude and plans for special guests, Downtown & Vine should be on your to-do list.

One of the best aspects of the setup here is that diners can order 2-ounce tasting flights of wine. Choose three from the same vintner to compare styles, or mix and match to contrast similar wines from different producers. It showcases 12 wineries, primarily from regions nearby.

The Clarksburg Wine Company in the Delta, for example, specializes in the chenin blanc varietal specific to our area. Its tasting flight offers three different takes on the grape, which helps drinkers discern more about personal likes and dislikes. Wines are also available in larger pours and by the bottle.

Lamer plans to highlight a local vintner each week in addition to wines from Italian and Spanish regions as sourced by Bay Area merchant Kermit Lynch.

Any good winemaker, however, will tell you that wine is meant to be enjoyed with food. Chomko recently updated the menu to offer a wider selection of tidbits and heartier dishes. Choose from tapas, such as goat-cheese stuffed peppers, chilled Spanish-spiced shrimp, and a cheddar-and-apple melt. The latter helped Downtown & Vine win “best overall” restaurant in August at the Old Sugar Mill's Wine, Cheese & Bread Faire.

Served on Bella Bru cranberry-walnut bread, the open-faced bites are simple enough for kids to enjoy, but also complex enough for adults. The crunchy, cool apples and melted, warm Fiscalini Farms cheddar are blissful together. Olive-oil potato chips and sweet-sour pickles served alongside are perfect complements.

Also try the ambrosial Wine Country sandwich, with salty prosciutto, sweet fig jam, oozy mozzarella and peppery arugula on grilled bread. There are also a variety of flatbreads loaded with topping combos like capicola, three cheeses, piquillo peppers and green onions. The bread for these is nicely crunchy but not too chewy and comes across as more than a pizza trying to be fancy.

Pair a plate of three cheeses with a flight of wine, or choose a platter loaded with tapas and charcuterie to compare with the vino. Downtown & Vine has also recently added flights of craft beers, including selections from North Coast Brewing Co. in Fort Bragg.

Desserts are limited, but include choices from cult-favorite Andrae's Bakery in Amador City and About a Bite Bakery in Rancho Cordova. Andrae's Basque cake is part pound cake, part nirvana, with a moist, buttery texture paired with tangy crème fraîche and lemon syrup. The mint-ganache “bites” from About a Bite are the perfect size to enjoy with a dessert wine or glass of sparkly.

While the focus is on the wines, the food here is also perfectly executed. Chomko brings her background as a wine-country chef to Sacramento to help make this a true urban wine-country experience, from farm to glass.