Corti Brothers is SN&R’s Inaugural Best Bottle Shop of the Year
RoCo Wine & Spirits makes our Runner-Up award for wild enthusiasm
When it comes to fermentables, we truly are blessed with the freedom of choice. This is a welcome deliverance from the dark days, when the few bright spots on the shelf were obscured by mostly big-name breweries, those now scrambling to stay relevant, because craft breweries from far and wide and right here in River City are taking over.
One of the best places to find the latest brewing sensation is Corti Brothers. Generally acknowledged as Sacramento’s most revered market, Corti’s is indispensable. With its legendary reputation for great food and wine, the transition to a one-stop beer shop made sense. It boasts the longest beer aisle in town, and features suds from every corner of the world. But, then again, that’s old news to anyone making the taproom, brewery and bottle shop rounds these days. After all, if the last few years haven’t convinced you beer isn’t what it used to be, then you’re not paying attention.
“I am a one-man show and have full control of what hits the shelves,” explained Todd Fancher, a 15-year veteran of Corti Brothers who has been supervising the market’s beer aisle for four years. He truly enjoys the challenge of maintaining a selection that has become a store trademark. With sales climbing steadily over the last three years, it’s safe to say he found his calling.
Fancher says the biggest difference between Corti’s and our many other excellent local bottle shops is that those shops stock beers they personally enjoy, because their clientele are there for one thing. But being a grocery store means Fancher has to consider the preferences of casual customers and beer freaks alike, even though some beers he stocks may not be his first choice personally. Sort of like a band who wants to play new songs, but knows the audience wants the hits.
But that’s OK. Variety means he has options when recommending beer to those uninitiated in the ways of the bottle and can. He is often called upon for suggestions and enjoys helping folks find the perfect beer. “I take the responsibility of matching people with beers they will enjoy very seriously,” he said.
The breakdown of barriers between wine customers and the beer aisle has been a pleasant surprise at Corti. The somewhat recent phenomenon, at least by American standards, of sour beers—and use of chardonnay, cognac, zinfandel and other varieties of spirit barrels to age beer—has enlightened those who once considered beer unsophisticated or plain undrinkable.
Besides an enthusiasm to introduce people to the world of beer and his affability, perhaps Fancher’s most endearing quality is his willingness to provide shelf space to local breweries—whether they just opened or have been around the block a few times. “I always try to stock a new brewery’s IPA to test the market and go from there,” he explained. This can be a real boost for a small brewery in an extremely competitive environment.
Whether your taste is locals only or solely sours, you definitely have options at Corti. Previous visits have yielded more great beer than this writer cares to remember, and it really isn’t possible to leave empty-handed. So why not drop in and take a chance on a few brews out of your comfort zone, or get a cheap education and ask Todd the Beer Minder for a few recommendations? 5810 Folsom Boulevard, (916) 736-3800, www.cortibrothers.com.
Bottle Shop of the Year Runner-Up: RoCo Wine & Spirits
Like a bird in the rafters watching a stadium fill up with fans before a game, it’s been exciting over the past few years to witness newcomers get stoked on craft brew. RoCo Wine & Spirits, a strip-mall bottle shop in West Sacramento, has been on the scene for only a handful of years—but you can’t contain the staff’s wild enthusiasm for brew in the world’s largest growler.
Things I like about RoCo: how the shop is constantly updating social media with new beer arrivals. Get with it, competitors. It’s also endearing how RoCo will snap “checkout photos” of customers and their brew hauls. Added bonus: The prices are fair.
With the central city’s singles ban in full effect—still, nearly 20 years after its inception—RoCo is also one of the few options for single bottles and cans to go within a stone’s throw of the grid. Keep it up! 2220 Lake Washington Boulevard in West Sacramento, (916) 375-0466.