Sacramento, CA 95816
Say you want a revolution? We-ell, you know, visit Revolution Wines at S and 29th streets, Sacramento’s first urban winery. The concept is self-explanatory: A winemaking facility is located in a city, and the grapes are grown somewhere else. Not sure what Revolution would become if they planted some vines in the big empty field occupying most of the block across the street from Honest Engine. Although by no means a wine connoisseur, Revolution’s zin and merlot are memorable, the zingier zin a hand-and-glove accompaniment to the Italian sandwich of salami, coppa, mortadella and muffaletta olive mix.
The ambience is oddly warm for concrete floor, spidery chairs and exposed-beam ceiling with its black ducts and tubes. The large L-shaped bar is the focal point—go figure, it’s a winery first and a bistro second, as bespectacled Sue behind the bar explains on one visit. This particular time, Sue eventually says she’s in the midst of filling a wine order, but there’s a somewhat longish period of invisibility prior to being acknowledged—and seated.
In Sue’s absence, a woman from one of the other tables comes to take the lunch order. Geez, these have to be nicest patrons of any restaurant in town, helping serve customers when the staff is busy elsewhere. The woman suggests the French onion soup, which she just had. She also pitches the Joey Bird with its roasted turkey, blend of cream cheese and cranberries and crisp slice of romaine. A subsequent visit proves she knows of what she speaks. The toasted honey wheat bread seals the deal, although adding some caramelized onions is the exclamation point.
And, indeed, it’s the lure of the caramelized onions on the Winemaker Sandwich—accompanied by rosemary ham, Gruyère, Dijon and mayo—that causes rejection of the Joey Bird recommendation. Like the Italian, the Winemaker is a large sandwich, in part because of the girth of the ciabatta, but also because it’s just a big sandwich. The magnanimous patron walks over to the kitchen and places the order. After further questioning of Sue, it is discovered the patron is actually Gina Genshlea, one of the co-owners. No wonder she knew the menu so well.
The French onion soup is thick and sweetened by the inclusion of port. The ham and Gruyère, set off by the onions, combines neatly with the merlot. On another visit, the soup is carrot and tangerine, which seems a bizarre combo but tastes better than it sounds, basically a tart carrot soup. Simone, the chef, dots the rest of the space on the large white plates with artful decoration. On one plate, there’s a miniature Stonehenge of tangerine slivers, some on end, some fallen. A solitary cornichon hunkers nearby. On another, atop a magic carpet of romaine is an “H” of tangerine pieces next to a crisp pickled cucumber chip that’s vinegary but can’t be called sweet and is well south of dill. With the Winemaker Sandwich is a small bowl of a salad consisting of batons of green apple and Chiogga beets with a light dressing, since not much is needed to enhance the pairing of these two flavors.
After several visits, the realization dawns—would have happened to smarter people sooner—that Gina and Simone et al., have labored to create simple and fresh food to drink wine with. Like the blue cheese salad dressing on romaine with raisins and green apple squares, which almost demands a sip of zin after each bite.
Things get even more intriguing at night—a winemaker’s plate of meats and cheese, bruschetta with brie and mushrooms and lamb kebobs, among other offerings.
Simone, incidentally, has an application on the computer at Revolution that measures the size of the baby growing inside her using foodstuffs. Initially, the lil’ kiddo was a fig. Then a lime. Now, a prawn. “What will they think of next?” a customer says.
“Perfect gift for a pregnant chef,” Simone replies. It’s emblematic of Revolution’s good vibe that emanates from its people to its food and drink.