Great Grapes!

City comes alive with wine bars

By Greg Sabin
February 2022

It might be easy to overlook, but the wine scene is changing. Several local wine bars are influencing a new generation of wine drinkers. Whether it’s unique varietals, novel appellations or changing attitudes about California’s iconic consumable, there’s plenty new in wine.

You’ll see trends on display at Ro Sham Beaux wine bar on J Street. The small, creatively appointed space combines modern sensibilities with a swinging 1970s fern bar vibe. The wine is cutting-edge: natural, low alcohol and from unexpected climes.

Ro Sham Beaux’s menu takes a detour from routine chardonnays and zinfandels. Start with a glass of orange wine from Georgia (the country, not the state).

Orange wine is made from white grapes that spend a few months sitting on the skins and picking up a decidedly orange hue. The tannins aren’t typical for white wines.

Follow with a white blend from Texas (the state, not the—well, the state). You might not realize Texas has a wine scene, but the experts at Ro Sham Beaux get it. Tasty? You’re darn right it is. With Texas-sized notes like “crushable” and “simple,” you’ll find something drinkable.

Ro often describes wines by the vineyard soil—“rich in micronutrients”—or the way it’s farmed—“biodynamic techniques.” Each glass, curated by the Ro team, carries a journey of discovery and world of new experience.

Not far away, Good News Wine opened last year on 20th Street in the MARRS Building. Featuring a petite grocery and neo-diner chic, Good News is a sanctuary amidst a boisterous Midtown block.

The global wines are approachable in price and style with a focus on natural products. A Spanish white might pique your interest with tasting notes of “pear-sage-oyster.” But a French rosé with “cranberry-raspberry-citrus” might please the traditional wine drinker.

From its straight-from-the-1950s department, Good News offers a lovely selection of sherry and vermouth. I’ve been waiting for sherry to make a comeback for a decade now. Color me excited.

The food ranges from elegant European tinned fish and fresh bread to meat and cheese boards, from roasted veggies to upscale grilled cheese sandwiches, and makes a nice counter to the potables. Rich offerings pair beautifully with wines and keep patrons happily ensconced in high-backed booths.

At Downtown Commons you’ll find Fizz Champagne & Bubbles Bar. Featuring impressively sourced offerings from France’s Champagne region, plus other delicious bubblies from around the world (even England), Fizz pours on the sophistication.
This is a caviar and truffles kind of place. But there’s room for Champagne in a red Solo cup. Think upscale but cheeky. The menu is heavy on french fries and French wine, oysters and olives. Guests might turn up in a Jason Williams Kings jersey or suit and tie.

During pandemic lockdowns, Fizz created a “virtual tasting party,” delivering fine wines and foods to friends, families and corporate teams, then leading them virtually through tastings. I participated in one and it was a delight.

Whether you like your wine new or old, red or orange, low alcohol or rocket fuel, there’s something for everyone. With “Dry January” over for many of us, it’s time to get back and sip a few with friends.

Ro Sham Beaux is at 2413 J St.; (916) 365-1216; Good News Wine is at 1050 20th St., No. 150; (916) 400-0533; Fizz Champagne & Bubbles Bar is at 615 David J. Stern Walk, No. 105; (916) 573-3909;

Greg Sabin can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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