Diners seated in what used to be the Frasinetti's east cellar sate themselves on handcrafted Italian lunch and dinner dishes, surrounded by huge vats evoking the 112-year-old winery’s storied past. Dinners commence with starters such as crostini slathered in grilled brie and red-pepper chutney ($10) or steamed clams in white-wine sauce ($9). Next, certified non-android servers bring out entrees such as seafood manicotti, a mix of salmon, scallops, and crab packed in pasta ($15). Pine-nut-gorgonzola butter adds a zesty twist to the 12-ounce center-cut prime rib ($25), and the regal Atlantic salmon rests on a bed of mushroom risotto ($19), like an eccentric rice baron.
Imbibers don't just sniff, swirl, and sip their wine at Vintner's Cellar Custom Winery—they make it themselves. During this unique process, Vintner's experienced staffers guide customers through the first steps of the fermentation process. After six to eight weeks, aspiring winemakers pour their batch into between 24 and 30 bottles, which they then emblazon with custom-designed labels or tribal-themed temporary tattoos.
Vintner's Tuscan-style whites, reds, and dessert wines are also available by the glass, bottle, and half-bottle during regular tastings. A trim food menu brims with cheese platters and chocolate-wine truffles that pair perfectly with wines made from California's most well-adjusted grapes. Winemaking and pairing are taught in a Blend-it-Up Experience, during which customers create unusual flavor profiles by mixing different wines together.
Downtown & Vine all but transports its guests to lush, rolling vineyards, stocking the fruits of a dozen wineries from across five regions surrounding Sacramento. The house sommelier, Gregg Lamer, curates the selection of more than 100 bottles that are served by the glass. Gregg regularly changes up the menu, but always highlights wines from local growers that use sustainable farming practices. The list includes Sonoma vintner, Iron Horse Vineyards—whose wines have been served at White House events hosted by the past five presidents; Shadow Ranch in Fairplay who exclusively uses solar power and organic farming methods; and Dillian, an Amador County farm in the Shenandoah Valley that's been handed down through four generations of Dillians.
To give palates something to do between sips, Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef Kate Chomko has built a small, charming menu of farmhouse small plates and artisan grilled cheeses. The latter takes traditional comfort food and drags it into adulthood with inventive flavor combinations such as prosciutto and fig jam. Desserts get a similar upgrade with salted caramel cookies or the Basque cake served with crème fraiche and blood orange syrup. Diners tuck into the gustatory proceedings at intimate tables flanked by cushy chairs support tasting pairs, while the private Vintner's Room features an eye-catching glass table enclosing a riddling rack.
The fact that The Porch Restaurant and Bar uses cast-iron skillets and mason-jar drinking glasses doesn't mean that it's limited to Southern traditions. Sure, shrimp po'boys and buttermilk-fried chicken might share plate space with a stuffed sweet potato overflowing with sweet corn, but the restaurant sources most of its ingredients—including cage-free organic eggs and rice—from local California producers. What results is a gourmet mix that ranges from Tuscaloosa-style fried-green tomatoes to grilled brie with a balsamic-honey reduction.
The restaurant itself also refuses to conform to expectations. Occupying a building that once housed a Cajun restaurant, the eatery, according to Sacramento Magazine's Kira O'Donnell, has made a "stunning transformation of the former space." The airy dining room's wood floors and floral arrangements give way to views of an open kitchen. And, keeping true to its name and guiding theme, a porch surrounded by white columns gives diners an open-air space where they can savor their Southern dishes and banjo-duel over the last piece of cornbread.