Like a lot of people, Jason Fernandez has been trying to figure out how to beat the rising cost in fuel and time to commute to his job. He's a winemaker, so the drive to work from his Sacramento home likely would mean a trek to a rural setting where wineries generally are - the Sierra foothills, Yolo County, Lodi.
His alternative is inspired, daring and possibly unprecedented, at least since Prohibition. He and his business partner, Joe Genshlea Jr., are putting a winery smack dab in the middle of Sacramento, just a block from the city's old Buffalo Brewing Co., now the site of The Sacramento Bee.
Genshlea and Fernandez, a seasoned winemaker who has put in stints with wineries like Bonny Doon Vineyard, Chalone Vineyard and R.H. Phillips, have leased a 2800-square-foot cinder-block warehouse behind a salon at 2116 P St. (near 21st Street) and are starting to spruce up the quarters. A few wine barrels already are in the otherwise largely empty space.
In July they hope to move the wines they've already made elsewhere into the building and open a tasting room. Their brand is Revolution Wines. By the harvest this fall they expect to be unloading gondolas of grapes into presses, moving the juice into fermentation tanks and have barrels arranged in orderly rows for aging of the wine at the P Street site. Their operation will be small, with no more than 40 to 50 tons of grapes to be crushed.
So far, city authorities have supported their enterprise, says Fernandez. While West Sacramento has Harbor Winery and the unincorporated area of south Sacramento has Frasinetti's Winery, no commercial winery may have operated in the city since the old California Winery at 19th and R, closed by Prohibition.
Fernandez and Genshlea have leased space in other wineries to produce their Revolution wines over the past two years. Their current releases, which include a pinot grigio, a zinfandel and a refined blend of montepulciano, zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon, are priced in the $10 to $20 range and are starting to appear at several local outlets, including Discover California, Taylors Market and Beyond Napa. "Renzo," incidentally, is the given name of Fernandez's father-in-law, an Italian native. "He's the patriarchal figure in the family, and Renzo is a little easier to pronounce than montepulciano," says Fernandez.
Fernandez grew up in Woodland, while Genshlea is a member of a longtime Sacramento family. Because they own no vineyards, they buy grapes from growers who sell to various wineries. "I have great respect for grape growers," says Fernandez. "They do that better than I do."
They chose the name Revolution Wines for the winery to represent Earth's revolving around the sun and how the progression of the seasons affects grapes and their subsequent wines.