Mont Gravet Cotes de Gascogne ($7.99)
From the producer:
Mont Gravet comes from vineyards located in the Gascony region, near the city of Toulouse in the South West of France. The climate combines the Oceanic and Mediterranean influences, which brings enough sun and humidity to grow rich, concentrated and ripe grapes. Mont Gravet has a pale, bright yellow color, with a very intense and refreshing nose. It displays flavors of citrus fruit and blackcurrant leaf. This wine will express itself best as an aperitif or with any seafood. Serve chilled at 50°F.
I discovered this wine a couple of years ago, and it's still one of my favorites. Cotes de Gascogne wines are not easy to find, which is a shame, because there are some great values to be had from that area. Mont Gravet is 100% Colombard, a grape typically only used for blending. In this varietal wine, Colombard is light, crisp, with a nice lemon/citrus flavor and a clean finish. This is my summer go-to wine.
Villa Pozzi Pinot Grigio ($7.99)
From the producer:
"Exhibits soft aromatic flavors of perfumed rose and honeysuckle. Clean and well-balanced with depth of fruit showing through and a firm, crisp acidic finish."
This is, even for Pinot Grigio, a very approachable wine. It is juicy, smooth, and fruit-forward on the palate, but balanced by a fine acidity that lends a crisp finish. You can enjoy this with seafood, salad or Mediterranean fare, but it is awfully nice just on its own.
Gazela Vinho Verde Rosé ($7.99)
From the producer:
"Raspberry pink in colour, with a slight prickle of fizz that emphasises its bouquet of red fruits (strawberries) and tropical fruits (banana). In the mouth it is lively and fresh, intense in flavour and well balanced, the overall impression being of lightness and freshness, with an elegant finish."
Aside from Port, Vinho Verde is arguably the most well-known style of Portuguese wine. The name literally means green wine, which is a reference to its youth. The wine is bottled just after production, and is meant to be enjoyed young. It is characterized by a slight effervescence and a refreshing acidity. This rosé version is fruity and a touch sweet, with about 1.6% residual sugar. The alcohol content is low at 9.5%, and the overall impact on the palate is similar to a wine spritzer. It's very easy and light, and perfect as an aperitif. If you are planning to hang out and drink on the porch on a hot day, this is your wine!
It has been almost a month since I opened the doors of Sage Wine & Spirits, and I thought it was about time to properly introduce myself and tell you a little about how the store came to be.
First, I would like to thank everyone who has come in and welcomed me. This is a wonderful community of neighbors, friends, and small business owners, and that is partly the reason I chose to open a shop in Ballston Spa. Everyone has been supportive and helpful, which has made this project feel easier and as if it were really meant to be. I hope that everyone who comes into the store feels just as welcome. It is my aim to provide a space in which customers can relax, ask questions, and become better acquainted with products you might not know. There is so much to discover about both wine and spirits, and I am dedicated to helping you feel comfortable learning more and trying new things.
A lot of people ask me how I decided to open this shop and what my professional background is. The short answer is that I fell into this business, and could not have imagined that this is what I would be doing. I grew up just outside Saratoga, and I used to visit my grandma in Ballston Spa, so I have seen the village change and grow over the years. I am thrilled that small, independent businesses are at the heart of the growth, and I am excited to be part of that. I moved away for college, and spent the best part of 20 years traveling, studying, running college residence halls, and working on organic farms. I've done a lot of odd jobs and seen a lot of cool places, but I never felt inclined to settle in one spot or commit to one career. A couple of years ago, after spending a year in an English PhD program, I realized that academic life was not for me. I did a bit more wandering, and ended up returning to this area to figure out what I really wanted to be when I grew up.
I landed a great job working at Brookside Nursery, where I discovered a knack for selling plants. I loved the work, and I loved my workmates even more. It's a small family business that has been around for 40 years, and the retail philosophy there really inspired me. The idea was not to just sell as much as possible, but to help customers find the right plant for their project, and to help them feel more confident about their own gardening knowledge. I found that the connections with customers, and the trust that developed because of those personal interactions, created a very positive shopping experience. I hope to bring that approach to Sage Wine & Spirits. My goal is for customers to enjoy the shopping experience (nearly) as much as you enjoy your purchases.
Because my position at Brookside was seasonal, I had to look for winter work. I ended up at a wine shop, and although I drank wine and knew a little about it, I soon found that I had much to learn. I also discovered that the learning process was something that would take the rest of my life, and would always be an interesting challenge. That was the first time I felt that way about a job, and it compelled me to think about how I might move forward in the business. It turned out that I had a knack for selling wine as well as plants, probably because I am pretty passionate about both! I started playing with the idea of opening my own store, but I couldn't really imagine how I would do it, and by the time summer came around, I put it on the back burner until the following winter.
My next off-season job was at The Thirsty Owl, working behind the bar. I was under the impression that New York wine was not very good, but I needed a job. One of the first requirements of pouring wine there was tasting the products. I hesitantly took that first sip, and to my surprise and delight, it was wonderful. Thirsty Owl was my reintroduction to New York wine, and I learned that wine making in the state has come a long way in the last ten years or so. I started thinking more about that store I might open; local and regional products are better quality, and there's certainly an interest in them. What about sustainable and organic products? Those agricultural practices have always been important to me--could I do something with that?
In January of this year I decided that it was now or never. I gathered together all of my ideals, ideas, and experiences, and I created a business plan. I was lucky to find one of the most beautiful storefronts in Ballston Spa, and with everyone's encouragement and support, I moved forward with Sage Wine & Spirits. Even a month ago, when I was still putting shelves together and there were towers of wine cases on the floor, it didn't feel quite real. I couldn't quite see how it would really work. Now I'm sitting in my lovely little shop, and I have already started to build relationships with some of the nicest customers a retailer could ask for. I love that I have been able to weave together so many parts of my life to create this place; a friend said that my fingerprint is on every aspect of this store, and I am proud and humbled that he could see that. I hope that everyone can see that as you get to know me and the shop better. Even the name brings together parts of my life: Sage is my middle name, and was my grandma's maiden name. It is also a nod to my experience in agriculture and horticulture, and a tribute to the gardening skills of all the women in my family. Finally, Sage connotes wisdom--not that I possess, but that I hope we gather as we learn more about wines and spirits, and as we enjoy them together!
Archer Roose Sauvignon Blanc 3L Box ($33.99)
Alternative to: Lugging around 4 bottles of wine
From the producer:
"Our crisp, unoaked Sauvignon Blanc tastes of summer nights. It’s a young wine from an old place – the volcanic heart of Chile’s historic Maule Valley. With a tropical nose and bright finish, this wine pairs beautifully with your favorite fresh produce, and a side of lively conversation."
I love this brand. The winery uses sustainable farming methods and fair labor practices, and the company supports a charity that helps rural entrepreneurs in South America and Africa. Aside from that, the wine is great. The Sauvignon Blanc is as crisp and bright as you'd want it to be, with a nice balance of fruit and acidity. It's perfect for summer days and nights, and there's enough to share with lots of friends! Check out Archer Roose's other products, too: a juicy, meaty Carménère and a bold and slightly spicy Cabernet.
Villa Pozzi Grillo ($7.99)
Alternative to: Pinot Grigio
From the Producer:
"Grillo is a classic Sicilian varietal and a symbol of the wine history of the island. In the past, Grillo had been used mainly as a blending grape, but as quality improved, it has progressed to a stand-alone varietal wine. Today, it is one of most recognized white wines in Sicily. With a straw yellow color, Villa Pozzi Grillo exhibits aromas of exotic and white flowers, while on the palate, it is fresh and fruity with notes of mango and pineapple. It is a medium bodied, well-balanced wine with delicate acidity and a persistent finish."
Let's admit it: we all get into wine ruts. Pinot Grigio in the summer is one of the deepest, too. There's nothing wrong with Pinot Grigio, but beside the fact that there's a whole world of wine out there, there are a lot more whites to try from Italy, and Sicilian wines are where it's at! The Villa Pozzi line is sustainably farmed, well made, easy drinking, and very wallet-friendly. The Grillo is a tasty, medium-bodied white that is aromatic and fruity. It has a nice acidity, but it's a little fuller on the palate than Pinot Grigio. I like it with food or with a glass.
Secco Italian Bubbles Chardonnay Brut ($11.99)
Alternative to: Champagne or traditional Prosecco
From the producer:
"Grower-driven, vintage-dated, pure and fresh, Secco Italian Bubbles defines the 'dolce vita.' Growing up in Rome, Italy, Ginevra and Olivia Casa always had an infatuation for Prosecco. In 2010, after the change in laws pertaining to Prosecco production, the Casa sisters jumped on the opportunity to champion both the noble varietals and the growers of Chardonnay and created a new category of sparkling wine called Secco Italian Bubbles. Enter Charles Smith, Washington state’s rock star winemaker and fellow lover of Prosecco. 'Who can resist a big fat glass of cold Italian bubbles?' said Smith. And as Ginevra Casa advises, 'Drink Secco to celebrate everyday life!'
Classy and vibrant, with floral, melon and focused mineral notes. Bright on the palate like freshly-baked, warm scones. Very lively!"
Champagne is pricey! Sometimes you want something more budget-friendly for everyday drinking, and Prosecco is a great option. The main difference is that the secondary fermentation of Prosecco occurs in bulk, in stainless steel tanks, rather than in the bottle. This keeps the cost of production down, and it results in a wine that is best enjoyed young. The fresh, big bubbles also create a nicer effect in cocktails such as mimosas or Bellinis. Prosecco is traditionally made with a grape called Glera, so Secco Italian Bubbles is not a true Prosecco--it is merely made in that style. By using Chardonnay, the winemaker creates something with a little more robustness and body, whose flavor subtly nods to the brioche notes of a nice Champagne.
Mont Gravet Rosé ($7.99)
From the producer:
"Mont Gravet Rosé is a wonderfully fresh and fruit forward dry Rosé wine. This Rosé is a wonderful 'anytime' wine and a delicious aperitif. It pairs well with a wide variety of foods, as it’s refreshing, savory and well-balanced. It will accompany beautifully any salads, fish, BBQ and white meat dishes."
This is one of the driest Rosés. It does have nice fruit and floral notes, though its minerality lightens the wine and keeps it crisp and clean on the palate. It is perfect for a hot summer day, and the price is right for everyday drinking.
Aimé Roquesante ($10.99)
From the producer (quite loosely translated by me!):
Aimé Roquesante presents a pretty amber rose color and delicate notes of red fruits. In the mouth it reveals fruity and smooth flavors, authentic to the vineyards of Provence. It will awaken your palate as an aperitif, or as an accompaniment to white meat, grilled foods, or charcuterie.
From the beautiful traditional style of the curvy bottle, to the lovely salmon hue of the wine, to the balance of fruit and garrigue, this Rosé overdelivers for the price. It exemplifies the Provençal style, and is a versatile pairing wine for summer cuisines.
Sidebar Rosé ($18.50)
From the producer:
"'This dry rosé is drawn from an old-vine Syrah vineyard in the heart of the Russian River Valley and is best enjoyed in its youth.' – David Ramey
Bone-dry, crisp, and refreshing; pairs with a wide variety of foods and flavors."
David Ramey and Ramey Wine Cellars are legendary in the California wine business. Ramey was one of the pioneers in improving the quality of wines from that state, and all of his products are top-notch. Sidebar is his entry-level effort, and it features less well-known varietals. The wine is well crafted by winemaker Lydia Cummins, and is meant to be enjoyed young. This Rose is unique in that it's 100% Syrah. Enjoy the body and balance of fruit and savory notes in this elegant wine.
Domaine Loew Riesling Bruderbach 2014 ($25.50)
"The Bruderbach cuvee is a single vineyard Riesling cultivated on a south oriented slope. The yield is low and varies on the vintage, typically between 25 to 50/ha. The fermentation takes place during the winter and the wine ages on the lees until the bottling in September. This dry Riesling shows a 13% alcohol level and 4.4gr/l of residual sugar. 8,000 bottles are produced each vintage."
This Riesling is nearly bone dry and very aromatic, and the lees aging rounds out the mouth feel. It's a great example of Alsatian wine, having a distinct flavor profile and reflecting the unique microclimate and terroir of the area. It is certified organic and biodynamic. A nice pairing would be Asian cuisine, particularly spicier dishes.
Chateau Castenet Entre-Deux-Mers 2012 ($15.99)
"This white Bordeaux wine is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Muscadelle. This bright pale yellow wine is balanced on the nose between notes of yellow fruit and fresh citrus fruit. On the palate the wine is crisp, mineral with a balanced fruit intensity making it a great with lighter fish dishes and seafood. The Chateau Castenet Entre-Deux-Mers is a good example of how you can find pleasure in the white wines of Bordeaux."
Reasonably priced, high quality white Bordeaux is hard to find, so I was delighted that Thomas brought this one to me. It's a great alternative to the usual summer go-to wines, but it has all the crispness and light body that one wants when it's hot. This is a lovely wine.
Clos de l'Almandaie Chat Pitre Rose 2015 ($14.50)
"Chat Pitre is a pun that in French both means 'chapter' and 'clown cat.' It is a blend of 34% Syrah, 33% Grenache and 33% Cinsault. The vineyard is located near the village of Aumelas, a terroir benefiting from a cooler micro climate. The yield is low at 40hl/ha contributing to a nice aromatic concentration in the grapes. This Rose is made using the bleeding method (stacking up the grapes and letting the grapes' weight do the crushing), which explains the light salmon colour. The wine is aged for 6 months in tanks. Chat Pitre develops aromas of red berries (strawberries and respberries).
Anyone who knows me will know that I chose this wine for the cat face on the bottle. It also happens to be a fantastic organically produced wine that beautifully represents the style of Languedoc Rose. The fresh fruitiness of the Grenache blends perfectly with the perfume of the Cinsault and the savoriness of the Syrah. This wine is great as an aperitif or paired with Mediterranean foods, salads, or even pizza! If you've never had dry Rose, this is the one to try.
Vignoble Charmet Beaujolais Moulin La Blanche 2015 ($19.50)
"The Charmet Family is iconic in the South Beaujolais region. They have been producing Beaujolais wines since 1650 and been a leader for innovation and quality in the region. They, among other, invented the 'Charmet Cut' that is particularly adapted to prune the Gamay grape. Quality is the main driver behind every step of the wine making process: from the field to the cellar. Based 100% on the famous Beaujolais region grape, Gamay, this cuvee comes from a small plot in the southern part of the Beaujolais appellation. The vines grow on a soil with a dominance of shale and are over 50 years old. The low yield (40hl/ha) contributes to give this wine intense aromas and flavors as well as a deep length in the mouth. Only 5,000 bottles are produced on a yearly basis."
Beaujolais is a wonderful summer red, as it is lighter in body and quite easy to drink. This Beaujolais, though sharing those qualities is a bit more complex than one might expect from the style. It has a longer finish and is a bit bolder than other Beaujolais that I have had. It pairs well with deli and cured meats. It also pairs well with an empty glass. The winery practices sustainable agriculture and uses minimal chemical intervention.
Charles Smith 2014 Eve Chardonnay ($12.99)
From the producer:
"A shimmering, brilliant, green golden of a wine. Aromatic pear, tangerine, guava, but more than anything, TRUE CHARDONNAY FLAVOR. Add a vein of minerality running through the middle. Long and satisfying."
A light/medium bodied chard that is only mildly oaked and very smooth. Great for summer. The winery uses sustainable farming and wine-making practices.
Primosole 2014 Pinot Grigio ($7.99)
From the producer:
"Fresh and rich fruity aromas of apple and pear with a hint of citrus fruit that fade into the floral bouquet. Fresh and fruity, very clean and crisp."
A great value Pinot Grigio made from organic grapes. It's light and refreshing with a good balance of fruit and acidity. Just what you want on a hot summer day.
Montinore 2014 Borealis ($14.50)
From the producer:
"The aroma practically covers the full fruit spectrum with notes of peach, yellow apple, pineapple, and bright citrus popping out, accented with whiffs of lychee and fresh rose petals. On the palate it starts with a soft, slightly sweet expression of ripe peach and pear balanced with a citrus zing, which evolves to a delicious long, crisp finish of tropical and stone fruit."
This is an elegant and unique blend of Gewurztraminer, Muller-Thurgau, Riesling, and Pinot Gris made by Montinore Estate in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. The estate is Demeter Certified Biodynamic and Stellar Certified Organic. The wine is unusual and beautiful, waking every part of the palate and finishing very smoothly. The Pinot Gris grounds the blend, keeping it from being too acidic or too sweet.