Anne Sage, with her husband Jesse Sgro, owns Sage Cellars of Warren. The business opened in 2011, specializes in American wines and is starting to expand into the foreign wine market. Anne, who studied under the instruction of Sandy Block, the first American Master of Wine and did additional studies at Le Cordon Bleu Paris with the sommelier from the Paris Ritz, received the Advanced Certificate from London’s Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET). The Barrington native now makes her home in Middletown. We talked over coffee (it was not even close to 5 o’clock) about varietals, stemware and wine with barbeque.
What are some wine trends in terms of grapes and geography?
There will always be a marketplace for high-end Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons. They are beautiful grand wines that can also be cellared for extensive periods of time so they can be an investment. With white wine, Rosé has been a nice trend I have enjoyed seeing the past couple of years. We make some very nice Rosés here in the US similar to the Provincial Rosé; Provence is home base to the best Rosés in the world. We now have so many beautiful varietals available to market in the US including lighter whites like Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio, which is Italian, and Sauvignon Blancs from the US, New Zealand and Australia.
Is there a new “it” country for wines?
There are countries that will always have a relationship in the market with wine. Italian wines will always have a place in the marketplace and they certainly have one here in Rhode Island. But I do see Americans becoming more dedicated to American wines. The emerging places in the US, other than of course California, are the Finger Lakes and Long Island, New York. Because of the weather conditions they primarily produce white wine varietals and these wines are earning very high marks. There is a term called New World wines – Australia, New Zealand, South America, US and Canada.
How does the novice wine drinker make the right choice?
I say to them that we have a lot of wine stores in Rhode Island that focus on customer service and the owners have educated their staff to reduce the intimidation factor. They also have designed the layout of the wine section whether by region, grape varietals, full, medium or light body wines to be helpful. A lot of times there will be shelf talkers to describe and make suggestions for food and wine parings, which can also help reduce the anxiety. Most consumers know what they like or don’t like so that is not up for debate, but they need help from the salesperson to name what that wine is. If someone wants to be adventurous with wine and they have $20 to spend I suggest they walk up and down the aisles, look at the labels and the shelf talkers, have fun with it and just give something a shot.
What are your suggestions for a celebratory event, summer gatherings and warm weather food pairings?
White Zinfandel was hugely successful in the 1980s, still has a dedicated consumer base and is very much a party wine. For summer entertaining I love the idea of having the choice between a Rosé and a lighter-style white like a Pinot Gris or an Albariño. We carry an Albariño from California, which has a little bit of a lemon peel to the palate, is a little heartier than a Pinot Gris and goes very well with seafood. Other white wine varietals like a Chablis, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris are beautiful entertaining wines and all have enough of a balance of acidity and fruit that cut very beautifully with appetizers. But there are occasions in the summer I will serve a red wine like a Burgundy or a chilled Pinot Noir.
It’s late Saturday afternoon and you heat up the grill for a barbeque. What will you have to drink?
Ah, lots of options. There is a grape varietal, Iona, that is a slightly sweeter Rosé from Arbor Hill, which is indigenous to the Finger Lakes, NY wine region and is perfect for barbeque. Also a Riesling or a Traminette, which is a white wine from Arbor Hill, are good choices. For me, after a week of work I have a Sauvignon Blanc with my barbeque that is from Titus Vineyards in California – it is beautiful, straightforward, clean and I love it!