The locavore movement has infiltrated the celebratory champagne toast tradition with the introduction of Saratoga Sparkling Co., a new brand of sparkling wine from Galway Rock Vineyard and Winery.
Currently located in Galway with plans to expand into Ballston Lake next year, Saratoga Sparkling Co. is the passion project of Kate Taylor, Galway Rock’s winemaker and co-owner. Along with husband Ryan, Taylor runs the 1,500-case winery, making traditional still wines and crisp, fruity sparkling wines that resemble Italian prosecco.
Taylor, a Latham native, has a background in biology, working in turns as a laboratory technician and at an indoor saltwater fishery, but she always grew bored with those jobs. Winemaking was a hobbyist effort at first, stemming from drinking champagne with a group of friends on Thursday nights and moving into winemaking at home. (She and Ryan gave 300 bottles of her homebrewed vino to guests at their wedding.) The role of a winemaker, she said, evolves and changes with time, and those shifts were enough to keep her enthusiasm and interests piqued.
She began volunteering at Whitecliff Vineyard and Winery, in the Hudson Valley town of Gardiner. With a prodigious desire for winemaking knowledge and experience, she was quickly promoted to assistant winemaker, working under Michael Migliore, whom she refers to as her mentor.
She moved onto the small Kickapoo Creek Winery, in Edwards, Ill., as head winemaker, but the impending birth of her first daughter and a desire to return home brought her and Ryan back to New York to open Galway Rock three years ago.
Taylor models her winemaking on the Garagistes group of winemakers in the Bordeaux region of France, who reneged on the conventions of the classic wine institution. Eventually, this movement migrated to California, finding success in small-scale winemaking that focuses on style and flavor more than tradition.
Galway Rock aims to encourage a similar movement in the cold weather of the Adirondack foothills, primarily with sparkling wine: A new-world version of traditional Cremant de Bordeaux fizzy wines.
“I love sparkling wine, and we wanted to develop a separate brand because we see it as a separate product,” Taylor said.
Currently, Galway Rock produces three sparkling varieties under the Saratoga Sparkling Co. name: Rose (a pink bubbly), Blanc (a sweet, Moscato-derived blend) and Blanc de Blanc (a dry, brut-style sparkling wine akin to classic champagnes), which is in markets now for the holidays.
Marketing the sparkling wine is as complicated as making it. With no tasting room, wine tourism alone makes bottle sales from the winery difficult. Most sales come from local farmers markets, wholesale accounts with about 50 wine shops and website purchases, but staying true to the identity of small winemaker (Taylor says the designation of small winery means producing less than 50,000 cases a year. She makes 1,500.) while pushing new products onto a crowded market is onerous.
That’s why the Saratoga moniker was chosen for the sparkling brand, Taylor says. The Saratoga name exudes celebration and revelry, and while the Upper Hudson Valley wine region might not be as marketable or familiar to oenophiles as the Finger Lakes or Long Island regions (this year’s Governor’s Cup sparkling winner was Sparkling Pointe Vineyards and Winery’s 2014 Topaz Imperial, from Long Island), the recognition of Saratoga brings with it a status marker of superiority.
“The Saratoga name is something that will travel,” she says, noting that she recently sent out a large shipment of sparkling wine to Saratoga, Cali., for a wedding.
“We had this image of what we wanted. You shouldn’t have to wait for a celebration,” she says, and the Saratoga name lent an immediate representation of the wine the lingers within the bottle. “Our focus is on quality and the things we like to drink,” Taylor says, and her sparkling wine is meant to be consumer immediately and without hesitation.
Taylor suggests you drink the sparkling wine forthwith, but mimosas are also recommended.
“There are so many things you can do with mimosas. This is a celebration wine, and you celebrate every day.”