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Playing in Heather’s Sandbox

June 3, 2016

In theory, the great thing about a small, well curated wine store is that provided you’re adventurous and can keep an open mind, you can’t possibly pick a bad bottle.

As a wine seller, the smaller your shop, the harder your job. There are so many great wines in the world that you could put on your limited shelf space. And there isn’t even close to enough room just for your favorites. So you have to make hard choices.

But for the wine lover, a small shop is a blessing. The hard work of identifying interesting wines with character and distinction has already been done. Sure, it can be difficult to choose from all the bottles on display. However, that’s where a good wine merchant can be of help. They’ll take the time to listen to your preferences and find something that appeals to your taste and budget.

Twenty-Two 2nd Street Wine Co. in Troy is such a shop. A few months ago, I asked owner Heather Lavine to help me put together a mixed case for under $150. I was looking for six different bottles, split between red and whites. And what she put together was fantastic.

There was only one problem. I drank it all.

So recently, I took the opportunity to test out my theory. Could I, when left to my own devices in Heather’s store, pack my own mixed case of interesting wines and get out of there for under $150. Well, let’s take a look.

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 10.25.49 PM

Much like the last time I did this project, the effort was driven by three driving principles:

1. Good wine doesn’t need to be expensive
2. If a wine is worth buying, pick up at least two bottles of it
3. Be brave and reap the rewards of unusual grapes and appellations

Like before, I was looking for old world style wines that would go well with food and would work well for the spring and summer ahead. Big heavy wines need not apply. That said, I still might want something to go with a pizza when it’s just too hot to cook and I can’t bear to deal with CSA veggies.

So these are the bottles:

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When I got back, I wrote Heather to see if she wanted to share any of her thoughts on my selections. So here she is with a description of the wines from left to right.

2015 Primitivo Quiles Alicante Rosado (Valencia, Spain) – $12
“100% Monsatrell aka Mouvedre. This is one you’re going to want to drink all summer long. Fire up the grill and throw on some seafood or veggies to pair with this light and fruity rosé, from a family-owned winery led by Señor Don Primitivo Quiles.”

2014 Chateau d’Oupia “Les Heretiques” (Languedoc-Rousillon, France) – $11
“Female winemaker Marie-Pierre Iché has owned and operated Chateau d’ Oupia since her father passed in 2007. This blend of 90% Carignan and 10% Syrah has bright berry notes and a bit of edginess to take on foods with a bit of spice. My colleague Steve says this wine must be paired with slices of chorizo and bread.”

2015 Chateau Haut Lavigne Cotes de Duras White (Southwest, France) – $15
“This could be one of the best values in the store. We absolutely adore this wine for it’s balance, zippy acidity, and ‘gulpability’. Its grapes (Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon) are grown organically just 100 kilometers from the the Atlantic, which may contribute to the reason we consider this one of our favorites to bring to the beach.”

2015 Les Amies Chanteuses, Côtes du Rhone (Rhone Valley, France) – $14
“From a co-op of 10 growers who all practice sustainable agriculture and natural winemaking techniques, this little Rhone red is made up of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignan. A very easy drinking red that you might even want to serve with an ever-so-slight chill, during the long summer days that lie ahead.”

2014 Vorspannhof Mayr Gruner Veltliner (Niederösterreich, Austria) – $14
“What you get from the Vorspannhof Gruner Veltliner is a straight-forward, easy drinking wine, at an excellent price point (especially when considering it’s in a liter bottle). The wine is produced by Weingut Buchegger, a 6th generation winemaker.”

2014 Statti, Rosso Lamezia (Campania, Italy) – $12
“Since 1700, the family of Baron Statti has been living on the same five hundred hectares. This blend of Gaglioppo, Greco Nero and Nerello Capuccio is a crowd pleaser and is the heaviest wine in the mix. It will pair well with eggplant parm or other red sauce dishes.”

I’m actually thinking that last one would go brilliantly with the eggplant pizza from The Fountain.

Here’s the fun part. You can play along with me at home. I’m not sure if they still have all of these in stock or not, but you can call up and see if they can pack up an identical case. Or you could test my theory and go in picking blindly by price.

There is no shame in being a value wine seeker. It doesn’t make you cheap. It makes you savvy.

My hope in doing these exercises is that it demystifies the wine buying process, and lowers the barrier of entry to those who are curious about wine. There was a time, a long long time ago, when I was too shy to speak up in a wine shop. In fact, once I even broke into a cold sweat when approached by a friendly and helpful clerk.

But in this day and age, you don’t have to talk to anyone if you don’t want. Feel free to email Heather directly at and she can pack up a case for you and have it ready to pick up at your convenience. The mixed case does come with a 12% discount, so after tax all twelve bottles, two of each listed above, came to $148.26.

Amazingly, that was the exact same price of the last case. To the penny.

It feels good to be stocked up with wine again. We don’t drink it that quickly these days, and thankfully it tends to store better than some of the beers I’ve been drinking. But that’s another story.

Have a great weekend.

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 3, 2016 12:22 pm

    I emailed Heather. It’ll be fun to go through them all!

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