So we've been known to drink a little wine here at AOA. We admit it. We also, sadly, admit that we have a bit of trouble differentiating our sauvignon blancs from our gewurztraminers. OK, actually, we have trouble once we get past "red or white."
Fortunately, that's not a problem for Ian Egas. He's the sommelier at Albany's swanky 677 Prime. Ian took time out from aerating and decanting to share some secrets about buying wine in the Capital Region, what your neighbors are drinking -- and Prime's $3000+ bottle.
Yep, one bottle. Yeah.
How did you get this job?
I've always been really interested in wine. My father enjoyed wine and growing up I was always allowed a little bit. I'm from this area but I'm a ski fanatic so for a while I moved out to Wyoming to ski. To supplement my income I worked in some very upscale restaurants. We had some high-end clientele buying high-end wines. A lot of money was changing hands, but I noticed there was a real lack of knowledge about wines.
I moved out to Napa to study wines at the Culinary Institute of America out there. In the old days you became a sommelier by apprenticing, but since the 80's there's been a more formal education process. There are guilds and courts and you need to be certified. I've studied for about 5 or 6 years. I'm at my second level -- certified sommelier. But there's always more to learn in this profession. Your education is ongoing.
What is the most popular wine you guys sell?
Well, we're a New York steakhouse and steak worldwide is usually pared with French Bordeauxs or in the US, California cabernets -- so I would have to say definitely California cabs . Caymus, Cakebread Cellars and Silver Oak are probably the most popular. Jordan is another that is reasonably priced and is probably a good value.
What does a bottle of wine go for at 677?
We have about 300 wines priced anywhere from $20 a bottle to $3,500 a bottle.
Wait a minute -- what? Does anybody actually buy the 35 hundred dollar bottle?
I've sold about three of those so far. It's a wine called Screaming Eagle and it's a collaboration between one of the most famous wine makers and the most famous enologists. The wine is that expensive right now because of the combination of the wine maker and the enologist. A lot of it is marketing. Right now there's a high demand for it and a small supply.
OK, maybe you can tell the difference between a $20 bottle of wine and a $300 dollar bottle, but can you tell the difference between a $300 bottle and a $3500 bottle?
You can't necessarily tell the difference between a $30 bottle and a $300 bottle. A lot of times the pricing is due to the marketing.
Wait -- so those people buying the $3000 bottle of wine aren't necessarily buying a bottle of wine, they're buying hype?
Well. they're also buying the experience.
A $3500 experience?
I would have to say every one of those people who bought that wine realized it's not worth $3000. But for the experience -- to them -- it was worth it. People think back to what their favorite bottle of wine was and it's not necessarily the most expensive or best wine, it's the experience.
Where do you buy wine in the Capital Region?
I try to support our local distributors, Empire and All Star. But just as I like small production wines, I also like the mom and pop stores because often you find interesting little wines. There's a quaint little wine store [The Wine Shop] on New Scotland Ave. where you can find all kinds of neat little gems. They have unique wines you probably haven't seen or older vintages of wine.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.