A career in wine often happens as the result of a deep and passionate love for the stuff. In some cases, the choice to parlay that love into a professional pursuit comes as a surprise, even to the person making said choice. That was definitely the case for certified sommelier, wine educator, and wine blogger Sarah Tracey of The Lush Life, who tells us that “I entered the wine industry almost by accident–I moved to New York City after graduating from school with a music degree and had a string of waitressing jobs in between music gigs and studio sessions! I ended up getting a job at a small wine bar, and the more I learned about wine, the more interested I was in the history, agriculture, gastronomy, and all of the other things that make wine fascinating.”
As Sarah grew her knowledge base, she found herself eager to bring that experience to others, which is why she launched her blog. “I felt really inspired to share all of the things I was learning–so I started my blog The Lush Life. This was in 2014, a heyday for lifestyle blogs–and I was really one of the only wine-focused bloggers in the space, so it found an audience fairly quickly. I kept pursuing restaurant wine jobs and sommelier certifications, and I became a wine director. I never expected that wine would become my main gig and music [would become] the side gig. I still sing in a band for fun! I love how wine brings people together just like live music does,” Sarah explains.
When selecting wines to enjoy in her free time, Sarah reaches for flavorful, lively varietals with the flexibility to work in a wide range of settings and situations. These five bottles top her seasonal shopping list for late spring, and whether you’re seeking a bottle to pair with an elaborate meal, or looking for a wine to sip on the patio on a sunny afternoon, you’ll find an expert-approved pick right here.
Favorite Bottle of All Time: Laurent-Perrier Brut Cuvée Champagne Rosé NV ($80)
For her absolute favorite bottle, Sarah selects a wine with serious all-day appeal, but which still feels like a special-occasion beverage. “It’s impossible to choose just one: but every year on my birthday, I treat myself to a bottle of Laurent-Perrier Brut Rosé and have a glass for breakfast,” Sarah says. “It’s a more lush, ripe, and concentrated style of rosé Champagne, and it feels very decadent to me; [it’s] the kind of bottle that’s just highly pleasurable to drink.”
Favorite Value Bottle: Chateau Ste. Michelle 2019 Dry Riesling ($10)
Sarah’s pick for a tasty and inexpensive wine comes at a wonderfully accessible price without compromising on flavor and drinkability. “I have to go with Chateau Ste Michelle Dry Riesling, which is delicious at around $10. Whenever I find myself in a random supermarket wine aisle, I know it will be there for me– it’s just a solid bottle that’s always easy to find. And [it’s] really great with everything from Thai takeout to sushi to some nice cheeses and fruit for a picnic or snack,” Sarah tells us.
Favorite Bottle To Bring To A Party: Ameztoi Txakolina 2020 ($23)
“Txakolina, which is a tangy, lightly effervescent wine from Spain’s Basque Country” is Sarah’s choice for the best crowd-pleasing bottle for a party or a gathering. In terms of specifics, Sarah says that “I love the bottles from Ameztoi; they have a vaguely salty finish and are always delicious with whatever food is being served, whether it’s just a chips-and-dip kinda hang, or a fancy dinner party.”
Favorite Bottle To Pair With Food: Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino DOCG ($68)
“Food wines” need to have a certain level of complexity; ideally, you want a varietal with a wide enough flavor range to collaborate favorably with the dish you’re serving. For Sarah, the perfect answer to this challenge comes from pairing “Brunello di Montalcino with a gorgeous plate of pasta! It’s always comforting and transporting. I love Casanova di Neri as a splurge– I have several bottles of the 2012 that I have been enjoying, but even the later releases (2015 and 2016) are lovely. [They] can definitely age, but I find them really nice already if you just can’t wait!” she insists.
Favorite Seasonal Bottle For Spring: Inama Soave Classico 2019 ($16)
In late spring and early summer, crisp white wines perfectly meet the moment; they’re bright, they’re engaging, and they taste fantastic when chilled. Sarah especially recommends Inama Soave Classico 2019, an Italian “silky white with plenty of floral aromatics, luscious white stone fruit [flavors], some crisp apple notes, and a mineral finish. I had it last night paired with grilled Branzino with lemon and herbs, and it was absolutely perfect.”
Taylor Tobin is a Brooklyn-based food, beverage, and lifestyle journalist with bylines at HuffPost, Insider, Wine Enthusiast, Observer, and Chilled Magazine, among others. When she isn’t eating, drinking, or writing, she enjoys riding her bike, hanging out with her dog Marty, and watching reality shows (the sillier, the better!). Twitter: @teetobes. Instagram: @tee_tobes