In the heart of Healdsburg, Little Saint has established itself as a beloved culinary destination, offering a unique dining experience at The Second Story. In my interview with Alexandra Sarovich, the Wine Director of Little Saint Healdsburg, we delve into the restaurant’s exceptional wine program and the secrets behind The Second Story’s thoughtfully paired courses. This captivating conversation takes us behind the scenes of this culinary gem, where sustainability, innovation, and a 500+ bottle wine list by the glass and bottle are at the forefront. Join me for an exclusive interview with Alexandra Sarovich, the Wine Director of Little Saint Healdsburg, as we explore the ethos that defines their selection of sustainable, cutting-edge, and unique wines, all in the intimate setting of The Second Story.
For a more in-depth review of Little Saint Healdsburg:
Little Saint Healdsburg, Healdsburg’s Newest Plant-Based Hotspot
Was there a moment that you remember when you knew that you wanted to be a Sommelier / Wine Director?
It was a very vivid moment when I realized I wanted to be a sommelier. I was dining at the now shuttered Colicchio & Sons in NYC and a sommelier paired a red Lambrusco with a chilled foie gras dish. It was at that moment that I realized food could make wine taste better and wine could make food taste better. From that moment on, I have decided to dedicate my life to learning all I can about wine and hospitality.
What was your first wine job?
My first wine job was writing tasting notes for a wine store in Massachusetts! Following that gig, I spent 5 years writing for a wine publication which really helped me with my writing in general. I was simultaneously working my way up the ranks in service at restaurants.
Where did you study wine? I know that in college you studied culinary and were a chef for a while. What led to you pivoting from the culinary side to the wine side?
I got my start by studying wine at the German Sommelier School in Koblenz. A variety of things led me to pivot to the wine side of the restaurant business. Namely, the reason I got into the Food & Beverage business was because of happy childhood memories where I cooked for my family and loved seeing them enjoy the food around the dinner table. Once I realized that cooking professionally rarely involved seeing the guests enjoying the fruits of their labor, it lost some of the allure for me. Realizing that wine allowed me to be table side, speaking to guests while they enjoyed their meal and using my creativity to put together suggestions and pairings, I knew it would be a great fit!
Currently you are the Wine Director at Little Saint Healdsburg. Share more about the wine assortment their and your strategy as you helped open that culinary destination in Healdsburg?
I am the Executive Wine Director at Little Saint in Healdsburg and have supported the team since opening. One of the main reasons I wanted this job was because of how deeply I am aligned with the mission at Little Saint as we are a 100% plant based restaurant. Considering the fact that we source everything from our very own farm nearby, I knew that farming would be very important. Accessibility is another key factor as I want any walk of life to be able to come in and find a wine that fits their price point and palate. Lastly, I have the unique ability to use my buying power to only support wines that I want to see succeed so we use our dollars like votes to support underrepresented wines.
Prior to Little Saint Healdsburg, you worked on The Single Thread Farms Wine Team. Share more about that experience.
While I was abroad, I kept tabs on the SingleThread opening as I felt that they are really aligned with my own goals and values in America after living in Australia for a year.
My experience at SingleThread was life-changing as I was able to work with a team that was so passionate about food and wine, all the while selling and talking about the best wines in the world. I learned and grew so much during my time as a Sommelier there.
As a wine director you taste (and spit) lots of wine, what wine do you feel bad about spitting because you love it so much?
Lots of tasting and lots of spitting! I always feel bad when I am tasting Grand Cru Burgundy or top bottles of Champagne because I understand the rarity and these days are a little outside my own drinking budget.
Who has been the most influential mentor in your career?
I have had many mentors throughout my career – my mom, Amanda Kullman-Kipp, Evan Hufford, Jane Lopes, and Rusty Rastello. All of whom I am so grateful for.
Rusty has been the most influential because he was the one who encouraged me to not give up, has pushed me harder than anyone else while helping me with the role I have here now at Little Saint!
What is something you’d like to share about California Wines that many consumers may not know, or have a misconception about?
Many think that there is not a difference between Napa and Sonoma. I would like to share that if you are traveling to this area that there are two different valleys that are quite different and about an hour away from each other (depending on where you are coming from.)
You are a big fan of natural wines and wines that may be not as traditional as a standard Pinot Noir, let’s say. Can you share more about natural wines for those not familiar and why you love them so much?
Natural wines – the term can be hard to describe because it’s not regulated. I think of natural wines like more of a feeling and mentality towards wine rather than a recipe. I love the “natural” wine movement because I feel like people who care about eating organic and local food can connect to it – especially the younger generations.
As a person who cares about what I eat and am sensitive to how wine makes me feel as well, I find often times wines that are grown organically and made without large amounts of oak and additives in the winery often make me feel better too!
There is a part of the “natural” wine story that gets lost. That is, just because a wine does not associate with being “natural” doesn’t mean it’s inherently made using pesticides, additives or lots of oak. There are hundreds of the best wines of the world made naturally they just don’t call themselves that because the way the have been making wine before “natural” wine was a thing!
You were recently awarded a big honor as Sommelier of the Year by VinePair in New York, this October of 2023. Share more about that honor and how it feels for your work at Little Saint Healdsburg to be celebrated?
It has been one of the greatest achievements of my life. I love the sommelier community and I have looked up to many sommeliers and wine professionals throughout my career. To be considered Sommelier of the year it makes me feel seen, recognized and so very grateful.
What is your favorite after work drink?
Water.. LOL always dehydrated after a busy shift.
If I am having a drink after work it’s usually Mezcal Margarita or Mezcal Negroni
What is your favorite local spot in Healdsburg?
Guiso Latin Fusion for dinner – Family owned, Salvadorian cuisine made with love.
Tell us something that would surprise people about you?
I skipped second grade!