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Passion for wine

Savvy Cellar's Holly Orchard is building a community of connoisseurs, one glass at a time

Savvy Cellar's crostini, cheese and pâté plates and baked fig with chorizo. Photo by Michelle Le.

Savvy Cellar is a busy place. Housed in a former train station in downtown Mountain View, the Caltrain and the VTA light rail stops are just next door. Savvy Cellar anchors the northeast corner of Castro Street's dynamic restaurant row. Trains constantly pulling in and out add to the energy of the place.

Savvy is all about wine, with nearly three dozen reds and whites available by the glass. Prices range $8 to $25 and full bottle prices aren't a gouge. Besides reds, whites and rosés, there are sparklers, dessert wines, beers, sakes and ciders.

There is also a menu of light bites, from savory to sweet, including cheese plates, pâté samplers, charcuterie assortments, flatbread, crostini and desserts.

Owner Holly Orchard is enthusiastic about her business, passionate about wine and excited to share her knowledge and expertise with customers. A recent interview highlighted why Savvy Cellar is a go-to place in Mountain View for wine aficionados, budding oenophiles and everyone in between.

With a full calendar of events, from theme-nights like Italian Tuesday to trivia nights and blind tasting challenges on Sunday "Funday," Orchard boasts that Savvy Cellar has something special going on every night.

Orchard, who has been a Savvy employee since the wine bar first opened in Redwood City about 11 years ago, acquired it from original owner Jennifer Ayre in September 2015. It's been located in Mountain View for the past eight years.

What inspired you to get into the retail wine business?

Orchard: I don't tend to think of it as a retail business but I guess you could say it partly is. To me, it is a tasting experience with bottles available for sale. Most of our sales are "by the glass," with the option to take a bottle home. A retail wine business implies that a business sells wines, but there is limited opportunity to try wines or ask questions before you buy them. I want people to love the wine they take home.

I love wine, wine tasting, and even when I am not at Savvy, I am usually at another wine bar or restaurant exploring their wine offerings. Discovering wines is a way of traveling in a sense -- a way of being introduced to culture, history, tradition and family lineage. I love to go deep down the rabbit holes of the wine world when I have a chance. All the steps (and) all the effort that goes into the finished product is fascinating to me.

Being lucky enough to try and share wonderful wines with people is something very special. Wine, like food, bridges gaps and brings people together. It's a universal language and can turn a room of complete strangers into a room full of wine enthusiasts and wine knowledge seekers. I love that.

What is your background?

Orchard: I was in and out of the wine business for almost 20 years before buying Savvy. I am a certified sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers.

As a business owner, wine merchant and oenophile, what is your mission?

Orchard: My goal is to introduce people to wines from around the world. There are so many wine regions, both new and old, that produce fantastic wines. I want to break people out of their wine rut, or comfort zone, and give (them) the courage to try grapes they have never heard of before from regions they didn't know even made wine. Exploring wine does not have to be an intimidating experience. We are all happy to talk about the wines on the menu, and love to have opportunities to share our wine knowledge. It is very satisfying to be a part of introducing someone to a wine that they absolutely love that they would not have thought to try.

The advantage to going to Savvy to find wine is that you can try unique wines that are hard to find. I personally try all the wines before they get a place on my menu, because I want each and every wine to be great quality, great value and a unique experience in a glass. You won't find the same wines you see in chain grocery stores or big warehouses! The warning I always give customers is that they should take home a bottle before the end of the menu because I purposely sell out so I can make room for the new wines coming in. It may sound like a sales pitch, but it is also a necessity. Savvy is small and we have no room to hang on to the same wines month after month. I tell people, "try it, love it, buy it."

How often do you update the tasting menu?

Orchard: The wine menu is updated about once a month, or every four to six weeks. There are usually over 40 different wines by the glass, dessert wines, sparkling wines, sake, etc. We offer flights of wines that change just as often. The flights are a fun way for people to try a lot of items on our menu.

Will wine classes be starting again soon?

Orchard: I am eager to start classes again, but it is a very time-consuming endeavor -- at least it is if I want to do it right. I take the classes seriously and don't want to offer them if I cannot adequately prepare. With the holidays approaching, I am hoping to get something on the calendar by December. Customers can engage in educational experiences by attending tastings every other Sunday.

Savvy Cellar

750 West Evelyn Ave., Mountain View


Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 4-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 2-11 p.m.; Sunday, 2-9 p.m.

Happy hour: Tuesday-Thursday, 4-6 p.m.; Friday, 2-6 p.m.; Saturday, 8-10 p.m.; Sunday, 6-8 p.m.

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