{ Food & Drink }

SPIRITS

Just Add Water

A Colorado start-up peddles sangria and mulled wine concentrates to adventurous drinkers.

By Andra Coberly

There are two kinds of drinkers. There are the reliably unadventurous. They like their wines red, their gin paired with tonic and their beer served in a silver can.

And then there are people like Michael Hasler. He is an innovator, a rebel and a change agent for the drinking crowd. A long-time winemaker who’s worked around the world, Hasler moved to Colorado about five years ago, got married and started a little winery with his wife, Carolee Corey.

However, he sought something different.

“I take a lot of pride and dedication in making great wine,” Hasler says. “I love making wine, but I really love making something that hits a new note.”

That new note is Decadent Saint, a line of sangrias and mulled wine named after the sweet St. Bernard that lopes throughout the tasting room. What makes them so innovative is that Hasler’s products are concentrates. In fact, they are the only sangria and mulled wine concentrates on the market.

The idea for Decadent Saint started way back when Hasler owned and ran a picturesque lakeside lodge in New Zealand. He often served his guests mugs of hot mulled wine. It was his own recipe, and it was beloved. When he came to Colorado, Hasler initially thought mulled wine would be his first venture. He, however, didn’t trust his instinct. Instead, he made wine.

It didn’t take Hasler long to change directions. For the last three years, he has been busy realizing his dream.

“Now I am making what I really want to make,” he says. “It took me a roundabout way to get here, but I’m here.”

The Decadent Saint line includes red sangria made with real raspberries; passionfruit-infused white sangria; Fire or Ice spicy sangria that can be served hot or cold; and a mulled wine called Rocky Mountain Reserve. The mulled wine includes chocolate, decaf coffee, berries and spices, and it is made even more luxurious when given a spike of cream.

The concentrates are unpasteurized and made with real fruit and spices. Without the addition of water, his products are thick, strong and 20.5 percent alcohol. When you add one part Decadent Saint sangria or mulled wine to three or four parts water or seltzer, you turn a bottle of concentrate into a gallon of deliciousness. That makes the $20-a-bottle price tag a little more digestible.

“Value is really important to us,” he says. “And this is a way to deliver something with great flavor at a good value.”

The high alcohol percentage even keeps his concentrates good for months unrefrigerated even after being opened.

Decadent Saint is growing fast; they did one million dollars in sales last year and expect that to double this year. Hasler doesn’t see his company as a local mom-and-pop shop or even a regional success story. He sees a national brand.

Though, that will take some effort.

“America is really a pop-and-pour country,” Hasler says. “But when you think about it, there are a lot of exceptions to that. Vodka. Whiskey. Cocktails. It’s really about getting people to try it. Once they try it, they love it.”

His salesman’s bravado is stymied only temporarily when he talks about the challenge of education. Because his concentrates are so different from what’s out on the market, it takes a lot of serving samples in stores, a lot of tasting room conversations and a lot of faith in the adventurousness of American drinkers.

Hasler hopes there are many rebels out there just like him.

You can find where to buy Decadent Saint products (and even ship out of Colorado) online at their site whatwelove.com.

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