Au Revior Sophie!

Sadly, one of my favorite restaurants in downtown Saratoga is closing at the end on the summer.

What does this mean (aside from tears and saddness)? It means that despite my limited funds and fledgling bank account I am going to have to eat there at least once before it leaves.

Au revoir Chez Sophie! Je me manquerai!

From the Gazette

The local family that runs Chez Sophie is closing the restaurant to work in a French vineyard.

The well-known French restaurant in the Saratoga Hilton has had multiple homes in the past 40 years and will close on Sept. 30, in part because business has fallen off.

“It was a great idea to have a fine-dining restaurant in that hotel until the economy turned,” said Cheryl Clark, who owns the restaurant with her husband, chef Paul Parker.

Chez Sophie was founded by Parker’s parents, Sophie and Joseph Parker.

They opened it in Hadley in 1969, then moved to Saratoga Springs, back to Hadley, to Saratoga Springs again and then to a stainless steel diner on Route 9 in Malta in 1995.

Clark and Parker took over the reins after Sophie Parker died in 2001 and moved the restaurant to the Saratoga Hotel and Convention Center, now the Saratoga Hilton, in 2006.

But recently, it’s been harder and harder to make fine dining work at the hotel restaurant.

Parker and Clark found themselves working longer hours since last summer, when business started to taper off, rather than paying staff when they weren’t sure how much business they would get.

“The downturn has been brutal, and it has affected restaurants,” Clark said.

As a result, the couple saw their two children, 6-year-old son Nico and 3-year-old daughter Léo, less often.

Hilton General Manager Ron Day said the space occupied by Chez Sophie will be filled by another restaurant. He is negotiating with a Saratoga Springs restaurant operator and expects to announce a deal by the end of this month.

“I need to make sure that that transition is as seamless as possible,” Day said.

The new restaurant will have lower prices and broader appeal.

“With the type of cuisine that Chez Sophie offers and does very well, there’s a cost associated with that,” Day said.

French adventure

At the Monte Lauro vineyards owned by the Montlaur family in Montaud, in southern France, they will partner with Saratoga Springs residents Michael Belanger and Robert Davis, and they’ll get to spend more time with their children.

Belanger and Davis hold a 60-year lease on the vineyard and were looking for someone to run the place.

“It’s something that my husband and I had fantasized about for decades, and we never quite had been at the right time or the right place or had the guts to do it,” Clark said.

Parker and Clark will market the vineyard as a vacation spot and sell micro-leases; people can pay $2,900 for a three-year lease on a small piece of the vineyard and get about a case of wine from that area each year.

People who lease will get to name their wine whatever they like, and they can visit whenever they like.

The estate is home to the ruins of an 11th century castle that the family aims to restore and a 15th century farmhouse that is partially renovated — and, of course, the vineyard itself.

“The vines are very old, which is very good,” Clark said. “The older the vines, the better the grape.”

In the meantime, Chez Sophie will go out with a bang this summer, as Parker and Clark try to sell and serve as many of the 6,000 bottles of wine in the cellar as they can.

Because the restaurant has an on-premises liquor license, she can’t sell the bottles at auction or to go.

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