Tag Archives: wine news

Winebits 413: Local wine, craft beer, Lidl


local wineDrink local: Our old pal Andrew Stover, one of the world’s leading proponents of local wine, has a message for Thanksgiving: Think less California and more Texas, Missouri, Michigan, and Virginia. Best yet, Stover puts his money where his mouth is, importing local wines as a distributor to the Washington, D.C., area. I’ve known Stover since our first Drink Local Wine conference, and he has never wavered from the cause. He has done such a good job, in fact, that some of my favorite Texas wines sell out in D.C.

Billions and billions of dollars: It’s actually one bullion, but who’s counting? Constellation Brands, one of the biggest wine companies in the word, paid $1 billion — almost 10 times earnings, a startling number — for the trendy craft beer producer Ballast Point last week. This is incredible on so many levels that I don’t even know where to start, but does speak to how craft beer has become part of the mainstream and makes me wonder: How much longer will it remain crafty?

Waiting until 2018: Lidl, the other German discount grocer famous for cheap wine, will open its first stores in the U.S. in 2018, with 50 locations in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, and Washington D.C. Said the company’s CEO: “The United States are a strategic market for us.” Should I start a countdown clock?

Winebits 412: Birthday week odds and ends


Birthday week Approaching 2,500 posts: Or, 2,423, counting this one. A little less than one-third of those have been wine reviews in eight years, which probably isn’t enough to make Google happy. On the other hand, only two percent have been wine rants, which makes me wonder why I haven’t written more. It’s not like there isn’t enough to rant about, and I probably could have written two percent of the blog with just rants just about the three-tier system.

Where wine rarely goes: The geographic breadth of blog users never fails to amaze me — 173 countries this year, including four from Nepal. The Nepalese, given that none of the wine I write about can possibly be available there, deserve some sort of prize. Or maybe they appreciate great wine writing? The U.S. is the top country, not surprisingly, but with only 87.3 percent, which means that more than 1 out of every 10 visitors comes from outside the country.  And though California is the top state, more than 83 percent of visitors come from the rest of the U.S. That does make me think I’m doing some good, despite any gloom to the contrary over the past year.

My poor beloved Linux: Perhaps someone with more tech chops can explain why the various metrics track visitors by operating system, which I appreciate but don’t understand. Having said that, just one percent of the visitors came to the blog via Linux, and that’s probably me. Still, that’s three times as many as Windows Phone, which says more than any rant about Microsoft. The top operating system was Windows at 35 percent, but that’s just a couple of points better than the Apple phone. Maybe there’s something to this mobile thing?

Four highlights from the 2015 American Wine Society conference


American Wine Society conferenceLast weekend’s American Wine Society conference reminded me that U.S. wine drinkers aren’t the stereotypes the wine business wants us to be. What a pleasure to be around curious, intelligent, and passionate wine drinkers for two days, people who want to learn more about wine and who are open to something that isn’t what they’re told they should drink.

Yes, it’s a small sample size, and yes, anyone who attends something like this isn’t going to be exactly typical. But when I mentioned the grocery store Great Wall of Wine in my first presentation, there was more than one nodding acknowledgment from the audience. Which means every wine drinker, no matter how experienced, faces many of the same problems.

Among the highlights:

• I took a lot of kidding when I offered to do a Texas wine seminar at an East Coast event, but it sold out almost immediately. The McPherson rose, the Llano Estacado Harvest tempranillo, and the Haak dry blanc du bois were the biggest hits, each speaking to Texas’ terroir and what happens when Texas winemakers make Texas wines. But that’s the point, isn’t it? That Texas wine will only grow and get better if the focus is on making Texas wine, and not California (or wherever) wine that comes from Texas.

• The other key from the Texas seminar? That people elsewhere seem eager to buy the wines, and that it’s time — if the grape harvests cooperate — to start exporting Texas wine to the rest of the U.S. The days when 95 percent of Texas wine was sold in Texas, and everyone was content with that, appear to be over.

• We aren’t scared of weird grapes, even though the wine business does its best to terrify us. That the hybrid blanc du bois impressed so many, with its clean citrus flavors, was one thing, but that the Augusta chambourcin was one of the hits of the regional wine seminar says even more. Chambourcin, a red hybrd, is notorious for its off, foxy aroma, but winemaker Tony Kooyumjian has solved that problem. This is probably the best chambourcin in the U.S., with spiciness, dark Rhone-style fruit, and a wonderful Missouri elan.

• The best wine that almost no one has ever tasted is the Edmunds St. John Bone-Jolly gamay from California’s Sierra Foothills. It seems so simple, but there is so much going on that it’s difficult to believe. Most winemaker tasting notes don’t say much, but Steve Edmunds is exactly right: “Juicy and precise on the palate, mouth-watering, showing lot of depth. The finish is long, and clean. This is already really versatile at the table, as always.” How much do I like it? It’s worth every penny of the $21 it costs.

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