Saturday, May 24, 2008

Did you ever wonder about Vodka?

As reported by Wine & Spirits Daily:


Vodka is vodka is vodka? Business Week featured an interesting article on vodka that begs the question: what, exactly, distinguishes one vodka brand from the next?

"With spirits, especially vodka (because there is so little to distinguish one product from another), the design of the bottle and label is crucially important, along with the country of origin and 'brand story.' Each vodka I tasted had its own brand story that helps deliver the product as much as a lemon wedge or olive."

In the article, journalist David Kiley conducts a blind taste test with avid vodka drinkers who generally stick to a certain brand (namely Ketel One, Grey Goose or Absolut). In the test, no one successfully picked their brand.

"The other conclusion I drew was that when it comes to mixing vodka with fruit juice, or unpurified ice, you might as well as save your money and keep a bottle of Popov around."

Based on this article, we notice a parallel between vodka and domestic light beer. Domestic light beer brands (Miller Lite, Bud Light and Coors Light) so closely aligned themselves with one another in the past through advertising that customers often had a hard time differentiating between brands. Today, those beer companies are working to differentiate themselves from the competition, and are doing a good job at it. Vodka brands, particularly premium and up, need to come up with their own very different marketing strategy and image to avoid falling in a "sameness" trap. Sounds easy on paper, huh?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca - Rolex Sports Car Series - New Driver Ryan Phinney

May 17th was a great day for Ryan Phinney of Carmel, California. Ryan's good friend and best in the sport - Joey Hand (pictured with Bob Brower) recommended to Matt Connolly a new and upcoming driver - Ryan Phinney. Ryan is pictured with his Mom. Gina and Pat Phinney are the owners of the world famous Baja Cantina in Carmel Valley and Marina Del-Rey, California. This was quite a sight to see. Ryan had no sports care experience to date, although had plenty of open wheel experience under his belt. He has been racing since he was 5 and now is only 18 years old. From his practice session to Qualifying, just one hour later, he took more than 3 seconds off his best time. Ryan really excelled upon the green flag and worked his way from 10th position to 2nd position when he had to turn the car over to the other driver. Congratulations to Ryan, Pat and Gina for an incredible day at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Wine Industry News - China the NEXT Bordeaux?

Wine & Spirits Daily
n e w s , n u m b e r s , c o m m e n t a r y , f o r e c a s t si n t e r v i e w s , b e s t p r a c t i c e s , s t r a t e g y , m o t i v e

Wine in Fifty Years:
China, Plastic and English Champagne

May 13, 2008

Berry Bros. & Rudd, Britain's oldest independent wine merchant, made several predictions about the state of the wine world in 2058 in its "Future of Wine Report." Among its many predictions, Berry believes China could one day rival Bordeaux, while England could be a new champagne region in just 50 years.

In the world of volume wine, Berrys believes there are two specific areas set for significant change by 2058:

1. Countries renowned for "new world wine" will alter radically as the effects of climate change are felt.

2. The size of wine "brands" will lead to massive changes in the way wine is produced, packaged and marketed.

Leading the charge in volume wine, predicts Berrys, will be China. Already the world's sixth largest wine producer and number four in terms of area under vine, its not too far-fetched to believe that China could soon be the world's leading producer of volume wine. Berry believes China will excel in producing Cabernets and Chardonnays, in particular.

"China has the vineyards, but not the technical expertise," agrees Alun Griffiths MW, "however, if good people from wine producing countries think there is opportunity to make wine in China, they will go there and invest."

Berrys also believes that if global warming persists, countries that are currently small scale producers, such as Ukraine, Moldova, Croatia, Slovenia, Poland and Canada,

BLEAK FUTURE FOR AUSTRALIA. In recent years, Australia has suffered from severe droughts that have resulted in vineyard irrigation being temporarily banned. If this trend continues, says Berry, supplies of inexpensive Australian wine may soon be a thing of the past.

By 2058, Berrys predicts Australia will be too hot and arid to support large areas of vine. It will no longer be renowned for volume wine and will become, instead, a niche producer, concentrating on hand-crafted, terroir-driven, fine wine.

WINE BECOMES (EVEN MORE) COMMERCIALIZED. Berry experts believe big brand, blended wines with grapes from around the world could soon replace region-specific varietals.

"By 2058, big brand wine could be grape or blend specific, rather than from a particular country. Grapes will be gathered from all over the world and blended to suit consumers' tastes."

They also believe spirits companies and supermarkets will own most of the world's wine brands by 2058.

GLASS BOTTLES NO LONGER. In 50 years' time, Berry believes wine is unlikely to be sold in glass bottles as retailers and importers try to cut costs, waste, and reduce the environmental impact of wine being shipped around the globe. Instead, wine will be packaged in plastic or reinforced cardboard containers.

CHINA AND ENGLAND, UNRIVALED WINE REGIONS? While Berry thinks China is set to become a leading producer of volume wine, they also think China has all the essential ingredients to rival the best of Bordeaux.

"It is entirely conceivable that, in such a vast country, there will be pockets of land with a terroir and micro-climate well suited to the production of top quality wines," said Jasper Morris MW.

Thanks in part to warmer temperatures (2007 was the second warmest year in the UK in 356 years), more and more English land is becoming suitable for wine production. Berrys believes the amount of English farmland devoted to wine production may rival that of France by 2058.

French Champagne producers such as Louis Roederer have been looking at the chalky soil of the South Downs with interest, believing it offers them a great opportunity to produce sparkling wines similar to Champagne itself.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Honey Bee Swarm at Chateau Julien Wine Estate

On May 7th, 2008 we noticed a large swarm of Honey Bees around the winery. When the bees finally landed - what a sight! The swarm was one of the largest the beekeeper has ever relocated. Bees weigh about 3,500 bees per pound. This was six pounds of bees or 21,000 total. Honey anyone?????

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Litchfield Plantation's Carriage House Club

April 24th, 2008 was a great day in South Carolina. Under the direction of Executive Chef "Grady Boone" at the Carriage House club at Litchfield Plantation was the Chateau Julien Wine Estate dinner with owner, Bob Brower. For those not familiar with South Carolina, Litchfield Plantation is an incredible beautiful location under the control of Louise Fitzpatrick, General Manager - located on Kings River Road in Pawleys Island, South Carolina. This is our third dinner here in 4 years and look forward to next years 5th. Grady (Chef) did a great job of selecting International Cheeses to Seared Black Bass (the best I have ever had) to Braised Short Rib of Beef and concluding with Chocolate Caramel Tart (with just flown in Chateau Julien Port).
Wow - Maybe next year you should fly in and attend this great event! Thanks to my friends at the Carriage House Club.