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Premiere Napa Valley 2012: Big Money, Iconic Winemakers & A Former Arch-Nemesis

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Premiere Napa Valley

The wine masses gather to taste the 2012 Premiere Napa Valley wines.

Premiere Napa Valley has become something of an institution among U.S. wine events since its launch in 1997. It serves not only as an indicator of what’s to come in the high-end wine market, but as a barometer for the U.S. economic recovery as a whole. The wine auction revenues this year exceeded 2011 by 31% and set a new all-time record with bidders paying $3.1 million for the 200 wine lots comprised of 1,495 total cases. (Premiere Napa Valley took place on Saturday, February 25. On Tuesday, February 28, the Dow rose above 13,000 points for the first time since May 2008).

According to Pine Ridge Vineyards CEO and PNV 2012 Chair Erle Martin, “The way our customers reacted, it strikes me that it was just that: a market response. The result of this auction is a true measure of the market. Clearly, even in a still challenged economy, the retailers and restaurateurs have voted. The buyers for these wines would not have put forth this kind of investment if they didn’t feel–with real security–that they could sell these wines.”

The event began earlier in the week for many, arriving in the valley to be wined and dined and reacquaint themselves with the Napa experience. Winery wisdom says to know who is going to buy your lot and for how much before the auction begins, and the week-long lead up provides one last opportunity to woo potential buyers. Martin adds, “The energy was high all week leading up to the event on Saturday. Our retail, restaurant and wholesale clients were arriving as early as Monday to the Napa Valley to join vintners at private tastings and we could feel the excitement grow day by day.”

Today, patrons arrived at 9am to began tasting samples from the lots that will be auctioned later in the day. It is a frenzied tasting, with palates fighting a battle for survival sampling so many young and aggressive wines.

At this event, everybody is somebody of some formal fine beverage capacity. It’s a who’s who of Napa Valley and beyond, with iconic wine makers mingling with consumer attendees and national level buyers alike. I even run into my old arch-nemesis Steve Heimoff, it’s that kind of party. Every introduction has the potential to lead to something big, and with an endless supply of wine to provide social lubrication and the beautiful aesthetic of the CIA Greystone to serve as a backdrop, anything is possible.

Premiere Napa Valley

A rare sighting of The Mutineer and The Heimoff together.

For the foolish that skip breakfast, the 11am buffet lunch prepared by the Culinary Institute of America cannot come soon enough. Braised vegetables, mushroom risotto, squash ravioli and other hearty winter dishes provide much needed comfort-food nourishment and a perfect pairing with the hearty Napa red wines.

After lunch, bidders and spectators mill into the auction space with hopes of securing a seat. Some have paper cups full of espresso in an attempt to regain focus after a morning of big wine and big food, while others sport heavy glasses of wine in a clear effort to throw inhibitions out the window. Winery representatives greet bidders as they arrive for one last round of back-slapping, hand-shaking, cheek-kissing and bear-hugging before bidding begins. Grand wines and even grander egos are on the line; the collective buying power of the audience is massive, with 88 retail outlets, 84 restaurants and 86 distributors / importers competing for 200 lots of wine. Every effort must be made to ensure success.

Premiere Napa Valley

Napa’s “Bounty Hunter” was among the biggest bidders at the auction this year.

Quirky statistics about Napa Valley appear on a slideshow on monitors around the room and John Mellancamp blares over the PA speakers. The mood is electric and iconic wine auctioneers Fritz Hatton and Ursula Hermacinski get the auction rolling. A joke is made about the economy returning to pre-recession highs and stock[piles] of Napa wine being at an all-time low, so the time to buy is now. Laughter ensues. Let’s do this.

Pine Ridge Vineyards is the Chair winery this year for Premiere, so it gets to go first, fetching $30,000 for 20 cases (one barrel) of 2010 cabernet sauvignon blend called “5 x 5″ in honor of the five classic Bordeaux varietals used. Duckhorn Vineyards ups the ante a few lots later bringing in $40,000 for 20 cases of its 2010 “Three Palms Vineyard” cabernet sauvignon blended with a little merlot from the same vineyard.

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2 comments 03.01.2012 |

Just 5 Days Left To Bid On Dinner With Envolve Winemaker/ABC’s The Bachelor Ben Flajnik


Envolve Wine Dinner with ABC's Bachelor & The Mutineer + Bardessono Stay for 2 Couples

The bids are starting to come in and just five days remain to bid on a chance to have dinner with Ben Flajnik of ABC’s The Bachelor and Envolve Winery. The lucky winners will dine at Chef Victor Scargle’s restaurant “Lucy” located within the renowned Bardessono eco-luxury hotel in Yountville, CA. After a memorable dinner paired with delicious Envolve wines, both couples will stay the night at Bardessono in the lap of luxury.

Ben was gracious enough to donate his time to help further and enrich education at Florida International University as part of Food Network’s South Beach Food & Wine Festival’s annual auction. Proceeds will be going to Florida International University.

Interested in bidding? Click here.

Bidding closes March 5, 2012 at 7pm EST.

Comments Off on Just 5 Days Left To Bid On Dinner With Envolve Winemaker/ABC’s The Bachelor Ben Flajnik 02.29.2012 |

Straus Family Creamery Introduces Organic, Cream-Top, Lactose-Free Milk

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Straus Family Creamery Lactose-Free Organic Milk

Straus Family Creamery, California’s pioneering organic creamery, is adding lactose-free, cream-top, reduced fat milk to its lineup. Like all Straus milks, the lactose-free option is certified organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, certified kosher and available in reusable glass bottles. Supermarkets and grocery stores in the greater San Francisco Bay Area and other California locations will offer lactose-free milk in quart-sized glass bottles at a suggested retail price of $2.99, plus bottle deposit.

Finally, there is tasty, local and sustainably made cream-top milk available for lactose-intolerant consumers in the greater Bay Area. Straus Lactose-Free Milk offers the delicious taste of non-homogenized and very gently pasteurized milk, in which cream flows naturally to the top. The marine air and the fresh, sweet grasses, on which the cows graze on Northern California’s Tomales Bay, contribute to its rich and sweet flavor. In addition, Straus’ organic Lactose-Free Milk provides all the same benefits as our regular organic milk.

According to the Innovation Center for US Dairy, 24% of US adults (or 53 million) suffer from symptoms of lactose intolerance. The vast majority are open to the idea of including more dairy in their diets, if it was more easily digestible. If they chose a lactose-free alternative, an additional 273 million gallons of milk annually could provide all the same benefits of wholesome milk to these consumers.

“We want to make great products for lactose-intolerant people,” says Albert Straus, President of Straus Family Creamery, “and offer them our great-tasting, organic, cream-top milk. Everyone who enjoys milk should be able to enjoy its benefits and have the option to drink it out of a reusable glass bottle, which we believe is one of the best and most sustainable ways to offer milk.”

By consuming Straus Lactose-Free Milk, customers can help to reduce landfill waste by using reusable glass bottles, which have an average return rate of 80% and are reused 6-8 times. In addition, they directly contribute to the company’s mission of protecting small family farms and sustainable dairy production.

Straus Family Creamery became the first certified organic creamery west of the Mississippi in 1994 and extended its commitment to sustainability by becoming the first Non-GMO Project Verified dairy in the country in 2010. Among the many projects within Straus’ sustainability program is a water reuse system, which allows 94% of the creamery’s wastewater to be reused at the dairy. The dairy is powered by a methane digester that converts cow manure to electricity and significantly reduces the amount of methane rising into the atmosphere. Learn more at http://www.strausfamilycreamery.com.

Comments Off on Straus Family Creamery Introduces Organic, Cream-Top, Lactose-Free Milk 02.28.2012 |

Gosling’s Dark ‘n Stormy Cocktail To Be Released In 8.4 Oz. Cans


GOSLING'S RUM OF BERMUDA DARK N STORMY The national drink of Bermuda is coming to American shores ready to drink, in a stylish new 8.4 oz./250 ml can. A deliciously refreshing blend of Gosling’s Black Seal Rum and Gosling’s Stormy Ginger Beer, this is the authentic Dark ‘n Stormy cocktail created to be enjoyed directly out of the can.

“It’s the perfect addition to our family of products,” explained Malcolm Gosling, 7th generation President/CEO of the renowned Bermuda rum maker. “This is the perfect Dark ‘n Stormy delivered in a slender can with compelling graphics: making it appealing to the younger, trendsetting consumer. Additionally, the ready-to-drink Dark ‘n Stormy is also a convenient package for people on the go.”

First introduced to the most demanding Dark n’ Stormy connoisseurs in the world—Bermudians—the ready-to-drink product was an instant hit. “It was encouraging to hear my fellow Bermudians say that this tastes like a perfectly made Dark ‘n Stormy. Sales on the island have been strong.”

Here in the U.S., the Dark ‘n Stormy cocktail has gained rapid popularity and the new canned version will accelerate that trend. The new drink comes in attractive 4-packs of 8.4 oz./250 ml cans and is 9% alcohol by volume (18 US Proof).

To help gain attention at retail, special Storm Warning displays are being offered that signal “Things could get wild.”

Gosling’s plans to launch this new ready to drink canned product in a few select markets/geographical areas with additional markets being added as the product rolls out toward eventual national distribution.

Gosling’s Brothers Ltd. Is Bermuda’s oldest business house. In 1806, Englishman William Gosling, sent his son James to sea, bound for Virginia with 10,000 pounds Sterling worth of wines and spirits. After ninety days on becalmed seas the charter on the good ship, Mercury, ran out and James was diverted to Bermuda, where James decided to open a wine and spirits shop. Since 2004, seventh generation, E. Malcolm B. Gosling has been spearheading a major American expansion of the brand. Gosling’s offers three distinctive, award-winning products in its line: the flagship brand, Gosling’s Bermuda Black Seal Rum; Gosling’s Gold Bermuda Rum; and the ultra special Family Reserve Old Rum. Dark ‘n Stormy ® is a registered trademark of Gosling’s Export (Bermuda) Limited, Hamilton, Bermuda.

8 comments 02.27.2012 |

Academy Awards Best Pictures Pairings



Image used under Creative Commons from Dave_B_

Much ado has been made about this weekend’s upcoming Academy Awards ceremony – mostly from the haters’ camp. As a native Angeleno, I generally love the Oscars – I grew up with them.  I love watching pretty people arrive in beautiful dresses and sometimes I love even more seeing a total train wreck make its way down the red carpet. I like winning money for making educated guesses about the winners and I like winning money even more for taking home the prize just because I bet on some foreign film with a controversial title.

Champagne exudes the kind of class that The Academy Awards personified once upon a time. I’ve recently been introduced to a new online boutique called Henri’s Reserve that specializes in selling hard-to-find Champagnes from small tucked-away family estates and, especially, those that fall under the rising category of Grower Champagnes. I’m a big fan of these particular Champagnes as they’re often made with the kind of attention to detail that has become a thing of the past for many of the region’s bigger houses.

So, I’ve teamed up with the e-boutique to pair some of the nominees in the Best Picture Category with their offerings. Why not all 9? Because I philosophically object to the fact that there are NINE nominees to begin with. So I’ve decided to exclude Hugo because kids can’t drink Champagne, Incredibly Loud & Extremely Close because Champagne is for celebrating and 9/11 was sad. Also because kids don’t drink Champagne. And War Horse, because, similarly, horses don’t drink Champagne.

Anyways, here’s to the winner!

The Tree of Life: A love it or hate it movie that yours truly lost all desire to see after hearing reports of 30 minutes of random footage of everything from pretty space pictures to dinosaurs to fetuses in utero. Not for me. This movie definitely divided the critics and movie-goers alike, and for that reason I’m pairing it with Fleury’s Biodynamic “Carte Rouge” Blanc ($45.00). Mention “biodynamic” to anyone in the wine world and you’re guaranteed to stir up about as much controversy as this film.

 The Artist: This black and white silent film, evoking the bygone era of glamour that is so often mourned by film critics today, deserves to be paired with Henri Billiot Brut Rose ($60.99). Romantic and lively as The Artist’s Peppy Miller, this beautiful pale salmon sparkler is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Midnight in Paris: Don’t try to tell me you didn’t Charleston around for a few days after seeing his movie – it was too magical. Get carried away all over again and try something delightfully old-fashioned with J. Dumangin Fils Brut ($45.00). This Champagne has that classic biscuity, rich, and dry character that devotees love.

The Help: Depending on who you ask, there’s either a lot to celebrate in this movie about the Civil Rights Era south, or this movie is a race-relations disaster on par with previous best picture winner, Crash. Luckily, I don’t write about movies, I write about wine so I’m going to politely excuse myself from that conversation. However, one of the most enjoyable performances in the film, for me, came from the wonderful Octavia Spencer (who is also nominated!). In honor of her performance, I’m pairing The Help with the sassy and expressive Marc Hébrart, Brut Rosé ($50.00).

The Descendants: Usually Champagnes don’t evoke flavors of rich, lush, tropical fruits – and for a movie based in Hawaii, that’s kind of what you’d like to find. So I was thrilled to find Diebolt-Vallois Blanc de Blancs ($45.00). This Champagne doesn’t quite scream “tropical paradise” but neither does the movie’s rendition of Hawaii, frought, as it is, with the kinds of familial and marital tensions that most of us like to imagine don’t exist in such a beautiful place.

Moneyball: A movie about baseball demands a different approach to the dainty and feminine Champagne. Rene Geoffroy “Expression’ Brut ($46.99) is richer with a buttery nose that has hints of tobacco – which everyone knows baseball players love to chew! Also, it’s a little musky and a little funky, just like the dude that probably made you go see this movie.

For more from Caroline Helper, visit her blog ForgetBurgundy.com.

The Beer Chicks to Appear on The Cooking Channel

BeerBeverage News

Eat This Drink That

It was just announced that Hallie Beaune and Christina Perozzi, known by many in the craft beer scene as The Beer Chicks, will appear on The Cooking Channel on March 4 for a one hour special celebrating food and beverage.

Beer sommeliers, Hallie Beaune and Christina Perozzi know more about craft brews than most seasoned bartenders, and their love for drink hardly ends there. These authors love wine, mixed drinks, spirits, cocktails and everything food and in Eat This, Drink That – a one-hour Cooking Channel special – they take to the road and introduce us to folks creating brand new rules for pairing food with drink. Hallie and Christina find inspiration for shrimp and grits with absinthe on a shrimp boat in the Gulf of Mexico with a captain named “Big Sexy.” In Los Angeles, they marry sweet corn ice cream with beer for a float showdown, but can their float take down candied bacon, liquid nitrogen and an illegal spice? Expect savory sweet potato cocktails and unexpected concoctions with passion fruit and coffee.

Comments Off on The Beer Chicks to Appear on The Cooking Channel 02.24.2012 |

Mutineer Magazine’s Alan Kropf Honored As Zagat 30 Under 30

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Zagat 30 Under 30 San Francisco

The last several months have been huge for Mutineer Magazine and Editor in Chief Alan Kropf. Recently, he was named to Forbes 30 Under 30 list as one of the world’s top 30 business leaders under the age of 30 in food and beverage. Before that, he was selected to Wine & Spirits Magazine’s 30 Under 30 list as one of the world’s top beverage professionals under the age of 30. And also around that time, Alan was named to Folio Magazine’s 13 Under 30 as one of the world’s top 13 emerging media leaders under the age of 30.

It’s been an incredible ride and we’re pleased to announce that Alan was just named to Zagat’s 30 Under 30 in San Francisco, which recognizes the hottest up-and-coming chefs, mixologists, restaurateurs and other culinary trailblazers in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Visit Zagat to see the rest of the honorees.

Zagat 30 Under 30 San Francisco

Comments Off on Mutineer Magazine’s Alan Kropf Honored As Zagat 30 Under 30 02.23.2012 |

Patron Spirits Launches Patron XO Cafe Dark Cocoa Coffee Liqueur


Patron XO Cafe Dark Cocoa

Patron Spirits announces the launch of the first brand extension for the highly successful Patron XO Cafe coffee liqueur line. Available in the first quarter of 2012, the new Patron XO Cafe Dark Cocoa combines high-quality Patron Silver tequila and the light essence of coffee with an extraordinary chocolate flavor to create a unique and enjoyable ultra-premium liqueur.

“Patron XO Cafe has quickly become one of the fastest-growing products in our portfolio, and the success and excitement surrounding this brand has definitely energized the coffee liqueur category overall,” said Ed Brown, President and CEO of Patron Spirits International. “When we looked at how we could build on what makes Patron XO Cafe so special, chocolate was such a natural fit,” Brown added.

Chocolate, a word that originates in Mexico’s Aztec cuisine, has been used as a drink for nearly all of its history. The high-quality Criollo variety of chocolate in Patron XO Cafe Dark Cocoa is produced in Mexico’s Tabasco region. The coffee comes from the Mexican states of Veracruz and Chiapas.

Distilled at 60 proof, Patron XO Cafe Dark Cocoa is characterized by its deep, dark brown color, and an aroma of fresh coffee balanced with cocoa. The taste is dry, not sweet like many other coffee liqueurs, combining the rich flavors of fresh-roasted coffee, fine chocolate and light tequila. The finish is smooth, yet dry.

“Patron XO Cafe has always been one my proudest achievements,” said Francisco Alcaraz, Patron’s master distiller who created the recipe for the entire line of Patron tequilas and liqueurs. “And, I’m very excited to present Patron XO Cafe Dark Cocoa, an elegant spirit with a precise, balanced blend of Patron tequila, coffee and rich chocolate that took several years to perfect.”

Patron XO Cafe Dark Cocoa is highly versatile and delicious in any number of cocktails or after-dinner drinks. The liqueur is also enjoyable served on its own over ice, or used as a topping for ice cream and other imaginative desserts.

Patron XO Cafe Dark Cocoa is produced and bottled at the Hacienda del Patron distillery in the highlands of Jalisco, Mexico, handcrafted with the same attention to detail and quality as all Patron tequilas and liqueurs. It is available in 50ml, 375ml and 750ml sizes and packaged in the eye-catching handmade Patron XO Cafe glass bottle, a frosted version of the iconic cork-closed Patron tequila bottle. The label and outer box for Patron XO Cafe Dark Cocoa are accented in bold red.

2 comments 02.17.2012 |

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