Rhône Revival

ChapoutierDomaine1

Chapoutier is one of the most respected producers, north to south in France’s Rhone Valley. Its wines from the Hermitage appellation, pictured above, are made exclusively from the Syrah grape. Photo: Courtesy of Chapoutier

Rhône Revival

Garrigue_

Garrigue, an intensely aromatic bush, is said to infuse the vines and grapes in the Rhône Valley with an extra dollop of spiciness.

Not often does wind get credit for winemaking, but in France’s Rhône Valley, the Mistral deserves some respect, in so much as it is contributing to a new Rhone Revival. Sending cool air down the Rhône River as many as 100 days in the year, the benificent breeze chills hot summer days, mitigating intense heat in the vineyards. It also scrubs vineyards of diseases from humidity, rain and fog. Purists also boast that the wind works like a virtual conveyor belt, infusing the region’s leading red grapes—Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre—with spicy dollops of the aromatic shrubbery garrigue.

While the wind certainly plays a role, Rhône reds (nearly 80% of the region’s wine) draw on much more en route to their ultimate fruity, spicy style—diverse grapes (ten red and nine white are permitted); challenging stony soils; the art of blending. What matters most, of course, is that factors both stylistic and economic have converged to boost Rhône wines tangibly ahead of the rest of France in the current American wine arena. Rhône wine exports to the U.S. doubled in the last decade, hitting 1.2 million 9L cases in 2014, according to French Customs data. In 2014, Rhône red, white and rosé sales gained 6% in the U.S., reports Nielsen.

Jean-Luc COLOMBO, vigneron à Cornas. Ardèche. 25 Août 2009.

Jean-Luc Colombo is a highly respected winemaker based in Cornas in the Northern Rhône, but markets a full line of wines from both Southern and Northern appellations. Photo: Jean-Luc Colombo

Jean-Luc Colombo, a Rhône winemaker from Cornas whose esteemed wines come from Northern and Southern appellations, says, “Americans know far more about the Syrah grape than 20- or 30-years ago.” Colombo, whose wines are imported by Palm Bay International, Port Washington, New York, adds, “American Rhône Rangers in California such as Randall Graham, critic Robert M. Parker, Jr., and French chefs including Eric Ripert, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Daniel Boulud have all really raised our region’s profile vis à vis Bordeaux and Burgundy.”

Perhaps most importantly, the buzz about the Rhône is spread across both on- and off-premise, and North and South. Michael Madrigale, Wine Director at Boulud Sud in New York City, says, “When I became sommelier ten years ago, customers knew about Southern Rhône, and especially Châteauneuf-du-Pape. While these wines are popular, everyone is interested in Côte-Rôtie and all Northern Rhône wines now.”

Alan Sack, Wine Consultant at Warehouse Wines in New York City, notes: “There is more willingness and interest among customers to explore Rhône wines. In our store, you can find a Côte-Rôtie for $20.”

Church & State Rest

Under the direction of Joy Cushing, Wine Buyer and Sommelier, Church & State, Los Angeles, Rhône Valley wines are now the third best-selling region on her wine list.

At Church & State, a French restaurant in Los Angeles, Joy Cushing, Wine Buyer and Sommelier who recently joined after 15 years at Disney as a senior buyer and educator, says: “Rhône has vaulted into the third most-requested wine. From Syrah wines in the North to Grenache blends in the South, they’re perfect wines for Pinot and Cab lovers. I give them a taste of a Côtes-du-Rhône, they love it and become instant converts.” She adds, “We sell Côtes-du-Rhône by the glass for $12, and Jean-Luc Colombo’s Cornas for $95, and both sell well.”

Success has also spread across sub-regions and price points. “When you look at 2014 trends in French wines, it’s the $15-$20 (+8.5% growth by volume) and Core Luxury $20+ (+15.1% by volume) categories driving growth, according to Nielsen,” explains Bill Terlato, President of Terlato Wines International, importer of Chapoutier wines from the Rhône. “Nielsen also reports that Core Luxury Rhône growth of +30% is outpacing the overall French category, in the 52 weeks ending 12/06/14. When it comes to Rhône wines, it’s quality, not quantity, that is resonating more and more with consumers today.”

Peter Deutsch, President of Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits, importer of Vidal-Fleury wines, points out that one of the Rhône’s strengths is offering well-made options at a variety of price points, not unlike cars and other products. What Deutsch finds most surprising is the sudden rise of rosés from the Rhône over the last few years. In 2014, Deutsch cited Nielsen data that reports fully a third (36%) of all Rhône wines sold were rosés. It’s a phenomenon he attributes to the growing popularity of rosés in general, including those from Rhône’s neighbor—Provence.

Summing up the prevailing optimism for these versatile wines, Martin Sinkoff, VP and Director of Marketing at Frederick Wildman and Sons, Ltd., importer of the Paul Jaboulet Aîné and the popular Jaboulet Parallèle 45 line, says, “We are bullish on the Rhône as a category. The wines fit the market, offering lots of variety, lots of flavor, rich textures and great value. White wines and rosé wines will continue to grow, though red wines will continue to drive the category.”

P45 750

France’s Côtes du-Rhône region is situated at the 45th parallel, hence the name of Jaboulet Aîné brand, a popular entry-level wine with red, white and rose wine lovers.

With or without a boost from the Mistral, Rhône wines appear poised to achieve still greater heights for America’s merchants and restaurateurs.

Lionel de Ravel, U.S. Director, Gabriel Meffre, a wine producer based in Gigondas and marketed by Vision Wine & Spirits, emphasizes that the region’s momentum seems to have been picking up: “In just the last three years, American consumers have truly discovered the fantastic value Rhône wines offer.”

Perhaps some credit is due to the region’s generic ad campaign—“Côtes-du-Rhône: Always Right.”—which started back in 2009 and emphasizes the wine’s more versatile, accessible and contemporary identity, relative to other French wines. Eschewing traditional vineyard and grape visuals, the ads tapped common contexts and images that portrayed the flagship red’s ability to swing from casual to formal settings—e.g., jeans to tuxedo, pizza to haute cuisine.

Story-telling helps, too. Mel Dick, Senior Vice President and President of the Wine Division, Southern Wine & Spirits of America, which distributes several top Rhône producers, says: “People love to learn the stories associated with wines like Châteauneuf-du-Pape; it’s the Pope’s wine. So when retailers and restaurateurs share these stories, customers recall these wines.”

Here are some tips to keep your Rhône crush going as strong as the Mistral wind:

RhoneValley-vi

North to south, Rhône Valley wines are increasly sought after in the U.S.

Geography Lesson. United by the river Rhône, the Rhône Valley overall must be viewed as two very distinct parts. In the rugged, mountainous Northern Rhône, Syrah is the only red planted; in the southern part, red blends rule (comprised typically of mostly Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignan).

Rhône wines are versatile. The Rhône’s grape-variety tool kit and propensity for blending help maintain a family resemblance across appellations that encourages experimentation. If a customer likes Côtes-du-Rhône, suggest similarly styled and priced wines from Ventoux. For those who enjoy Gigondas, Vacqueyras is likely to be a favorite as well. And for customers tiring of overripe Syrahs, a peppery Northern Rhône might be just the ticket.

Southern Rhône wines are blended. Not entirely by coincidence, the Rhône revival echoes several major trends in wine today. Red blends, for example, are red-hot in the U.S. market; Rhône blends are as old as the vine-covered hills. Grenache/Garnacha has been pegged as a candidate for the next big grape; the Rhône is loaded with Grenache. And as rosé and organic wines continue to gain attention, the Rhône is well-positioned.

Pliny

It was the Roman, Pliny the Elder who wrote, ““The Muscat grape has been grown for a long time in Beaumes and its wine is remarkable.”

Remember the sweet side. Some 2,000 years ago, Roman Pliny the Elder wrote in his Natural History: “The Muscat grape has been grown for a long time in Beaumes and its wine is remarkable.” For sweet wine lovers, do not forget the Vins Doux Naturels of Muscat de Beaumes-de-Vénise (sweet, vivid and appley); and dark, rich Rasteau, based on
Grenache Noir.

The author would like to thank Beverage Media for permission to reprint this article.

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Posted in Ampelography, France, French wine, Gabriel Meffre, Grenache, Mourvedre, Rhone Valley, Rhone Wine, Syrah, Wine | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Je Suis John Locke

Je Suis Charlie

A Letter concerning Toleration: John Locke

In an eerily timely message, John Locke, the noted 17th century English philosopher, opened his now famous essay, “A Letter Concerning Toleration,” with the following:

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Published in 1689, John Locke’s Letter of Toleration is a poignant, timeless reminder to assume understanding in the face of others’ faith, religion and beliefs.

“Since you are pleased to inquire what are my thoughts about the mutual toleration of Christians in their different professions of religion, I must needs answer you freely that I esteem that toleration to be the chief characteristic mark of the true Church. For whatsoever some people boast of the antiquity of places and names, or of the pomp of their outward worship; others, of the reformation of their discipline; all, of the orthodoxy of their faith — for everyone is orthodox to himself — these things, and all others of this nature, are much rather marks of men striving for power and empire over one another than of the Church of Christ. Let anyone have never so true a claim to all these things, yet if he be destitute of charity, meekness, and good-will in general towards all mankind, even to those that are not Christians, he is certainly yet short of being a true Christian himself.”

In the above quotation, were you to substitute Islam–Judaism, Buddhism or any other religion or belief–for the word “Christian”, and likewise insert faith in place of “Church”, Locke’s message remains as timely and important today as when he wrote this classic essay in the late 17th century.

Posted in Books, France, French History, John Locke, Philosophy, Religious Toleration | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bubbling To The Top – Champagne’s Revival

AS ECONOMY REBOUNDS, CHAMPAGNE RECLAIMS ITS PREMIUM PERCH

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Champagne sells up 40% or more of total annual U.S. volume during the all-important holiday season.

Today, Champagne is bubbling to the top. If further proof were needed that Champagne has regained some swagger since the “Great Recession” lows of 2009, consider pancakes and pumpkins. In a seasonal, if counterintuitive match-up, Denny’s now offers pumpkin-flavored pancakes, eggs, sausage and a bottle of 2004 Dom Pérignon at $300 for two in its new Manhattan financial district location. (Skip the bubbly and Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast goes for $18!)

Sure it’s a gimmick. But given massive opening day coverage in New York newspapers, Denny’s high-low marriage of pancakes, pumpkins and Dom Pérignon generated reams of invaluable publicity, as well as traffic, for the establishment’s cocktail bar.

Dom Dennys

Counter-intuitive, in more ways than one! But it works for Denny’s in New York’s Financial district in an offer that pairs pancakes and the French monk’s bubbly.

On a more populist note, in towns large and small, merchants and restaurateurs have seen a welcome revival of consumer interest in the enduring celebratory and gustatory pleasures of perhaps the most famous of all wines: Champagne.

While noting the importance of the fourth quarter to all sparkling wine brands—when as much as a third or more of total annual sales of such bubblies are transacted—Aygline Pechdo, Brand Director, Champagnes at Pernod Ricard USA, identifies another important factor that is driving sales of Champagne on a firmer year-round basis. “Both Perrier-Jouët and Mumm are currently benefitting from the ongoing consumer trend toward premiumization,” says Pechdo, “meaning that consumers are willing to spend more on products that they know are of higher quality.”

RALLY TIME

CHAMPAGNE Sales 2008-2013 Source-Champagne Bureau_09122014

This chart tracks exports of Champagne to the USA from 2008 to 2013, with volume up approximately two million bottles from a low in 2009. Credit: Champagne Bureau

Sales trends confirm Champagne’s premium-oriented rally in 2014. The Nielsen Company reports that French Champagne is in better shape over the last 52 weeks when compared to the prior 52 weeks, which experienced year-on-year declines in both dollars (-1.1%) and cases (-6.4%). The latest 52 weeks shows growth in dollars (+1.7%) and a slight decline in cases (-0.8%).

CHAMPAGNE Sales 2008-2013 Source-Champagne Bureau_09122014
This chart tracks exports of Champagne to the USA from 2008 to 2013, with volume up approximately two million bottles from a low in 2009.

That slight decline in volume is attributable, retailers and Champagne importers say, to the rising popularity of less costly sparklers, especially Italian Prosecco. In contrast to an average of $35-$45 a bottle price tag for a classic brut, non-vintage Champagne, these sparkling wines retail for as little as a quarter or a third the price. No doubt nudged by the recession, many consumers traded down. But with improving economic conditions today, Champagne sales are far more robust than five years ago.

As the premiumization takes hold in the Champagne segment, the “dollar” portion of the Nielsen insight takes on added importance in terms of profitability. Today, as never before, brands big and small are introducing a bevy of new luxury and prestige cuvées, spanning extra-dry and vintage-dated reserve bottlings to single-vineyard rosé and zero dosage offerings. Even if bottle volume dips a bit in 2014 for Champagne, both the dollar ring and profit per bottle appear to be headed up for retailers and restaurateurs this year and on into 2015.

 SELECTION + EDUCATION + TRAINING

Spec's

At Spec’s, the largest group of stores in Texas, selection is key for selling Champagne, according to Hermen Key, Spec’s Managing Director

Hermen Key, Managing Director of Spec’s, a group of more than 100 stores across Texas, says, depending on the store location, a customer will find 30 to 50 Champagnes. Why the big selection? “People want to try something different, just like beer drinkers interested in craft beers,” Key explains, adding, “Champagne lovers have gravitated to small producer and rosé Champagnes.”

 

JIM SHPALL & APPLEJACK LIQUOR

Educating customers about the versatility of Champagne and its year-round appeal is important at Applejack’s, near Denver, according to Jim Shpall, owner. Photo Credit: Matt Nager Photography.

To boost customer awareness of Champagne’s versatility beyond anniversaries, birthdays, promotions and the holidays, Jim Shpall, President, Applejack’s in Wheatridge, CO, says, “We try to educate our customers that Champagne is great for any occasion, for a dinner at home or enjoyed as an aperitif. We regularly feature one or more Champagne brands in newspaper ads and in our regular email blasts throughout the year.”

Staff training is likewise an important element in selling Champagne beyond the fourth quarter. Tim Wilson, Corporate Beverage Director, Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group, with 22 fine dining locations in the U.S., says, when it comes to Champagne, “Obviously, many of our guests are looking for a Champagne, but you have to have a strong in-house training program.” It pays off in sales of Champagnes Wilson describes as “mid-majors,” like Henriot Brut and Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé; each goes for $24/flute.

EYE-CATCHING IMAGERY

To lure and reward consumers, packaging creativity is reaching new heights. From Veuve Clicquot’s bright orange iterations—an origami-like fold-out ice bucket container or a “mail box’”containing a bottle—to Philip Starck’s simple, hand-lettered label for Roederer Champagne’s Brut Nature 2006 or Nicolas Feuillatte’s colorful canisters, packaging helps elevate a Champagne brand’s image with its affluent consumer base.

Ruinart-Cover

Innovative packaging is critical to enhance a luxury Champagne’s image with consumers, as this rustic, but clever wood case for Ruinart illustrates, one of many the art-oriented label promotes globally.

Collaborating with internationally acclaimed art talent is a central plank in Champagne Ruinart’s global and U.S. marketing strategy. Nicolas Ricroque, Ruinart’s Brand Director at Moët Hennessy USA, says that this holiday season, Ruinart partnered with Scottish visual artist Georgia Russell to create a bottle sculpture that perfectly embodies Ruinart’s Blanc de Blancs Champagne.

Champagne Collet’s 2006 Collection Privée, strictly from Grand and Premier Cru vineyards, also saw partial (34%) oak aging. And to draw more attention this holiday season, it comes in an Art Deco gift box that converts to a cooler.

Pol Box

An elegant box from Pol Roger is all a customer needs for a perfect gift.

But packaging need not be deluxe. Classic boxed brut, non-vintage entries represent a definite plus for retailers and their clients, especially during the holidays, notes Eric Goldstein, Vice President, Marketing at New York’s Park Avenue Liquors. He explains, “To give a recognized Champagne brand its own box… it makes both the purchaser/gift-giver as well as the recipient more comfortable.” He wishes more suppliers would go the box route.

With the U.S. economy inching ahead more confidently, merchants, sommeliers and restaurateurs have more reasons than ever to promote Champagne on a round basis.

Armed with greater selection, innovative packaging and a greater willingness of consumers to trade up to luxury-priced cuvées, there are sound reasons to celebrate year-with Champagne throughout the year.

LEADING INDICATORS: A FROTHY PICTURE

Signs of Champagne’s resurgence are out there, in distinct areas.

The Economy

Sinkoff

Champagne sales track the ups and downs of the Dow, observes Martin Sinkoff, Vice President, Director of Marketing, Frederick Wildman and Sons, importer of Pol Roger Champagne.

Martin Sinkoff, Vice President, Director of Marketing, Frederick Wildman and Sons, Ltd., importer of Pol Roger Champagne, sums up the upbeat outlook .

“Champagne is very healthy right now as the economy in the U.S. rebounds,” he says. But Sinkoff adds a pointed caveat, “We’ll have to see how the recent stock market ups and downs affect the market. Champagne sales follow the Dow!”

Ritz-y Room Service Reels In Increased Sales

Ryan Stetins, General Manager and Wine Director at Ritz-Carlton’s Parallel 37 in San Francisco, stocks 80 different Champagnes year-round. He adds: “Champagne is very popular in our room service. Now any Champagne we have on Parallel 37’s wine list is available to our hotel guests ordering room service.” Stetins happily reports that this ultra simple shift has dramatically increased the property’s total Champagne sales, especially two grower Champagnes Stetins features: Pehu-Simonet NV Brut at $95 a bottle and Jean Vesselle NV Rosé at $105.

Pink Power

Sam Heitner, director of the Champagne Bureau, a Washington, D.C.-based trade office representing Champagne interests in the U.S., reports that from about 5% of total U.S. Champagne sales in 2008, rosé sales have reached almost one out of every six bottles of Champagne sold or poured—a record 15% share.

Lourent-Perrier-034

Sales of pink Champagne have tripled in the U.S. in just the last five years.

The U.S. is now France’s number-one export market for rosé Champagne in the world. Spec’s in Texas, Applejack’s near Denver and Park Avenue Liquors in New York all relay that their rosé Champagne sales have tripled or more in the past few years.

Looking beyond the wine’s colorful appeal, Ryan Stetins of the Ritz-Carlton has another theory. “The rise of rosé is related to the wine’s higher dosage, which translates into a fuller body and a sweeter palate.”

Could rosé’s popularity cast its halo toward demi-sec Champagnes in the future? Stranger things have happened.

Editor’s Note: The author wishes to thank Beverage Media for permission to post this article, which appears in the December 2014 edition.

 

Posted in Champagne, Culinary History, Dennys, Fast Food, France, French History, French wine, The Biz of Fizz | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lafayette – Hero of Two Worlds

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                              With the Arc de Triomphe in the background, a French honor 

                              guard on horseback leads a Bastille Day parade down the

                              Champs Elysées boulevard in Paris.

 

Interview with Diane Windham Shaw,

Curator and Director of Special Collections,

Skillman Library, Lafayette College

Lafayette – Hero of Two Worlds. If anyone knows why the Marquis earned this moniker, it is Diane Shaw. Ever since July 14, 1790, on the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille prison in Paris, France and the French celebrate this momentous event. It’s a day of parades of all kinds – the one down the Champs Elysées boulevard in Paris is especially memorable – but also a time for its citizens, and all peoples, to contemplate the concepts of liberté, fraternité et égalité.

Skillman Library

While amateur historians, francophiles and American Revolutionary history buffs know of Lafayette’s critical role in America’s fight for independence, fewer still know that Lafayette played a central role in not one, but two more French revolutions!

Lafayette was not only a central figure in the ‘first’ French uprising that began on July 14, 1789, but also another in 1830. In this second French revolution, and Lafayette’s       third revolution, the “hero of Two Worlds” battled mightily for a constitutional monarchy; in the process, he abandoned his lifelong friendship the then-reigning monarch, Charles X, the youngest brother of Louis XVI, who had assumed the throne in 1825, on the death of Louis XVIII the year before. (Born in the same year, 1757, Lafayette and the Comte d’Artois, as Charles X was known before his short reign, were playmates at Versailles.)

Storming the Bastille

By 1830, the conservative, reactionary Charles had lost the support of the French National Assembly.

Charles_X_Roi_de_France_et_de_Navarre

Louis-Philippe_1842_Lerebours_Claudet

Known as the “July Revolution,” Lafayette was a key figure in a quick, relatively bloodless movement to dethrone Charles X. The upshot? The French nation – with Lafayette front and center in this high-stakes political drama – asked Louis Philippe — known before this as Duc d’Orleans, who was a cousin of the royal Bourbon family, and a leader of the moderate Orleanist party — to be France’s first constitutional monarch in a new government patterned after the British monarchy, that is with a strong, independent, and popularly elected national assembly, freedom of speech and freedom of the press, among other republican principles.

Given his lifelong commitment to bringing about constitutional government, Lafayette, “Hero of Two Worlds,” can be said to have been crucially involved in “Three Revolutions.”

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Few scholars know more about Lafayette’s entire career and steadfast commitment to liberty, democracy and anti-slavery than Diane Shaw, Curator and Director of Special Collections at Skillman Library at Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania. At Lafayette College, a Strategic Partner of Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America and named after our Hero of Two Worlds, Diane Shaw began building on the College’s remarkable collection of Lafayette documents and other historic objects on her arrival more than three decades ago.

The Friends of Hermione-Lafayette recently asked Ms. Shaw to talk about the Lafayette Collection at the Skillman Library, an edited version of her replies is posted today in honor of Bastille Day and Lafayette.

Question: How did Lafayette College come to be called in honor of the Marquis and how did it amass such an amazing trove of Lafayette letters and other treasures?

Diane Shaw: Lafayette College has the honor of being the only American College to be named for Lafayette and it has everything to do with the timing. Like the rest of America in the fall of 1824, the citizens of the small, but thriving town of Easton, Pennsylvania were abuzz with the news of Lafayette’s arrival in America. Some 200 of these citizens went to Philadelphia in September to greet “The Nation’s Guest.” That December, several of the town leaders met to plan for the establishment of a college and the choice of name was a given. It would be named Lafayette “in memory and out of respect for the signal services rendered … in the great cause of freedom.”

The Lafayette Collections at the College, which include manuscripts, rare books, objects, prints, paintings, and sculpture, have been building since 1926, when our New York Alumni Chapter bought the first group of materials. Additional materials were acquired through the efforts of the American Friends of Lafayette, which was established on our campus in 1932. Other materials have been added by gift and purchase and the College is still actively collecting.

Q: You came as a Librarian to Lafayette College almost 30 years ago, how has your estimation of Lafayette evolved over this period as you have come to know so much about his life?

DS: My first real education on Lafayette was the result of our involvement as a major lender to the marvelous exhibition, “Lafayette, Hero of Two Worlds,” organized by the Queen’s Museum in New York in honor of the Bicentennial of the French Revolution in 1989. A gift from an alumnus enabled us to give the collection full archival processing in 1989-90, which added to our knowledge about the man and our holdings. But it was not until 2000, when I began to work on an exhibit for the College on Lafayette’s role in the anti-slavery movement, that I really began to understand what a significant role he had played in this and other human rights movements and how his views, which were formed at a very early age, remained consistent throughout his life.

Q. Would you care to describe highlights of the mutual esteem, respect and friendship between Lafayette and Washington?

GWLafayette

DS: When he arrived in Philadelphia in July of 1777, Lafayette was introduced to George Washington and the two quickly became close. It was a father-son relationship. Lafayette had lost his father in battle at age two and Washington had no children of his own. Lafayette brought out a warm and affectionate side of the ordinarily taciturn Washington. Lafayette simply adored Washington, naming his only son George Washington Lafayette. This great friendship, which lasted until Washington’s death in 1799, is documented in the College’s Skillman Library by 149 original letters written by Lafayette to Washington—an absolute treasure trove of material—eight and ten page letters mostly from the period of the American Revolution and including the 1790 letter that transmitted the Key to the Bastille to Washington.

Q: Would you please give us an insight into Lafayette’s Anti-Slavery sentiments and actions through his entire life?

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DS: The first inkling of Lafayette’s interest in the welfare of slaves can be found in Lafayette College’s collection in a 1783 letter Lafayette wrote to Washington, requesting Washington’s partnership in purchasing a plantation where they could try an experiment in the gradual emancipation of slaves. Lafayette’s request includes this remarkable closing sentence: “If it be a wild scheme, I had rather be mad that way than to be thought wise on the other tact.” When Washington was unwilling to join him, Lafayette bought a plantation in Cayenne (present day French Guiana) to try the experiment on his own. Thus Lafayette’s role in the anti-slavery movement played out on three continents. In addition to South America, he lobbied for the rights of slaves and free blacks in the colonies in the National Assembly in France, and in America he joined anti-slavery societies and used the Farewell Tour of 1824-25 to express his support for American blacks.

Q. Lafayette was a lifelong advocate for human and civil rights, would you comment on this aspect of his philosophy and actions in this regard?

DS: In the years just preceding the French Revolution, Lafayette worked hard for the restoration of civil rights to French Protestants and he was largely responsible for their gains of limited rights in the late 1780s, including the legitimacy of Protestant marriages and births, legal rights of burial, and the right to own property and worship privately. Lafayette also lent his support to French Jews during this period as well, supporting their rights for citizenship with voting privileges. Later in life he added his support to the movement to abolish the death penalty. And although he did not work directly for the rights of women, one historian has even called him a proto-feminist, for the serious interest he took in the ideas of a number of women writers and reformers of his day.

Q. Likewise, Lafayette was also a supporter for Native Americans, with whom he came in contact a number of key moments in his travels in America, both during and after the Revolution.

LafayetteNativeAmerican

DS: Lafayette’s interest in the American Indian dated back to the American Revolution, when he was instrumental in establishing an alliance with the Six Nations in 1778 and was given the honorary name Kayewla by the Iroquois. During his American visit of 1784, he helped negotiate a peace with the Six Nations over access to the lands of western New York and he arranged to take a young Onondaga boy back with him to France to receive a European education. Native Americans were eager to greet Lafayette during the Farewell Tour of 1824-25, and Lafayette made a point to meet with them, even leaving a ball in Illinois to spend time with the daughter of a chief he had known during the Revolution. In Alabama in 1825, Lafayette’s entourage entered the state on Creek lands, and the Creek Indians pulled Lafayette’s carriage by hand up the riverbank, where two delegations—one white and one Indian—were waiting to welcome him to the state. The tension over who had official hosting rights was diffused by Lafayette, who went first with the Creeks to watch a ball game they had planned in his honor.

Q: One exceptional strength in your Library’s collection is Lafayette’s Farewell Tour, would you please sketch some highlights from that time during 1824-1825 during which time he visited all 24 states in our young nation?

PlayingCard

DS: Lafayette’s Farewell Tour was an event unlike any other in American history. From the moment he landed in August 1824, amid a welcoming flotilla at Castle Garden in the New York harbor, until his departure in September 1825 with a barrel of American soil to be used to cover his grave, Lafayette was embraced by the young republic as a venerated symbol of the American Revolution. Everywhere he went during the 14-month tour he was hailed as a hero and regaled with parades, ceremonies, balls, and dinners in his honor.

Thousands of Americans turned out to see him in every city. They followed his travels in their newspapers and after he left, they gave his name to a host of towns, counties, boulevards, and parks. Another legacy of the tour was the explosion of creative and decorative works—paintings, sculpture, engravings, souvenir ceramics and glassware, commemorative ribbons and medals, books, orations, poems, and pageants. The Lafayette Library has a wonderful collection of these souvenirs, including two of my favorites—a deck of cards with Lafayette as the Ace of Spades and a clothes brush with the bristles dyed to spell “Lafayette, 1825.”

Q: Tell us briefly about some ‘contemporary’ treasures in your collection related to Lafayette, the Hermes scarf, the vase and perhaps one other item?

Lafayette Scarf

DS: One of the exciting ways we celebrated the 250th anniversary of Lafayette’s birth in 2007 was to work with Hermès on a commemorative scarf. The Lafayette College limited edition of the scarf, which was offered for sale by the Friends of Skillman Library, sold out almost immediately. Another contemporary piece from the 2007 anniversary that Skillman Library acquired was a spectacular French ceramic piece made by the Longwy firm. This large, ball-shaped vase, designed by Jean Luc Curabet , features Lafayette on one side and a Native American on the other. We are always interested in acquiring Lafayette-related items, old or new. Documenting the many ways that Lafayette is portrayed is part of our mission. Lately, we’ve beefed up our collection of children’s books related to Lafayette and our newest purchase, which hasn’t even arrived yet, is a Lafayette baby shoe from the Farewell Tour. There is never a dull moment ………

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ABOUT DIANE SHAW:

Diane Shaw is the Director of Special Collections and College Archivist at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. She has overseen the activities of the Special Collections since 1985 and the College Archives since 1987.

She holds a Master of Librarianship degree, as well as her B.A. from Emory University, where she also spent the first part of her career as an archivist. Before coming to Lafayette Shaw spent a year at Lehigh University.

2011_05_05 Lafayette Statue Blur for View Book

As curator of the Lafayette College’s extensive collections on the Marquis de Lafayette, she was asked to collaborate with Mount Vernon on an exhibition commemorating the friendship between Lafayette and George Washington. The exhibition, with many items drawn from Lafayette College’s collection, was on view at Mount Vernon, Lafayette College, and the New-York Historical Society between 2006 and 2008. Shaw authored the lead essay on this filial friendship in the published catalog, A Son and His Adoptive Father: The Marquis de Lafayette and George Washington (Mount Vernon, 2006).

In 2001, she mounted an exhibition, entitled “Lafayette and Slavery” at Lafayette College’s Skillman Library. She has written about Lafayette, slavery, and human rights for the Philadelphia Enquirer and the Lafayette Alumni Magazine. In 2009, she made presentations on Lafayette and his anti-slavery activities at Boston’s Lafayette Day commemoration and at Trenton’s celebration of its 225th anniversary as the Nation’s capital. In 2013, she served as editor for a collection of essays published by the American Friends of Lafayette, which included her essay “‘I have been so long the friend of emancipation’: Lafayette as Abolitionist.”

In 2012, she was named a Chevalier in the Ordre des arts et des lettres by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication for her work with the Lafayette collections.

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American Revolution history buffs, admirers of Washington, Jefferson and Lafayette, nautical enthusiasts and followers interested in L’Hermione’s 2015 voyage from Rochefort, France to the Eastern seaboard are invited to follow this blog for all the latest news and plans in 2014 and 2015.

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Posted in American Revolution, Bastille Day, France, French History, Hermione, Hermione Frigate, L'Hermione, L'Hermione fregate, Lafayette, Lafayette College | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Countrified Cocktailian – fish & game’s Kat Dunn

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                           HUDSON, NEW YORK’s SAVORY REVIVAL

       ‘Rurban’ FOOD & DRINK SCENE DRIVEN BY EX-GOTHAMITES

There is a countrified cocktailian at fish & game. Look beyond the menus displayed on Warren Street restaurants in the exciting food-and-drink hub of Hudson, New York, located 115 miles north of Manhattan, and you will find chefs, somms and bartenders who left their New York City careers happily behind.

What’s driving this unusual exodus from city to country? Hudson Valley-based journalist Anne Marie Gardner, who was quoted in a recent New York Times feature on Hudson’s remarkable boomlet, noted that the city’s revival is a prime example of “ ‘rurbanism’, where urban expats bring their cultural touchstones and appetites with them when they move to a place like Hudson.”

Another key ingredient: The ‘rurban’ trends that have fired up Hudson’s still expanding restaurant and bar scene have likewise inspired a large migration of former city dwellers to purchase and revive old dairy farms and stock pasture and pen with cows, goats and sheep to produce cheese of all kinds; or others who cultivate new market gardens, which yield a year-round cycle of seasonal veggies (all organic, naturally); and still others who have built homesteads where they raise all kinds of pigs, sheep, cattle and poultry, free-range style, and where heritage breeds truly rule the roost and barns; you know, the kinds of sustainably raised pork, lamb, beef and fowl that you would never see at your local Safeway or Kroger.

fish&gametryptych

Emblematic of this urban-to-rural re-invention phenomenon are ex-Gothamites in Hudson such as former Manhattan-based Fatty Crab chef Zakary Pelaccio and his wife Jori, who along with partner, Patrick Milling Smith,launched the acclaimed fish & game restaurant last year. Or Jeffrey Gimmel, formerly chef at Michael’s – another culinary landmark in Manhattan – and his wife, Nina Bachinsky-Gimmel, herself a former pastry chef at Union Square Café, who opened Swoon Kitchenbar in 2004. Or top toque John McCarthy who runs Crimson Sparrow, well, he once worked for Wylie Dufresne’s famous WD-50 on the Lower East Side. They have all decamped from New York and moved with wives, children, sous-chefs, and mixologists to Hudson and nearby hamlets in upstate New York’s Columbia County.

Jori Jayne Edme, left, and Zakary Pelaccio, right, co-founders of fish & game, alone with Patrick Milling Smith,  in Hudson, New York.

Celebrating a year since opening fish & game, Pelaccio says: “I was ready for a change from New York City. I have always wanted to live in the country, and Hudson and its surroundings are just rural enough.” Pelaccio has been praised by no less a food authority than Ruth Reichl. The former editor of the now-defunct Gourmet, Reichl
compares Zakary to Alice Waters for his resolute sourcing of all things local. Yet he departs somewhat from this ethic when it comes to fish & game’s wine list. While the wines are definitely global, Pelaccio revels in featuring obscure grape varieties from off-the-beaten path appellations. (When is the last time you have poured a Poulsard red from Arbois, France or a Sagrantino from Umbria in Italy?) But it is these vinous discoveries that please Zakary as well as tempt and delight his adventurous clientele.

Kat Dunn, who bartended for almost two decades at a number of Manhattan watering holes before joining Jori and Zakary at fish & game, says that since taking over the bar, “We’ve moved from more city-style drinks to more seasonal and local offerings.”

Kat Dunn is the chief bartender/cocktailian at fish & game in Hudson, New York.

Perched on the inside edge of Dunn’s bar, there is an array of small brown bottles that are lined up like a company of tin soldiers; each contains a concentrated potion Dunn has distilled or concocted from local botanicals. Essences that Dunn employs range from anise and borage to smoked agave and local honey, one or more of which she might carefully stir into her one of her original, “forage-based” drink recipes or any classic cocktail her customers might request.

During this past winter, Dunn’s signature house cocktail ‘Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire’, a smoky mescal-based creation, was the bestseller and remains so, she adds. (See recipe below for fish & game’s signature cocktail, ‘Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire.’) But Dunn also served up ‘The Tainted Lady’, a blood orange-infused Tequila drink, with charred Meyer lemon juice, Yellow Chartreuse, honey syrup, graced with a pink peppercorn-and-salt rim on the glass or her ‘Fall From Grace,’ a eye-opening, palate-stimulating blend of Zubrowka Bison Grass vodka, ginger syrup, a home-made ginger liqueur made from a Cognac base, local, fresh apple cider, and a shot of India Pale Ale from a nearby micro-brewery.

From Whale Oil to Extra Virgin Olive Oil

It has been these dedicated agro-artisans who furnish a breadth and quality of ingredients appreciated and supported by Hudson chefs. Diners are beating a path to these Hudson addresses too, some of whom think nothing of taking the 2-hour train from New York City just to sample Hudson’s locavore delights; well fed, they catch a late train home to the big city. And to top it off, there’s a barrel-full of new distilleries, wineries and microbreweries that have sprouted up all along the Hudson River Valley all the way north to Albany. Not surprisingly, these spirits, beers and wine too have pride of place on Hudson’s back bars and wine and beer lists.

Taken together, these former city-dwelling chefs, countrified cocktailians and 21st century organic farmers and ranchers have transformed this former whaling port on the Hudson River into a thriving culinary and drinks destination. Facing the majestic Catskill Mountains to the west, the city first came to national prominence in the 1830’s and ‘40s. In that era, globe-encircling clipper ships sailed up the river and off-loaded

The Clipper Ship Flying Cloud Published by Currier and Ives, 1852

tons of whale oil and luxury goods in Hudson, all of which was bound west on the newly opened Erie Canal. It was these rich deliveries that spurred the city’s original boom as wealthy ship captains and merchants erected block after block of elegant Federal and Victorian townhouses and mansions, massive brick warehouses, local bakeries and bustling iron foundries.

Today, dozens of Hudson’s 19th century-era structures have been restored and artfully re-purposed into antique shops, bookstores and gourmet food boutiques, the latter stocked with expensive extra-virgin, cold-pressed olive oils from Tunisia to Sicily. Like so many other buildings there, Pelaccio’s fish & game restaurant, an old blacksmith’s shop, was completely gutted and totally rebuilt; it’s located around the corner from Warren Street, the town’s central artery. So grab a ticket and train up (or drive) to Hudson and see what its version of ‘rurbanism’ is all about; and don’t forget to ask Kat for her signature drink!

“WHERE THERE’S SMOKE, THERE’S FIRE”

Dunn's Where There's Smoke Cocktail

Recipe: Courtesy Kat Dunn, fish & game; serves one.

1.75 oz. VIDA MESCAL

0.75 oz. THAI CHILI-INFUSED APEROL

1 oz. FRESH LIME JUICE

0.5 oz. SMOKED AGAVE SYRUP (smoked in a pan inside a lidded grill)

2 dashes Scrappy’s bitters

Combine all with ice, shake, and double strain. Serve up in a coupe with a dusting of sumac powder and grated dried Persian lime.

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 Editor’s Note: A version of this article has appeared in the May 2014 issue of The SOMM JOURNAL, whose editors the author wishes to thank for their permission.

The author also wishes to acknowledge his debt to Chronogram magazine’s food and drink editor and photographer Peter Barrett for his help in the preparation of this story; please see: http://www.acookblog.com to view more of Peter Barrett’s work.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Beer, Clipper Ships, Cocktails, Culinary History, Food, Hudson, Hudson River Valley, New York, Spirits | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

POP STAR: Belinda Chang, Moet’s New Champagne “Charlie”

POP STAR: Belinda Chang, Moët’s New Champagne “Charlie.”

Long a talented interloper in the male-dominated drinks, restaurant and hospitality fields, Chang is crashing through yet another glass ceiling in her meteoric, honor-laden career.

Beginning as an apprentice chef at Houston’s Café Annie to serving as wine director for Charlie Trotter in Chicago then overseeing operations at Danny Meyer’s Michelin-starred The Modern in New York to being appointed global beverage consultant for the Starwood luxury hotel group, Chang, a James Beard-award honoree for outstanding wine service in 2011, is now joining the storied ranks of marketers of liquid effervescence.

Champagne_Charlie_Once known collectively as ‘Champagne Charlies’, like her predecessors’ bubbly celebrations and flashy public-relations events (from popping corks at the Oscars to pouring jeroboams into pyramids of 1,000 coupe-shaped glasses for the Guinness record books), Belinda is determined, as she puts it passionately and in a more serious fashion, “to inflame and infect” MH USA’s distributor partners as well as their on- and off-premise customers about “all things Champagne.”

Champagne Charlie / Music

A born educator, Chang relishes her new role to introduce and, where needed, re-acquaint the trade about the unique story of Champagne, its sub-regions and premier and grand cru appellations, its viticultural and winemaking traditions, and, of course, inform one and all about MH USA’s Moët & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Krug, Dom Pérignon and Ruinart brands, from the non-vintage through vintage-dated bottlings to all the rosé and demi-sec releases all the way up to MH USA’s unrivalled collection of prestige cuvées.

“The Biz of Fizz”

From the time Champagne was first commercialized and exported from the mid-18th century on, men – mostly men it must be admitted – went on the road to introduce, educate and sell this bubbly, bibulous nectar not just across France, but the world over.  In Widow Clicquot’s day, it was Louis Bohne, an enterprising salesman, who in the early 19th century ventured all the way to St. Petersburg in Czarist Russia to sell boatloads of Clicquot’s renowned Yellow Label to the Romanov court.  In the new world, it was Edmond Ruinart, scion of Champagne’s oldest house, who departed for America in 1831 on a tri-mast sailing ship full of immigrants; cases of his precious Champagne, which served as ballast, were destined to fill coupes and flutes in dancehalls across the new nation.  As Chang puts it: “What’s better than the story of Widow Clicquot, or the two monks, Dom Ruinart and Dom Pérignon, or talking about the unique qualities of Krug!”

A Tower of Bubbly: Every year Brown Palace Hotel, Denver, pictured below, partners with Moët & Chandon, to build this awesome pyramid of Champagne.

completed-pyramidChang – who has already hit a dozen markets in her new educational role extolling Champagne –is forging her own take on these romantic, hard-working characters who became known as Champagne Charlies.  It is worth recalling, in fact, they became such a fixture in 19th century society, a Victorian-era English song-and-dance man named George Leybourne composed the following hit song, entitled “Champagne Charlie”, in 1862, which featured the following verse, followed by a most evocative (and true!) chorus:

“Some boffins like their Burgundy, Hock, Claret or Moselle,

But only Moët Vintage satisfies my palate well” 

“Champagne Charlie is my name, Champagne Charlie is my name.

There is nothing like that fizz, fizz, fizz

Yes, it really is the biz, biz, biz!” 

After almost two decades of work in the hospitality world, Belinda relishes the challenges and potential of her new trade responsibilities: “I never imagined not being at a restaurant, it is a great dance being at the table with a customer, but being an educator has always appealed to me as well as the chance to reach, via my association with MH USA’s great Champagnes, a much larger audience.”  Her ambition: “We want to be the global leader in Champagne education, and that includes the United States.”

ChampagneCharlie2Given Chang’s record of accomplishments, it would be a mistake to discount her ability to once and for all transform, and elevate, the perhaps outdated image of a Champagne Charlie, now and long into the future.

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Editor’s Note: The author would like to thank The Tasting Panel Magazine for permission to adapt this article, whose original version appears in the February 2014 issue.

Posted in Belinda Chang, Champagne, Champagne Charlie, Culinary History, Food, France, French History, French wine, Moet & Chandon, The Biz of Fizz, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do you know what a bottle slider is? Hint: It’s silver and wood!

Lafayette’s Bottle Slider Gift to Washington

Washington_and_Lafayette_at_Mount_Vernon,_1784_by_Rossiter_and_Mignot,_1859

LAFAYETTE AND WASHINGTON, DEPICTED ABOVE, ON THE PORCH OF MOUNT VERNON, OVERLOOKING THE POTOMAC RIVER, IN THIS PAINTING BY THOMAS PRITCHARD ROSSITER AND LOUIS REMY MIGNOT.

While most American Revolution history buffs know that General Washington considered the young Lafayette like a son, here’s an interesting Lafayette-Washington anecdote you may not know.

GIVEN THEIR ENDEARING, ENDURING FRIENDSHIP, EVEN THE ATLANTIC OCEAN COULD NOT SEVER THEIR TIES ONCE THE MARQUIS RETURNED TO FRANCE FOLLOWING THE SIGNING OF THE TREATY OF PARIS, ENDING BRITISH-AMERICAN HOSTILITIES, ON SEPTEMBER 3, 1783. A FREQUENT CORRESPONDENCE ENSUED BETWEEN THE TWO WAR VETERANS, INCLUDING MANY EXCHANGES OF GIFTS.

Now we know as our first President, Washington wisely espoused a neutral foreign policy strategy during his two-term presidency – read his 1796 Farewell Address which famously asserts our nation should avoid all “entangling alliances”. But in actual fact he, and his wife Martha, might be considered as closet Francophiles!

Here’s an incontrovertible piece of evidence, a silver bottle slider; a gift from Lafayette himself! You don’t know what a “bottle slider” is? Well, we call it a wine coaster; but Washington’s is not just any wine coaster, it’s an artisan-crafted one from a Parisian silversmith; see photo below.

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THE MOUNT VERNON LADIES’ ASSOCIATION. PURCHASE, 1981. CONSERVATION COURTESY OF THE LIFE GUARD SOCIETY OF MOUNT VERNON. PHOTOGRAPHY BY GAVIN ASHWORTH.

So does accepting just one gift from Lafayette make George and Martha confirmed Francophiles? Not necessarily, but one look at their dining preferences, and their obvious preference for French tableware of all sorts, well, the evidence mounts.

From the dinners and suppers Martha and George served at their beloved Mount Vernon to state galas during Washington’s two terms in office, French cuisine, and French silver (alongside, of course, American silver) ruled. Such Francophile recipes are documented in a wonderful book: Dining with the Washingtons: Historic Recipes, Entertaining, and Hospitality from Mount Vernon, published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2011. And as the bottle slider gives us a clue, we find that much of the porcelain and silver adorning the Washington’s well-set tables are also from France.

In future http://www.hermione2015.com blog posts, we will describe some of the cuisine served not only on board the L’Hermione, but also some of the dinners and meals served once the L’Hermione reached Boston and sailed on to Yorktown.

winerinsers-glassesLg_2

Stay tuned and have your knife, fork and spoon — and one of your Mount Vernon replica tavern glasses and rinsers — at the ready!

For more information about Lafayette’s silver bottle slider gift to Washington, see the Art & Antiques article online at: http://www.antiquesandfineart.com/articles/article.cfm?request=701

The author wished to credit and thank the editors and writers of Art & Antiques magazine in the preparation of this blogpost.

Editor’s Note: David Lincoln Ross, the author, serves as Editorial Director of Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America, and this blogpost below comes from the hermione2015.com site.  What is the aim of this group?

Twenty years ago a small group met together and discussed the idea of reconstructing an exact replica of L’Hermione, a French frigate that brought Lafayette to America in 1780 in support of the American Revolution.  Now L’Hermione is almost completed – originally one of the most authentically built Tall Ships ever.  Meantime, the idea grew that L’Hermione should sail to the USA – bringing to life the voyage made by LaFayette in 1780 and re-affirming the historic relationship between the United States and France.  L’Hermione’s first voyage will take her across the Atlantic – voyage 2015.

 

Posted in American Revolution, France, French History, George Washington, Lafayette, LafayetteWashington, Mount Vernon, Washington, Washington and Lafayette, Wine | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

HOT BEERS FOR COLD WEATHER

From Frosty Flips to Spicy Brews

WINTER BEERS ARE HOT!

winter_beers_walker_pruett_pdx_beer_calendar_nordstrom_intro

To merchants, restaurateurs and bar and tavern owners as well as their beer-loving customers, the expression “chill” or “chill out” has taken on a new, delicious meaning.

In an oxymoronic phrase, seasonal beer sales are scalding hot during wintertime!

According to IRI data – which monitors Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club and BJ’s, drugstores, supermarkets, mass merchandisers like Target and Dollar, as well as selected independent beer, wine and spirits merchants – sales of seasonal winter and holiday-style beers rose 23% from November 2012 through March 2013 – a time period that coincides with brewers’ rollout of these wintry brews. Dan Wandel, principal, client insights, IRI, anticipates even stronger gains for this year’s holiday season given the fast-expanding universe of holiday and winter brews on offer compared to even a year ago. And it’s no “small beer” either: In dollar terms, IRI reports seasonal beer sales – spring, summer, fall and winter – are rapidly approaching $500 million annually. Commenting on this “snow storm of seasonal beer sales,” Wandel adds that all seasonal beers, from brewers large and small, are now well on their way to account for 4% of total U.S. beer sales in dollar volume, a stunning achievement given the segment’s near statistical zero score less than a generation ago.

9Winter-BeersRich Doyle, CEO and Co-founder, Harpoon Brewery, Boston, Massachusetts, concurs. As one of the first craft brewers to market a seasonal beer for the coldest months of the year, Doyle recalls, “We introduced Harpoon Winter Warmer in 1988 at a time when there were only two other Christmas Beers available in Boston…. The major thing that has changed is how many other brewers make them now.”  Together with its sister brewery in Windsor, Vermont, where winters are really frosty, this season Harpoon is selling its classic Winter Warmer alongside its ever-popular Chocolate Stout.

harpoonwinterwarmer-logo

Seasonal beers, including those on sale during the holidays, help elevate the appreciation of all craft beers, says Jovina Young, brand manager, Blue Moon Brewing Company. Jovina explains, “Seasonal releases create an opportunity for both brewers and beer drinkers to experiment with unique flavors and ingredients, playing a very important role in helping people along their journey into the craft category.”

blue-moon-winter-variety

Jim_Kochstand2-1228.rJim Koch, founder and CEO of the Boston Beer Company, notes, “We were one of the very first craft brewers to have a year-round seasonal program and brewing beers for the season long before it was “the norm”. We are also very proud to have the #1 selling seasonal program.” All told in the last decade, the beer market has witnessed a blizzard of winter and holiday offerings. These seasonal releases now gush forth from the 2,500-plus craft

and major breweries now in operation across the U.S., according to the Craft Brewers Association; this is a record number in American history, the group adds. (And this number does not include the dozens of imported winter brews now available stateside._

Jim Koch, Founder & CEO, Boston Beer Co.

An Veritable Avalanche of Wintry SKU’s

 “Once temperatures begin to drop in November, 35% to 40% of our total beer sales are winter or holiday-style brews,” reports Branden Williams, general manager at Beer World, Kingston, New York. From cinnamon-and-spice spiked IPA’s to robust chocolaty stouts, Williams notes that of the more than 1,500 beer skus on sale (yes, that’s the correct figure; it’s not called Beer World for nothing) as of late November, the spacious store already features multiple case-stackings, packed shelves and glass-enclosed refrigerated displays offering more than 50 different domestic, craft, artisanal and imported winter and holiday beers, all chilled and ready to go.

And come January, Williams promises an even larger selection of “cool seasonal chill”, as he put it.

BeerWorldExtShot_18583

Williams says the three best-selling brands are: Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, at $9.99 a six-pack and $14.99 for a 12-pack; Blue Moon Mountain Abbey, at $6.99 a six pack; and Harpoon Chocolate Stout at $9.99 a six pack.

sierra-nevada-2009-celebration-ale

Across the nation restaurateurs and pub owners tell a  similarly nippy story: At Rudyard’s British Pub, a renowned mecca for beer aficionados in Houston, Texas, general manager John Dunivin reports, “Pretty much all the brewers  come out with winter and holiday beers; we typically feature at least four.” Notwithstanding its British moniker, Dunivin chuckles when he names a pair of wintry seasonal Rudyard’s is now pouring: “Delirium Noël,” a Belgian Strong Dark Ale-style beer brewed by Brouwerij Huyghe in Melle, Belgium at $7 for a seven-ounce serving and “Yule Shoot Your Eye Out”, which is loaded with specialty malts, fresh ginger, cocoa nibs, orange peel and other holiday spices, from Karback Brewing Co. of Houston, for $7 a pint.

Please Do Tell – Winter Beers Transform Cocktails Too!

Jim Meehan, a renowned mixologist and managing partner of PDT (as in Please Don’t Tell), a cult bar with a speakeasy vibe in New York’s East Village, has enthusiastically resurrected historic winter-time cocktails called flips, whose origins date back to the American Revolution and even earlier to Elizabethan England. In Meehan’s take on the flip, called the “Great Pumpkin”,  he mixes Rittenhouse rye, grade-B (the darkest grade) Vermont maple syrup, apple brandy with Southampton pumpkin ale.  (In a pinch, Meehan says you may substitute a spicy winter ale in this recipe.) To this, he adds one egg, and all is then shaken to produce a creamy, winter warmer, topped of with a few strokes of fresh nutmeg.  It’s Meehan’s savory addition of spiced beer that makes modern a 17th century era flip.) This cocktail goes down for smooth for $15 at PDT.

greatpumpkin551

Naturally, besides the “Great Pumpkin Flip” and Meehan’s killer “Black Flip” – a deeply hued concoction comprised of Cruzan Black Strap Rum, a thick Chocolate Stout, Demerara syrup, a whole egg and nutmeg, also priced at $15; see sidebar – PDT also serves a revolving cast of winter and holiday brews. Currently being poured are, says Meehan: Captain Lawrence Winter Ale from Elmsford, New York; Victory Prima, a German style pils from Victory Brewing in Downington, Pennsylvania; Omegang Abbey Ale from Omegang brewery in Cooperstown, New York; and Brooklyn Brewery’s Pumpkin Ale from Brooklyn, New York; each of these seasonal brews sell for about $7.

So, don your down coat, put your snow shoes on or throw another log on the Yuletide fire, but above all, don’t miss the opportunity to tap into the “chill” profits on offer by promoting “hot” wintertime brews. Happy Holidays one and all.

Holiday_Drinks_Black_Flip_thumb

Jim Meehan’s Black Flip Recipe – Serves 1

2 oz Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

1½ oz Cruzan Black Strap rum

½ oz Demerara syrup

1 whole organic egg

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and swirl to de-carbonate beer.

Dry shake, shake with ice, and strain into a chilled fizz glass.

Garnish with grated nutmeg.

 SOURCE For Jim Meehan’s Black Flip Recipe:

 http://www.details.com/style-advice/food-and-drinks/201012/holiday-drinks-egg-white-cocktails

by David Lincoln Ross

Editor’s Note: The author would like to thank the publisher and editors of Beverage Media for permission to reprint this article, which appeared in the January 2014 issue of Beverage Media magazine, page 46.

Posted in Beer, Winter Beer | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

VINEXPO 2013 – US MERCHANTS GAUGE GLOBAL WINE TRENDS

Vinexpo 2013: Bordeaux’s Global Wine Fair

vinexpo-2013-vintage-roundup-picture  On one of the few sunny days in Bordeaux during Vinexpo 2013.

by David Lincoln Ross

Amid steady rains, the rare rainbow or two and cool temperatures across lush vineyards and celebrated chateaus from Margaux to Pomerol, Vinexpo 2013 attracted nearly 50,000 visitors to attend the bi-annual trade show in Bordeaux, France.

From the six continents of the globe, merchants, marketers, importers and exporters gathered this past June in the world’s capitol of wine to buy, sell, trade and taste both classic brands as well as newly launched wines, spirits, brandies and liqueurs.

Set against a gradually improving global economic picture this year, the mood at Vinexpo was cautiously upbeat. Producers, négociants, exporters, importers and retailers all reported business was decidedly better compared to the last Vinexpo held in 2011. If two years ago many Vinexpo exhibitors faced stagnant or declining sales, today in contrast most marketers reported stronger performance and improving financial results.

U.S retailers were also in Bordeaux in large numbers. From strong regional players like Wegman’s from upstate New York to Spec’s in Texas to national merchants like Total Wine and Costco, their top executives and staff were all on the lookout for new products and innovative packaging. For these American retailers it’s all about business whether they were attending fancy dinners at top Médoc chateaux to grabbing a ham-and-cheese baguette sandwich between appointments at the trade show.

Rydman_960x595                                                       John Rydman, President, Spec’s, Houston, Texas

John Rydman, President of Houston-based Spec’s Wine, Spirits & Finer Foods, a 100-store retail powerhouse retailer in Texas, who was joined by four of his top buyers, said: “Vinexpo is important to us due to the number of suppliers we can meet with in a single week. The concentrated timing and placement of everyone is extremely helpful and it comes at a time of year that we have made many decisions since the first of the year and generally have a direction of where we need to go for the rest of the year and which projects we have pushed to the next year.”

Chris Adams_images

                                              Chris Adams, President of Sherry-Lehmann, New York, NY

Noting the heavy investment of time and travel, Chris Adams, President of Sherry-Lehmann Wine & Spirits Merchants of New York City, who attended with partner Shyda Gilmer, said, “It is a big financial commitment–and a commitment of time, too, but I view it as our role as bona fide merchants who really want to be on the ground seeking out new things and reinforcing existing relationships. It’s a way to stay ahead.”

Haushalter_460x306                                 George Haushalter, President, Compagnie Medocaine, Bordeaux, France

Echoing the sentiments of many negociants in attendance, George Haushalter, Chief Executive Officer of the Compagnie Médocaine des Grands Cru, a leading Bordeaux-based wine negociant, which among its global network of importers partners in the U.S. with Frederick Wildman and Sons, Ltd., said: “Vinexpo and all its surroundings is a big investment for our company, but worthwhile because we see all our customers from all over the world at our home. So, we save a lot of travel time and budget, we can show them a much broader range of wines, because we have all our range on the site.”

While declining to divulge precise details of his company’s buying commitments reached at the 2013 Vinexpo, Rocco Lombardo, Senior Vice President – Chief Operating Officer Frederick Wildman and Sons, Ltd., said, “We had an opportunity to taste several line extensions within existing brands and new vintages from our French Estates, and we also have some exciting new projects from the Languedoc upcoming.”

Speaking to the evolving nature of the American demand for recent Bordeaux vintages, Nancy Rugus, Director of the Americas for the Compagnie Médocaine Des Grands Crus, added: “Vinexpo is always successful for us regarding orders and commitments.  The feedback from our customers also gives us a better perspective on market needs. With that in mind, I think some of the most interesting wines for Fall and Holiday business will be the good values offered at the petit chateaux level. There are very few 2009’s remaining but lots of wonderful 2010’s and our customers were pleasantly surprised by the quality of 2011’s they tasted in this price range as well.”

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All told, then, the 2013 edition of Vienexpo proved to be an invaluable moment where the America’s leading buyers and sellers of wines and spirits could conduct business in optimal commercial conditions, even if it did rain and pour, there were the rainbows, too.

Editor’s Note: A version of this article appeared on page 8 of the September/October 2013 issue of Beverage Dynamics; the author wishes to thank the publication for permission to reprint the report. 

David Lincoln Ross – a food, wine, spirits and travel writer based in New York – has attended and reported on five previous Vinexpo events, beginning in 1989. For more information, please log onto: www.davidlincolnross.com

Posted in Bordeaux, Champagne, France, French History, French wine, Jancis Robinson, Rhone Valley, Rhone Wine, Vinexpo, Wine, Wine Business | Tagged , | Leave a comment

AZURE IS THE NEW ROSÉ- SACHA LICHINE’S CHATEAU d’ESCLANS

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Sacha Lichine of Château d’Esclans / Photo Courtesy of Château d’Esclans

Rosy Outlook for Sacha Lichine’s Château d’Esclans and Whispering Angel 

It’s difficult enough to build a brand in one country, let alone globally.  But channeling his late father Alexis Lichine’s legendary sales moxie and expert wine skills, Sacha Lichine has defied skeptics.  In a mere seven years, Lichine has gained distribution of Château d’Esclans’s quartet of quality rosés from France’s Côtes de Provence appellation in more than 60 countries thanks to numerous 90+ scores.  With his popular Whispering Angel leading d’Esclans’s charge, Lichine reports that worldwide sales will easily exceed 100,000 cases in 2013.

Located inland less than ten miles from the beaches of St. Tropez on the Côte d’Azur (named after the sparkling blue waters of the French Riviera), Lichine’s Château d’Esclans has jumped to the forefront of the Côtes de Provence appellation thanks to bold innovation.  From the start, Lichine says he sought to create “a Burgundian-style Provençal rosé.”  A category still viewed by many as the ultimate summer or beach tipple, d’Esclans is now tinged (pun intended) with a new gravitas thanks to Lichine’s paradigm-breaking vision.  With the help of Lichine’s consulting enologist, the respected Patrick Léon, former winemaker at Château Mouton-Rothschild, the duo have created a trio of oak barrel-fermented rosés – Château d’Esclans, Les Clans and Garrus – each a blend of estate-grown grenache and rolle (the latter a white grape, known as vermentino in Italy).

But some in the wine world say a rosé is a rosé is a rosé, and remain un-persuaded by Lichine’s bid to make a serious wine.

Undeterred and in an audacious strategy to gain maximum finesse, flavor and complexity, d’Esclans’s three top wines see barrel-fermentation, itself a bit unusual, but by no means original as other rosé producers have utilized this practice for a portion of their rosés.  (For example, see Oregon’s 2011 Luminous Hills Aura Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir Rosé.) Here is what is unique for d’Esclans’s trio of higher-level bottlings, says Léon: Each and every barrel is individually temperature controlled (see photo). Léon asserts this approach is practiced nowhere else in the wine world.  And it is this barrel-by-barrel control of individual lots that permits Léon, via 24/7 computer-controlled monitoring of each barrel, to attain the elegance a wine such as Garrus achieves; it is now the world’s most expensive rosé, says Lichine, and retails for a suggested $100 a bottle. (Note: Whispering Angel, says Léon, is 100% vinified in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks; it retails for about $20 a bottle.)

Of the 2013 harvest, Lichine predicts, “This will be a more elegant vintage than 2012, something quite refined.”  While the property’s top seller, Whispering Angel, accounts for the lion’s share of its sales in the U.S. and abroad, it has been Lichine’s ambitious focus on innovation for Château d’Esclans, Les Clans and Garrus that continues to arouse generous measures of praise and controversy.

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For Sacha Lichine’s top three vintage-dated wines —  Château d’Esclans, Les Clans and Garrus — each and every barrel benefits from 24/7/365 temperature-controlled fermentation and aging, a first in the world of wine, according to Patrick Léon, consulting enologist to Château d’Esclans.  Photo courtesy of Château d’Esclans

Château d’Esclans is marketed by Shaw-Ross International Importers.

A version of this article appeared in the December 2013 issue of The Tasting Panel Magazine, on page 44; the author would like to thank Meredith May, Publisher and Executive Editor, for permission.

Posted in Bordeaux, Chateau d'Esclans, Food, France, French History, French wine, Patrick Leon Winemaker, Provence, Rose wine, Sacha Lichine, Whispering Angel Rose, Wine, Wine Business | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment