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Tuesday, February 3, 2015
by Erin Guenther | February 3, 2015 | 7:00 AM

During Sunday night's Superbowl, much of the attention focused on the number of somber commercials, (mostly the Nationwide "Make Safe Happen" commercial). But in between all the dads, deaths and prosthetic legs, Budweiser launched it's "Brewed the Hard Way" spot, a jab aimed at the growing craft beer market segment. 

Obviously, the beer giant is feeling some pressure from the craft movement—in 2013 craft barrel shipments surpassed that of Budweiser's, according to Beer Marketer's Insights.

The company has said in the past that it was going to revitalize advertisements in order to cater to the Millennial generation, the group fueling the rise of craft beer sales. From The Atlantic

So how does the venerable Bud get back? Improve its quality? Lower prices? Nah. The company has decided that it's the advertising that needs to change. If you've watched an American sporting event over the last 25 years, you've surely noticed the Clydesdales, the massive white-legged horses pulling a cart of Budweiser, usually through the snow. But that long-running mascot apparently doesn't do it for Millennials. So Bud's going to change.

According to the Journal:
This season Budweiser will air spots featuring people in their 20s looking directly into the camera and calling out friends’ names as a narrator asks “If you could grab a Bud with any of your friends these holidays, who would it be?”

But if this was Budweiser trying to win back Millennials, the company seriously missed the mark. From "Let them drink their pumpkin peach ale" to "This beer is for drinking, not dissecting," the commercial offended Millennials and what they're looking for in a beer—inventive, flavorful and, most importantly, authentic. Reactions were varied, but on Twitter, few were truly impressed with the spot.  Most felt it was hypocritical, bitter and insulting.

Jim Vorel of Paste Magazine, wrote an article explaining what Budweiser did wrong: 

Never has the oh-so-popular internet adage of “SHOTS FIRED” been so applicable as it was when Anheuser unveiled a new, third-quarter Budweieser ad titled “Brewed the Hard Way.” Over the course of a minute, we learn that the brand is embracing its “macro” title and doesn’t feel at all threatened by craft brewers and their flavorful, unique products as those craft beers continue a decade-long surge in popularity and relevance. In fact, Anheuser is so non-threatened by craft beer that it saw fit to spend $9 million on a 60-second Super Bowl ad just to make sure you were aware of that fact. Because that’s what a company does when it’s definitely not being threatened.

 

Watch the ad below: 

 

Monday, February 2, 2015
February 2, 2015 | 4:16 PM
left to right, Michael Weis, Cameron Parry, Dennis Groth

Groth Vineyards & Winery last week hosted a tasting of more than thirty years of Oakville vineyard Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Nearly thirty members of the wine media and wine trade were seated for two flights in the winery’s barrel room, with bottlings from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.

The first flight of wines chronicled the 80s and 90s, essentially the first planting of the vineyard. The wines in flight two showcased a new direction, beginning with the noteworthy 2005 vintage. One could clearly taste the styllistic changes starting in 2005, after the estate vineyards were replanted.

The idea for the tasting emerged when Cameron Parry was hired as winemaker to begin the transition over the next few years to take the reins from long-time Director of Winemaking Michael Weis. Since Parry would need to become familiar with the winery’s library it seemed like a great time to share the  opportunity with the media and trade. Parry previously was winemaker at Chateau Montelena and worked at Etude (Carneros), Vina de Larose (Cachapoal Valley, Chile), Sawyer Cellars, PlumpJack Winery, Franciscan Estate and Gundlach-Bundschu Winery.

The vertical began with the inaugural 1983 vintage, with a gap from 2000 through 2004 when the vineyard was out of production due to the replanting. Co-owner Judy Groth said, “I know you were hoping to taste the 1985,” referring to the wine that was the first-ever perfect 100-point-rated California wine by critic Robert Parker, Jr. “But, those were lean days and the bank required that we sell-off all the inventory. So, we had to load up the truck and send last of that wine to a customer up on Spring Mountain—it broke our hearts, but that’s how it was back then. Fortunately times have changed.”

 

February 2, 2015 | 1:08 PM

Hello Vino along with Lotus Growth today released a report entitled, "The Influence of Mobile Apps on Wine Purchases" on quantitative research on the immediate and incremental sales impact of consumer engagement with wine brands and products promoted within smartphone apps. Forbes summed up the report here.

February 2, 2015 | 10:12 AM

Wine Business Monthly's February 2015 digital edition is now available.

Inside February 2015 you will find:
2014 Hot Brands
Industry Outlook and Trends
WBM 30 List

Click here to subscribe to the print version.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015
January 27, 2015 | 9:02 AM

Every year, when Wine Business Monthly chooses our annual list of the top 10 Hot Brands, we look for vintners, growers, wineries and wines that are making a statement in our industry. While quality is always our first and foremost consideration, Hot Brands is not simply a list of the best or most interesting wines we’ve tasted during the year. This list delves more deeply into what it means to be a part of the American wine industry. These are wineries that best exemplify their region or variety, or that dared to take big risks (with big rewards) in creating a new category or technique. In 2014, that common thread was that these wineries are all pioneers in some way. Each of the wineries on this list are helping to forge new paths that will be used for generations to come.

We are releasing the Top 10 Hot Brands in alphabetical order, one per day, leading up to the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium. Wine Business Monthly will be serving these wines to winemakers, grape growers and industry members at our annual gathering Bottle Bash during Unified TODAY on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 5:00-8:30pm at cafeteria 15L (1116 15th Street, Sacramento).

Union Wine Company

Underwood Pinot Gris, Tualatin, Oregon
Canned Wine Sparks Conversation, Sales Growth for Oregon Winery

Union Wine Company wants to change the conversation about wine. Founder and winemaker Ryan Harms believes potential wine consumers are turned off by the industry’s reliance on highbrow descriptions. So when his Underwood brand was due for a packaging redesign, he and his team looked for a new, conversation-starting way to approach customers. They found it in a silver 375 ml can.

Harms, who introduced canned, Oregon-appellated Underwood Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris at a food and beverage festival in Portland in late 2013, said when they first thought about doing this, it was more of a fun marketing “toy” to start a conversation with consumers. “We are literally packaging it so we can see how people react and start a conversation about not only wine in a can, but also some of the other aspects of the wine industry that I think can keep new consumers from coming into the space.

“I think some of the wine business is too traditional, and sometimes the way we look at things all comes from this one way of communicating about wine,” he continued. “Consumers don’t find it interesting. I know that I look enviously at the growth of other categories, and then you look at the product innovation, packaging innovation and simplicity in which they talk and market. Some of it is, ‘Duh, no wonder they’re successful, look at the way they are doing things.’ With wine, we sometimes get too lost in talking about why this piece of dirt we grow grapes on is so important. Maybe that is important to some consumers, but it sometimes gets lost in the conversation with a lot of other people.”

Underwood, which launched in 2006 as an on-premise bottled brand, is not the first winery to offer canned wine. It is, however, one of the first wineries to succeed in marketing premium, unflavored still wines in this format. And success has been incredible—sales increased 90 percent in 2014 over 2013.

As a result, Union Wine Co. is embarking on a growth phase, including launching an Underwood Rosé this year. They are also working on a vertical two-pack for off-premise retailers, offering 750 ml of canned wine on the same shelving space as the bottled products. This eliminates a common problem with alternative packaging tending to end up, as Harms said, “in weird little corners of the store.”

However, Harms is careful about how to best create a sustainable, long-term business in a region where production capacity is limited and growers tend to have smaller vineyard acreage than in neighboring states. “I’m taking some time to think about it from a master plan standpoint so we don’t just do things that we need today that we regret 12 months from now,” he said. “We are trying to take a deep breath and look at the best way to grow.”

Harms believes that the success of the canned wine is due not only to the quality of the wine, of course, but also sheer dumb luck and good timing. There’s a societal interest now in bold-yet-simple consumer packaging design, for one. Secondly, the barriers to a high-end alcohol product being canned have been broken down, largely by craft breweries. But he also understands that his canned wine is not a format for all consumers, and that’s fine with him.

“I hopefully am doing a better job of communicating with the end consumer that I really want to introduce my wine to,” he said. “It’s trying to go after what I think is a much bigger population of either very casual wine consumers or non-traditional wine consumers, with the hope that we will bring them into that space. That, in my mind, is a much bigger population and has the potential for a lot more growth and would be very healthy for the wine business. The can is one attempt on our end of trying to have something that, hey, maybe the package itself will make someone feel comfortable enjoying this in place of a beer or a cocktail when they are out and about, or sitting in the backyard with friends.”

The full story on our top 10 Hot Brands will be available in our February 2014 issue of Wine Business Monthly. You can find it here starting Feb. 1, or come by our booth (#1620) at Unified and pick up a copy. Click here to subscribe to WBM.

Monday, January 26, 2015
January 26, 2015 | 12:32 PM

Selected Recent Sales of Grapes & Wines in Bulk for Jan. 26, 2015 courtesy of Turrentine Brokerage:

Bulk Wine

Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 wine, Lodi, 25,600 gallons at $6.00 per gallon

Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 wine, Napa Valley, 12,800 gallons at $27.50 per gallon

Pinot Noir 2013 wine, Santa Rita Hills, 12,800 gallons at $14.50 per gallon

Sauvignon Blanc 2014 wine, Lake County, 15,000 gallons at $8.00 per gallon

Pinot Noir 2014 wine, Sonoma Carneros, 6,000 gallons at $14.00 per gallon
 

January 26, 2015 | 11:30 AM

From Wine Market Council: 

In light of the severe weather developments in and around New York City today, and the projections of closures of roads, railways, and airports tomorrow, Wine Market Council is postponing its annual research conference in New York that was scheduled for tomorrow (January 27, 2015).  The Museum of Modern Art is cooperating with Wine Market Council to find another presentation date that will be workable for all and we will send you a notification of the new date as soon as possible.

January 26, 2015 | 8:59 AM

Every year, when Wine Business Monthly chooses our annual list of the top 10 Hot Brands, we look for vintners, growers, wineries and wines that are making a statement in our industry. While quality is always our first and foremost consideration, Hot Brands is not simply a list of the best or most interesting wines we’ve tasted during the year. This list delves more deeply into what it means to be a part of the American wine industry. These are wineries that best exemplify their region or variety, or that dared to take big risks (with big rewards) in creating a new category or technique. In 2014, that common thread was that these wineries are all pioneers in some way. Each of the wineries on this list are helping to forge new paths that will be used for generations to come.

We are releasing the Top 10 Hot Brands in alphabetical order, one per day, leading up to the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium. Wine Business Monthly will be serving these wines to winemakers, grape growers and industry members at our annual gathering Bottle Bash during Unified on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 5:00-8:30pm at cafeteria 15L (1116 15th Street, Sacramento).

Treveri Cellars

Blanc de Blanc Brut, Wapato, Washington
Modern Sparkling House Focuses on Defining Washington Sparkling Wine

As one of the few dedicated sparkling wine houses in Washington, four-year-old, family-owned Treveri Cellars is helping to define the category for the state. Though the winery leads with traditional sparkling wines, like Blanc de Blanc and Blanc de Noirs, they also offer a modern mix of other sparkling varietals that draw from the family’s German heritage and the grape growing strengths of their state.

Founder and winemaker Juergen Grieb began his career making both still and sparkling wines in the Mosel region near his hometown of Trier. He came to Washington state in 1982, where he was largely a still winemaker professionally but a hobbyist sparkling winemaker privately. When the Grieb family, including Juergen’s wife Julie and their son, Christian, embarked on developing their own wine brand, they relied on the style that Juergen had always been most passionate about.

The bubbly is made in the traditional Méthod Champenoise way but is heavily influenced by Grieb’s German heritage. There, sparkling Riesling is common, often blended with Gewürztraminer or Muller-Thurgau. For this New World endeavor, Treveri produces single-varietal versions of all three, along with sparkling Pinot Gris, Syrah and Rosé.

“We have that freedom. There’s no law in Washington that says if you make sparkling, it must be these varieties,” said Christian Grieb, co-winemaker and vice president of sales for Treveri. “It always intrigued him what flavors you get and different complexities those flavors added to a finished sparkling wine. He always really enjoyed that and wanted to make single-varietal Muller-Thurgau, Gewürztraminer and Riesling separately and let them all speak for themselves. They are unique and aren’t a straightforward sell. But consumers are really receptive when you let them try it.”

Along with the freedom of producing bubbly in Washington, there are challenges. They are still learning what making sparkling wine in the state means in terms of varieties used, best vineyard sources and ideal flavor profiles. “We don’t have a colloquium of sparkling producers here where we can sit around and discuss what happened in this harvest or what did you do to combat the heat,” said Grieb. “We definitely are on an island in that regard. That’s what’s exciting about it, too, being one of the first people and going out there and trying these vineyards, what each AVA gives you for a sparkling wine. It’s still yet to be seen what all is going to be wonderful sparkling wine territory in Washington.”

The winery’s goal has always been to be uniquely a product of Washington state, which meant that they’d also be challenged with discovering what that meant. “We kind of bear the burden a little bit, being one of the first sparkling houses, because people expect certain things from us every year,” said Grieb. “We have that on our shoulders, especially now that we’ve created a unique flavor for sparkling wines. We can’t stop delivering on that very intrinsic Washington and very intrinsic Treveri sparkling wine. It was important too that we didn’t replicate what was already being done elsewhere. Washington has its own fruit and style, just like every other region does.”

One of the hallmarks of the Treveri Blanc de Blanc wines is their crisp acidity and green apple notes, which are notes that speak to the style of Chardonnay grown in the state. “Chardonnays in Washington speak for themselves—bright acid and very fruity, with green apple. It’s not necessarily tropical on the flavor wheel,” said Grieb. “The Blanc de Blanc is a fresher style sparkling wine, but it does have a nice, rich mouthfeel with some complexity from the extended lees aging and the 18 months in bottle. I also noticed that our Washington Chardonnays have a nice lemon curd balance to them. It’s not easy to replicate from other growing regions. It speaks very much to the place and time we are making wines.”

The full story on our top 10 Hot Brands will be available in our February 2014 issue of Wine Business Monthly. You can find it here starting Feb. 1, or come by our booth (#1620) at Unified and pick up a copy. Click here to subscribe to WBM.

Friday, January 23, 2015
January 23, 2015 | 12:43 PM

Are you going to the Unified Wine & Grape Sympoisum in Sacramento next week? Have you made a plan of which booths to visit yet? WBM has put together our annual Unified Guide to help you navigate through the largest wine trade show in the country. Click here to get started. Also be sure to come by and see us at our Wine Business Monthly booth (#1620) for a special subscription rate. See you there!

 

January 23, 2015 | 8:59 AM

Every year, when Wine Business Monthly chooses our annual list of the top 10 Hot Brands, we look for vintners, growers, wineries and wines that are making a statement in our industry. While quality is always our first and foremost consideration, Hot Brands is not simply a list of the best or most interesting wines we’ve tasted during the year. This list delves more deeply into what it means to be a part of the American wine industry. These are wineries that best exemplify their region or variety, or that dared to take big risks (with big rewards) in creating a new category or technique. In 2014, that common thread was that these wineries are all pioneers in some way. Each of the wineries on this list are helping to forge new paths that will be used for generations to come.

We are releasing the Top 10 Hot Brands in alphabetical order, one per day, leading up to the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium. Wine Business Monthly will be serving these wines to winemakers, grape growers and industry members at our annual gathering Bottle Bash during Unified on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 5:00-8:30pm at cafeteria 15L (1116 15th Street, Sacramento).

Skinner Vineyards

2011 Dry Diggings (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre blend), El Dorado County, Somerset, California
Chance Glance Leads to Family Winemaking Revival

For Mike and Carey Skinner, becoming winery owners was a twist of fate, or perhaps destiny. For as long as Carey had known him, Mike Skinner was interested in genealogy and discovering more of his family history. So when their son Kevin and his wife were driving back from Tahoe and spotted a dot called “Skinner’s” near Placerville, California on an old atlas map, they figured they ought to check it out.

As it turns out, Skinner’s was the former site of one of America’s earliest wineries, established by Scottish immigrant James Skinner in 1861 in Rescue, California. Though the winery closed in the early 1900s, the original stone cellar still stands at the site. The Skinner family investigated and found that James was Mike’s great-great-great-grandfather. Mike’s interest was piqued, and within weeks, he and Carey flew from their Southern California home to El Dorado County.

“I teased him at the beginning,” said Carey. “I said, ‘Now that we’ve seen the land, is that enough or do we really need to own it and rebuild it?’ He wanted passion in his life again, and we were both really passionate about wine, so we decided to revive the family legacy.”

In 2006, the couple bought a 25-acre property a few miles away from the historic cellar, dubbing the site White Oak Vineyard. In 2007, they also added Stoney Creek Vineyard, a 67-acre mountaintop site at 2,740 feet in the nearby Fair Play AVA. The Skinners were determined to honor James’ memory by farming in the same area and with many of the Rhône varieties he produced. “What James saw in the 1800s is true today,” said Skinner, who believes the region is particularly well-suited to Syrah.

Between the two properties, the winery has 34 planted acres, including relative rarities that were originally farmed by James, like Trousseau, Carignan and the Skinner clone of Petite Bouschet. Fruit from the higher-elevation volcanic soils of Stoney Creek Vineyard tends to have more acidity and minerality while the White Oak Vineyard produces more of a full-bodied, rounded wine.

Winemaker Chris Pittenger, who has been with Skinner Vineyards since its first vintage in 2007, is charged with blending the vastly different profiles into a harmonious wine. He espouses a natural, fastidiously clean, minimalist winemaking technique. Sales manager Stephanie Simunovich calls him a “mad scientist,” describing how he separates fruit into micro-blocks by 10-foot elevation changes and ferments them separately (with wild yeasts) then later blends them together for an optimal flavor profile. Wine that doesn’t meet his and the Skinner’s high standards is donated to the Catholic church for use as sacramental wine.

“One of the things that impressed me about the Skinners is not only their commitment to the history of this family, but their commitment to this region and really fully embracing being part of El Dorado County,” said Simunovich. “They’ve really recognized the quality of the fruit and the land and the wines and wanting to be part of that tradition as well.”

Carey Skinner serves on the board of the El Dorado Winery Association, and the family takes every opportunity to give back to their local community in other ways. “When we got into this project, I told Mike that we would only go forward if we would make an impact with the local community, and we were always conscious about giving back,” said Skinner. “That’s just the way we live.” When the opportunity arose in late 2014 to finally acquire James’ original winery site, they once again demonstrated their commitment to their neighbors. The property is being renovated to match its original condition then largely used by local charities for educational outreach, farmer’s markets, as a food distribution center for low-income residents and possibly for an occasional winery event. “We think that James has got to be pretty proud of us; it’s inspiring,” said Skinner.

The full story on our top 10 Hot Brands will be available in our February 2014 issue of Wine Business Monthly. You can find it here starting Feb. 1, or come by our booth (#1620) at Unified and pick up a copy. Click here to subscribe to WBM.

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