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Our "Conversation About Vodka" Event at Nic's Beverly Hills

Our "Conversation About Vodka" Event at Nic's Beverly Hills

Check out this quick look at our recent "Conversation about Vodka" event at Nic's Beverly Hills. Look for the complete story in our June issue!


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Italy's Shin

Italy's Shin

I was recently in Campania, Italy, for the first edition of the Campania Stories festival near the town of Sannio, and for Taurasi Vendemmia, a ten-year-old festival celebrating the noblest expression of Aglianico in the villages of Avellino and Taurasi.

Originally colonized by ancient Greeks, Campania is a place where lemon and blood orange groves punctuate grape vines and olive trees. It is rich in gastronomy, music, architecture and archaeology, including ancient sites such as Pompeii, Herculaneum, Paestum and Velia. Rich natural beauty also makes Campania an important tourist destination, especially along the Amalfi Coast, Mount Vesuvius, the island of Capri, and the capital of Naples, a frenetic, food-mecca metropolis. Read More ==>

Spirited Encounters in The Netherlands

Spirited Encounters in The Netherlands


If you are traveling to Amsterdam for business or inspiration, put two of the city's topmost beverage-centric tourist attractions on your to-do list.


Amsterdam abounds with craft beer bars and several five-star hotels with ambitious and edgy food and beverage programs. As beer and spirits have long been a powerful draw for travelers, it is not surprising that two Chicagoans, Andrew Moskos and Jon "Pep" Rosenfeld, who originally came as tourists, jumped into the act with Boom Chicago and the Chicago Social Club, which celebrate their 20th anniversary this year. While they are fans of many of the boutique brews produced in town, they give Heineken credit for using its clout as a brand to help the Boom Chicago brand endure.

The Heineken Experience, meanwhile, is a Branding 101 college course at its most extreme and dynamic. The impressive tour of Heineken's Amsterdam facility in many ways starts when you get a look at the line stretching around the block. The visitors represent many of the 178 countries where Heineken is available. However, the mega-brand also reflects its more intimate and personal side. Case in point is Heineken's involvement with clubs like Boom Chicago, reflecting the brand's continued efforts to connect with small businesses. Read More ==>

The Triangle Theory of Fredericksburg: Wildflowers, Wine and War

The Triangle Theory of Fredericksburg: Wildflowers, Wine and War

TEXAS WINE COUNTRY HOLDS MANY FASCINATIONS

A new study of one of the fastest growing winery regions of the U.S. reveals the top three reasons people visit this area: wildflowers, wine and war. Any guesses where this might be? It happens to be the region around the small city of Fredericksburg, one point of a triangle: a convenient hour's drive from either Austin or San Antonio. Yes, it's in Texas.


Under the guise of learning about Fredericksburg as a tourist destination, I recently managed a representative sampling of wines at some of the 17 tasting rooms that now dot scenic Route 290 in the 15-mile stretch east of Fredericksburg. (There are more wineries further east, in the next county.) The wines I tasted were as varied as the names and styles of the wineries: Pedernales Cellars, Grape Creek, Torre di Pietra and Becker.
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A Thrilling Vertical at Mastroberardino

A Thrilling Vertical at Mastroberardino

60+-YEAR-OLD AGLIANICO IN CAMPANIA

Campania is a thrilling place. The hectic metropolis of Naples, the mysteries of Pompeii, the bucolic surroundings and gutsy wines of Taurasi and, of course, magnificent foodstuffs as exemplified by Mozzarella di Bufala (the best in the world and a D.O.P. product), help create a destination that is unique in the world of wine, food and travel.

I recently spent the afternoon of Saturday, March 9, 2013, engrossed in a vertical tasting of Taurasi at Mastroberardino that spanned more than six decades. I have long considered Mastroberardino, the first winery in the region to export outside of the province, to be the best such operation in Campania. I had also previously met Piero Mastroberardino in Denver in 2012 and had instantly bonded with this humble, artistic, articulate, tenth-generation winery owner.

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High Brau Adventures

High Brau Adventures

"Oktober" and its many fests may arrive sooner than you think, but any month of year is a great time to explore Germany's beer cultures beyond Bavaria when contemplating your beer menu.

In major cities throughout the U.S., the proliferation of gastropubs and microbreweries has influenced everything from fast casual restaurants to fine dining. Some industry insiders point to London as the birthplace of the modern gastropub movement (coined in 1991 when restaurateurs David Eyre and Mike Belben took over The Eagle Pub, merging seemingly dissimilar concepts of informal neighborhood pub and high-end gastronomy destination).

Others, however, can argue that trends rooted in Germany beer and food culture have also made an impact. Walk through any neighborhood in Los Angeles or Chicago, and you will be as likely to stumble on "currywurst" restaurants spots and brauhaus-style pubs. U.S. entrepreneurs intent on taking Germany's historic beer legacy beyond Oktoberfest fairs should ideally show their guests  that there are many ways to explore Germany's brewing traditions beyond Southern Germany, the region that most has shaped America's definition of German beer culture.
 
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An Argentina Adventure

An Argentina Adventure

An invitation to attend an "Experience Argentina" press trip, focused on the foods of that country and the wines of Escorihuela Gascón, Alamos Winery and Catena Zapata, became a unique opportunity for me to delve into two very distinct expressions of the country's culture: food and wine. It was a tremendous week of viticultural and gastronomic excess, and I learned a ton about Mendoza wine and Buenos Aires city culture.

Mendoza nestles against the eastern flanks of the rugged Andes Mountains. Breathtaking and sparsely settled, it is a broad, flat, high-elevation plain at the edge of an inland desert, not unlike eastern Washington or even the wine country of my home state of Colorado. But the feel is actually quite Mediterranean, probably due to the large expat Italian community that has now spread to every corner of the country.

Buenos Aires is not only much more cosmopolitan than Mendoza but also very southern European in flavor and flair. There are great restaurants in all 48 neighborhoods of this metropolis, and if you have happy feet you're never too far from a tango.

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"Small Batch, Good People"

"Small Batch, Good People"

When you think about it, the new tendency to combine jam with spirits in a cocktail shaker has all the elements of a perfect mixed drink: pure alcohol spirit, a bit of sweet fruit and zesty acidity. Of course for this you need a natural, artisanal jam without chemicals. Ideally, local preserves-local to the distilled spirits it accompanies. That's the concept of the new partnership between Boston's Bully Boy spirits and Bonnie's Jams of Cambridge, right across the Charles River from Boston.


The last time I spoke with them, Dave and Will Willis were excited about getting the first few orders for their tiny, artisanal distillery in Boston. One year later their spirits in three states (CT, MA, RI) thanks to a new craft beverage division of their distributor, the Origin division of Horizon Beverage Company. One of the Horizon owners started this division a couple years ago to focus on artisanal beverages, and they are now up to 50 products, with more than 350 skus in their portfolio-but that's a whole 'nother story . . . .


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THE TASTING PANEL at Arizona Cocktail Week

THE TASTING PANEL at Arizona Cocktail Week

THE TASTING PANEL's visit to Arizona Cocktail Week was featured in our April issue. Here's an on-location video to whet your palates!


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Success Built on a Bun

Success Built on a Bun


Burger-flipping season is right around the corner, and in the heart of California's Napa Valley, one iconic winery is already firing up the grill. Finalists from the 2012 Sutter Home's Build a Better Burger recipe contest were announced in late January, and preparations are being made for the final cook-off on May 18, where they will prepare their burgers for the palates of a panel of judges at the historic Sutter Home Winery in St. Helena.

Sutter Home created its signature Build a Better Burger recipe contest in 1990 as a way to demystify the wine experience by pairing one of America's favorite everyday meals-the burger-with one of the country's favorite wine brands, Sutter Home. The stakes are high. The contest is currently the second largest cash-prize recipe contest in the nation, with a beefy $100,000 grand prize for the winning all-beef burger and an additional $15,000 prize for the winning alternative burger. Only non-professional "home cooks" are allowed to enter.
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TTB Finally Recognizes Cachaça

TTB Finally Recognizes Cachaça


LEBLON ANNOUNCES VICTORY AS THE TTB RECOGNIZES CACHAÇA AS AN OFFICIAL AND DISTINCTIVE SPIRIT OF BRAZIL!


On February 25th, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) finally "legalized cachaça," as they published a final rule that recognizes Brazil's national spirit as an official spirit and a distinctive product of Brazil. Prior to this ruling, cachaça was required to be labeled as "Brazilian rum" in the United States.

Leading brand Leblon Cachaça led the legalization efforts through social media and nightlife events, collecting over 300,000 signatures, to bring the petition to Congress. They also held frequent rallies and directly lobbied the TTB to pass the new legislation.

"Now that the U.S. government has recognized cachaça, it's time for the world to discover what it means to be Brazilian without leaving the States," explains Steve Luttmann, founder of Leblon.
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A Brave New World

A Brave New World


FOOD MENUS GET THE DIGITAL TREATMENT WITH MENUVATIVE

It has to start somehow. And for Eric Arsenault, Wine & Spirits Director for the Michigan-based restaurant group Mainstreet Ventures, it started about three years ago.

"I was doing some work for one of our restaurant's websites and starting playing around with the idea of building a sub-website for the wine list, just to make it more interactive," Arsenault says. Then, when he saw someone sitting in a dining room holding an iPad, he thought to himself that the thin, lightweight device was certainly going to replace paper menus some day. That's how it started.

For Arsenault, who has an engineering degree from the University of Michigan, that "Aha!" moment led to researching various iPad-based wine apps. "But I didn't think that just sticking a wine list on a tablet was the real answer," he says. "There's so much technology sitting right in their hands. I knew we could take this concept a lot further."
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U.S. Visitors: Prepare to be Wowed at ProWein 2013

U.S. Visitors: Prepare to be Wowed at ProWein 2013


For 2013, ProWein, the International Trade Fair for Wine and Spirits, held annually in Düsseldorf, Germany, has a series of exhibits, seminars and other special events planned that are designed to deliver value specifically to American attendees.

ProWein structures events in two formats, small, intimate "pop up" seminars on the trade floor itself, as well as events in areas specially set up to focus on subjects that are high-interest hot buttons.

"The Central Tasting Zone" is a case in point of the latter. According to Michael Degen, Director of ProWein, International Trade Fair Wines and Spirits, "About 1,000 wines will be available to taste in an efficient, self guided process customized to the individual's interest." Whether it's Georgia, Turkey or Tasmania, thousands of wines from countries around the world are on exhibit. Whether they are new wines from old countries or familiar varieties from new countries, the range of what's on exhibit is extraordinary.
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New Speakeasy Brings Retro Style to Downtown Vegas

New Speakeasy Brings Retro Style to Downtown Vegas

Downtown Las Vegas is proving to be the hip place for those who want to get away from the well-worn hotel circuit on The Strip. One new place is putting a whole different spin on Sin City, trading uptown glitz for pre-Prohibition posh and polish.

Recently named  one of the "7 New Reasons to Hit Las Vegas," by the New York Post, Commonwealth brings a stylish new social scene to the burgeoning Downtown Vegas. The swanky 6,000-square-foot cocktail bar is a collision of art and architectural influences inspired by pre-Prohibition era design and libations—complete with its very own backroom speakeasy, The Laundry Room. Read More ==>

Speed Rack Competition Regional Winners

Speed Rack Competition Regional Winners

Speed Rack is a competition, and a tough one at that. Pitting the best female bartenders in each city against one another, the competition travels around to major cocktail markets before The Finals to determine Miss Speed Rack in May. Created by female bartenders for female bartenders, the best part has to even be mentioned: all proceeds from each event go to supporting breast cancer education, prevention and research. Follow along to find out who will win the coveted title of Miss Speed Rack.

Tucson winner Shel Bourdon considered herself an unlikely speed test winner: "I am not known for being the fastest at mixing drinks. I have learned, developed and still work in more craft-focused environments." Bad news for a contestant of a timed competition, right?
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