Training Your Senses for Evaluating Cider

The crew at BevFluence are major cider fans based on past professional and consumer experiences. We strongly feel that other influencers should share a similar affinity towards the industry. And there are definitely cider tasting opportunities for most of us on the coasts, the MidWest, and in Canada; theCompass Craft Beverage Finder reports over 660 cider tasting rooms operating in North America. But how do we evaluate these ciders? Many of us are inadequately trained to discern apple varieties, faults, or quality.

The Certified Cider Professional certificate is offered by the American Cider Association (ACA) and is intended for a broad overview of cider, covering history, production, and serving. There are two levels of certification. The online Level 1 CCP is designed for people who would benefit from a deeper but still introductory level of cider knowledge. The more advanced in-person Certified PommelierTM test covers more in-depth cider knowledge, including sensory evaluation. For influencers, the Level 1 CCP certification should be sufficient and is what I will be taking this Spring.

Justin, our CEO, was required to earn the Certified Cider Professional certificate as an employee at Virtue Cider. Because he already had a decent level of cider experience, he did not find the exam terribly difficult. However, “it’s definitely something that requires a level of understanding very similar to WSET and some of the other certifications. The certification provides deep knowledge of the specific types of apples and pears, the fermentation processes, and what comes next: Brandy.”

Another education route is through the Cider Institute of North America (CINA), a non-profit organization “made up of passionate cider industry professionals and educators with a mission to create a quality-driven and sustainable cider industry through education and research”. The CINA offers science-based courses specifically targetting cider making such as Cider & Perry Production – Foundation, Essential Laboratory Testing of Cider & Perry, and Essential Sensory Analysis of Cider & Perry. According to Nicole Leibon — cider blend consultant LeNose Knows, “probably more than someone with passing curiosity would want to take. We are, however, working on a short Cidermaking 101 class that is intended for a broad audience, as well as a few other short-format courses, hopefully, available within the next year or two. We intend for those to be more approachable and to provide a taste for folks who want to learn more about making cider”.

This Cidermaking 101 short course makes perfect sense. Influencers discussing cider should understand the basics of good cidermaking in order to better assess its quality. Ms. Leibon continues, ” For example, if you recognize where faults come from, like poor yeast management creating sulfer notes, you can better recognize high-quality ciders”. Until this course is launched, influencers can review two CINA publications: The Professional Handbook of Cider Tasting and a Cider Faults Wheel.

At CiderCon 2022, I will be attending a couple of sessions that I hope will elevate my sensory perceptions of cider. The first is A Cider Among the Faults where Nicole Leibon, Chris Gerling, and Jocelyn Kuzelka will present five suspect ciders. Only one cider is faultless and the other four are “fatally faulted by the usual (and maybe unusual) suspects”. The second is How Chemistry and Sensory Parameters Lead to Style Outcomes presented by Virginia Tech professors Amanda Stewart and Jacob Lahne. Sadly, the most relevant seminar, Introductory Palate Training by Darlene Hayes is sold out. Ms. Hayes is also the instructor for the Certified Cider Professional program so I should receive a similar education when taking this course.

We look forward to sharing our cider experiences at CiderCon 2022 and stay tuned for details of our upcoming BevFluence Collaborations Cider Campaign.

Wine Influencers – Can They Help You Sell Wine?

Last summer, winery publicist Carl Giavanti published an article with this title on his blog and it must have made an impact within the industry because it was recently picked up by the Wine Bulletin.

The article starts with the sentence: “Wine doesn’t sell itself. Storytelling sells wine. If you believe this statement please read on“. Obviously, BevFluence believes the affirmative, and Carl’s article details how influencer marketing can help a brand sell wine depending on the brand, messaging, and target audience. He follows with, “Experimenting with individual content creators on a one-off basis or as opportunities arise is one approach, and doing pilot projects as proof of concept to show results is a good way to test your strategy“. He continues “…the goal for wineries would be to drive their visitors’ traffic to the tasting room or website where the winery is now in a position to engage and hopefully sell wine. At the very least, you are reaching outside of the wine-interested world into new communities in hopes of creating new fans and followers“.

BevFluence has adopted these and other strategies Carl suggests within our BevFluence Collaborations Campaigns and Experiences. We identify content creators whose engagement will drive traffic to a brand’s website and social media accounts and provide the analytics behind these engagements.

Please read the entire article and visit the BevFluence Collaborations site to view current Campaigns and Experiences.

CiderCon 2022 – Preview and Interview with Keynote Speaker Diane Flynt

I will be attending CiderCon 2022, the annual trade conference of the American Cider Association that will be held in Richmond, Virginia from February 2nd-4th, with excursions scheduled for two days prior. The conference consists of about fifty speakers participating in dozens of educational sessions from guided sensory exploration of ciders to historical heirloom apples to finding faults in cider tasting. Check out the speakers and schedule.  I will be posting producer and content creator focused information here on BevFluence and more consumer-focused content on the WineCompass Blog

The Keynote Address will be given by Diane Flynt, the proprietor of Foggy Ridge Cider in Dagspur Virginia and the first licensed cidery in the South. Community members who attended the 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference may have met Diane or tasted her exceptional Serious Cider or HomeMade ciders. For two decades she was the face of the Virginia cider industry and at times on a regional and national level and a valuable grower of American heirloom apples and traditional English and French cider apples.  Her keynote at CiderCon 2022 is titled Lessons for the 21st Century: The Surprising History of Southern Apples & Cider and What This Means for Modern Growers & Makers and is based on research she has conducted for a book that will be published by the University of North Carolina Press. 

Ms. Flynt was gracious enough to answer a few questions I posed regarding the cider industry and how content creators can assist in promoting the industry.

What have you been doing since the last release of Foggy Ridge ciders? 
Since releasing Foggy Ridge Cider’s Final Call blend in 2018, we have sold our apples to cidermakers in Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. In early 2020 I signed a contract with the University of North Carolina Press to write a general trade book on the history of apples in the South. This book focuses on the stories and history behind the South’s almost 2,000 apple varieties. Through research at University Special Collections, the National Agricultural Library, and interviews with multi-generation apple growers I’ve learned surprising stories about southern apples. The book should be published in 2023. 

What headwinds is the cider industry facing today and in the near future? 
Apples are a more expensive ingredient than grain or other ingredients used in beer and spirits, yet consumers are not yet willing in large enough numbers to pay a premium for cider. The connection between cider and beer—as opposed to cider and wine, grapes being also expensive to grow and ferment—has diminished our industry’s ability to command prices that lead to sustainability for producers who make cider from apples that confer complex flavor. As an industry, we need to make a stronger connection—an authentic connection—between apples and cider. And I’d add, for complex fine cider, the connection should include place. 

Within the industry, have apple growers convalesced around a few apple varieties, or is there more experimentation with unique and unknown heirloom varieties? There are two directions here—academic-based apple breeding programs are producing more modern apples, geared to market research on consumer preferences as well as production factors. And a small but growing number of orchardists are going back to varieties that flourished in earlier centuries, in part to satisfy demand from cidermakers but also to explore varieties that will perform in a warmer climate.

What can content creators do better or more in helping to promote the cider industry?
Many in the cider world are proud to say we are a “big tent” industry, and that there is a place for every price point, every method of production, and every quality level for ingredients…from apple juice concentrate to estate-grown cider apples. While this view has merits, it also flattens the discussion. I’d like to see content creators dig deeper into the ingredients and production methods of top-quality cider. Content creators are smart people, “thinking drinkers” if you will, and you should be able to see what is a “marketing message” from producers and what is an authentic practice or value that is carried out in cider-making every day. I see too much content that seems generated by a PR engine for a cider company large enough to hire a PR engine. 

What should producers be focused on to strengthen the industry? 
Authentic stories about ingredients. And if the producer is also a grower and actually grows enough apples to have “place” reflected in their cider, they should certainly be talking about the influence of terroir or the history of place has on their cider and methods.

And for a little amusement, here is Diane and I a decade ago discussing Foggy Ridge Cider with the Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band.

World Whiskies Awards

Earlier this month the BevFluence team was invited to participate as judges in the Whisky Magazine Awards America 2022. The awards ceremony, in association with American Whiskey Magazine, will be held on February 8th, 2022 at The Flatiron Room in New York City. The judging occurred on November 11th, 2021 at the whiskey haven Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Washington DC. During this tasting, 32 judges sampled through 250 American whiskeys divided into 17 categories. The judges reflected a large cross-section of the spirits industry including distillers and distillery owners, writers and educators, as well as other industry professionals. The categories were very specific and consisted of Blended, Blended Limited Release, Small Batch Single Malt, Bourbon, Blended Malt, Rye, Tennessee, Corn, Flavoured Whisky, New Make & Young Spirit, Pot Still, Wheat, Single Malt, Single Barrel Bourbon, Small Batch Bourbon, Single Cask Single Malt, and Grain. We will post the winners two months from now. Cheers.

The BevFluence #1299Challenge

In December 2020, BevFluence invited a community of wine enthusiasts to select a retail outlet (supermarket, large beverage retail chain, or online wine store) and purchase several wines under $12.99 to review. The concept was to show the availability of very drinkable and affordable everyday table wine. The reviews show that apparently, Spain is still a reliable resource for such wines, but value gems can be found throughout the world – even in the United States.

“Narrowing the field to $12.99 somehow still broadened wine horizons. It made me pay even closer attention to ways of finding wine value at any price point. A good challenge.” -Mary Beth Vierra of Crush Course

Good old Charles Shaw better known as house brand for Trader Joe’s Two Buck Chuck hit the shelves at the chain in 2002. Since then there have been many discussions of cheap vs. expensive wine. The fact remains that most wine purchased in America is still consumed that day or within a few days. The fancy labels, limited releases and once-in-a-lifetime bottles may dominate the magazines, social media and our dreams, but everyday wine is a much larger factor than many talking heads give it credit for. 

We at bevfluence got together with some of our community all who love wine, write about wine and have great palates and made them buy the cheap stuff. “It’s always refreshing to know there is excellent wine at every price point. Several followers appreciated the options!” Thea Dwelle

We threw down the gauntlet to the crew to go and find wines they enjoy and spend less than 13 bucks a bottle. This challenge meant taking people who review hundreds of wines a year, often single vineyard rare wines and getting them to buy everyday bottles. The challenge was met head-on with the community which is not nearly as snobbish as some think. The fact is that those of us who review wine, beer or spirits regularly love to drink different things often and enjoy the change to challenge our conceptions. Our community is full of diverse, fun and thrill seeking people who reject the snobbish, sommelier style instead embracing a down to earth enjoyment of wine. 

We had fun shifting through various stores to find interesting wines and the results while not shocking were surprising.  Wine does not have to be expensive, in fact it should be an affordable luxury and far more accessible. It was not hard for most of us to come up with good points in these wines, no one struggled to say nice things. “This exercise was an excellent reminder that with a little work, you can find tremendous value and drinking pleasure in this price range.” – Jim VanBergen

Even tasting the under five dollar wines for this challenge meant being impressed with how approachable they were. It is easy to see why cheap wines are popular. 

For our team at bevfluence it  this was eye opening since we often only get the chance to try wines we are sent. Buying wine from $2.99 to $12.99 and everything in between produced a wide range of reactions. We are impressed at the quality and even bought wines that others had recommended in their posts to try. 

Everyone who enjoys wine knows that not all wine needs to have a huge price tag to be good. This project has proven once and for all what many have known forever, you do not have to spend a ton of money to drink good wine. “Truth be told, I thought I was going to be drinking these wines just for this challenge only and that would be the end of it. Turns out I am heading back to Bottles to pick up more of the Bobal and the Sangiovese. These will be perfect on a Tuesday. Maybe even a Thursday. Thus I am reminded that inexpensive does not necessarily mean cheap, poorly made or bad.” – Rick Dean Link

Below is a list of all of the wines tasted by this group although there are plenty more outside of this. We shared some laughs but mostly some good recommendations of inexpensive wine.

Check out these blogs and follow these people who love wine and sharing stories about their journey in the beverage world! ….

Mary Beth Vierra (CrushCourseWine) – Trader Joes
Emma Reichert Gewürztraminer, Pfalz, (Qba) 2018, Germany ($6.99)
Ruggero di Bardo Susumaniello IGP Puglia 2019, Italy ($10.99)
Vignobles Lacheteau Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie AOP, France ($7.99)
Adaline Bodegas Verdejo, 2018, Spain ($4.49)
Roustabout Meritage 2018, Paso Robles, California ($7.99)

Fred Swan (NorCalWine) – K&L Wine Merchants
2019 Atance Cuvée No 1 Valencia DO Spain ($12.99)
2018 Foris Pinot Gris Rogue Valley, Oregon ($12.95)
2019 Tahbilk Marsanne Nagambie Lakes, Victoria Australia ($12.99)
2017 Bodegas Olivares Altos de la Hoya Monastrell Jumilla DO Spain ($11.99)
2016 Niepoort Rotolu Tinto Dao DOC Portugal ($11.99)
2020 Viña Maitia “Aupa” Pipeño Red Wine Maule, Chile ($12.99)

Jim van Bergen (JVBUncorked) – Total Wine
San Gregorio Single Vineyard Las Martas Garnacha 2018, Calatayud DOC, Spain ($9.99)
Latitud 42 Rioja Ecologica 2018, Rioja DOC, Northern Spain. 100% Tempranillo ($9.99)
Marchese di Borgosole Salice Salentino Riserva 2017, Apulia, Italy ($12.99)
Seastone Albariño 2019, DO Rias Baixas, Spain ($11.69)
Herederos del Marques De Riscal 100% Rueda Verdejo 2019, DO Rueda, Spain ($5.49)
San Gregorio Single Vineyard La Muela Macabeo 2019, Catayud DOC, Spain ($11.99)

Kelly Cohen (Off the Beaten Glass) – Wine.com
2018 Ballard Lane Chardonnay, California ($11.99)
2019 Ruffino Pinot Grigio Lumina, Italy ($10.99)
2019 Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand ($8.99)
2019 J. Lohr Bay Mist White Riesling, California ($9.99)
NV Freixenet Cordon Negro Cava Brut, Spain ($11.99)

Rick Dean (Strong Coffee to Red Wine) – Bottles, Mount Pleasant, SC
2018 Mont Gravet ‘Old Vine’ Carignan, IGP Pays D’ Hérault, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($9.99)
2019 Atance Bobal, Valencia DOP, Spain ($12.99)
2019 Vina Galana Verdejo, Chinchilla de Montearagón, Albacete, Spain ($12.99)
Trevini Sangiovese, NV, Rubicone IGT, Trevini, Italy ($7.99)
Broadbent Vinho Verde Sunflower, NV, (50% Loureiro, 40% Trajadura, & 10% Pedernã) Portugal ($9.99)
Moulin de Gassac Guilheim Rosé 2019, (40% Grenache, 40% Cinsault, 20% Carignan) IGP Pays d’Hérault, Languedoc, France ($12.99)

Sandra Crittenden (Wine Thoughts) – Spec’s Wines, Spirits & Finer Foods
Dibon Cava Brut Rosé, Spain ($10.99)
Vallobera Rioja Blanco 2019, Spain ($12.99)
McPherson Piquepoul Blanc Timmons Estate 2017, Texas ($11.49)
Domaine Vigneret Côtes de Provence Rosé, Provence France ($12.99)
Girasole Sangiovese 2017 Mendocino County ($12.99)
Le Vassal de Mercues Malbec de Cahors 2018, France ($12.99)

Todd Godbout (WineCompass) – Wegmans
Fox Run Vineyards 2018 Simmons Vineyard Traminette, Finger Lakes NY ($11.99)
Emilia Natura 2018 Carmenere, Chile ($9.49)
Koenig Pinot Blanc, France ($10.99)
Hugl Gruner Veltliner, Austria ($10.49)
Fontana Candid Frascati 2019, Italy ($8.49)
Vinos de Arganza Lagar de Robla Mencia Premium 2016, Spain ($9.99)

Thea Dwelle (WineBratsSF)Bottle Barn
Broadbent Gruner Veltliner, Austria ($9 – liter)
Murgo Etna Bianco – 70% Carricante 30% Catarratto, Italy ($)
AIA Vecchia Vermentino Toscana 2019, Italy ($10.99)
Bodega Sierra Salinas Mira Salinas Monastrell, Spain($12.49)

This project, or campaign or whatever you want to call it was beyond fun, and more than just a little informative. It was a killer good time and exercise that gave our community the chance to dive deep into wines that may not be cellar worthy but certainly deserve a look.  

Cheers,

The BevFluence Team

2020 Wrap-up & 12 Days of a BevFluence Christmas

Obviously, 2020 was a challenging year. One consolation was reading our content creator feed each day and learning from our community. This also helped us see how influencers were reacting to the pandemic and the general confusion of 2020.

We learned a lot about our community, our nation, and ourselves this past year and have put new ideas into action. Ideas for 2021 and beyond that will strengthen our communities and the ecosystem of content creation. Our ideas and strategies will boost content and influencer marketing relationships. Many of these strategies will remain relevant in a post-pandemic environment and we look forward to using our experience and knowledge to implement more economical and efficient influencer events in 2021. Many brands will come out of this year stronger, some will not come out at all but those who understand what has changed will be the strongest.

Our team has had its challenges this year but nothing that compares to the lives forever changed by COVID-19 and the deep-seated issues that we face. Our goals for the next year are to be inclusive, kind, all-embracing, and shoulder the responsibility of building up our community rather than tearing it down. So often you see one creator or influencers take down another, but we rise above that. In 2021 Bevfluence will host more inclusive events and campaigns than anyone has ever seen.

We are looking forward to what the future will bring, and growing along with the hospitality community as we emerge from turbulent times.

12 Days of a BevFluence Christmas

A Top bottle Under the Tree

The Bruery Partridge in a Pear Tree…
For our first we decided on this baby! Belgian-style quadrupel ale brewed with spice. We thought this was a fitting beginning to our 12 days countdown. Aside from the obvious name the team chose a true standout beer with incredibly fruit forward palate.
(Bevfluence)

Two Total Loves!

  1. Sans Leige “The Offering” GSM Red
    This is an absolutely stunning GSM from Santa Barbara County. Seriously, the nose on this bottle is just unbelievable. Stick your face in a glass of this and you’ll understand what I mean. Notes of sweet red berries, freshly chopped cedar, cinnamon, licorice, baked cherry pie. On the palate, this explodes in your mouth with dark fruit, molasses, fig, cola, and slight sour cherry on the finish. This is one of those wines that takes over your senses and before you know it, your bottle is gone. I’m curious to see this one’s aging potential and plan to revisit in a few years. 39% Grenache, 36% Syrah, 25% Mourvèdre.⁣
    (Lyssa Hurvitz – Wishes And Wine)
  2. Sequoia Sake Nama Sake
    Arguably, the best sake producers in the country are both in the SF Bay Area (Den Sake in Oakland since 2017 is the other), making Japan-worthy, critically acclaimed sake in the state that grows the most sake rice. Husband-wife team, Jake Myrick and Noriko Kamei, have been brewing Japan-worthy sake from their San Francisco warehouse since 2015 with this unpasteurized Junmai Ginjo Nama (or namazake) my favorite: tangy, fresh, alive with pear and citrus, yet smooth on the palate.
    (Virginia Miller – ThePerfectSpot)

Three French Drams

  1. Jean-Luc Pasquet L’Organic 07 Cognac
    Organic and with a refreshingly modern label and look for the category, Jean-Luc Pasquet L’Organic Cognacs use native yeasts, no chill-filtering, no added caramel or sugar. The producers are one of those rich family stories that makes the Cognac and Armagnac regions of France so special. This is a stunning spirit/eau de vie distilled from 100% ugni blanc grapes from a single vineyard in Cognac’s Grande Champagne region.
    (Virginia Miller – ThePerfectSpot)
  2. Tiffon XO Cognac
    Dating back to 1875 this brand nails it. A sublime cognac that is filled with figs chocolate, oak, leather, honey and caramel. A delicate and balanced dram worth every penny.
    (BevFluence)
  3. Lelouvier Calvados 1991
    In the south of Normandy sits a producer making fine Calvados since 1933… Fruit driven and bright acid, we love this one. It speaks to the soul of any true spirit lover. A beautiful and delicate Calvados!
    (Bevfluence)

Four Calling Rye

  1. Old Overholt Rye Whiskey
    A girl can’t live on gin alone, believe me I’ve tried. While Old Overholt rye whiskey had been around since 1810 and a Rivers family favorite- I have asked friends in Ohio to grab me a small warehouse worth of this control state only (2021 should see a batch released in PA- well if 2020 allows it) non chill filtered thing of legends. Did I mention it’s bottled at 92.6 proof and is on my desert island playlist.
    (Keli Rivers)
  2. Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye Roundstone Rye Cask Proof “Maple Finished”
    This is the cask proof Roundstone Rye finished in a Langdon Wood maple syrup barrel. The base is a powerful rye whiskey where the 58% abv is evident but countered by a remarkable smoothness and complexity. Now add in finishing in a maple syrup barrel that adds even more complexity and a sweet landing.
    (BevFluence)
  3. Myer Farm Distillers New York Straight Rye
    Tons of Check Mix, turpentine and coconibs. Beautiful, rounded spice with bright, quick finish. The farm is very beautiful.
    And once the planet opens again, it is worth a visit to the heart of the Finger Lakes. This is a great place and great rye.
    (BevFluence)
  4. Still 630 Rally Point Rye Experimental
    Lush candy corn, bright straw color, and cinnamon toast crunch. Very soft finish awesome. Love the number of whiskey these guys produce. Such a fun and co brand.
    (BevFluence)

5 Golden Rums

  1. Saint Benevolence Rum Clairin
    As an agricole lover and funk/hogo-chaser, I adore Haitian clairin and Saint Benevolence Clairin is an organic beauty from a father-son duo who also give directly back to Haiti.
    (Virginia Miller – ThePerfectSpot)
  2. Cotton & Reed Sherried Cask Strength Rum
    The rum is then aged in used bourbon barrels just like their Mellow Gold Rum Afterward, the aging rum is transferred to PX Sherry-seasoned casks where PX refers to Pedro Ximénez grapes aged in a solera system where the grape brandy undergoes oxidative aging for an Oloroso.
    (BevFluence)
  3. Puerto Rico Distillery Clandestine Pitorro Rum
    Pitorro is Puerto Rican moonshine — and not of the corn whiskey persuasion that we are familiar with within the United States. It is, in fact, an artisan rum produced by distilling sugar cane and traditionally cured with fruit and buried for several months.
    (BevFluence)
  4. Batiste Gold Rhum
    Rhum made in the French Caribbean and finished in Napa. The gold is aged in used rye barrels and has a clean quality and a bright fresh palate. Grassy and young with plenty of potential. These are unique and so they made our list in 2020 for cool and interesting rums.
    (BevFluence)
  5. Mount Gay XO Peated
    Made in Barbados this was one of the best rums we tried all year. Smooth and honey with baked fruit, caramel and a citrus-like finish. The finish happened in American whiskey barrels and Islay peated casks which give a dank citrus note that is incredible.
    (BevFluence)

SIX Books a Reading

Have you ever wondered if you need a centrifuge to make a Manhattan? Perhaps in life you find yourself wondering, what do fairies of the forest eat and how much? Maybe you are tired of myth and just want the facts about bourbon.
Check out our reading list…. Get it? check out, like a library!

  1. Beer FAQ by Jeff Cioletti
    Read this book and enjoy the one-of-a-kind take on beer history and current events. Not the easiest read ever but for those who want to learn about the beer life it’s worth a read.
  2. Vertical by Rex Pickett
    Are you in the mood for a bloviating windbag to tell you about wine? Read this book and you will get it, (the storyteller in the book, not Rex by the way)
  3. Bourbon Bible by Eric Zandona
    A great book that gives a history of Bourbon and tasting notes that actually make sense.
  4. The Troll Cookbook by Karima Cammell & Clint Marsh
    Such a fun and cool book, that is about a holistic approach to food.
  5. Fine Cider by Felix Nash
    Apples are the new oranges! This book gives a history but also deep dives into cider making and tips. We especially love the question on page 21, What is Cider?
  6. Liquid Intelligence
    Holy Shit.. The Ultimate geek out book on cocktails. If you have not read this book.. YOU KNOW NOTHING! Seriously it’s a good book.

Seven Gins a Swilling

  1. Rock Rose Jelly Donut
    Officially launched at the end of 2019- I didn’t crack mine open until the first of the year and man oh man am I still thinking about it. While the sweet fruity nose tricks you in thinking this is just another novelty item- this LTO is the real deal! It made a fantastic negroni or four! Sadly not available in the US.
  2. Four Pillars Off Broadway
    Four Pillars was the 2020 IWSC International Gin Producer of the Year (for the second year in a row) for good reason- always producing meaningful and thoughtful creations- this one is an Astor’s Wine and Spirits (NY) release only – sorry rest of the country and a must have for any serious Gin Collector.
    (Keli Rivers)
  3. Bully Boy Distillers “Estate Gin”
    This grain and apple distillate base gin from MA is everything a floral and citrus gin should be- while there is a good hit of juniper for those who want a more traditional gin. I love split base gins and Estate Gin’s popularity says I’m not the only one.
    (Keli Rivers)
  4. Tamworth Garden Backyard Gin; Blueberry Cucumber
    I know what you’re going to say, “dang it Keli, can’t you suggest a gin I can actually get a bottle of?” All I have to say is “It’s 2020 bitches!” Tamworth Distillery has been a go to of mine since I grabbed a bottle of their Apiary gin many moons ago and now that I live on the East Coast I have access to their limited editions like never before so when I took my only mini vacation this year to a small remote island in Maine I took the 3 hour detour to Tamworth and grabbed as much as I could. This was a stand out- an amazing nose that bloomed (pun intended) when I mixed it with soda water! I love gins that grow in the glass, a squeeze of key lime and there was no turning back.
    (Keli Rivers)
  5. Farallon Holy Wood & Cask Gin
    is easily the most intriguing (in a good way) spirit I had all year. It is a barrel-aged, palo-santo infused gin that adds another flavor dimension to Negroni. It’s truly spectacular.
  6. Black Button Distilling – Citrus Forward
    Very clean and citrus forward so it is well named. Orange peel and citrus hops on the nose. Balanced and nice. Well done!
    (BevFluence)
  7. Myer Farm Distillers Cayuga Gold Gin
    Bold and spicy with tons of crazy caramel pie crust notes. This has been a solid gin for years and has such an interesting flavor profile.
    (BevFluence)

8 Wines – a – pouring

  1. Péter Vida Bonsai Oregtokes Kadarka 2017 via Taste Hungary
    Kadarka is the Hungarian equivalent to Pinot Noir, both in the glass and in the vineyard. Once planted, Kadarka vines are temperamental – and like Pinot susceptible to grey rot and require constant attention. The rolling hills of Szekszard are Hungary’s most fertile agricultural region and enjoy both a Continental and Mediterranean climate. These dual climates provide a long growing season and the many valleys provide distinct micro-climates. It is produced from over hundred-year-old, gnarly-looking vines that a Japanese visitor likened to a Bonsai tree. “Often you literally have to kneel in front of the rootstocks to prune them as these are ancient bush-trained vines,” winery founder Péter Vida said. “The image on the label – a mix of a Bonsai tree and an old vine – aims to convey the sense that the wisdom of the plant is bigger than that of humans even if it is diminutive in size.” This is a delicious wine, light-medium bodied with a sour cherry dominance followed by slight spice and dirt. Expect a layer of texture and lifting acidity.
  2. Seis Soleil White Blend
    This white blend is a harmonious blend of Albariño and Grenache Blanc, and yes it is as lovely as it sounds! Floral and Aromatic on the nose with notes of lemon, honeydew, Granny Smith apple, orange blossom, light stone fruit, and nice minerality. The Grenache Blanc brings the mouthwatering fruit and acidity while the Albariño rounds out the experience with delicacy, making for an easy sipper perfect for sharing with friends or pairing with food. ⁣
    (Lyssa Hurvitz – Wishes And Wine)
  3. Bonanza Cabernet Sauvignon from Caymus
    Bonanza Cabernet Sauvignon comes from Chuck Wagner, owner & winemaker of Caymus Vineyards. At around $20 a bottle, this is such a great go-to weeknight wine that can be paired beautifully with a meal or enjoyed on its own. ⁣On the nose, notes of violet, blackberry, fig, baked blueberry cobbler, and smoke. On the palate, I get more dark berries, licorice, mocha, a little bit of earthiness, and some toasted oak and vanilla. Smooth tannins and a velvety finish. ⁣
    (Lyssa Hurvitz – Wishes And Wine)
  4. Sea Bird Wines 2014 Poseidon Cabernet Sauvignon
    Beautifully structured with blueberry, blackberry, black currant with a hint of “Rutherford Dust” hitting you from front-to-back. At 14.5%, this wine slightly aged stands firmly by itself. You could serve this up with a lighter meal or open it to start a party. Sourced from the G3 Vineyard in Napa Valley, this wine is the iconic expression of what a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon should be – drink it now or hold it back for a few more years.
    (Joe Campbell – Sierra Wine Guy)
  5. JC Vizcarra Ribera del Duero 2013 100% Tempranillo
    This wine is so big and bold, if you told me it was a Barolo I would believe you. Goes great with spicy food. A fantastic Tempranillo from Northern Spain.
    (The Mad Martian)
  6. Angwin Estate Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
    Angwin Estate is a micro-boutique estate winery producing outstanding bottles that focus on a sense of place. Jon Larson crafts beautiful Cabernet Sauvignon from his family property, emphasizing natural winemaking philosophies in the process. This Cab is one that will stick with you long after the bottle’s gone.
    (Paige Comrie – Wine With Paige)
  7. 2012 Turiya Wines Sangiovese
    This 2012 Sangiovese is literally swoon-worthy. Ripe red fruit, mushroom, vibrant florals and spices explode on the nose, with fantastic notes of vanilla, caramel, herbs and dried meats. This is a 100% Sangiovese with berries hailing from Stolpman Vineyard in Santa Ynez. There were only 26 cases produced, so I recommend hopping on this now and not missing the opportunity to try this truly fantastic wine.
    (Lyssa Hurvitz – Wishes And Wine)
  8. Berryessa Gap Durif (Petite Sirah)
    Durif (Petite Sirah) is one of the many grapevines grown at Berryessa Gap and winemaker Nicole Salengo produces two versions, a field blend labeled Petite Sirah and a 100% Durif labeled using the European nomenclature. For a sensory descriptor, this wine is juicy, with dense blueberries, slight spice, and friendly chewy tannins. But on a metaphysical dimension, this wine provides the feeling after that perfect golf swing or getting the barrel on a baseball.
    (BevFluence)

9 Spirits Dancing

  1. Ardbeg Uigeadail
    I came across Uigeadail while shopping for a recent zoom chat on Whisky that I attended. Although I had a few bottles (Whisky) in my collection I wanted to try something new. While researching the Ardbeg I hadn’t tried what drew me to this one was the flavor notes of Campfire and Marshmallows. This whisky, paired with dark or milk chocolate brings back childhood memories of camping with family and friends and eating s’mores by the fire. It also pairs well with blue cheese and a smoky charcutier.
    (Rhett Moffat – Gone with the Wine)
  2. Golden Moon Kümmel
    The Golden Moon Distillery was awarded the American Distilling Institute’s 2019 Distillery of the Year Award and we leveraged a visit to this Golden Colorado distillery during our #BevFluenceExperienceDenver. We learned about their unique liquor program which included the Kümmel – a spirit initially developed by assistant distiller Robbie Cunningham based on a Scottish recipe. The base alcohol is flavored with caraway and fennel and on its own is an interesting spirit. But it was suggested as an alternative to vodka in a Bloody Mary – particularly with the Real Dill Bloody Mary mix and rimming spice, a dash of Celery Horseradish or Smoked Salt and Pepper bitters from FloraLuna Apothecary, and topped with a Real Dill Habanero Pickle.
    (BevFluence)
  3. Gamle Ode Dill Aquavit
    From Mike McCarron’s Minneapolis micro-distillery, Gamle Ode Aquavit leans Danish style, meaning dill-forward and grain-based. It pairs beautifully with everything from seafood to Reuben sandwiches.
    (Virginia Miller – The Perfect Spot)
  4. Vamonos Riendo Mezcal
    Just released in the States this year, Vamonos Riendo Mezcal is a prime, balanced example of less smoky mezcals, subtle enough (in smoke) to win over the non-converted, complex, and unique enough to win over mezcal lovers.
    (Virginia Miller – The Perfect Spot)
  5. Devil’s Share Bourbon Whiskey
    Let me introduce you to the next unicorn. Cutwater Spirits (formerly Ballast Point) have released a string of exceptional Devil’s Share Malt Whiskeys. Their latest iteration of Bourbon is an unabashed flavor bomb. It sits just outside of Kentucky flavor profile but all the components are very definitely in Bourbon territory. Leading with a nose of cedar chest, burnt sugar, and fruity bubble gum, it hits the tip of the tongue with sweet honeycomb candy, warming to a campfire. It is a bold fight between heat and flavor, with flavor winning out, and coating the tongue in rich viscous layers of cinnamon, leather and spice. Devil’s Share Bourbon finishes long and slightly drying, leaving a longing to pour a little more liquid on the smoldering embers. It is a good whiskey to dive into headfirst, and a hard one to put down once you’ve started.
    (BevFluence)
  6. Germain-Robin XO
    The new releases of the Germain-Robin XO brandy is the best opportunity people have to see the delicate craft of the master distiller/master blender. For approximately a decade, Hubert Germain-Robin was not involved in the blending and marrying of the spirits to make the brandies that bore his name. Since purchasing the brand, E&J Gallo have reunited the master with his babies… er, um, barrels. Working with the Gallo team, Germain-Robin created the blend of pot-still brandies from various grape varieties to again make his XO blend. The new red, black and cream packaging displays the rings of a redwood tree and makes the Germain-Robin blends jump off the shelf with the respect they deserve.(BevFluence)
  7. Lepanto Brandy de Jerez Solera Gran Reserva
    This is the only Brandy de Jerez to be produced entirely within Jerez. The spirit is made from Palomino grape must which is double distilled in Charentais pot stills (Cognac stills manufactured in the 1960s). The hearts or “holandas” of the run (68-72% abv) are aged in a traditional “Criaderas y Solera” system, in American oak casks previously used to age sherry. The solera contains 15 criaderas, with an average age of over 12 years. Nine of those years were spent in used Tio Pepe barrels and three in used Matusalem barrels
    (BevFluence)
  8. Nonino Grappa Chardonnay
    Nonino was founded in 1897 by Orazio Nonino in the Friuli region of Italy and has run through six generations as Benito and Giannola passed control over to their three daughters Cristina, Antonella and Elisabetta (the 5th generation). The Nonino’s consider 40% abv as grappa’s sweet spot and this delicious version weighs in at that level. It is completely devoid of heat both on the nose and in the palate and includes slight oak characters from mild oak treatment. Excellent.
    (BevFluence)
  9. Dancing Goat Distillery Limousin Rye B 14
    Using the oak they chose was a great call. This rye is killer, with notes of everything you want in quality rye. Spicy and bold, Chex mix and fades into a soft berry finish.
    (BevFluence)

10 Beers-a-Brewing

  1. The Boon Brewery Gueuze Mariage Parfait “Oude Gueuze”
    This is 100% spontaneously fermented, aged for a minimum of three years in oak barrels, blended, and re-fermented in the bottle. Completely dry, with a bready and tart mouthfeel. Sip and enjoy. According to craftbeer.com: Belgian-style Lambic or Gueuze beers are naturally and spontaneously fermented with high to very high levels of esters, plus bacterial and yeast-derived sourness that sometimes includes acetic flavors. Lambics are not blended, while the gueuze style blends old and new lambics which are re-fermented in the bottle. Historically, they are dry and completely attenuated, exhibiting no residual sweetness either from malt, sugar or artificial sweeteners. Sweet versions may be created through the addition of sugars or artificial sweeteners.
  2. Another Beer Company You’ve Earned It
    2020 has been a year of Mondays if you ask me. Sour beers have been my go-to for a couple years now and You’ve Earned It from Another Beer Company in New Westminster, British Columbia hits the soul right after a long day. Each batch has a different amount of coffee in it but I’ve never felt a buzz from this juicy sour. It’s refreshing on the palate and the soul.
  3. Dynasty Brewing Tiny Dictator Bourbon Barrel Stout
    Dang, this is one sumptuous beer. The Dynasty Brewing Co. Tiny Dictator Stout is aged 6 months in bourbon barrels with a little chocolate and vanilla thrown in. The bourbon is subtle; the chocolate is strong. The 13% abv is hidden away. Brewed in Ashburn, Virginia. Cheers.
  4. Hardywood Brewing Kentucky Christmas Morning
    Richmond’s Hardywood Park Craft Brewery produces a boatload of excellent beers from their Pils, Peach Tripel, to the Gingerbread Stout series. And for this type of list we have to feature one of these later – Hardywood Kentucky Christmas Morning. This beer starts by aging the original Gingerbread Stout in Kentucky bourbon barrels for several months and then cold filtering over freshly cracked locally roasted coffee beans. Think French Vanilla coffee over gingerbread.
  5. Radeberger Pilsner
    In contrast to the previous beer, often you long for a lighter more traditional beer as perhaps a thirst quencher or one that follows the Reinheitsgebot. In that case, reach for a Radeberger Pilsner. It’s clean, slightly bready, and a fresh balanced finish.
  6. Brewery Ommegang Solera
    This New York brewery seldom disappoints. This Solera is a tart golden ale crafted by Liefmans – their sister blenders in Belgium. Batches are fermented with mixed yeast cultures in open copper vats then aged for several months. Using a solera method approach, new batches are blended with older batches to achieve the proper balance between sweet and sour. Excellent.
  7. Propolis Brewing Beltane
    This Port Townsend brewery focuses on “Botanical Farmhouse Ales” like the Beltane which first showed on our radar at the 2017 SAVOR: An American Craft Beer & Food Experience. This Saison is infused with elderflowers and Brettanomyces and is as complex and wild as imagined.
  8. Lewis and Clark Brewing Prickly Pear Pale Ale
    This is a satisfying beer that provides plenty of hop character without throwing an IBU bomb down your throat. The barley is predominantly Montana grown and malted while the Cascade hops are added both in the kettle and during dry-hopping. This recipe promotes a strong citrus aroma that blends nicely with the fresh ale.
  9. Uinta Brewing Hazy Nosh Hazy IPA
    Located in the Crossroads of the West, Uinta distributes widely and the Hazy Nosh is easily found. The IPA exudes the tropics with an approachable bitterness as the mango and pineapple juices dominate.

11 Piping Pinots

  1. Jean-Claude Boisset
    It is said that Pinot Noir has a thin skin, but this Bourgogne variation from JC Boisset is anything but fickle. What I like the most about this wine is how extremely well balanced it is. Carefully harvested from old vines within the Cote de Nuits. It delivers notes of Strawberries & Raspberries and the tannins are smooth and velvety on the palate.
    (Rhett Moffat – Gone with the Wine)
  2. Bruliam Gap’s Crown Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017
    According to founder/winemaker Kerith Overstreet, her dad told her she could “be whatever she wanted to be after medical school”… and so she did! After finishing her medical residency, she enrolled at UC Davis and catapulted into the wine world, and I’m so glad she did. Her single-vineyard Pinot Noirs are outstanding.
    (Paige Comrie – Wine With Paige)
  3. Gary Farrell Fort Ross Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017
    Gary Farrell is by far one of my favorite producers across the board. They craft stunning single-vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that’s simply breathtaking. This particular bottle is full of earthy mushrooms and bright strawberries. I rang in my birthday with this wine!
    (Paige Comrie – Wine With Paige)
  4. Bodega Tapiz Wapisa Pinot Noir 2017
    The Argentinean Los Acantilados Estate (San Javier, Atlantic Patagonia, Río Negro) is located very close to the Atlantic Ocean and at only 328 feet above sea level receives plenty of maritime cooling. It is also noted for its lime clay soils that lack organic matter. The proximity to the ocean is reflected in the drawing of a whale’s tail on the label. The wine is initially fruit-forward with red-berries then texture mid-palate finishing with firm yet approachable acids.
    (BevFluence)
  5. 45 North 2017 Pinot Noir
    As its name suggests, Michigan’s 45 North Vineyard & Winery shares the 45 degree North latitude with Oregon, Burgundy, and other prominent grape growing regions — specifically those regions where Pinot Noir thrives. We discovered this wine through the BevFluence Experience Denver and it is delicious – full-bodied with luscious red fruit, various spices, and a firm yet very approachable finish.
    (BevFluence)
  6. Ektimo Pinot Noir 2014
    In the last visit to a winery in early 2020 before the world changed forever I had the opportunity to visit Ektimo in Sonoma and it was grand. This pinot noir was excellent, exciting, and showed the brilliance of Sonoma pinot. Soft and subtle fruit with hints of mint and cherry.
    (BevFluence)
  7. Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir 2017
    Who is not a fan of Oregon Pinot? Bring them to me.
    (BevFluence)
  8. Meadowcroft Pinot Noir 2014
    What can’t you love about this Pinot? Clean and subtle oak with some cedar, forest floor, and graham cracker. This winery has always been known for quality and this wine nails it.
    (BevFluence)
  9. Pessagno 2009 Four Boys Vineyard
    Still fruit there after 11 years. A solid wine with notes of bramble, licorice, and vanilla, with a lush currant still detectable. Enjoy this one with a steak believe it or not. We cannot wait to try the rest of the lineup.
    (BevFluence)
  10. Horse and Plow The Gardener Pinot Noir 2018
    Silky with baking spice, cocoa and vanilla all in a flavor bomb that screams great pinot.
    (BevFluence)
  11. Rhys Vineyard 2011 BearWallow Vineyard Pinot Noir
    This still holds up, with tons of bramble fruit and dry leaves. This wine is truly well made and looks like old burgundy tastes like it was made yesterday. Bramble as FUCK! This wine held up so well even for days after it was opened.
    (BevFluence)

12 AVAs for drinking

  1. Pope Valley CA: Gamling & McDuck 2018 Henry Vineyard Chenin Blanc
    These grapes are sourced from the Henry Vineyard in Pope Valley and the wine has citrus aromas on the nose with tropical fruit flavors mingling with notes of pear and apricot. The wine is medium-bodied wine and has an abv of 13.7 percent while staying bright and crisp.
    (Joe Campbell – Sierra Wine Guy)
  2. El Dorado CA: Skinner Vineyards 2018 Estate Mourvèdre
    This wine is deep purple in color with flavors of dark cherry, brown sugar, and blueberry with a hint of spice on the finish. This wine feels balanced with its ABV of 13.8 percent, structured tannins, and bright acidity. The cuttings for this wine were brought to California in the 1860s in what was part of the Pellier Collection.
    (Joe Campbell – Sierra Wine Guy)
  3. Lodi CA: Acquiesce Winery 2019 Bourboulenc
    The winery’s 2019 Bourboulenc is the first release of this grape as a single-varietal bottling in the US. There are apricot aromas with flavors of orange and ripe mango. This wine showcases great acidity with mineral characteristics on the finish. Pair this wine with a spicy Indian curry dish.
    (Joe Campbell – Sierra Wine Guy)
  4. Monticello VA: Virginia Petit Manseng
    Our BevFluence team discovered the virtues of dry full-bodied Petit Manseng from #Virginia during the #BevFluenceExperience Denver. The 2018 Horton Vineyards Petit Manseng was awarded the Governor’s Cup whereas the 2018 Michael Shaps landed in the Governor’s Case Club top 12 wines. They have their differences but share a depth and mouthfeel closer to a barrel-fermented Chardonnay.
    (BevFluence)
  5. Grand Valley CO: BookCliff Vineyards 2015 Grand Valley Reserve Cabernet Franc
    Another local find discovered through the #BevFluenceExperienceDenver and grown on vineyards located on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains. This wine is fruit-forward, yet structured, firm tannins, and lacking the green vege character of many Other 46 Cabernet Francs.
    (BevFluence)
  6. Leelanau Peninsula MI: Aurora Cellars Cabernet Franc
    Cab Franc is a truly one of a kind grape 🍇. The way that cool-climate cab franc taste is remarkable. This wine was by yet silky, chocolate, cedar, oak, lush bramble, and smooth tannins all at the same time.
    (BevFluence)
  7. Applegate Valley OR: 2018 Troon Vineyard Estate Vermentino, Kubli Bench, Applegate Valley
    Foot treaded before pressed and fermented and resting on its lees for 6 months in mature French Oak Burgundy barrels. Enhanced aromatics and texture are readily apparent from this approach. There is also a noticeable saline or mineral character and bitter almonds. Finishes with refreshing acids
    (BevFluence)
  8. Texas High Plains: William Chris Vineyards 2018 Cinsault La Pradera
    Floral, light-bodied with some strawberries but more sour cherries. Slightly herbaceous with easy tannins and light acids. Perhaps chill slightly in the heat of summer.
    (BevFluence)
  9. Finger Lakes NY: Fox Run Vineyards 2018 Simmons Vineyard Traminette
    Special thanks to the New York Wine & Grape Foundation and their wine seminar “New York’s Heritage & Hybrid Wines with Carlo DeVito” for introducing us to this wine (although they featured the 2019, I found the 2018). Expect a tropical and melon aroma, complexity on the palate, lychee, stoney, viscosity, and acids matching the sugar.
    (BevFluence)
  10. Yakima Valley, WA: Mark Ryan Winery 2010 Lost Soul Syrah
    Chocolate galore
    (BevFluence)
  11. Ozark Highlands MO: St. James Winery Winemaker Series Norton 42
    This wine spoke to me at first swirl, sniff, and impactful sip! As with many Norton wines, the dusty terroir flowed along in the long finish but it was the ripples of bright dark fruits that created a silky elegant sip to savor. Holding its own, the wine pairs beautifully with rich deep chocolate cake.
    (Maureen Blum – MoWino.Com)
  12. Alexander Valley CA: Sutro Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
    Crafted by female winemaker, owner, and artist Alice Sutro, Sutro Wines are expressive of her family’s land and its unique terroir. Her Cabernet Sauvignon is stunning!
    (Paige Comrie – Wine With Paige)

With love, respect and regards for the new year,

Todd, Jennifer and Justin