May 302014
 

Artisan tableEntertaining seems to have come full circle. While intricately formal dinner parties are no longer de rigeur, the renewed focus on cocktail and dinner parties seems to imply that hosts have abandoned an haphazard approach in favor of paying attention to details and ensuring that their guests are well cared for.

This renewed emphasis on creating the perfect environment in which to entertain now extends beyond the home and into restaurants, where white plates have been banished in many establishments, which is fortunate for Jono Pandolfi. This ceramics designer has now become well-known for his dinnerware collaborations with notable chefs at high-profile restaurants such as 11 Madison Park and Nomad. You can dress your table with equally impressive style, thanks to Pandolfi’s joint project with Crate & Barrel.

Once the table has been beautifully set, adorning it with delicious food and fabulous wine is the obvious next step. At a recent event held at the Scott Conant Culinary Suite, a test kitchen space in New York’s Soho neighborhood for the noted restaurateur, the artful table brought a trusted name to the bottle and glass.

Known for its Extra Virgin Olive Oil (the #1 Italian Brand in the U.S.), the Colavita family has entered the world of wine production in partnership with Terlato Wines. In recognition that “Italy’s two most important food products are olive oil and wine,” the co-founders of Colavita USA (Enrico Colavita and John J. Profaci) were prompted to create their own brand of wine and looked to Terlato to help them realize their dream.

As explained by Giovanni Colavita, CEO of Colavita, the family approached winemaking the same way they approach olive oil production – identifying and working with the best producers throughout Italy. In this regard, the grapes for each wine are sourced from a specific region and are iconic of that region.

The collaboration and approach are certainly novel, but the selection of wines proved worthy of such an elegantly set table.

The current Colavita-Terlato portfolio includes four wines:

ColavitaColavita Pinot Grigio 2012, Trentino, Italy, $15.00
From northeastern Italy, this wine is fermented in stainless steel and is a young, fresh wine with bright acidity and nice citrus aromas and flavors.

Colavita Verdicchio di Matelica 2012, Marche, Italy, $15.00
Located in central Italy, the Marche region is known for the Verdicchio grape, which shows off the mineral characteristics of the calcareous soils, especially in the Matelica zone.

Colavita Pinot Nero 2012, Provincia di Pavia, Lombardy, Italy, $15.00
Lombardy is known for growing Pinot Nero (aka Pinot Noir) for the production of Franciacorta, a Traditional Method sparkling wine. Here the grapes are used for crafting a well-made still wine with vibrant cherry and herbal notes. A truly fabulous Pinot Noir at this price!

Colavita Valpolicella Ripasso 2011, Veneto, Italy, $23.00
A blend primarily of Corvina (70%), with Rondinella (20%) and Corvinone (10%), this wine is made using partially-dried grapes – the ripasso in Valpolicella Ripasso – which adds richness and body to the resulting wine.

May 202014
 

Craft Beverage Expo

Last week, I attended the first Craft Beverage Expo (#CBE14) in San Jose, California. It was a conference devoted to the production and marketing of craft beverages, including beer, wine, cider, and spirits. I won’t go into the details about the conference, but I did want to address some of the thoughts that came to me during the event.

 

First, what are craft beverages? This question was raised several times during the conference. I think that most of the participants accepted that it meant a product made by smallish, independent brewers and distillers. I think the wine business looks at it a different way. They don’t really use the term ‘craft’ in their messaging. It’s usually boutique, small-lot, etc. to most winemakers. Regardless, wine definitely fits in with this group, facing many of the same challenges and benefiting from much the same market environment.

 

Second, I deeply believe that each of the separate beverage sectors can benefit from each other. While it’s becoming more common for wineries/breweries to blur the lines and produce both wine and beer, the sectors still remain fairly separate. Call it competition or regulation or focus, no matter what, breweries, wineries, and distilleries haven’t always played nice. I believe that is changing, however, as demonstrated by the sheer existence if this conference.

 

Third, the wine business has a head start on craft brewers and distillers. While it’s possible to ship or sell wine direct-to-consumer in many states now, or even to allow samples in tasting rooms, many brewers and distillers still lack that ability. That is slowly changing as legislatures have begun to open new avenues for them, but wineries have a clear lead. Craft brewers and distillers could benefit greatly from observing what has and hasn’t worked for wineries in their own struggles to compete.

 

Finally, wineries better watch out. As craft brewers and distillers gain experience and grow, they could eat away at wine’s market share. I think we are already seeing this, especially among millennials. Wineries will either have to adapt the way they market their products, or join the band wagon and start producing beer and spirits to offset their losses.

 

The good news is that the upsurge in craft beverage production offers consumers more choice and freedom to seek out new and interesting experiences. They are no longer confined to Dewers, Bacardi, Budweiser, and Coors. The future looks bright.