Happy New Year—I hope everyone is off to a safe and healthy start to 2022. The early part of the year certainly is jam-packed with newsy items to report—so hope you poured yourself a large glass to enjoy as you scroll through.

A few items I’d like to call out—Wine Industry Advisor has announced its top 10 “Most Inspiring People in Wine” awards. I’m super impressed by the diverse group of people included on this list. I, myself, am responsible for the write-up on the beautiful Ali Smith Story. But be sure to check out the features on Marty Clubb, Cathy Huyghe, Ron Rosenbrand, and Alex Ryan as well. The publication will release articles on the last five awardees next week.

Also, a huge congratulations to a personal role model of mine, Elaine Chukan Brown, for becoming a full-time member of the Jancis Robinson editorial staff. She’s now the executive editor of the website’s US coverage. Full press release is below.

And in the entertainment sector—I am super curious: What do you all think about this new TV series Grand Cru? Is it a good representation of the wine scene? Are you upset that all the actors hold the stemware incorrectly and that one of them seems to be drinking water while the others sip on cranberry juice? Or, is it just a comedy plain and simple—enjoy the laughs and, like, why so serious? If you’ve watched it, let me know your thoughts.

Tis all for now. Happy weekend-ing!

Wine Industry Advisor: Wine’s Most Inspiring People Awards

Each year, Wine Industry Advisor chooses 10 individuals within the wine industry who showcase leadership, innovation, and inspiration. For the first time in 2021, WIA opened up the submission process to the industry at large. With over 100 nominees, the editorial team selected the top 10 individuals who they felt has truly, positively impacted the US wine culture over the past year.

Also new this year, Wine Industry Advisor is providing our Most Inspiring People with a digital badge to display on their websites, social platforms, and press announcements.

Below are our 2021/2022 Most Inspiring People. Thank you for the commitment, passion, and motivation you inspire in our industry each day. SEE FULL LIST HERE…

NBC: The lines between beer, soda and spirits are blurring as beverage companies seek sales growth

Bud Light is adding cola and orange soda to its seltzer, Mountain Dew is moving into the alcohol aisles and Molson Coors has a whiskey brand.

In the hunt for growth, beverage companies are experimenting in new categories, blurring the lines between beer, soft drinks and spirits to become powerhouses fighting for consumers’ so-called “share of throat.” But some alcohol companies worry about the potential implications of such a change on the three-tier system, which has kept that industry alive — and legal — for 88 years. READ MORE…

Wine’s Most Inspiring People: Ali Smith Story—Owner, Smith Story Wine Cellars

For those unfamiliar with her name, perhaps a more familiar name will be Lord Sandwich—the Smith Story doodle-dog, Instagram-influencer, and the couple’s sole employee. But Sandwich is not our Most Inspiring ‘Person’ this year. (Maybe next—the pooch does have his own wine label, and runs the charitable Socks for Sandwich.)

For those who are familiar with Ali Smith Story, Smith Story Wine Cellars, and Sandwich, it’s probably because of Ali’s undeniable dedication to engagement with her customers through both her professional and personal social media accounts—something that has been the cornerstone of her wine business from the very start. READ MORE…

VinePair: Who Was the First to Propose a ‘Toast’?

At weddings, dinner parties, and celebrations of all ilks, it’s a common custom for hosts and poetic (if not tipsy) guests to raise their glasses and propose a toast. The ritual is simple: Attention is called, glasses are held high, and a sentimental speaker offers a few words of gratitude or a short, congratulatory speech. This is followed by the clinking of glasses around the room and, finally, the sipping of Champagne and other festive beverages.

Though the ritual is well practiced around the globe, its origins are relatively unknown. Why is it called a “toast”? Where did the tradition come from? And is there any actual relation between these tributes and the crusty bread we enjoy at breakfast? READ MORE…

Wine’s Most Inspiring People: Marty Clubb—Co-Owner, L’Ecole No. 41

“I was never that interested in the wine business,” says Clubb, the long-time co-owner and managing winemaker at L’Ecole No. 41 in Walla Walla in eastern Washington. “The opportunity just came up.”

Which, three decades later, is an opportunity that Clubb has taken full advantage of. His accomplishments— not just at L’Ecole—speak to his talent and vision. L’Ecole, though only about 50,000 cases in size, has a reputation that extends throughout the country, and its various Merlots have long been recognized as some of the best in the world. In addition, the winery has made so many best-of and top this-and-that lists, it’s almost impossible to count them all. READ MORE…

Wine Enthusiast: Portugal’s Douro Superior Region Takes Its Time

Far away, in the remote eastern mountains and valleys of the Douro wine region, where Portugal meets Spain, exciting things are happening. New vineyards, new owners and new red wines are coming from an area that was relatively inaccessible only 30 years ago.

“I remember it as the end of the world,” says João Nicolau d’Almeida, who has been visiting the Douro Superior region for 50 years. “It was biblical in its primitive wildness and its distance.” He retired as CEO of producer Ramos-Pinto and is now owner with his sons, João and Mateus, of Quinta do Monte Xisto, a spectacular vineyard in Douro Superior. READ MORE…

Wine’s Most Inspiring People: Cathy Huyghe—Writer, Entrepreneur, Meditator

In the wine industry, the extreme is expected: sipping and spitting through hundreds of wines in a matter of hours, tastings in caves, scuba diving for wine. Successfully making and selling wine appears to run on adrenaline, intensity, excess.

But Cathy Huyghe offers a refreshing alternative: one that embraces the highs and lows of a life lived to its fullest, while also leaving room for the deep contemplation and creativity that spurs personal and professional growth.

“A common theme of my work and life is that it’s at both sides of the pendulum swing,” she says. “Both left brain and right brain. Both creative and quantified. Both this and that.” READ MORE

Wine Spectator: NBC’s ‘Grand Crew’ Puts Black Wine Lovers in Primetime

The groundbreaking new sitcom blends wine and comedy, with an assist from an L.A. sommelier

Following a great vintage for TV and wine, one of NBC’s newest sitcoms, the wine-themed Grand Crew, makes its network debut Tuesday night. From two Brooklyn Nine-Nine alums, Phil Augusta Jackson and Dan Goor, the show follows a group of young Black professionals in Los Angeles who get together at their favorite wine bar to uncork their daily adventures.

“I thought it would be really fun to have wine play a part in the name of the show, considering that the home base for the group of friends is a wine bar,” Jackson told Wine Spectator via email, referring to Grand Crew’s riff on France’s grand cru classifications for the country’s most prestigious wines. “On an individual level, each cast member brings their own flavor, perspective and performative ‘notes’ to the table, and together they blend to make something special.” READ MORE…

Wine’s Most Inspiring People: Ron Rosenbrand—Viticulturist, Spring Mountain Vineyard

Ron Rosenbrand didn’t need a fire to cement his legacy at Spring Mountain Vineyard in Napa. By that awful late September night in 2020, he had already logged almost 20 years as a premier grape grower at one of the region’s most historic properties.

Two fires engulfed Spring Mountain, which “essentially vaporized” most of the estate’s historic buildings. It could have been worse, but Rosenbrand helped direct firefighters to several historic structures hidden from view. In the end, the main winery, the caves, and legendary Miravalle mansion were saved. Meanwhile, Rosenbrand’s home, just a short half-mile away, burned to the ground. READ MORE

Press Democrat: Sonoma County winemaking club hit with COVID outbreak

By the time Dec. 11 rolled around, the Garage Enologists of Sonoma County were a bit starved for normalcy.

The well-established amateur winemaking club had conducted most of its monthly meetings via Zoom since the start of the pandemic.

Its 2021 Christmas party would allow members to come together to share “ideas, problems, and wine,” as the organization’s website frames their mission. And for the first time in nearly two years, they would gather indoors.

“We celebrated the fact that we could have a Christmas party,” said Garage Enologists president Mary Lou Marek. “It was wonderful to see people again, and now … I guess it’s two steps forward, one step back.” READ MORE…

Napa Valley Register: California Vintage Wine Society works with UC Davis Library to put together archival collection

After stumbling upon a set of scrapbooks from his father, Mike Henry scrolled through the pages and soon realized he recognized some of the names and faces printed alongside his dad. Photographs, menus and itineraries dating back to the ’60s included the likes of Maynard Amerine, Ernest Gallo, and Warren Winiarski, and as a founding member of the California Vintage Wine Society, Mike’s father Warner Henry was sure to document everything.

Henry’s discoveries have since been donated to Cal Vintage, so the society has joined forces with the UC Davis Library to incorporate these snapshots of history into the university’s already-extensive wine collection.

“UC Davis has one of the leading viticulture and enology programs in the world, and so as a library, we always try to mirror and support these areas of the university,” said Jessica Nusbaum, director of communications for the library. READ MORE…

VinePair: Three Shots or Bust

As Omicron sweeps across the country, some restaurants are turning to booster mandates alongside proof of vaccination

The Omicron wave has forced much of the restaurant industry into a modified shutdown again. Case numbers are skyrocketing, and some restaurants are responding by temporarily closing or pivoting back to delivery and take-out only, in order to keep both patrons and workers as safe as possible. Many restaurants offering dine-in are requiring proof of vaccination, whether it’s mandated by their county or not. And now, some restaurants are taking it a step further — requiring patrons to be not just “fully vaccinated,” but have proof of a booster shot as well. READ MORE

Wine Industry Advisor: Best Articles of 2021

In 2021, Wine Industry Advisor increased its focus on creating original editorial content. We’ve enhanced our list of contributors to include some of the industry’s best wine writing talent, and have been able to provide you—our broad audience of professionals and enthusiasts—the latest, most important information about key topics facing our industry.

As this year comes to a close, our editorial team looked back on some 2021’s most-read articles. Topics span the spectrum—from mergers and acquisitions to wildfire; viticultural developments and data technology; and even some insightful (and at times humorous) opinion pieces. READ MORE


Blogs Worth a Read

Taken from the list of Blogs and other media outlets I follow regularly, here are just a few posts from this past week I think are worth a read. Shoot me a note if you have suggestions of independent media to follow or want your outlet included on that list.

The Wine Gourd: Which countries prefer organic wine?

The growing popularity of organic wine is one of several trends being observed in the global wine market in recent years. Like other certified organic agricultural products, organic grapes need to be grown without artificial pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or chemical fertilizers. I have previously noted that organic (and biodynamic) wines are often assessed as tasting better than conventionally made wines (Do biodynamic wines taste better than organic wines?), and this would make them even more desirable to consumers. READ MORE

Jancis Robinson: Bag-in-box rehabilitated

‘We were selling 100 boxes an hour through our website at one point’, says South Australian winemaker Con-Greg Grigoriou. ‘Who’d have thought there’d be so much interest in cask wine these days?’

Grigoriou is telling me about the enthusiastic reception to his first bag-in-box wine, a 1.5-litre cask of Nero d’Avola released in 2020 under his bold, brash Delinquente Wine Co label. READ MORE

Grape Collective: South Africa’s Boekenhoutskloof: Resolve to Explore in 2022

When it comes to wine, your New Year’s resolution should always be the same: Try new things, even an upscale Cabernet Sauvignon from South Africa with a really long name.

We’d guess many people think of South Africa as a source of pleasant, inexpensive wines, especially Sauvignon Blanc, rosé and some sparklers. But this is a historic wine region that also produces wine you will never forget made by passionate vintners like Marc Kent who told us: “We say at Boekenhoutskloof, ‘the quality lies in the second half of the bottle.’” READ MORE…

Vino Joy News: WSET resumes operation in mainland China

After a year of suspension, WSET has finally received approval from Chinese government to resume its operation in mainland China.

The Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), the largest global provider of wine, spirits and sake qualifications, has announced that it has finally received approval from the Chinese government to resume its operation in mainland China after a year of suspension.

In a press release, WSET said it has received official approval to set up a Representative Office as an overseas non-government organization (ONGO) and can therefore resume its business operations in China.

The office is headed by former head of Wine Australia’s Greater China department, Willa Yang, and WSET courses and exams will restart following the Chinese New Year holiday period in February. READ MORE

Tim Gaiser: My First Restaurant Job

Many reading this post will clearly remember their first restaurant job. Mine was bussing tables and washing dishes at the now long defunct Uncle John’s Pancake House in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was the summer of 1971 and I had just finished my sophomore year of high school. I was 16 at the time and my goal of working for the man was to save enough coin to buy my first professional trumpet. READ MORE

Press Releases

These are some press releases I received this week that I actually thought were interesting…enjoy!

Jancis Robinson: Our Plans

We’re thrilled to share news of our ever-expanding ambitions and team.

We are all too aware that, apart from Alder’s incisive monthly despatches from California and Sam Cole-Johnson’s great reports from Napa Valley, our coverage of the American wine scene has not been as comprehensive as we would like it to be.

We have accordingly promoted Elaine Chukan Brown (pictured above with me on a stage in Napa in February 2020) to the post of executive editor US, with the brief of expanding our appeal to American wine lovers. She has been writing for us since 2015 and you can read how we introduced her then. But she has grown enormously in stature over the last seven years and is hugely respected in the world of wine today having won more titles than you can shake a stick at. For example:

  • Wine Communicator of the Year 2020, International Wine & Spirit Competition and Vinitaly
  • Wine Leader 2020, Wine Business Monthly
  • One of the Most Inspiring People in Wine 2019, Wine Industry Network
  • One of the 50 Most Influential Women in Wine, WINWSA China
  • Legend in Wine Education Award 2021, The Hue Society

Elaine, whose special interests include diversity and inclusion, sustainability and mentoring, is well known in many parts of the wine world. She is still based in Sonoma in the heart of northern California wine country and expects to share her impressions often on what’s going on in (mainly) American wine. READ MORE…

BriscoeBites officially accepts samples as well as conducts on-site and online interviews. Want to have your wine, winery or tasting room featured? Please visit the Sample Policy page where you can contact me directly. Cheers!

Educational posts are in no way intended as official WSET study materials. I am not an official WSET educator nor do I work for a WSET Approved Program Provider. Study at your own risk. Read the full disclaimer.
**Please note: all reviews and opinions are my own and are not associated with any of my places of business. I will always state when a wine has been sent as a sample for review. Sending samples for review on my personal website in no way guarantees coverage in any other media outlet I may be currently associated with.**

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