A Little Beer, Lots of Wine and A Tenderloin

Writing from the edge of the Russian River in Sonoma

As you craft your drinking and dining plans for the last two big holidays of the year I offer you some thoughts on what beer you may want to consider , a report on the state of the wine industry along with lots of bubbles and a salt crusted beef tenderloin that will work well for NYE.

I found this industry report on the success of Michelob Ultra and the Modelo beers to be of interest as they don’t seem to be related at all except for their success.

Michelob Ultra and Modelo Especial Beer

You folks are drinking fewer brews and the craft beer craze has slowed but two brands are bucking the trend: Michelob Ultra and Modelo Especial – Michelob Ultra – really.

Both labels are slightly more expensive than the market-leading light beers. That enables them to benefit from the shift toward premium products that’s driving growth across the food-and-beverage landscape from coffee to wine and whiskey.

Michelob Ultra is getting a boost from the health-and-wellness trend, while Modelo, a pilsner-style Mexican lager, got a boost from a recent expansion of its U.S. distribution.

Michelob Ultra – Michelob Ultra’s biggest selling point is its nutrition facts: 95 calories and 2.6 grams of carbohydrates and has become one of the top-selling brands in the U.S., with sales surging more than 80 percent since 2014 to finish last year at $4.68 billion.

Modelo – Modelo has one key thing in common with Michelob Ultra: It’s more expensive than the mainstream market leaders. On average, Modelo costs about 25 percent more than Bud Light or Coors Light, appealing to customers who want to trade up to the cachet associated with imported beer. Modelo’s sales have more than doubled rising 20 percent last year to $5.22 billion including the darker Negra Modelo that this writer drinks on tap at our local Mexican restaurants.

I spent an afternoon at a wine industry show earlier this month mostly to attend the session titled: What Do Wine Writers Really Want to Hear? Good info from some top people and the affirmation regards more wine that people know what to do with.

Notes from the Wine Industry Network Expo – Sonoma Fair Grounds

Best news is the confirmation of what I reported in my last Whine (Notes From a Bountiful Harvest…); a great harvest has wineries selling off bulk wine as they don’t have storage for and that will result in lower prices especially in the “Blends” bottles that will be better quality, I’ll keep you advised.

We are stuck on $12 as the average bottle price but there is movement to the upside as “premiumization” continues to be the wine industry’s favorite word but there are so many wineries trying to premiumize that there aren’t enough high-end consumers for them. 

“We’re at a dangerous tipping point right now,” said Joel Miller, founder and president of Customer Vineyard. “There’s only so high prices can go.” Yet Miller pays a data company for discretionary income scores for people who sign up for the wine club; that way his business knows which customers to focus on as wealthier customers matter more to wineries.

Research says millennial consumers like experiences, and they prefer to have a relationship with brands they buy. That has induced wineries to offer more elaborate visits that take longer and as I also pointed out in my last Whine, these time consuming events are affecting the restaurant industry especially in Napa.   

“Rosé is a very crowded field but it’s going to start dropping off,” According to Bryan Foster of Turrentine Brokerage, “The wine industry is like six year olds playing soccer – somebody kicks the ball and everyone runs to it,” Foster said. Same can be said for livestock farmers.

If everyone is fighting for the same ball, watch out for the biggest players. The top two distributors in the US now handle 54 percent of all wine sold, and they have nearly 2000 wines in their portfolio. It’s hard to stand out in that competition.

Champagne notes,

Perhaps the best rationalization to drink Champagne comes from Lilly Bollinger of  Champagne Bollinger – “I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it — unless I’m thirsty.”

Here are a few suggestions and I hope you’re thirsty

Perhaps the best time to seek out pricey sparkling wines is after the holidays, when many wine shop operators realize they over-bought for the holidays and come to the awareness that some discounting may be necessary.

Most high-quality Champagnes should be served cold but not nearly frozen, so the delicate aroma can be appreciated. With less expensive sparklers (under $10), chilling to very low temps is often the best way to serve, cold kills flavors but not the bubbles.

Almost all bubblies, no matter where they are from, are meant to be consumed when released and when you buy it. Vintage releases do not get better with any further age – that’s why they were released.

You’ll find an extensive list of sparklers and Champagnes in all price ranges in last month’s Whine so here are a couple of lists for those of you in the Chicago and suburban market and for others to compare and be envious.

I’ve also included three great sparklers in the $20 range, several that I found this week at $17 and finally some nicer everyday bottles to sneak in between the really good stuff.

Famous Liquors in Forest Park and Lombard, IL

  • Gruet Blanc de Blanc – $9.99 
  • Masottina Prosecco 96 points decanter magazine – $12.99
  • Roederer Estate Brut Mendocino, Wine Spectator top 100 – $21.99 Woody’s pick

Binny’s has 40 locations throughout Illinois

  • La Marca Prosecco – $9.99
  • Freixenet sparkling – $6.99
  • Napa Chandon sparkling – $11.99
  • Perrier-Jouet Champagne – $34.99 Woody’s Pick
  • Veuve Clicquot Champagne – $36.99
  • Pol Roger Champagne – $44.99
  • Laurent Perrier Rose Champagne – $69.99

Here are three stalwarts all at about $20

Scharffenberger Brut Excellence – Mendocino a blend of 66% Pinot Noir and 33% Chardonnay. 100% malolactic fermentation adds a vanilla cream character and a round and full-bodied wine. Wine & Spirits – 90 points

Mumm Napa Blanc de Blancs – 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Gris.

Burnt orange peel and apricot meet crisp acidity and floral undertones. Light and bright, it’s a food-friendly option and a perfect match with oysters, calamari and salads. Wine Enthusiast – 90 points

Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs – Carneros 100% Chardonnay 

Aromas of crisp yellow apple and brown sugar with hints of orange blossom .This sparkling wine pairs well with seared scallops, baked halibut, and fresh oysters. For cheese, pair alongside a rich Brie or soft goat cheese. Wine Enthusiast – 90 points

Three blends to blend in with the events of the day

KIRKLAND SIGNATURE 2015 Red Blend Napa Valley – Score: 87 | $11
Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Drink now.

JOSH CELLARS 2015 Family Reserve Lodi – Score: 86 | $17
Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Drink now.

THE FEDERALIST 2016 Honest Red Blend Mendocino County – Score: 88 | $18
Merlot, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. Drink now.

You’ll find an interesting recipe for a beef tenderloin roasted in a salt crust elsewhere on the site and who knows what else, look around

Please eat good food, drink great wine with friends and family and enjoy your holidays!

That’s my whine and I could be wrong.

Woody Mosgers, cooks, caters, drinks, writes, and matches wine and food in Santa Rosa Sonoma at www.woodythewineguy.com