Writing from the edge of the Russian River in Sonoma County
Bubbles on New Year’s Day and The Lady Who Made Them
Don’t know where you were at noon on January 1, 2023 but we were at the Breathless Winery in Healdsburg enjoying sparkling wine and catered Asian food to match. We were not enjoying Wendy’s but mostly happy with Burger King, older people are still buying wine, but where are the kids? And More!
Breathless is the public side of the Rack & Riddle custom crush and bottling service company that you loyal readers may remember was a feature story in Woody’s Whine a couple of years ago.
They specialize in providing custom blended sparkling wine products to wineries that want to have a sparking bottle in their lineup but don’t want to go to the expense of buying the necessary expensive equipment or providing the specializes storage.
As part of our visit I was able to interview the Breathless wine maker and who, until a year ago, was the executive director for all winemaking at Rack & Riddle, Penny Gadd-Coster.
“I have stepped back to becoming a wine making consultant for Rack & Riddle after 35 years in the business”, Gadd-Coster says with a smile and laugh.
“I’m still responsible for making the Breathless wines under the roof of Rack & Riddle”, but when I was the executive director of winemaking I worked off and on with several hundred clients of R&R to develop their own sparkling wines as well as some still wine”, she noted.
In response to a question regards recognition for Breathless Gadd-Coster related her surprise at the number of awards. “Breathless has been a separate label since 2017 and I have curiously been reviewing the number of awards the wine has received and I had a “Wowie” moment seeing all of the double goals, the single goals in the best of class awards that we have received over the years”.
Gadd-Coster relates that she started out at Jordan Vineyards when they were starting their J label of sparkling wine and really got to see J from the very beginning and took that knowledge with her in 2007 to Rack & Riddle joining the winemaking team. “So I’ve kind of been a part of two startups and Breathless makes three”.
“This past year has been really great as I’ve been able to focus on Breathless and to make sure that team was ready to go so they don’t need me anymore”, Gadd-Coster laughed. “I’ve really had a great team and I see the mentorships I created really as partnerships versus me just telling someone what to do, as it’s really a collaboration between with those winemakers that don’t know bubbles and those winemakers come back to me telling me that this is what they’ve wanted to do since they were three years old and that’s is really heartwarming. It’s really kind of gratifying to launch a small winery into bubbles.”
I see a T-shirt -“We Launch People Into Bubbles”.
Looking into the rearview mirror, Gadd-Coster mused, “I’ve been fortunate enough to have some of the biggest people in the industry mentor me and then I got to take that knowledge and was able to make something that I knew was making people happy and that makes them smile and it makes me smile every day when I think about it.”
“I never thought 35 years ago that I would be a winemaker, who thinks they’re ever going to be a winemaker”, she offered. “And I’m completing my career as a winemaker and as a consultant – now I can go fishing again”.
Nothing New with Italian Chicken Sandwiches at Wendy’s, Bit Better at Burger King
“Wouldn’t order those again,” so starts a review of the new garlic fries at Wendy’s from the other member of the tasting panel after a first bite and I agreed. The fries were rather intense with a strong garlicky and salty flavored mix that was not really very tasty. They come in a small, sealed two-piece plastic food container, for no obvious reason except that they became steamed and mushy.
We’ve had a series of food misfortunes whenever we have visited the only Wendy’s in Santa Rosa where they still are understaffed and ill trained and were constantly running into each other, having to repeat instructions and not working at all as a team.
The ICS features a decent size piece of chicken breast, cooked OK but it was rather dry, extra tomato sauce would’ve help it and the hockey puck style piece of mozzarella cheese was in fact, not melted or stretchable like in the TV ad and added nothing to the flavor of the chicken or the sandwich as a total product.
We also tried the Italian Mozzarella Sandwich, a burger patty with the same cheese and sauce and liked the flavor profile better than the chicken but again the sauce should have been on both the top and the bottom to highlight the Italian flavor profile.
I’m not sure if the chicken and cheese were deep-fried or microwaved for service but the food arrived hardly warm at our table, the burger version suffered the same issue.
I wouldn’t bother with either of the sandwiches, the garlic fries or even their regular fries which aren’t that great either unless you’d like a flashback to the cafeteria food of your school days; it’s there but doesn’t really taste like much. The other member of the tasting panel bookended the review; “…the best part of both (Wendy’s) sandwiches was the breading on the chicken”.
Burger King Royal Crispy Chicken Sandwich
“Delightful” says the other member of the tasting panel with her first bite, you can really taste the sauce, the bun is nice and it tastes like chicken!” Maybe I should just stop here, but there’s actually more good news to follow.
The bun was not too thick and had a decent brioche style bite to it. The deep-fried chicken breast and the cheese were a nice bite combo and the red sauce is tasty but again more on both on the top and bottom of the bun would carry the tomato flavor throughout the sandwich. The cheese was a single slice of a mozzarella style and not the hard puck that we experienced at Wendy’s. It was nicely melted but really didn’t add any real cheese flavor to the sandwich was pretty tasty and the BK fries were not bad at all.
We also sampled the Original Italian Chicken Sandwich that has been on and off the Wendy’s menu for some time – the Royal Crispy version is a better step up.
So it’s really a bun swap and a difference in what appeared to be a “shaped chicken patty” or a poorly cut breast that is covered in a highly seasoned breading that totally changes the flavor profile versus the “crispy” flavor of the new sandwich that we both preferred.
I kept saying that it wasn’t a bad sandwich but I really didn’t like it and the other member of the tasting panel summed it up quite well referring to the taste of the original chicken sandwich as, “not a good natural flavor”.
Good At The Top But Not So Good At The Other End
The 22nd edition of the Silicon Valley Banks annual industry report provides an assessment of the industry amid current market conditions and shares that the while the premium side of the wine industry experienced another strong year with revenue up 9.7 percent the US wine industry as a whole experienced negative sales volume growth due to a decrease in sales of lower-priced wine.
“The positive growth in premium wine sales is expected to continue into 2023, tempered by the shadow of demand concerns due to the lack of adoption by consumers younger than 60,” said Rob McMillan, Executive Vice President. “It’s late in the game, but there is still time for the industry to come together to solve the demand issues plaguing the category and improve the trajectory of consumer adoption of wine.”
McMillian and others have been raising the warning regards the lack wine being attractive to younger consumers but the industry seems to be tone deaf.
It appears to me that many are content with the current environment of the top tier wines selling for hundreds of dollars a bottle and they’re making money and/or many are ready to retire as they’ve reached a certain age and the rest of the family isn’t interested in continuing so selling out to a big corporation and retiring makes perfect sense – it’s the smaller wineries that will suffer.
Oh and on a marketing note, the business world in general isn’t interested in selling anything to anybody over 60 except – the wine industry, so I guess we should take what we can get.
Highlights and predictions from the 2023 wine industry conditions survey and report:
The premium wine business continues to deliver excellent growth and returns.
For the industry as a whole, sales volume is expected to stabilize in 2023 at current levels.
Wine consumption is growing primarily among consumers over 60 years old. Positive industry sales growth in the future will be dependent on meaningful action taken from within the wine industry to attract younger consumers, who increasingly choose spirits, beer, alternative beverages, or alcohol abstinence over wine.
I’m not quite sure what to make of the California wine industry as a whole apparently ignoring the lack of interest from younger people as they have been silent on the subject. It appears that they don’t really know how to respond or are just hoping that it will all be better in the future.
Half a Glass
We’re Number Eight, We’re Number Eight
Santa Rosa CA. Ranks Among Top Cities for Cheese Lovers.
There is a lot of cheese produced in Santa Rosa and Sonoma County and we are now officially a cheese lover’s paradise. The city was ranked 8th in the country when it comes to cheese access, quality, affordability and community interest
A questionably scientific but undoubtedly delicious curd-to-curd survey of 200 cities by a lawn care services company, Lawn Starter, I’m not making this up, ranks Santa Rosa a respectable eighth in the country.
Laura Chenel is a name you’ll see on her famous goat cheese at Whole Foods and other higher end grocery as well as Cowgirl Creamery and Marin French Cheese.
The challenge to all of these cheeses is cost. Most all these producers use their own dairy or buy locally which is terrific, but with the cost of land, water, feed and labor has risen over the past 15 years so the price sticker on most of these chesses sort of makes them a special purchase which is too bad.
If you’re looking for an opportunity to try more than 100 artisan cheeses and related products then you’ll want to get tickets to the 17th annual California Cheese Festival scheduled for March 24-26 at the Sonoma Count in Santa Rosa. For more information and tickets, visit artisancheesefestival.com.
Go East You Popular Burger
In-N-Out Burger is expanding into Tennessee and opening a territory office in Franklin, a growing community 20 miles south of Nashville on I-65. This is their first move to the east as currently their units are only in California and other western states. Franklin is a historic community that is in horsey country now being invaded by corporate headquarters of auto and medical companies and experiencing growing pains.
“This expansion is significant for our company,” Lynsi Snyder who now runs the family, owned company, said in a release. “For many years, we’ve heard requests from our customers in Tennessee to consider opening locations near them, its further east than we’ve ever been.”
On a personal note, I’m quite familiar with Franklin as my in-laws moved there from far west suburban Chicago going on 30 years ago due to a job transfer. I have spent many fine days in a pool that is 100 feet from the first tee of a local golf course, but I digress.
Francis Ford Coppola selling Sonoma County wineries to Napa’s Delicato Family Wines
Filmmaker, vintner and hotelier Francis Ford Coppola has inked a deal to sell his Sonoma County wineries to Napa-based Delicato Family Wines, creating one of the top 10 suppliers of wine in the U.S. and exporters of California wine.
The deal includes the Francis Ford Coppola Winery and Virginia Dare Winery brands and the facilities as well as Archimedes Vineyard. Coppola himself would get a stake in Delicato and join its board. Both are family owned companies.
The transaction would make Delicato the No. 5 supplier of U.S. wine overall and in the over-$11-a-bottle category as well as the No. 3 exporter of California wines, the company said. The estimated the value of the deal is between $500 million and $1 billion.
THE NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL
Chick-fil-A Has a Traffic Issue
The Charlotte, NC’s zoning board has unanimously approved making one local Chick-fil-A a drive-thru only after customers started a petition in response to the chain’s long wait times and disruption to local traffic.
The proposal would tear down an existing Chick-fil-A and rebuild it as a drive-thru-only location. If passed, the owner of the property is willing to contribute $70,000 to new traffic signals; the entire project is expected to take six months.
The city council in Santa Barbara, Calif. was prepared to declare its local Chick-fil-A a public nuisance but the council decided to implement a new traffic agreement put forth by Chick-fil-A.
In 2021, former CEO Dan Cathy told the Atlanta Business Chronicle, “We estimate about 30% of the people are driving off, driving away, because the lines are so long.”
The third largest restaurant chain in the country does about $6.1 million in average unit volume – almost double that of McDonald’s. Chick-fil-A is only open six days a week.
Apparently the wait times haven’t phased Chick-fil-A’s popularity. According to a recent national survey of over 5,000 quick-service and fast casual consumers, Chick-fil-A ranks as America’s top brand for food quality, restaurant atmosphere, speed of service, staff friendliness and overall value. Chick-fil-A scored an 84% on Market Force’s composite loyalty index. NRN
That’s My Whine and I could me wrong…
Woody Mosgers, cooks, caters, writes, drinks, matches wine and food and offers wine country tour information and planning in Santa Rosa Sonoma, CA. At