Friday, March 31, 2017

New Long Island cider tasting room goes beyond the norm

A look at the main tasting and dining area. (photos provided)
Cideries may briefly have been a poor cousin to wineries and breweries that were more in the mainstream mind and adept at marketing through well-appointed tasting rooms, but that is changing.

Now that cider, which in colonial times and beyond was the go-to adult beverage here and in the UK, has made a tremendous comeback, more and more cideries -- sometimes offshoots of wine- and beer-making operations -- are paying attention to their public face via tasting rooms.

An example of go-big-or-go-home is the Riverhead Ciderhouse, an 8,000-square-foot tasting room that just opened in the Long Island community regarded as the gateway to the East End wine region.

Greg Gove, whose resume includes stints as a winemaker with Hargrave and Pindar vineyards, is the cider master for the operation that offers a wide variety of apple ciders and other apple products along with locally-made beers and wines. He is using New York-grown apples to produce three ciders -- Benjamin’s Best, Razmatazz and Reserve cider.

The tasting room, which offers 24 beverages on tap, has a pair of floor-to-ceiling fireplaces,

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Ultimate Spirits Challenge winners announced

Final results were released Wednesday for the 7th annual Ultimate Spirits Challenge (USC), held at the Ultimate Beverage Challenge Evaluation Center in Hawthorn, Westchester County.

Noted writer F. Paul Pacult, the judging chairman, said, "One of the many advantages of having our own year-round facility is that instead of having to judge hundreds of spirits entries over a couple of days like other spirits competitions, we can take the time to break each category down into small flights. This means that USC judging panels focus on each flight with greater in-depth attention, resulting in more accurate assessments. We don't take shortcuts which is perhaps why USC experienced a 20% increase in entries this year."

Full results in all categories are available online. The Chairman's Trophy is the top award in each category. Here are those winners:

Alessio Vino Chinato

Yushan Cellaring 6 Years Old Kaoliang

• American: Bartlett Spirits of Maine Pear Eau-de-Vie
• Armagnac: Dartigalongue Grande Eau-de-Vie 25 Years Old Bas Armagnac
• Calvados: Roger Groult XO Pays d'Auge
• Cognac: Pierre Ferrand Reserve Double Cask
• French Brandy: Monteru Double Wood Triple Toast Finish
• Grappa: Poli Sarpa di Poli
• Pisco: Porton Acholado
• Spanish Brandy: Cardenal Mendoza Solera Gran Reserva Brandy de Jerez

Novo Fogo Tanager

• London Dry: Tanqueray
• World: Ferdinand's Saar Dry Gin

Grand Marnier Cuvée du Centenaire

Rey Campero Tepextate Joven

• Rum: Appleton Estate 21 Years Old
• Rhum Agricole: Clément VSOP
• Spiced Rum: Don Q Oak Barrel

• Blanco: Tequila Cabeza
• Reposado: Partida
• Añejo: Blue Nectar Founder's Blend
• Extra Añejo: El Tesoro Paradiso

Whisky - Canada
Lot 40 Canadian Rye WHISKEY

Whiskey - Ireland
• Blended: Jameson 18 Years Old
• Single Pot Still: Yellow Spot 12 Years Old
• Single Malt: The Irishman Small Batch

Whisky - Japan
Nikka Miyagikyo Single Malt

Whisky - Scotland
• Blended: Buchanan's Master
• Blended Malt: Usquaebach An Ard Ri Cask Strength 2016
• Single Malt-Highland: Glengoyne 15 Years Old
• Single Malt-Island: Highland Park Valkyrie
• Single Malt-Islay: Laphroaig 10 Years Old
• Single Malt-Speyside: BenRiach 20 Years Old

Whiskey - United States
• American: Wild Turkey Forgiven
• Kentucky Straight Bourbon: Col. E.H. Taylor Small Batch
• Rye: Hudson Manhattan Rye
• Single Malt: McCarthy's Oregon 3 Years Old

Whiskey - World
Paul John Peated Select Cask Indian Single Malt

Whiskey - World - Flavored
Catskill Provisions New York Honey

iichiko BLŪ

Alessio Vermouth Chinato

Flavored: Van Gogh Dutch Caramel
• Unflavored: Purity

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Update: 'Sneak preview' for former Bradley's Tavern in Troy

A well-lit venue
UPDATE (3/30/17): Entrepreneurs Vic Christopher and Heather LaVine will host what they term a "sneak preview" of The Bradley, their latest downtown Troy project, at 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The former Bradley's Tavern is located at 28 4th Street.

(Originally published 1/18/17)

No huge public announcement, but new owner Vic Christopher this evening posted this interior photo of the former Bradley's Tavern in downtown Troy, and referred to the venue as "The Bradley."

The spruced-up former dive bar that he and wife-business partner Heather LaVine purchased late last year has been open for only one day since then -- during the city's annual "Victorian Stroll" festival.

Christopher said after that several names were under consideration, including keeping Bradley's Tavern, perhaps resurrecting its original name -- Dempsey's Bar & Grill, or something entirely different.

No opening date has yet been announced for The Bradley, located at 28 Fourth Street.

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Researchers seek genetic clues to help grapes survive cold

Al Kovaleski visiting the Anthony Road Winery in Penn Yan. (Chris Kitchen/University Photography)
From the Cornell Chronicle
Months before northern vineyards burst into their lush summer peak, the delicate grape buds holding the nascent fruit in its tiny core must first withstand the freezing onslaught of winter.

Understanding how grape buds respond to subzero temperatures is of paramount concern to vineyard managers in New York and other northerly grape-producing states. Some of the more popular varieties used in the wine and juice industries can survive temperatures far below the freezing point of water. By a process known as supercooling, cellular mechanisms within the bud maintain water in liquid state down to around minus 4 to minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the species. Beyond a certain low-temperature threshold, ice forms inside the cells, cellular functions cease and the bud dies.

Horticulturists have long relied on traditional methods to study freezing in plants. Now a researcher in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is using powerful technologies on campus to explore in new ways the cellular mechanics that allow grape buds to survive brutal cold. The research has implications for vineyard economics, especially as climate change opens more northerly land for cultivation and current growing regions experience more extreme weather.
Go here for the full story.
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Wine legislation roundup: 50 states, 50 sets of rules

From Wine Spectator
With all the recent drama in Washington, DC it can be easy to forget that hundreds of lawmakers in state capitols are busy drafting and debating bills that could impact their constituents -- that's you.

The 2017 legislative season is currently under way in most states. And ,because the 21st Amendment to the Constitution delegates much of the power to regulate alcohol to the states, there are plenty of proposals that could change the way you buy and consume wine and other alcoholic beverages.

From the endless direct shipping wars to changes in blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) limits for driving to excise tax increases and exemptions to diapers and wine ice cream, here's a guide to the proposed laws now under debate.

Go here for the state-by-state update.
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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A popular pre-Prohibition KC spirit makes its return

After what could be termed a lengthy hiatus, a once-popular Kansas City whiskey that had been sold nationally is back.

A little thing called Prohibition halted production of Monogram Whiskey, but local distiller J. Rieger & Co., whose founder's ancestors made the spirit, has resurrected it and this week is releasing the first 1,000 bottles of Monogram Whiskey 2017 Oloroso Bota.

How many more bottles will be produced is unknown. The determining factor in making this particular whiskey expression is the use of old sherry botas (barrels) and how long what they have on hand will continue imparting the desired color and flavor to the corn-and-rye whiskey.

The Kansas City Star has a good take on the whole project. and you can access it here.
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'NY State of Rosé' an international tasting event

Fans of rosé wines, and there seem to be more of them all the time judging by various competitions and news items, will have an opportunity to compare those from New York State with those from several other countries during the "NY State of Rosé" tasting event in Manhattan on Thursday, April 27.

The tasting, organized by New York Wine Events, will be held at the Union Square Ballroom from 7 to 10 p.m., with a premium 6 p.m. access reservation available. They promise a line of rosés from New York, France, Italy, Brazil and Slovenia, with several others to be announcd on the website closer to the date of the event.

Winemakers, wineries, and various importers and distributors will be on hand to pour samples and to discuss the wines with attendees.

For those unfamiliar with rosés (pronounced row/zays), that type of wine is created as the skins of red grapes touch the wine for just a brief time. While some red wines ferment for several weeks on their red grape skins, rosé wines are stained red in just hours. The winemaker has total control over the wine's color, removing the red grape skins when the wine reaches the desired shade.

New York's Bridge Lane Wine, Brotherhood Winery, Jamesport Vineyards, The Lenz Winery, Palmer Vineyards, Sannino Vineyard, and Wolffer Estate Vineyard with its rosé cider will participate; 13th & Third Wines will pour its California selection with New York roots; Maiden + Liberty will present a French-American rosé; Uncork Brazil will feature the country's Miolo Wine Group and Cave Geisse Winery, plus a bonus rosé from South Africa's DeBos Handpicked Vineyards; Laureate Imports will pour a Slovenian selection and XV Exclusives will sample rosés from France and Italy.

"Rosés have re-emerged as a summer selection of choice by millennial drinkers as well as other age groups who have already enjoyed the wine's flavorful, refreshing taste throughout the years," said Sam Kimball, founder of New York Wine Events. "We've designed this boutique tasting around a sampling of top global selections as well as some amazing domestic rosés that

Monday, March 27, 2017

Amorici Vineyard's Messina creates an 'off-premises' label

The newcomer
Amorici Vineyard sits near the border between Washington and Rensselaer counties, but its newest wine says "North Fork of Long Island" on the label. Wassup?

Owner-winemaker-chef Joe Messina is having his new line, called Bacchus Trust Select, made by other wineries to his specifications. The first wine in the series is a 2014 gewürztraminer made from Long Island grapes.

The wine is available, like the dozen or so he produces under the Amorici name, for $25 a bottle at the vineyard, located at 637 Colonel Burch Road, Valley Falls. And, it also is available at shops that normally carry Amorici wines.
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Imbibeable Cartoonery

A gallery of artwork honoring those who draw conclusions. 

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Johnnie Walker Blenders' Batch experiment comes ashore

Depending on where you have been traveling in the past year, you may have come across the Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch release of Red Rye Finish. Now, the line officially has hit the U.S. market with the introduction here of the brand's Triple Grain American Oak.

The Blenders' Batch portfolio was created to market a few of the hundreds of experiments the distiller tries out. The Triple Grain American Oak, for example, comes from focusing on the influence of bourbon and rye whiskey flavors on Scotch.

Says the distiller of the newcomer: "Aged for at least 10 years in American oak, including bourbon casks, Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Triple Grain American Oak is crafted using five whiskies including grain from the now-closed Port Dundas distillery and malt from Mortlach on Speyside. This combination creates a whisky that is uniquely smooth, with notes of sweet fresh fruit and gentle spice. This style of whisky is excellent as the foundation for classic and signature cocktails.”

Jim Beveridge, Walker's master blender, explained in a prepared statement what the thinking was  behind the Blenders' Batch program.

“Experimentation is the key to innovation and has been at the heart of Johnnie Walker from the

Brewpub part of latest Troy warehouse renovation project

A brewpub and apartments are targeted for this former paint factory.

Another brewpub is in the works as part of a multi-use renovation of yet one more former warehouse in Troy, a city known for such conversions and for a growing number of such drinking establishments.

This one is located in the North Central neighborhood at 669 River Street, on the north side of the street between Middleburgh and North streets. If all goes well with the estimated $2 million project -- still in the conceptual stage, but expected to also include 13 apartments and/or offices on the upper floors -- it will join the neighboring The Hangar On the Hudson event and concert space and The Ale House as part of an embryonic entertainment neighborhood.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Celebri-Quote: Kathie Lee Gifford

Kathie Lee Gifford
• Most of America is familiar with Kathie Lee Gifford from one of her endeavors -- TV host, commercial spokesperson, producer, singer-actress, and so forth. But, now she has loaned her name to a line of wines produced by Scheid Family Vineyards of Monterey, CA. Here are a couple of her comments in an interview with Connecticut Magazine.
Q: You have had so much success, but is this a case of getting better with age?

A: It has nothing to do with age, but an opportunity to do something new. I was approached about getting involved in working with the Scheid family and its wines, and I thought “Why not?” But, I am not the kind of celebrity who lends my name, takes the money and runs. I wanted to be a partner in it and be part of it. The Scheids make excellent wines, although honestly, I wasn’t familiar with them at first. I had given up on California wines. The California chardonnays that I had loved had become so oaky, thick and heavy, they looked like a urine specimen. When we talked about it, the Scheids said, “We can make a chardonnay wine like you remember.” They did and we came up with a label and then we went on to do something again, this time a red blend. And have just kept going.

Q: Do you consider yourself a wine expert now?

A: No, not an expert, but I know what I love and I don’t compromise on that. It’s a hard business to break into. And, most celebrity wines aren’t successful. I was excited with the pinot grigio we introduced last year and then a pinot noir that is very unique. The new craze is a white blend with like 10 wines in it, and that’s our new baby coming. The name will be Bountiful. ... Because of the shortage of cork, our wines have screw tops. Our tagline is “Too easy to open, too hard to put down.”
Looking for more Celebri-Quotes? You can find them in this archive.

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Hill Farmstead Brewery hires Otter Creek's brewmaster

Mike Gerhart
The Vermont brewery named by the influential website RateBeer the world's best brewery three years in a row has enlisted an iconic brewmaster from another Vermont company.

Mike Gerhart, the brewmaster at Otter Creek Brewing in Middlebury, has joined the Hill Farmstead Brewery in Greensboro Bend, according to the Burlington Free Press.

Gerhart is seen in cartoon form on most Otter Creek Brewing labels and cans with long hair, a tie-dye headband, a VW bus and his dog. Gerhart also was brewmaster at the Shed Brewery in Middlebury.

Hill Farmstead's next release, scheduled for Wednesday, is Birth of Tragedy: Kochere, an imperial porter brewed with honey and aged in apple brandy barrels on Kochere coffee from Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia.

"We have chosen two barrels of Birth of Tragedy as the base for this single origin coffee experiment," the company said in  an announcement. "After aging for 20 months in apple brandy barrels, we conditioned the beer atop Ethiopian Kochere coffee beans sourced and roasted by The Coffee Collective in Copenhagen, Denmark.  These friends long ago changed our worldview as to what coffee could be.  After months of bottle conditioning, the beer is ready for release."

It will sell for $20 for the 375ml size, limit 1 per person. The brewery's bottle release policy is available online.
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Saturday, March 25, 2017

State-supplied alcohol at park sparks Long Island opposition

Under-development visitors center. (Drawing provided by NYS Parks Dept.)

Ever-expanding efforts by the Cuomo administration's Taste NY program that promotes foods and beverages produced in the state are running into some local opposition on Long Island.

The under-construction Hallock State Park visitors center on the North Fork's Sound Avenue will sell alcoholic beverages and visitors will be able to drink them on-site, according to a document just released by the  New York State Department of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation. The patio and picnic area adjacent to the center will designated by the department to allow alcohol consumption, the document says.

The department's document said that while it prefers the Taste NY concession to be operated by the holder of a farm winery, brewery or cidery license, “there may be multiple liquor licensing options available to an interested party and all proposals are encouraged.” That nicety is because the Cuomo people have been encouraging "branch office" licenses, and touting the growing number that have been approved.

The concession will occupy a 600-square-foot room in the 3,800-square-foot visitors center structure now under construction in the winery-rich area. Hallock State Park Preserve, formerly Jamesport State Park, is a 225-acre park and nature preserve that straddles the North Fork towns of Riverhead and Southold in Suffolk County.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Erie Canal theme for Hudson Valley Hops event

"Beer & The Eric Canal," marking the bicentennial of the groundbreaking for the historic waterway, will be the theme of the 6th annual "Hudson Valley Hops" event.

The celebration of the history of brewing in the region and of today’s craft beer industry will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday, April 8, at the Albany Institute of History & Art. Admission is $35 or $30 for museum members in advance by calling (518) 463-4478 extension 412, or by going online. Prices are $5 higher at the door.

In addition to offering samples of local craft beers, the event will include talks by beer historians and brewing experts, an exhibition of historic beer artifacts and photographs, and a tasteoff of IPAs from such regional breweries as Brown's Brewing, The Beer Diviner, Argyle Brewing, Chatham Brewing, C.H. Evans/Albany Pump Station, Green Wolf Brewing, Rare Form Brewing, Rip Van Winkle Brewery, Shmaltz Brewing, and S & S Brewery.

The Albany Institute is located at 125 Washington Avenue in downtown Albany.
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Brewery LaHoff development just waiting on the weather

Site of the in-development farm brewery. (Photo provided)
If the weather and all other factors cooperate, the next brewery to open in the Greater Capital Region will be in Coxsackie. Well, Climax, to be specific.

At what will be called Brewery LaHoff, they're waiting for a warm spell so some concrete can be poured at the Vedder Road site just off Route 81. This recent photo shows the current condition of the venue.

The company was incorporated in Greene County in November 2016 by Andre Latour, who will be owner and brewmaster of the four-barrel brewery located on an old dairy farm and orchard site. Latour tells me the brewery and tasting room "is going to be located in one of the existing barns on the property. I don't have an exact age of the barn. It is believed to be about 117 years old. A hop yard also is in the plans, and we intend to clean up the existing orchard on the property and plant some new trees."

Latour began the process about 11 months ago with site engineering, zoning and local review. Construction began in late fall should be wrapped up within the next two months, and the brewing system should be arriving by June.

"Originally, I was shooting for a September 1 opening," LaTour said, "but it might not be until mid to late Fall. It will just depend on the licensing approvals."

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Carrabba's expands its expanded food-and-drink offerings

Carrabba's Italian Grill, which recently debuted a new, expanded menu, has added three possibilities to its wine-and-food tasting selections.

Each item, at various price points, offers three wine samples plus a specific small plate. Then, if you want to order a full glass of wine from among those sampled, you get a nine-ounce pour at the six-ounce price.

The offerings:
Italian Classics -- Riondo Prosecco, Pieropan Soave , Santa Cristina Chianti Superiore, paired with arancini (stuffed rice balls), $9.99.

World of Wine -- Belleruche Rosé, Layer Cake Malbec, CasaSmith Barbera, paired with grilled asparagus with prosciutto, $11.99.

Uncork California -- Coppola Votre Santé Pinot Noir, Joel Gott Zinfandel, Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon, paired with meatballs and ricotta, $12.99.
In the Capital Region, Carrabba's is located at 675 Troy Schenectady Road (Route 7). Open daily from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Phone: (518) 785-8886.
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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Keuka Lake Wine Trail greets spring with 'Tapas & Wine'

Once the leftover snow banks recede, most people are anxious to get out and travel a bit. Members of the Keuka Lake Wine Trail are counting on getting an early share of that traffic.

That will begin with a "Tapas & Wine Weekend" set for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 8-9. It's a self-guided tour with visitors beginning at any point on the Trail, picking up a souvenir tasting glass and a food-and-wine sample before moving on to other venues.

Each winery will prepare savory and sweet bites with suggested pairings. Twenty-eight wine samples and more than a dozen food samples will be offered. A few examples:
Keuka Spring -- Crostini with beef tenderloin, red peppers, and cilantro pesto mayonnaise; Manchego cheese, marinated mushrooms, and garlic stuffed olives.

McGregor Vineyard -- Spanish tortilla filled with caramelized onions and roasted garlic, crusty French bread, cinnamon-sugar churro.

Point of the Bluff -- Smoked sausage tartlet.

Vineyard View -- Bacon-wrapped figs and chorizo and garbanzo puree with grilled flatbread.
Other participating wineries are Heron Hill, Hunt Country, and Ravines.

Ticket options, including for designated drivers, range from $14 to $25 and are available online.
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Niagara Wine Trail plans 2-weekend tasting

Members of the Niagara Wine Trail are planning a two-weekend "Taste of the Trail" event for April to help celebrate its 15th anniversary.

Although not every member is involved in both the April 22-23 and 29-30 weekends, most are. The self-guided event allows visitors to start at any of the venues, then go on to others as they desire. Reservations, accepted through the Thursday before each weekend, are $25 for one weekend or $40 for two. At the wineries the days of the event, prices jump to $30 and $45 per person.

The suggested plan is to explore half the trail each weekend to maximize the variety of foods sampled with suggested wine pairings from each winery's collection.

A few examples of what will be served:
810 Meadworks -- Swedish meatballs paired with Sweet Devotion black currant mead
Arrowhead Spring Vineyards -- Artisanal grilled cheese bites paired with Arrowhead Red.
Flight of Five Winery -- Citrus Salad (orange, grapefruit, pineapple) with orange poppy dressing, paired with Locktender Gruner Veltliner or Lock 69 wines
Schwenk Wine Cellars -- Chocolate butterscotch bars served with dry reds
Other participating venues include A Gust of Sun Winery Spencerport and A Gust of Sun Winery Ransomville, Freedom Run Winery, Lake Ontario Winery, Leonard Oakes Estate Winery, Salamanca Winery, Spring Lake Winery, Vizcarra Vineyards, BlackBird Cider Works, Black Willow Winery, Chateau Niagara Winery, Honeymoon Trail Winery, Long Cliff Winery & Vineyards, Midnight Run Wine Cellars, Niagara Landing Wine Cellars, The Winery at Marjim Manor, Schulze Vineyards & Winery, and Victorianbourg Wine Estate. Go here for a look at the individual offerings revealed so far.
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Hunt Country Vineyards introduces a new winemaker

Craig Hosbach at work. (photo provided)
In spring, wineries usually are looking to new things. At Hunt Country Vineyards, the newest "thing" is a new winemaker.

Owners Art and Joyce Hunt today announced the appointment of Craig Hosbach to that role. He has been making wine for more than a decade, mostly in northern New York State, and is vice president of the Northern New York Grape Growers Association.

In 2008, Hosbach joined Thousand Islands Winery in Alexandria Bay where he refined his skills working with regional grapes as well as with classic vinifera varieties. Then, in 2012, he became head winemaker at Tug Hill Vineyards in Lowville. His wines have won more than 200 various awards.

Hosbach also is involved in the teaching of winemaking, having created an educational winemaking facility for students from Jefferson Community College’s winery marketing and management program.

Hunt Country Vineyards, which includes the farm, vineyard, winery and cafe, is located at 4021 Italy Hill Road in Branchport, Yates County. Phone: (800) 946-3289 or (315) 595-2812.

Art and Joyce Hunt took over the family farm in 1973, gradually but steadily expanding the scope of the business and starting a small farm winery in 1981 that has become one of the Finger Lakes' premier facilities.
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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Bellangelo opening two 'branded' satellite tasting rooms

In the Bellangelo cellar. (photo provided)
The Seneca Lake winery Villa Bellangelo is planning a two-venue grand opening bash on March 31.

Both venues are branded satellite tasting rooms called Branch by Bellangelo. One is in the former clubhouse of the Seneca Lake Country Club in Geneva, the other opposite the Cheesecake Factory in Syracuse's Destiny USA shopping complex. Wine tastings, the release of 2016 rosés, live music and other entertainments are planned for the grand openings.

The Branch in Geneva, located at 226 Turk Road, has a full cafe offering wine tastings and pairings from the Bellangelo winery and other New York State producers, as well weekend brunches. The Branch in Syracuse offers a range of Bellangelo and other New York State wines as well as selling local farm-produced food, craft and fashion items, as well as tasting sessions.

The concept is part of an ambitious expansion program by the Missick family who purchased
the 220-acre golf course in 2016, and plans to transforming the property into a resort destination.

Villa Bellangelo originally was known as Squaw Point Winery. The location has been producing wine commercially since 1986. The Missick family bought the property in 2011. It is located at 150 Poplar Point Road in Dundee, Yates County, just west of the lake. Phone: (607) 243-8602.
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Go to the other 'Dowd On Drinks' site for extra news

The Facebook logo
Did you know the Facebook version of "Dowd On Drinks" often contains stories, images and links to material that doesn't appear on this blog?

Right now, for example, you can go there to link to such stories as:
• Troy Ball's spirited tale about whiskey-making and her special-needs sons

• Virginia raises a toast to George Washington's whiskey

• The coming of age of America's prominent non-distilling whiskey producers

• Newburgh hard-cider company partners with Mount Saint Mary College
Interested? Just click here to get there.
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Celebri-Quote: Pope Francis

This occasional featured tidbit usually deals with things said by people in the drinks industry, the arts, entertainment, maybe even politics. But, Pope Francis keeps surprising people with his observations on a variety of topics not usually addressed by the head of the Roman Catholic Church. This week, in delivering his weekly Angelus address, he interpreted the passage in the Gospel of St. John’s telling of the wedding feast of Cana at which it is written that Jesus turned water into wine.

• “How is it possible to celebrate the wedding and have a party if you lack what the prophets indicated was a typical element of the messianic banquet?”

• “Water is necessary to live, but wine expresses the abundance of the banquet and the joy of the feast.”

• “A wedding feast lacking wine embarrasses the newlyweds. Imagine finishing the wedding feast drinking tea! It would be shameful!”
He then concluded, “Wine is necessary for the celebration.” 
Click here to visit my archive of Celebri-Quotes on drinking.

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'Blending Bash' adds vodka to Saratoga Winery tasting room

Vodka and wine usually don't mix. However, they will when the Saratoga Winery hosts its first "Blending Bash." It's set to run from 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, April 1.

It's a joint effort with the Saratoga Courage Distillery, for which the winery now proclaims it is "the official tasting room." The distillery was founded in Greenfield Center 2013 by Holly and Serge Shishik, and their Pick Six Vodka quickly was picked up by numerous bars and restaurants in  the Capital Region.

Unfortunately, Serge died last summer of cancer at the tender age of 43. But, Holly persevered, and partnering with Saratoga Winery to provide an official tasting room was a major step. (Local regulations precluded opening a tasting room at the distillery.)  She enlisted Serene Mastrianni, her sister-in-law, and Kellie Fisher, a cousin by marriage, to help run various aspects of the business, making it one of the few woman-owned and -run distilleries in the U.S.

Admission to the "Blending Bash" is $5, which includes a signature drink sample. Live music, BBQ, and a drink luge are included in the festivities.

The Saratoga Winery is located at 462 Route 29 West, three-plus miles from downtown Saratoga Springs. Phone: (518) 584-9463.

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Monday, March 20, 2017

1800 Tequila taking a Chance on a new (w)rapper

A specially designed set of 1800 Tequila bottles
Normally, I pay zero attention to celebrity endorsements of products. After all, what do they really mean beyond the simple fact that someone was given money to read a script saying nice things about a product? If such things actually persuade you to buy something, I fear for you.

But, every now and then I see such endorsements and wonder merely as a marketing question about the thinking behind them. Take the case of a young entertainer who calls himself Chance the Rapper (actual name Chancelor J. Bennett). Although he has won several Grammys for his work, and he has been an admirable advocate of fighting violence in his murder-plagued hometown of Chcago, he also spends a lot of his time getting paid to hype products -- Dockers, Nike, H&M clothing, Kit-Kat candy bars, etc.

Which brings us to the 1800 Tequila brand. Its public relation agency CP+B Los Angeles has just launched a rebranding campaign that presents it as “Just Refined Enough.” The ad is set  to a new song by Chance and involves a training session in a boxing gym, one of the fighters playing piano at a bar, and finishes with the word “Refined” onscreen, followed by the tagline “Just Refined Enough.”

So, what is this all about? It says nothing about the tequila's qualities which I, as a novice when it comes to marketing but a consumer of many decades' experience, find perplexing. At least Chance's Kit-Kat commercials say the candy tastes good. But, when it comes to the tequila, apparently it is supposed to make some social statement, carry a message to the consuming masses, and so on.

“We’re trying to … start a conversation about what modern masculinity is,” says 1800 Tequila group brand director Erin Chin in an interview with Adweek magazine.

That certainly is what I want to when I'm thinking about buying a bottle of tequila. Oh, and by the way, the rebranding campaign also includes custom bottles designed by artist Enoc Perez, which will make their debut as part of the Guggenheim Museum’s Essential Artists Series.

At least that's tangible. Like Kit-Kats.


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Troy's Bootleggers planning a slammin' brunch event

The title isn't grammatical, and its different versions can be confusing, but it does sound tasty.

It's the "Brunch & Brew's Fest 2" at Bootleggers on Broadway in Troy.

(Or, Bootlegger's, or  Bootlegger's Bar & Grill, depending on where you look it up. Please, guys, pick one, drop the apostrophe, and end the angst.)
Tickets for the event, available online, are $40 in advance or $45 at the door when it begins at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 8. The lineup of attractions includes an all-you-can-eat brunch, unlimited sampling of beers from more than a dozen breweries including Brown's Brewing, Lake Placid and Ommegang; mimosas, a Bloody Mary bar featuring Pick Six vodka, and various other drinks samples.

Bootleggers, founded in 2011, is located in the historic Hendrick Hudson Building at 200 Broadway in downtown Troy. Phone: (518) 874-4475.

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A look at Vermont's cocktail-and-food pairings scene

Monday is the first day of spring. No matter how the weather treats us over the next few weeks, we're on the down slope toward nice weather, and that means denizens of the Greater Capital Region will begin venturing farther afield for food and drink in places like southern Vermont, western Massachusetts, central New York, the Catskills, the Adirondacks, etc.

Seven Days, the "alternative" weekly -- I always question that knee-jerk description for anything published outside the mainstream media, but it seems to be acceptable to a lot of people -- that does such a good job of covering the Vermont foodie scene, has just taken a solid look at the current cocktail-and-food pairing trend.

Here is how Seven Days writer Suzanne Podhaizer approaches the topic:
"The veggie hash arrived five courses into a brunch-time cocktail pairing at Misery Loves Co. in Winooski -- hunks of mushroom and cauliflower and strips of roasted bell pepper and onion, all mounded on a smear of verdant pesto. A pair of orange-yolked eggs slumped off the vegetables like the melting clocks in Salvador Dali's 'The Persistence of Memory.'

"At my elbow was an unusual drink called 'A Walk in the Woods.' Made of gin, juniper, the bitter aperitif Byrrh and reduced mushroom stock, the earthy, woodsy concoction was a perfect complement to the hash. The fungus in the drink picked up the fungus in the food. The bitter components cut through the fat from the egg yolks, just as the latter streaked gold into the pesto's green.

"Misery is one of a handful of Burlington-area restaurants that have made an art of creating food-friendly cocktails, with elements that echo ingredients on the plate or sharply counterpoint them. Other local purveyors of such drinks -- which can be served alone or alongside a meal -- include the Inn at Shelburne Farms, ArtsRiot and Juniper at Hotel Vermont. A decade ago, pairing beer with food -- instead of wine -- was edgy. More recently, serving mixed drinks with meals has become a trend written up in places such as and Food & Wine. Men's Fitness even described the creation of apt food and booze pairings as a surefire seduction technique (if only!)"
Go here for her full report.

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New Catskill brewery project under construction

Crossroads Brewing under construction (photo provided)
The Crossroads Brewing Company, which  has been operating as the brew house and restaurant 21 2nd St. in Athens, will open for business in Catskill this summer.

21 2nd St. was opened at the former home of the Brooks Opera House in October 2009  by Ken Landin and Janine Bennett. The brewery construction has begun in the former Columbia-Greene Media printing press building by Dimensions North of Catskill, and a Fourth of July opening is being projected.

The expansion will have the capacity to hold 10,000 barrels compared to the 900-barrel brew house in Athens, and will allow Crossroads to market and sell its products to adjacent states.

Go here for the full story on the project.

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Irish pub may may succeed Schenectady's City Squire tavern

The now-closed tavern.
Schenectady's City Squire tavern, closed for the past 2 1/2 years, may not be resuscitated, but its 1018 Keyes Avenue location may become home to an Irish-style pub.

According to a report today in The Daily Gazette, "The Lecce Group, in a joint venture with John and Katrina Isopo, hope to close on the purchase of the former City Squire, tear it down and build an Irish pub serving light fare and specialty craft beers for lunch and dinner. “

Lecce Group President and CEO Lou Lecce told the newspaper, “This has been a restaurant for decades and we’ve heard from the community that they want to see it reopened. They miss the local Irish pub where you can just go watch the football game and grab something to eat.”
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Livingston Co. business contest sparks craft beverage boom

Livingston County, NY, entered 2017 with a grand total of one craft brewery and one cidery. That is about to change, big time.

In an effort to take advantage of the alcoholic beverage industry boom and create jobs in the county of some 65,000 residents a business plan competition called "Brew In Livingston" was created by the county's Economic Development Office. It also was intended to create a craft beverage trail to promote business cooperation and potential tourism.

On Friday, seven winners were announced. Four of them each will receive $35,000 microenterprise grants for furniture, fixtures, and equipment, as well as a one-year membership to the New York State Brewers Association, and free tax assistance from EFPR Group, a Rochester tax accountancy. The four are:

The county also will work with three others to seek additional funding, They are:
The effort is being funded by $185,000 in state grants announced Friday  by Governor Andrew Cuomo. The grants were awarded by the state through the Finger Lakes Economic Development Council and the region's Finger Lakes Forward economic development initiative.

The funds also will help establish a Brewing Microenterprise Program in Livingston County which will begin with four local businesses that will create 16 fulltime jobs and leverage $400,000 in additional resources from across the region.
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Higher wine tax nixed, Montana governor widens his range

Never underestimate a politician when he or she wants to dig a little deeper into people's pockets. Take Steve Bullock as just the latest example.

He's the governor of Montana who last month experienced rejection by state Senate Taxation Committee members of his bid to increase the state's excise tax on wine. Undaunted, he came back on Friday with another such request -- but this time broadened it to cover beer and distilled spirits.

Chutzpah, yes, but here's the clever part. Consumers probably won't complain much if Bullock is successful because consumers don't directly pay such levies. While a state sales tax is collected from consumers as a percentage of the final purchase price of all qualifying sales, an excise tax is a flat per-unit tax paid directly to the government before the goods can be sold. Thus, it would be up to beverage producers to decide whether to pass along all or part of any  increase to their customers.

Early reaction is mixed. According to the Associated Press, the Montana Tavern Association was not opposed, but the Montana Beer and Wine Distributors Association called the tax selective and regressive.

If adopted, it is estimated the tax would raise $3.8 million in its first year, with $2.7 million going to the state's general fund and the rest going to Native American tribes and the state health department. The tax on wine would rise from 27 to 30 cents per liter compared to doubling the tax which Bullock's original request would have done. The new beer tax would not be the same for all producers, ranging from would $1.43 per barrel for small operations to $4.73 for large ones.
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Save the date: Rip Van Winkle festival

The name has been broadened, but the organizers and venue remain the same for what now is the Rip Van Winkle Wine, Brew & Beverage Festival.

The sponsoring Fortnightly Club of Catskill, which renamed what had been the Rip Van Winkle Wine & Cheese Festival, will hold the 11th annual event from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 13, at Historic Catskill Point, 1 Main Street in the village.

The indoor event goes on rain or shine. Tickets, priced at $25 each, are available online or at the door. In addition to samples of adult beverages, food vendors will offer tastes of cheeses, baked goods, chocolates and other specialty items.
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Discount tickets available for Adirondack Food & Wine Fest

The Adirondack Wine & Food Festival isn't until late June, but if you plan to attend you can save $10 on tasting tickets by buying them now.

The event will be held on the weekend of June 24-25 at the  Charles R. Wood Festival Commons in Lake George. Admission will be $35 at the gate, but online purchase is discounted by $10 through March 24.

The vendor lineup as of today includes 21 wineries, 18 artisanal food providers, four breweries, seven distilleries and cideries, seven food trucks and restaurants, and a variety of specialty vendors. More are expected to be added in every category by the time the festival rolls around.
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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Grape & Wine Initiative picks ex-Long Island wine exec

Donnell Brown
Donnell Brown, formerly head of the Long Island Merlot Alliance (LIMA), will begin a new industry role on April 3. That is when she becomes president of the National Grape & Wine Initiative (NGWI), succeeding Camron King, who has held the position for just under a year.

Brown has worked in the wine industry since 2009. On Long Island, she operated the private consulting firm Between the Vines LLC in Greenport, served as as senior marketing director for Wölffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack, and as event planner and board member of Harvest East End on Long Island. In California, she was marketing director for the Visit Temecula Valley organization.

NGWI is headquartered in Sacramento, CA. It is a nationwide coalition representing all segments of the grape industry including: raisin, juice, fresh grape and wine. NGWI membership includes grape growers, processors, wineries and representatives of academic institutions and cooperative extension organizations committed to improving the industry.

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Hazlitt's ice wine wins another major honor

Last Saturday, I reported that Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards' 2014 Vidal Ice Wine won "Best of Show" honors at the International Eastern Wine Competition/East Meets West in Sonoma, CA.

This Saturday, I can report that the same wine just took "Best of Class" honors at the Great American International Wine Competition in Rochester.

This particular ice wine may be the all-time best produced by the Schuyler County winery in terms of awards. Earlier the same wine, bottled in September 2014, earned Double Gold in the New York State Fair Commercial Wine Competition; "Best of Show," "Best Late Harvest/Dessert Wine," "Best of Class" and Double Gold in the International Eastern test. It retails for $45 for the 375ml bottle.

The Rochester judges were very favorable overall to Hazlitt, awarding Double Gold to its Light Port and Gold to its Red Cat, Cider Tree, and 2013 Gewurztraminer.

Another "Best of Class" winner in Rochester was Wagner Vineyards' 2015 Semi-Dry Riesling, while its 2015 Dry Riesling won a Double Gold.

Other Double Gold winners: Merritt Estate's Bella Ice, and Silver Springs'  Merlot. Gold medals: 240 Days' 2015 Rose, Atwater's 2014 Dry Riesling, Chateau Lafayette Reneau's 2015 Late Harvest Riesling, Coyote Moon's Fire Boat Red, Glenora's 2015 Vidal Blanc Iced Wine, Idol Ridge's 2014 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine, Knapp's 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon and its 2014 Dry Riesling, Long Point's 2014 Syrah, Montezuma's Ice Apple Cider, and Schulze's Catawba.
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Friday, March 17, 2017

Ready for summer? Floating tiki bars are here

A floating tiki bar. (Times Union photo)
From the Times Union
The purchase of an expensive toy last summer turned into a new business for local entrepreneur Larry Davis.

Davis, whose varied holdings include the Rensselaer-based tech firm CommSoft, in June launched the area’s first floating, motorized tiki bar, keeping it at his Lake George camp. ... (I)t attracted such attention that Davis, who had speculated about becoming a dealer for Cruisin’ Tikis, struck an agreement with the company to manufacture the watercraft.

Thus was born Tiki Boat-works [which] has been building the vessels since January in its headquarters in a Colonie industrial park. Five of the tiki barges are in various stages of construction in the warehouse.
Go here for the full story.

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Rum being cold-aged in historic ship in Baltimore

Workers hoist a barrel of rum into the hold of the historic USS Constellation. The gentle sway of the ship helps hasten aging of the spirit. (WBFF photo)

From Fox 5 WBFF
BALTIMORE -- It’s cold in the bowels of the USS Constellation [which is permanently docked in the city's Inner Harbor]. That’s where several barrels of rum from the Tobacco Barn Distillery are sitting. The gentle rock of the boat as the tides change help the spirits as they age.

 It’s a partnership with Historic Ships Baltimore, to make the first rum aged on a U.S. Navy ship in over 150 years. It’s called "USS Constellation Rum." Chris Rowsom, executive director of Historic Ships in Baltimore, explains that it is it’s an innovative aging process that harkens back to the age of sail.

"It's pretty neat when you can do this the way they did it back in the 19th Century, with traditional block and tackle," Rowsom said.
The rum is expected to be for sale next month.

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Tennessee grocery stores say wine sales a success

From USA Today
Tennessee grocery stores have been able to sell wine for nearly nine months, with varying degrees of success.

Some stores have done better than others, but generally, allowing wine sales in state grocery stores has been a boon to the merchants and their customers, said Rob Ikard, president and CEO of the Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association.

“Wine sales across Tennessee seem to be very strong, and in many cases have exceeded expectations,” he said.
Go here for the full story.
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Albany Distilling creating new bar/tasting room venue

The building that will be renovated.
A drawing of the proposed bar area. (Photo provided)
Albany Distilling Company has steadily been figuratively increasing its profile over a five-year existence. Now, it has announced it plans to do so literally.

Co-owners John Curtain and Rick Sicari today revealed a $1 million-plus plan to create a new bar, tasting room, and storage facility at 75 Livingston Avenue, near its distillery on Quackenbush Square where production will continue.

The new 6,000-square-foot expansion is in an 1840s building that originally was a residence, then became a Nabisco warehouse. When renovated, it will house a bar and a second-floor open-air deck, totaling 3,000 square feet, and barrel storage for its spirits.

The project will be helped by $30,000 in funding from the Downtown Albany Retail Grant Program for interior and exterior project renovation costs, and  $60,000 from Empire State Development’s capital grant program.
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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Watertown changing rules to allow downtown brew pub

Historic Lincoln Building
Breweries and wineries do not exactly abound in New York's North Country, but they do have a presence that is about to get incrementally larger.

Officials in the little Jefferson County city of Watertown (population 27,800) have taken a step toward making possible the opening of a new downtown brew pub when the Planning Board amended city regulations to allow owners of Boots Brewing Company to brew and sell beer inside a new location in the historic Lincoln Building on Public Square. Before that decision, breweries were not allowed in that area of the city.

Under the change, Boots Brewing and any other future microbrewer on Public Square would be permitted to operate, but limited to brew 5,000 barrels, far below the New York state limit. If the City Council approves the change, Boots Brewing could be open by this summer.

City firefighter Daniel E. Daugherty is behind the Boots Brewing effort, and plans to occupy a storefront closest to the Crystal Restaurant that will house his brew pub and tap room. Beer would be made in the basement on the J.B. Wise parking lot side of the building. The business will be set up like a wine tasting room with an upstairs tap room.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

In praise of the wines of New York State

From Wine Enthusiast
If I proclaimed that the most exciting red wines in the United States come from New York State, would you believe me?

On Long Island, classic Bordeaux varieties like Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon have flourished since their first plantings in the early 1970s. And in the Finger Lakes, where Riesling was long considered the only viable Vitis vinifera variety, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and other reds are gaining momentum.

 Exemplifying a sense of balance often elusive elsewhere in the New World, the state’s best red wines marry ripeness and restraint, richness and acidity. They have a distinct, sometimes haunting transparency, says Finger Lakes winemaker August Diemel of Keuka Springs Vineyard. “They show everything you do to them,” he says. Unburdened by excessive alcohol or jammy, overripe flavors, they possess a purity of fruit that uniquely expresses New York’s climate, soils and vineyard conditions.
Go here for the full story.
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Surging Bulleit brand unveils its first standalone distillery

The new Bulleit distilling complex
It's been a long climb over a 30-year existence, but the Bulleit brand has recorded double-digit sales growth in recent years, riding the bourbon popularity wave to become the fifth-largest-selling  bourbon in the world. And on Tuesday, it officially opened its own distillery.

Bulleit, founded by Kentuckian Tom Bulleit but now owned by spirits giant Diageo, is sold in 60 countries, which creates a strong demand for product. Thus, the new $115 million distillery near Shelbyville, KY, about 30 miles east of Louisville.

"This distillery is the most important thing we can do to grow our business," said Ed Bello, Bulleit's U.S and global brand director. "We have big ambitions to continue to grow the brand in the U.S. and expand it globally."

Despite just opening the facility, Diageo already is talking expansion. The new plant is capable of producing up to 1.8 million proof gallons annually, or about 750,000 9-liter cases. "We will be quickly pivoting to start looking at what the expansion plans could be," Bello told CenturyLink.

The Bulleit brand includes rye whiskey. Bourbon represents about two-thirds of its current sales, which rose another 25% in the first half of this fiscal year. U.S. markets account for the bulk of sales.

Founder Tom Bulleit, a lawyer who now serves as a brand ambassador, said at the opening, "It's a dream realized." His great-great-grandfather, tavern keeper Augustus Bulleit, made whiskey in the pre-Civil War era. The brand website says he vanished while transporting his barrels of bourbon to New Orleans and the family enterprise languished until Tom revived it in 1987.

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Smirnoff stepping up its line of flavored ciders

Remember the good old days when Smirnoff and other vodka makers kept releasing different flavors on a regular basis?

Well, the pace in that market niche has slowed considerably in recent years. After all, where do you go when you already have grape, cherry, orange, lime, grapefruit, root beer, green apple, ruby red grapefruit, cranberry, blueberry, peach, raspberry, melon, citrus, pear, tangerine, mango, vanilla,coffee, chocolate, passion fruit, pomegranate, banana, teaberry, cinnamon, etc.?

You go to your cider line, that's where.

While cider's current popularity trajectory is definitely straight up, we're already seeing some innovators in the field doing more than just experimenting with different apple varieties to get an edge in the market.

Here and there, we see a  bit of berry or herb added to a cider, usually by a craft producer. But, among the big  boys we expect more. That's what makes a new flavored cider from Smirnoff -- a major brand in the drinks giant Diageo's portfolio -- so interesting.

In addition to its Passionfruit & Lime and Raspberry & Pomegranate ciders, Smirnoff just introduced Mandarin & Pink Grapefruit both as a standalone item and as part of a new multi-can package,

The new offering was introduced this week in the UK, which has a centuries-old tradition of cider consumption, and is expected to hit U.S. shelves in the coming months.

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