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Archive for the ‘Wine’ Category

Making Napa Winery Tours a Virtual Reality

June 16th, 2020 by Jon Stein

Filed under: Skolnik Newsletter, Wine

In a recent issue of the Napa Valley Register, Sarah Klearman wrote about a new development during the COVID pandemic: “There was not a single visitor at Schramsberg Vineyards. No one gazed over the legions of sun-warmed vineyards or into the thick wilderness that surrounds the storied property, which had bloated with green in the late-season rain.” Sarah goes on to say that “It all seemed a shame to Geoffrey Curley. And as it so happened, he was in a position to do something about it. A decade ago, he founded his own company — Geoffrey M. Curley and Associates — and set to work creating interactive exhibits often punctuated by 360-degree virtual experiences. As travel came to a standstill and tasting rooms closed their doors, Curley wondered if the technology might be of use to the broader American wine industry.”

“There had been some discussion internally a while ago about having this kind of virtual tour, where you could see the path of a visit,” Schramsberg President Hugh Davies said. “Maybe not surprisingly in this particular moment of a more virtual reality, when they contacted us, we kind of jumped at it.”

All of the wineries Curley has so far worked with, apart from Schramsberg, are boutique producers. Some, like Dos Lagos Vineyards, make as few as 800 cases each year. “It sounds pretty fascinating, the idea of virtual tours,” Dos Lagos Owner Tom Dinkel said, noting that many of the winery’s club members, cooped up in their homes, have expressed a desire to return to the valley once life normalizes. A virtual tour, Dinkel said, could help transport not just existing club members, but perhaps catch the eye of newcomers online. Sarah explains that “Boutique wineries have been hit especially hard by the pandemic’s impact on tourism. Tasting rooms account on average of 28% of sales for small wineries; they also serve as conduits for wine club membership, which on average accounts for an additional 23% of sales. Wineries producing between 1,000 and 5,000 cases could lose as much as 48% of their revenue for the year, according to one estimate. “Once people try the wine, it speaks for itself,” Dos Lagos’ Dinkel said. “But so many people don’t know who we are. So if someone’s searching for ‘Napa wines’ and they find our virtual experience and like what they see — we’re hoping for that kind of exposure.”

Virtual tastings, as popular as they’ve become, bring only the wine to the consumer — not necessarily the experience tied to the wine. The virtual tour could fill that void, Davies said. “In a unique way, this may attract people,” he added. “But we know nothing we are going to be able to do is going to attract everyone the same way.”

“We’re taking that physical interaction out of these experiences, but still trying to tell those stories, generating that emotional response to the people who are creating the wines,” Curley said. “The work that vintners do, their families, the landscape — that’s in every bottle as much as the wine itself.”

Here at Skolnik Industries, our stainless steel wine barrels are more attractive than ever. Note that our stainless steel wine barrels are reusable, easy to clean, and recyclable at the end of their service life. Check out the full line of our Stainless Steel Wine Drums here.

Wine Consumption Has Increased During Lockdown

May 19th, 2020 by Jon Stein

Filed under: Skolnik Newsletter, Wine

In a press release published in the latest “Wine Industry Advisor” it was reported that: “America’s 77 million regular wine drinkers upped their frequency of wine consumption during the pandemic lockdown, despite the closure of many on-premise establishments.”

The release goes on to say: “The new Wine Intelligence US COVID-19 Impact Report polled a nationally representative sample of 2,000 monthly US wine drinkers during March and April 2020 to understand how their wine drinking behavior was changing as a result of the restrictions due to the coronavirus. The findings paint a picture of a nation finding new occasions for wine drinking – at lunchtime, or catching up with friends online, or replacing the trip to the restaurant with a more indulgent evening meal.”

The growing volume of wine purchased was tempered by a small decline in the average price per bottle paid overall, according to the research. However, within this average were significant variations by consumer type. More involved and committed wine drinkers, who mainly spend between $15 and $20 per bottle normally, tended to spend a bit more than usual, while less frequent wine drinkers tended to spend a bit less.

The Wine Intelligence report shows that: “There was a significant growth in online shopping across all age groups, with the most likely users of online channels being younger, urban, affluent consumers. While the majority of respondents said the origin of wine they bought during this period stayed the same, there was a notable shift in purchase preferences towards domestic wines and away from imports. Some 18% of respondents reported buying more wine from California and other US regions during this time, while 20% said they were buying less wine from France, Italy and Spain. Additionally, US wine drinkers increased their trust in California wines. Looking to the future, US wine drinkers on the whole expressed caution about going out to bars and restaurants immediately after lockdown restrictions were ended – around 40% said they would be less likely to visit a restaurant, while 27% said they would be more likely.”

Commenting on the report, Wine Intelligence CEO Lulie Halstead said: “Our data supports other evidence that shows that US wine drinking is holding up, and that sales will continue to be solid once lockdown ends. In fact, there are clear opportunities with certain consumer segments right now and also in the medium term as we move to post-lockdown behavior. Looking ahead, the US wine drinker is understandably quite cautious about their household finances and the idea of getting on a plane. Thankfully for the wine category, their intention seems to be replacing big treats like vacations and big events with small treats like a nicer bottle of wine.”

Here at Skolnik Industries, our stainless steel wine barrels are more popular than ever. Note that our stainless steel wine barrels are reusable, easy to clean, and recyclable at the end of their service life. Check out the full line of our Stainless Steel Wine Drums here.

Virtual Wine Tasting and The New “Normal”

April 14th, 2020 by Jon Stein

Filed under: Skolnik Newsletter, Wine

As wine country adjusts to social distancing, producers have found new ways to reach out to wine lovers who can’t make it to tasting rooms. In a recent issue of the Wine Enthusiast, Kathleen Willcox, writes that: “The wine business in California is responsible for about 81% of U.S. wine production, employs 786,000 nationwide and generated $114 billion in the U.S. in 2018. Direct-to-consumers (DTC) sales, meanwhile, have increased in importance to small and medium-scale wineries in recent years. In 2018, the DTC wine sales totaled $3 billion in the U.S., an increase of 12% from the previous year. Of those sales, about 38% happen in the tasting room, which translates to roughly $1.14 billion in annual sales.”

Kathleen goes on to say that: “The creativity of response to changing circumstances in the wine world has been astounding. Your favorite producers are available to you, some more than ever.”

Other wineries have tapped their staff’s strengths to stand out of the virtual pack. Evesham Wood is utilizing the skills its advanced sommelier, Christopher Lindemann. “We launched sampling packs that will bring the private tasting experience into a guest’s home,” says Lindemann. “We’re setting up private, virtual meetings on Skype, Google or FaceTime. Distance learning has been part of the cultural vernacular for some time, and though this will require an adjustment, we think that we can have real conversations, even over a distance.”

Ken Wright Cellars (KWC) offers one-on-one Zoom sessions with members of its winemaking team. The winery also helps collectors organize their cellars and provides in-depth information on vintage, vineyard, farming and production techniques for wines they own.

“The virtual tasting experience has been a long time coming, especially for a family-owned winery,” says Ivory McLaughlin, a KWC ambassador. “If anything, this crisis has just accelerated trends currently happening around the country and in our culture.”

Maggie Curry, Kendall-Jackson’s director of marketing, says the winery has adopted a “glass-half-full mentality.” It’s attempting to turn a time of isolation and social distancing into a positive for wine lovers and the brand. In the coming days, the producer plans to expand tastings to include virtual cooking classes, cellar restocking tips, yoga seminars and virtual sip-and-paint classes.

In Paso Robles, Hope Family Wines offers one-cent shipping on orders of three bottles or more, plus home delivery and pickup. Every tasting flight will include a video that features winemaker and President Austin Hope and other key members of the cellar team, as well as a curated playlist to pair with the wine. “This crisis has made us feel more connected than ever to our community,” says Hope. “The response has been incredible, but I have to say our favorite comment so far is that we ranked second only to toilet paper as one of life’s great necessities.”

Here at Skolnik Industries, our stainless steel wine barrels are “virtual” at www.skolnik.com . Note that our stainless steel wine barrels are reusable, easy to clean, and recyclable at the end of their service life. Check out the full line of our Stainless Steel Wine Drums here.

“Lightweight” Oak Wine Barrels

March 10th, 2020 by Jon Stein

Filed under: Skolnik Newsletter, Wine

We have all witnessed consumer packaging opting for “lightweight” solutions: thin walled water bottles, flexible pouches for detergents, and even thinner wine bottles. At the recent Unified Wine Symposium in Sacramento, I was surprised to hear of another trend in the wine industry: lightweight oak wine barrels, made with thinner wood staves. Many people know wine is often fermented in oak barrels. Oak barrels do three things to wine. They allow for oxygen exposure, which assists with maturation. They also provide tannins that give the wine structure. Finally, depending on the level of toast and age of the barrel, they also impart certain flavors. How these factors are managed depends on the winemaker.

The effect of oak barrels gets further complicated by the thickness of barrel staves, which can have a profound impact. Thinner staves increase the amount of oxygen the wine is exposed to, while thicker staves lessen oxidization.

“The most important things that barrels do for a wine are provide oxygen and stabilization,” says James Mantone, co-owner and winemaker at Syncline Wine Cellars. Mantone, who works heavily with Rhône varieties, among other grapes. “I think that the least important thing that barrels do for wine is flavor.” For his wines, Mantone is looking to limit flavor impact as much as possible. “Why work really hard in the vineyards to produce something distinctive and then add a bunch of purchased flavors?” Some varieties, like Cabernet Sauvignon, often see a larger percentage of new oak, which has a stronger impact on the wine than used oak. “Cabernet can integrate that new oak tannin and flavor, certainly better than Rhône varietals, but I think you still have to be conservative with it if you want to project the sense of the vineyard,” says Morgan Lee, co-owner and winemaker at Two Vintners.

Stainless steel as an option:
Many winemakers ferment their wines in open-top stainless steel squares or perhaps open or closed stainless steel tanks. But, in addition to fermentation, some also choose to age their wines in stainless steel. This is particularly true of white wines. “I use stainless steel on my white wines to capture the essence of the fruit in a cleaner, brighter fashion than, say, using something that would mask some of those flavors a bit, like oak,” says Sean Boyd, owner and winemaker at Sightglass Cellars. Here at Skolnik Industries, we know that people ferment and age wine in our stainless steel wine barrels. Note that our stainless steel wine barrels are reusable, easy to clean, and recyclable at the end of their service life. Check out the full line of our Stainless Steel Wine Drums here.

The Three R’s in Wine

February 11th, 2020 by Jon Stein

Filed under: Skolnik Newsletter, Wine

The three R’s in wine are not “Rose, Riesling, and Rioja”. Rather, I have been interested in how the traditional three “R’s” of the environmental movement: “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”, are being addressed by the wine industry. For years, winemakers have been touting sustainability initiatives in their vineyards and fields, and through energy-saving efforts in their facilities. But now consumers want more, especially as they begin to understand how much of wine’s carbon footprint stems from packaging and shipping. When it comes to wine’s impact on the environment, glass bottles contribute 29 percent to its total impact, according to a 2011 carbon footprint assessment of the California wine industry commissioned by the Wine Institute and conducted by sustainability consultant PE International.

        <p> A similar assessment in Oregon, conducted by the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan, found packaging contributes 23 percent to a wine’s carbon footprint. In comparison, planting and growing grapes contributes 24 percent, and transporting the bottled wine to retailers accounts for 13 percent.</p>
        <p> Many winemakers have switched to at least partially organic and sustainable growing practices in recent decades; some have also moved to reign in wasteful packaging practices. In California, Paso Robles’ Tablas Creek Vineyard grows its grapes biodynamically and organically, so it’s no surprise that sustainable packaging is a priority. The winery has always used soy-based inks, eliminated Styrofoam in direct shipments in favor of recycled (and recyclable) pulp inserts, and in 2012, switched away from bottling some wines in 6-bottle cases in favor of 12-bottle cases (because the 12-bottle case uses significantly less than twice the packaging material of the 6-bottle case). In addition to the immediate environmental benefit of producing a lighter bottle, the winery also sends out fewer trucks for delivery (22 pallets can fit in one, versus 19 pallets previously). “We send about 10,000 cases of wine per year to wine club members and for DTC orders that we receive,” says Jason Haas. “Those are all sent via UPS, FedEx, or GSO. Each case weighs between two and 11 pounds less than it would have with the old bottles. That’s a big footprint—and cost—savings.” So are the days finally gone, when heavy bottles are equated with wealth and luxury? “I would say there’s more room in the marketplace for quality wines in lighter-weight bottles, as well as a backlash against some of the heavy ones,” says Tablas Creek’s Haas.</p>
           <p> He continues: “We thought the heavy bottles we were using were the equivalent of a luxury SUV, signifying solid respectability. But we came to believe they were more like a Hummer—with that same overlay of environmental tone-deafness. Particularly for a winery like us, which works so hard to farm the right way, it felt like the wrong choice.”</p>
        <p>Here at Skolnik Industries, we know that people like the reusability of our stainless steel wine barrels. Note that our stainless steel wine barrels are easy to clean, and recyclable at the end of their service life. Check out <a href="http://skolnikwine.com/stainless-steel-wine-barrels/">the full line of our Stainless Steel Wine Drums here</a>. </p>

Making Premium Wine That Just Happens To Be Kosher!

January 14th, 2020 by Jon Stein

Filed under: Skolnik Newsletter, Wine

Technically, all wine is made with kosher grapes. But that doesn’t mean wine itself is necessarily kosher. That, in part, caught the attention of Hagafen Cellars founder and winemaker Ernie Weir. And he decided to do something about it. Weir returned to UC, Davis, for his degree in viticulture and enology; he began work at Domaine Chandon in 1973. In 1979, Weir and his wife founded Hagafen Cellars.

Hagafen means ‘the grape vine’ in Hebrew. It’s the last of a nine-word prayer, called Kiddush, traditionally recited over wine. Hagafen makes premium wine – “wine that just also happens to be kosher”, Weir likes to say. Kosher wine made its modern appearance in the United States in the early- and mid-20th century, following successive waves of Jewish immigrants. The East Coast saw the growth of vibrant Jewish communities, for which wine is an integral part of almost every major holiday and life event. They turned to the only varietal readily available: Concord grapes. As a result of (Concord’s) low sugar maturity, it makes very bad wine,” Weir relates. “So they added sugar to the wine to make it palatable.” That American-born “sugary, syrupy” wine became the face of kosher labels. It birthed brands like Manischewitz, one of the most famous kosher wines, which Weir jokingly calls “the M-word”.

There are about 20 kosher wineries in California today, according to Rabbi Nachum Rabinowitz. As a rabbinic coordinator, Rabinowitz oversees the wine portfolio of the Orthodox Union, the supervisorial body that certifies Hagafen wines as kosher. Certified kosher wineries must adhere to kashrut, the guidelines defining what is and isn’t kosher. Wine, for example, must be handled through the winemaking process only by Sabbath observant Jews. Sabbath observant individuals must not perform any kind of work during Shabbat, which falls from sundown Friday until sundown on Saturday.

There are other kosher labels in Napa, though they’re produced by non-kosher wineries. St. Helena’s Marciano Estate makes a kosher Red Blend, called Terra Gratia; then there’s Covenant Wines, a kosher winery that relocated from Napa to Berkeley in 2014.

Napa is one of the hot spots for premium wine production, according to Gary Freeman, owner and wine buyer for Oakland Kosher Foods. Weir also goes on to say: “Talking about kosher wine – we can talk Cabernet Sauvignon, organic grape growing, that we’re fish-friendly and bee-friendly farmers.” In a sentence: “kosher” is not a flavor profile. “Some know, but some don’t even know when they leave that there’s anything here having to do with kosher,” Weir said, of the winery’s guests. “They just like the wine.” Here at Skolnik Industries, we know that people like our stainless steel wine barrel for the food industrys. Our stainless steel wine barrels are reusable, easy to clean, and recyclable at the end of their service life. Check out the full line of our Stainless Steel Wine Drums here.