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La Crema Promotes Craig McAllister to Head Winemaker

Artisan winery La Crema has promoted Craig McAllister to the position of Head Winemaker. McAllister, who first joined the winery as the harvest enologist in 2007, has been a passionate steward of La Crema’s Monterey program and played a vital role in elevating the winery’s Sonoma Coast portfolio throughout his tenure. In addition, he has helped to further develop the winery’s collection of single vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines. In his new role, McAllister, who has most recently served as associate winemaker, will gain increased responsibility for the oversight of all winemaking operations.

“Craig’s long tenure with La Crema and passion for cool-climate winemaking make him a natural fit,” said Mitch Davis, Senior Vice President of Production for Jackson Family Wines. “In particular, his expertise on the Central Coast, in the Monterey appellation, a region in which we see tremendous potential for La Crema, coupled with his skill, experience and passion, will continue to enhance the strength of the La Crema winemaking team.”

“I couldn’t be more thrilled to hand the helm of La Crema over to Craig,” said Elizabeth Grant-Douglas, the company’s most recent winemaker. “He has been my partner and right hand at La Crema for so many years and has the passion and commitment to take La Crema to the next level,” she added.

A New Zealand native, McAllister earned a bachelor’s degree in viticulture and enology from Lincoln University in Christchurch, New Zealand. His deep passion for winemaking has taken him all over the world, from New Zealand to Australia, Chile and Cyprus. Since moving to California, McAllister has also made wine for Wild Ridge, crafting elegant Pinot Noir from vineyards on the rugged Sonoma Coast. In his expanded role, McAllister will continue to build La Crema’s portfolio, ranging from coastal regions as far north as the Willamette Valley, Oregon to as far south as Arroyo Seco, California, with a particular focus on raising the profile of the winery’s Monterey series, which includes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and a soon-to-be-released Rosé of Pinot Noir. Previously only producing small batches of Rosé, La Crema will be releasing its first nationally-distributed bottling this spring.

“This is a dream job for a winemaker who enjoys the challenges and rewards of producing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris from cool-climate regions,” said McAllister. “I am thrilled to be a part of this this special team and look forward to carrying on the legacy that has been entrusted to me by continuing to produce the stylistically elegant wines for which La Crema is known, while elevating the winery to new levels of success.”

For more information regarding La Crema, visit www.lacrema.com.

Sugarlands Distilling Co. Introduces Mark and Digger’s Hazelnut Rum

Sugarlands Distilling Company has announced Hazelnut Rum as the newest addition to its award-winning line of spirits. The east Tennessee distillery partnered with distilling legends Mark Ramsey and Digger Manes from the hit series “Moonshiners” to develop the spirit.

Hazelnut Rum meets the nose with sweet aromas of toasted hazelnut and brown sugar. It is a smooth, full bodied spirit that blends the tastes of vanilla, cinnamon and honey. At 80 proof, this brown spirit finishes with a sweet, oaky kick.

“Our Hazelnut rum really became a labor of love, mainly because our wives became the first big fans of it,” said Manes. “Because of them, we were determined to make it better than any other homemade liquor that anyone had ever tasted.”

Mark and Digger created hazelnut rum while filming for the Discovery Channel program. The duo combined real hazelnuts and rum in their backwoods still to create a one-of-a-kind flavored spirit.

“In the words of our mentor Popcorn Sutton, ‘this is some of the finest liquors that’s ever been,'” said Ramsey. “Now it is our pleasure to share it with the rest of the world. We’re really humbled that folks are eager to try it.”

Davidson’s Organics Refreshes the Cup that Cheers

By Lorrie Baumann

Davidson’s Organics celebrates its 40th anniversary with rebranded packaging, a new line of tea jellies and a new line of specialty tea chocolates.

“Consumers today live very busy lifestyles. They’re looking for simplicity, value and health benefits – all in a simple format,” said Kunall Patel, Davidson’s Organics Owner and Director. “Our new package design meets all those needs while providing a very visual, trendy and high-profile look.”

While Davidson’s Organics has been in business since 1976, Patel and his family bought the brand in 2007 after the company, which had been growing organic teas in India since the 1920s, decided to vertically integrate by acquiring a business active in the North American market. Today, the same farmer cooperative of third-generation tea growers grows the tea leaves in India, and Davidson’s Organics imports them to its plant in Sparks, Nevada, where the teas are blended, manufactured, packaged and shipped to retailers.

“We’re the only tea company today that’s 100 percent vertically integrated from farm to cup,” Patel said. “This is different from the majority of other operations who outsource sourcing, blending, manufacturing and distribution. We do everything under one roof.”

dsc_3219The company currently offers about 300 flavors of USDA-certified organic and kosher-certified tea – the largest product range of organic teas on the market. They include 11 distinct product categories: black, green and white teas; dessert teas that mimic the flavor profiles of classic desserts without the calories; honey teas that contain real organic honey inside the teabag that dissolves out into the cup as it’s infused; tulsi “holy basil” teas; rooibos-based red teas; holiday teas inspired by the season but available year-round; decaffeinated teas, chai; and traditional favorites – the Darjeeling, Ceylon and Irish Breakfast teas. They’re available in tea bags, as loose leaf tea and as brew bags designed for iced tea.

“The brand’s new packaging is designed to stand out on the shelf and portray the products’ clean-label health benefits, company story, key certifications and simple ingredients that are easily and quickly assimilated to influence buying decisions,” Patel said. “The consumer has very little time to analyze a product,” he said. “To engender loyalty you need something more than just price.”

davidsons-earl-grey-jellyThe celebration continues with a new line of tea jellies, the first of their kind on the market. The tea jellies are made by infusing real tea leaves, grown by the farmer cooperative of third-generation tea farmers in the Darjeeling region of India who grow the company’s other tea products. Pectin and cane sugar are then added to make the jelly. The jellies come in four flavors that reflect the four best-selling Davidson’s Organics teas: Earl Grey, White Pomegranate, Classic Chai and Coconut Vanilla.
“The jellies reflect the true flavors of the tea blend,” Patel said. “There are a lot of jellies out there. There’s no other real tea jelly that’s made out of infused organic tea.”

The Earl Grey Tea Jelly pairs very well with meat or cheeses, according to Patel. “It’s a wonderful addition to any backyard barbecue or dinner,” he said. “It makes a perfect combination of salty and sweet at the same time.” Consumers would use the Chai Tea Jelly as they might use a pumpkin butter in a holiday feast – as a complement to bread or cheeses. White Pomegranate Tea Jelly is a tart and fruity spread that pairs well in spring-time treats, and the Coconut Vanilla Tea Jelly is perfect as an addition to scones or croissants.

Following along with the thought that tea need not be just for drinking, Davidson’s Organics is also introducing a new line of specialty tea chocolates made with certified organic dark cacao chocolate sprinkled with loose leaf tea, molded into bars, and then sprinkled with more tea. The chocolate comes from a cooperative of 400 third-generation cacao farmers from the Esmeraldas region of Ecuador.

“It’s a perfect marriage and celebration of three generations of organic agriculture,” Patel said. He noted that although there are cultural differences between the two groups of farmers – the tea growers in India and the cacao growers in Ecuador —the partnership has benefited from a shared respect for each other’s agricultural tradition.

The 70g bars are 65 percent dark chocolate in three flavors: Earl Grey Lavender, Classic Chai and Coconut Vanilla. They retail for about $6.99.

Meijer Commitment to Local Craft Breweries Creates More Than $100 Million in Economic Impact

Meijer began carrying its first craft brew more than 20 years ago. Today, Meijer remains committed to the growing industry and the up-and-coming local breweries across the Midwest.

The Grand Rapids, Michigan-based retailer’s commitment to local craft breweries represents an annual economic impact of more than $100 million across the Midwest. Meijer expects to stay on par with its projected double-digit volume growth in craft beer sales, as the retailer has experienced over the past three years. With respect to Michigan-based craft beer alone, Meijer reports it has seen a 20 percent increase across its six-state footprint so far this year, said Rich O’Keefe, Meijer Senior Buyer, during a recent exclusive roundtable gathering of some of the best craft beer breweries in southeast Michigan.

“We attribute this growth to establishing a great dialogue with craft beer breweries throughout Michigan and cultivating their popularity across our retail foot print,” said O’Keefe at Atwater Brewery in Detroit. “The consumer response has been tremendous. It proves that the thirst for Michigan craft beer is apparent throughout our retail markets. We are proud of the great products Michigan-based breweries produce and look forward to expanding the availability and building the popularity of other great regional breweries.”

Meijer gathered together several Detroit and Michigan-based brewery owners and founders at Atwater Brewery to discuss product trends and the state of the local craft beer industry. The event kicked off local in-store tasting events with area craft “brewlebrities” on site at select Meijer stores.

Participants included:

Joe Short: Founder/Owner of Short’s Brewing Company
Mark Reith: Owner of Atwater Brewery
Eric Briggeman: Vice President/General Manager of Rochester Mills Brewery
Kyle VanDeventer: Sales Manager of Griffin Claw
John Leone: Owner/President of ROAK Brewing Company
Tony Grant: Owner of Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, North Peak Brewing Company and Northern United Brewing Company
Chase Kushak: Co-Founder/CEO of Founders Brewing Company
Matt Moberly: Director of Business Insights of Bells Brewery
“The concept of craft beer – especially in Detroit – has grown quickly from a garage hobby to a viable economic engine for Detroit and Michigan,” said Peter Whitsett, executive vice president of merchandising and marketing for Meijer. “We are proud to celebrate the craft masters who drove this industry to where it is today in Detroit. Their commitment to quality and craftsmanship is fueling demand for craft beer in and around Detroit.”

Meijer began carrying its first craft brew – Bell’s Oberon – 20 years ago at a single Kalamazoo store, and today sells more than 550 different craft beers from 220 local breweries across the retailer’s six-state footprint. Of those, 40 are produced by Detroit or southeast Michigan breweries. Meijer continues to partner with local craft brewers to expand their distribution. In fact, Michigan craft beer sales account for 31 percent of the retailer’s craft beer sales and 10 percent of the retailer’s total beer sales.

“Being in the same room with this group of craft brewlebrities – knowing their histories and the how far they’ve come is truly amazing,” said Shannon Long, Producer and Co-host of “Pure Brews America,” who moderated the roundtable discussion. “I think what makes them great is that they are focused on their core and not the next hot thing. They don’t need to follow a trend because they are the trend. “

Celestial Seasonings Brings Back Iconic Packaging, Adds New Flavors

For nearly 50 years, the Celestial Seasonings® brand has brought the magic of tea to people around the world with its unique packaging.  Celestial Seasonings is now returning to its iconic artful packaging in response to consumer demand. Celestial Seasonings is also launching five new flavors and re-releasing a fan favorite.

celestial-seasonings“Last fall, we introduced refreshed packaging intended to modernize our look while maintaining our Celestial Seasonings heritage. Our passionate fans made it clear that our refreshed look was missing some of that special Celestial Seasonings magic,” said Irwin D. Simon, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Hain Celestial. “We’ve listened to our consumers and are excited to return to our classic, imaginative package design they feel passionate about, which has made Celestial Seasonings the leading specialty tea brand since 1969 and a key part of the Hain Celestial portfolio since 2000.”

In addition to reintroducing the iconic classic packaging, Celestial Seasonings has launched five delicious new varieties to its herbal and green tea portfolios. The new flavors include:

  • Sleepytime® Mint Herbal Tea: Peppermint leaves blended with the time-honored Sleepytime blend of calming herbs, including chamomile, spearmint and natural spearmint flavor.
  • Sangria Zinger® Herbal Tea: A vibrant blend that captures the true taste of sangria with tart and tangy hibiscus and natural pineapple, blood orange and lemon flavors.
  • Fireside Vanilla Spice™ Herbal Tea: The perfect balance of sweet and spicy featuring cinnamon, licorice, plus ginger, cardamom and natural vanilla flavor.
  • Matcha Green Tea: An invigorating combination of Japanese matcha powder with fine sencha-style green tea leaves.
    Ginger Green Tea: A nutty, balanced blend featuring both dried sencha-style green tea and pan-fired green tea, plus spicy, earthy ginger root.

Also due to consumer demand, the brand is re-releasing its popular Almond Sunset™ Herbal Tea. Available exclusively online, this treasured Celestial Seasonings tea is a toasty blend of roasted carob and barley enhanced with rich and mellow almond flavor, orange peel and a hint of sweet cinnamon. This beloved tea and the five new varieties are now shipping.

Top Note Tonics Revive European Flavor Profile

What originally began as a homebrew quest to develop an herbal beer instead led to the birth of Top Note Tonics. Mary Pellettieri, a chemist, botanist and craft beer veteran who spent a number of years in product development at Goose Island Brewery, was experimenting with botanicals when she produced an herbal concentrate that intrigued her. It was a flavor profile that paired bitter, sour and sweet and was reminiscent of the curative tonics used in Europe in the early 1800s.

Over the course of several years, Pellettieri and her partner, Noah Swanson, refined her original recipe and in 2014 debuted Top Note Tonics – a classic line of complex herbal concentrates that create an amaro soft beverage or sophisticated hard drink when mixed with seltzer water and spirits.

“There’s a certain elegance to assembling a cocktail that’s purposely built with refreshing flavors and not overpowered by sweet. Top Note Tonics are simple to use and provide flavor complexity without extra steps,” says Pellettieri.

The tonics are available in five concentrates – Bitter Orange, Bitter Lemon, Gentian Lime, Indian Tonic and Ginger Beer. Each is made from carefully sourced whole roots, barks, fruits, herbs, spices and real cane sugar. No artificial colors or preservatives are used and all varieties are gluten free, made with non-GMO ingredients and contain half the sugar of standard mixers.

Top Note Tonics are available in 10- and 25-ounce bottles. They retail for approximately $10 and $22 and can be purchased online attopnotetonic.com and Amazon or at select grocery and spirit stores.

Henry’s Hard Soda Launches New Hard Cherry Cola Flavor

Following a strong launch at the beginning of the year, MillerCoors is expanding its Henry’s Hard Soda offerings to include Henry’s Hard Cherry Cola. Now available on shelves nationwide, Henry’s Hard Cherry Cola joins the rest of the Henry’s family of flavors, Henry’s Hard Ginger Ale and Henry’s Hard Orange Soda.

At 4.2 percent alcohol by volume, Henry’s Hard Cherry Cola is made with real cane sugar and delivers a refreshing cherry cola flavor with a subtle hint of almond taste, giving it a distinctive twist from Henry’s other two flavor offerings.

“We are thrilled to see such strong excitement for Henry’s Hard Soda. Consumers are raving about both Hard Ginger Ale and Hard Orange flavors,” said Bryan Ferschinger, MillerCoors senior director of innovation. “We believe our Hard Cherry Cola hits that perfect balance of familiarity and appeal, and we can’t wait for people to try it.”

Since launching in January 2016, Henry’s Hard Soda has become the No.1 hard soda. Henry’s Hard Ginger Ale is the top-performing ginger ale in the category and Henry’s Hard Orange is the fastest-turning product in hard sodas.1

Henry’s Hard Soda offers a fun and exciting way to put an unexpected, adult spin on familiar flavors. The brand is supported with a national, Gen-X targeted marketing campaign that kicked off in January 2016 and features adults who have grown up, but have not grown old. The campaign includes TV, digital media, social media, billboards and point-of-sale marketing.

“Our focus remains on the Gen-X audience because we believe this is a group that continues to be overlooked,” said Ferschinger. “We know Gen-Xers have stuff to do tomorrow, which is why we created Henry’s Hard Soda. Henry’s provides just the right amount of fun, helping people embrace their ‘Live Hard-ish’ lifestyle.”

Division Winemaking Announces 2016 Releases

Well known for production of lesser-known wine varietals, Division Winemaking Company’s (DWC) founders Kate Norris and Tom Monroe celebrate summer with their sixth vintage release, offering carefully selected wines prime for the season. The 2016 summer releases include two distinct variations of Gamine Grenache Rosé Pétillant & Pétillant Naturel, a personal expression of Norris under her Gamine label, as well as DWC Chardonnay “Trois” the first single chardonnay release from this vineyard, Pinot Noir “Deux” and Pinot Noir “Trois.”

Norris launched the Gamine label at DWC in fall of 2015 inspired by her love for the Rhone Valley region of France. DWC new releases are currently available online, are distributed to 17 states, Canada and France, and available at the SE Wine Collective. Recently DWC launched a brand new way to experience Oregon wines through their two-tiered membership-based wine club featuring all DWC wines. The club serves as a great way to taste your way through new wines, learn about unique varietals, and experience the next wave of Oregon and Washington winemaking with select wines sent to your door or available for pick up at the winery twice a year. Featuring the “Undivided” collection with six wines shipped twice a year and the “Divide and Conquer” with a customer choice of 12 wines, also released twice per year.

Norris and Monroe arrived in Oregon in early 2010 with youthful energy and armed with the wealth of experience and knowledge that they learned in France. Not being taught the more traditional New World winemaking methodologies most commonly seen on the West Coast, provided the opportunity to start their own winery uninfluenced by the New World norms. The wine company has become an ambassador for the new generation of Portland produced wines and serves as a guide to the hottest upcoming varietals and wines such as Gamay Noir, Chenin Blanc, and Old World-style rosés. Determined to make approachable and balanced wines though minimal manipulation, they have a passion to work with well farmed terroir expressive vineyards, many of which are organic and/or Biodynamic®, celebrating the varietals they as winemakers love to drink. Now in their sixth vintage, Norris and Monroe represent a new generation of winemakers that are looking beyond the status quo to create unique styles of wine, with a purpose, a story and without traditional barriers.

2016 Summer Wine Releases

2015 Gamine Grenache Rosé Pétillant & Pétillant Naturel
The bubbles are back and in two fun and distinct expressions! This is the second vintage of sparkling wine made under Norris’ personal project, Gamine Wines, which started with the idea to create a lovely, fresh and approachable ap ro style bubble with a richer grape varietal picked early to preserve acidity and liveliness. The 2015 vintage in Oregon had record heat units. Tom and Kate both love the Quady North Mae’s Vineyard in the Applegate Valley AVA in southern Oregon and had worked with the grapes as the sole component of their Loire clones dominated based Division Cabernet Franc, and Kate’s Gamine Syrah. Herb Quady has become one, if not, the best growers in the region, grew up in the family of the famed Quady Winery in California’s Central Valley, later became the vineyard manager for Randall Graham’s Bonny Doon wine empire before first coming north to southern Oregon with his sights on applying organic farming techniques to a region with mostly undiscovered vineyard potential. His Mae’s Vineyard block slopes southeast into the Applegate Valley in what can only be said as one the prettiest spots we’ve seen in the state. Loamy/clay and marine sediment overlay sits on top of a large granite slab (yes granite!), which makes this a truly distinctive site to work with. picked our Grenache very early to preserve acidity and the fresher vibrant flavors and weight.

2014 Division Chardonnay “Trois”
The Willamette Valley is typically one of the coolest and wettest major wine growing regions in the U.S, which clearly favors the delicate, but seemingly boundless potential of the Pinot Noir grape that seems to show its best on the fringes of suitable farming. While 2014 was not a cool and wet year, it was one of those extremely rare vintages where we experienced enough warmth throughout the season, as well as harvest time dry weather to bring in really amazing high quality grapes at the optimal moment! We have been very fortunate to work with some of the best Chardonnay sites in the Willamette Valley and again are ecstatic with the old vine Biodynamic Davis 108 at Cooper Mountain Vineyards’ Old Vines site (1978 planting). The Gross family has created one of Oregon’s greatest stories dedicated to truly sustainable farming and wines made very naturally, so we feel very akin the Gross’s and their winemaker, Giles de Domingo.

The wine is light and airy, but still full and rich. The aromatics begin with a slight amount of well integrated reduction that shouts graphite and flint. The palate has great presence and begins with well structured white peach skins, to some lemon crème and ends with a distinct calcium/lime minerality. The 2014 Division Chardonnay “Trois” brings a very classic Old World character to it that will lend itself to extended ageing. If you’re going to drink now, a bit of decanting is helpful and will help coax out the complex expression.

2014 Division Pinot Noir “Deux”
The Willamette Valley is typically one of the coolest and wettest major wine growing regions in the U.S, which clearly favors the delicate, but seemingly boundless potential of the Pinot Noir grape that seems to show its best on the fringes of suitable farming. While 2014 was not a cool and wet year, it was one of those extremely rare vintages where we experienced enough warmth throughout the season, as well as harvest time dry weather to bring in really amazing high quality grapes at the optimal moment! Vista Hills is a 42-acre vineyard that sits high atop the Dundee Hills AVA, reaching heights of nearly 900 feet, which is quite high for the Willamette. The slow ripening conditions and well-draining Jory soil are ideal for Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and the site is farmed LIVE certified sustainable and Salmon Safe, producing premium fruit without taking a toll on the special environment it’s nestled in.

The wine is red fruit dominated with amazing palate width that exemplifies the ferrous Jory soils. The palate is all cherry and strawberry with iron like mineral tones and is texturally well developed. This wine is purely high quality classic Oregon Pinot Noir that is drinking exceptionally well at the time of release and will likely age well.

2014 Division Pinot Noir “Trois”
The Willamette Valley is typically one of the coolest and wettest major wine growing regions in the U.S, which clearly favors the delicate, but seemingly boundless potential of the Pinot Noir grape that seems to show its best on the fringes of suitable grape farming climates. While 2014 was not a cool and wet year, it was one of those extremely rare vintages where we experienced enough warmth throughout the season, as well as harvest time dry weather to bring in really amazing high quality grapes at the optimal moment!

First planted in 1980 on what is believed to be the remnants of an active volcano, this certified organic vineyard is situated between 660 and 860 feet in elevation on Nekia, Jory and Rittner soils. The elevation aspect lead to warm and sunny days and very cool evenings, which helps the Pinot Noir from Temperance retain its legendary acidity while still demonstrating intensity and complete phenolic ripeness. Temperance Hill is farmed by Dai Crisp, one of the best viticulturists in Oregon, or in the U.S. for that matter, with impeccable care and dedication.

This ruby colored wine is all cherry and intense mineral on the palate that has soft coating tannins that fit perfectly with the textual components. The initial aromatics are pure Pinot Noir traits with deep black cherries and fresh dried tobacco leaves.

Upgrading the Whiskey Sour

By Micah Cheek

Bittermilk: The name is made up, but the quality isn’t. “We wanted to evoke a more southern feeling. We wanted to do another avenue of business. The idea is, the labor is in the bottle; just add booze,” says Owner MariElena Raya.

Bittermilk, purveyors of cocktail mixers, has won a sofi Award in the Cold Beverage category for its No. 3 Smoked Honey Whiskey Sour. The mix, made with bitter orange peel, lemon and honey smoked over barrel staves, is made for mixing with bourbon for a whiskey sour, or tequila for a smoked honey margarita. The company, based in Charleston, South Carolina, was inspired by the experiences of owners MariElena and Joe Raya as they operated their Charleston bar, The Gin Joint, after their house-made mixers began receiving lots of attention. “We got a lot of people asking for the recipe, but coming back and saying they had trouble finding the ingredients or it didn’t taste the same.” says Raya. “People often refer to them as bitters – they have bittering agents in them. We use organic juices; we use some interesting culinary techniques like barrel aging.”

Bittermilk’s first big break, an award from Garden & Gun magazine, gave an unexpected boost to the small company. “We won as a finalist in the beverage category, for the No.1 Old Fashioned. We went to selling 10,000 bottles in December. And we’re hand bottling and capping them. We had a small warehouse that we used a lot for our bar, and then it just went nuts. That was an amazing award to win,” Raya says.

Soon after, Bittermilk products became finalists in both the Good Food Awards and sofi Awards. “The acceptance of the product has been wonderful. We spent a great deal on branding. It really paid off,” says Raya. “A lot of people want to stock the product. They love the look and it fits into their store. Customers say they bought it because it looked neat, and they come back and say it’s like they’re addicted to it.”

With a gold sofi for the shelf, Raya is hoping to increase Bittermilk’s footprint. “Buyers can recognize the award and know it’s important. We’re not sure what to expect, but we’re really excited to branch out,” says Raya. “We haven’t delved into the Northeast that much and the Midwest. California’s been a great area for us, and all of the Southeast. The Northeast is still untapped.”

Bittermilk’s strongest sales have been during the holiday season, and Raya is preparing for it with some new options. Gift sets and new packaging have been in the works, as well as seasonal flavors. “We’ve done a lot with the No.7 – we’re doing it as a seasonal mixer. Last year, we did a Gingerbread Old Fashioned. This year, we’re coming out with a Yuletide Old Fashioned with sour cherry,” says Raya.

Raya has also released a line of bar syrups under the name Tippleman’s. “The Tippleman’s line is geared more to the restaurant industry, and people who want to explore more with cocktails,” she says. “We’re selling just the maple syrup that we cook over oak staves, and the burnt sugar – you can make a really great tiki drink with that.”

Specialty Food Producers Take Home the Gold

By Lorrie Baumann

La Pasta’s Radicchio, Parsnip & Apricot Ravioli has won the 2016 sofi Award for Best New Product. Radicchio is sauteed with a little bit of balsamic vinegar to bring out the sweetness of the vegetables and then folded into ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella cheese together with roasted parsnips and dried apricots. The filling is then enclosed in La Pasta’s signature pasta with black pepper pasta stripes.

“We got lucky. It happens,” said Alexis Konownitzine, President of La Pasta, “Our chef Kristen made the product and will be at the Fancy Food Show.”

La Pasta already had several sofi Awards for products including its Marinara Sauce and Beet, Butternut Squash & Goat Cheese Ravioli. This year’s winner was selected from among 23 finalists in the Best New Product category by the sofi judging panel of culinary experts in a blind tasting. Overall, 28 products were named winners and 100 named finalists from among 3,200 entries this year.

This year’s judging diverged from the methodology used for the past couple of years, in that the judging was completed before the Summer Fancy Food Show and winners were named at the same time as finalists. This process was designed to make the judging more fair and transparent, according to the Specialty Food Association, which owns the sofi Awards program. The products were judged by criteria that awarded 70 percent of the product’s score for taste, which included flavor, appearance, texture and aroma and 30 percent for ingredient quality, which included a consideration of whether any of the product’s ingredients were artificial and whether they were combined in a creative or unexpected way. One winner was chosen in each of the 28 judging categories, and the top 4 percent of the entries in each category were named finalists. No awards were presented this year in classic, foodservice or product line categories, which were part of last year’s contest.

CFM_Prosciutto-sliceFinalists for the Best New Product award included Dalmatia Sour Cherry Spread from Atalanta Corporation, Jansal Valley Boneless Prosciutto Toscano D.O.P. from Sid Wainer and Son Specialty Produce and Specialty Food, Organic Stoneground Flakes Cereal — Purple Corn from Back to the Roots and Sliced Prosciutto (Domestic) from Creminelli Fine Meats. “Prosciutto is everywhere in the U.S., but we do it differently, using whole-muscle Duroc pork that’s 100 percent vegetarian-fed with no antibiotics ever. We layer it in the tray by hand instead of by machine,” said Kyle Svete, Creminelli Fine Meats’ Director of Sales for National Accounts. “We invest in people, not machines. It’s part of who we are – people, animal, craft…. We have machines to help us do our job, but it’s really about the people. The recyclable tray and the elegant look of it elevates the product and the category.”

“We’re proud of it. We put the ingredients right on the front of the label,” he added. “That’s all there is to it – time, love, pork and sea salt.”

Chocolate-covered Cocomels – 5 Salts from JJ’s Sweets, Gourmet Honey Spread: Salted Honey from Cloister Honey LLC, Wild Boar Salted Star Anise Single Origin Organic Dark Chocolate Bar from Hagensborg Chocolate Ltd., Original Tangerine Sriracha from Just Jan’s Inc., Mr. Hot Stuff Pepper Spread from Steppin’ Out LLC, Clementine Crush Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Enzo Olive Oil Company/P-R Farms, Inc. and Deschutes Brewery® Black Butte Porter Truffle from Moonstruck Chocolate, Co. were also among the finalists for the Best New Product Award.

JulieAnn CaramelsOther finalists were Pineapple Habanero Caramel from JulieAnn Caramels, Frozen Passion Chia Lassi from Monsieur Singh LLC, Chicken Fat (Schmaltz) Premium Cooking Oil from Fatworks LLC, Avocado Oil Mayo and Licorice Mint Tea from Chosen Foods, Inc., Chili Crunch Bar from Vivra Chocolate, Vegan Stone Ground Hazelnut Butter from Karmalize LLC, Raspberry Amaretto Preserves from Robert Rothschild Farm, Orange Artisan Fruit Cracker from Simple & Crisp, Gluten-Free Coffee Brownie from Savvy Girl Baking Company and Dark Moon from Marin French Cheese Company.

In the remaining categories, Brussizzle Sprouts from Pacific Pickle Works, Inc. was named the best appetizer. The Spice Hunter, Inc.‘s Coriander Lime Global Fusion Rub was named best baking ingredient, baking mix or flavor enhancer, Ginger Hemp Granola from Michele’s Granola LLC was the best in the category for breads, muffins, granola or cereal, and Vermont Creamery‘s Bijou was judged the best cheese. Vermont Creamery’s Bonne Bouche was a finalist for the award both this year and last year.

Money on Honey by Droga Chocolates won the sofi in the chocolate category, and Bittermilk LLC‘s No. 3 Smoked Honey Whiskey Sour won the award in the cold beverage category. Bittermilk was a sofi finalist last year with the same product. Non-GMO Salted Caramelized Fig Spread from King’s Cupboard was named the best condiment, and Sea Salt & Vanilla Farmstead Goat Milk Caramels from Big Picture Farm LLC received the award for the best confection. Big Picture Farm won sofi Awards last year for best new product with its Raspberry Rhubarb Goat Milk Caramels and for best confection with its Goat Milk Chai Caramels. Moon Dance Baking‘s Holly Baking Cookie Brittle Cinnamon & Spice was named in the category for cookies, brownies, cakes or pie.

Barnier Pimento Sauce with Preserved Lemon from FoodMatch Inc. was named best cooking, dipping or finishing sauce. Cranberry Pistachio “The Original” from Jan’s Farmhouse Crisps was named the best cracker. Epicurean Butter‘s Organic Cocoa Coconut Butter was named in the category for best dairy or dairy alternative product. “The reason this is something really new and innovative is that this is organic pasteurized cream, organic coconut oil, organic honey, organic canola oil, organic cocoa powder and Himalayan pink salt. It’s good on crepes, pancakes French toast. We actually just love it on a baguette,” said Janey Hubschman, who co-founded Epicurean Butter with her husband John, who’s the chef and still does all the formulations for the company’s products. “It’s got a lovely mouth feel with the butter and the coconut oil and then the finish of the salt.” The Organic Cocoa Coconut Butter is part of a product line that includes 13 finishing butters, of which two are organic. The company has just installed new equipment in its plant that allows Epicurean Butter to produce single-serve squeeze packs. Each of those has 190 calories for a 1-ounce serving, and Hubschman expects that the single-serve packaging will draw a lot of interest from the producers of home-delivered meal kits.

bourbon maple hi res (2)Bourbon Matured Maple Syrup from BLiS LLC was named the best dessert sauce, topping or syrup. Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate‘s Single Origin Drinking Chocolate 72% Belize, Toledo received the sofi Award for the best hot beverage. Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate was a finalist in the chocolate category last year with its 72% Madagascar, Sambirano bar. The Gelato Fiasco‘s Ripe Mango Sorbetto was named the best ice cream, gelato or frozen treat.

Cioccomiel, a spread made from hazelnuts, cocoa and honey, won the sofi Award for the best jam, preserve, honey or nut butter. It is imported by Marcelli Formaggi LLC.

Fermín Chorizo Ibérico Picante / Fermín Ibérico Pork Dry-Cured Chorizo Sausage Spicy from Fermin USA was named the best meat, pate or seafood.

Stöger Organic Austrian Pumpkin Seed Oil was named the best oil. It is imported by Los Chileros, which won a finalist award last year for the same product.

Gustiamo, Inc.‘s Pianogrillo Sicilian Cherry Tomato Sauce took home the sofi Award for the best pasta sauce, while the best pasta was Pastifico Artigianale Leonardo Carassai, made in Campofilone, Italy, and imported by Bravo International Inc.

NorthAfricanChermouladressingwozzWozz! Kitchen Creations, which won the 2015 sofi Award for best salsa or dip with its Kiwi Lime Salsa Verde takes home the gold in the salad dressing category this year with North African Chermoula Dressing. This year’s award in the salsa or dip category went to American Spoon Foods’ Pumpkin Seed Salsa.

Hickory Smoked Spicy Candied Bacon from Little Red Dot Kitchen LLC won the sofi Award this year in the category for savory snacks. The best sweet snack came from Creative Snacks Co. with its Organic Coconut Bites.

Dinner Tonight Black Bean Tortilla Chili Mix from Backyard Safari Company won the award for best soup, stew, bean or chili. ParmCrisps Mini Aged Parmesan Crisps from Kitchen Table Bakers won the award for the best vegan or gluten-free product. Kitchen Table Bakers was a finalist last year for its Jalapeno Parmesan Crisps. Finally, this year’s best vinegar was Balsamic Nectar from Boulder Flavours.

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