Fetzer won for the Wine category with its 1,000 Stories brand, Left Hand Brewing for its Milk Stout Nitro, and Quintessential for its Ophir Oriental Spiced London Dry Gin. Recognized for Silver medals were Origin North America’s Mendoza Vineyards (wine), Sapporo USA’s Premium Black (beer) and Chatham Imports’ Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye (spirits).
The Grand Tasting Awards are based on flavor innovation, taste, and palate impression and were open to all three categories of Wine, Beer and Spirits. Two additional awards were also given out to suppliers of the Wine and Spirits categories: Best Marketing Vision, for products that establish excellence in retail shelf presence; and Best Packaging, for excellence in the physical features of glasswork, labels, artwork, and first impression from the eyes (see below).
Judging the more than 70 participating suppliers were three buyers in attendance at the EPPS meetings: Adam Salzwedel, Own Brand Lead – Salty Snacks/Beverages|Grocery for Meijer, who judged the wine category; John Deichler, Category Manager – Alcoholic Beverage, Murphy USA, who judged the beer category; and Matt Colglazier, VP of Marketing & Merchandising for Big Red Liquors, who judged the spirits category. During the awards event, all EPPS attendees were able to sample the entrants’ products, which were displayed throughout the Great Lawn at the San Diego Sheraton Hotel & Marina during ECRM’s networking reception. Each winner will receive a discounted full-page advertisement in an upcoming issue of MMR.
Grand Tasting Gold Medal Winners
Fetzer Vineyards’ 1,000 Stories Zinfandel is aged in old bourbon barrels sourced from some of America’s classic bourbon producers. It uses grapes that are sourced from vineyards separated from the Pacific Coast by the coastal range, providing the ideal climate for that essential ripeness. Each individual lot is made separately and then aged in American and French oak wine barrels before finishing the aging in bourbon barrels from distilleries such as Heaven Hill and Four Roses. Some of these barrels are 13 years old and were once used to make the highest quality bourbon.
“It’s on-trend and edgy,” said Meijer’s Salzwedel. “It delivers on the promise of big bold bourbon and in-your-face Zinfandel. Well, done!”
Left Hand Brewing’s Milk Stout Nitro was developed to be poured hard out of the bottle so that it cascades beautifully, building a tight, thick head like hard whipped cream. The aroma is of brown sugar and vanilla cream, with hints of roasted coffee. Initial roasted, mocha flavors rise up, with slight hop and roast bitterness in the finish. According to the company, traditional CO2 beers have a much greater carbonic bite compared to the much smoother Nitro series, and the addition of Nitrogen to a beer provides much smaller bubbles, creating a smoother, creamier experience.
“Milk Stout Nitro, from Left Hand Brewing Company, is guaranteed to turn heads,” said Murphy USA’s Deichler. “Properly poured, a hypnotic cascade effect plays against the backdrop of this midnight black brew. Fans of the style will appreciate the thick, creamy head that forms and remains as a tasty finish, to the dark aromas/flavors of roasted coffee, brown sugar, vanilla and slight hints of hop bitterness.”
Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin is a new London Dry Gin naturally flavored with exotic botanicals carefully selected by Opihr’s Master Distiller from countries along the ancient Spice Route. Opihr Gin was developed to epitomize the exotic intensity of the Orient, combining high quality gin from England’s oldest distillery, with hand-picked botanicals including coriander from Morocco, black pepper from India and spicy cubeb berries from Indonesia.
Following are the companies and brands recognized for the Best Packaging and Best Marketing Vision awards. In some cases, the company was not recognized for an individual brand, but for its overall approach.
Best Packaging: Wine
Gold: Brothers International Food Corp. – Lost Vineyards (Sandora)
Silver: Bodega & Company, Inc. – Lolea Sangria
Best Packaging: Spirits
Gold: Magnum Brands – Magnum Cream Liqueur
Silver: Betini Spirits – Premium Pre-Mixed Cocktails
Best Marketing Vision: Wine
Gold: One Hope
Silver: FitVine Wine
Best Marketing Vision: Spirits
Gold: Blackheath Beverage Group – Stillhouse Moonshine
Silver: Taliera Holdings – Beach Whiskey