Some are thriving with carryout

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IMG_0436Some local restaurants are doing really well, it seems,  restricted to carry-out, deliver,  and curbside delivery.

As I’ve written here several times my goal writing more now is to highlight local, and primarily locally-owned restaurants.  I  have been trying to throw in some comment and observations on life during the Coronavirus shutdown.

Last night (April 2) I visited King Dough Pizza on Highland Ave. The Bloomington-based company arrived in Indy with great fanfare. KD sits on the square in Bloomington and has long been considered a hot spot.

I visited twice shortly after they opened here and thought it was pretty great pizza. Last night I ordered an 8-inch Margarita pizza with pepperoni. Upon arrival, clearly business has been good as the accompanying photo shows. And the server said they have stayed pretty busy.

image0 (2)I never like writing really negative reviews especially considering current circumstances. The pizza last night did not measure up to my two previous visits – very doughy and a bit on the salty side. Still, was tasty and I WOULD recommend to others.

I had written here before about the small boutique wine shop where I work being open through all of this. Here is a story from today’s Star on the topic.

My experience has been similar. We’ve been pretty busy with lots of customers expressing surprise and gratitude that we’re still open. I guess alcohol is essential: Let the jokes begin.

On a personal note, many friends have asked about my work status. I check two of the five boxes on those at risk. Right now I’m perfectly healthy and doing all the suggested preventative steps. The company ownership has expressed concern  about its older workers and suggested we take off for awhile. I continue to play it by ear and will work tonight. Next week’s schedule has me down to two days. So ….. we’ll see.

Previous coronavirus related posts:

Essential? #Carryon;Carryout

Coronavirus is a strange time

You’ve got to order some carry out

 

Essential? #Carry on;Carry out

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It’s quite fair to say what’s essential to you may not be essential for me.

In these confusing times there seems to a very, very broad definition of essential businesses. Running some necessary errands this Tuesday morning on Indy’s eastside I saw a number of business open that surprised.

IMG_0425I saw a hair braiding business, donut shop, and vacuum sales and service store all open. Hmmmmm …

Just so no one can call me a hypocrite, I work part time in a retail wine shop and we remain open. I’ve continued to work my four short shifts each week and will until the numbers explode. I check off two of the five risk factors but I’m playing it as safe as possible. Is wine essential during these times? Well, I’m sure that could provoke some interesting and fun answers.

It seems that a near complete shutdown would be more advised. The problem is no one has put me in charge yet.

Carry on; Carry out

My most recent carry out experience was Friday so I’m a little tardy. If you haven’t discovered His Place on 30th just east of Shadeland you’re missing out. You can read all about the place on the link above. From fried chicken, fried fish, bourbon creamed corn, and red velvet waffles you can’t go wrong.

image0Chef James “Mackie” Jones is an experienced catering chef who puts out the best soul food in the city. And if you like it fried, His Place rock.

My personal favorite is the Friday Fish Fry with fish, fries, cole slaw and a drink. You have a choice of 3-4 different kinds of fish. I like the catfish and it’s wonderfully coated and crispy.

Go out and support these small businesses which are so vital to our community. And, I’ve been leaving a bigger than normal tip!

Previous coronavirus related posts:

Coronavirus is a strange time

You’ve got to order some carry out

Coronavirus a strange time

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INDY EASTSIDE: It doesn’t take much looking to find the dramatic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and scrambling business interests.

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Little ice cream at Kroger

A quick trip to a nearby Kroger store shows they’r’e struggling to keep up. I visited the Kroger at 10th and Shadeland which was busy but not jammed. There was plenty of empty shelves. Meat supplies seemed decent but ice cream was cleared out. Fruits and veggies seemed plentiful but don’t go looking for a biscuit. Lots of other examples but that’s a good clue.

 

take-out-day-gfxI noted here last week that I wanted to visit locally-owned restaurants for carry-out over the next few weeks. Those small places work on very small margins. I hit the legendary Steer Inn on 10th near Emerson. You may remember that Guy Fieri of Food Network‘s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives paid the Inn a visit a few years back.

image0 (1)It’s a great breakfast spot and has a darn good hamburger. They’re also known for their homemade pie but I’ve never tried that temptation.

Support these small food outlets now and especially when they reopen.

A lot of people are still trying to figure out what will and will not be open starting tomorrow. I’ll make note here of the interesting ones.

A final coronavirus note: I had heard household thermometers were scare. So between the Kroger and the Steer Inn I stopped at two national-chain drugstores and neither had a thermometer. I’ll have  to keep looking.

Thanks for reading – now, go wash your hands!

 

 

You’ve got to order some carry-out

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INDY, MASS AVE. – The unfolding crisis of small restaurants, donut shops, and coffee joints is not really going to be felt until the unfolding Coronavirus crisis passes.

These businesses are the backbone of our economy just as much as Boeing, Apple, and GE. Such businesses are run by your neighbors, common town folk, and struggling entrepreneurs.

The enforced closing, now just a few days in effect, is going to be devastating if you don’t help. That’s right – you.

I grew up working in my Mom’s small restaurant in our small town. I watched her work 10-11-12 hour days for years. The business did well but no one got rich. Restaurants work on margins less than 10 percent and most often in the 3-5 percent range.

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Bru Burger’s hamburger and fries.

In other words, they can’t survive many bumps in the road. Those bumps are Hoosier-size potholes for at least the near future. But you can do something about it. I’m retired and work about 3-4 evenings a week. I’ve decided I’ll get out to a local restaurant every few days for lunch carry out. And, I’m going to write short reviews here.

There are lists of restaurants open for carry out on several websites, including the Indianapolis Star. Or you can take the old-fashioned approach and just call your favorite lunch spot.

I have been in the mood for a burger for weeks. So I called Bru Burger on Mass Ave and order a Burger and fries. It was ready when I arrived and they were all happy to see me. The young lady taking my money said Wednesday was their first day of carry-out only and business was good. At 1:30 p.m. today (Thursday), it had been slower but it also rained quite steady through the noon hour.

The burger and fries were awesome. I had eaten there a few times before. My only critique was the soft and tasty bun could have been toasted. Toasting the bun on carry out would really help for take home food. But it’s a noon time carry out I can heartily recommend.

One other point, restaurant workers are not that highly paid to start with and now business it down. Be sure to tip generously.

You’ll find burger joints, coffee shops, and  fine dining restaurants on most listings. Some are offering their full regular menus while many have special carry-out menus for these tough times.

I’ve seen posts on social media imploring readers to support small, locally-owned business in this crisis. Those post a reminder that these are the people who support Little League, the orchestra, and other local charities. You need them and now they need you.

I can’t say it any better.

Have patience with older wines

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What is old wine? Nearly 20 years of wine enthusiasm has led me to think there is no single answer. A decent base-level understanding of wine only leads to more questions.

Two bottles of recently consumed wine have me reflecting on somewhat older wines. I haven’t consumed much 1980s Bordeaux or Burgundy but I have learned some things with Napa Cab and Oregon Pinot Noir.

The real starting point for this discussion is the truth about wine consumers. I’ve worked about 20 hours a week for two years in retail wine sales. Our shop is in an affluent neighborhood with a nice mixture of young people as regular customers. The average price point ranges $15 to $25. Still, we sell a good amount of higher end wine, $60-$125 and up.

Customers occasionally do ask about aging a $20 bottle of wine. I try to politely explain those wines are not made for aging. Drink them. I advise they find a decent decanter and air those red wines out for an hour or so and it will  probably improve them a little. The truth is American consumers want to drink wines when purchased. Winemakers are largely making wines for immediate drinking.

I make a point to ask winemakers how long to hold wines before consumption. During a trip to Napa the consistent answer was 5 years – though some high-end Cabs can certainly be held much longer. In Oregon’s Willamette Valley, winemakers say 4-5 years.

IMG_0346In my personal wine-drinking experience I’ve found those numbers to be pretty accurate. In the last month I have enjoyed a 2003 Joseph Phelps Insignia. Insignia is an iconic label, a wine that has always scored 90 points and higher. It’s always a stunningly gorgeous bottle of wine. The current released vintage, a 2016, sells for $300 a bottle and received a 96 point rating from Wine Enthusiast.

The second bottle was a 2012 WinderleaCrawford Beck Vineyard Pinot Noir from the Dundee Hills of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The ’12 has always been hailed as a classic Oregon vintage. This wine can be found online for $50-$80.

image0These two slightly older wines performed the same. Both bottles were disorganized with an off-putting nose when opened. But, after an hour-and-a-half decant both started coming around. After another half hour in the glass both wines were coming into their own and showing as outstanding wine.

No one can tell you exactly when to open an older bottle. Pedigree and time in oak have an impact on how long you can age wine. The best advice is to experiment. Take a small taste when opening a bottle then “check in on it” while the wine opens up.

I’ve never tasted one of those 50-year-old Burgundys. Though I did have a 1991 Gevrey Chambertin this past winter that showed me potential for what aged wine can be.

Buy what you can afford, give the reds a decant, and decide for yourself what makes sense in aging your more pricey wines. If you really want to test aging, but a couple bottles – open one and wait another year or two and try the other. That will help determine your palate for aging.

 

 

 

Distillery rivaling Huber’s wine success

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The explosion of the craft cocktail in bars and specialty distillers, driven largely by millenials and women, is skyrocketing the growth of distilled spirits.

It’s happening in across the globe, the U.S., and in Indiana. According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, whiskey and bourbon exports surpassed one billion dollars in 2015 and the three years prior.

Distilleries are certainly popular in the Hoosier state. Official statistics can be hard to track down but Indiana featured 25 distilleries as recently as last year. Kentucky, home of brown spirits, had 68 distilleries for an increase of 250 percent in the last decade.

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Ted Huber

Ted Huber, of Huber Orchard and Winery along with Starlight Distillery, was and continues to be one of the pioneers in the Indiana artisan distiller business. Huber, whose family has roots in Southern Indiana near New Albany, leads one of the state’s most successful wineries. Adding a distiller was a natural part of his ever-continuing growth. He started with fortified wines in 1998 and started distilling in 2001. Changes in Indiana law now has Indiana distilled spirits on shelves across the state but only a handful of wineries have made the leap.

The iconic winery, situated in the rolling hills near Starlight, In, produces approximately 60,000 cases of wine. Three years ago Huber said he’d like to grow the distillery to about 50,000 cases. But the two products are different. Any given year’s grape harvest will produce a wine to go on the market within one to three or four years. Spirits take longer from a few years to 10 or more.

The distillery’s signature product is Carl T. Bourbon. The whiskey is named after Ted Huber’s grandfather Carl. Ted is the sixth generation winemaker and now distiller on the family farm. The Carl T. represents a growth product. It sells for $34.99 on the distillery’s website.

Production-wise Huber is making almost 50,000 cases but not yet selling nearly that much. “What we produce in the distillery is mainly bourbon (corn whiskey),” Huber explained. “After the bourbon comes rye and malt whiskey. So those finished products are a blend of four to six year barrells. So with the age requirements there is still another three years before we have enough product in the pipeline to hit those kind of numbers (50k).”

Huber said he wants to develop Carl T. with blends of 6-7-8 year old whiskeys. During a walking tour of one of his giant aging facilities, he poured several examples of bourbons aged and blended in several different ways.

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Huber discusses aging his whiskies.

“We need that age,” he said. “We were patient with our brandies. When they first came out we sold only 10- to 20-percent before upping production. Even today with our brandy production, even though we’re going on 18 years, we will never sell the same amount that we make. We’re getting older and older barrels in our warehouse for blending. And we plan to do that for several more years with our whisky.”

Huber has been a major player in numerous national and international brandy competitions winning top awards and awards for best in specific categories. His whiskeys are beginning to be recognized by top spirits critics as well. One critic wrote that Huber’s bourbon was one of the top 10 in the nation not made in Kentucky that afficionados must sample.

The boom in female brown spirits fan is not lost on the veteran winemaker. He said it’s been the biggest surprise during the growth of his spirit sales.

“Our clientele who came here for an experience of wine and spirits had the women dominate with wine and the men the spirits,” Huber said. “That is long gone over the past four years. We have as many women, or more women, coming here to enjoy and taste the different bourbons or whiskeys. The women who absolutely know their whiskeys from a quality standpoint has blown my mind.”

As a result of that burgeoning interest from women, Huber adjusts some single barrel whiskey’s to full cask strength (110-120 percent alcohol) and unfiltered. “And when we have clients come here from all over the United States to pick out barrels they are looking for products they think women will like. They’re looking for a little more complexity, a little bit more fruit and less oak.”

Huber wines are distributed in five states while the spirits are sold in 12 states. The Huber product line includes several whiskies, straight and flavored brandies, infusions and ports, rum, gin, and vodka.

Trump’s tariffs hit wine sales

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How does President Trump’s 25 percent tariffs impact the average consumer? We saw it up close Wednesday at the small wine shop where I work part time in retirement.

We’re big fans of Beaujolais wines and sell quite a bit of the gamay-grape wines to our customer base. We’re constantly looking for new and exciting Beaujolais Cru. Yesterday the La Pierre Morgon Cuvee’ arrived for a tasting event.

Most Cru level Beaujolais cost around $20-$25 with the very best maybe hitting $30-$40. This wine can be found online for about $40. But when the wine arrived yesterday the per bottle cost including the tariff, plus our standard markup, drove the price to more than $60.

Frankly, that’s going to be a tough sell. Sure, we sell many wines costing more than $60. But no one expects to pay $60 for Beaujolais.

While not earth-shattering headline news, it’s a real world impact of how a tariff can drive prices in your household.

Maybe you’re not a wine drinker or buy only value wine and see this as much adieu about nothing. But the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) estimates the 25 percent tariffs will cost each American household approximately $2000 next year. And recently the President has threatened to increase the tax to 100 percent.

Laurent Drouhin, of the famed Burgundy house, said Tuesday his family is very leary of the tariffs and any increase to 100 percent. Drouhin has exported wines to the US for decades and have not followed popular trends of shifting their sales to China.

“If the 100 percent tariff goes into effect that’s going to big a big thing,” he said. “Maybe we have to pick up the phone.” The reference was to selling wine to China.

So the tariffs aren’t something effecting someone else. Eventually it will effect all of us.

Regardless of politics, the tariffs will impact all of us. Using tariffs to negotiate trade deals is like using a hammer to open a bottle of wine – pretty hard to swallow.

Visiting Brouilly’s dynamic duo

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COTE De’ BROUILLY, Beaujolais, France –  The NBA has Lebron and Steph while the NFL boasted dynamic duos like Peyton and Tom.

Leagues boast superstars but they don’t necessarily play on the same teams. Two of the Cote de Brouilly’s wine superstars are unequivocally Claude Geoffray and Nicole Chanrion.

The duo’s story is one of a lasting family legacy while the other is an endearing matriarch of the wine region.

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Claude talks about his wine aging philosophy

Geoffray recently retired as the fifth generation winemaker at Chateau Thivin high atop Mont Brouilly. He maintains the family business started in June 1877 by Zaccharie and Marguerite Geoffray. While Claude is ever-present around the winery, acting as ambassador and leading tastings of their Chardonnay and Gamay-based wines, the 6th generation, Claude’s son Claude Edwouard, will continue the tradition. The son’s education came from working side by side with his father and in the vineyards and wineries of Saint Emilion, Switzerland, Austria, New Zealand, and others.

Claude hosted our foursome in the Chateau’s family dining room with the house dog and cat snuggled in front of a roaring fireplace on a cold November Wednesday. He poured us his well-balanced and soft Chardonnay, made from grapes on a plot an hour south of the Chateau. And then we explored his signature Cote de Brouilly, an estate Cote de Brouilly, and the family signature bottle made from the best grapes each season the Cote de Brouilly Zaccharie.

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Pouring a 2003 vintage

One of the great things about Beaujolais Cru is the cost. The Cote de Brouilly sells in the US for $20-$25. The Zaccharie is in limited US release. At the winery, the Zaccharie sells for 29E, though we saw it at a local restaurant in Morgon for much more.

During our walk through the various portions of the cellars he picked up a dusty bottle of 2003 Cote de Brouilly and poured that for us as a grand finale. The wine was gorgeous, elegant and slays every thought that Beaujolais Cru is wine meant to be drunk when it’s young.

The Geoffray name has a long history and bright future. Claude told us he was off to Paris to present his wines while his son, stepdaughter and three grandchildren keep busy atop Mont Brouilly.

Down the windy roads up Mont Brouilly in a small village, unassumingly along the main highway is the production facility for Domaine Chanrion. As we pull into the parking lot a spry, white-haired woman walks briskly to meet us. No introductions are really necessary because our host is Nicole Chanrion the  matriarch of Brouilly.

Chanrion has guided her one-woman operation since the 1970s, leading the way for female winemakers. She has won the respect of her peers – male and female – heading the Brouilly winemakers association. In recent years, her son has joined the team.

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Nicole Chanrion

Her unbridled charm, wit and a twinkle of the eye is among her many charms. The large wooden casks where she ages her Cote de Brouilly are among her tools to make one signature bottle of great Beaujolais Cru.

She took glee in finding a 2010 Cru to pour for us and again prove these wines will age beautifully. But Chanrion is a global citizens not afraid to share her opinions on politics and politicians. She does it all with a wink and a nod but expresses concerns about the potential 25 percent tariffs which could hit French wines. The majority of Chanrion’s annual production is sold in the U.S.

After a few photos we said our goodbyes. She was clearly thrilled to have US visitors including one who helped sell her wines in the US. She giggled and gasped when told a photo of her and I would be displayed in the shop.

What an awesome day of great people and outstanding wine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visiting great small wineries

BEAUNE, France – I traveled to Burgundy Sunday, my first trip back since a 2016 group I led, and day one has set a high bar.

After just one day, the lessons of Burgundy are that the food and people are every bit as enjoyable as the wine.

I’m traveling with three friends who are part of a Crawfordsville-Indianapolis group that gets together periodically to drink and talk about wine. A couple quick travel tips first.

The new Indy-Paris non-stop flight is awesome. It costs about $600 roundtrip and we had a newer plane, good food and good service. In 2016, I paid $1300 for the same trip. Many of us have become fans of vacation rentals. We found a 3-bedroom place in the heart of Beaune for about $150 a night. It’s a lovely old, historical building with just enough modern touches.

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Bernard and Melissa Rion

I have to admit, our two wine stops today were every bit as good or better than the visits three years ago. We stopped at two domaines with pretty small production. Sixth-generation winemaker Melissa Rion poured the wine of Domaine Rion in Vosnee-Romanee.

We did the winery and caves tour and then had a delightful tasting of Vosnee Romanee wines and a grand cru. Truffles are plentiful in Burgundy and we topped off our tasting with a 2003 Grand Cru Clos de Vougeot, truffle butter and a truffle terrine soaked in Cognac. It was pure Burgundy and a delightful taste sensation and pairing.

Domain Rion produces just 40,000 bottles or 3300 cases of wine. Tasting in Burgundy is different. There are very few tasting rooms where you can just walk in taste. BerAppointments are suggested. We paid 25 Euro for the tasting and it was well worth it. The variety of the wonderful Burgundian wines ranged in price from the teens for 100 Euro. The top Grand Cru wines are quite expensive but also scarce.

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Sophie Noellat

Our second stop was Domaine Michel Noellat also in Vosne Romanee. Noellat makes more wine, 70,000 bottles, but very little gets to the U.S. They have access to more grapes in the Vosnee Romanee and Gevry Chambertin region. Sophie Noellat, a sixth generation winemaker works with her father to produce the wines. They do not receive many visitors but will take appointments.

My three travel companions enjoyed the Noellat wines more than me. I found all but two more more acidic than I like – perhaps that’s old age and a penchant for acid reflux, but I just did not enjoy them as much as the Rion wines. We did not pay a tasting fee and all of us bought 1-3 bottles. Some of these small places will waive the fee with purchase and some do not.

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The little chocolate cake was amazing.

We set the dining bar incredibly high at La Petite Auberge. The 2016 travel group had lunch there and it was a memorable experience. We had the 22.5E lunch fix-priced menu which included an amuse bouche of three wonderful bites, a salad or soup, then all four of us had the slow-cooked veal in a mustard sauce. Incredibly tender and flavorful, it was a real culinary treat. Dessert was a decadant chocolate cake.

 

A glass of local Vosne-Romanee wine was included in the price. When you travel to Europe, the fixed price menu is often a culinary choice you can usually make with confidence.

Seldom would any traveler expect lunch to set such a high standard. We have reservations at three of Burgundy’s best restaurants this week.. We’ll see how it plays out.

We’re off to dinner shortly. I intend on giving a few Burgundy and travel  tips throughout the week. But oh what a start.

Wednesday: We’re making the 1.5 hour trip down to Beaujolais for the annual Beaujolais Festive and release of the annual Nouveau vintage..

Hoosiers Loving Dry Rose’

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Brian Borlick, in a nifty pink shirt and slacks, was in constant motion grabbing bottles, pouring pink wine, and talking deals.

Borlick is Premium Division Manager for Republic National Distributing Company (RNDC) in Indianapolis. He is also known within the Indy wine world as RNDC’s Rose’ guy.

Indiana Rose’ sales climbed 99 percent as of February, ending a 12-month period. Staggering! National sales increased 64 percent over the same time period, according to Nielson statistics.

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Borlick

“I remember we had a tasting 13 years ago,” Borlick said at a recent event for industry insiders and buyers. “We had 18 wines and about four people showed up. The last two years we’ve had over 100 wines and more than 100 people came to taste.”

Borlick noted that supermarkets, small restaurants, and maybe even Hoosiers were slow to the pink wine love affair – but not anymore. “Even restaurants in small towns are pouring by the glass,” he said. “All supermarkets have at least a few Rose’ wines.”

Gooley, manager and wine buyer for three Indianapolis retail stores under the Vine & Table banner, believes acceptance of dry pink wine is a generational issue. “I think it’s the baby boomers getting over the fact they’re not sweet,” he said. “We grew up with white zinfandel and still a lot of people have the idea if it’s pink it’s sweet. I also think we have a millennial generation willing to trust us and when they come in and we say it’s dry they buy it. I think we’ve done a good job of convincing people that dry rose is the red wine drinkers’ white wine.”

Borlick was like most Americans a little more than a decade ago. He thought of Rose’ as a coyingly sweet pink wine. “Then I went to France for the first time in 1999 and was force fed some Rose,” he joked. “I was planning not to like it but loved it. The French drink it for lunch and dinner.”

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Gooley

Most alcohol distributors certainly have Rose’ in their portfolio but RNDC is one of, if not, the biggest in Indiana. The dry pink now appeals to consumers of all ages but is particularly driven by the younger millennial generation.

“People used to go into wine shops and see 10 roses now they see 50 – people see that and think they must get in on this,” Gooley said. “Most rose’ sells between $10-$25. That fits with the rest of the retail market that’s had a great increase in that price range.”

Wine wholesalers and retailers do worry about a pink over saturation. “Rose’ sales are going to continue to grow but maybe not the same as past years,” Borlick said. “Now, every winery and an uncle are making a Rose’.”

Gooley agreed with his distributor’s comments. “We’re now in a position where consumers are going to get some substandard roses and poor quality. They’re are going to find things in lower price points that are not going to last a year or year and a half in the bottle and then are going to think I don’t like Rose. But they spent $5 on it.”

The most popular Rose’ is the lighter color and lighter palate of Provence Rose, the redder and more palate dominating Rose’s of France’s Rhone Valley and Tavel retain traditional popularity

Many credit the growth to Rose’ rise to powerhouse labels like Chateau d’Esclans’ Whispering Angel, the world’s most popular Rose, which has released 3.2 million bottle vintages in recent years. One of the other celebrity-driven but nice drinking Rose’ wines is Chateau Miraval. Insiders know actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie invested $67 million in the estate in 2008. Both wines sell for $19.99 to mid-$20 range.

Too often specific wines can be hard to find. But most reputable wine shops or even liquor stores have a wide selection. Look for Rose’ of Pinot Noir from the West Coast, Oregon or California, and pink from Provence or Southern France.