James Beard Foundation Announces Award Semi-Finalists

Plus Jim Beam faces lawsuit, and other news and notes in the world of wine, beer and spirits.


On Thursday, February 19, The James Beard Foundation announced the Restaurant and Chef Award Semifinalists. The winners will be announced at the 25th anniversary James Beard Foundation Awards ceremony and gala, being held for the first time at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on May 4. Culled from more than 34,000 online entries, the semifinalists span 21 categories: chefs and dining destinations in 10 U.S. regions to the nation’s top wine and spirits professionals, best new restaurants and rising star chefs. Final nominees will be announced March 24.

Kentucky Bourbon brand Jim Beam is facing a lawsuit for using the word “handcrafted” on its White Label bottles. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, plaintiff Scott Welk filed a class action suit against the producer on Tuesday for $5 million. The lawsuit alleges Jim Beam is “not handmade by a skilled craftsman as the company claims,” noting that “consumers are led to believe that Jim Beam Bourbon is of superior quality and workmanship by virtue of it being ‘handcrafted,’ when in fact it is not.” Parent company Beam Suntory has issued a statement against the suit, calling it “frivolous.” The paper notes that Welk is represented by the same law firm behind a similar suit against Beam Suntory’s Maker’s Mark.

This year, New York’s Union Square Café is celebrating 1985—the year the award-winning restaurant first opened its doors 30 years ago—by offering a wine list celebrating vintages from that year. “[The year] 1985 was not only a seminal vintage for us, but an exceptional year for wine,” explains USC Wine Director Michael Scaffidi. Those who love pop culture will remember when New York Yankee Don Mattingly was named American League MVP and Back to the Future was the highest-grossing movie of the year.  Meanwhile, Scaffidi hopes to also encourage wine lovers to revisit what was a “perfect vintage” for Champagne; offerings include Jacquesson Signature and Rene Collard Carte D’or bruts (when those run out, other 1985 bottles will rotate in), as well as a strong year for wines from France’s Loire Valley and Napa. —reported by Kara Newman

In the Trade

Jacob’s Creek Chief Winemaker Bernard Hickin and Napa winemaker Ehren Jordan are teaming up for a new project dubbed Two Lands, billed as a marriage of Australian terroir with California winemaking. The range—to be released by Jacob’s Creek—consists of four wines: a Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Shiraz and Pinot Grigio. All four wines will retail for $14 and will be available across the U.S. beginning March, 2015.

BARTRENDr, a social networking app connecting peoplewith friends and fellow bar patrons, announced today that it closed a $1.3 million seed round, which will help develop its community (away from the prying eyes of other social media outlets). BARTENDr allows people to chat and share photos in a no-judgment zone—ahem, away from employers and family—but it also empowers proprietors and brands to access consumer behavior analytics while also interacting with their fans.

The French customs agency and the CIVP (Provence Wine Council) report for the 11th consecutive year, exports of rosé wines from Provence to the U.S. have grown at double-digit rates.  In 2014, exports from Provence climbed 29 percent in volume and increased 38 percent on value. The French customs report is backed up by U.S. retail sales data released this month by research firm Nielsen, which shows the entire rosé category to be on a sustained upward trend, with the premium imported rosé segment seeing a 53 percent increase on dollars in 2014.

Out and About

On Friday, February 20, Executive Editor Susan Kostrzewa attended a special VIP screening of the new documentary feature film, A Year in Champagne. Held at City Winery in New York City, the screening was accompanied by a top-flight reception of Gosset Champagne—which was featured in the film. A Year in Champagne is the first feature-length film for U.S. audiences exploring and celebrating Champagne’s people, culture, terroir and wine. The film opens in select theaters and will be available on iTunes on March 6.

Photo Director Meg Baggott recently returned from a once-in-a-lifetime saké-and-ski trip to Japan, which she chronicled on her blog. She followed much of the same trail laid out by contributing editor and saké reviewer, Anna Lee Iijima, in her guide to the Niigata Prefecture.

If you’re part of the 90 percent of the U.S. that has been experiencing frigid temperatures, warm up with Social Media Coordinator Carlie Tynan’s envy-inducing Instagram feed, where she’s chronicling her trip through California. Highlights include a wine-and-food gathering with event company Wine Camp, lots of palm trees and even more donuts.

Published on February 23, 2015
Topics: Restaurant Trends

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