By Jeff Josenhans | Drink Shrink
I’ve spent most of my professional hospitality and beverage career focused on cocktails and mixology, a term that I saw come about and now expect to soon see disappear.
I have also spent a fair amount of time on fine dining, having spent my 20s working in Europe. It was wine, however, that got me into the business for good.
A bottle of Bouchard Père et Fils, Beaune du Château Premier Cru, to be exact.
I was a student studying finance abroad in Stockholm when a friend of mine poured me a glass of this wine. Coming from a beer and tequila family, this was a revelation, and I soon embarked upon a career that would take me first through the range of French wine, and later through all the California wine appellations. I loved it, studied it and visited French vineyards.
When I came back home to Southern California I reacquainted myself with wines from my home state and gained an immediate and deeper appreciation for some of the benchmark wines California produces, as well as those from some of the smaller boutique wineries.
It was about that time that I got into beer and back into the cocktail scene.
Why? Mostly because wine just wasn’t that exciting compared to what was happening in the other fields. Beer was local, plus the quality and offering was constantly improving. Cocktails — well they pretty much took over all beverage media for a solid decade with a constant hunger for creativity, leading to the development of that industry. And it was that connection to the person, that “local” feeling if you will, and that sense of drinking something produced from a creative mind that was missing with wine.
I’m happy to say that wine has found its way back into the market.
The same thing you saw happen with spirits and beer, you are now about to see with wine. It may not have hit the grocery store shelves yet, but trust me it’s just a matter of time.
The new generation of winemaking is following the same formula the brewers and cocktail guys and gals did — be true to the past, don’t compromise quality, care for your environment and community, and be true to yourself — when creating a brand. Many of the wine labels you see in grocery stores have been there for a decade at least, and it’s refreshing to see them lose ground to those following the aforementioned formula for wine production.
Trailblazers like Bonny Doon and Orin Swift have led the way for many of the new up-and-coming winemakers, both at home and abroad. While in France last summer, I was blessed to try wines from “thirtysomething” winemakers who have decided to abandon the French classification system entirely.
Vesper Vineyards out in Ramona is a trailblazing production right here in our own backyard. If there ever was a time to jump off “the brand” you always drink and try something new, that time is now.
The next time you need to buy a bottle, I suggest that you go to a wine shop, ask for a smaller producer, “natural” wines or a biodynamic, and anything else that wine shop steward might be excited about. I promise you he or she will have plenty of suggestions.
Come see my seminar “The Wrath of Grapes” this March in Las Vegas at the Nightclub and Bar Convention and Trade Show, or follow me on Instagram @jeffjosenhans.
—Level 2 CMS Sommelier and Master Mixologist Jeff Josenhans — who just recently added a Cicerone certification to his resume — has changed the dynamic in The Grant Grill Downtown from a classic institution to an exciting lounge and elegant restaurant. Follow his drink-related posts on Instagram @jeffjosenhans.