Industry Trends: This is a basic category to lump together all the ideas, some a little nutty, we’d like to see in the future as well as ideas/trends we’re loving in ChiTown right now! Big props to all the innovators out there!
Christophe: "Japanese street food! Gotta love it! See also Sake Revolution."
Andy: "The Burger Bar craze is augmented by Chicken & Waffles. But wait, the relentless pursuit of homogenization and mediocrity is saved! Finally, a stand up crudo bar serving only Northern Italian white wine will open up in the West Loop. Cream Team 20 minute meetings and team building exercises (umami whispering and tippling) increase."
Kate: "There will be a strong return to coupe glasses (instead of flutes) for Champagne and Champagne cocktails."
Dan: "Farm to table will be taken to the next level and a “Locals Only Restaurant” opens. The employees and guests must also be born in Illinois."
James: "The local movement fully carries over to coffee as premium local coffee roasters become more sought after and in higher demand. As consumers seek beans that have been roasted within 24 hours and beverage programs demand top quality artisan coffee from local businesses to use in cocktail and after drink menus."
Moe: "Another gastropub with an ampersand in the title will open up."
Dan: "Two hipster food trucks will crash into each other, an accident caused by the drivers being distracted while tweeting about their next stop."
Christophe: "More city gardens and roof top gardens supplying extremely local produce for the Chicago restaurant scene."
Vanessa: "‘Occupy Bacon’ - Bacon will stop appearing on every menu in every form from ice cream to cocktails."
Tori: "Did someone say 'wine truck'? Forget about driving to the liquor store, just have a wine truck deliver to your house! Fill up your jug and start drinking."
Darren: "2012 will bring a healthy economy, which will lead to healthy appetites for high quality wine, spirits and food! Let’s indulge!"
John: "There will be a rise in the grocery store wine purchasing experience...uncovering boutique bottles while getting a carton of milk, doz eggs..."
Andy: "Return to the Throne. Madeira and Sherry take their rightful seats at the table."
A Decade of Service: Last October Cream celebrated our 10 year anniversary. This humbling milestone is greatly appreciated on a multitude of levels. Thank you so much for your fabulous generosity, marvelous support and steadfast loyalty. We look forward to serving you for many more to come.
Social Media: The often archaic drinks biz was all over social media this year. Through various outlets and applications, communication of beverage production, distribution, marketing and, most importantly, consumption continued to be more easy, open and inexpensive. Information and ideas were flowing like cava in Barcelona. More and more people came together because of shared interests, ease of use and immediacy. Power to the people!
Mark: "Cream named in Newcity’s “The Big Heat: Top 50 Movers in the Chicago Food & Wine Scene,” not only for the recognition of our producers but also for our social media efforts."
Vanessa: "Technology will reign. There is nothing but high energy in the content consumer market. Expect new social media models, QR codes, etc."
Cream Imports: Our hard work at home and abroad continues to bare fruit, with major acquisitions of top dynamic growers and producers such as Filippi (Soave), Marjan Simcic (Slovenia), Tabarrini (Umbria), Cirelli (Abruzzo), and Cedric Bouchard (Champagne) as well as the introduction of popping European categories. Will be launching Barmes Buecher (Alsace), i Cacciagalli (Campania) and Pian dell’Orino (Montalcino) next month. Here is a comprehensive list.
Mike: "Cream introduces Chicago to the sexiest new wines from Italy. Quando arrivano? They are already here! Vuoi qualcosa da bere?"
Dustin: "Where is this from? Cream expanded the wine horizons of our customers, creating categories and introducing them to emerging regions of France, Eastern Europe and Italy."
Shane: "Euro wine continues its comeback, direct importing becoming more common, savings passed on to customers, the prices look FANTASTIC! Italy, Italy, Italy."
Andy: "Italy is the next big thing that was always a big thing and will always be a big thing. Hello."
Besides our own selections, our nationally recognized import specialists in which we partner with have outdone themselves this year by bringing Chicago delicious, mostly estate, grower wines. Props to Jon-David Headrick Selections , The Rare Wine Co, Francois Dufour, John Larchet and World Wine HQ, Ole Imports, Vine Connections, Truly Fine Wines and The Country Vintner.
Critics: Score Whores, aka The Scorasaurus get 79 pts. Reviewed several times with consistent notes. Congratulations on your C+ for creativity. Now what else do you have to say? Yes, it is fantastic when growers, producers, winemakers, distillers and their lives work receive attention and accolades. High scores are always nice. We certainly use and abuse. However, we also promote and predict it is high time consumers look at context and a body of work - who, what, where, when - and trust their palate when purchasing wine. With collecting being down and consumption never higher, the tide is shifting. Be confident and like what you like, not what a score tells you to like!
The Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator readership will slightly decrease. Food and drink blogger readerships will exponentially increase. But will a leader emerge?
Andy: "Give me a Hall of Fame Player over a Rookie of the Year any day. Blind tastings are great. But I prefer to assess wine based on history and context. Anyone can have a bad game."
Dustin: "What used to be 90+ wines will no longer be as highly rated wines will not be high alcohol, over extracted bombs. Local wine critics will introduce consumers to softer, elegant, more balanced wines from around the world."
Extreme wine definition used to mean ripeness, high alcohol, concentration and extended oak aging...now it means wine grown and produced in extreme climates and elevations. Is your terroir extreme?!
Alternative Packaging: Thankfully, the snobbery and pretense about wine has left the building. Consumers, retailers and somms alike are on board with alternative packaging.
Eric: "I’d say we are the front runners on the keg format (video) in Chicago."
Andy: "Thirst and demand for high quality wine in alternative packaging continues to rise."
Vanessa: "The price of wine across the world will increase, causing Bag-in-box prices of 3L to increase above $30. In conjunction with the demand for high-quality wine in alternative packaging, consumers will pay for it."
Events: Tasting wine amongst peers is never a dull moment. You’ll find photos and videos of our three major tastings of 2011 on our YouTube page and Facebook page.
Small Batch - Cream had its biggest and best Small Batch Spring Portfolio Tasting. Even Barrack Obama on Oprah shutting down the West Loop could not stop record attendance. However, in the spirit of zigging when all our competition is zagging, we feel it is time for a break and to work on doing something else. That's right, after 7 great years, Small Batch is retiring undefeated and on top. We are thrilled at the challenge of creating an exciting new format and comprehensive selling event for spring of 2013 and beyond. With all the “spare time” this spring, many of the team will visit some of our growers, producers and new regions to continue their wine, spirit and sake education.
Tori: "Top Happening of 2011 was the expansion of the U.S. Small Batch Tasting to include recognized growers producing small batch, terroir specific wines from around the world. It’s about the land, the people and, of course, the wine!"
A prelude of more great things to come? Of course.
Tori: "The big tastings are out in 2012. Informational, intimate one-on-one’s with producers are in."
It’s all about context!
Dan: "With no Small Batch Tasting to bring them together, Chicago’s top somms will instead all take one Wednesday in April to reflect on Cream’s ten years of service and excellence."
But will the after party be the same?
Late Night Tasting - Some made it a late tasting, others an early morning tasting. Either way, it is safe to say that all enjoyed the new, handpicked selections. See also Cream Imports. Look for more of these in 2012.
Third Annual Warehouse Tasting - We’re just keeping it real in Pilsen, and will see you next year!
Eric: "I would say one of the top Cream happenings is the continued success of the warehouse tasting."
Tori: "Music & wine come together, and cream leads the way by throwing a killer concert/warehouse tasting."
Concert? Oh, well, let the R&D begin!
Spirits: If you haven’t noticed, Cream’s craft spirits have become a huge new category with the help of star producers and an exploding dynamic Chicago cocktail culture.
Christophe: "Small’s becomes the poster child for a NEW category of gin: American Dry."
Ask Christophe, and he’ll explain further.
James: "Fortaleza takes over all of Chicago’s bars and restaurants as THE top premium authentic Tequila. (video)"
Kate: "One of Cream’s newest products, Bittermens Bitters, will become a hit not just for restaurants, but also at the retail level, as no hipster’s at home bar is complete without them."
DIY home bars are in.
Dan: "Bittermens Bitters “Xocolatl Mole” will receive a nice write up and alternative use suggestion in Penthouse Magazine."
We’re seeing mixologists and chefs collaborating more and concocting new, exciting creations for imbibing! Wine as a cocktail ingredient will be on the rise as we’ve already tasty some with Malbec, Gewurz and Riesling, shaken not stirred...
Mike: "The craft cocktail list becomes an essential part of any and all competitive restaurants. It can be an extension of the kitchen that shows quality, thoughtfulness and creativity."
Andy: "Local grain-to-glass spirit producer FEW takes Windy City by storm with White Whiskey and a one of a kind American Gin. (video) Recently, a handful or lucky ‘few’ customers with allocations of Rye and Bourbon are realizing early what ‘brown’ can do for you. How refreshing to actually be able to smell and taste the ingredients (grain!) from which a high quality spirit is made. Just say no to charcoal oak bombs (spirits’ next Australian bubble?)"
Kurt: "2012, Guillermo Sauza named tequila producer of the year. (video)"
Mark: "Craft brown spirits popularity will continue to rise along with the re-emergence of mechanical bull riding."
Christophe: "Craft spirits continue to explode as bar men and women push quality and cocktail structure into the mainstream. We’ll see everyday diners drinking more cocktails, at dinner, that have been expressly designed to pair with food. A budding category in gastronomy as we’ll see more beer, wine, cocktail crossover in pairing menus."
Darren: "Cream 'Wine' Company expands to become successful Cream 'Spirit' Company."
Sake Revolution: The emergence of many new Japanese inspired restaurants this year has us excited for some sake! However, it is great that people are finally pairing the beverage with western cuisine. If you need suggestions, we’ve got ‘em! (video)
John: "Every year, John Gauntner amazes us with his expertise on sake. In 2011, his seminars really helped push the idea of sake pairing in the West."
Christophe: "Japanese Street Food!"
Wow, 2 mentions on Japanese street food. He might be on to something.
Naturally Natural: Natural wines and naturally farmed wines will move to become more defined. As a company, we are passionate about supporting biodynamic, organic and sustainable wines; however, it might time for some of our growers and our competitions’ growers to get real. If you are calling yourselves organic or natural, etc., the consumer may need a little more info. State your viticulture clearly because you believe in the practice and want the land to speak for itself, not because you think marketing will help sales!
Jay Somers (J. Christopher): "You do not have to go the church to be a good person."
Andy: "All this is great. Sign me up and get me a naturalista tattoo. Whether a certified vineyard or certifiable vigneron, the resulting wine has to taste great, be site specific, made with love and be a value regardless of price point. All relative to be sure!"
Randall Grahm will plant a vineyard with intergalactic cuttings.