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Drake’s Virginia Black Whiskey To Launch May 1; World’s Best Somm Named; and Wine O’Clock Actually Does Exist

The official release date for Drake’s Virginia Black Whiskey is May 1, 2016, and it will debut in California, New York and Nevada before rolling out across the rest of the U.S. and internationally. It’s a blend of two, three and four-year old bourbons focused on a high-rye content, described by the company as “Rich. Decadent. Smooth.”

Virginia Black “intends to bring glamour, swagger and soul back to the American bourbon whiskey category,” according to its founders Drake and spirits maverick Brent Hocking (founder and creator of the original DeLeón Tequila). Wine Enthusiast cannot confirm whether American bourbon whiskey had ever actually lost any of those things, but will continue filing updates on the matter as more news arrives.

Congratulations to the Newly Crowned “World’s Best Somm”

The winner of the 2016 ASI World’s Best Sommelier competition is Arvid Rosengren, popular sommelier at Charlie Bird in New York City. A Manhattan resident, he studied nanotech engineering in his native Sweden before switching to hospitality school. Blogging about the competition, he wrote, “I have spent considerable effort and time bettering myself by competing as a sommelier, which involves hard theoretical study, blind tasting of wines, spirits and other beverages and practical tests. My final challenge is to compete for the title of Best Sommelier in the World in Mendoza, Argentina, a competition put on by ASI (Association de la Sommellerie Internationale) every three years. This year there will be 58 competitors, each having won the title of the best of their country.” As of April 19 he has won the title—the second Swede to take the top prize.

Yes Virginia, Wine O’Clock Really Exists…

Researchers have discovered that not only does “wine o’clock” legitimately exist, but it peaks on a Friday at 6:30 pm. The research was carried out by Enolytics, an Atlanta-based firm that specializes in analyzing information for the wine industry. Analyzing more than two million pieces of data generated by people using the Hello Vino app, the data reveals most people begin imbibing at 4:45 pm before giving the bottle a break around 9 pm.

Unsurprisingly, a heat map based on the results shows people are most likely to drink on Friday and Saturday, although there is also a peak on Sunday evening.

Oregon Wine Month Launches April 29

The Gorge Wine Experience and the PDX Urban Wine Experience are coming this weekend, kicking off Oregon Wine Month. Following are myriad events at tasting rooms, wine bars, restaurants and retailers, all aimed at celebrating the diversity and quality of Oregon wines. Look for specials such as two-for-one tastings, vertical tastings, barrel tastings, library wines, pairings, music, games and more. Check out the Oregon Wine Month Event Calendar to see what’s happening.

Meanwhile, In the Trade, It’s Buy Buy Buy!

Jackson Family Wines Buys Penner-Ash, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates Grabs Patz & Hall, and Bill Foley Nabs Geyserville’s Stryker Sonoma Winery

Jackson Family Wines has continued its expansion into Oregon, purchasing Penner-Ash Wine Cellars. Known for super brands Kendall-Jackson and La Crema, their Oregon portfolio also includes the Gran Moraine Winery and Maple Grove Vineyard. Penner-Ash, founded in 1998, comes with 15 acres of estate vineyards and a 12,000 case winery.

Patz & Hall, producers of single-vineyard Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, has been acquired by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. The sale includes its inventory and interests in both the winemaking facility and the Sonoma House visitors’ center. All four of the founding partners will remain with the winery to provide expertise and ensure continuity with the winery’s operations.

Meanwhile, vintner Bill Foley has expanded his Sonoma County wine empire, buying the Stryker Sonoma Winery in Geyserville from owner Pat Stryker. The purchase includes 25 acres of planted vineyards in the Alexander Valley, and a production facility that can produce up to 20,000 cases annually, along with current inventory. Foley Family Wines is the 18th-largest wine company in the country, producing 1.1 million cases last year.

Stryker Sonoma will be renamed Foley Sonoma and Foley’s daughter, Courtney Foley, will be the new winemaker. Consumers can expect “bigger, rounder and softer” Cabernet Sauvignons, says Foley. Expect bigger prices as well—the goal is to move the wines into high-end territory, retailing from $50 to $65.

Early Spring Hailstorm Challenges Mâconnais Vintners

On April 13th, a heavy hailstorm in Mâconnais damaged vineyards over an area of 2,500 hectares. Growers say that the rare spring storm has put their Burgundy 2016 vintage in peril. In some areas, between 50% and 100% of vines have been destroyed, according Frédéric Burrier, the President of Pouilly-Fuissé. The most affected communes are Pruzilly, Chasselas, Fuissé and Solutré.

Lewis-Clark Valley is the Newest Two-State AVA in the NW

On April 19, 2016, the TTB gave its blessing to establish the Lewis-Clark Valley AVA, a 306,658-acre segment located between Lewiston, Idaho and Clarkston, Washington. As of May 20th, wineries in both states will be able to use the new AVA on labels. As part of the ruling, TTB also shrank the boundary of the existing Columbia Valley AVA so that the Lewis–Clark Valley AVA will not contain, be located within, or overlap any other viticultural area.

On The Scene

Here are some upcoming wine events that are likely to sell out in advance, so move fast!

June 16, 2016: Big Apple Zinfandel Experience at Union Square Ballroom. Tickets:

June 25 , 2016: The 5th Annual SYV Polo Classic at Piocho Ranch and Happy Canyon Vineyard. For ticket information, visit