Drinks with Pat

Pat Evans

Today is a fun day to grab a drink with Pat, so pull up a stool! 

For starters, we catch up with Catherine Fallis, the master sommelier at the wine company at Bright Cellars. The pitch to chat with Fallis came in the form of Bright Cellars’ ability to match a person’s cocktail preference with wine profiles. 

Then I dive into a a cool tonic company, a couple neat products from Tito’s and Shilling Cider and a couple nearby choices to take a spring getaway. 

Without further ado, let’s get started.

Pat: It feels like consumers are more exploratory now than ever, like fewer people stick to one specific type of beverage – whiskey guy or beer gal, etc. – have consumers become more exploratory? 

Catherine: Data shows that most people don’t have a single drink of choice. According to a 2022 IRI report, 27% of alcohol purchasers buy a mix of beer, wine and spirits – and that group is expected to grow within the next few years. This tells us that people like to change it up. I encourage people to step outside their comfort zone and experiment with different drinks – whether it’s a different wine varietal or different alcohol altogether –  because they might discover something just as enjoyable as the flavors they’re familiar with. For example, sea salt and lime are some of the flavors we love in a classic Margarita. Our Ochavado Verdejo has these flavors as well, and I think Margarita-drinkers will be a fan of this wine. 

Pat: I love the concept of matching a wine to a cocktail profile, how difficult is it to make sure to nail the comparisons? 
Catherine: As a long-time sommelier it is natural to look at a dish or multi-course menu, establish what the various aromas, flavors, and textures are within them, and then pair compatible wines. 

The exercise of pairing to cocktails is very similar. Ultimately people have their own personal tastes and we want them to fully embrace and lean into that. 

Pat: What’s your favorite trend in wine right now? And one you wish would go away? Is there something you wish more people would pay attention to? 

Catherine: The Ready To Drink (RTD) category is exploding right now. Bright Cellars is launching something exciting soon (keep an eye on our shop) for those that are on-the-go and want a low-effort beverage experience that’s still joyful and rewarding. We’ve heard stories from customers who say that uncorking a bottle of wine can be prohibitive — what if there are leftovers? A bottle can be a big commitment for a Tuesday night for someone living or dining solo. There’s something exciting about being able to unscrew the cap, pour something tasty, and put it away for later. We’re excited to explore that space more. 

A trend I won’t personally miss is wines named after desserts. 

It would be really cool if folks were open to new grape types and new wine regions of the world. There is so much to discover. It is a really exciting time in the wine world right now and Bright Cellars is exploring these so stay tuned.

Not so boring tonics

One of my go-to summer drinks, and I’m certain I’m not alone, is a classic gin & tonic. Well, Franklin & Sons from the United Kingdom is helping lead a big push in new tonic flavors. 

There are 11 different styles, ranging from Premium Indian Tonic, Brewed Ginger Beer and Club Soda to new styles like Sparkling Pink Grapefruit, Guava & Lime, Mandarin & Ginger, Pineapple & Almond. The brand also carries a Light Tonic Water and other flavors like Sicilian Lemon Tonic, Natural Rose Lemonade and Original Ginger Ale.

It will probably be a slow rollout, but once you start seeing them, don’t bat and eye and pick them up. They’re excellent on their own, without booze, as well.

Fun packages from booze companies

I recently received a couple of pitches from companies, Tito’s Vodka and Schilling Cider, that really struck a cord with me. 

Tito’s particular made me go, “Awesome!” If only because its a partnership with the Bissell Pet Foundation. Tito’s Vodka released the Tito’s Walk-Pack, a fannypack and belt equipped with holders for a Yeti Rambler and three mini Tito’s bottles. 

It’s all part of Tito’s Vodka For Dog People and 100% of proceeds go to Bissell Pet Foundation. The Walktail Capsule collection also includes a bandana, dog bowl, dog person hat and Bissell Foundation cap and dog leash. 

Schilling, meanwhile, got me with Bigfoot.

Earlier this month, the brand launched its Keep it Wild annual campaign to preserve and protect wild spaces. The campaign includes the Sasquatch Camp Kit, a backpack filled with a MIIR mug, a s’mores kit, a Smell’s Like my Sasquatch candle and a t-shirt. The Seattle-based cider company also make some pretty tasty cider – if you ever see it. 

A couple getaway ideas

As the weather warms up (looking at you, last week) it’s always a good idea to look around this very pleasant peninsula and find some getaways. I’m hoping this can be a regular piece of the column in the summer, providing you plenty of ideas to see the state.

One extremely easy and delicious one is Pennyroyal Cafe & Provisions. It’s a such a quick drive down to Saugatuck and the food at the restaurant is excellent. It also has fantastically large patio (dog friendly!) that is perfect for enjoying a spring or summer day. Also in Saugatuck, the Southerner is excellent. 

While you’re at it, you might as well stop by the Mitten Brewing Co.’s outpost or New Holland’s spirits tasting room.

If you’re looking for a long jaunt, look toward Traverse City. Last fall, I stayed at the Delamar Traverse City, a perfect location for enjoying all the Grand Traverse area has to offer. It’s Artisan Restaurant is delicious, and helps set a great foundation for exploring the wineries around the bay. 

Once in Traverse City, be sure to check out Traverse City Whiskey Company and Rarebird Brewpub, two of my favorite stops in the city. 

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