News & Events
December 22, 2016
Once & Future - Joel Peterson is back!
Christmas has come early! Joel Peterson is back to his roots.
We are very fortunate that our relationship with Joel’s son Morgan Twain-Peterson of Bedrock Wine Co. has led us here: distributing the legendary Zinfandel producer’s new project Once & Future. Welcome to Cream Joel!
We are now offering a very limited quantity of Once & Future 2014 Petite Sirah, Palisades Vineyard, Napa Valley. Please ask your Cream Sales Representative for pricing and availability.
Joel Peterson sent out a heartfelt release letter that takes us through his journey, which we’d like to share in entirety.
In late 1972 I met Joe Swan and was given an extraordinary chance to learn the art of winemaking. I was a complete novice when it came to the craft, but not when it came to wine. I had grown up in a household of two chemists: my mother Frances, a nuclear chemist and my father Walter, a physical chemist. After my brother and I were born my mother applied her meticulous science skills to food (later doing much of the recipe testing for Alice Waters’s original Chez Panisse cookbook). My father became obsessed by wine, eventually writing one of the first wine newsletters in the San Francisco Bay Area: The San Francisco Wine Sampling Society. With this as a childhood backdrop, I learned about the pleasures and complexities of food and wine at an early age, along with a healthy love of science.
In the late 1950s and 1960s, with the California wine business still recovering from the hangover of Prohibition and offering few options of high quality wine (with some notable exceptions such as Beaulieu and Inglenook) my parents’ taste, and as a result mine, was informed by European wines. Many of the best were from single vineyards where the grapes were grown perfectly matched to site, the wines made by a person who had special insight into that location and a deft touch with the process. I learned that the most interesting wines were generally made in fairly small lots, frequently relying on native flora for fermentation and more often than not, stored in wooden cooperage for some period of time to mature and concentrate before bottling.
When Joe Swan took me under his wing in the early 1970’s, his fastidious winemaking techniques, and wines, mirrored my theories and tasting experiences. Grapes from carefully selected and cultivated vineyards were harvested at ripeness but not over ripeness. They were fermented in small 3 - 4 ton open top redwood fermenters and punched down by hand. The processing was minimal and the aging occurred in small, newly imported French oak barrels. Although Joe wanted to specialize in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, he practiced his early winemaking with old vine Zinfandel. As the four subsequent decades have shown, these turned out to be some of his best wines. It was those first Swan wines that made me fall in love with Zinfandel and, in particular, with older vines. I came to see these as the most European grapes in California; mostly planted in the right locations, usually dry farmed, moderate in production (2 - 3 tons per acre), head pruned and frequently intermixed with other varieties that were unique to California.
When I started Ravenswood in 1976, I wanted to focus on Zinfandel. I planned to make single vineyard wines in a somewhat gothic, old world style. It was my hope to make wine similar to that made in Europe but with a Californian twist; small open topped redwood fermenters, hand punchdowns, extended macerations, native yeast, gentle transfer, minimal processing and small French oak aging - all done by hand. I thought the winery, if I were lucky, would grow to six or seven thousand cases. For a number of reasons, mostly dealing with the hard realities of cash flow and distribution and the necessity of equity partners, I found myself unable to make that vision of a small winery into a reality. Though I was able to make single vineyard wines that I hope helped redefine the qualitative ceiling of California’s old vines, Ravenswood also started to make a wine called “Vintners Blend” that proved immensely popular. Thanks to that, starting in 1983, seven years after the first vintage, Ravenswood began to grow and over the following three decades its annual production kicked up to nearly one million cases, at one point becoming the bestselling red Zinfandel brand in the world.
Along the way, I have watched and participated in the growth and maturation of the California wine business. I have seen the increased sophistication of an expanding wine consumer population. I have worked with some of the best, most talented and nicest people in the wine business. I have travelled to and sold wine in most of the wine drinking countries of the world. I have had the pleasure to taste many great wines. I have been a Sole Proprietor, a General Partner in a Limited Partnership, the President of both a C Corporation and a publicly traded corporation and a Senior Vice President at Constellation Wines. I have been the President of Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers. I helped found ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) and was its President two times. I support and consult with the Historic Vineyard Society and currently am a member of the Board of the Sonoma County Vintners. In 2011 fellow industry members gave me the honor of induction into the Vintners Hall of Fame. Best of all I have a son, Morgan Twain-Peterson, who has chosen winemaking as his career and runs the highly innovative and successful Bedrock Wine Company.
Both in the vineyard and in life, I have definitely learned a thing or two about vintage variation. I am enormously proud of the wines I make at Ravenswood, from those wines that sing of place - Old Hill Ranch, Dickerson, Belloni, Barricia, Teldeschi - to the more economical wines that helped turn a couple of generations of people onto the joy and deliciousness of well-wrought wine. However, after nearly 45 years in the wine business, I feel it is time to return to my roots.
Once and Future is the return to the original vision I had for Ravenswood so many years ago - a small project specializing in wines from unique older vineyards, made with a sensitivity to place and in a style that I personally love and believe in - wines that force me to dust off the old redwood vats and get out a new punch down tool (my original is in the Smithsonian), wines that dye my hands a harvest shade of black/purple and sometimes force me to take an additional Ibuprofen in the morning. In short - wines of sweat, commitment, and love.
December 21, 2016
Everyday California Chardonnay that Over-Delivers
Sure The White Queen Chardonnay has a fun label and cute name that those Alice in Wonderland fans are certain to love. But in truth, this everyday Chardonnay is offering much more than your typical Chardonnay at this price point. It shows a brightness and freshness that can be lost at times in affordable California Chardonnay. Perhaps this has to do with the minimal oak treatment on the wine. There does seem to be something else going on here - a balance and energy that you can taste. This is a great wine for those who prefer Chardonnay with more mineral characteristics instead of butter and sweetness.
We are not the only ones who think The White Queen is special. Master Sommelier Ian Cauble recently wrote about the wine for Somm Select:
“At this price-point, there is nothing like it on the market.”
“So many people order “a glass of Chardonnay” without giving it any thought, and how often, if ever, is it something memorable? Not very often. The White Queen is meant to change that, with an emphasis on balance, energy, and, interestingly enough, moderation.”
“There’s a Chablis-meets-Sonoma-Coast vibe going on here: In the glass it’s a vibrant yellow-gold, and the nose is all about fresh, fruity scents of lemon zest, peach pit, bosc pear, and green apple. On the palate there’s creamy texture and good weight but a barely perceptible wood influence. There’s a tension to the wine that keeps you engaged over the course of a few glasses, which is the point. It’s a perfect not-too-light white for apéritifs or to have in quantity for a way-above-average pour at a larger party.”
December 12, 2016
FEATURED: Conca State of Mind
To quote Francesc Escala, “For me, I like.”
Written by Andy Pates
The Raventós family has been partners with Cream since our company began over 15 years ago. During this time, Pepe Raventós has visited Illinois many times to meet, taste and share stories with the Cream Team, members of the trade and media, as well as consumers at various events. Who cannot resist this man’s passion, knowledge, enthusiasm and charm? Many of us have also been fortunate enough to visit the Raventós i Blanc estate in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia in the Penedès, just outside of Barcelona in Catalunya. This is the birthplace of Cava.
The Raventós family has been growing grapes and making wine in the region since 1497. They first made sparkling wine in the Penedès from Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Parellada in the late 1800’s. In 1986, Pepe’s grandfather Josep, helped create the D.O. and modern category of cava that has since exploded in popularity. Today, this global Cava craze is dominated by the big cooperatives that purchase grapes, both indigenous and international, from large and small farmers from virtually all over Spain. This is the usual tale of quantity over quality: brands, boxes, millions and millions of bottles.
Three years ago, Pepe’s decision that Raventós i Blanc leave the Cava D.O. was met by much industry skepticism and consumer criticism. After all, this was the D.O. and category his family helped to create. In leaving the D.O., Pepe hoped to change the Spanish sparkling wine conversation to be about the place, farming and indigenous grape varieties and not about the method, production or marketing. This makes perfect sense to me. Why would he put so much time and energy into farming biodynamically and making low intervention wines of purity and terroir only to have them grouped with larger commercial brands. This is the grower champagne conversation that so many are gaga over and rightly so. Why can’t we have this same conversation in the Penedès?
Pepe is often quoted in saying, “If you cant change the players, change the game.” This is loosely paraphrased from “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.” Lost in translation aside, ‘Conca del Riu Anoia’ (Valley of the River Anoia) was born. This “declassification” also extends with open arms to growers in the valley, outside of the Raventós estate who farm organically and focus on quality over quantity. The goal is to help support the region, give attention to other quality producers and pay farmers well for their hard work and dedication to quality. Farmers have certainly responded by moving away from selling to large cooperatives and working with Raventós for La Vida al Camp and their L’hereu Blanc de Blancs. Conca is all about the growers in and around Sant Sadurní.
Conca is a state of mind and resistance to convention. The Raventós family should be celebrated and supported for taking risks that are not always popular. They are elevating the quality of sparkling wine through better farming, preservation of indigenous varietals, and maintaining sense of place and origin for sparkling wine and wine in general. These are exciting times. Over our 15-year collaboration, we have seen the evolution of Raventós i Blanc from historic, iconic producer of high quality wines and cava into a pioneer and leader of naturally farmed, terroir-driven sparkling wines that transcend the category of Cava. These wines purely express time and place. These wines sit among the top sparkling wines produced in the world.
We are very pleased to offer you the current releases of Raventós i Blanc for the holiday season. Let us know of your interest and if you would like to taste some or all of the wines. It would be a pleasure to show you. The L’hereu Blanc de Blancs is second to none in quality for dollar. Perfect for by the glass and a go-to for retailers. The de Nit Rosé is pure joy and beauty. The Finca is a selection from parcels of older Xarello from the estate. Pay particular attention to the Manuel Raventós Negra; it is blended by Pepe’s father Manuel from the tops wines of the vintage and aged no less than 72 months on the lees. The Textures de Pedra is a new and limited Blanc de Noirs of Bastard Negre and Sumoll.
Next Year Releases
Pepe is releasing natural wines under the Mas de Serral label that he and his wife Susana make in their home on the property - Ancestal Xarello, still Xarello and Bastard Negre. Zero zero goodness. They were previewed at The Big Glou in New York last February.
November 25, 2016
FEATURED: Yann Vadin is the new face of grower champagne.
Yann Vadin is relatively unknown. While his family has owned their estate since 1785, they have only recently started exporting their wines outside of France. A chance encounter at the champagne fair Des Pieds et Des Vins earlier this year in France introduced us to Yann and the wines of Champagne Vadin-Plateau. The wines are simply stunning natural expressions with fierce minerality and brilliant freshness. It is only a matter of time before Champagne Vadin-Plateau is revered as one of the top grower champagnes.
Champagne Vadin-Plateau is located in the heart of the Marne Valley, in the premier cru village of Cumières (near Épernay). Joseph Plateau founded Champagne Vadin-Plateau (first called Maison Plateau) in 1785, making Vadin-Plateau one of the oldest champagne producers. A passion for wine and its cultivation has been transmitted from generation to generation; today, over two centuries later, it continues with Yann Vadin.
Yann Vadin is the ninth generation to take the helm of Champagne Vadin-Plateau. He took over the estate in 2012 after school and wine experience in Bordeaux and Burgundy. Yann perpetuates the family’s expertise while bringing his passion and his emotion into the wines.
The vineyards of Champagne Vadin-Plateau were formed over the generations, and have now reached seven hectares over seven villages, all chosen by the family of the winemakers for their characteristics. The land is spread over a total of 100 different plots. Most of them are located in premier cru and grand cru locations such as Aÿ, Pourcy, Hautvillers, Cumières, Damery, Venteuil & Chateau-Thierry. The vineyards are made up of a large portion of Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir vines with a small portion of Chardonnay. The vines average 40 years, but there are some that are 70 years or older.
Yann Vadin practices minimal intervention in the vineyards. Vineyards are plowed by hand and horse. Biodynamic and organic preparations are used; herbicides and pesticides are renounced. In the cellar, Yann has combined tradition with modernity. Wines are vinified with native yeast. All of the wines are neither fined nor filtered. Yann uses a combination of oak barrels, clay eggs and stainless steel for vinification. The clay is used to gain a stronger expression of minerality. After bottling, the wines are aged for two to six years on the lees in the deep cellars underground. They are released to the market after four months from disgorgement.
2012 Bois des Jots Zero Dosage, Champagne 1er Cru AOC: This is an extremely limited brut nature blanc de noirs (266 bottles) from Vadin-Plateau’s Bois de Jots plot in the premier cru village Cumières. It is 100% Pinot Noir.
NV ‘Renaissance’ Extra Brut, Champagne 1er Cru AOC: Renaissance is a limited blanc de noirs from Vadin-Plateau’s vineyards in the premier cru village Cumières. It is 100% Pinot Meunier.
November 15, 2016
Preserving the Past: A Worthy Mission
Morgan Twain-Peterson is preserving and bottling California’s viticultural past. His mission with Bedrock Wine Co. is to produce California wines from historic, old vines. Most are field blends that represent the whole vineyard, its age and history, instead of a particular variety. Not only does he want to preserve the old vines, he also believes they produce wines of superior quality (which it is hard to argue when you taste!).
In an article with Town & Country in November 2015, Morgan is quoted saying: “Two important things give them an edge,” he says. “One is that they’re more established plants and produce yields of greater fruit concentration. There is also a Darwinian element. If a vineyard has lasted through two world wars, Prohibition, and any number of other things, it must be special, or it would have likely been ripped out.”
Twain-Peterson is working with other winemakers (Mike Officer of Carlisle Winery, Tegan Passalacqua of Turley Wine Cellars, David Gates of Ridge Vineyards to name a few) to save California’s old vines. Together, they have formed a group called the Historic Vineyard Society that aims to identify, register and save heritage old vines. These vines and vineyards are producing wines that are completely original and completely California. The wines are not trying to emulate any other wines from any other region. As Antonio Galloni put it in his Vinous January 2015 review, “They [wines] are quite faithful to a sense of place.”
Bedrock’s fall release is now in stock at Cream. The wines are simply stunning.
November 10, 2016
Looking at You, Campania
We are simply thrilled by what Ian D’Agata wrote for Vinous about the wines of Campania! We have believed in the region and our producers for quite sometime. Getting others to believe in the terroir has been a slight challenge. So it is nice to read Ian’s wonderful words on the region, the producers and the exciting future of this terroir.
Excerpt from the article “The Wines of Campania: Getting Better and Better” “Campania’s white wines vie with those of Alto Adige and Friuli Venezia Giulia for top spot on Italy’s list of quality whites. And today’s reds from the region are increasingly removed from the old southern Italian stereotype of unclean, overripe and high alcohol wines.
One of the most positive developments in Italy’s wine scene over the last 30 years has been the total transformation of Campania. It is safe to say that Campania’s wines have never been this good, and the improvements have been due both to a plethora of new and exciting estates run by a passionate and energetic new generation and, increasingly, to moneyed locals who are looking to invest in the region’s wine economy. The presence of a number of outstanding, world-class local grape varieties that grow practically nowhere else and a better understanding of many of the region’s unique—often volcanic—terroirs have also played important roles in the transformation of Campanian wine.”
We direct import two producers from Campania that were mentioned in the article: Ciro Picariello and La Sibilla. Ian states in the article that Ciro Picariello “makes some of Campania’s most sought-after wines.” Then he writes about La Sibilla that “the Di Meo family has turned their small estate into one of the country’s best Falanghina and Piedirosso wine producers.” This is awesome praise for two producers that we discovered several years ago and were amazed by the quality, the balance, and the soul of the wines. We hope you get the chance to discover their magic as well.
Ciro Picariello 2013 Fiano di Avellino DOCG
Ciro Picariello 2013 Irpinia Fiano DOP
Ciro Picariello 2013 Greco di Tufo DOCG
Ciro Picariello 2012 Campania Rosso IGP
La Sibilla 2014 Falanghina, Campi Flegrei DOC
La Sibilla 2013 Piedirosso, Campi Flegrei DOC
September 13, 2016
FEATURED: Not Enough Thank-Yous
This October, we celebrate our 15th year of business. We can’t believe it. How cool is this?
Mark and I have so many people to thank for this achievement. We thank Dennis Styck of Vintage, who we both worked for and learned so much from in the early 90’s. We thank the Terlato family for taking a chance on a start up post 9/11. After the Terlato family sold their wine distribution companies to Southern in early 2002, they allowed Dennis to buy them out and become independent along with Cream. Dennis did the same for Mark and I when we bought him out in 2003. Consolidation realities are a natural cycle. This was an example of opportunity meeting preparation and some blind luck—a theme for us over the years to be sure.
Thank you Cream Team aka the best in the biz. Your dedication and hard work ignites and inspires our collective. We thank our Cream alumni who over the years have gone on to pursue other endeavors both in and out of this wacky industry. They say the wine biz is hard to get into and even harder to get out. We firmly believe in finding and developing talent, training, mentoring and empowering. Basically hire smart people that work hard and get the hell out of their way. The Cream Team rocks! Our goal is to offer the highest level of service. Thank you for continuing to raise the bar.
We thank our supplier partners, many of which have been with us from the start. Thank you for your commitment to quality, your incredible risk in farming, winemaking, distilling and importing, as well as our strong partnership and the great support. Thank you for living on airplanes and spending time away from your families. We would also like to thank the suppliers we no longer represent, as you are part of our history, growth and evolution. Parting company because of philosophical differences or business realities is not uncommon in the world of wine importing and distribution. Trends and brands may come and go, but people and place remain. Tastes and categories are harder to build, but they are worth it in the long run as they need a community behind them. Our dynamic, balanced and authentic portfolio is considered by many to be one of the top niche distributor selections in the country. We prefer to work with family estates, growers and producers from the Americas and Western Europe, sourced from classic and cutting edge importers as well as own direct imports. We are also pretty keen on New Zealand!
Most of all, we thank our awesome customers. Thank you! Without you, none of this is possible. That is not a cliché. That is a fact. Thank you for your confidence, trust and partnership with Cream. Many of you have been working with us from year one. Amazing. In a market as competitive and sophisticated as Chicago, we do not take our relationships for granted. Thank you for your high level of professionalism, knowledge, service and hospitality. Thank you for your open minds, sharp palates and progressive beverage programs. Thank you for taking us to task when needed. It pushes us to do better. We are so proud to be part of this amazing food, wine and spirits community.
We look forward to seeing many of your at our 8th Annual Warehouse Tasting & Sale BBQ this Monday in Pilsen. Let us raise a glass and celebrate all that our crazy misfit community continues to accomplish year after year. Don’t forget your sunglasses.
Andy & Mark with and for the Cream Team 4evuh
June 28, 2016
FEATURED: Made in Michigan
Rifino Valentine’s mission is to produce the highest quality spirits on a small scale that are made and bottled by hand and are still capable of competing with international spirits. “I have a simple philosophy: everything that I do must be done with quality in mind above all else, the way it was meant to be done. I’ve always appreciated the American craftsman; working by hand, making one of kind items that stand the test of time. In distillation, this means selecting the best ingredients, distilling in small batches, and taking care in every single step of the process. I take great pride in using old world techniques, techniques that haven’t changed in centuries. There are no computers controlling the stills, just my sense of taste and smell to determine the cuts.”
Why spirits? The idea of starting a distillery occurred about 10 years ago. As a young trader on Wall Street, Rifino loved his dirty martinis. “I would tell bartenders give me your best dirty,” he says. He noticed the vodka was always imported. “Why can’t we make world-class vodka in the U.S.?” he wondered. He moved to Michigan to learn about artisan distilling at Michigan State University. MSU is the only public university in the country to runs an artisan distillery program.
With only a dozen or so micro-distilleries in the country in 2007 (now there are over 400), Valentine opened his Detroit-based, artisan distilling company Valentine Distilling Co. (the area’s first since Prohibition). With all of the news surrounding Detroit and its bankruptcy, the Motor City was a natural choice for Valentine. After all, Detroit is a poster child for U.S. manufacturing. The first bottle of vodka went into distribution in February 2008. Since then, his spirits have won awards all over the world. The Valentine Distilling Co. Vodka was just named the World’s Best Vodka at the 2016 World Vodka Awards in London.
Valentine Distilling Co. Vodka (80 proof)
Valentine Distilling Co. ‘White Blossom’ Elderflower Vodka (80 proof)
Valentine Distilling Co. Liberator Gin (84 proof)
Valentine Distilling Co. Liberator Old Tom Gin (108.4 proof)
Valentine Distilling Co. Mayor Pingree Bourbon, Michigan (90 proof)
June 01, 2016
New Gin from Ransom!
What do you get when you give the recipe for classic Dutch genevers gin to the folks at Oregon’s Ransom Wine & Spirits (i.e. Tad Seestedt)? You get Old World meets New—in a giant bear hug. Ransom’s Dry Gin is an electrifying combination of traditional malty hoppiness with intense Oregon-centric botanicals such as marionberry and local hops. It’s sustainably farmed and alambic pot distilled, using only the “heart of the hearts” (the best of the best) for bottling. The result is ethereal: hops and white flowers, fresh marionberry and juniper berries. It’s rich and silky in your mouth, with citrus and exotic spice notes. Started by Tad Seestedt in 1997 with a “small life savings and a fistful of credit cards,” Ransom Wine & Spirits was built on handcrafted products that pay homage to big dreams and and not-so-big wallets.
May 26, 2016
Heard of Elba Island?
The island of Elba is a Mediterranean paradise tucked in the crystal blue sea—the perfect place for sipping crisp white wines all day long. Fortunately, it’s also the perfect place to grow them. With rocky, granite soil and a warm, dry climate, the Vermentino grape reaches its full potential. Grown on a vineyard overlooking the sea, it’s no wonder these grapes are happy as clams. The 2014 is a golden beauty, with notes of citrus fruit and a hint of marzipan. This is a balanced, lively wine that’ll have you packing your bags for the seaside—or at least closing your eyes and imagining you’re there with each sip.