Beverage Trends of 2018

By: Kimberly Noelle Charles

Every year as we look ahead, we like to take a quick inventory of what we’ve witnessed emerging from the experimental to the established and see where we think drink trends are headed.  We peered into our crystal glasses to bring you a quick take on some of our favorite libations across the spectrum.  We lift a glass to 2018!  It has to be a better year than this one! 


New Cycles Gladiator "Pinot in a Can"

New Cycles Gladiator "Pinot in a Can"

Can Can - we've come a long way baby.   The intrepid folks from Coppola came out with the Sofia sparkling wine years ago, long before others were willing to embrace the ease and practicality of wine in cans.   Now we are seeing more and more premium wines in cans with vintage dates, different varietals and sizes including 375 ml.   Some popular brands are: Underwood Pinot, Cangria, Cycles Gladiator.

Nerello Mascalese this vibrant light high acid Italian red wine is the darling of the hipster wine set.   Sicilian wines in general are all the rage with sommeliers in urban markets and the versatility, high acidity and balanced profile sync perfectly with modern palates and a variety of cuisine.

Australian Semillon. What's old is new again.   The best from Hunter Valley in particular, provide some of the most intriguing age-able white wines.  Known for their intense acidity and intriguing secondary flavors as they age, the affordability factor for wines that are 10+ years and still vibrant are an industry secret we're hesitant to share broadly for fear of losing ground to those who are more peripatetic in their tastes.

Low Oak wines continue to appeal...not to say gone are the days of buttery, oak fruit bombs particularly in Chardonnay, but as go healthy eating trends go lighter profiles of popular white wines. Shedding their baby fat of oak, high alcohol and over extraction, many white wines, the Queen of which is Chardonnay, are "leaning out" and matching many evolving consumer taste preferences.

Photo courtesy of Pinterest

Photo courtesy of Pinterest

Pinot Noir still has it going on. The grape variety that shot to fame with the film Sideways in 2004 is still a darling among wine lovers, however, as consumers become more sophisticated in their wine knowledge, they demand more unique and specific expressions of their favorite grape.   Like it or not, climate change has influenced emerging growing regions for Pinot Noir, look for more interesting offerings coming out of Chile, Germany, New Zealand among other parts of the world.

Alternative fermenting vessels for making wine - the oak barrel will always be the king of fermenting vessels but the wine world has been embracing and experimenting with alternative fermenting and aging containers for some time.  Concrete eggs are more and more prevalent for the fermentation of whites and light reds, allowing for more skin contact and the ensuing complexity.   Amphorae continue to be used as well as diverse barrel sizes and shapes which impart different flavors and aromas to the wines that come in contact with their various shapes and materials.   

Blithe Spirits

Photo courtesy of Pinterest

Photo courtesy of Pinterest

The Spritz - Be it a Negroni Sbagliato an Aperol spritz or hell, maybe even a Rosé Aperol Spritz. The American palate is thankfully (IMO) following suit of our Italian friends when it comes to the aperitif.  The popularity of the spritz falls nicely in line with the cash rich, time poor trend plaguing working professionals looking for an easy - albeit classy - way to wind down. Furthermore, it’s making the aspirational “La Dolce Vita” quest far more tangible at least in liquid form.

Amaro (commonly Bitters) takes flight! Joining the usual Amaro players are small batch, regional (and yes, American) Amari (Amaro, plural) that are also getting rather exciting. For those really involved, Vintage Amaro is certainly a thing as well as we have foragers and finders looking for Amaro circa 1950-1990. In Italy, Amaro carts are rising in popularity for those table side Amari flights. Don’t call us Bitter for loving the category.

Photo courtesy of Pinterest

Photo courtesy of Pinterest

From Frose and beyond - Most of us admittedly rose’d all day in 2017 and frankly, some of us have been since the late 90s. And, at least for some, we frose’d at least once this summer. No shame! Frozen drinks are on the move whether we like it or not. Slushy sips that are best enjoyed poolside will continue to gain momentum (with the frose possibly playing more of a supporting role in 2018). Taking a cue from our entry on The Spritz, a Negroni Slushy and the Chartreuse slushie at The Morris in San Francisco are sure to have their time in the limelight in 2018. 

Tee totaling

The sober scene: functional drinks! Think delicious beverages with nutritional and physical and emotional benefits in one. Charcoal has been an age old filterer of all things bad from the body.  Now in addition to your activated charcoal tablets which help detox the organs, you can now imbibe it in a number of pleasing ways.  Think Charcoal infused water and other concoctions: Sparkling Charcoal. Charcoal-flavored Kombucha. Charcoal and lavender tea. And on and on and on. As we head into 2018 this nutritious lifestyle-centric trend is sure to be taken up a notch. Just as we experienced Kombucha on tap this year, in 2018 the sky’s the limit when it comes to on-tap, accessible and functional non-alcoholic, health-driven drinks.  

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Flavor behavior! Blueberry Milk will soon be available in grocery stores. By now all sorts of dairy free alternatives are engrained within the American vernacular - Soy Milk, Coconut Milk, Almond Milk. So is the rising popularity of Blueberry milk actually all that surprising? With that said, what may be surprising is that Blueberry milk is not dairy free, but it’s simply flavored milk. Think the strawberry and vanilla milk from our youth. This insight comes to us from our so Cal gal Kelly Lawrence who is currently daydreaming of what a blueberry milk latte (and all the accompanying latte art) will be like. 

Stop and smell the roses - Edible petals have always made dishes look spectacular and our Instagram famous friends are longtime fans. But look for botanics (whole flowers, petals) to play an even bigger role in nonalcoholic drinks in 2018. Think rose-flavored everything. Bright pink hibiscus teas. Lavender lattes. And perhaps the newest player- elderflower. 

Photo courtesy of Pinterest

Photo courtesy of Pinterest

Personalization - we can’t herald in 2018 without acknowledging the role that tech plays in our daily lives. The move towards personalization in all aspects of our life is sure to touch the beverages to which we imbibe. The dawn of this new era is a result of tech making shopping as easy, thoughtless and seamless as possible. Consequently, this will inevitably form more bespoke connections with customers. And with that, a new generation of customized recommendations and unique pairings are being forged within the beverage culture. Cheers!

30th Anniversary Questions with Eileen Crane, CEO Domaine Carneros

Over my now 34 year history in the wine business, I've had the honor and pleasure to work with some of the finest talents in winemaking and wine growing around the globe.  One such person is the groundbreaking CEO of Domaine Carneros winery, Eileen Crane.  Thirty years ago, she donned a hardhat, given the responsibility not only of making the sparkling wines for this new estate in collaboration with the House of Taittinger, but building the winery, a replica of the 18th century Chateau de la Marquetterie in Champagne, France, in the Carneros AVA of California.   Always guided by confidence, the influence of her upbringing and innate talent, she has thrived in her three decades at the winery, seeing it from construction, to still winemaking to organic conversion and beyond, all the while keeping centered and gracious.  I'm proud to call her a friend and she remains an inspiration.   In honor of the holidays and her illustrious career, we toast Eileen Crane with this Q & A to learn more about this accomplished woman.  A votre sante! 

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CCA: What has changed in your approach or philosophy in the 30 years you've made sparkling wines?

EC: I have learned that growing your own grapes is the surest way to obtain the best quality of wine. We have purchased four Carneros vineyards over the last 30 years and estate grapes make all the difference to our quality. The philosophical winemaking point that has not changed is being meticulous in every step of winemaking.

CCA: What about how the American marketplace has changed since you first started making sparkling wine to today?

EC: The high-end U.S. sparkling industry has been benefiting from the Prosecco craze. It seems to me many Prosecco drinkers sooner or later ask “what else is out there” and make a step or two up and find the next quality levels and like what they taste. The current interest in rosé wines is also driving increased Rosé sparkling wine production.

Top quality U.S. producers have seen a multi-decade trend toward acceptance that the finest can be produced from top U.S. wine appellations.

CCA: You converted your vineyards to organic before it was more of a common industry practice. What fundamental changes have you seen qualitatively and technically since you began farming that way?

Chateau Domaine Carneros (photo courtesy of  Winefolly)

Chateau Domaine Carneros (photo courtesy of  Winefolly)

EC: Right from the beginning in 1987 Domaine Carneros has tried to live lightly on the land by recycling water and packaging. In 2003, we housed the largest solar collection system of any winery in the world. Over the years, we have operated as sustainable, organic, Fish Friendly Farming and Napa Green. In many ways we have taken the best practices from all and developed a high standard for protecting our Earth.

CCA: We know you love to drink a glass of bubbly at night.  You've inspired us with your concept of not wanting to wait for a special occasion to have a glass of sparkling...we still love your idea of opening a bottle on Monday and having a glass each night till Friday. Are you still doing that? Has it changed? 

EC: Nothing is quite so lovely as a glass of bubbles on a Monday evening. And, if it is lovely then, it works for Tuesday, etc., as well. No need to wait for a special occasion; when you open a bottle of bubbles, the occasion happens.

CCA: What is your preferred glass in which to enjoy sparkling?  

EC: My favorite champagne glass is the tulip. A long, slender shape that says you are about to have something special but with a big enough bowl to put your nose in and fully appreciate the aroma.

CCA: What are your favorite pairings to have with Domaine Carneros from appetizers, main courses and desserts? 

EC:  My most favorite pairing for sparkling is triple creme cheese or goat cheese, but I would never limit the sparkling match. Sparkling Rosé with Thanksgiving turkey is just terrific! And, I fell in love the first time over a glass of bubbles and filet mignon (I cannot guarantee the same result for everyone, but…).

CCA: Please share your entertaining philosophy  

Eileen Crane circa 1987

Eileen Crane circa 1987

EC: Serve the best wine and cook with the best ingredients you can afford, then make it simple so you can enjoy your friends. Just let the quality of ingredients and the sparkle of the event speak for themselves.

CCA: What would you point to as your constant source of inspiration? Was anyone in particular a mentor?

EC: Inspiration has come from a wide variety of friends, colleagues, and the many wines I have tried. I am always conscious of seeing new things and thinking how could I or Domaine Carneros use this.  

CCA: If someone were starting out in your shoes today, with your 30 year perspective, what would you share with them going forward?  

EC: Train at UC Davis in enology. Do almost anything to get a production or lab job in a sparkling winery (or winery that specializes in the blend of wine(s) you are interested in). Work very hard, volunteer for extra duties, find a couple of mentors.

CCA: Where do you hope to see the wine business in the next 10 years? 

EC: I would like to see the wine industry offer more managerial and direct positions to qualified women. We are woefully behind as an industry in this.

More wineries operating with employee participation and open book management.

CCA Staff Gratitudes


I'm thankful for:  Friends

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Because: I have been a gypsy a good part of my life.   Born in Connecticut, raised on Oahu, back to the mainland as a 10 year old with 4 years in the south, 3 years back in Connecticut, several years in Europe (Spain, Italy) before university in Washington DC and my first job in New York City which I called home for 13 years.  Now almost 20 years into my California dream, I have such gratitude for the friends who've weathered the miles with me as well as those new fellow journeymen and women along the way.   This week I was whatsapp'ing with a friend in New Zealand I've known for 34 years with whom I'd lost touch, and the years melted away as we exchanged voice messages.  Most recently, with the fire relief fund campaign we undertook in California for the devastating wine country fires, the circle of friends who contributed, shared, and spread the word about it, was one of the most touching things that has happened to and around me, in some time.   One dear friend, Joy Sterling, of Iron Horse Vineyards, sent a case of her brilliant new sparkling wine from the Green Valley of Sonoma county, called Gratitude, to thank us for our efforts.  She herself could have easily been affected by the fires, and I'm sure had a few moments when fate and winds could have turned unfavorable for her.  Big hearts abound and my friends are my family.  Grateful for much this Thanksgiving, but this year I've gotten into the practice of acknowledging little gratitudes daily before I sleep.  I highly recommend it as an antidote to the troubling news that seems to be regular fodder in modern life


I am thankful for: The mainstream media


Because: Must I even elaborate? The media is called the fourth estate for an important reason: it's an acknowledgment of their influence as among the greatest powers that hold a democratic nation together. This has been a tough year for those interested in fact-checking, context, hard truths, and thoughtfully measured analysis, but journalism persists and so must those who support and subscribe to it. I would be lost without my daily dose of NPR, New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and the New Yorker (and especially forlorn without my monthly dose of Vanity Fair). It is our patriotic duty to remain informed, and we must continue to receive our information from intelligent reporting and multiple sources, while always holding those sources to account as well. To the reporters out there making barely enough to scrape by while enduring sleepless nights, brutal competition, slashed budgets and a terrifyingly hostile sub-group of the electorate who thinks you are part of some vast left or right wing conspiracy - I am thankful for you. 



I am thankful for: My best friend, Kadi


Because: Humility, honest generosity and genuine kindness are qualities that are becoming more and more rare in today's fast-paced, wild world. My best friend Kadi is one of those people capable of lighting up a room and making anyone and everyone feel important and special. To have a best friend always searching for (and successfully finding) the good - even in the darkest of times -  it's truly a magnificent feat of character. She inspires me daily to be more positive and to always, always strive to be my best self. As an only child my friends have always been extra special and I'm truly blessed to have some of the most wonderful around. Cheers to 2017 and all the wonderful memories made, but glasses up to the upcoming year around the sun! May we all be blessed with a year filled with a little more kindness, humility and happiness. And also to a Dodgers 2018 World Series win!



I am thankful for: My support system

Because: Going from college to a full-time work life and from the suburbs to a bustling urban city, entering the “real world” has been a huge adjustment. I find myself confused and afraid about 10 times a week. However, with this, comes an amazing amount of human development in knowledge, strength, experience and perspective. I am learning a mile-a- minute and soaking up as much adventure as I can while I endure a transition into a new way of life. There are weeks when I struggle,  but it is because of my amazing network of friends and family that help me pick myself up day after day and remind me of my determination and competence. I lost my grandfather this year, and something he would always tell himself and his daughters throughout life is this: "When presented with difficulty and strife tell yourself: 'This is not too difficult for me. Nothing is too scary or nerve-wracking for me. I can handle this.'” I hear those words in my head each day, and it is this inheritance of wisdom that I find so special. Knowing that each generation and each life has experienced fear/insecurity similar to one another is immensely comforting for me. So, this year I raise my glass to a year filled with accomplishments, new experiences, a great amount of change, and a group of people that believe in Hannah sometimes more than I do. That is a lot to be grateful for. Happy Thanksgiving to all! 


I am thankful for:  Graduating from San Francisco State University

Photo courtesy of Pinterest

Photo courtesy of Pinterest

Because: I didn't go to college after high school right away because I had to support my family. So, I almost abandoned the notion of going back to school, but I was inspired to get back in the classroom thanks to words of encouragement from a departed best friend. Through patience, humility, and sacrifice, I managed to survive  SF State last year, and I'm ecstatic to graduate in Spring 2018. I am much wiser now, and I realized that had I gone to college years before, I wouldn't learn all the new and innovative technologies that has changed the media today. Also, I am grateful for all the new opportunities that college has provided, such as, reconnecting with Kimberly Charles and interning these past months developing video content with CCA. I am hopeful for my future in media, because of the greater knowledge I earned obtaining my diploma, and the greater confidence I feel to face new challenges.  

Gift Ideas out of the box: Wine Subscriptions


By Hannah Kearney

It is no secret that the world of wine can be extremely daunting to many people. The skill set and expertise that goes along with being a wine professional (or even confidently conversing with one) is vast and intimidating. As a 22 year-old with a short few months of industry experience under my belt, I undoubtedly agree with this notion (my mom likes to to call me a ‘just-harvested grape bunch’). Yet I chose this industry because wine is magical and sophisticated and delicious and I believe it will keep me curious. As I embark on this challenging career-path (with the lovely CCA team at my side), the experiences to have and the content to study seem infinite and because of this, I am determined to sustain the magic and leisure I feel from the sound of a bottle opening or my first sip of a great rosé throughout my research.

Photo courtesy of Pinterest

Photo courtesy of Pinterest

This is why I’ve been on the search for engaging, affordable ways to develop my palate and wine knowledge, and how I stumbled upon the salvation for me, which are wine subscription boxes. I must note that in the age of Amazon Prime, Uber and Postmates, it makes sense that wine subscription boxes are becoming popular among consumers. However, as I read articles about the alcohol beverage industry’s transition into the world of same-day home delivery, I, among many others feel a bit uneasy about how this will affect the ways we sell and consume luxury-packaged goods like wine and spirits. Will we slowly lose touch with the intimate experience of walking into wine shop and consulting with an expert on our preferences and the quality of wines? Will small, independent wine shops stay in business? Will winery visits remain sought-after celebratory activities? Can an Amazon bot detect the quality of a wine the same way a human professional can? I guess we will have to wait and see. However, as times are changing, it is important for the industry to keep up with what young consumers are paying attention to and investing their money in. What I can say confidently about the subscription boxes I recommend below is that all of them keep the ‘hand-picked by humans with a heart-beat’ aspect intact and offer tasting notes written by their team of expert wine nerds. I also believe they are incredibly convenient and (somewhat) cost-efficient for wine drinkers looking to expand their label/ category familiarity and a fun, trendy holiday gift idea for wine friends. Here’s a guide to help subscribers pick the right box that deliver delicious wines and offer a wide variety of categories and brands:

1.  Winc

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How it works: Subscribers are asked to answer 6 questions about their wine flavor preferences and the Winc team will curate wines that suit their palate and are delivered monthly. Winc is known for partnering with funky, lesser-known wine brands and many of them have beautiful labels that can be perfect for DIY home décor.

What it costs: bottles start at $13

What you get:  4 or 6 bottle monthly subscription tailored to fit your preferences on nose and flavor.

2.  Vinebox

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How it works: Subscribers fill out a preference survey and VineBox will send glass-sized quantities from around the world based on the survey to doorsteps. This is especially great for a consumer looking to have a taste of new wines before purchasing a whole bottle.

What it costs: Starts at $29 for first month

What you get: 3-6 hand selected wines by the glass each month packaged in sleek tubular packaging.

3.  Wine Down Box

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How it works: This is a box that delivers a wine and food pairing to subscribers’ door each month. This one’s great for pairing-and-cheese fans, but not so great if you’re looking for multiple bottles in a box.

What it costs: $70 for 1 month sub, $68/box for 3 month sub, $65/box for 6 month sub, and $63/ box for 12 month sub

What you get: 1 bottle of wine, charcuterie and cheese and tasting notes.

4.  Ninety + Cellars

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How it works: Ninety + Cellars allows subscribers to choose between their red, mixed/rose? or white wine clubs and only partners with 90+ scored wines. The service includes free shipping, tasting notes, and discount coupons during weekly promotions. This is great for consumers who particularly care about scores.

What it costs: $50 for 3 bottles, $95 for 6

What you get: 3-6 90+ point bottles delivered quarterly

5.  Martha Stewart Wine Club

How it works: subscribers choose 6 bottles every 6 weeks or 12 bottles every 8 weeks and choose between all red, all white or a mixed pack box.

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What it costs: $49.99- $89.99 / month

What you get: 6-12 bottles hand-picked by Martha Stewart delivered quarterly. The box includes exclusive serving, pairing, and entertaining suggestions written by Martha and if subscribers don’t love the wine, the wine club will replace it for free.

Arts & Culture in San Francisco's Mission: Dia de los Muertos

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I moved to the Mission district of San Francisco 10 years ago.   My home is located precisely at the start of two major processions in this predominantly Central/South American influenced and populated neighborhood.   Carnaval in May starts with a Sunday morning samba beat at about 8 decibels so be sure to get a good night's sleep.   November 2nd every year is the annual Marigold Project produced, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) procession, commemorating Mexico's oldest celebration, dating back to pre-Columbian times of honoring those who have left this realm.    Over the decade that I've lived here, I've learned and appreciated more about the history and customs of this very special commemoration.  It is actually several days from October 30-November 2nd, culminating ultimately in November 2nd's Dia de los Muertos, now celebrated in many parts of the world.  This year, we decided to chronicle via video, what has become a revered tradition in my home and the neighborhood I am proud to be a part of.   This first of three video series, shot by our fabulous intern Kenrick Mercado, features the arts in the Mission.

Forged by Fire

Forged by Fire

In lieu of our normal monthly newsletter, given our home base in Northern California, we at Charles Communications Associates, representing wineries from our own backyard and around the world, dedicate this missive to those affected by the Northern California fires of October 2017