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Posted by on in January 2018 Editions
Stranahan’s has a cultlike following for its annual Snowflake limited-edition; fans camp out and line up for a chance to buy two of the 1,400 bottles released the first weekend of December.

Stranahan’s has a cultlike following for its annual Snowflake limited-edition; fans camp out and line up for a chance to buy two of the 1,400 bottles released the first weekend of December.

With ‘Craft’ brands thriving, large suppliers are buying up—and empowering— small distillers 

By Jack Robertiello


Perhaps large spirit companies learned a lesson from how slowly major brewers responded to the growing interest in craft beer, but whatever the case, they have shown an increasing willingness to swoop in and grab small distillers who show promise.

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In various professions, the truly great ones become known by just one name or even nickname.  In the sports world, there's been Tiger, Peyton, and "Shaq."  In entertainment, there's been Beyonce, Cher, and Arnold.  In wine?  There's now Merf.

David "Merf" Merfeld is head winemaker for Northstar.  "The umbrella company is Ste. Michelle Wine Estates," he remarked.  "Northstar is one of a string of pearls.  It was created in 1994 to focus on ultra-premium wines, specifically Merlot.  It all starts in the vineyards.  We've been working closely with growers at specific sites where we source our fruit from since the '90s. That sets us apart."

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Posted by on in January 2018 Editions

Somms Serve Tips on Adjusting a Wine Program for Winter Months

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By Marika Vida and Patricia Savoie


Winter lurks in the shadows of shorter days, bringing cravings for hearty comfort foods to counter the chill. So, we turn to serious red wines, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Zinfandel, Malbec….

Yet there are many white wines that work brilliantly with winter fare: Consider Chardonnay (oaked or not), Pinot Blanc and Gris with their ripe melon and tropical notes, mouth-filling Viognier, spice-laden Gewürztraminer and perhaps the most ideal winter white of all, Riesling.

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I've been writing this annual Maryland state legislative preview article for five years in a row now.  And normally, this feature is filled with quotes of hope and a bit of apprehension for the year ahead from various figures in our industry.  This year, there is more apprehension than hope from members of the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA).

Most of it is centered around Comptroller Peter Franchot's unveiling of a legislative package that would make sweeping changes to the state’s regulation of craft breweries.  Franchot’s 12-point "Reform on Tap Act of 2018" seeks to eliminate limits on sales from taprooms and for take-home consumption for the state’s breweries.  In addition, it would eliminate limits on beer production for breweries that faced caps and let localities set their own taproom hours.  The goal of the proposal is to do away with regulations Franchot says have stifled one of Maryland's most promising economic engines.

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By Jeremy M. Vaida

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Maryland’s Admissions and Amusement Tax is one of this state’s lesser known, yet most expensive business taxes.  Imposed on night club admissions, cover charges, karaoke nights and live entertainment, the tax is deceptively broad based.  Furthermore, the regime’s personal liability provisions permit the Comptroller to collect the tax directly from individuals, even if the company is organized as a corporation or LLC.  With record levels of enforcement these past few years, business owners and managers would be well-served to consult with tax counsel to insure they are properly complying with the law and to help them limit any potential exposure.

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