Less Booze, More Kombucha?

Less Booze, More Kombucha?

We’ve all read the statistics on just how chubby Americans have become and all the lovely little health problems that come along with those extra pounds, from diabetes to heart disease not to mention the physical discomfort of lugging extra pounds around. Making healthier eating and drinking choices is part of our Clean Living investment theme and this week the Wall Street Journal ran an article discussing how as Americans increasingly lay off the booze, the world’s biggest brewers and liquor companies are having to push beyond their traditional fare and roll out teas, energy drinks, and nonalcoholic spirits.

As a confirmed wine lover who owns more wine fridges than I’m willing to publicly admit and who is also known to enjoy a great glass of scotch (travel tip British Airways offers Johnnie Walker Blue in first class)  or a gin and tonic, (new favorite gin is Darjeeling) I’m struggling to wrap my head around kombucha or spiked coconut water (who knew there was such a thing) to replace the heaven of pouring a glass of Barolo, but I applaud the effort by a nation that clearly has room for improvement on the health front.

According to the Wall Street Journal,

Americans’ consumption of ethanol, or pure alcohol, has declined sharply over the past couple of decades. Alcohol consumption stood at 8.65 liters per person in 2017—the most recent year for which data is available—compared with 10.34 liters in 1980, according to research firm Bernstein….


New data show that U.S. alcohol volumes dropped 0.8% last year, slightly steeper than the 0.7% decline in 2017. Beer was worst hit, with volumes down 1.5% in 2018, compared with a 1.1% decline in 2017, while growth in wine and spirits slowed, according to data compiled for The Wall Street Journal by industry tracker IWSR.

Way to go America!

From an investors standpoint…

IWSR forecasts low- and no-alcohol products in the U.S.—still a small slice of the market—to grow 32.1% between 2018 and 2022, triple the category’s growth over the past five years.

And this trend has legs…

Diageo Chief Executive Ivan Menezes said last year that adults opting for lower alcohol options was “an important trend over the next many years” and that the company was “putting a lot of focus behind it.”

The bottom line is as consumers look to make healthier choices, companies are forced to respond by altering their offerings. Those that recognize the change and take advantage of it are part of our Clean Living investing theme, those that don’t… well … remember Blockbuster?

For the entire article go to: As Americans Drink Less Alcohol, Booze Makers Look Beyond the Barrel – WSJ

Saturday Sun & Bourgogne

Saturday Sun & Bourgogne

2016-06-11 BourgogneAfter a long week with more work than sleep, there is nothing better than finally getting to enjoy a relaxed Saturday afternoon on a sunny terrace with a gorgeous bottle of Bourgogne. This lovely little red from one of my favorite regions in France, Beaune, is a perfect fruit forward wine, (not too intense for mid-day) with plenty of body to keep one’s interest, even when paired with some strong cheeses, cured meats and assorted fruits. It was a struggle between savoring slowly and wanting to drink it down entirely too quickly! The price point is also exceedingly attractive in the mid €20s, so of course after the first same,I got of a bottle, a case has been ordered. Some Tiziano Ferro and Matt Nathanson playing in the background and I found my bliss.

It seems that life is a perpetual balancing act between all the things one wants to accomplish and being able to simply enjoy the little pleasures of the moment that come unexpectedly and make up all the most treasured memories. This afternoon I gave myself the space to enjoy the warmth of the sun on my skin, desperately in need of the kind of tan that only the Mediterranean seems to be able to give an Irish lass, and lounged in the casual kind of conversation that gives one a peaceful grin, so rare in a world of endless to-dos. I closed my eyes, thinking of just how lovely it was to be alive, to feel the warm breeze, to hear the sounds of life around, and thought of my father and my adopted grandmother Nonna, who I can now only visit with in my memories. I wish they were here.

Will Scottish Regulations Upend the Alcohol Industry and Crimp Profits? 

Will Scottish Regulations Upend the Alcohol Industry and Crimp Profits? 

We’ve seen this or something like this several times before as regulations and mandates have been put into effect to curb smoking, soda and sugar consumption to name a few. While it may be helpful to individuals, it has the making of hitting Guilty Pleasure profits at companies like Anheuser Busch Inbev, Molson Coors, or Constellation Brands to name a few.


The industry is concerned that regulation passed in the home of Scotch could set an international precedent that could unleash a wave of regulation and crimp profits, similar to plain-packaging moves in the tobacco industry.

Source: Alcohol Makers Await Scottish Ruling – WSJ

A Toast To A Life Well Lived

A Toast To A Life Well Lived

Last week I lost my “adopted” grandmother. Her passing was not a surprise as the amazing woman had managed to live to nearly 96 years old without most of the ills that typically degrade the enjoyment of life in our later years, but the loss was nonetheless painful. Even in her final months she was never cross with me, nor any of her other visitors and family, always with a ready smile and an endless capacity for snuggles. The way her face would light up when I’d see her is a gift I’ll treasure for a lifetime.  My life is better for having had Nonna in it. She truly lived these sage words:

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” – Nat King Cole.

After a tear-filled service and an even more painful visit to the cemetery, a reminder of the joys of living was in order as this sadness will take a long time to fully process. In honor of her passing we toasted her in a manner befitting such a lovely soul with a 39 year old Chateau Mouton Rothschild. She would have approved and oh my lord, for those wine lovers out there this was a bottle to be treasured. The light rust color and phenomenal level of sediment added to the enjoyment. The flavor had been made incredibly complex, but also soft and delicate on the palate.

However, this was a wine to be opened cautiously and enjoyed quickly as it peaked about 30 minutes after opening and an hour later it was pretty much wine-ish, as if someone had diluted it 4-to-1. The wine’s ephemeral pleasure seemed an appropriate reminder of the fleeting nature of life and the importance of treasuring every one of those delicious moments that make it all so very worth living.

Here’s to a lifetime of laughter and love with countless memories worth savoring and the wisdom to appreciate the ephemeral nature of it all.

Bella Italia: Life is sweet and I shall taste it all

Bella Italia: Life is sweet and I shall taste it all

The human mind is incredibly adaptable, which has been a key component of our success as a species, but that adaptability has a downside in that after a time, we can get accustomed to most anything, be it heaven or hell.  I am incredibly blessed to live in two of the most gorgeous places on the planet and thank my lucky stars every day that my bi-continental life makes it almost impossible to ever take their beauty for granted.

Saturday morning, despite having what I later learned was a nasty case of bronchitis compounded by a horrid allergic reaction to the medication I was taking, I dragged myself out the door for a run along the sea.  Never said I was a sane person.  I live on the top floor of a lovely old building at the very top of a little hill, less than a stone’s throw from the shores of the Mediterranean, which makes her pull all that more powerful.  Saturday morning she was particularly lovely, her waves sparkling the way they do when Spring is just around the corner.  Despite the hacking and incessant nose blowing I just had to go out for a run.  Just brought a few packages of Kleenex and hey, there are trash bins all along the way!  After a while I took to jogging on the beach and just had to take this shot.



Later that day, post shower and lunch preparation, given that I was already violating pretty much every ounce of common sense by jogging for 80 minutes with a bad chest cold, I figured I’d go for broke and shared some gorgeous champagne on my terrace.  The alcohol is purely medicinal!  Couldn’t help it with such a gorgeous sunny day and Spring whispering in my ear that warm-weather opportunities for mischief are right around the corner.


Bella Italia!  Life is sweet and I shall taste it all.  I wrote that back in 1997 when I was on a train between Venice and Milan while vacationing before starting my MBA program, having no idea that one day I’d have the incredible fortune to live in this land of endless beauty and have a life more magical than I could have ever dreamed.  So today I toast to life, there have been years when you kicked my ass in ways that I thought would surely have broken me, but today I thank you for every one of those days as they’ve made today even more beautiful.



Chateau Latour a Pomerol 1994

Chateau Latour a Pomerol 1994

Another day suffering through work and life on the Italian Riviera and somehow managed to endure another epic sunset.  I think nature did its very best when creating this part of the world.  Nearly every morning I awake to a sunrise that takes my breath away.  Alright, alright… that is when I manage to get my sleepy self out of bed in time to see the sunrise, which granted is not an every day occurance.IMG_0007

But this evening… the Med put on some of her softest hues, demanding that all stop for at least a moment and enjoy just how very lovely she can be.  Despite the cool February air, there is already a gentleness in the air, a slight whispering warmth hinting seductively that Spring is coyly awaiting her turn.

After a decidedly long, but productive day at work and a wonderful surprise opportunity that has come my way, more on that later, I made my way to one of my favorite restaurants in Genova, Le Perlage, where the ever gracious and warm owner had decanted our wine for the evening in the late morning hours.  In the morning you ask!?  Why the hell so early?  Because this wine, was a truly epic experience!  Meet Chateau Latour a Pomerol 1994, a new best friend!


The only other time I’ve had the pleasure of such an exquisite vintage was with a 1971 Patriarche Pere et Fils Chambertin Grand Cru.  Despite having been decanted at around 10am, by 8pm the wine was still slowly unveiling her luscious yet delicate airs, each sip slightly different from the last.  Quite the seductress!  With a wine like this you also need to pour her gently through a filter and leave a good bit in the bottom of the bottle as the amount of sediment is impressive.

Amazing to me that a wine of such epic vintage is so gentle on the palate, making conversation rather difficult as we all wanted to just enjoy her loveliness in quiet appreciation.  With a wine this delicate we all chose some simple steamed vegetables (verdure miste di stagione stufate) and a light Mediterranean white fish baked in salt with some potatoes and artichokes hearts (a Genovese favorite).  This wine would truly be destroyed by a meal with a heavy sauce.  I think even a steak might possibly detract from her loveliness.  This is one to be savored slowly on a night made for quiet reflection.

Frost, Snow, Bordeaux!

Frost, Snow, Bordeaux!


After a chilly day of frost and snow in which I managed to walk into entirely too many door jams, (I swear they moved), tripped over nearly every rug in my home, (did they get fluffier over the weekend?) and for some reason decided the refrigerator was the best place to leave my iPhone… By the end of the day there was nothing else to be done but decant a bottle of Bordeaux and enjoy an insanely gorgeous sunset.

After a day like that I highly recommend curling up on the couch and having a long chat with a great friend over a bottle of this delicious wine.  Granted, it is still a bit young, but has sufficient complexity to not require a meal to bring out its flavors… although a bit of chocolate didn’t hurt.  Don’t judge… I wasn’t kidding about the multiple door jams.

As with all Bordeaux wines, this isn’t a very big wine, so don’t have it with anything too overpowering, but I think it would go well with a steak, (not a heavy pepper sauce) and maybe some steamed veggies… or skip all that like I did and head straight to the chocolate.  The wine needs a good 1 1/2 to 2 hours to breath in the decanter at a minimum.  The oak notes mellow as it breathes and the earthier mocha flavors emerge a bit stronger along with some raspberries and cherry touches.  It’s definitely the kind of wine that you love to let linger on the palate.  Enjoy!

Back in Italia – time for Barolo and farinata!

Back in Italia – time for Barolo and farinata!

Landed back in Milan to find the city covered in a beautiful soft layer of snow, then somehow stayed awake for the 2 hour drive back to Genova, (thank God for SUVs and snow tires).  A long hot shower and a glass of wine later, I started to feel human again.  What is it about airplanes that makes you feel so dirty and tired?  Thank God for noise canceling headsets and movies loaded onto my iPad.  Please British Airways…you have seriously got to rethink your movie selection.  Watched the movie Lucy and found myself continually looking around so see if other people were watching it in utter disbelief of how shockingly moronic the entire production was.  As an Irish lass it was sheer torture to not be able to rant to anyone about the lunacy… was forced to console myself with a crumbly cookie and milk.  Just wasn’t the same.  Seriously, Scarlett Johansson (who I normally really enjoy) and Morgan Freeman (with a voice like hot buttered rum), what where you thinking?  It was just painful.


Over the weekend I just had to visit one of my favorite restaurants in town down in Porto Antico, Tre Merli, where we had a bottle of 1990 Cannubi Barolo decanted a few hours before our arrival for maximal enjoyment while doing a bigenova-porto-antico-estate-2013t of grocery shopping at Eataly, Genova’s answer to Whole Foods.  Oh my was that vino buono!  Incredibly soft, well balanced with just enough fruit to keep it interesting – my apologies – it is hard to describe wine sometimes without feeling like some ridiculous character out of Sideways!  The color was a gorgeous raspberry-tinted rust that looked so lovely lit by candlelight.  Had an unreal amount of sediment, but Tre Merli uses this beautiful silver strainer that help make it all so much more of a decadent ceremony.  I think I have a serious Nebbiolo addiction.  “Hi, my name is Elle, and I can’t fathom life without this particular grape.”  I do realize how mental that sounds – ehhh – add it to the list.  Then onto what can only be described as freakin’ heaven on earth, farinata, which originated in Genova.  It has surpassed macaroni and cheese as my go-to comfort food.

If you ever get to Genova, make sure you indulge deeply in the local specialities of farinata, focaccia, pesto and the local white fish prepared in the Ligurian style with olives and pine nuts – bits of heaven.  I used to not be a big fan of fish but the Mediterranean has taught me the joys of warmer water fish, so delicate and even a bit sweet!  Buon Appetito!


An Italian Blond Day and Champagne

An Italian Blond Day and Champagne

Ever had one of those days when you realize that the Universe is having a bit of fun at your expense and taking the opportunity to make sure you don’t get overly confident? That was my Friday. I’d recently returned to Genova, Italy, where I spend a good deal of my time and was working through my usual jetlag, awkwardness getting back into the language and in particular, the Italian driving sensibilities. Italians can be best described as private anarchists and public communists, which manifests itself into a set of driving norms that leave me seriously contemplating the use of a paintball gun while driving to better express my appreciation for those around me.

My Friday morning consisted of a series of, “I cannot believe I just did that,” exercises which I’m positive is the Universe’s way of hinting that maybe, just maybe, there is something to that whole blond thing.  I made myself coffee three times, losing my cup every time. Still not sure where the other two cups ended up as my cleaning lady inevitably finds them all and discretely puts them in the dishwasher. I’ve seen her sideways glances and slight head shakes which I’m fairly certain mean she thinks I’m insane, and probably not too bright given my Italian fluency, or lack thereof.

Later in the day I thought things were finally turning around for me, when I made the unfortunate decision to drive myself and a colleague to a meeting. It was a freezing cold day, with lots of wind and rain, so being a true southern Californian I was fully decked out in heavy coat and mittens… and there’s where the trouble began.

Now that I’ve finally mastered the art of the round-about I get frustrated when others foil my attempts to navigate them smoothly. On Friday I was maneuvering my way around a particularly busy one onto the Sopraelevata, (a Genovese version of a raised highway on which one’s max speed is whopping 60km/hr or 37mph) when this woman damn near pushes me into another car on my right by swinging wildly into my lane from the inner most lane in a hurried attempt to make it onto the on-ramp, forcing me to slam on my breaks so as to avoid any collisions.

I was already gunning for bear at my own idiocy that day, so this became the perfect opportunity to vent my frustrations! I jetted onto the Sopraelevata behind her, my colleague and I yelling loudly, fists shaking with heavy scowling and considerable head shaking. The crazy woman in that awful tiny red car had the audacity to shake her bloody finger at us in her rearview mirror! Oh no she didn’t! Now I’m really raging to give her a serious talking to, when all of a sudden my engine revs up wildly slowing me down to a ridiculous 30km/hr or so. My colleague is still ranting, but getting a weird look on his face as he tries to figure out what the hell it is that I’m trying to accomplish. The car continues to slow, with RPM jumping wildly. I’m flailing about, face turning 18 shades of red, trying to figure out what the in the hell is going on. The crazy woman in that puny Punto smoothly pulls away from us and now the cars behind me are honking angrily as I finally realize that in my eagerness to give her the what for, I nicked the manual gear shift on the steering wheel with my mittens, but couldn’t feel it because those things are so damn thick!

I did the only thing anyone could in my position. I fixed my gears, pulled over into the slow lane, head hung feeling more blond than at any other point in my entire life. My colleague’s shoulder started the telltale shake of a man desperately trying to not laugh. I gave him my best scowl, which he didn’t at all buy into and the two of us laughed until our stomachs hurt.

The point of this story? The best way to end a day like that is with a bottle of 1995 Bollinger Champagne. It is incredibly good all on its own or with some pasta. It presents with the nice little bubbles that tempt your tongue, rather than the big ole ones that make you hiccup relentlessly after the first sip. Slide a few glasses into the freezer, put the champagne on ice, take a long hot shower, and my evening was able to repair one hell of an Italian blond day.