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How This Armenian Wine Company Is Disrupting the Wine Industry

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Zack Armen Launched Storica Wines in 2017 with the goal of promoting Armenian culture in a way that resonates in the hearts and minds of US consumers through wine. As an Armenian-American businessman, Armen’s roots run deep in his home country.  He wants to help the world recognize Armenia for the beautiful place it is and the culture it represents.

Storica’s Shofer Rosé 

Armenia’s “terroir,” which in wine lingo refers to the combination of climate, soil, and elevation, lends to flavor and aroma profiles that are pleasant, top notch, and reminiscent of other fine wines from around the world. Armen is ushering in an exciting new category in the wine world, through a set of brands representing the finest quality and expression of Armenia’s rich heritage and renaissance in winemaking. With each bottle sold, Armen aims to share Armenia’s story as a burgeoning authority in wine and its history as the birthplace of wine with consumers in the United States. Storica wines express indigenous grapes grown 6,000 years ago, and they mirror the country’s fullness of life, and resiliency. 

Armen is charging his company forward as he breaks down barriers and disrupts the conventional wine industry. The road to Storica’s success is paved with new challenges, and the burgeoning company had to address different angles in their sales tactics, marketing, and brand building campaigns. Solidifying a brand in a competitive space is no easy task.  In this article, Armen discusses what it takes to build a new category of wine in the US, what makes Armenian wines so good, and how he plans to disrupt the wine industry in 2021. 

What is your vision for Storica wines?

We’re focusing on building a new category of Armenian wine in the United States. In this effort there is a really interesting tension between taking a disruptive, digital-centric approach like many other products and services do today, yet needing to participate in a heavily regulated, multi-tier trade system. We try to be highly respectful of working within the bounds of and with the parlance of the industry value chain, but at the same time realize that there is some out of the box thinking and doing we have to do to be successful in gaining US consumers’ attention. We are learning as we go and finding that ultimately having a great story and a high-quality product will win the day. 

Our big overarching goal is to bring these beautiful ancient wines, now being produced with a very high degree of quality and sophistication, to the US in such a way that speaks to and recognizes that history in ancient tradition but also has a modern methodology in which we’re engaging with consumers.

What makes Armenian wines so good?

The quality of Armenian wine is a function of a few key factors. The first is the terroir: the combination of climate, soil type, and elevation. Armenia gets 300 days of sunlight per year, which is significantly more than most countries in Europe. This high concentration of sunlight, when combined with high elevation vineyards, causes an intensity of climate that stresses the grape vines. Moreover, at high elevations there are more rapid changes in temperature, precipitation, and wind. When you combine all these factors, this delivers a highly complex flavor and aroma profile that gives Armenian wines their unique attributes. Armenia’s vineyards are mostly volcanic soil, which are best suited for good drainage and water retention. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Armenia’s leading grapes themselves are old, indigenous varieties which are high quality from a viticulture perspective and have an optimal combination of similarity to more commonly found quality grapes, such as Pinot Noir for the Areni red grape and Chenin Blanc for the Voskehat white grape. 

With all of these raw agronomic or viticulture positive attributes, the winemaking, or everything that happens after the grapes are harvested, is also key to the quality of the wines. Armenia is now blessed with several top notch and world-renowned winemakers, who have built large scale winemaking infrastructure across the country’s multiple winemaking regions. We are fortunate to work with one of the pioneers of the Armenian winemaking movement, Vahe Keushguerian, who has decades of winemaking experience in the US, Italy, and France. We will begin to work with additional winemakers later this year who have also had significant experience in winemaking and are producing globally recognized wines today. 

The future is bright for continued top quality wines coming out of Armenia at greater and greater scale, and we hope to work with many of these winemakers as we grow Storica’s business in the US. 

How is Storica achieving its goals as becoming a national brand ambassador?

We’ve focused on building a multi-faceted digital presence that tells the story of Armenian wine in a compelling, celebratory way. Overall, what we’re seeking to do is to be the category creator and leader of Armenian wine in the United States.  The way in which we’re doing that is we’re working with the best wineries in Armenia and bringing high-quality wines to the US in such a way that is nationally scalable, including people and processes across marketing, sales, operations, finance and logistics. To our knowledge, there are no other companies building such a scaled, multi-winery effort in the US in support of the Armenian wine category. Individual wineries are selling their wines in the US in certain states, but our understanding is these are all on a single-brand or single-winery basis. 

What type of consumers are you targeting?

We want to have a portfolio of wines that are attractive to a wide variety of American consumer profiles, from the casual wine drinker to the master somms of the world. We also want to ensure our portfolio spans various price points, and that each of our products have a strong price to quality ratio. Most of the wines in our portfolio today are in the $20-30 per bottle range, but we will have wine that’s priced lower and higher in the future. Ultimately it is that breadth of consumer that we’re really going after, since we see a home for Armenian wine in virtually every wine use case given how many wonderful and diverse wines there are from Armenia. 

What are your marketing strategies?

Storica has a strong digital marketing strategy focused on targeting three main consumer archetypes; Armenian communities, oenophiles and wine writers, and curious millennials. Armenia and the history of this emerging wine region is a topic that many audiences are excited to learn about and be among the first to share within their communities. Through social media, PR, digital advertising, virtual events, brand and influencer partnerships, Storica has the unique opportunity to educate consumers about Armenian wine. We are proud to see strong interest and positive reception from the likes of Karen MacNeil, Forbes, Haute Living, Armenian communities, wine clubs and more as a result.  

Zack Armen

What gave you the idea to start a wine company?

I grew up in the world of finance and then most recently in life sciences and biotech. My day job is business development for a biotech company. The inspiration behind Storica came out of one of my trips to Armenia in 2017, when I noticed that the wine was getting better very quickly. I started asking people why, and was introduced to Vahe and Aimee Keushguerian, two winemakers who are very active in this renaissance of Armenian wine, and they filled me in on what was going on. From their perspective, penetrating the US market was going to be key to the long-term success or failure of Armenian wine as a global wine region. I saw that as an opportunity to impact my homeland in a way that is multigenerational and hugely scalable when you think about the benefit of having a product like wine being a contributor to tourism, GDP growth, and job creation. I also saw it as a great opportunity to build a US-based business that had significant upside, and am humbled every day to see this come to fruition, and by the progress we’ve made as a company and the support we’ve received from our investors, partners, and consumers.  

What is your strategy for marketing to restaurants and stores?

For new wine & spirits brands it’s critical to have a presence in stores and restaurants, as opposed to simply selling online like many other products and services do. Successful wines have followed the playbook of getting top tier restaurant placements early on and to then build their brand off of that cache and credibility – because of Covid, we’ve not been able to start there of course, but as re-openings increase, we are highly focused on the restaurant channel. Growing up as a company during Covid has had its pluses and minuses, obviously lack of restaurant business being a minus. However, starting with a heavy focus on digital, on driving foot traffic into stores, and investing in beautiful content creation and social media engagement, will hopefully begin to pay dividends and allow us to seize the current opportunity to quickly ramp our on-premises sales. A goal for us is to get as many of our wines listed BTG (“by-the-glass”) on menus, because that is where you see the best velocity of sales movement and often see consumers more willing to try new brands from less common regions. This is a big priority for us over the coming weeks and months, alongside securing distribution partnerships with top tier distributors who share in our passion for this new wine category and see its potential the way we do at Storica. 

Click here to see the section of fabulous wines available.

Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email: suzanna@t2conline.com

Events

Raising Cane’s and Ice-T Make National Iced Tea Day Even Sweeter

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Don’t mess with Ice T perfection!

June 10 is National Iced Tea Day, and we couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than with this sweet combination.

Iconic musician and actor Ice T is mixing up an incredible batch of delicious fun with Raising Cane’s and making this National Iced Tea Day twICE as nICE!

It’s the national holiday celebrating me – and Cane’s iced tea – and it’s great to be working with Cane’s again on one of my favorite holidays,” said Ice T. “There are two versions of iced tea: one is sweet, and one is unsweet. Both are great at Cane’s, but you only want the sweet version of Ice T!”

During a recent surprise guest appearance as a Raising Cane’s Fry Cook & Cashier at the Astor Place location in New York City, unsuspecting fans and customers got a special treat when he popped up with a perfectly filled cups of iced tea. The Big Apple got some crisp love from the star and it made for a memorable moment that will forever be frying in the minds of those who got to see him action on this date.

Today only, Caniac Club members craving the perfect summer beverage can enjoy a free 22 oz. iced tea at Cane’s locations nationwide. The offer will load to Caniac Club accounts automatically and is redeemable by swiping the Caniac Club Card or scanning the QR code within the Raising Cane’s mobile app.

For more information visit raisingcanes.com.

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Events

Eli Marcus Throws One Of The Best Networking Events in The City at Fushimi Time Square

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Kiril Mihajlov owner of The Consulate, Suzanna Bowling, publisher of the Times Square Chronicles, Theatre Marketing pro Keith Hurd, Doria Lee from the Time Hotel. Jeffrey Pai from The Beekman Hotel. Eric Papanikolas from the Time Hotel.

Eli Marcus otherwise known as “The Mayor of Times Square” is the king of fabulous networking events. Last night over 300 people gathered together at Fushimi Time Square, 311 West 43 St (8th/9th Aves) from 4:30 til 7pm.

Eli Marcus and Chef Sal Scognamillo of Patsy’s Italian Restaurant

It was one of the largest networking events in the city, filled with people in the hospitality, theatre and media industry’s.

Errol Rappaport, Producer Craig Horsley, Producer Pat Addiss, Singer Quinn Lemley

Gerard McKeon publisher Black Tie International Magazine and Chuck Armstrong producer and owner of Wonderama TV Show

There was a three piece jazz band, door prizes, happy hour prices with passed hors d’oeuvres

hors d’oeuvres

May Pang, companion to John Lennon in the 70’s, helped give away an 18″ Beatles Sergeant Pepper’s luggage, courtesy of Marty Singer, from Rocksax licensed Rock band products.
May Pang is featured in the best documentary I have seen in years: The Lost Weekend: A Love Story. See it on Amazon Prime, Roku, YouTube, etc. Also, check out her one-of-a kind photos with Lennon…not available anyplace else, at www.Newyorksbest.nyc.

The luggage winner Jayson Colon, May Pang, Marty Singer and Eli Marcus

There were also tickets to the 78th annual Theatre World Awards and Mercer Labs: Museum of Art and Technology.

Eli Marcus and yours truly

If you missed this amazing event, Eli’s next event will happen Thursday June 20 in Little Italy at Baby John’s Pizzeria with The Cannoli King himself John DeLutro. Also on Friday June 28, from 4:30 til 6:30 Kiril Mihajlov will host Eli’s third Networking event at The Consulate Midtown at 44 West 56.

This is definitely the place to be, especially if you are looking to connect.

 

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Food and Drink

Château Minuty While Make You Blush on National Rosé Day

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National Rosé Day is on June 8.  Celebrate in blushing style with the joyful sips found in Château Minuty.

Minuty Prestige wines have been showcasing the terroirs of Provence for over 25 years. Subtle finesse comes with this crystal-clear cuvée with a delicate nose. This cuvée was born over 25 years ago out of Jean-Etienne and François Matton’s desire to offer a wide audience of Provence rosé lovers a wine combining aromatic expression and lightness on the palate with a thorough mastery of Provence’s terroirs.

Enjoy the tart red fruit dominate with a refreshing following of hints of Apricot. The meticulous blending of a selection of grapes from the Appellation with those from the estate make this magic happen.

The lovely earthy aftertaste is ideal for seafood, with salty oysters making a match made in heaven as well as whelks, clams and anything on a seafood platter. Fish ceviche and sushi, California rolls and grilled sh work just as well. Let’s not forget Italian cuisine with classic trattoria dishes including veal Milanese and spaghetti alle vongole or delicious Provençale specialities such as stuffed vegetables or vegetable stacks.

For more info, please visit HERE or purchase via ReserveBar.com

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Food and Drink

Heritage Grand Bakery Offers Some Of The Best Baked Goods and Food In NYC

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Heritage Grand Bakery, 8 West 40th street is across from Bryant Park and the New York Public Library. Before you even walk in the windows call to you with delectable treats.

There are two sides to Heritage Grand Bakery. First the retail side with with freshly baked breads, pastries, viennoiseries, Grab and Go breakfast items, and lunch sandwiches both hot and cold, salads as well as premium coffee and teas. If you are a fan of sourdough and have been searching for it in New York…..great news it is at Heritage Grand Bakery and it is fabulous!

Patrica and the head chef

The restaurant feels like you stepped into Tuscany. Patricia has designed this oasis like eating in the Mediterranean. The walls are made from the stone of a mountain, the wood sourced and it is truly beautiful. The Grand Bar features comfort and a place to relax.

There is an open kitchen, open mixing room, and Pizza ovens that offers customers a glimpse into our restaurant’s theatre.

There is also a dinning room for private and corporate parties that is spacious, graceful and stylish with old world charm and modern touches.

I met my friend Craig here for lunch because Craig spends a lot of time in Dubai, loves to eat and knows his food. To start with, we tried the mocktails ($12), that were so refreshing, tart and made the meal special. First up was the Pink Lady done with seedlip grove 42, blood orange, simple syrup and lemon.


Seedlip Raspberry Spritz was made with seedlip spice 94, rosemary, ginger syrup, club soda.

and the Cucumber Basil Fizz took seedlip garden 108, lemon, honey, club soda for a decadent twist on a classic.

We started with the Mediterranean Mezze Platter ($19) served with hummus, baganoush, tzatziki, olive tapenade and charred pinsa flatbread. Both Craig and I will be back simply for this dish. It was one of the best Mezze Platters I have ever had and I have eaten this a lot. For $19, it is a steal and with a drink is a perfect lunch for two. Best part the bread is freshly baked and warm.

Their vegetarian dishes sounded so fabulous, for the most part we went this route. The Crispy Brussels Sprouts ($15) could make a vegetarian out of anyone. Served in a tahini yogurt, mint, dill, lemon sauce, these bites were delectable and again great pricing.

The Charred Cauliflower ($23) is a popular dish right now, so we decided to try. Served with baby arugula, shallot, tahini piccata, this is another vegetarian dish that was out of this world. I could not believe I could actually be satisfied without meat, but I was.

We also tried the Moroccan Spiced Lamb Flatbread ($23) topped with spiced ground lamb, wheat flatbread, pickled shallots, cilentro, citrus labneh. What makes their breads and pizza’s so special, is that they are made with ancient grains milled on site and used not only in the pizzas, but pastas & breads. What makes ancient grains so great, is that they are sustainable, nutritious and healthy. You will not leave the table here bloated or feeling unwell unless you over eat.

Now for the baked goods…..since we were reviewing they brought us a selection.

Macha Eclaire made with Passion Fruit

Macarons with fresh raspberries and lychee rose creme, just heavenly and what a surprise. Would order again.

Pistachio Cruffin was so delicious and filled with Pistachio Cream. It’s perfection and a must if you visit.

The most decadent Chocolate dessert ever with crunches, creamy goodness and so satisfying

Last but not least a Lemon Marshmello Tart, that was light and the perfect blend of sweet and tart. The lemon was definitely the star.

 

The service at Heritage is outstanding. We watched as the servers were friendly, extremely attentive guessing what you needed before you did.

We love the Heritage Grand Bakery so much we are going to partner with them to bring take out picnic baskets for Bryant Park’s movie and concert nights and for the Hampton Jitney. Look for that coming soon.

The Heritage Grand Bakery is definitely a welcome gastronomical treat, that not only satisfies but makes you want to return again and again.

The Heritage Grand Bakery, 8 West 40th Street.

 

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Broadway

Ellen’s Stardust Diner Celebrates PRIDE With God’s Love We Deliver

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This morning Ellen’s Stardust Diner, 1650 Broadway at 51st Street kicked off its month-long partnership for June, with special performances by Broadway stars Corey Mach, Anastacia McCleskey, and Jelani Remy.

Proceeds from the diner’s rainbow cake, rainbow milkshake, and co-branded merchandise will go towards God’s Love We Deliver.

 

Ellen Hart, Owner of Ellen’s Stardust Diner and  Stephen Covello, Chief Philanthropy Officer, God’s Love We Deliver welcome a month filled with love, acceptance, and, above all, PRIDE, by supporting God’s Love We Deliver, a NYC-based nonprofit that plans to cook and home-deliver more than 4.3 million medically tailored meals to New Yorkers living with severe and chronic illness just this year. From June 1 to June 30, 2024, guests can order two menu items, Ellen’s rainbow cake and rainbow milkshake, as well as purchase co-branded merchandise – all while showing their “pride” and raising awareness for an important cause. With each purchase of the cake, milkshake, or t-shirt, Ellen’s Stardust Diner will donate 20% of the proceeds to God’s Love We Deliver.

Stephen Covello, Ellen Hart, Owner of Ellen’s Stardust Diner and

Jelani Remy, Actor in Broadway’s Back to the Future The Musical entertained with Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes off You”. Click here to see his performance.

Jelani Remy, Ellen Hart, Anastacia McCleskey and Corey Mach

Anastacia McCleskey, Singer/Actress in Broadway’s Suffs sang “I Didn’t Plan It” from Waitress. Click here to see her performance.

With its earliest roots as an AIDS support organization, God’s Love We Deliver has evolved to serve the broader needs of the chronically ill, including individuals impacted by HIV/AIDS. Since its founding 39 years ago, the organization proudly serves over 4 million meals each year and more than 15,000 meals each weekday, a number that will continue to grow with the engagement of volunteers and donations from supporters like Ellen’s Stardust Diner who comprise 65% of all funding. At God’s Love We Deliver, each meal is handcrafted with love, always made with quality ingredients, and delivered with personalized care when New Yorkers need it most.

Ellen’s Stardust Diner is open 365 days a year from 7 am to midnight. For more information, visit www.ellensstardustdiner.com. Follow on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok.

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