Uncorked Ventures Blog

Mark Aselstine
 
January 26, 2015 | Mark Aselstine

GSM Blends in California

A short intro to GSM (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre) blends in California. Why they're more important than you probably think:

Hi guys. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.

First, happy Monday. Secondly, I hope everybody on the East Coast, especially in New York City, is going to survive what everyone seems to be calling The Storm of the Century.

Wine club shipments have been delayed a couple days. They're going to go out in the next day or two, especially if you're on the East Coast. I didn't want the wine sitting somewhere in the Midwest or on the East Coast where it was going to show up to you like a wine Popsicle, so we avoided that. The wine will go out today or tomorrow.

In any case I did want to take a couple minutes then to talk about something that I see happening more and more within the wine industry. When you look at kind of traditional France, Bordeaux and Burgundy you see single varietal wines, or at least in parts of Bordeaux it's like that. Burgundy, especially with Pinot Noir, it's like that. Napa has kind of made a name for itself with both kind of single vineyard or single source Chardonnay, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon. But there's this whole wider wine industry that's starting to turn more toward blends and there's a couple reasons for that. First, if you don't own your own vineyard you're constantly sourcing stuff from multiple vineyards. It's a heck of a lot easier to have more of a consistent style if you're sourcing from multiple vineyards and blending it together yourself as opposed to sourcing a single vineyard and saying, you know, we've got this great example of a cool climate Russian River Valley Saralee's Vineyard Grenache, only to see Saralee's Vineyard then sell the Grenache to a larger winery after you've done it for a few years and you're basically stuck at zero. We saw that happen to a few folks that we know pretty well.

In any case one of the natural offshoots, if you can't own a vineyard in Napa or Sonoma and you are left a little bit more on the periphery of the wine industry, you may find yourself growing Rhone varietals. As we've talked about numerous times, in this space at least, Syrah is a difficult sell in California and elsewhere, so you're probably looking at a GSM blend as a way to present your label, your style, and get the wine out there without having to fight the whole consumer sentiment that "I don't like Syrah." Here's a couple great examples. First [inaudible 00:02:07] this is a GSM blend from down in Paso Robles. According to the bottom of the bottle 48% Grenache, 29% Syrah, 2% Mourvedre. The Mourvedre, if you're familiar, it's traditionally a blending grape in the Rhone. It's used the same way here in California. In essence the wine maker puts that in for only one purpose so it is a little chalky and it's thick and syrupy, but more than anything else the biggest thing about Mourvedre is that it's dark purple in color. It's one of the darkest, non-black skin grapes that you're going to find. That's why they use it, because it darkens everything up a little bit. Fore Family Vineyards, it's another good example of the GSM. I don't think they even have the percentages here listed, which is something that frankly I don't mind. If you're saying it's a GSM then it just kind of is what it is, whatever the percentage is. It can change from year to year. Fore Family is based up in Lake County. It's kind of one of the preeminent growers up there in Lake County. I think they're, kind of, other than an estate wine program that's starting to take steps forward that kind of commensurate with the quality of wines that are being produced by others with their fruit. I think that's what you're starting to see. If you're a wine region on the periphery of what thought of as the classic wine regions in California and also in France, [inaudible 00:03:29] France in Languedoc where they've kind of adopted GSM blends as one of the things that they do, and they do quite well. You're going to see that continuing more and more. I would be frankly quite surprised if there wasn't another ... there's this whole other 46 movement and that's the wine producing states in the United States that in essence are not California, Oregon, Washington, the three we cover, and not New York because you have New York City and you don't have to try very hard. I'd be surprised if one or two of those didn't focus on Syrah or at least on GSM to try to see what they could get in the market place with it. These are kind of bold, intense wines and that's something that people are gravitating toward. If you look at the success of Cabernet in the market place you can see why somebody would think well if Cabernet does so well and Syrah does so poorly, maybe we can blend to something and get it closer to Cabernet, even if I don't have grapes from a Cabernet vineyard that would lead itself to $125 wine.

In any case, Mark Aselstine, Uncorked Ventures. I hope everybody is staying warm. I almost hesitate to admit that we're sitting at close to 70 degrees here in the Bay Area and everybody is feeling quite good about that.

Hope everybody is doing well. Thanks again.

Mark Aselstine
 
January 18, 2015 | Mark Aselstine

January 2015 Wine Club Shipments

Just a really brief update that we'll be shipping January 2015 wine club shipments over the next 3-4 days. Looking at the weather forecast, it appears there is a pretty good set of weather being predicted for the next week to ten days, so we'll have all January shipments out during that time frame.

Please note, with the holiday things may take slightly longer than usual to get to the east coast, so we'll find a nice warm section of the country to have your package spend the weekend.

If you have questions about an upcoming, or even a past shipment, please don't hestitate to drop us an email.

Mark Aselstine
 
January 16, 2015 | Mark Aselstine

Benessere Syrah & Napa Valley Syrah in General

High acidity Syrah....it does exist.

 

Hi guys. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.

I'm trying today ... I'll lift it up a little bit so you can see the whole bottle. By Benessere Syrah. A few of our wine club members are going to receive this this month. I wanted to take a couple minutes. We've worked with Benessere in the past, specifically a month or two ago where we shipped their Sangiovese. We've gotten some really, really good feedback about that. A couple customers compared it to something that they had in Brunello, or Italy, which is the ancestral home to Sangio. I don't know if I'd go quite that far, but the vineyard site definitely I think is among Napa's best, when it comes to Sangio. I think a lot of those same traits come through in the Syrah. The Sangio is a lighter in style. It's Napa, so it's going to be full of body. It's not going to be Oregon. Anybody who has that expectation or is looking for a French interpretation of a varietal, just is going to end up being unhappy. I think that's okay. The Syrah, much the same way. This is a lighter in style Syrah. It's definitely higher in acidity than anything else that you're going to find almost anywhere, at least from Napa. That's kind of what they're going for. I also think it speaks a little bit a lot ... I've talked a lot about the future of Syrah within California and why winemakers and winery owner and why everybody feels like Syrah's so important. I think this is an example of a Syrah that's going to work and work really well. It's fairly priced in the $40 range per bottle. I think Benessere is going to continue to do well with this. I hope anyone with a wine club membership likes it. I'm sure that they will. It's a different ... So often when people get Syrah for the first time, or they buy a Syrah at local wine store or grocery store without being able to try it, it's that mouth-puckering dry, which a lot of people will say it doesn't work as well with food. This is higher in acidity so I think people are going to like it better. I hope when you give it a try you like it. Thanks again. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.

Mark Aselstine
 
January 14, 2015 | Mark Aselstine

Myka Chardonnay & The Santa Cruz Mountains

 

Hi guys. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. I wanted to spend a few minutes talking about both the Santa Cruz Mountain AVA as well as Myka Cellars. Myka, we've talked a little bit about in the past. I think it's an up-and-coming winemaker who he's still finding an exact direction that he's going to go. He produces smaller, he says terrior-driven wines from the Santa Cruz Mountains and so if you're not familiar with Santa Cruz, you may be, should be, but first ... Here's the background for Santa Cruz.

A lot of people talk about the history of California wine and they talk about the Judgment of Paris in 1976 and how that put Napa on the map. What they don't talk about is that there's a winery, most of us know it if you drink wine consistently, called [inaudible 00:00:43] that started in the Santa Cruz Mountains and their Cab showed phenomenally well in that Tasting in Paris in 76, I believe they finished third, although we'll post the full results for everybody so they can see them, and in subsequent years when, say, Robert Parker and other critics have tasted three of the same set of wines and have gotten largely the same results, saying that the Napa folks bested Bordeaux, which has fared even better in subsequent years.

Santa Cruz Mountains really didn't get the credit that it deserved and I think there's a few reasons for that. First, Santa Cruz is a beach town, it's really for those of us who grew up in Southern California, there's a stretch from Santa Cruz down to Santa Barbara that feels like the Central Coast and to me that's a different, definitely a different type of area than, say, the Bay Area is here, Wine Country is, or Southern California being San Diego and LA, so it definitely feels a little different down there so that's part of it.

Second of all and probably more importantly, it's a hard region to get to. It's 45 minutes or an hour from Santa Cruz or an hour and a half or so from most of the population centers here in the Bay Area, and it's zig zagged up the mountain, doesn't feel very safe to drive, have to know where you're going. At some point your GPS goes out because there's no Internet connection, et cetera, et cetera. It's not a fun place to get it. It's much like when I offered to set some of my friends or family members up at wineries on Atlas Peak in Napa, which is frankly, I think maybe the best place to go tasting in all of California but as soon as they look at the directions, universally I get the response that says, "Hey, that sounds fun and those wines look really, really great but don't you know the wine maker at Alpha Omega, which is right along the 29, that looks like a little easier to get it." That's all certainly true.

Santa Cruz, I think they're trying to move tasting rooms closer to where people actually live or at least where people can visit more easily but there's a certain elegance and understatedness about the tasting room up in the mountain above the fog line. That's really beautiful on its own right and worth a trip but they're not going to get as many people willing to make that trip and you're definitely not going to get the random people driving up to 29 like really if we're honest about it, [inaudible 00:02:55].

That's Santa Cruz Mountains. The wines are also more highly acidic, so it's both warmer up in the mountains but they have a morning fog belt and an afternoon fog belt. A lot of folks are used to hearing that kind of stuff at least from me and from us and from a lot of wine folks but really when you try your first Santa Cruz Mountain Chard, you notice something extremely different than what you get from Napa. It's much more biting acidity. The French will say that they're more balanced and they like them better, the marketplace hasn't quite bore that same kind of reaction to them yet. This wine's in the $25 range, an equivalent priced bottle from an equivalent vineyard in Napa might sell for $50. There's definitely some different stuff going on. Anyway, Myka Cellars, Myka, the winemaker, is an interesting guy. He's I think at this point figuring out what direction he's going with the winery.

He makes some really, really high-quality wine. I think there's a question about is he going to try to go the range of I'm going to make 100,000 good cases or is he going to settle in at a 10,000-case range and makes them really, really excellent, 200 to 1,000 case increments of single-vineyard stuff. Frankly, I hope he does that. The guy has some perspective, which I think were sometimes lacking in industry in general. Myka Cellars Chardonnay, some of our wine club members have received this in the past. If you're a new member to our Wine Explorations Club, which is the most inexpensive of our wine clubs, you may receive this in your first shipment. We have a case or two remaining laying around the warehouse that we're shipping currently.

Once again, Mark Aselstine, Uncorked Ventures, I hope you've enjoyed a short talk on both the history of the Santa Cruz Mountains and I think they're important today and if you have questions, please let us know. We're happy to answer. Thanks.

Mark Aselstine
 
January 13, 2015 | Mark Aselstine

Portalupi and the Petaluma Gap

Just a little more on the Sonoma coast and when a vineyard might not be coastal, but may have plenty of coastal influence (ie, cooling fog).

Hi guys, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.

I'm joined this morning by a Portalupi Pinot Noir. I thought Portalupi was an interesting story for a couple reasons. First, to start, if you have a wine club membership with us, you might be receiving this in your January shipments, which are set to go out early next week.

Second of all, so Portalupi, it's a small winery based up in Healdsburg, which is Sonoma County, kind of the heart of the Russian River Valley. They source fruit from a variety of different vineyards. It's a husband and wife team who knew each other as children, spent what amounts to 30 years or a lifetime apart, and then met, married, and started the wine label back in the early part of the century. They've been around about 10 years or so.

This is their kind of classic pinot noir. It's called Sonoma County and also Sonoma Coast. I actually thought this was interesting because it's the Petaluma Gap. The Petaluma Gap's kind of exactly what you would expect when you hear the word gap when it amounts to wine regions. Santa Barbara has much of the same thing, when in essence you have a hole in the mountain range, and that allows the kind of cooling influences from the Pacific Ocean to come in. Santa Barbara quite famously has the 1 degree per mile and 1 degree per hour that it cools off during the day and in the evening. Petaluma Gap's something really similar. I had a winemaker a few years ago who makes both Sonoma County pinot and Napa Valley cab, who sent me to what he amounts to his favorite Sonoma pinot vineyard which is Sangiacomo, which is just a few miles from Sonoma Square. The square's pretty hot during the summer, especially for those of us coming from the city or the East Bay. When you get out of the square, you drive a few miles, and then all of a sudden, if you get out of the car, it feels at least 10 or 15 degrees cooler. That's because it's the Petaluma Gap and in essence, you just have the onshore flow coming from the bay and really from the Pacific Ocean as it's coming up. That's where this wine comes from. It's a Petaluma Gap wine.

I think it's an outstanding value at $32. It's also a good [entrance 00:02:04] to what's kind of happening with the wider wine [seed 00:02:06] in Sonoma. There's a push for more and more western vineyards, closer to the ocean as possible. Fort Ross has been so spectacularly successful with their vineyards. It's only a mile from the Pacific Ocean. A lot of people were thinking, "Well, what's kind of the next logical step to that?" I don't know if you're going to see beachfront property taking over for vineyards, at least not in Northern California, but I think that there's going to be a push for these regions, where even if they're not right next to the ocean, if they have some of those same influences, because there's a whole ... One of the unique parts of San Francisco and kind of the wider Bay Area is that there's a mountain range that runs almost right along the coast. That keeps the [inland 00:02:47] ... There's kind of almost a bowl in essence. You have mountain ranges on both sides of the city. That happens in wine country too. That's why, you know, Sonoma is on the western side, there's Napa kind of in the middle, and then if you go east, it gets really warm really quickly. You're going to keep seeing people that are looking for these small microclimates, and how those microclimates might affect the wine that's in your glass. This is highly acidic. It's exactly what you would expect. At $32 though, they probably underpriced it by a few. We hope that our wine club members enjoy this month. Once again, Mark Aselstine, Uncorked Ventures. Hope everybody's having a nice January, and if you're on the East Coast or in the Midwest, I hope you're starting to dig out from the snow a little bit. Have a good one.