Uncorked Ventures Blog

Mark Aselstine
 
January 28, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

Kismet-Papa’s All Blacks Old Vine

About Kismet and All Black’s: The Kismet project is a recent addition to the Sonoma wine scene, founded by Morgan Peterson whose father Joel, started and still owns Ravenswood.  A wine like this wouldn’t be possible without those long standing grower and vintner relationships.  The All Blacks (as you’ll also see in Parker’s tasting notes below) is a nod to winemaking in the 19th century in California.  While many people realize that Zinfandel is basically a California native, they don’t realize that other grape vines like Petite Sirah and Carignane also grew wild in the foothills as long ago as the time when the first settlers came to California looking for their fortunes in the Gold Rush. In fact, that diversity was always considered a good thing as vintners (or more realistically anyone who wanted a cheap drink and was smart enough to pick the grapes and then throw them in a bin to ferment) could simply harvest all the grapes in their field and allow them to ferment together.  The beauty was that every vineyard would produce a different blend and showed some unique characteristics.  We’ve heard from the Napa Valley Historical Society that some of these blends did carry some additional value and the wine could be traded for other necessities. We thought our Reserve Selections members would enjoy this wine, partially because yes, it’s good, but also because it conjurs an interesting and unique time in the history of both California and the United States.  All the grapes in your glass were grown from vines that were planted before Prohibition, in some cases well before.

Tasting Notes: 90pts Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: The 2011 Papa’s All-Blacks Old Vine is a field blend of assorted red grapes that pays tribute to the growers who planted some of  California’s most historic vineyard sites back in the late 1800s. Sweet floral notes meld into dark red fruit, asphalt, sweet spices and licorice as the 2011 opens up in the glass. Juicy and seductive, the 2011 is an excellent choice for drinking over the next few years.

Old Vine Heritage Sites: In California, we typically think of an old vine heritage site as only containing Zinfandel, since that grape can grow for hundreds of years on the same vine. The Monte Rosso Vineyard is a great example of a mixed black vineyard in that the owners aren’t even sure exactly what’s in most of their 40 acres-it’s a mix of Zin, Petite and Carignane among others.  There is also a section of old Cabernet vines which helps to make this Sonoma property among the defining vineyards in the state of California.
 

 

Time Posted: Jan 28, 2014 at 10:40 AM
Mark Aselstine
 
January 25, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

Easton Wines H House Red

About Easton Wines: A standout among Sierra Nevada Foothills growers for well over a generation, Bill Easton is among the only growers in the region willing to take chances and produce wines that don’t encompass Zinfandel (the grape, which to this day, still will spring up wild among the hillsides).  Splitting the winery between Rhone varietals and non Rhones helped Easton to keep things easy for wine sellers and has helped the winery grow in ways that a decade ago, no one thought was possible in the foothills.  I will note that Easton put his name on the part of the winery that crafts the non Rhone varietals and calls this his wife’s favorite wine, so I’ll let you have a guess at the quality. With multiple wines during almost every vintage rated at 90 points and above Easton and its sister label (Tierre Rouge) deserves a look when you’re ready to branch out from the uncountable number of choices available in Napa Valley, Sonoma, Santa Barbara and Paso Robles.
 

H House Red Tasting Notes: A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah which originally came to the forefront of the wine industry from Languedoc France (virtually the only region of the country where new blends are legally possible) the Easton H House Red aims to be an easy drinking, easy choice for a wine any day of the week. I believe you’ll note the standard California Cabernet in play here, solid structure but not overly dramatic in a way that destroys everything around it (like many complain about South American wine) also you’ll note the zesty and spicy flavors that are reminiscent of Syrah very much at the forefront as you get through the bottle.
 

About Sierra Foothills Wine: When it comes to California wine, there isn’t an older growing region than the Sierra Foothills.  When settlers first came looking for their fortunes in the gold covered hills of the Sierra Nevada, they found wild vines growing along their route from San Francisco into the foothills.  Those vines encompassed Zinfandel to be sure, but also Petite Sirah and at least three other grapes.

 

Mark Aselstine
 
January 23, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

Le Jade-Picpoul de Pinet

Picpoul de PinetHow’d We Get Here? Ok, so yes, it’s French.  I know, we typically feature only wines from America’s West Coast.  Every so often, we end up having a few discussions and even sampling some international wine, tough job we realize.  On even slimmer occasions, some of that wine, we think is important enough to include for our wine club members (if this is a major issue, just email us, we’ll send you a replacement, but we hope you’ll trust us and try this bottle once it is chilled). 

First, this is a Picpoul.  We think that’s important not only because it’s a great alternative to Chardonnay and especially Sauvignon Blanc, but also because it is one of the few grapes catching on in newer regions of France. 

The French, as you might expect, have some of the most strict wine growing and winemaking laws in the world.  You couldn’t grow this grape in Bordeaux, Burgundy or Champagne. Luckily for people who want affordable French wine, the Languedoc has avoided this type of labeling and rules thus far, allowing some vintners to actually experiment.  Think of Sonoma without Pinot Noir, or California wine without Paso Robles to see examples of why we think, as Californians at least, that experimentation can be helpful to the long term health of the wine industry.

Secondly, both the setup of the winery association and the region itself are important.  The Languedoc sits in the southwest corner of the country, along both the Mediterranean as well as the Spanish border.  It’s home to much of the innovation in French wine, but is also the only growing region to actively grow every grape type from Cabernet Sauvignon to Syrah and Chardonnay. The winery itself isn’t a winery as much, as a cooperative of growers.  It’s a unique set up for Americans to consider because the grapes and vineyards are under a sort of community control, but it’s an important one to recognize because it is both adept at creating a standard style of wine from vintage to vintage, but is also being copied by American growers and vintners in areas like Mendocino and Temecula among others in California.

Tasting Notes by Mark Aselstine: Plenty of grapefruit, citrus and honey.  Lighter bodied, crisp and low alcohol make this a nice wine when chilled and served with seafood, chicken or salads. A staple in our house as opposed to Sauvignon Blanc, my wife and I find this a refreshing alternative to other wines.

 

Mark Aselstine
 
January 22, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

Changes in Sonoma’s Wine Landscape

Over the years, the wine industry in northern California has gone through any number of significant changes.  Napa of course modernized and stepped onto the international stage after the tasting of Paris in the 1970’s.  Sonoma hasn’t had a similar coming out party so to speak, but I wanted to spend a couple of moments in this space talking about what’s happening in Sonoma-a real start up winery movement centered in warehouse spaces in and around Santa Rosa.

Over the past few years, I have found myself increasingly moving away from fruit forward wines that have helped make California famous and increasingly searching out cooler climate and higher acidity versions of common varietals.  I’d count Grenache as my favorite grape today, that’s something I would have scoffed at a couple of years ago.

More and more, I find interesting, unique and noteworthy wineries nestled in warehouses in and around Santa Rosa.

While I wouldn’t say that Adam Lee and the people at Siduri created the movement by themselves, for some number of years Siduri has offered the best example of what is possible using this type of winery setup.  Lee crafts a large number of wines, sourced from grapes from Oregon all the way to Santa Barbara.  If you’re counting at home, they’re probably the only winery in the world that offers a chance to taste Pinot Noir from every famous growing region in America, next to each other.  That’s incredibly valuable as a wine drinker and Siduri has earned every bit of acclaim they’ve garnered over the years.

More recently, I’ve run into a number of other wineries with compelling stories and similar setups.  At Vinify (a custom crush facility) there’s at least a dozen wineries making notable wine.  Matt Duffy is the winemaker in charge of the day to day operations of the facility, he also crafts his own personal label (Vaughn Duffy) and has had his Rose, priced under $20, fall into the San Francisco Chronicle’s top 100 wines of the year.  Sojourn and our old friend Eric Bradley make their multiple, award winning and increasingly allocated wines there (if you are able to buy $50 wines consistently, Sojourn is probably the first Sonoma wine club I’d suggest you join). Jon Grant has one of the best looking resume’s in wine that you’ve never heard of, being listed as Turley’s assistant winemaker will do that for you.  His projects (Couloir and Straight Line) offer a combination of great Pinot Noir and my favorite American Tempranillo, both at price points that are impressive in their brevity.

Elswewhere in Sonoma, I’ve talked about 2 Shepherds ad nauseam I think in this space and elsewhere, but I hope it suffices to say, if you want to know who’s next in wine…..2 Shepherds would be my pick.  The winery is only a handful of vintages in and I’m already having to beg for wine.  2 Shepherds is, without a doubt, the most unique and significant new wine project I’ve come across in the past four years.  Cool climate and small production sizes make for good bedfellows and they come together nicely here.

Lastly, there are any number of small wine projects cropping up in the larger Russian River Valley players.  A great example is the Cabernet Franc project Mark David, which is a personal project of Mark McWilliams, whose family owns the highly respected Arista winery situated in the center of the Russian River Valley. Sure, some of the fruit comes from Napa, but if you want something unique and utterly California, look here.

 

Mark Aselstine
 
January 7, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

Happy New Year Our 2014 Goals

Let me be the first to simply say thank you to our customers.  Your business is greatly appreciated.  Here’s some of what we’re working on as the page turns and the new year begins:

-Even better newsletters: Last year we upgraded our newsletters from a half page to a full single page each.  This year, we want to continue providing at least that much custom information (unlike many of our competitors, we don’t copy and paste from the winery site, we share our own personal notes and thoughts) while improving the look and feel of the newsletters themselves.

-More Gift Baskets: Your thoughts and feelings about our three gift baskets and the program in general have come in loud and clear.  There’s a place in the gift basket industry for a company with better packaging, better wine and better products included.  We’ve also seen your ordering preferences loud and clear the wide variety of products within the Gourmet Gift Basket is a clear selling point.  More are coming, we promise.

-Easier Re-Orders: We’ve heard you loud and clear, discounts are fun and welcome especially as December credit card bills come due.  In the next few month’s you’ll see a wine club members only store that makes it easier for you to re-order wines you’ve already received, as well as offering a number of other wines that don’t fit in our wine clubs, at a discount.  As you might expect, even though we focus on west coast wines and wineries, we do find interesting international wines on occasion.

-More Video on the Blog: One thing we’ve heard quite a bit as well, introduce us to the people behind the wine that we’re drinking.  On our trips to wine country, you’ll start to see more video from the people that live and work at the wineries we’re shipping to your front door.  They can explain the important parts of their winery better than we can, so we’re going to let them.

-Carbon Neutral Shipping: The wine industry, perhaps more so than others is dependent on both a consistent and stable environment to continue its growth. A few degrees warmer on a daily basis in Napa is going to radically change the character of Napa’s wines, so the wine industry itself, in my opinion at least, has a responsibility to be a steward for the environment.  Much of that stewardship comes from behind the scenes, like Napa Valley, Sonoma and other world class wine growing regions protecting both open space, as well as their water table levels. For us, we’re not the most environmentally efficient part of the wine sales process.  Yes, we use recyclable or compostable materials, but IMO there is more to do.  In the next few months, we’ll be partnering with an environmental agency here locally in the Bay Area to off set the carbon we’re using to ship everyone their wine.  The process is incredibly easy and frankly cheap, so it’s simply the right thing to do no matter where you fall on the long term affects of climate change-this isn’t something that our customers will be charged for, but it’s something that I believe to be an important step for us.