Uncorked Ventures Blog

Staff Writer
February 20, 2015 | Staff Writer

California Grape Regions

Grapes are what give each wine their distinct flavors.

Depending on the type of grape and where it is grown can influence the way that the wine will taste. California has over 60 types of grapes that are grown and are used for making wine. The California climate varies depending upon the region that you are in. as a result Californian wine makers have learned which type of grape varietals work for them and that will grow the best with their soil and climate.

California can be divided into at least six different regions. Each of these regions produces a different wine because of the grapes that grow best in their region based upon many factors. These regions include the North Coast, Central Coast, South Coast, San Joaquin Valley, Sacramento Valley, and the Sierra Foothills.

Counties in the North Coast of California have a rainy climate. This type of weather makes it easy to grow grape varietals such as Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Each county within this region is known for producing certain types of wines or specialize in a specific wines production. Pinot Noir, for instance, is grown the most in Sonoma County than in any other county in the state of California. (Editor's Note: This is also technically where Napa Valley resides....believe it or not and no, it's not as cold in the North Coast as one might expect, much of the wine is from grapes grown close to 15 miles inland)

Central Coast counties in California have climate that reflects a cool summer breeze. These counties have a cool and breezy climate. Theses counties are great for producing Chardonnay, and Rhone varietals. (Editor: Santa Barbara County is an interesting example because for every one mile you move inland, you lose one degree in temperature because largely, of the way that the on shore breeze comes in.  Additionally, for each hour of the day, you lose an additional degree of temperature.  That's one reason why Santa Barbara makes a wide ranging number of wines and quite frankly, before Sideways, had a hard time marketing themselves.  That does make SB County one great place to find a unique wine gift though)

The Southern Coast of California has a climate that fluctuates depending upon the time of day. For the most part counties in this region have warm days that are followed by cool nights. This climate makes it the perfect region to grow grape varietals. In fact, the notoriety of San Diego County goes far beyond what tourists say. Grapes have been growing in San Diego county for much longer than any of the other counties in the state of California. (Editor: Having grown up in San Diego, this is something I've heard a million times I think, that being said.....I don't buy it.  Wines I've had from SD County have been just ok and given land prices etc, they aren't any cheaper than offerings that I much prefer from Sonoma)

The San Joaquin Valley and the Sacramento Valley are sometimes pooled together and referred to as the states Inland Valleys. These regions have a Mediterranean like climate. They can easily be considered the powerhouse of the California wine regions, because almost three- quarters of the states grape varietals are produced here. (Editor's Note: Yup....lots of bulk, nameless wine.  That being said, there's a few innovative vintners trying to go for higher quality, which is something I find pretty interesting)

The Sierra Foothills has the most dramatic climate of them all. This region experiences the most versatile climate than any other region in California. The Sierra Foothills experience warm days and has breezy nights for the majority of the years. However, it also gets snow during the winter months. Even with is wavering climate, this region is home to some of the longest living grape vines. These grape vines are still working and producing grapes. (Editor's Note: If you want to talk about the real history of California wine, the Sierra Foothills deserve a mention since you can still, at times at least, find Zinfandel growing wild in the hills)

California is known as wine country because it produces wines in nearly every region possible throughout the state. It is easy to see why these vineyards are a great tourist attraction and why some of the best wines are produced here. Each region has cultivated its craft for producing exquisite wines.

As always we've hoped you've enjoyed this entry and hope you'll consider one of our award winning gift baskets which come with free shipping!

Staff Writer
February 18, 2015 | Staff Writer

When to Age a Wine

Most of us love the idea of being able to age a wine.

Knowing that we are in the midst of creating something that could be profoundly epic in our minds is worth holding onto to a bottle of wine for a decade. Being able to age a wine isn’t based solely on whether you have the correct storage unit or not. Even if you have a million dollar storage unit, if you do not have the right wine you are setting yourself up for a huge disappointment.

There are a few key factors that can help you determine any wines ability to age well. There are four characteristics that you should look for a wine. In order to determine if the wine will be able to age well you will need to examine the wines residual sugar, and the tannin structure. You should also look at the wines alcohol level and its acidity level.

In most cases a wine that has a high amount of residual sugar may not age well. There have been a few exceptions to this theory. Sherry and Riesling wines have been found to be a few of the sweet wines that will hold up to aging. More often than not, dry wines are usually aged and will have a lower amount of residual sugar.

The tannin structure is also a crucial element to wine aging. The tannin structure must be balanced within the wine in order for it to age well. Red wines with higher tannins age better than wines with low tannins. This is because the tannins act as a structural support for the wine. As these tannins break down it allows the wine to maintain a constant balance allowing all the components of the wine to blend well together. (Editor's Note, a reasonable look at the perhaps forever ongoing debate between Napa Valley and Bordeaux)

Alcohol level is also a deciding factor in wines ability to age. A high alcohol volume in a wine can prevent it from being able to age. The alcohol in wine can cause a wine to turn into vinegar over a period of time. The lower the alcohol volume the better chance the wine has at aging. (Ok, maybe we found someone who really is a Francofile. This is pretty common wisdom within the wine industry, but when people have done follow up tastings, like Robert Parker has done for the wines that competed in the original Judmgent of Paris, there's no statistical signifcance to the differences in aging between higher alcohol and lower alcohol wines)

The last factor to look for in a wine is its acidity level. Wines that age well often have a higher acidity level. Having a higher acidity level is a vital component to aging a wine because as the wine ages it loses some of its acidity. As a result of the loss of acidity the wine will often be bland and dreary. Starting out with a higher acidity level means the wine will last longer and will have a chance at maintaining its taste. These four key factors will help you to sift through wines and decided on which ones may hold up to aging. While a lot of the aging process is a matter of trial and error, it helps to have a few characteristics to look for to tip the odds in the wines favor. While these factors play a role, your storage method will also affect the aging process of a wine. (Editor: as a wine of the month club we know that about 98% of wine is consumed within 48 hours of purchase, but that being said, there are opportunities to ship some wine that people will be happy to age, at least for a while)

Staff Writer
February 17, 2015 | Staff Writer

Holding onto an open bottle of wine

The majority of the population drinks some form of alcohol.

Whether its wine, beer or hard liquor, we have all consumed some form of liquor at one point in our lives or another. Drinking is one of the guilt free pleasures of being an adult. It helps us to relax and shift gears. We can go from working in an uptight office to lounging in one the most relaxed lounges with just one glass of wine.

No one should be ashamed of going home and uncorking a new bottle of wine and drinking it alone. The only problem that comes with opening a bottle of wine alone is the amount of wine that remains in the bottle. When you open a bottle of wine for a group of two or four people the bottle can easily be demolished between you.

It’s different when you drink alone. You may have one or two glasses of wine at the most. What do you do with the remaining wine? How long can you hold onto it before it goes bad? (Editor's Note: The industry is aware of this issue, which can be similiar to one spouse enjoying a glass of wine, while the other simply doesn't, can't drink, or prefers a beer, cider etc.  That's why Corvain and other special openers are flooding the market)

Unopened bottles of wine can be stored for months and some can even be stored for several years. Unfortunately the storage life of the wine is drastically reduced once the bottle is uncorked. Wines do not last long once they have been opened and exposed to air. The amount of time that you can hold onto an open bottle of wine will vary depending upon the type of wine.

Generally speaking an open bottle of wine can last anywhere from 3 days to 2 weeks. This depends on whether the wine is a red or a white. White wines naturally have a shorter shelf than red wines when they are corked. So once the white wine is uncorked you could imagine that it will not last long. A white wine should be consumed within three days after opening it. Red wines are higher in tannins and thus their shelf life surpasses that of white wines. Once a red wine is opened, the remaining wine should be consumed within two weeks. Red wines will taste different after a few days. (Editor's Note: Personally speaking, I pump air out at home and fnd that a typical bottle of red is good for an extra day, or two....maybe I'm more peculiar than most...then again maybe it's because I have wine of the month club samples sitting around the office and house)

If you want to maximize the amount of time that you can hold onto an open bottle of wine, then there are a few things that you need to be sure to do. The first thing is to re-cork the wine. Once you have poured a glass for yourself and whoever else you are serving place the cork back into the bottle. Be sure to replace the cork with the stained side down. This will prevent your reaming wine from being contaminated from anything that the outer part of the cork came into contact with. You should also refrigerate all open bottles of wine. It doesn’t matter if it’s a white or a red, once opened you should put the bottle in the refrigerator. Placing the open bottle in the refrigerator will cause the wine to breakdown slower than if left out on a tabletop.

Staff Writer
February 16, 2015 | Staff Writer

Benefits of Attending a Wine Tasting

A lot of people drink wine, but few have actually gone to a wine tasting.

We have all had a sample of a wine while we were out, perhaps at your local grocery store. Stores will often allow vendors to set up small tables and provide customers with a small sample of the wine in order to boost sales. While you are getting to taste the wine, you aren’t actually learning what to look for in the wine.

If you haven’t been to a wine tasting, then you are missing out on what could be a joyous experience. The idea of going to a wine tasting may seem intimidating to a lot of people. Attending a wine tasting is especially beneficial to someone that is new to exploring wines. Wine tastings will help you learn valuable information about wines that will help you in the future. The best part about attending a wine tasting is that you get to drink wine, and a lot of it. (Editor's Note, find a safe way to drive, either with a designated driver, or better yet, public transportation)

There are so many wines to choose from, you will be sure to leave with at least two new favorite wines. You may think that most people at a wine tasting are probably drunk if not on the verge of having a very nice buzz. The truth is, the professional wine tasters a far from entering the drunk zone. They spit the wine out. Swallowing every wine will eventually begin to cloud your judgment towards the end of the night, prohibiting you from focusing on the wines aromas and flavors. (Editor's Note: one of the things that professionals talk about a lot among themselves is how to keep their palate's from becoming fatiagued when tasting wine, or even how many wines they can realistically get through in a day.  The number is pretty different for a ton of people, many saying the number is in the low hundreds, but personally after 25 or so, I find they start to run together.  That's another reason our wine clubs feature only wines from California, Oregon and the state of Washington)

Wine tastings provide you with the opportunity to sample a wide range of wines. You will be introduced to reds, whites, and sparkling wines. While it is possible to try a variety of wines in the comfort of your own home, you would need to buy the entire bottle of wine just to try it out. The atmosphere at a wine tasting can be setup in one of two ways. The first setup would have more of a classroom feel, almost like a seminar. This arrangement can seem more formal and to some may be uncomfortable. (Editor's Note: When I have friends who work in other industries come to tastings with me, they tend to enjoy this setup the best, simply because it's easier to get a good handle on what's going on, formal and stuffy probably: but it's fun for mostly everyone)

There are also wine tastings that have a more relaxed atmosphere. These wine tastings may seem more like a party or a little get together. Another benefit of attending a wine tasting is the opportunity to meet new people that have similar interest as you. There are all different levels of people that attend wine tastings. You will obviously encounter some people whose wine knowledge may be that of a novice. On the other hand, you will also meet some people that are more advanced in their wine knowledge. These advanced wine tasters can prove to be useful in your introduction to understanding more about wine. You can learn key information about how to properly taste a wine or how to train your palette from your peers. Going to a wine tasting will prove to be beneficial to you in several ways. You will be able to sample a large variety of wines and meet new people. You will learn the proper techniques for tasting wine.

Mark Aselstine
February 11, 2015 | Mark Aselstine

Amity Vineyards Pinot Noir Winemakers Reserve 2008

Members of our monthly wine club are receiving (at least some of you) this Amity Vineyards Pinot Noir, Winemakers Reserve 2008 in wine club shipments this month.  Here's why:



Hi guys, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.

I wanted to do a quick video intro here on Monday morning about an Amity Vineyards Pinot Noir that we're shipping this month. We don't often get an opportunity to ship aged wines that come directly from the winery. I know there's a few folks out there that do it, but, in essence, I was told during my first meeting after starting Uncorked Ventures by Jean Hoefliger at Alpha Omega winery in Napa that 98% of wine is consumed within 48 hours of its purchase and I think from our conversations with wine club members and, frankly, with friends family and, quite honestly, with our own house as well, that seems to ring true.

Every once in a while, we ask, "Hey, do you guys have anything from an older vintage that's available?" and sometimes we'll taste through it and say, "You know, this is not holding up that well," or whatever the situation is... Amity vineyards was recently sold to Union Wine Company. Union Wine Company actually came from a box wine background and Amity is a high end producer in Oregon that's focused on their own single vineyard stuff, so we're shipping their wine makers reserve, they call it. In essence, they pick the vineyards, they go through, they find the best barrels and they throw them into a reserve program. Retail on this? 45-50 dollars.

Our special selection wine club members will get it and the reserve selection level, which is our premium wine club, you'll get it too. We were really excited about this because it's a 2008. We know we're well into 2015 at this point. You're starting to see '11 and '12 Pinot hit the market, hit your local wine store. Its aged 6 or 7 years beyond what you would typically see and its starting to get to the point where your average wine store is going to say "We don't really know what to do with that." Well, our customers do and we wanted to do an '08 for a simple reason: its been called the quote-unquote vintage of the century; it's been called outstanding; Wine Spectator gave it an "A" on the "A" to "F" scale. The '08 and the wine valley is... if you want to taste the best of Oregon, 2008 was a great year to do it. We often talk about how in great vintages you get great wine from everybody and then in bad vintages you get great wine from only the best and the brightest. I think this is a great example of the best and the brightest produce really great wine in all vintages, but really memorable stuff in great vintages, and I think that's what we have here from Amity Vineyards. You pour this in your glass ... the thing is, like I said, from '08 so its 7 years aged at this point ... there's still really bright fruit. I think it can easily go another 5 or 10 years after this. It just speaks completely of sour cherry and some of those classic Oregon Pinot notes that you'll notice with blackberry and cassis and some of those flavor profiles that fit along the wine, but the acidity is really the memorable thing here. Oregon often talks about how if you drink one of their Pinots, you want to have a piece of grilled salmon next to it, and that's really what comes through with this wine. We hope you enjoy it. I'm sure you will. It's quite honestly one of my favorite wines that we've shipped in the last few months in our wine clubs, so I think it's pretty simple. Enjoy.