Uncorked Ventures Blog

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.

Staff Writer
January 9, 2015 | Staff Writer

Food & Wine Pairings

Food and wine go together. They are meant for each other like a good marriage. No dinner is complete without a good glass of wine. Food tastes better with wines because they complement each other’s aroma, taste, and texture. A good glass of wine can bring perfection to your food. Think about the first bite of chicken you had yesterday. The first bite gave you a smell of the rich aromas, the taste of the flavors and experienced the texture of the chicken in your mouth. The second bite is also good, but it can’t be as good as the first as your mouth has already experienced the sensation the chicken provided. A drink of wine is necessary to refresh the senses of your mouth and offer it an alternative set of aromas, flavors, and sensation. (Editor's Note: When giving a wine gift taking these pairing suggestions into account makes a ton of sense, especially as we're still in the time period of holiday parties and host/hostess gifts)

Matching food with fine is a matter of personal taste. The easy way, to match a wine with food, is to think of wine as a sauce and match it to the strength and flavors of the dish to the wine. Here are some tips that you can follow to achieve the perfect combination of food and wine.

• Pair spicy food with wines that include residual sugars. For example, try German Riesling with spicy food as the sugar cools down the spice.

• It is a good idea to pair char –grilled foods with wines that have been aged in oak. The intensity of the oaked wine can be tamed by charred or grilled food and can bring out the fruit flavors of the wine instead.

• Pair foods with wines that have similar or complementary flavors and textures. For example, mildly flavored wines match with mildly flavored foods while the big and flavored foods are combined with flavored wines.

• Combine fried foods with wines that are high in acid. The acid in the wine creates a balance between the fried / fatty food and the wine.

• Pair sweet wines with salty food

• Deserts can be combined with sweet wines that are as sweet as them.

• Pair wine with the foods that come from the same ethnicity and background. For example Spanish food and Spanish wine. For more help here are some of our favorite classic food and wine pairings:

• Champagne and caviar

• Chablis wine goes well with oysters

• Red burgundy wine and roast beef

• Red Bordeaux wine and lamb

• Chinese food and piniot noir

• Smoked cheese with Shiraz(Editor's Note: our writers gives away his background here, other than Australia and some parts of SouthEast Asia....it's Syrah to everyone) 

• Pizza with Dolcetto

• Choose chardonnay with fatty fish

• Artichokes, eggs, spinach, fennel, and horseradish are some of the foods that are impossible to match with the right wine. For example, horseradish spoils the flavor of a wine, so it’s a good idea to limit the amount of wine with these particular foods. People enjoy and appreciate their dinner when the food and wine both are good. So you should try these tips and combinations in your next party.

Staff Writer
January 8, 2015 | Staff Writer

Ніstоrу оf Саlіfоrnіа Wіnе

Тhе оrіgіn оf wіnе рrоduсtіоn іn Саlіfоrnіа саn bе trасеd bасk tо thе 18th Сеnturу. Тhе Ѕраnіsh mіssіоnаrіеs оf thе dау рlаntеd vіnеуаrds аnd рrоduсеd wіnеs fоr usе аt rеlіgіоus sасrаmеnt.

Тhе Саlіfоrnіа Gоld Rush оf thе mіddlе 19th Сеnturу brоught mаnу nеw sеttlеrs tо thе rеgіоn, саusіng thе dеmаnd fоr wіnе tо іnсrеаsе. Маnу nеw vіnеуаrds wеrе рlаntеd аnd wіnеrіеs buіlt tо ассоmmоdаtе thіs dеmаnd.

Тhе lаtе 1800's sаw thе реst еріdеmісs dеstrоу еntіrе vіnеуаrds аnd wіре оut mаnу оf thе smаllеr wіnеrіеs.

Тhе еаrlу 20th Сеnturу brоught уеt аnоthеr hurdlе fоr Саlіfоrnіа wіnе...Рrоhіbіtіоn. Durіng Рrоhіbіtіоn thе mаnufасturе, trаnsроrtаtіоn аnd sаlе оf аlсоhоl wаs соnsіdеrеd іllеgаl. As а rеsult, vіnеуаrds wеrе uрrооtеd аnd wіnе сеllаrs wеrе dеstrоуеd. Ѕоmе wіnеrіеs survіvеd bесаusе thеу wеrе реrmіttеd tо соntіnuе ореrаtіng аs nоn-аlсоhоlіс grаре јuісе соmраnіеs.

Іn 1933 thе 21st Amеndmеnt rереаlеd thе 18th Amеndmеnt's аlсоhоl bаn аnd Саlіfоrnіа wіnе bеgаn іts сlіmb оut оf thе рrоvеrbіаl сеllаr.

Fоr уеаrs, Саlіfоrnіа wіnеs wеrе thоught tо bе іnfеrіоr іmіtаtіоns оf thеіr Frеnсh соuntеrраrts. Тhаt wаs untіl Мау 24, 1976 аnd thе Јudgmеnt оf Раrіs wіnе соmреtіtіоn. Frеnсh јudgеs wеrе аskеd tо реrfоrm а blіnd tеst оf wіnеs frоm Frаnсе аnd Саlіfоrnіа. Whеn thе rеsults wеrе іn, Саlіfоrnіа wіnеs tооk fіrst рlасе іn bоth thе whіtе аnd rеd саtеgоrіеs. Тhе rеsults wеrе rероrtеd bу Тіmе mаgаzіnе аnd thе реrсерtіоn оf Саlіfоrnіа wіnе wаs сhаngеd fоrеvеr.

Мајоr Саlіfоrnіа Wіnе Rеgіоns Тоdау, Саlіfоrnіа іs оnе оf thе wоrld's lаrgеst wіnе рrоduсеrs wіth оvеr 1,200 wіnеrіеs. Тhеsе wіnеrіеs fаll іntо fоur mајоr wіnе rеgіоns: Сеntrаl Соаst, Сеntrаl Vаllеу, Νоrth Соаst аnd Ѕоuth Соаst.

Тhе Сеntrаl Соаst AVA (Amеrісаn Vіtісulturаl Arеа) іs lосаtеd аlоng thе Расіfіс Соаst оf Саlіfоrnіа frоm thе Ѕаn Frаnсіsсо Вау аrеа dоwn tо Ѕаntа Ваrbаrа Соuntу. Тhе Сеntrаl Соаst rеgіоn іs mаdе uр оf sіх соuntіеs whісh аll quаlіfу аs thеіr оwn AVA. Тhеsе соuntіеs аrе Соntrа Соstа, Моntеrеу, Ѕаn Luіs Оbіsро, Ѕаntа Ваrbаrа, Ѕаntа Сlаrа аnd Ѕаntа Сruz. Сhаrdоnnау mаkеs uр оvеr hаlf оf thе rеgіоn's 100,000 асrеs. Тhе Сеntrаl Vаllеу іs thе lаrgеst wіnе rеgіоn іn Саlіfоrnіа. Іt strеtсhеs оvеr 300 mіlеs frоm thе Ѕасrаmеntо Vаllеу tо thе Ѕаn Јоаquіn Vаllеу. Тhіs rеgіоn іs mаdе uр оf Саlіfоrnіа's Сеntrаl Vаllеу аnd thе Ѕіеrrа Fооthіlls AVA аnd рrоduсеs rоughlу 75% оf аll Саlіfоrnіа wіnе.

Тhе Νоrth Соаst rеgіоn іs lосаtеd аlоng thе nоrthеrn соаst оf Саlіfоrnіа аbоvе thе Ѕаn Frаnсіsсо Вау. Тhіs lаrgе rеgіоn соntаіns twо оf thе mоst fаmоus аnd vіsіtеd wіnе rеgіоns іn thе Unіtеd Ѕtаtеs: Νара Vаllеу аnd Ѕоnоmа Соuntу. Νара Vаllеу іs а wоrld fаmоus wіnе аrеа аnd hоmе tо numеrоus аwаrd wіnnіng wіnеrіеs. Сhаtеаu Моntеlеnа аnd Ѕtаg's Lеар Wіnе Сеllаr thе wіnеrіеs whо wоn thе whіtе аnd rеd саtеgоrіеs оf thе 1976 Јudgmеnt оf Раrіs аrе bоth lосаtеd hеrе. Тhе Ѕоuth Соаst rеgіоn runs аlоng thе Расіfіс соаst frоm thе sоuthеrn еnd оf Lоs Angеlеs tо thе Мехісаn bоrdеr. Тhеrе аrе sоmе nоtаblе wіnе rеgіоns hеrе suсh аs: Antеlоре Vаllеу/Lеоnа Vаllеу AVA, Rаmоnа Vаllеу AVA, Ѕаn Раsquаl Vаllеу AVA аnd Теmесulа Vаllеу AVA.

Staff Writer
January 6, 2015 | Staff Writer

How to Buy Wine for a Gift

How to Buy Wine for a Gift

Relaxing with good friends and exquisite wine - it seems only fitting to experience life this way. Who has no friends who love wine? Giving (and receiving) the gift of wine is a special thrill.

On the other hand, you have a few decisions to make. After all, wine is personal, like clothing, jewelry or music. The great thing about this: your gift can be both unique and genuinely appreciated. If the recipient is family or a close friend, choosing is much easier. You may already know what they want (Editor's Note, or simply like, such as anything from Napa Valley or Paso Robles).

However, some worry that others, especially their boss, coworkers or business clients may not like their choice. In any case, you may have a number of questions.

What kind of wine should I buy - red, white or sparkling?

Should it be foreign or domestic?

How much should I spend?

First of all, think of the occasion. Wedding gifts are usually more elaborate than hostess gifts. A variety of bottles helps a new couple start building their collection (Editor's Note: we see newlywed gift message often come across in our wine clubs because they show up every month and do exactly as has been described).

If you are giving wine as a business gift, a Chardonnay or Merlot pleases most people. You might even want to include personalized wrapping or labels. Dinner parties seldom require the most expensive or exotic. You have a number of choices in the $20 to $50 range to wow your friends. What is your budget? You probably know that wines can be anywhere from a few to several thousand dollars. Chances are, unless your friend is the most finicky oenophile, they may not appreciate a gift that costs thousands. Unless you are making a statement or have too much cash, avoid overspending.

Will foreign or domestic be better? If you are in France at a French restaurant, by all means, go ahead and get the French bubbly. Oui! Otherwise, domestic wines are a great option. You and your friends will appreciate you are supporting local business. Not only that, domestic wines these days stand up to and often exceed foreign wines for quality.

Which varietal is best? Some of your friends may prefer a buttery Chardonnay. If you don't know what your friends like, keep the following in mind. Even if it is a hundred degrees outside, three fourths of American wine drinkers at a party will ask for red. If you are outside, go for a lighter red, such as a Pinot noir or Merlot (Editor's Note: everyone continues to disregard Grenache and that's a shame).

Are you sitting around the fireplace in the middle of winter? Bolder wines can warm your soul. Where should you get the wine? Physical stores get you a bottle of wine quickly. Nonetheless, if you desire higher end enjoyment, online sources are a far better option.

Internet retailers are definitely not all the same. Some offer gift baskets with low-cost afterthoughts. Only with careful shopping, can you find exceptionally paired cheeses, chocolates and spreads. Even fewer still are obsessed with hand-sourcing wines from local vineyards. If you are looking for a truly one of a kind offering - one that will convince your loved ones and special friends that you are amazing - find the best online retailer and send their wine club membership as a gift.

Choosing wine should be simple. When it comes to enjoying wine, it is truly all about the experience. Get the experience right and everyone will enjoy the wine. Unless, of course the wine is awful - and that is just not going to happen with what you have learned here!

Mark Aselstine
January 5, 2015 | Mark Aselstine

How We Taste Wine, Winemaker Testing

Before I forget, Happy January...the grind begins again.

Hey, guys. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.

First, a happy January to everyone as we start to get back into normal business. As I'm sure, everybody's finally back to work. At least it seems that way in the Bay area. Most of the folks that we know are off for the entire region around the holidays. One of the questions that's come up a few times over the last week or two is, how do we taste wine and how is that different than both our wine club competitors but then also as consumers?

These, I think, are a pretty good example.

One thing that we like to do that I think is an opportunity if you work in the wine industry that you don't necessarily have as a consumer. I always like to say, "What does a winemaker like to do?" We have these super star winemakers, Phillipe Melka, Michel Rolland from France, who is maybe more of a consultant than a winemaker at this point. These guys who, if you drink wine [inaudible 00:00:47], in essence have become household names.

One of the things I like to try to figure out out is, "What are they doing that's just a little bit different than the competitors?" While you can make these broad generalizations about these folks, I think the only way to really tell is to be able to drink stuff that is made from the same vineyard and the same vintage and then try two different winemakers to see what the output is and how it's different. I think I have a good example here.

We talked a little bit about Lennox Vineyards a few days ago, and I love Mike to death, and Mike makes some good juice from, what in essence is a back yard vineyard. He just happens to live in Sebastopol which is in Sonoma, in western Sonoma County, and it's a really good place to grow grapes. Envolve Winery may be a household name, and at this point. It may not. If you ever watch the Bachelor TV show, this is the juice. If you look at the bottom there, you will see the Lennox Vineyard insignia. In essence you have a really professional trained winemaker, professional enough to even get a reality show out of it, and then a guy who has taken a few classes at Davis and makes some good juice of his own. I think that you can really tell where the finesse comes in and in essence, the the big difference between these two bottles. Envolve you get a little bit more acidity. The wine is truly, a little bit cleaner. It's a little bit lighter on your pallet and you can really see what they're going for with the Pinot Noir.

I think that one really interesting way to drink wine. Especially when you get into Napa and you start having larger vineyards, or especially when you start traveling up Atlas Peak and you see the folks at VinRoc, or Dos Lagos is another great example where they have quite a famous winemaker making their wine in Bob Foley. You can see what folks are going for as winemakers versus what kind of other people who might not be as famous, or is kind of [flowned 00:02:41] out in the profession end up going for.

Once again, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. Lennox Vineyards, it's a good example of how do we taste wine that's different than other folks? As consumers, how can we do this and enjoy it? This is an interesting point to make. It's something we like to do with friends and family is opening two bottles, same vineyard, same vintage and saying, "Hey, what do you like better?" You're kind of surprised at the results sometimes.

I hope everybody had a nice holiday season, and I will be returning emails, phone calls and everything else here in the next 24 to 48 hours, as quickly as we can. Thanks again. Have a good one.