Uncorked Ventures Blog

Mark Aselstine
 
October 4, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Being Family Owned and San Antonio Winery

Those of you that have found your way to this Blog over the past few months, or have spent any time looking at the About Us section on Uncorked Ventures already know that we’re a family owned business-being family owned is something we’re proud of.

A quick fill in, Matt and I are brothers in law. He married the oldest daughter and I married the youngest which makes Uncorked Ventures, according to plenty of people we talk to rather unique in family arrangements. That as you might expect, is a nice fit in the wine industry which is made up largely of family owned wineries and vineyard owners.

The one part of the wine industry, which has largely moved away from family ownership is the mass producers of millions of cases of wine per year. Bronco Wine Company, Mondavi and a few others are good examples of that and while we respect the growth those businesses have showed over the past generation, we hope that the wine industry doesn’t lose the family owned aspect to the business. As we’re found, customers love hearing a great story about why a winery opened and the family dynamics which are often at play.

I bring all this up to mention one large winery (reportedly crafting over 1 million cases of wine per year) which is both still family owned and situated in an area which isn’t home to many wineries.

San Antonio Winery is located in downtown Los Angeles and has been continuously operated by the same family since its founding in 1917. San Antonio has an interesting set of wines, which aren’t a fit for any of our wine clubs as they’re more likely to be sold internationally or at Trader Joe’s, but for the price-we think they’re a nice alternative to Charles Shaw and others.
 

Mark Aselstine
 
October 3, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Harvest and Rain Collide

There are few things which worry vineyard managers and grape growers as much as rain right around harvest.

It seems an ever increasing problem in Napa Valley and Sonoma where slight shifts in weather patterns seem to be bringing November’s traditional rains slight earlier, while an attempt to achieve optimum ripeness has pushed harvest dates back several weeks from where they were a generation ago.

California’s historic wine regions are both expecting around an inch of rain within the next 24 hours.

For Cabernet Sauvignon growers, it’s not as big of a concern because they can simply let the grapes hang on the vine for the warm temperatures coming at the end of the week, allowing them to achieve ripeness while drying out. In fact, wine country received a bit of rain about 10 days ago, with many vintners happy to have mother nature’s help in cleaning off their grapes before harvest.

There are two problems though. To start, Pinot Noir growers were frantically picking grapes over the past 48 hours as those grapes are very close to ready for harvest and vintners can’t afford to let them settle on the vine for another week.

Secondly, when rain strikes near harvest, some vineyards experience a level of rot on the vine which reduces yields. In many years growers simply consider it part of the price of doing business on a per ton basis (rather than a per acre which is what most fine wineries prefer these days) but yields are already down at least 50% off their peak and prices are down per ton as well, further pressuring growers to bring in as many quality grapes as possible.

I didn’t realize when starting a wine club that I’d watch the weather as closely as I currently do, but it stands as a good reminder that despite all the technical progress in terms of both winemaking and vineyard management, nature is still making the majority of the decisions.
 

Mark Aselstine
 
September 27, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

A Trip to Sonoma

Yesterday brought another trip to wine country for Matt and I. Much of our day was spent in Sonoma, we were looking for another wine or two for a charity tasting we’re involved with at the end of the week as well as wine for our Special Selections Wine Club.

Overall, we were incredibly pleased with what we found. While we won’t share winery names, we did find an outstanding vineyard designate Chardonnay from a relatively unknown winery (although the vineyard is extremely highly thought of), a top flight Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon, a Russian River Pinot Noir from one of our favorite producers and a few others.

As with many of our trips, we spent much of the day well off the beaten path. Our Chardonnay appointment found us, at one point, lost and over a mile off the paved road. Considering we had a half tank of gas still and didn’t have to ask for help……we can’t complain. Traveling down the dirt road did remind me of a previous trip:

Our day ended up picking up a Napa Cab at one of the industrial warehouses next to the Napa Valley airport, which is where much of the wine made in the valley is actually stored and then transported. I think a large percentage of our customers would be surprised to know that much of the wine is not stored at the winery itself, but instead in massive, guarded, temperature controlled warehouses.
 

Mark Aselstine
 
September 23, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

New Photo Pages are Here

fermentation at Audelssa

 

Since Uncorked Ventures first opened its doors, we've used Flickr as an online resource to keep and organize the many pictures we've take on tasting trips.  With one of our Proprietors (Matt) both an interested and talented photographer, we've been trying to find a way to display those photos directly on uncorkedventures.com.  After many tests and much deliberation, we think we've found a setup which will allow us to share some of our favorite pictures, while also providing a bit of context about why we thought the image was important or memorable.

Have a look for yourself and let us know what you think!

First Set of Photographs

Mark Aselstine
 
September 23, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Local Wineries and the Weekend

One thing that always irks me when I see conversations about the direct shipment of wine is the conversation piece (never put forward by the wineries themselves) about how shipments from outside the state need to be stopped to protect local wineries and retailers.

We know a few things about wine consumption. As consumption increases there tends to be a movement toward both better wine as well as local wine. To put it simply, someone who drinks 2 bottles of wine a week at home is much more likely to spend $50 or more on a California Cult Cab, while also being much more likely to wine taste at a local winery, or travel to a local winery to enjoy a jazz concert etc than is someone who buys a single bottle per month at their local grocery store. If you look at the markets in California and other states the statistics bear out the conclusion that greater choice does in fact mean better wine and better wine does in fact lead to greater consumption.

I bring this up to simply say, enjoy the good weather that is sweeping over much of the country this weekend by supporting a local winery by having lunch and a glass of wine. Much of the time you’ll have an enjoyable experience.  If you get a chance, please support the direct shipment of wine by stopping by Free The Grapes.  It's good for the industry to allow competition in every market.