Uncorked Ventures Blog

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.

Mark Aselstine
September 22, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Kosta Browne Success After Being on The Brink

I admit, I love a great feel good story.

Kosta Browne certainly qualifies.  As one of the top Pinot Noir producers in the Russian River Valley with a waiting list of 8,000 for its own wine club and media mentions too numorous to count, including a recent plug on USA's hit spy drama Burn Notice, many people likely think things have always run smoothly at the small vintner.  Of course, behind the curtain things have not always been rosy.

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat does a better job telling the story than I could in this space, but in many ways this is the classic story of starting a small business.  Trying to put food on the table while growing a business and raising a family can be an all emcomapssing set of responsibilities for Browne's founders.

More than anything else I think looking at the experiences shared in this article reminds me that the path to success in the wine industry is not always a straight forward line.  There are often bumps along the way, but hard work can help turn challenges into opportunity.  It's a fun read, especially if you've ever started a small business of your own.