Uncorked Ventures Blog
Hi guys. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. So over the last few days I've had conversation with a few new wine blogs that have popped up. One of which is called the Desert Wine Guy based outside of Vegas. One of the things that we've talked about is finding good value wines and where to find them.
So one of the things that I've wanted to do over the last few years and this was a kick starter in that vein, was to try random wines that I found interesting when I was at local grocery stores, local to me here in the Bay area of San Francisco. Trader Joe's, which I know is national now and we'll come back to Trader Joe's in a second, Safeway, the huge national brand, I grew up in Southern California so that was Vons, so it might not be Safeway but it's some Safeway family of companies that you probably have.
We're lucky that we do most of our shopping at a local place called Berkeley Bowl which is a Whole Foods competitor but at maybe half or a third of the cost. We'll shop at Costco, too occassionally for a bottle of wine. I only sell Oregon, Washington and California bottles so on the international stuff I am at the same place that most consumers are. I frankly don't know a whole ton a lot about a ton of regions of France outside of the standard Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, what have you.
So one of the things that the Desert Wine Guy has talked about was this bottle. This is Revelation Cabernet Merlot from Badet Clement and Cie. My French is not great but it's just good enough to know that Cie is company. So it's Badet Clement and Company. And they are based in, it says de Pays D'OC and this is one of the regions, ways that I think the French don't do themselves justice for when they import stuff into America. So this is the Languedoc and I've talked about the Languedoc in the past.
French wine laws are restrictive to the point of being borderline crazy. If you bought a vineyard in Bordeaux tomorrow they would tell you exactly what should be planted and where. Burgundy is even worse. Champagne the same. The Languedoc's one of the few, few regions in France where if you're a wine maker and I want to buy a vineyard and I'm going to plant six different types of grapes. I want to see what I can make and what I can make well and after that I'll figure the rest out. The Languedoc is one of the few regions where you can do that.
It also happens to be one of the largest continuous stretches of vines anywhere in the world. And that's important for something like this which comes into Trader Joe's for, I think I paid $5.99 for it. That's California pricing so you're probably, if you're outside of California paying a dollar or two more if not $10 or so in total.
So this is a really nice Cab Merlot blend. One of the things that happens in the Languedoc is that they do a good cheaper impersonation of other areas of France and that's what you have here. They've gone for kind of a Bordeaux based blend and you kind of get that where it's more highly acidic than what you get from California for the most part. This reminds me more of Washington than something that you get in California. But there's really good blackberry and dark fruit flavors and the acidity really holds up. And it's something that you'll be really, really happy that you paid $6 bucks for or $8 or whatever it happens to be at your local Trader Joe's.
And I think that also brings into a larger story about how does Trader Joe's source their wines, so on this stuff I'm fairly certain that this is a wine that's made specifically to come into the U.S. market. I had the opportunity yesterday to attend a tasting for the wines of Provence in San Francisco. They referred to it as rosé in the city. And that's what Provence is known for in France is making some of the best rosé around. This was a group of 60 or 70 wineries. A lot of times they have wine makers there.
Like I said my French is not great but they're kind of to translate enough to understand that they had these three or four bottlelings in front of them and three or four would be available and there was, oh this one that we make 4,000 cases of specifically to try to bring into the U.S. and that's from label design down to the actual stylistic type of wine that they have.
So Trader Joe's will work with people. I suspect this is probably in that same vein. They also, we were talking to a winery in Napa a few years ago about doing a Sauvignon blanc bottling and they had a few extra barrels of wine. And that's fairly typical for something that will happen in a large vinage. They will have a few extra barrels. We looked at it as a way to bring really good value for our exploration wine club folks who wouldn't be able to necessarily access this Sauvignon blanc from Napa based on the average price that they're paying versus what the average price of a Sauvignon blanc in Napa ends up being. And at the end of the day we couldn't do it because the folks ended up selling the whole lot to Trader Joe's. So they have this wine that depending on the vintage and stuff sells between $25 and $35 at the winery all of a sudden it was under a different label at Trader Joe's from $4.99. So that's what Trader Joe's does. That's what they do a really good job of and it's something that people will be happy about if they know how to search through and find what they're looking for.
So it's something that you can expect more from me. I'll start talking randomly about wines that I pick up at Trader Joe's, Safeway or Whole Foods or Costco, in that reign, since I know that those are stores that people have access to across the country. And if you have a few minutes and you're looking to read a different perspective on the world of wine, Desert Wine Guy has a blog spot blog as well as a new website and it's worth a look. The guy owns a vineyard and is based out of Vegas and so I think that adds a different perspective to those of us who are based in California or based in wine regions ourself.
So have a look if you have a minute and Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. I hope that you guys have enjoyed it. The Revelation 2012 Cab Merlot blend from Trader Joes, it's Badet Clement and Cie. Worth a look and you'll be happy you paid $6 bucks for it. Have a good one. Lastly, if you enjoyed this, I hope you'll consider a wine of the month club membership with us.
This wine is still titled Mariposa, which was the former name of the winery that simply calls itself Cru Wine Company. Located in Madera California which sits about 10 miles north of San Francisco in swanky Marin County and only about 30 miles south of both Sonoma and Napa, Cru Wine Company is perhaps perfectly situated to source grapes and then easily sell their wines.
That being said, selling in Marin is uber competitive as literally every single start up in the valley is trying to place their wines there and there isn’t any home field advantage to speak of. Cru’s big advantage, outside of an owner with especially deep pockets, is that they have perhaps the most engaging and unique winemaker in the industry. Ken Post had already had two separate careers before the wine bug hit, he had built his family farm into a 2,000 acre behemoth in Paso Robles as well as building a highway construction business from the ground up. He also rides a motorcycle, or at least did before a fall left him a year of rehab.
From all the choices at the winery, I found this wine to be the most engaging. First, it’s an entry level price point for GSM in Paso Robles, at $23 retail and the spirit of that tag comes through, it’s made to be consumed early and isn’t overly tannic. (Please note, we've shipped this wine previously in our Explorations Wine Club) Of course, I think there are some connections from previously owning a large farm in the area which Ken rather sheepishly admittedly to the last time I saw him. When so many consumers dislike Syrah & have never heard of, nor tried a Grenache, I often want to show them a wine like this, the nature of this wine surprises with hints more consistently with cherries and bright fruit, rather than the brooding and contemptible versions of Syrah and wine in general that we’re accustomed to from Paso Robles.
I think there’s also time here to talk a bit about the 2010 vintage in Paso Robles. So often within the wine industry we hear about how good, bad or indifferent a vintage was in Napa, but other regions hardly rate a mention at all. 2010 was called apocalyptic in Napa and throughout much of California due to the cold early start to the growing season (which leads to farmers cutting fruit and canopy cover to ensure they get to ripeness) following by an unbelievably hot August (which burned the life out of grapes that didn’t have a large enough canopy to cover them) in combination with water restrictions due to the California drought. In comparison to other fine wine regions across the state, Paso knows it’s pretty damn hot during the summer. While a series of 100 degree days in Sonoma and downtown Napa sends the natives scurrying to the beach, in Paso that’s part of the normal summer experience even in west side Paso (where this wine is from). That knowledge of impending heat and really being able to count on mother nature sending that heat made 2010 a better year to look for values in Paso than it is elsewhere in California. Then again they’re calling 2010 Bordeaux the vintage of the century, or was that 09? Or maybe 2007 in Napa? Yes, vintages get a lot of hype, perhaps too much so when we’re talking about a $23 bottle we just want to hold up well.
Every so often, we get the chance to feature what is an aged wine, directly from a winery cellar. This Anam Cara Pinot Noir is a unique look into small production, single vineyard Pinot Noir if you have the patience to let it age for a decade. I like shipping wines like this, at least occasionally, simply because, as I found during my first winery visit after opening Uncorked Ventures, that 98% of wines are consumed within 48 hours after purchase. Having dug into those numbers, because I think they’re important in terms of helping to decide what we should be shipping to wine club members, it’s also apparent at least according to industry watchdogs like Wine Business and Wines & Vines, that those stats hold up across most price points, including where our Reserve Wine Club falls.
So about Anam Cara specifically: to start, this was their first vintage of their Heather’s Vineyard Pinot which is named after the founder’s daughter. The family story is actually pretty typical, Nick and Sheila met while working in London only to move back and start a business which brought them into Napa Valley and further into the wine business itself. Sheila worked in public relations while Nick built the family fortune through a series of pizza restaurants around California. Eventually, wanting a piece of land and a winery for themselves, they found a run down orchard in Oregon (given Napa land prices were close to 250k an acre a decade ago and have doubled since, especially considering you need at least 10 acres for a new winery...this is a story we’re going to hear with increasing regularity)
Heather’s Vineyard It isn’t really a separate vineyard from their estate vineyard itself, but a block of vines within the larger estate vineyard. When Adam Cara Cellars spent a few years selling fruit to others, they noticed that a few rows of vines had two unique characteristics. First, they ripened about a month later than blocks only a few yards away and also seemed to produce dramatically less fruit, about 1.5 tons per acre, which is about the smallest I’ve seen (to put it in perspective, I spent some time talking to winemakers about a 130+ year old, dry farmed Lodi vineyard of Cinsault this past week that produces about 2 tons per acre). There’s some sunlight issues with this part of their vineyard, namely that trees overhang part of the vines, which leads to another problem, any fruit that’s produced early in the season, gets eaten by birds since netting can’t really happen until well into the summer growing season (sunlight in Oregon is simply too valuable and blocking it too early, leads to underripe fruit, even in the Willamette, a cardinal sin). The results of all this, including using only a single clone of Pinot Noir, is a complex, yet remarkably light version of Pinot Noir. There’s plenty of cherry and wild berry flavors here, including finish, which to me, is a hallmark of Oregon Pinot, I find it earthy, others have called it slightly bitter….all the same, a classic Oregon Pinot flavor profile.
Priced at between $60-$65 depending on when people have looked from the winery, other versions of Heather’s Vineyard Pinot Noir have scored into the mid 90 point range from major critics. There isn’t, at least to my knowledge (I’ve also asked the winery) any major critics scores around the 2005 largely because it was both their first vintage and a scant 75 cases were produced. While production hasn’t yet climbed beyond that level for the Heather’s Vineyard offering, critics have been more willing to score the wine based on past successes of the winery’s other offerings, but also because Oregon Pinot Noir is so much more mainstream at this point than it was only a decade ago. I’ve told the story before, but anyone interested in taking a trip to wine country on the west coast, should really consider a few days in Oregon’s Mcminnville and the wide Willamette Valley. Unlike any region I’ve been to in either California or frankly, Washington, there aren’t vines anywhere. Penner Ash makes some of the most respected Pinot Noir in the new world with multiple estate offerings being priced above $100 and the guy across the street still grows wheat and pears. There’s something about that which seems appealing to me and something that seems to come through with this wine as well.
Since so many of you ask….how long does the winery, or do I think this can last? Conventional wisdom is a few more years in the cellar should be fine, but it’s ready now. That being said the most memorable bottle I’ve ever had came from what amounts to a $5 Burgundy, that had been aged 40 years. I think these acidic Pinot Noir’s hold up better than most people give them credit for.
It’s so easy o just pour a glass of wine directly from the bottle into our glasses. Yet, in our haste we may be forgetting to do o ne crucial element. Running off of our excitement to try the newest acquisition we aren’t allowing the wine enough time to breathe.
As simple as it may sound, breathing can be a key factor in the taste of a wine. Breathing is beneficial to all life, why shouldn’t we allow wine the same opportunity. While the simple act of pouring the wine from the bottle into a wine glass does help to aerate the wine, it may not be adequate enough. Allowing it to sit in the glass for a brief minute or two with a few gentle swirls will surely help to give the wine life.
Aerating a single serving is easy, but what about if you were serving a crowd? Is it fair to make your guests sit and wait? Perhaps, they do not know about the advantages of letting a wine breathe, and they are just eager to take a sip. By doing so, they will miss out on what could possibly be the truest taste of the wine.
The best way to allow a bottle of wine to breathe is to use a decanter. By decanting the wine you are giving the entire bottle the vital introduction to air that it needs. There is still much speculation as to whether the use of a decanter actually benefits the wines taste and if it is really necessary. However, if you have ever poured a glass of wine and taken a sip immediately and then sipped on the glass slowly for about 20 minutes or so, you would notice the difference in the taste of the wine. (Editor: I also find that guests find it interesting when they see the wine in the decanter when they first show up for dinner, there's always a ton of questions about why that's already out etc. The heavier the wine, Cabernet for example, especially if it is younger, benefits greatly from some time in the air. I know a few of our Reserve Wine Club members age quite a bit of what they receive)
Using a decanter is simple. You just simply pour the wine into the decanter. Then allow it to sit for at least 15 minutes before serving. Swirling the wine in the decanter will help the wine an oxygen mix a little faster. If you have the time and are not pressed on serving the wine immediately, allow it to sit as long as possible. Depending upon the type of wine that you are serving the decanting time needed will vary.
Not only is the use of a decanter beneficial for the taste of the wine, but it also helps to add a subtle hint of sophistication to even the simplest dinner party. Allowing your guests to see the wine being poured from a decanter will be a little more appealing to their eyes than seeing it poured from the original bottle. Decanters come in a variety of shapes and sizes. So it is easy to choose one that will suit your lifestyle. When choosing a decanter try to find one that may not have a lot of indentions and swirls. If the decanter does have a lot of grooves, cleaning it can become a pain. While the more intricately made decanters look pretty, they are a hassle when it’s time to clean them. (Editor, a high end decanter makes a great gift for a wine lover and yes, cleaning them generally isn't fun....soap and water for a day are about your best bet)
Wine glasses are the staple method for drinking wine. It is perceived to be the appropriate manner in all social circumstances. While it is quite possible to drink wine of any type of cup, such as a plastic cup, not only will it be deemed as not classy in most circumstances but you will also be doing yourself a grave injustice.
Wine glasses were created to help facilitate the drinker’s experience. There are many types and forms of wine glasses available in the market. They range from the standard wine glass to the stemless wine glass, there is a reason he the broad spectrum of choices. Each type of drink wear serves a purpose and was created for a specific reason.
There are four major types of wine glasses, the red, white dessert and sparkling glass, which is also known as the champagne flute. One may wonder why the need for so many types of glasses just to drink wine. Does it make a difference which glass that you use when drinking a specific wine? The short answer is no, but the long answer is yes. While all wine glasses are comprised of the same basic components which are a stem, a base, and a bowl. The only exception to this basic build is the stemless wine glass. All wine glasses are not created equal. While the stem and the base may be the same, the bowl of each glass is different. (Editor's note: in our Wine Essentials Gift Basket we have some wine glasses, my brother in law Matt greatly prefers glasses with stems, I like these stemless versions quite a lot better)
The red wine glass is made with a much larger and rounder bowl. The larger bowl helps to facilitate the aeration process and also provided ample room to swirl the wine. This wide bowl also allows the aromas to easily find their way to your nose. With red wine glasses you will find some with a much more tapered rim than others. The difference in the rim helps to direct the wine to your mouth, allowing easier sips during tastings.
White wine glasses have bowls that are not as large and round as the red wine glasses. They have more of a U-shape design. This shape helps the wines aromas to easily escape the glass and also helps white wines maintain their cool temperatures by keeping the wine condensed.
The sparkling wine glass, or the champagne flute, is much slimmer in comparison to the design of a white wine glass. This shape helps to retain the flavor and carbonation of the wine for a longer period of time.
Dessert wine glasses are extremely small in compared to any other type of wine glass available. This is because dessert wines are much sweeter and have higher alcohol volumes than any other wine on the market. So with these wines a little goes a long way. Dessert wines are not meant to be drunk like a bottle of soda, but instead sipped on slowly.
While you can drink a white wine out of a red wine glass, using the proper glassware for drinking wine, it will certainly help to enhance the wines flavors and aromas.
Editor: Of course, at some point you'll need some wine to put in your glass....why not join a wine club to help with that? Hey, we had to ask!
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