Uncorked Ventures Blog

Mark Aselstine
 
September 30, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

Corison Winery, A Napa Valley Gem Hiding in Plain Sight

I've taken the drive from San Francisco north up Highway 29 close to a hundred times over the past few years, I've never noticed Corison Winery sitting on the west side of the road though, just before you hit St Helena and the section of the 29 that the locals affectionately refer to as Napa Valley's main street, while all the while complaining about the continuously snarled traffic.

It might be that spot on the left hand side of the road that makes it slightly more difficult to reach for most people as they travel into wine country from San Francisco, or maybe people are already looking at the first views of non grape vines that they've had for ten miles as a string of restaurants and high end boutiques begins to appear in the quaint and charming St Helena, but Corison Winery is without a doubt, hiding in plain sight on one of the most famous stretches of road in the wine industry.

Here's an intro from the folks at Corison themselves, as a small word of warning, the sound is pretty low, but I thought it was important to let the people making the wine, talk about what makes them different and unique.

Video Transcription:

Welcome to Corison Winery. Cathy Corison is our founder, winemaker and [inaudible 00:00:06]. She’s one of the first female winemakers in the Napa Valley. She’s specializing in low alcohol, high acid Cabernet Sauvignon, 100% varietal. If you’re here, come give us a visit. Thanks! Cheers

I visited Wednesday September 17th and was greeted by what amounts to a beehive of activity.  Harvest in Napa Valley is well underway and Corison was in the middle of harvested their famed estate Kronos Vineyard. Owner and winemaker Cathy Corison is an important figure on a number of levels, as is the property itself.

Cathy Corison 

Mark Aselstine
 
Mark Aselstine
 
September 29, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

Spotted Wing Drosophila Comes to Bordeaux

Pests are a natural and ongoing problem for the wine industry.  From Phylloxera to the Spotted Wing Drosphilia, there is a seemingly never ending stream of pests that enjoy eating a few grapes at a time.  When you add these tiny pests to the standard vineyard wanderers like deer and of course the scourge of the wine industry in so many places, birds, growers have to be constantly on their toes.

 

Video Transcription:

Hey guys. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. Maybe not the most interesting news of the day, but maybe the most concerning. Vineyard owners, winemakers, and specifically the farmers that grow the grapes that we all enjoy in our wine deal with a large number of different pests. Some are native to areas. Phylloxera has gotten a huge amount of publicity since it's destroyed so many vineyards over the years. 

More recently over the last few days, reports have started coming out of Bourdeaux that the spotted-wing drosophila... excuse my pronunciation here... has started to show up. So it's a pest. It's 12 or 13 centimeters long. In essence, the thing looks like a bee. The big problem is that this a pest, unlike a lot of the others that they have that are native to Europe, that the spotted, wing version can actually inject eggs into a grape instead of waiting for a grape that's broken to inject the eggs. So it's a major problem. It's something they've dealt with in Napa. The 2009 vintage had some in Rutherford and Oakville. Down in Chile, they deal with it almost on a yearly basis. It's a warmer weather creature. They like warm wetter conditions, so they think in Bordeaux this is an offshoot of global warming. It goes to show, as much as we talk about rainfall in California and ground water and all that stuff, that pests moving into areas they weren't used to living in and grapevines that have been there really for a millennia have no natural way to combat that from evolution can be a major problem. 

So anyway, spotted-wing drosophila. We hope this is not something that ends up in the news substantially in the future. It's in Bordeaux and supposedly in Burgundy too, so we'll wish the French guys the best of luck. Thanks again. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Adventures.

Mark Aselstine
 
September 26, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

What is Botrytis?

Botrytis is often reffered to inside the wine industry by both winemakers and consumers, as noble rot.

That rot term, even with noble in front of it, tends to worry people a litlte bit.  Of course, botrytis is a fungus and in this case a winemaker is allowing, even encouraging it to grow on grapes.  Winemakers encourage its spread by doing a few different things, all of which you'd expect if you were trying to grow a fungus.  First, they tend to keep some level of grass or another ground cover close to the vines, which will keep water.  They then make sure that the grass is wet early in the morning.  Secondly wineries may sometimes have netting or something similar which has botrytis living on it.  By using that netting where they want the Botrytis to grow, they can ensure that it will begin to take hold on the grapes.

At this point, you're probably wondering why a winery or winemaker would want Botrytis, a simple fungus, growing on their grapes.  The answer is that the Botrytis removes excess water from grapes, leaving a combination of higher sugar as well as higher acidity.  That combination, when combined with a winemaker allowing the grapes to pick up even more sugar while hanging on the vine for a longer time period, leads to perhaps the perfect combination if you're making a dessert wine.

The perfect vineyard site for Botrytis is so prized that Chateau d'Yquem in Bordeaux has been granted Superior First Growth status by the French government (their 2nd best classification meaning they feel like it's one of the top 15 vineyards in the famous region of Bordeaux).  That staus has been conveyed almost exclusively because the vineyard at Chateau d'Yquem is susceptible to noble rot, experiencing the phenomenon every vintage, with little winemaker intervention.

At this point, it sounds like a pretty good deal right? Botrytis makes amazing dessert wines, so if you can figure out how to grow the fungus, you might think the wines would be more common place.  A main reason that Botrysised wines are not more common (or really common at all) is that botrytis and yeast (the stuff that causes fermentation or sugar to turn to alcohol) do not get along well.  Fermentation for these wines, is a constant struggle for winemakers.

Mark Aselstine
 
September 25, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

JC Cellars & Charles Smith Move Tasting Rooms

A couple of our favorite wineries are moving their tasting rooms to even more urban and walkable locations.  JC Cellars the urban pioneer in Oakland is moving to Jack London Square, a personal favorite of my son and I, while Charles Smith and perhaps the coolest winemaker around are moving to Seattle.  To date, only startup wineries have located in urban areas, but with established wineries moving into more urban areas as well, things are changing.  It's only a matter of months before we see a high end Napa winery open a tasting room, in New York City, at least that's my opinion.

Video Transcription:

How you doing? Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. So the last few days, or the last couple of weeks here in this space, we've talked a little bit about how the urban wine scene is both improving and expanding pretty rapidly. That news was heightened over the last few days. Two of our favorite wineries in and around the West Coast announced moves to more urban walkable tasting rooms. First, JC Cellars, which is one of the forebearers. They've been in a little spot just outside of downtown Oakland for about ten years now, and they're moving to a spot called Jack London Square. It's full of restaurants. There's a farmer's market on the weekend. It's a really nice spot to go and it's a redeveloping area in Oakland. And so that'll be really good for them. 

Up in Washington State, Charles Shaw...Charles Smith Wines, who has one of the most interesting and fascinating winemakers, I think, in the entire industry, has been having a tasting room in Walla Walla for quite a long time. Walla Walla is about four hours east of Portland and four hours east of Seattle, and they've announced that they're gonna be moving into downtown Seattle. So that'll move Charles Smith Wines along with...there's another joint project called Cave Vintners...into downtown Seattle. And I think that it's a good example of how the urban wine tasting scene is both improving in quality, but it's also starting to pull in wineries that already have established tasting rooms elsewhere. And I think that's the best example I can give you of how important this movement is and how much you're gonna continue to see it going in the future. Thanks again. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.