Uncorked Ventures Blog

Mark Aselstine
 
May 24, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

End of an Era-Parker to no longer review new California Vintages

One of the least understood facts in the wine trade is that Robert Parker doesn’t review every wine listed in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. For years the publication has been the foremost authority on fine wine throughout the world and Parker’s affinity for both Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and all things Bordeaux have helped those two regions gain even further market share during the last two decades.

It was with great sadness that we saw Parker’s decision to retire from reviewing current California vintages on Feb 1st, 2011. He’ll continue on with Bordreaux and with older California vintages, but this is really the end of an area.

For a man responsible for so much growth and change within the wine industry, we’re always been impressed with Parker’s ability to keep a level head about wine and wine critics. The long term implications for California wines are certainly unknown, but it’ll likely be years before the influence of Wine Advocate begins to wane, if it ever does.

Personally, we’re glad to see some added attention being paid to wine years after it was left in a cellar. There is perhaps nothing more frustrating than savoring a bottle for a generation, only to open it and be under whelmed by the entire experience. Here is hoping Parker can revolutionize cellared wine in the same way he did new releases with his once ground breaking 100 point scale.

“Dear eRobertParker.com Subscriber:

I am thrilled to announce that Antonio Galloni will have expanded responsibilities for The Wine Advocate and http://www.eRobertParker.com as of February 1, 2011. I would like to take credit for my powers of persuasion over recent years in trying to convince Antonio of the virtues of covering additional wine regions, but if truth be known, the writing was always on the wall that his enviable talents and passion for this field would ultimately prevail, and the beneficiaries are the world’s wine consumers.

Antonio will continue to focus on the wines of Italy as well as Champagne, but two new areas of responsibility for Antonio will include the red and white Burgundies of the Côte d’Or as well as the crisp white wines of Chablis, and the wines of California. These vast regions will benefit from the increased depth of coverage, as will all the major wine regions of the world.

Additionally, sectors that merit dramatically more attention but have not had sufficient coverage, including Beaujolais and the Mâconnais (now economically as important as the Cote d’Or and Chablis) will be put under a microscope by David Schildknecht, who will continue with his other areas of responsibility but will be freed from covering the Cote d’Or and Chablis.

I will turn to something I have long played around with in The Wine Advocate but have rarely had enough time to do. Older readers may remember the vintage retrospectives called “What About Now?” With Antonio turning his attention to California, I am going to begin a series of horizontal and vertical tastings of perfectly stored California wines that will give readers insight into how they are developing. It has been a long-term ambition of mine to include more reports on older vintages, and this change will allow me to do this not only in California, but also to increase the older vintage reports for Bordeaux and the Rhône Valley.

In all other respects, the staff assignments at The Wine Advocate remain identical. I hope all of you share our great enthusiasm for the fact that Antonio Galloni has finally taken the plunge and will be devoting most of his time to his wine writing career, a job for which he seems particularly well-suited and sure to excel.

All the best in wine and life,
Robert M. Parker, Jr.

P.S. The Wine Advocate writer assignments are:

Robert Parker – Bordeaux, the Rhône Valley, older vintages of Bordeaux, Rhône and California wines
Antonio Galloni – Italy, Champagne, Chablis, Côte d’Or, California
David Schildknecht – Germany, Loire, Beaujolais and Mâconnais, Eastern U.S., Austria,
Eastern Europe, Languedoc-Roussillon, Jura
Jay Miller – Oregon, Washington, South America, Spain
Lisa Perrotti – Brown – Australia, New Zealand
Neal Martin – Critic-at-Large overlapping all areas, plus specific reviewer of South Africa
Mark Squires – Bulletin Board supervision and occasional articles on Israel, Portugal, and Greece

Mark Aselstine
 
May 24, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Wine Blog Wednesday-1 Wine Dude

One thing we’ve realized at Uncorked Ventures is that many of our customers (and hopefully our readers here) are interested in finding new and exciting ways to learn about wine. Like us, they don’t want the usual conversation and stale tasting notes. To that end, we’ll be sharing blogs which we not only enjoy, but those which provide valuable information.

Our first featured blog is: 1 Wine Dude

Who writes it? Joe Roberts who believes in talking about wine in a real way for consumers without the time to memorize which vineyard in Oakville had unusually sunny days during the 2004 growing season. On a daily basis, 1 Wine Dude is a wine consultant and part of the band Sephage.

Why we read it? Frankly, Joe has an interesting and slightly off beat take on the world of wine. We respect his liberal comment policy, his weekly Twitter recaps (personally, I love those) and have enjoyed his stories of late about going pro and attempting to earn a living in the wine industry. As a start up ourselves, we remember those first days and believe he’ll be successful over the long term.

Bottom line it for us? If you want to find a wine blog written by a trained professional, without the up-tight attitude that many serious wine blogs tend to have while keeping an eye on wine news worldwide, 1 Wine Dude is a great, interesting and informative read.

Keep up the good work Joe and congratulations on getting a job for the man.

Mark Aselstine
 
May 24, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Before the Critics

Every so often we have a customer, or frankly a family member who asks the most basic question of them all: How do you guys find wine?

It’s a basic question, but also goes directly to the root of our business, why should a consumer spend their hard earned money with us rather than another online wine club with a bigger brand name or with a local wine retailer who won’t be charging them shipping every month?

Let’s start by talking a bit about the types of wines that we’ve found and we’ll follow up with some specific examples in an entry later on in the week with examples of how we found specific wines.

We are always trying to find high quality, small production wines before they receive their scores from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate or other industry publications. If we wait until after they’re scored, there is a real chance that there won’t be any wine to buy because quantities are so limited.

A great example comes from our Wine Exploration Wine Club. We recently shipped a Chardonnay from Mt Eden Vineyards, specifically their 2008 Wolffe Vineyard. 2008 wasn’t suppose to be a great year for wine, especially in the Edna Valley, but when we tasted the wine we thought it fell in closer with the wineries much pricier estate Chardonany’s than we were expecting. At a retail price of $20 it really was a perfect fit for our Wine Exploration Wine Club customers who are generally looking for quality wines which can be opened as soon as they arrive.

We weren’t surprised when we saw the following come across from Food and Wine Magazine and their annual list of the best wines $20 and under:

2008 Mount Eden Vineyards Wolff Vineyard ($20)
In 2008, bad weather in California’s Edna Valley drastically cut the amount of fruit from Wolff Vineyard but packed flavor into the grapes. Jeffrey Patterson makes this wine exactly the same way he makes Mount Eden’s pricier estate Chardonnays, producing a white with vivid flavors of pear, peach and lime.

We have had similar experiences with a few bottles and wineries, one of which was included in our February Special Selections Wine Club shipment this week. Come back for more examples of wines which we’ve shipped, before they were scored or approved by major critics.

Mark Aselstine
 
May 24, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Phylloxera

Phylloxera

When is a 10 letter word really a 4 letter word within the wine industry? How can a tiny aphid only 1/13th of an inch long and 1/16th of an inch wide capable of inflicting billions of dollars in damage?

Phylloxera is a tiny aphid which feeds on the roots of vines. The aphid has destroyed vineyards from North America, Europe, South America and all the way to Australia and everywhere in between.

As it turns out, Phylloxera is a native of North America. Most native vines to this continent come with some level of protection against the pest, but unfortunately these grapes are more suited to making grape jam than they are wine. Concord is a great example of a native grape to North America.

As it turns out French scientists in the 1860’s wanted to study American vines and sent for a series of samples to test. Unfortunately, Phylloxera hitched a ride with the vines and the results were largely catastrophic. By 1873 the entire French wine industry was in a state of upheaval with wine quality suffering and vines literally dying by the millions. The French government went so far as to offer a reward for anyone who could come up with a solution to the problem. Chemicals were tested without success. Likelywiese vineyards were flooded with water and even white wine…the pest kept coming.

Meanwhile the fledging California wine industry was planting European vines in their fields in an attempt to improve quality levels and gain a place in the international wine market.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the pest infected California vines and the same results quickly came to fruition. Finally a solution was discovered.

Plant American rootstock, but graft on European vines so you receive vines which are resistant to Phylloxera without sacrificing quality.

Things went quite smoothly and aside from a small outbreak here and there Phylloxera wasn’t heard from again until the 1980’s when the pest started to once again destroy California vineyards. As it turns out many California vintners had planted a version of the rootstock which was in effect half American and half European, making it susceptible to Plylloxera after only a few genetic mutations. California biologists knew the risks but proceeded anyway, while their European counterparts having been hit much harder by earlier outbreaks decided to plant only truly native American rootstocks.

So what was the cost to the California wine industry due to the 1980’s explosion of Phylloxera? At least 1.2 Billion Dollars was spent to re-plant vines and wait at least three years before being able to use the grapes commercially.

There is a positive to the story though. Biology and viticulture had come leaps and bounds ahead by the time the Plylloxera hit vineyards in the 1980’s when compared with earlier invasions. This new and advanced research has allowed vineyard owners to replant vineyards with clones and grape varieties more suited to their specific growing conditions.

As we’ve found in the wine industry, not every negative is truly a negative. The Phylloexera epidemic in the 1980’s led to a tremendous amount of suffering for California vintners, but the industry wouldn’t have the same quality level today if the pest had never come back to its ancestral home.

Time Posted: May 24, 2011 at 2:40 PM
Mark Aselstine
 
May 24, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Tasting Cabernet on Atlas Peak

Gorgeous View from Atlas Peak

 

During a recent trip to wine country in February we had a chance to spend a few hours visiting a winery on Atlas Peak. Although the winery is going to remain nameless for the time being since it is set to be included in a future shipment, we’ll file an update and likely an interview with the owner/winemaker once we’ve shipped his impressive Cabernet Sauvignon.

Atlas Peak has began receiving some attention nationally for the Cabernet Sauvignon grown on the mountain vineyards with a front page story even appearing on Wine Enthusiast Magazine in January.

The AVA has gained attention largely due to the success of Stagecoach Vineyard which has been used by such wine luminaries such as Uncorked Ventures favorite Paul Hobbs, Caymus, Plumpjack, Quintessa, and Pahlmeyer. Stagecoach is a good example of how the weather conditions create an interesting mix on Atlas Peak. Summer daytime temperatures are warm and since most plantings occur above the fog line, the average temperature sit at just below the level as the Oakville mean for Napa Valley. Nightime temperature drops are common partially because the AVA sits almost directly north of Carneros and receives the same type of maritime influence which has made Carneros famous.

So why try wine from Atlas Peak? To start, it offers a nice quality/price ratio as a relatively unknown AVA within Napa Valley. Secondly, mountain fruit has become more and more expensive during the past few vintages which have offered abundant enough sunshine to achieve full ripeness. Without the fog, ripeness should never be a major concern on Atlas Peak and it should offer a nice alternative to more pricy and well known AVA’s such as Spring Mountain, Howell Mountain and Diamond Mountain.