Uncorked Ventures Blog

Mark Aselstine
 
July 4, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Happy 4th of July

On behalf of the entire Uncorked Ventures team, I wanted to wish everyone a happy 4th of July.  I hope you enjoy the day with friends and family!

Mark Aselstine
 
June 27, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Grape Clones

Within the fine wine industry there has been some talk of late about clones (specifically when it comes to Pinot Noir) and how they affect growing conditions and the wine which ends up in our glass.

While we understand that for the average member of our wine clubs, clones don’t matter, we thought it would be worth a brief mention in this space.

To start-what is a clone? Unlike Dolly the sheep, a grape clone is simply a grape vine with at least one preferably trait to other vines in the vineyard. That is usually something very simple such as having bud break slightly earlier (or later) or having berries which are somewhat larger. Really it could be any trait which the vineyard owner or winemaker finds helpful.

According to the University of California Davis viticulture department, clones are so incredibly close genetically to the other vines in the vineyard that they are virtually indistinguishable. When UC Davis researchers performed genetic tests on some of the most famous clones in Napa Valley (which they now keep disease free plantings of in their own vineyards, just in case) and found only a few small differences when patterning the genome out to fifty million places.

What does it all mean? From producer to producer, we think there are a wide selection of traits which affect the finalized wine much more than the specific clone which has been selected for the vineyard. Winemaking style, facility and yeasts in our estimation all have more affect on the wine than does a slight genetic difference.

For the average wine drinker, simply put I don’t think clones matter.  

Mark Aselstine
 
June 24, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Kenneth Crawford 2008 Pinot Noir Babcock Vineyard

It’s small producers, with engaging stories that we believe create the most interest in the wine industry, especially when their wines are at least as good, if not better than the highly marketed names we’re all familiar with. Kenneth Crawford certainly falls into that category.

Started by friends Kenneth J Gummere and Mark Crawford who worked at Babcock Vineyards (a great California Central Coast producer in its own right) the friends wanted to work together to produce the best, small batch production wines they could while utilizing some of the best vineyards in the state of California. As it turns out, despite having worked at Babcock Vineyards for years, it was a few years after the friends began Kenneth Crawford that they were able to buy fruit from the Babcock Vineyard, which is known as one of the top Pinot Noir vineyards in the area.

In many ways, this is the epitome of a classic Santa Barbara Pinot Noir. The vines in the vineyard have matured from their beginnings and are now 20 years old, giving the wines a nice combination of structure and the classic Pinot Noir vulnerability. We liked the overall set of flavors in this Pinot Noir, including its cherry notes and slight hints of spice and earth which are signatures of the Babcock Vineyard during our tastings. Overall we felt our Special Selections club members would enjoy this Pinot Noir and find that despite the incredibly small production of Kenneth Crawford (under 1,500 cases per year in total) that this was a world class Pinot Noir, produced at a fair price.
 

Mark Aselstine
 
June 22, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

B Cellars 2006 Blend 24

We’ve probably mentioned before, that at Uncorked Ventures we love companies willing to innovate. Personally, I also have an affection for Italian wine after spending a few weeks there and enjoying the food and wine culture. For those reasons, we always enjoy finding American versions of the Super Tuscan blend.

For those who aren’t aware, a Super Tuscan is simply a blend of wine which includes one international wine choice (typically Cabernet Sauvignon, but you also see Merlot from time to time) as well as a traditional Italian choice which is often Sangiovese or one of its clones.

Ok, so B Cellars in many ways is the exact winery we want to introduce to our customers. Innovative. Family owned and operated. Ambitious. High quality.

Outside of the above examples, B Cellars winemaker also deserves a mention here. Kirk Venge makes the wine for B Cellars and as many within the wine community know, his father Mils Venge is among the most famous and highly acclaimed winemakers in the industry. We think their winemaking styles differ somewhat, but the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree so to speak.

The B Cellars Blend 24 is an interesting blend of 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Sangiovese, 7% Petite Syrah and 7% Syrah. Scored at 91 points by Robert Parker, we felt the wine was underscored by a point or two because so few Super Tuscan style blends are produced in California.
 

Mark Aselstine
 
June 21, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Margerum Chenin Blanc 2009

At Uncorked Ventures, we can appreciate companies which are willing to do things a bit differently. We opened our doors in January of 2010, in the middle of the great recession which was hardly the safest time to sell a luxury good like wine.

Margerum Wine Company started, as so many great wineries do, as a garage project by someone already affiliated in the wine industry. Owner and Proprietor Doug Margerum worked closely with local wineries because he already owned what is the best wine shop in Santa Barbara, Wine Cask.

While many wineries in Santa Barbara and the greater Central Coast winemaking community have taken advantage of the media and commercial hit which is the movie Sideways to sell more Pinot Noir, even if they did not previously produce the varietal, Margerum has avoided the temptation. The winery is well known locally in Santa Barbara for its crisp and clean white wines as well as its red wines made from multiple vineyards. Their Uber Syrah is produced from the best Syrah vineyards in and around Santa Barbara.

The 2009 Chenin Blanc which we selected for our Wine Exploration Club customers in June 2011 was, we thought, a great example of the varietal. This is exactly the type of Chenin Blanc we like to pour for people who tell us, they only like Chardonnay. The higher acidity, nuanced flavors and crisp, clean mouthfeel make it a great pairing with seafood and summer salads. Lastly, with production of 100 cases, it fit well with our mission which is to find great wines, from small producers for our customers.