Uncorked Ventures Blog

Mark Aselstine
January 22, 2012 | Mark Aselstine

Unified Wine & Grape Symposium

This week Sacramento is the center of the wine world.


No, nothing is happening with the UC Davis Viticulture program.

The Unified Wine & Grape Symposium occurs this week at the Sacramento Convention Center. It’s the largest gathering of its type in North America, with well over 12,000 industry attendees every year.

We bring it up, not because we expect any of our customers or readers to attend as members of the general public, but as a notice that winery response times this week may be sluggish as owners, winemakers and general managers are likely out of the office.

Mark Aselstine
January 21, 2012 | Mark Aselstine

Reality TV & Wine

I have to admit, we watch plenty of reality tv in my house.

Usually it’s just Amazing Race and occasionally something along the lines of Toddlers and Tiaras (that one makes me sad though), sometimes it is Undercover Boss.

Undercover Boss is really, really good when it is a company with a really varied set of operations. Watching Todd Rickets (part owner of the Cubs) clean Wrigley Field rather poorly was quite a lot of fun.

It seems that along with the Bachelor this year, reality tv is smiling on the wine industry as Undercover Boss is making a stop in Sonoma with Kendall Jackson.

KJ has dominated Sonoma’s wine scene for well over a generation and I hope the company is able to put its best foot forward while President Rick Tigner is put through the paces in a series of entry level jobs.

Of course, more attention is always a good thing for those of us selling wine online. I do hope that the show is able to somehow help people to process the incredible work that a winery the size of Kendall Jackson and their various holdings put forth in order to produce five million cases of wine per year.

Mark Aselstine
January 13, 2012 | Mark Aselstine

Hold up a Minute-Red Wine, How Healthy is it?

Fabricated data.

When it comes to a research study, there isn’t any more damning set of words. It turns out that the work of leading cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Dipak K. Das is being called into question after his employer, the Univesity of Connecticut found a number of irregularities with his data as well as his lab practices. More from CBS News.

While I don’t want to draw any firm conclusions in days after the main advocate for red wine’s health benefits has been called on the carpet, there are a few other studies which have come to the same conclusion-including one recently completed by the Mayo Clinic.

In any case, it will be interesting to see what transpires in the coming days and weeks after every subsequent study is called into question and investigated as well.

Mark Aselstine
January 11, 2012 | Mark Aselstine

It’s a Wasteland and I Don't Mean New Jersey

One of the things that I love about Uncorked Ventures is being able to work with my brother in law. It makes the good times that much more fun and the rough patches a bit easier to handle. One of the other positives, is that we see humor in much of what we do with Uncorked Ventures. While we take our responsibility to find quality wines seriously, we don’t have to be serious all the time to do just that.

On a recent trip to Sonoma we were told by a winery owner that the wine being produced in Sonoma is a wasteland outside of some of the wines we’ve already worked with and presumably theirs. In any case, that’s become something of a catch phrase around the office of late.

I thought of it for our Wine Blog Wednesday feature because I wanted to feature a New Jersey wine blog (in honor of their state perhaps joining the 20th century and allowing outside wine shipments…seriously who do you trust more with your economy, Pennsylvania or California?) that I thought spoke our language. Some education, a small amount of tasting notes and some humor thrown in. It was more difficult than I imagined until I found South Jersey Wine and Dine. I’ll admit, I haven’t spent a lot of time in Jersey outside of a football game or two, a couple of layovers at Newark and a cloudy afternoon in Jersey City so the restaurant reviews aren’t a great help….they do come with some great photographs and wine pairing suggestions though-so the blog is well worth the read. Back in the depths I even found a nice compliment for an old stand by, Keenan and their Merlot let alone a mention for our friends over at Alpha Omega who famously survived a day of "hard" labor by Matt and I.  We couldn't agree more, Jean and Henrik are producing some truly memorable wines in a unique style for a winery situated directly on Highway 29.

Overall I just love the concept, review restaurants which allow you to bring your own wine and therefore avoid restaurants and their 300% markup.  Great idea!

Mark Aselstine
January 8, 2012 | Mark Aselstine

5 Wine Topics I’m Sick of Talking About, but Stand No Chance of Going Away


5) Spanish wines are the next big thing. No wait, Portugese wines are the next big thing. Wait, Italian wines are the next big thing. New Zealand. South Africa. Argentina. Chile. Etc Etc. The wine industry is growing world wide, here is hoping that regions everywhere improve the quality and the value of their offerings while keeping some sort of local character to their wines.

4) Robert Parker and his retirement from current California vintages. The first scores from Antonio Galloni are out and they are, not surprisingly, more of the same. Did anyone really expect a dramatic departure from Wine Advocate which has become the most trusted name in wine reviews?

3) The Other 46. I’m still wondering exactly how New York has weaseled its way into a grouping with California, Oregon and Washington. Despite several great examples to the contrary, I just haven’t seen the consistent quality from New York state yet-at least on the level produced consistently on the west coast. Great wines are being produced to be sure, but overall is the quality comparable? Can we just admit that great wine can be made anywhere and move on? New Mexico makes a great sparkeling wine lineup. Arizona is trying. Michigan is working hard. Virginia might be the best hope for the east coast. Texas and Texans love their own and the region outside of Austin is surprisingly temperate. 40 years ago Pinot Noir in Oregon sounded like a stupid idea, haven’t we learned anything? The wine industry is incredibly adaptable and more quality wine regions are a good thing, let’s let them all develop without trying to compare them all the time.

2) Cork versus artificial cork versus screw tops. I get it. Honestly I do. Artifiical cork doesn’t spoil any bottles, but it might not age as well and it definitely removes some of the romance from wine. Screw tops are easily and much more efficient for restaurants, bartenders love them as it saves at least 45 seconds per opening. For a busy restaurant in a major city, that could save you thousands of dollars per year. I think everyone in the industry knows all of this already-what’s the point in continuing the discussion if you don’t stand a chance of changing anyone’s mind? By the way, those natural cork ads as you enter wine country across the world talking about the environment seem like a winning proposition for an industry dependent on wine sales at $50 and above, exactly the market where people get really environmentally conscious.

1) Low alcohol content wines are better than high alcohol content wines. Heck, I’ve got to hand it to the French wine industry, they’ve turned the entire conversation on its head. No longer does it matter if a wine is balanced, or if you can tell the alcohol level in a wine. All that matters is that legally mandated alcohol level on the front of the bottle. For an industry that has fought so vehemently against scores, it’s a little odd don’t you think? I’m sick of the conversation because we’re missing the point. Warmer climates are going to produce higher alcohol wines. That’s just a fact. What isn’t a fact though is that all higher alcohol wines are out of balance. I could line up 10 wines we’ve shipped over the past two years that hit 14% or higher in alcohol and you’d have no idea because they are well made and the alcohol content is completely in balance with the fruit in the wine.