Uncorked Ventures Blog
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.
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 also represents something that I hope we can get back to over time (although with land prices sitting at around $500,000 per farmable acre in Napa, that's increasingly unlikely) which is a winemaker who owns the vineyard from which they produce their namesake wines. These are higher in acidity and more balances than almost anything else produced in Napa-more soon on Corison and why the property and winemaker is important in terms of both the history, but also the future of California wine.
Even an industry as old as winemaking and an item as classic as wine isn’t safe from trends. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Here are some of the biggest wine trends happening, and whether or not they’re worth your time.
Natural Wine first got a bit of a bad rap when it came onto the market, with some criticizing the wine for insinuating that other wines were not natural. But, even otherwise mainstream labels are now turning to sustainable practices. Is it worth it to give Natural Wine a sip? Well, considering that the current generation of young wine drinkers wants its yoga pants organic, its baby food non-GMO and its cars hybrid, let’s put it this way: sooner or later you may not have a choice but to drink Natural Wine. So you may as well develop a taste for it now. (Editor's Note, a winery putting natural on their wine label doesn't actually mean anything as of today and within the industry natural is a secondary concern as you have the "regular" wineries on one side and the biodynamic folks on the other. Natural wine doesn't even move the needle for getting people riled up. Also, who drives a hybrid car anymore really, I thought everyone was going 100% electric....or maybe that's just Berkeley. Oh and we have a "natural" wine going out this month in our monthly wine club shipments, so there's that)
You know a glass from Chile or France is usually a good bet, but what about other regions whose wines are making their way into your beverage isle? China, Hungary, Germany and Turkey are starting to sell almost as well as the more “traditional” regions wines. Should you try them? Of course! In fact, the odds are that the flavors that seep into Chinese vines and thereby wines, compliment Chinese food well. And the flavors in Turkish wines compliment Turkish food and so on and so forth. The ingredients for both the wine and the food in theory come from the same soil, after all. Plus, wines from formerly less popular regions will be less expensive than those from oh, say, Burgundy, France or Napa, California.
Chardonnays make a comeback
In recent years, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc have been the stars of the white wine world. Many believed they either had to go with the very clean, one-layer taste of Pinot Grigio, or the otherwise flavor-packed Sauvignon Blanc—Chardonnay was considered too sweet by many. But now cooler regions like Australia are making a name for themselves in the Chardonnay market, and with a cooler region comes a more tempered Chardonnay—something that falls right between a Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. (Editor's Note, we don't typically think of Australia as a cooler climate, far from it in fact, but I have had a few interesting versions of Grenache from less known areas in the country that are in fact, cooler than you'd expect. The demise of Australian wine imports is an interesting story in itself for another day, especially because they are in fact from cooler regions. The great hope for Chardonnay fans is that a country like New Zealand that's a really cool climate, gives the grape a try)
Wine sellers and food markets combine
Several Whole Foods markets already offer wine tastings, as well as wine bars, on site. And you’ll begin to see many fine dining restaurants offering their bottles to go (un-opened, of course). So, should you only stick to places that are exclusively wine bars to sip your wine? Should you only buy bottles from markets, and stick to a glass at a restaurant? Well, that’s up to you. The truth is that some restaurants might hike up the price of their bottles, knowing that their loyal customers will want to patronize them over a BevMo, while others will charge less than that bottle would be at a market, because they got it at a wholesale or bulk buy price. Know the retail price of the bottle before buying it from a restaurant, and as for wine tasting in a Whole Foods, why not? You get to enjoy their famous hot food bar at the same time. (Editor's Note: We have a local "natural" grocery store that has a prepared food annex that has a weekly wine tasting on Sunday's, which is packed, permitting issues aside, it's only a matter of time before the big boys in the Supermarket business catch on.)
Have you ever peeked across a restaurant and noticed someone drinking out of a wine glass drastically different than yours and thought, “That one looks fun! Why didn’t I get one of those?” Don’t worry: your server isn’t playing favorites. You were given your wine glass for a very specific reason. Here is a breakdown of the different types of wine glasses. (Editor's Note: At home, we don't have a huge collection of these, far from it. In my house, there are two choices, first a steamless glass from Riedel that we use in our gift baskets and that we use on a daily basis. As you might expect over the past four years of running this business, I've put together a pretty good collection of regular stemmed glasses from wineries and tasting events like Family Winemakers and the Rhone Rangers, we have those for friends who don't quite know what to make of the steamless options. My brother in law Matt has a wider set of choices, all stemmed and highlighted by his Bordeaux glasses which we all enjoy simply because they fit an entire bottle of wine and lead to what we affectionately refer to as, healthy pours)
The Syrah glass is actually a relatively new glass in the world of wines. Designed by the Reidel company, the wide glass tempers the rather concentrated flavor of the wine, and the narrow top brings out the fruit flavors.
For a Bordeaux, with its intense flavors, you use a tall glass with a wide bowl. The long glass keeps the alcohol fumes from traveling up to the nose, and the wide bowl aids oxidation.
A Burgundy glass has a wide bowl like the Bordeaux glass, but the curviature is less dramatic and the top is slightly more open. The big bowl brings out the bouquet of the wine, which travels up even easier because of the tapered top.
Wine Stemless white wine glasses don’t just cut back on broken glasses, but they also encourage the drinker to hold the bowl of the glass with their hands, warming the wine slightly and releasing the flavors.
The Sauvignon Blanc looks a bit like a miniature standard glass—it’s slightly shorter and narrower. The smaller glass lets you appreciate such an aromatic wine, and the thinner top also helps the aromas come out.
For a Pinot Noir, you use the wine glass that looks almost like a standard wine glass, but has a wider bowl. This shape of bowl lets the wine aerate best, and the contours of the glass let the bouquet notes come through.
For a Chardonnay, you’ll use the glass that looks a bit like a big bowl. This type of glass lets lots of air in, which brings out the subtle nuances of the wine.
Don’t attempt to pinch the short stem of the brandy snifter with your fingers—the stem has been shortened so you’re forced to cup the glass bowl with your hands. Warming it brings out the aromas.
A glass for this type of wine actually has the shape of an opening rose bud, so that helps you remember it. The flared top of the glass helps deliver the glass directly to the tongue with little change in flavor and the medium sized bowl helps bring out the fruity elements.
Champagne And finally, the flirty champagne flute.
The tall, slender shape helps keep bubbles in, and the tapered rim brings the Champagne’s bouquet to the nose.
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate has gone from awarding a small handful of 100 point wines every year, to well more than 100 last year (and a pace this year, for well over 100 once again). What's that mean for the industry? There's no perfect answer as of yet, but we're all trying to figure it out. One thing I do know, selling based on scores alone, might get harder-
Hey guys, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.
One of the interesting thing that's come up over the last few days, the Wine Advocate has now awarded over 500 bottles of wine over the course of their history at 100 points or a perfect score. Interesting thing is that there's a real proliferation of 100 point wines coming right now. 5 years ago, I think that the stats were that less than 50 wines had ever been awarded 100 points in the history of the magazine, and last year alone, there was 102 and there's been 68 already this year. That's kind of before the Bordeaux scores come out. We're looking at another kind of year with well over 100 100 point wines, and so it's just a note of when people get really into, "Well, this wine critic says it's 92 points versus 94 points," if you find somebody who has a similar palate to yours, that's probably a better way of going about it than looking just at the scores as you walk down the aisle. Frankly, I do it too, but it's something that I hope the industry in general can start to move away from (that's also coming from a wine club that talks about shipping wines only 90 points or better in quality, as opposed to scored at 90 points or above like our competitors), especially as kind of this score inflation thing goes out of control, which is what seems to be happening. Yeah, if there used to be a handful of 100 point wines every year, I think that makes sense. There's only so many perfect wines being made and now there's 100 or so a year. That just seems like a big number to me.
Anyway, Mark Aselstine, Uncorked Ventures, and this is the Proliferation of 100 Point Wines in the Wine Advocate.
I've been told by some people that these slice of life's within the wine industry are interesting, others find them dull. Either way, I'll keep talking about stuff that affects the wider wine industry because I think it's an insight that helps people to buy better value wine. Be it a 90 point wine club from a company like my own, or a cheap bottle from Trader Joe's....knowing some of the back story does lead to better wine.
Hey guys. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.
Yesterday was election day, as I'm sure everybody's aware at this point, given the steady stream of both tv ads and junk mail that comes in. Here locally, San Francisco and Berkeley both voted on sales tax increases for soda and other sugary drinks. It actually includes juice, too. I have a little kid in the house, so that kind of stuff is something that we notice. It passed in Berkeley not surprisingly, 3/4 of the folks voted for it. It's a 1 cent per ounce tax.
In San Francisco the thing failed. 55% of folks voted for it, but they needed 2/3 because it was going to go in a special fund. That's one interesting thing, at least locally. Second of all, around the elections there's always some changes in the way alcohol is sold, what's legal and what's not.
The state of Tennessee probably had the most movement yesterday. Voters unanimously approved the right for grocery stores to sell wine and beer. Frankly, that's not surprising. I don't think Tennessee and the folks that live there are asking too much at all.
Then the other one is in Oregon, they've had a constant churn of initiatives and ballot measures to try to label GMO products and different GMO products within wine or food. The wine industry was watching them pretty closely. It affects beer much more. There's some residual corn syrup often that's used in beer that would have to be labeled. Many wineries don't use anything that would need to be, but it's just something that on the labeling front, the industry itself is watching pretty closely just because as wine makers use sulfur and other stuff after fermentation, or refine wine before it's bottled, they're not sure exactly how much of that process they want to share, even no matter how clean it appears to most of us.
Anyway, election day came and went. Hope you're doing well.
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