Uncorked Ventures Blog

Mark Aselstine
May 1, 2015 | Mark Aselstine

The Best Wine Writing of April 2015

Something new for us here at Uncorked Ventures, we’ll be featuring some of our favorite wine writing on the web.  We’ll cover blogs and independent writing moreso than the large nationally known sites and reviewers, since we find that people paying $50 for bottles of wine are already familiar with Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast and a host of other print mags.  Additionally, the blogosphere isn’t constrained by space, or typespace, so you can find more in depth, authoratitive studies of wines, wineries and wine regions.

WineCompass: A nice review of winechat from a couple of weeks back (I talked about it here).  I’m always interested to see people’s responses to chat’s like this and NAME HERE received wine from two classic Santa Barbara names: Bridlewood and Babcock. The Winecompass blog is interesting for a few reasons.  To start it’s based in Virginia, which gives the author an interesting perspective on California wine, as well as a slightly different way of experiencing it.  Plus, he covers plenty of beer in his space as well, truly one of the few places I’ve found online where I can read about truly local craft beer in Virginia.  Well worth a look.

Wine on Six: When of consumers largest complaints is that restaurants and wine bars charge so damn much for wine on their lists.  Wine on Six is based in the UK and does a good job covering that issue in their article about 67 Pall Mall, which is a new on site wine club in London. With a yearly membership fee and a swanky space, it’s much different than my setup, but many of the issues are truly the same: delivering value.  I enjoyed the look into restaurant markup’s in the UK, which I think is an interesting wine market to follow.  First, it’s a massive market and second, it’s been established for hundreds of years, most of which without a high end locally made wine industry.  It’s one of the few markets to carry those two constraints at the same time and continues to be among the most interesting markets in the world because of it.

The Wine Sleuth: It’s spring and the Wine Sleuth is among the first to realize that (maybe it’s still cold for the east coast folks?) and put together a list of the best and easiest ways to pair food and wine in the spring.  From anchovy toast, which might be a tough sell in my house, to chocolate dessert which would be a much easier sell, it’s an interesting and insightful look into what’s possible with classic spring food choices.

Luscious Lushes: Thea always has some interesting stuff and the same is true in April.  This month I enjoyed the article about El Dorado wineries, it’s a region that doesn’t as much respect as some others either in the main stream press, or the blogosphere.  I find the struggles of regions like Livermore, El Dorado and Lodi to gain press an interesting thing to watch and I was glad to see Thea cover Lava Cap, which rightfully is starting to gain a following by grabbing plenty of minerality in their Chardonnay.

Another Wine Blog: AWB is among the 10 best out there IMO and this is a good example.  While so many talk about large scale consumer tastings and how fun they are, I rarely end up enjoying them myself.  It’s hard to hear, it’s hot and quite frankly after a half hour, the wine begins to run together. AWB does a nice job at explaining some of the pitfalls of large scale consumer tastings, even when they’re put on by the Languedoc in France.

Wine Folly: Madeline has one of the most interesting sites in wine and probably the only one that does Infographics this darn well.  Really worth a look. I enjoyed the article about Brunello vs Barolo.  Italy is an interesting wine producer simply because the country uses native grapes for so much of its wine.  So many wine regions around the world have moved away from their native grapes toward international varieties, like Cabernet Sauvignon and certainly Italy has been successful with their Super Tuscan program (a blend of a native grape, with an international variety) but the backbone of their wine industry is still native grapes: in this case Nebbiolo or Sangiovese.  Personally, put me in the Barolo camp.

Chasing the Vine: Always one of my favorite blogs online because the images are awesome, Chasing the Vine had a series of postcard style shots from Paso Robles.  It’s a blog especially worth your time if you’re in NYC, as Lauren does a nice job at covering upcoming tasting events in and around the city.

Passionate Foodie: Has an interesting take on the single country wine list.  First, yes I agree….I think it’s perfectly reasonable for an Italian restaurant to have only wines from Italy. The one thing I HATE seeing at restaurants, is the exact same wines that are being served at the restaurant next door.  I want restaurants, especially if they’re making a 400% profit on each bottle of wine….to actually try to have an interesting list.  Is that asking too much? Passionate Foodie doesn’t think so.

Vindulge: Mary at Vindulge has one of the most in depth pizza posts I’ve ever seen.  Smoked vs grilled pizza, along with pairing advice and a brevy of interesting images? Sign me up for more posts like this one, even if it’s something of a guest post written by Mary’s husband (extra credit, for the baby Bjorn)

We realize that people who are members of our wine clubs buy wine from others, like their local wine retailer, grocery store, etc.  We also know they likely gather information about the wines we ship as well as other wine information from other sources.  We're happy to share some of our favorites.

Time Posted: May 1, 2015 at 9:22 AM
Mark Aselstine
April 29, 2015 | Mark Aselstine

Evening Lands Vineyards La Source Pinot Noir Seven Springs Vineyard Oregon 2012

Evening Land VIneyards Pinot Noir La Source, Seven Springs Vineyard 2012

Evening Land Vineyards: This is one of those wines and wineries where I thought about putting together a 2 word newsletter.  I considered: “Your Welcome” or “”My Pleasure” or simply “98 pts Wine Spectator”. Ok so maybe that last one isn’t exactly two words, but it’s true in this case.

One thing that we’ve always wanted to do, is have shipped the eventual wine of the year from Wine Spectator.  Of course, it isn’t so easy to do that, simply because the list comes out and then inventory dries up completely-plus most of the winners are from larger wineries that wouldn’t be a great fit in our club.  For some reason, I have a feeling that Evening Lands is going to end up pretty darn high on the list this year-largely based on the 98 point score lavished on this bottle, but they have another offering from the same vineyard scored at 96 points and an “entry level” bottling scored in the low 90’s.  Plus, given that Oregon has yet to be given the crown of “wine of the year” and maybe, just maybe, this is the year.  Oh the 2012 vintage in Oregon is superb across the board too, when combined with what many consider to be a crappy 2011 in Napa and Sonoma (Cabernet typically gets released about a year after the typical Pinot, thus different vintages competing) well again my mind starts to wonder at the possibilities.

You may be wondering how Evening Lands got into your shipment in the first place.  Let’s start with some basics, the wine is made in Oregon, although the winery also makes wine in Santa Rosa, Burgundy and up until a year or so ago, in Santa Barbara County as well.   There’s a long and drawn out history here for both the winery itself, as well as the Seven Springs Vineyard.  Both have gone through multiple ownership changes and continue to be in a bit of a state of flux-although this is a bigger operation than we typically work with, the pedigree and winemaker is hard to ignore. Long story short: hollywood producer Mark Tarlov started the label in ‘05 with the goal, like so many others, to make a world class Pinot Noir.  He had backing from some names like consulting winemaker Dominique Lafon, heir to a winemaking legacy in Burgundy as well as Dorothy Cann who only heads the James Beard foundation, so money and access was never any object.  Almost right away they tried to purchase the 100 acre Seven Springs Vineyard, only to find it not for sale…..but as was reported back in ‘07 and ‘08, they ended up signing a 45 year (this is about 10x longer than a standard lease) to buy the organically farmed fruit that they desire from Seven Springs. More changes came in ‘12 as their Sta Rita Hills vineyard was sold to winemaker Sashi Moorman and a group of investors…..which is where we initially learned about what might be coming with the 2012 Seven Springs vintage.

Winemaker Sashi Moorman has a regular day job at Stolpman Vineyards down in Santa Ynez, which is where we initially met him.  Moorman is an interesting and insightful guy, a kind of winemakers winemaker, he has a diverse set of interests and seems like someone who would simply be miserable doing anything else other than making wine, or perhaps doing a bit of photography. He’s also pretty forthcoming about the wines made at Seven Springs and while he’s been happy about the spin off project that Evening Land has created for him (called Domaine de la Cote, likely coming in a future shipment) he strongly, ok very strongly, suggested we take an allocation of the Seven Springs wines….sight unseen and untasted, before any critical scores came out. We’ve never had a winemaker suggest anything like that to us for a wine he didn’t make himself and our customers have always enjoyed Moorman’s wines….so we took the plunge.

Then the Wine Spectator scores came out in early February and we had other wine businesses, begging us to sell them the allocation that we had paid for up front.  We declined.

After all, 98 points is the highest score Wine Spectator has EVER given to an Oregon wine (note: there’s been 2 Syrah’s grown in Oregon given 98pt scores in the past, but both of those were actually made in Washington, the Oregon folks don’t count them and take their inclusion on lists like this as an affront to their local wine industry….yes there’s a ton of competition in the Pacific Northwest).

Ok, I won’t keep going here because this is perhaps the best wine we’ve ever shipped:please note La Source is sold out directly from the winery and there is extremely limited stock available elsewhere as of early April 2015.

Ok, so the best wine ever made in Oregon is going out in wine club shipments this month, did you miss out?

Mark Aselstine
April 28, 2015 | Mark Aselstine

Evening Lands Vineyards: Wine Spectator's Favorite Oregon Pinot Noir

I don't talk about critics scores all that much in this space, frankly because I don't believe that anyone, no matter how great their palate, can appreciate 50 wines tasted in about 5 minutes. I've been wrong before, but Wine Spectator IMO, with their multiple tasters and blind tasting setup, does the best job at covering wines in a fair way.  We don't buy based on score alone often, but sometimes, like in the case of this Evening Lands Pinot Noir, there's a score simply too high and too good to pass up.  98 points for the Evening Lands La Source Pinot Noir, is the highest score Wine Spectator has ever given an Oregon wine.

Video Transcription:

Hi guys, Mark Aselstine with Uncork Ventures. First, happy Monday. Secondly, April wine club shipments are leaving concurrently and I wanted to take some time before I am out of bottles to talk about something we've almost never done. In April we have club shipments that are going to include all three levels; our Explorations, our Special Selections and our Reserve Selections level. A bottle from Evening Land Vineyards. In fact our folks in our Reserve, which is really out premium wine club are going to get two. Here's some of the back story.

If you're a subscriber to Wine Spectator, I'm not supposed to talk about that at length without giving them some more credit than this. Spectator came out with rankings for Oregon Pinot's back in February and quite frankly the folks from Evening Land blew it out of the park for lack of a better term. They had bottles scored at 98 points, 96 points and 91 points. That's how they go out to our club members.

Evening Land is an interesting project. The history is pretty convoluted and quite honestly would take me longer to tell than we have time in this space. Hollywood Director starts a winery because, that's something that happens, we've seen it with Cayman and Sonoma and a few others as well. In essence they buy a Senorita Hills vineyard, they buy a vineyard in Burgundy and they sign a forty-five year lease for a vineyard up in Leola Hills of Oregon. That's quite honestly one of the interesting things about it. They weren't able to buy the Seven Springs vineyard, just because it wasn't for sale. So they signed a lease that was long enough that would give them, in essence, give them complete control of the vines for their entire life. That's were these wines come from.

On the entry level point, which is going out to our Explorations club. This is a Willamette Valley Pinot scored in the nineties. Quite honestly, if I was going to have an Oregon Pinot that was going to be a house pinot for my house this might be it; just an incredible, incredible wine. It's a great look. You get some of that classic both the sour cherry that Oregon is known for but also the earthy tone that you just can't get in California.

I think what people are going to be more interested are both the Seven Springs Pinot, which is the single vineyard version, and the Lesaurus, which is a barrel selection from the Seven Springs vineyard. At 98 points this is the highest score Spectator has ever given to an Oregon Pinot. There's been a couple of Oregon Syrah's that have been given 98 points, but, the Oregon folks would tell you quite quickly that those actually weren't vinified in

Oregon. They were grapes that were grown in Oregon then taken up to Washington and Washington Winery made the wine. Literally the highest scored wine in the history of Oregon. Our Reserve Selection members you're welcome.

At Special Selection level 96 points I think speaks for itself. I think that as folks receive these wines they are going to be excited about them. The follow up is I have no extra inventory. I'm really sorry, we've looked around on Wine Searcher. There's frankly no inventory around. That's what happens with a lot of this stuff. When the scores go into the stratosphere the inventory dries up completely. That's what we've seen happen.

We may have an extra bottle or two. If you shoot us as email we can see where we're at. In essence we're out, everybody else is out. Best of luck if you're trying to get more of it. At 96 and 98 points we hope that you're able be at least a little bit patient after you receive it. Truly some of the best wine we've ever shipped and we hope you enjoy them. We hope you're enjoying your wine club membership. Thanks again, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.


Mark Aselstine
April 24, 2015 | Mark Aselstine

The Best of Wine Travel on the Web: April 2015

Which Way to Booker Vineyard?One thing I’ve realized, my customers pretty much love spending time in wine country.  That isn’t surprising, after all that’s pretty much my favorite part of the job as well. That being said, while many of our customers will reach out to plan part of their vacation, we can only help with the trips and regions that we cover.  Since we love to travel, here’s some of the best wine related travel articles we’ve run into online of late.

Go Nomad: Gets Sonoma right by featuring Healdsburg, if only they’d update their winery list with some smaller names or the new addition of what’s being joking referred to as “Pinot Alley” by the locals. That being said, this is easily one of the best portraits of Healdsburg that I've seen online in some time.  While you might go for the wine, the centralized town square feels like you're stepping back in time, to a simpler time in American history.

Traveler’s Digest: Is one of the first one’s to recognize something that’s been percolating the wine industry for some time: the rise of urban wineries.  I wasn’t aware that there’s an urban winery on an inland off Hong Kong (90k people in about a square mile seems insane to this quasi-urban Bay Area resident where we have about 13k people in the same amount of space, a density that scares our family and friends from the suburbs in Southern California).

The Lost Girls: Get mostly everything right about a trip to wine country.  One thing they should add though that most people aren’t aware of: winemakers actually enjoy having people say hello and make appointments.  Planning a trip with specific stops is fun, but spending an hour with an interesting and engaging winemaker will likely be the the part that you remember most about your trip.  Winemakers also tend to make wine at more than just one winery (almost all make something for a label owned by themselves or their family and are happy to share).  Oh and yes, wine shipping laws continue to get better, but also continue to suck for many states.  My apologies if you live in Utah, you’re never getting wine from anyone, anywhere….ever.

Delicious Baby: One of the first blogs to let out the secret in downtown Napa....this is where the families actually live and yes, there are facilities that cater to them.  From some of the better parks in the Bay Area to Scientopia, there'a actually a ton more to do for the preschool set in Napa than most people expect.  Oh, and as you might expect, even at a kids museum.....there's some damn good food.

Dave's Travel Corner: Does a good job explaining the rising foodie scene in Paso Robles.  Some background, I went to UCSB and Paso Robles is a pretty good stopping spot between Santa Barbara and the Bay Area....a drive I made at least a dozen times.  When we started drinking wine more after college, we were surprised that the little sleepy town had as much good wine as it does.  Of course, an earthquake spurred some development downtown after we had moved, but there's a ton to appreciate about Paso Robles. Dave does a good job showing Paso is more than just wine and if you happen to have a husband or wife that doesn't drink wine and only enjoys beer....Paso might be a better vacation spot than some better known wine regions within California.

This Boundless World: Exposes a clueless wine shop owner that hates Sideways (yes, Pinot sales went up immediately after the movie, which coincided directly with the virtual death of Merlot, RIP to that grape in California) and gets Paso Robles exactly right.  Unlike say Napa, Sonoma or even Santa Barbara, there isn’t as much of a local media in Paso, which in large part still feels like a small farming community, that just so happens to focus on grapes.  That leads to a lot of tried and true advice from people who have spent only a few hours in town, that misses some of the best wine in Paso which is often being made by small wineries.  Focusing on Rhone varietals probably hurts their marketing efforts as well.  After all, have you heard of Marsanne and Roussane?

Travel Pulse: Covers a Sheraton study that shows people are 3x more likely to want to pick up a glass of wine on vacation when compared to either their smartphone, or incredibly their spouse. Not surprisingly, the results have given Sheraton a new clear mission: provide better, more interesting wine.

As We Saw It: Finds one of France’s truly hidden gems: Colmar.  At the center of Alsace, it’s also the ancestral home to one of the world’s most misunderstood grapes (maybe because we simply can’t pronounce it, let alone spell it in English) Gewurztraminer.  Worth a look for the images alone on their post, As We Saw It describes Colmar as perhaps being Belle’s home in Beauty and the Beast…..I couldn’t agree more.  Pretty amazing stuff.

Wanderlust and Lipstick: Gets wine country like perhaps no other site devoted in large part to travel.  Maybe it’s their location in Washington (perhaps the world’s least appreciated GREAT wine destination) but Trupi get’s it right when it comes to Napa: everyone drives and fights the traffic on HIghway 29, but there’s at least three better ways to get to know Napa.  First, ride a bike through the vineyards.  Second, walk around Yountville, downtown Napa, Calistoga and St Helena among others. But, Napa might be one of the best hiking destinations in California.  Their Napa hiking entry is one of the best I’ve run into.

The Planet D: Covers the Niagara Ice Wine Festival.  A misunderstood type of wine, ice wine is much as you might expect.  Grapes are allowed to hang on the vine well into winter, once the grapes begin to freeze, they are pressed and the amount of liquid that comes from each grape is dramatically lessened. What does make it out, is incredibly sweet though, which has made ice wine a favorite for dessert for millennia in Europe. Niagara is one of the few regions in North America to attempt it simply because it’s damn hard to make and risky (rot often happens and ruin a complete harvest all at once). Like Port and other sweet wines, people typically enjoy Ice Wine quite a bit….if they’re willing to give it a try. Planet D shows why it’s well worth the time to attend smaller festivals like this, from the food pairings to simply being treated well, it’s an interesting and often memorable way to enjoy wine.

Family Travel Magazine: Hits one question that we get pretty often, can I bring kids with me to Napa or Sonoma?  Both are more family friendly than you might expect, Sonoma in peculiar.  Sonoma Square is a favorite of ours (we have a preschooler these days) because of the playground, small pond and more.  I’ve sent quite a few friends and customers to Yountville (it’s part of Napa Valley) with kids and have yet to have anyone tell me they didn’t enjoy their day. Jodi also brings up a good point, high end hotels have heard it all before and if you need a few hours away from your kid(s), those in room babysitting services generally have good reviews, especially if its something like her case, where a wedding wasn’t open to kids.

George’s at the Cove: Low and behold an old standby restaurant in San Diego, actually has a real blog, that reads like it is written by a real person.  Bravo guys.  Seriously, I’m utterly impressed.  I’ve seen plenty of restaurant “blogs” that are really nothing more than a space for the restaurant to announce their next special dinner.  Guys, that’s something to goes on a home page, not as a blog post.  Heck, I’d love to see images of the special meal that you cooked, but not the 2 paragraph fake press release.  Ok rant over because George’s does a great job at blending the complicated pieces of sharing information, as well as selling you on their restaurant (which has truly been one of San Diego’s best for about a generation). BTW, the Bad Religion jacket definitely does give away the Southern California roots, that comes on in the car sometimes and I scare the SF locals.  Anyway, this is an interesting look at how a chief visits Napa.  Of note and something to add perhaps, the lead winemaker at Vineyard 29 is technically Phillipe Melka (perhaps the best known consulting winemaker in the world these days, with all due respect to Michele Rolland and Paul Hobbs) but the day to day operations fall to Keith Emerson.  For George’s, hope they had a chance to say hello because Keith’s a San Diego guy (went to the same high school as I did, Rancho Bernardo) and makes a line of his own wines called Emerson Brown.  He also grew up in the restaurant business, so it would be a good connection….plus he fits into what George’s had to say about Vineyard 29.  Emerson told my wife and I on a visit that he feels as much like a scientist as anything else, Vineyard 29 is probably more science than art….there’s a place for that in Napa I hope.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this look into wine travel on the web.  Plenty of places look like fun right?


Mark Aselstine
April 24, 2015 | Mark Aselstine

Anderson Valley: A Question of Scale

Back on April 1st, I had the opportunity to attend a trade tasting for the Anderson Valley Winegrowers, which took place on the Mendocino Coast(in a gorgeous little stretch of coastline in the town of Albion).  As it turns out, my email probably had ended up in the wrong spot of their list because of the tasting was meant for locals in the Mendocino area, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to taste wines from about half of the forty or so Anderson Valley winegrowers.

view of the Mendocino Coast from Anderson ValleyI was excited about the tasting (if not the 3 hour drive each way) after having some experience with a few Anderson Valley projects.  I first tasted the style of wine being produced in the Anderson Valley through Anthill Farms and their Comptche Ridge Pinot Noir, which has led us to source directly from Comptche Ridge itself (they make about 50 cases of wine per year only, you can read a bit about our experience and thoughts on their wine here) as well as working with Baxter WInery a few months back as well.

In California we’re definitely in the middle of a venable sea change in terms of the style of wine being made.  A new generation of winemakers is coming of age and looking, not for the best Napa Valley vineyard that they can find, but instead for the coolest climate vineyard around. That search has led many to the Anderson Valley, which might be the most Burgundian style growing region in California.  The locals definitely appreciate the style of wine that they make and it’s pretty consistent across all the brands in the Valley.

The drive into the Anderson Valley is worth a mention simply because it’s one of the most remote winegrowing regions I’ve visited in California. From San Francisco you’ll drive north through Sonoma County passing Santa Rosa and Healdsburg and eventually exiting the freeway by the famed Dry Creek Valley.  Then you drive west on a winding one lane road for about 90 minutes.  I went from thinking I was going to be ridiculously early, given I had two hours to make the last 45 miles of the drive, to eventually thinking Redwood Groves along Highway 128that I would certainly end up being late. There was a period about 5 miles in (which seems to be the slowest part of the trek, that I thought I wouldn’t make it at all….heck one winemaker at the tasting joked that she lived in Sonoma when she first started and the result was listening to plenty of books on tape….yes the radio leaves almost immediately….it is a true valley after all) In the end I had enough time to grab a sandwich at the historic Navarro Market and ended up being right on time.

The drive across highway 128 to Anderson Valley really made me think of the scale of the whole place.  From the lengthy drive, to the huge Redwood groves that the road is cut through, to the size of the wineries in Anderson Valley themselves…..the scale in Anderson Valley is truly different.  The wineries in Anderson Valley made me laugh a bit simply because so many of them are family owned and operated (many without any additional staff, unless they have a small tasting room) so making two thousand cases of wine seemed like a fairly large operation.  I had one winery tell me, they were getting pretty big...1,700 cases.  When I compare that to places in Napa Valley that seem to think 100,000 cases of wine per year is still small and unknown, the sense of scale really becomes almost overwhelming.  In Anderson Valley Goldeneye is probably the biggest name nationally and they pegged their own production at about 20,000 cases of wine, which would hardly even get them a tasting room in the Russian River Valley where the average production is at least twice what Goldeneye produces and probably ten times the average production in Anderson Valley.  While I could  talk about the about Anderson Valley for quite a bit more time here in this space, I thought taking about some of the wineries I met during the tasting on the Mendocino Coast would provide a better example of the types of wines being produced.

Panthea Wine: From Panthea Wine I had a chance to chat with Jess Boss, who owns the label along with her husband Kelly, as well as their toddler in tow.  A 2 person shop they’re making under 2,000 cases per year and Jess was kind enough to give me a partial lay of the land so to speak in Anderson Valley, from a local’s perspective.  I can appreciate the trials and tribulations that a small label like this goes through, after all it’s hard to take a vacation when you don’t have staff right? I came away impressed by both their single vineyard offering from the Londer Vineyard, as well as their entry level Siren offering, which is a blend from 6 different vineyards. I’ve talked about the scale of Anderson Valley before and price points here are worth a mention, at $28 and $38 respectively, they’re leaving some cash on the table in my opinion.  These are both really solid offerings, more Burgundian in style than Sonoma, this is the type of label that wine lovers whom love European styled Pinot Noir, would be incredibly happy to support.

Lichen Estate: Originally called Breggo Cellars and located on a 150 acre former sheep ranch (I can attest to seeing a TON of sheep on my way through Anderson Valley, if you’re looking at buying a few hundred acres in the Anderson Valley, it’s likely a sheep ranch right now) Lichen Estate has been around since 2005 and with ten years in business, it’s one of the elder statesmen in Anderson Valley wine.  That status comes through both in the wine, but as well in their variety of offerings.  There’s some really unique stuff happening here such as their Les Pinots Noirs and Gris

Meyer Family Cellars: a Cold Climate Syrah?Meyer Family Cellars: No matter what wine region you’re in, there’s always one guy in the room making something different than everyone else.  I always want to find “that guy”.  In the Anderson Valley I think Matt Meyer is that guy, for two reasons actually. First, Matt focuses on Syrah in the Anderson Valley. Cool climate Syrah is totally a thing and might be what ends up saving the grape in California over the long term, these are interesting and complex wines at belie their $28 price point (I saw that $28 intro red wine price point at a number of winery tables, which seems to mean it is a concerted effort at pricing, still incredible given the quality and the fact that if Meyer Family Cellars said Russian River Valley on the label, they’d easily be getting $40 a bottle for them).  Matt’s also a second generation winemaker, which is rare in a part of the California wine industry where the first plantings happened in the 80’s. The first generation focused more on Napa Cabernet, which comes through with an Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon that is produced by Meyer Family Cellars.

Phillips Hill Winery: One question that I always ask at tasting events when I spend some time with a winemaker and they seem to understand what I’m looking for, is who else I should spend some time with.  Toby Hill of Phillips Hill Winery was mentioned all three times I asked the question and I came away utterly impressed by his offerings.  With a tasting room right off highway 128, I was surprised to hear that production was under 2,000 cases….especially given some of the multiple 90+ point scores that have come Phillips Hill.  Simply one of the best wineries in Anderson Valleyfrom the property already.  Toby also mentioned that he was high school friends with the owner of Comptche Ridge Vineyards, a winery that largely was my introduction to the Anderson Valley and a wine that our customers will still ask about to this day.

Handley Cellars: Milla Handley is something of a founding member of the Anderson Valley.  Truly one of the first female owned wineries in California, Handley received her viticulture degree from UC Davis (where else?) back in 1975. Time at Edmeades and Chateau St Jean (under famed winemaker Richard Arrowood) prepared her for her own project, which opened in 1982. One thing we chatted about for a while was the organic certification of her estate vineyard, which came at no small expense in terms of either money, or time.  Most small wineries (and yes, despite the 30+ years in existence, this is still a very small production winery) don’t take the time or spend the money to achieve the certification.  The aromas of the Handley Gewurztraminer will literally blow you away and it’s worth it to find a bottle of Milla’s Gewurztraminer for that reason alone.  It’s a unique look into a white wine that deserves more attention than it currently receives.

There were at least another dozen wineries there, that deserve a mention in this space, but then again there’s the issue of space.  Anderson Valley is well worth a look based alone on the Handley Cellars classic Anderson Valleyquality of the wine being produced, but there’s also in an interesting spot where the wider wine market is coming straight into what they do well, cool climate varietals made by smaller, family owned wineries.  Those are exactly the type of wineries that our customers expect to find in our wine club shipments, so you can expect to see some of these names show up in upcoming months.  This was perhaps the most impressive industry tasting I’ve attended in the past two years and I’m greatly looking forward to learning more about the Anderson Valley in general, the wine in peculiar and to gain a greater understanding why so many simply nice and considerate people started their wine journey’s in one of California’s hardest to reach valley’s.