Uncorked Ventures Blog

Mark Aselstine
November 3, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

Veteran’s Spirit Gallant Few Proprietary Red Blend

Veterans' Proprietary Red WineI don’t like to have to talk about how stuff like this shows up in my email every so often, but a few weeks back I was approached by the folks behind Veteran’s Spirit to help with distribution of their new Proprietary Red Blend. Usually these wines suck, no matter how good the attached story.

The story here is that the company gives $1 per bottle sold back to veteran’s groups that help service members when they return home. Having grown up in San Diego, perhaps the quintessential military town, it didn’t come as a surprise that Marines get a 6 week boot camp and then any additional number of training units before deploying even in the worst of circumstances, but receive only a week of part time help to get acclimated to civilian life.

While I didn’t serve myself, I think we can all agree, that seems like it leaves a gaping hole for NGO’s to fill. Veteran’s Spirit works with some of the best around to do just that and it is a project that we were happy to support. Oh and I would have never included in your wine club, if I hadn’t felt that the quality was pretty incredible as well.

Here’s the back story and why I’ll continue to be involved, the Foundry is a winery and custom crush facility originally from Napa Valley and more recently relocated to Sonoma (cheaper, more industrial space etc) that’s behind this wine. I’ve been a pretty big proponent of their high end Cabernet’s, especially those from mountain growing regions, largely because winemaker Patrick Saboe (who learned the trade at venable names like Hanzell & Pezzi King) who is able to capture a mixture of fruit and acidity that pleases everyone who opens a bottle. What’s important to note here is that the guys behind the Foundry feel as strongly about this project as anyone and in essence what happened, was a collection of a bunch of extra barrels, most of which come from wine in price points significantly higher than this one. The wine was combined for a blend that’s pleasing to the palate, wallet and our better nature’s.

Staff Writer
November 3, 2014 | Staff Writer

The Best Wines to Drink with Pumpkin Treats

With Thanksgiving and Christmas within our sites, and not to mention the market shelves filled with pumpkin-flavored treats and your free will to eat said treats because you’re an adult—damnit…! Okay, we got ahead of ourselves there thinking about pastries. But as we were saying, you need a good wine to enjoy all those pumpkin goodies with this fall and winter. And here are the wines for the job.

Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato

This refreshing wine with its bright pink grapefruit and mandarin offset some of the richer flavors of pumpkin desserts, but it also has notes of cotton candy and toffee apple, which pick up some of the nuttiness of pumpkin pie.

Chateau Des Charmes Late Harvest Riesling Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

This is a nice crisp Riesling that you can drink several glasses of (which you’ll need because you want to try every dessert at the enormous dessert table—duh) without getting tired of it. The wine has notes of peach and nectarine, so it’s fruity but light and great for heavy or cream-based pumpkin desserts.

Inniskillin’s Sparkling Icewine

All you want to do is leave room for dessert after a big holiday meal, and it also happens to be one of the most challenging things to do. At least you can save a little room by sticking to this refreshing, bubbly wine. The bubbles actually aid digestion—something you could probably use a little help with at this time.

Andrew Quady Essensia, California

Let’s say what everyone is thinking right off the bat: it doesn’t hurt that this wine has 15% ABV since where there is pumpkin pie there are often insufferable in-laws, relatives and unwanted guests. But, this wine boasts much more than booze. It’s made from the orange muscat grape, so it has all the aromas you’d want of fall like orange blossom, pear, honey and apricot. It’s great if you’re having a pumpkin pie that has a lot of spices.

Pedro Ximénez Sherry

If you want a rich, full wine to eclipse your pie, this is it. Often made with raisins, this port wine is quite sweet, but the sweetness is slightly cut by the 15% to 17% alcohol content.

Château Lamothe Guignard

This sweet white wine is part of the Bordeaux family. It has strong notes of honey, as well as some ripe, sweet orange and slightly bitter marmalade—perfect for a zesty but sweet pumpkin dessert. Charles Thomas Pouilly-Fuisse This is a truly complimentary wine for pumpkin pie, with notes of baked apple and cinnamon—the flavors of fall. But because it’s a Chardonnay, it also has a crisp acidity that works well to temper a rich dessert.

Mark Aselstine
November 2, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

Kasauri Petite Sirah Napa Valley

About Kasuari: If there was ever a stealth and unknown label coming out of Napa Valley, this is it.

Kasuari is a relatively new project from winemaker Michael Peters, who spends his days helping to craft the critically acclaimed Sonoma wines of Quivira. Sourced from an area of Napa Valley called “The Terraces” this is an interesting Petite Sirah, perhaps more unique than I believe the major wine critics to believe.

I’ve run into Terraces abbreviations before and while there is a winery that uses the name as part of their nomenclature, when winemakers refer to the Terraces, they aren’t referring to a single vineyard and certainly not the entry level price point driven winery that is using the name these days. Instead, they’re referring to the hillsides on the eastern edges of Napa Valley, as wineries and vineyard sites off the Silverado Trail begin to climb into the foothills.

It’s an interesting region and one that didn’t come to the forefront of Napa Valley until the early 90’s when names like Signorello Estate & Darioush started espousing the virtues of Napa Valley grapes, grown with at least a bit of altitude. After all, not everyone was going to be able to find space on the valley floor and some of these vineyards were significantly older than what’s down there anyway, many planted in the 60’s, or even before.

For Petite Sirah when vine age is often capped at 25 years or so elsewhere in California, growers are risking yields anywhere past that point, in the old world they’ll often let a vine continue to be in ground until it goes 2 vintages without a harvest. In Napa though, other than Corison, I’ve never heard of another winery with a similar setup...especially when it comes to Petite Sirah which generally confuses consumers.

Even at our higher end wine club levels, have you ever bought a Petite Sirah at a wine store without prodding? Most of the other old Petite Sirah vineyards were long ago grafted onto Cabernet. For that reason alone, this is an interesting wine, to me at least. It’s also interesting because at 25 Brix, it’s about twice the sugar content as regular grape juice that my 3 year would enjoy drinking, alcohol content rises along with it of course.

Overall, it’s a good wine and a more complete and dense varietally specific Petite Sirah than others that I’ve run into of late.

Staff Writer
November 2, 2014 | Staff Writer

Loveable Wines from TV

Does being a wino make a person lovable? Or do lovable people just tend to be winos? Either way, here are 7 winos from television history that are always a joy to watch, and would probably be fun to drink with.

Lucille Bluth

Lucille’s drink of choice is, of course, a martini, but she’s got to have something for breakfast. And that’s usually a glass of white with her egg whites—hold the egg whites.

Olivia Pope on “Scandal”

How does Kerry Washington’s character on “Scandal” cope with all the, well, scandal? Drinking expensive red wine. In fact, she was once tracked down by her enormous purchases of “94 Duvillet.”

Robin Scherbatsky on “How I Met Your Mother”

The scene where Robin guzzles a bottle of red under her desk when she is jealous Barney is paying attention to someone else has become so popular that it’s become an internet GIF.

Cersel Lannister from “Game of Thrones”

If Cersel is going to tell someone, oh so eloquently, that she’s going to chop their head off or take over their kingdom or sacrifice their child, you better believe she’s going to swill sweet wine in between her very sour words.

The ladies of “Cougar Town”

A divorced Courteney Cox with her single partying friend and her unhappily married BFF drink out of an enormous glass named “Carl” on Cougar Town while they attempt meaningful conversation that just lends itself to comical, wine induced anecdotes.

The gals from “Awkward”

Looking for great relationship advice? Watch “Oprah.” Looking for hilarious but probably misguided relationship advice? Watch the ladies of “Awkward” guzzle wine and try to advise the star Jenna Hamilton.

Alicia Florrick of “The Good Wife”

Being the first lady of Illinois as well as a partner at a law firm and a mother can be stressful. So Alicia turns to a nice goblet of red to deal. And even with a wine buzz, she never breaks that cold expression on her face.

Editor's additions:

Raymond Reddington on "Blacklist"

My favorite show on television, they've ended more than one episode with "Red" having a first growth Bordeaux and a steak in his hotel room. Is he a super villan? Sure, but you have to admit, it would be a fun conversation, right?

Sean Spencer and Gus on "Psych"

A nod to Santa Barbara, even if the show was filmed in Cananda.  One of the first hit shows on cable, the premise was that of a fake psychic and his best friend.  Sure, there wasn't much drinking on the show, but this is a classic in our house both because of the Santa Barbara connection, but also because it was hilarious to watch Dule Hill adjust to life on a comedy after working on the West Wing for so long.

Staff Writer
November 1, 2014 | Staff Writer

Bizarre Wine Labels and How They Got Their Names

You might think funny wine labels are just gimmicks to get you to buy the wine, and in part, perhaps they are. But these outrageous wine labels have stories behind them that might help you enjoy the wine just a little more because you’re drinking up history, as well as alcohol.  (an early Editor's note, we realized pretty early that wine club memberships were just as much about the story, as what happened to be in the glass.  There's plenty of really good wine being made, sorting though is as much about flavor profiles, as it is the people behind the wine)

Dracula’s Blood

Dracula’s Blood comes from Vampire Vineyards, which originated in Transylvania. The vineyard got its name because, at the time the vineyard was established, Transylvanians were as afraid to do business with Westerners as Westerners were afraid of Vampires. Today, the vineyard is located in California.

Cat’s Pee On A Gooseberry

Busy English wine critic Jilly Goolden described drinking a glass of New Zealand sauvignon blanc as like “diving into a gooseberry bush.” Many believe her colleague Oz Clarke added the “Cat’s Pee” part and then Coopers Creek released “Cat’s Pee on a Gooseberry Bush.” '


This other-worldly label is the product of a company called Vineyard in a Van—a company that goes to landowners who hope to start a vineyard, with everything necessary in their van to get them all set up. One part of the service is helping you design your own wine label, and one customer started a label called “Cosmic Cruisers” under which they created ChardonnAlien.

Bulls Blood

This is an Egri Bikavér—one of Hungary’s most famous red wines. Legend has it the wine was named after a famous invasion in Hungary’s history, when a military leader mixed bulls blood into the wine of his soldiers to give them strength.

Gnarly Head

This sounds like it might be a surf term (editor's note-I know our author here Julia is from Southern California as am I, even in San Francisco people are confused by the gnarley term), but the label actually comes from the vines. The owners of this label started their vineyard in a row of “gnarled” old vines. The twisted, old vines(that's characteristic of Zinfandel where the vines can age well over 100 years, as some wild fields in California will show) yield much fewer grapes than regular vines, but the grapes pack a lot of flavor.

Fat Bastard

Fat Bastard was created by two friends—it started as an experimental wine that was never meant to hit the market—and when one of the friends tried it for the first time, he used the expression he used to describe anything that was really, really good. He said, “Zat iz what you call eh phet bast-ard.” That’s “Fat Bastard” with a French accent.


Wolftrap wine is made in the Franschloek valley in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. When the wine makers first established their vineyard there, they got an understanding of just how old the valley was by finding a real wolf trip there. However, in their time there, they’ve never seen a wolf. The wine was named to invoke the mysteries around the vineyards.