Uncorked Ventures Blog

Mark Aselstine
December 4, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

An Intro to Wine Label Requirements

Hey guys, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.

First, happy Thursday as we move closer and closer to the Christmas season, and we have three weeks before the holiday. Again, Happy Holiday. I want to take a minute today, so if you get a better look at that. This is a Klickitat Pinot Gris, and you can see the most interesting marking on this bottle is that it is an "American" wine.

I thought it was a good opportunity to talk a little bit about labeling requirements.

I know during the holidays as you're looking for a wine gift or something that was unique to bring to a party, we find ourselves, myself included, at Beverages And More or at your local liquor store looking for just a bottle to grab on the way out. I thought a quick conversation about labeling requirements was probably in order.

First, the region of the country, you need seventy-five percent of the grapes to come from the region, eighty-five percent to come from the AVA or seventy-five percent again, for a specific wine grape to be listed. Pinot Gris ... This is actually a hundred percent Pinot Gris so that's an easy one.

It's actually marked an American white wine and that's something that you don't see very often because quite frankly people don't usually source grapes from multiple states, so that's what's happened here. This is seventy-five percent of the wine comes from the Dampier Vineyard which is up in the Columbia Gorge AVA.

The Columbia Gorge is interesting in itself. It's one of the few, one of only two or three in the United States actually where the AVA is actually broken up into two states. It borders the wine between Oregon and Washington. They market themselves as you can experience the entire world of wine in forty miles. That's partially because part of the Oregon side is very cold, and then you move over the mountain range and the Washington side is warm. This is from the Washington side and that influences the wine. It's made so well the label doesn't show it on the front. It's made by Margerum Wine Company, which is a classic Santa Barbara producer, and twenty-five percent of the grapes come from their state vineyard which is outside of Buellton. It's central coast plus Washington, and that gives you a "American" white wine. Which we actually think is kind of cool. We've seen one of two of these over the course of a year or two. When we've shown them to friends within the industry they're kind of amazed. I know there's distributors and there's wine retailers here in San Francisco that have frankly never seen an American wine before, so that's fun in itself.

Once again, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. That's a little bit about wine labeling requirements. In essence seventy-five percent for grapes, seventy-five percent for an area like a state, but eighty-five percent for a specific AVA like Napa or in this case it would have to be eighty-five for Columbia Gorge, and this doesn't reach it so they labeled it as an American white wine and confuse everybody at the same time. I hope if you're looking for a new wine club membership or if you're looking for a gift basket you'll keep this in mind. Thanks again.

Mark Aselstine
December 3, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

Petite Sirah or Durif...Who Really Knows

Hey, guys, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.

First, happy holidays from everyone over here at what I hope is your favorite wine club.

Second, we’re having a bout of rain here in the Bay Area, which is really good for the California draught that we’ve talked about so much and has been all over the national news, but it also brings up what are you drinking and what are you cooking, those kind of questions from customers that I talk to on the phone and through email.

This is definitely one of those when winter meets broiled meats and stews and all that kind of stuff. A wine that I think is really underappreciated in the United States is Durif or Petite Sirah.

Here’s the quick history. François Durif is a French botanist in the 1860’s. He had a lab in France much like they still have to this day in Bordeaux. They have at UC Davis and a few other countries also do some good wine research and grape genetic research. Australia is certainly a good example of that.

He had Syrah plants and he had a bunch of other plants and lo and behold the wind blows and you comingling of stuff. It’s something you see in vineyards to this day and so he ended up with a new grape. He called it Durif after himself and we call it Petite Sirah in California. You’ll see both labels interchangeably if you talk about international grapes. For the United States it’s Petite Sirah. You can tell the Sirah is one of the parents; it’s a big thick gemmy kind of grape. People think Zinfandel, Syrah, in that same vein of fruit.

Ursa is an interesting winery out in the Sierra Foothills. They focus on this. They have both single vineyard versions of it as well as the field blend which comes out a little lighter. If you’re having a big stew or a broiled meat, Petite Sirah is the wine that could work. I think it’s something that has struggled in essence because the few versions of it that you get of it in Napa, Sonoma and well-known winery gens are out on the periphery of we’ve got this little warmer spot in the vineyard. What do we do with it? Oh, who knows? Throw in Petite Sirah and see what happens. Then consumers trying to say it’s not the best thing that they make so I really don’t like the grape. That’s certainly true. Napa and Sonoma aren’t the best places to grow it. Sierra Foothills has been pretty successful with it. Internationally you see it in Australia still. You’re starting to see it in Mexico, especially in the Guadeloupe Valley. They’re starting to do a pretty job with it.

Domestically, the state of Arizona who’s not desperately trying to grow their wine industry but are certainly trying. In essence if you look at how well New Mexico’s done with some of their sparkling wines, there’s certainly hope that there’s the Other Forty-six Movement, that’s being the forty-six states other than California, Oregon, Washington, the tree that we handle and then New York.

Obviously with New York growers and vintners having access to New York City and the size of that market, they have a little bit easier time.

The Other Forty-six Movement is just the other states other than that. New Mexico led by Gruet and a few other folks have made some really, really good sparkling wines. Next door in Arizona they look at themselves and they say we’re only a few hour drive from San Diego and from Los Angeles and from the thirty, thirty-five million people in southern California. Why can’t we do something similar and make a similar quality of wine? Personally I’ve been wine tasting through Willcox which is a little small town outside of Tuscan and actually came away pretty impressed. The critic’s scores haven’t quite followed through yet, but Arizona is a state to watch if you’re drinking Petite Sirah. It’s worth it to try and track down a bottle or two. There’s a few guys that have legitimate winemaking experience, both taught at UC Davis and then working at wider wine industry folks or regions like Napa and Sonoma that have then moved to Arizona because, frankly, the land’s cheaper and if you want to make Petite Sirah, frankly, if you want to plant a field of Zinfandel, it’s not a bad place to try it. They do benefit from the fact that they have sea level for most of the state, but then a few miles outside of town often there’s some mountain ranges and stuff. It gives you some wide variety of places to plant. Frankly, the land is cheap enough that they can try and see; toss it against the wall and see what sticks. I think they’re doing better than other states in the Other Forty-six Movement are, and it’s worth a look. Petite Sirah, it’s an interesting grape. If you’re feeling like trying something new this holiday season and you’ve got a cut of meat on the grill or better yet in the oven, it’s not a bad place to start.

So, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. Hope you guys are enjoying your holidays. Shipments are going out for us daily at this point. Monthly wine club shipments should go out early part of next week. As I mentioned, we’re having rain here in the Bay Area. We’re going to have to track this as it moves across the east coast to make sure that we don’t ship in the middle of snow, but so it goes. Once again, I’m Mark Aselstine. Thanks again for listening.

Mark Aselstine
December 3, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

December Shipment Deadlines, Christmas to the East Coast, California & Everywhere Inbetween

Briefly, information on our December shipment deadlines:

Hey guys. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.

For the last couple days we've gotten a couple questions about when is the last day we can order for Christmas delivery.

Really briefly, we're based just outside of the City of San Francisco so if you live on the East Coast, it takes a full week to get there. If you want your wine club delivered or gift basket for that matter, delivered on Christmas Eve, you should order by December 17th. The cut off is about 4 p.m. If you're going to be pushing the envelope on a time frame and that kind of stuff, it's quite honestly a lot easier for us to get wine club deliveries out rather than gift baskets.

If you live in California, the deadline's really December 23rd. We use a company called Golden State Overnight or GSO. They are an interesting kind of delivery company in that they're the pizza model style so the guy shows up in a random Honda Accord for the most part with no markings or anything but they are a truly overnight delivery service for all of California. If you order the 23rd, it'll get there Christmas Eve, no problem.

If you're in most of the more urban areas of Arizona and Nevada, the deadline is the 22nd. GSO is kind of two days. They say overnight but in reality it takes two days to get to Phoenix, Tucson and Vegas. We hope we can help you.

If you're in the Midwest, it's three or four business days so you know as opposed to the 17th, you have the 18th or 19th. What would really help if FedEx would work the weekend before Christmas. They usually don't. Unfortunately it's out of our control.

Once again, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. We can also do an expedited shipping for you if you want to pay a little bit extra. Ground shipping is kind of standard for us. We do watch weather to make sure the wine or your gift basket shows up in good condition. Once again, Mark Aselstine, Uncorked Ventures. Hope you guys are having a good holiday season and I hope that helps a little bit with the shipment dates. Thanks again.

Mark Aselstine
December 1, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

Cyber Monday Deal & Future Shipment Dates

A short intro to Cyber Monday (use code fifteen) as well as how you can specify an exact delivery date to use (use the order notes section). Happy Holidays!

Hey guys. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.

First, happy Cyber Monday. Reading a few of the retailing journals over the weekend, they said that about 125 million people or so are going to buy something online. I know our house already counts on that, and today's the day for deals.

Two quick updates for Uncorked Ventures. First, if you are looking for a deal, most of us are this early in the season, you can use the coupon code fifteen. That will give you 15% off your order. That's about as best as we do as far as distributing codes that are floating around online. If you're looking for an even better deal, give me a call. We'll see what we can do to help.

Second of all, I had a phone call from a customer a few moments ago in New York City. She had a quick question about placing an order and having a future ship date to get the wine delivered after the New Year, and just wondering what the best way to go about that is. Kind of two easy ways. First, again, if you give us a call, a little human interaction, even for an online business, isn't the worst thing in the world. We're happy to help you over the phone. You'll get me. Generally speaking, you're going to talk to somebody who's going to be able to help you.

Second of all, if you just want to order online, you don't want to pick up the phone (I know I fall into that category more often than not), you'll see two special sections when you're shipping a gift. First, there's a spot for a gift message. A human being will actually print that off and put it on top of the package, so when they open the package, that's the first thing that they're going to see. Second of all, in terms of the shipment date, there's an Order Notes section. If you click on the Order Notes and you add, "Hey please deliver this after the New Year," or "I need it to get there between Christmas and New Year's," we can arrange shipment schedules and such. We're shipping daily at this point. If you need it there on the 24th, we can probably make that happen. Giving us a few days leeway helps. In any case, Mark Aselstine, Uncorked Ventures.

Thanks again for the orders this morning. Thanks again to everybody who's shopping around Cyber Monday. I know as an online retailer, this is kind of what we feel like the beginning of our Christmas season. The big boys got a chance to play on Black Friday. Your small local shops, hopefully, got some support on Small Business Saturday. Then, Cyber Monday kind of becomes our time. Thanks again. Have a good holiday season. Oh and if you're looking for a unique wine gift, I hope you'll consider joining what Forbes Magazine continues to call one of America's top wine clubs.

Mark Aselstine
November 29, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

R2 Wine Company

A short intro to R2 Wine Company, but more importantly: I hope the beginning of your holiday season is going well.

Hey guys, Mark Aselstine from Uncorked Ventures.

First, I hope everyone's holiday shopping season is going well. Since today is small business Saturday, I do hope you find some time to go out in your neighborhood, and find some great, local small businesses. I think a lot of us have them. I know that's one of the reasons why we love living in the San Francisco Bay Area because we do have so many small, little, local shops. I hope you take adavantage. I hope when Cyber Monday rolls around on Monday, and then throughout the rest of the holiday season, you'll think of us and think about ordering a wine club, either for yourself or a wine club as a gift for a family or loved one. In any case, hope everyone's shopping season's going well. We braved some of the crowds yesterday at Target and Toys 'R' Us for my little guy and it was an adventure as always.

I did want to take a couple of minutes and talk about you see two bottles in front of me, this is the standard 750mL bottle. Then the Black Pine sitting next to it is the magnum. R Squared, people refer to it as R2 wine company. It's owned by two brothers, the Roessler brothers, who come from a tradition of making wine up in Sonoma. They started Roessler vineyards back in 2000, or a little bit before. It was Wells Gunthrie at Copain was the consulting wine maker. If you're not familiar with Wells, we talked about him in this space. Copain was one of our first meeting, when we started Uncorked Ventures. There reason for that was simple, Wells started the label and he made these fruit forward, heavy driven, stereotypical California wines. The story goes that he sat down with some of his peers from France and he was frankly, embarrassed to open what he had made. Then over time, he as shifted into being this low alcohol driven, Copain is a ventable name within the wine industry, because they do make these low alcohol, higher acidity wines. They make them at fair price points. They do something that's French in style and there's ..a set of single vineyard offerings of Pinot and, then they make a line that's more entry level in the $20 to $30 price point. That's a blend of multiple vineyards throughout the state of California or thought a single AVA, like Sonoma or Santa Barbara and the Central Coast. Roessler Vineyards started with Wells Gunthrie as the consulting wine maker and they ... Things went well for them to eventually be acquired and they've turned into Walt Wines, after being sold.

As you might expect, the Roessler brothers didn't want to get out of the industry. They started a different brand that's called R Squared. I'm sure you can come to the conclusion where that name came from. A few months back, I had the ability to sit down with their new wine maker, whose name is Drew Huffine. Drew and I share one thing in common, that we both went to Santa Barbara for a while. Drew was actually a PHD student in Poetry, before he caught the wine making bug and left in the middle of his poetry program to start making wine down in Santa Barbara.You can really see ... He has a poetry background, before he worked at the winery for a while. He's had some other jobs at places that you'd recognize that I won't name off here. The Roessler, the R Squared website does a good enough job with that. Drew's also the high acidity or higher acidity driven ... There's plenty of fruit in these bottles, and acidity driven wine.

The Vin Blancs is actually, 80% Viognier, we had the conversation ... Frankly, I love this wine. I'm actually a little sad that this is the last bottle that we have sitting around. It's one of my favorite whites that we've found all year. Viognier doesn't sell, that's just a fact. First, consumers don't know how to pronounce it so they're scared to order it in restaurants. They're scared to ask wine shops employees about it, because they don't know how to say the name. THey're not really sure about the grade. They don't see it very often. Vin Blancs, you can see, the nice four black label. Calling it something that's not a proprietary name for the grape I think makes a lot of sense and I think, probably helps their sales. Black Pine, [inaudible 00:04:11], the story about this and I will actually say that this is autographed by the wine maker, which we thought was fun for Thanksgiving. Black Pine's the biggest production of all the wines. It takes about half of the R squared production. It's a Pinot blend from the Central Coast. It does a really good job of expressing what's going on down there. While some of the cooler climate and not in vineyard sites throughout Santa Barbara County and the wider Central Coast AVA.

R Squared does much of what Copain does. There's a bunch of smaller production, single vineyard wines that are really, really incredible and a higher price point, around $150 for Pinot. Then they have more entry level price points, including this Viognier, which runs in the low 20's. We actually shipped the Vin Blancs in our explorations wine club, which is the cheapest of our three wine clubs. We did a red wine blend that's Syrah based in our special collections club, which is the cheapest of our red wine clubs. In any case, Mark Aselstine, with Uncorked Ventures. Hope you guys are having a nice holiday, I hope travel was well for everyone and I hope that family, in laws and out laws all treated you well, as well. Thanks again.