Uncorked Ventures Blog

Mark Aselstine
January 3, 2012 | Mark Aselstine

My Favorite Wines, Winemakers and Wineries of 2011

10) B Cellars: I’ll admit it. I love Napa. It’s part the ambiance. It’s part tradition. It’s part nostalgia. It’s mostly the incredible wine, both the consistently great Cab’s produced everywhere in the valley, but also the innovative smaller wineries that you haven’t heard of yet. We shipped Blend 24 by B Cellars, partly because we loved the wine, but also partly because they’re willing to experiment and grow one of the best Sangiovese crops in California.

9) Anything from Los Olivos (the other side of Santa Barbara). Dragonette. Tensley. Stolpman. Blair Fox (more on him/them later). Beckmen. Kaena. The list goes on and one, with all the offerings priced incredibly fairly given the quality. If I had one day to taste with a group of friends, Los Olivos might be the stop considering there are 30 tasting rooms within walking distance of each other.

8) Kamen: I’m going to date myself here a bit, but Karate Kid is one of my favorite movies of all time. Yes, I am about the perfect age, but meeting the guy who wrote the screenplay was one of life’s little thrills. Robert Kamen might write screenplays for a living, but his Kamen wine label might be the best Cabernet produced in Sonoma. If you’re anything like my wife, you might not be as thrilled to meet the guy who did the screenplay for Karate Kid, but might be more interested in a Walk in the Clouds!

7) Blair Fox: Certainly one of the coolest winemakers on the block. We haven’t shipped one of his Syrah’s…..yet. Tierra Alta Vineyard is my personal favorite.

6) Copain: Lower alcohol has a home in California wine. You just need perfect vineyard locations and a willing winemaker to make it happen consistently. Welcome to Copain where we will vouch for literally any wine they make from their entry level Tous Ensambles, to their vineyard designate wines which truly shine.

5) Andrew Will: Bordeaux has already found its way to Washington, most wine drinkers simply haven’t discovered it yet. These are restrained wines considering their vineyard sources and are clear crowd pleasers whenever they are opened.

4) JC Cellars: Multiple wines rated in the mid 90’s and priced at around $40 will get you a lot of attention. Think Tensley 3 years ago, before the massive hype and waiting list.

3) Woodward Canyon: Great high end Cab’s. A great entry level second label.  There isa  lot to like here on a number of different levels.  If you want to try your first Washington wine, this is a place to start.

2) Sojourn: We love fleshy Pinot’s. If I want a Pinot to break apart in my mouth, I’ll buy something from Oregon. Winemaker Erich Bradley crafts quality Cab and Pinot all in a Burgundian style.

1) Anything made by Mike Smith. We’re guilty of liking the exclusive and getting the heads up about Mike’s label from Maybach didn’t hurt either. High quality Cab’s from some of the top vineyard sources in the state. All of the wines made by Mike show a level of sophistication not often seen at their prices. Parker said to get on the list before he left town and we couldn’t agree more. It doesn’t hurt that we like Mike quite a lot, he also helped us to find one of the great hole in the wall Mexican food restaurants in all of Napa.

Mark Aselstine
December 31, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Happy New Year

As another year winds down, Matt and I want to wish all of our customers and readers a very Happy New Year!

We’ve enjoyed the ride this far and while 2012 will certainly bring its own set of challenges and obscales, we’re incredibly happy with Uncorked Ventures and the quality wines we’re sourcing on a regular basis for our customers. We appreciate your business and are looking forward to the new year!

Mark Aselstine
December 10, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Lot 18 Goes International

Lot 18 has certainly been the talk of the wine world for some time on a number of different levels. While I don’t choose to talk about competitors in this space often, we have divergent enough business models that I don’t see the harm mentioning them here. Additionally, I think it is important to point out that while at Uncorked Ventures we’re shipping almost all 90+ point wine, that’s tough to do when you’re selling them by the tens of palates like Lot 18 is…..

In any case, the wine world was literally stunned a few months ago when Lot 18 accepted 30M in venture capital funds. Everyone wondered what the plan was given that sizable financial investment. Theories were espoused including Lot 18 beginning to craft its own wine to buying wineries directly. Frankly, none of them seemed likely.

Word comes today that Lot 18 has purchased a Paris based ecommerce company called Vinobest. It’s the start of a global expansion for the brand.

I can see the attraction to going international, in fact exporting wine is on the Uncorked Ventures to-do list for 2012-2013, but a true international expansion poses a whole different set of challenges. The bottom line, I wish them nothing but the best and having another wine company who is acting more on quality than on discounts only helps us at Uncorked Ventures.

Mark Aselstine
December 9, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

The Rich Get Richer

If you’ve been around the wine industry for any length of time, you probably realize that AVA’s do matter and are contentious. Let’s face it, the average consumer is more likely to buy a wine from Napa Valley than Paso Robles.

The biggest news here is that the Russian River Valley has been expanded to include a massive Gallo owned vineyard.

It’s an interesting situation. In Sonoma, most winemakers and vineyard owners wouldn’t feel comfortable taking a stand against Gallo. That doesn’t mean that Gallo is being heavy handed here and they’ve certainly been a good steward of the Sonoma Country wine scene for a generation, but does this really help the Russian River AVA?

I don’t think Napa Valley would carry the same significance if wineries like Mondavi didn’t help put it on the map, but in 2011 does it matter any more especially with the Russian River Valley already a household name?  I think it is telling that the Russian River Valley grape growing association originally opposed the expansion, before becoming neutral.

Mark Aselstine
December 4, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Marketing on this Blog

There has some discussion recently about what tone a company blog should use and how much marketing should really be done. I bring that up because I’ve found this space to be perhaps less marketing focused than other company blogs I’ve seen.

I think that will continue for a few reasons:

While every business has to be able to adequately market itself, the wine and gift baskets we ship speak for themselves. We’ll gladly put our products up against any other wine clubs in terms of both quality and value. Have a look around, you won’t find any other online wine clubs allowing reviews directly on their site without approvals, you won’t find other wine clubs shipping 94+ point wines consistently and you certainly won’t find another wine club willing to spend the time in wine country to build the type of quality relationships which deliver memorable wines month after month.

Secondly, if you’re our average customer and are spending $25+ per bottle of wine, I think you’re more likely to be interested in the wider happenings of the wine world than say, someone buying the majority of their wine at Trader Joe’s (nothing wrong with that of course, but not our target market)

Lastly, we’ve heard from a great number of customers that the fact of Matt and I (the founders and owners of Uncorked Ventures) being available is a big positive for doing business with us. We’re available over the phone, why would we make ourselves less available on our own company blog?

So yes, the conversational tone of this blog is here to stay. We’ll continue to write about what we find interesting in the world of wine, even if its happening outside of the states of California, Oregon and Washington where we source our wine. We hope you enjoy it and continue to visit now and into the future for news, opinions and even a marketing message or two sprinkled in.