Uncorked Ventures Blog

Mark Aselstine
July 18, 2012 | Mark Aselstine

Sideways 2 Now Unlikely

An unfortunate article in Decanter to be sure, but it now appears that Sideways 2 is unlikely to be made.

Reasons are explained in the Decanter article, but it does appear that director Alexander Payne doesn't want a follow up effort out of fears of "selling out."  As might expect, others involved with the original Sideways project (the author Rex Pickett among them) would be ok feeling like sell outs to have another significant pay day, especially when the follow up book has been well received.

Since the follow up book, named Vertical, both brings the story back to Santa Barbara as well as taking the main characters to Paso Robles, I'm disapointed that the film isn't likely to get made at this point.  Santa Barbara continues to deserve the good press for what they produce and Paso Robles is the least appreciated wine producing area in the world, relative to the quality of wine being made.

Time Posted: Jul 18, 2012 at 1:01 PM
Mark Aselstine
July 17, 2012 | Mark Aselstine

Chronicle Pinot Noir Savoy Vineyard 2009

Coming in this month's Special Selections shipment is the 2009 Chronicle Pinot Noir from the famed Savoy Vineyard.  We thought our wine club customers might enjoy learning about what made us select this wine while also hearing a bit about the vineyard, winemaker and owner which wouldn't fit in our regular monthly newsletter.

Chronicle Wines has a relatively simple premise, show off the outstanding vineyards and terrior of the North Coast of California.  Many of these famed vnieyards are both sustainably and organically farmed.

Chronicle is owned by Mike Hengehold, himself a veteran of the wine industry both through birth (his dad owned a vineyard and he grew up in wine country) as well as pedigree, having run Luna Vineyards for close to a decade.  We've found that having supportive ownerhsip is incredibly important, but having a supportive owner who understands the wine industry creates an incredible environment.

The winemaker at Chronicle is James McPhail who is also a California native and boasts family ties in Marin County to before the turn of last century.  James has made a name for himself at previous wine stops including Sequana Vineyards which has produced a solid run of 90+ point Pinot Noir's many of which priced under $40.  What interested us about James wasn't as much as his pedigree in winemaking, but instead his varied set of life experiences.  Not to be too corny, but Pinot Noir moreso than any other varietal gives me a sense of place.  Having a winemaker who grew up in Sonoma County and who appreciates that sense of place based on years of travel, was an interesting combination.  Of course, the long history of producing great Pinot was pretty interesting as well.

Lastly, the most important part of the wine: The Savoy Vineyard. Originally planted in 1991, clone densities have needless to say changed some over the years, but there is about 30 acres of Pinot Noir currently planted. Located in Anderson Valley, the vineyard is slightly warmer than its neighbors because it is protected on two sides, one by a mountain and the other by a small naturally occuring rise. Littorai has made a name for itself as a wine label almost exclusively from this vineyard site, which many winemakers during our conversations count among the ten most important in California for Pinot Noir.

Overall, we simply thought that the 2009 Chronicle Pinot Noir Saovy Vineyard was an excellent, excellent wine.  It is heavier on darker fruit than many other Pinot Noir's you'll find in California, but keeps a sense of elegance and grace at the same time.

Why try and explain our tasting notes, when we can let the professionals at Wine Enthusiast do it instead:

"The grapes obviously were well grown, as this wine shows a particular intensity of red cherry fruit, as well as minerality. The acidity is just about perfect, the tannins brisk and fine. Yet it’s too young to offer full enjoyment. Cellar this polished Pinot Noir for 4–6 years to let it change in interesting ways." Cellar Selection

As a vintage, 2009 was an unqualified success. It was a year where we achieved physiological ripeness in Anderson Valley at lower brix and lower potential alcohols. This was the result of a moderate spring and summer, punctuated by a few stretches near harvest when temperatures hovered in the 90's.

Time Posted: Jul 17, 2012 at 1:54 PM
Mark Aselstine
July 16, 2012 | Mark Aselstine


Is that too direct?

I think anyone who orders wine from us, or has tried to send a wine gift basket to a friend has dealt with the alcohol shipping laws in the United States.  Yes, they're a mess and yes they are constantly changing.  Both of those pose their own unique set of challenges.

A recent Governor's veto stopped one of the most egregious over steps we've seen in a while.

The distributors argued that wineries should be, in effect treated as franchises.

Having grown up with my parents owning a Dairy Queen franchise, I can't exactly tell you what my response was to this, but let's just say that I don't see the two equally.

A winery is a supplier for a distributor.  A franchise is an independently owned version of a larger store.  I don't think the difference is hard to see.

In any case, the problem with the whole argument is that a winery would in essence be locked in to the first distributor that they work with.

I think most of us are glad that these type of laws are getting thrown out left and right.  In this case, it took some independent thinking in the state capitol instead of a court case, but the result is just as satisfying.

I know I've talked about it before and I think distributors do a nice job in many markets, but the entire industry, including distributors themselves, would benefit from greater consumer choice.


Time Posted: Jul 16, 2012 at 5:08 PM
Mark Aselstine
July 13, 2012 | Mark Aselstine

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

We've all heard the saying, right? Lies, damn lies and statistics.  Seeing the following chart made me think of that, given that we're lumping all $20+ into the "luxury" category I can't see how else to explain it.

One thing we've found with Uncorked Ventures and our wine club members, the folks buying Wine Exploration Club shipments differ in some important ways from those buying Special Selections memberships. I don't think that lumping them together is giving anyone a realistic look at the wine market, although it's fun to think that 19 of the top 20 "luxury" brands come from California, it is entirely dependent on how you define luxury.

Time Posted: Jul 13, 2012 at 12:54 PM
Mark Aselstine
July 3, 2012 | Mark Aselstine

Hot Temperatures and Bad Wine?

It’s one of the giant problems in the wine industry, grapes grow faster at warmer temperatures and grow more consistently (both good thing for winery owners) but the resulting wine usually isn’t very good.

There in lies the real challenge facing the industry, can you find a range of wines which happily grow at warm temperatures, but produce a higher quality of wine?

We know that Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and especially Pinot Noir don’t react well to consistent 100 degree heat-that’s how we end up with so much almost undrinkable jug wine at grocery stores and drug stores across the country.

I saw a story the other day in an agriculture magazine about how researchers at UC Davis and bringing in native grape varieties from warmer European climates and are trying to plant them in the incredibly warm San Joaquin Valley in California.  While our traditional grapes do not do well in those climates, might other choices from warmer parts of Europe like Spain, Greece and Italy fare better?  It seems reasonable to think so and it’s an exciting project.  More cheap and drinkable wine would be a good thing as the industry continues to expand.

Time Posted: Jul 3, 2012 at 9:54 AM