Uncorked Ventures Blog

Mark Aselstine
May 29, 2013 | Mark Aselstine

Sans Liege Groundwork Grenache Blanc

Sans Liege is the most recent project by winemaker Curt Schalchlin and we were so impressed with the winery and the price to quality ratio of the project that we decided to feature these wines in two of our wine clubs during May-more on the Grenache offering later, but for now, let’s focus on the Grenache Blanc.

Let’s start with why we were interested in featuring these wines in the first place. One of our favorite tasting trips since starting Uncorked Ventures was a trip to Paso Robles which included an early evening with Russel Fromm and McPrice Myers who make the wine together at Barrel 27 and each have their own personal label (McPrice Myers named it directly after himself, while Russell tried to confuse everyone by naming his Herman Story).  We came away from those few hours with not only a good understanding of their wines, some greater understanding of palate fatigue having tasting close to 40 wines and of course with an appreciation for their winemaking styles as well as some of the tope vineyards on the Central Coast.

For some time we’ve been searching for another winemaker who fits squarely into their winemaking style and frankly their pricing, where I strongly believe they leave at least a few dollars on the table with each and every bottle they create.

Enter Curt and Sans Liege.

One of the things we’ve come to like quite a bit about the Central Coast, specifically Paso Robles and much of the Santa Ynez Valley is that the vineyards are relatively easy to keep straight.  San Liege boasts a virtual who’s who of vineyard sources that we enjoy.  Alta Colina, Bien Nacido, Alta Mesa, Larner and a few others (where’s the Tierra Alta inclusion though?).  To us, as outside observes, it’s clear that there’s a serious effort at the highest quality wine here.

Ok, so enough about the background-what about the Grenache Blanc in your glass?

The wineries tasting notes read: Vibrant and cool, the 2012 Groundwork Grenache Blanc is like a English garden impossibly fully bloomed in winter. A fresh nose of tangerine, lemon grass, Bosch pear, white cherry and passion fruit leads to a brightly spiced, mineral laden palate of fresh thyme, star anise, orange blossom, wet flagstone and lemon oil, it finishes with pleasantly trill acidity much like nibbling a meyer lemon.

At our initial taste, we were impressed by the roundness of this Grenache Blanc.  When we’ve tried to find other Grenache Blanc’s to ship, we’re often confronted with wines that have a level of acidity that many of our customers would find offputting.  That acidity isn’t evident here, although you’re not going to confuse this wine with a class round Napa Valley Chardonnay either.

There is plenty of the traditional slightly spicy finish here as well, which makes Grenache Blanc one of the best pairings with roasted pork chops, or in my house-pork tenderloin

Overall we walked away thinking that this was simply a great summer wine and honestly, one our favorite Grenache Blanc’s that we’ve had in quite some time.  We’ve seen quite a few quotes from Schalchlin talking about how he feels inspired by the Northern Rhone (who in Paso isn’t right?) but he goes the next step and creates a wine which the French would find familiar, it’s enjoyable with plenty of fruit but imminently in balance.  We’d challenge anyone to find a comparable wine at this $16 price point.

Time Posted: May 29, 2013 at 10:21 AM
Mark Aselstine
May 9, 2013 | Mark Aselstine

Bottle Rock in Napa Valley

Bottle Rock is the first annual concert, bringing 35,000 visitors and some top musical acts like Bay Area locals Train, the Kings of Leon and the Black Keys among others to Napa Valley.

As far as concerts go, the lineup impresses, but isn’t otherwise noteworthy if it were happening in say San Francisco, New York or LA though.

What makes the event unique though is that it is happening in Napa Valley.  Bottle Rock is a different take on music in Napa on two different levels.  First, it represents a sea change in the type of music most wineries think their guests might be interested in.  To this point wineries have catered to what they believe to be their average customer, people over the age of 50.  That means they’ve lined up jazz artists, more jazz artists, an easy listening set and then a couple more jazz artists.


It’s worked fairly well, but the Valley has become green with envy when vintners started seeing the type of unique events happening at urban wineries, which are bound to cut into their market share if they don’t adapt.

This is clearly a step in the right direction.  The bands playing are as varied as the music we currently hear on the American Top 40 countdown.  Country efforts from the Zack Brown Band, Train and hip hop socially conscious Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.

Other than the music though, bringing 35,000 people into Napa for a concert represents the culmination of over 40 years of infighting within Napa Valley.  Since its inception Napa has been dominated by two groups, grape growers and the vintners who make the wine.  For many years, that complex and symbiotic relationship has been largely governed by the Ag Preserve in Napa which not only sets out how much land must be kept for open space and agricultural space, but also set up a series of roadblocks to control and in many ways minimize the type of marketing that the average winery in Napa could do on a yearly basis.

Allowing a major concert to come to Napa along with the virtual shutdown of the Valley for 5 days (the concert site shows a Thursday-Sunday lineup, but Wednesday night was a charity based evening) shows the current thinking in the Valley.  It’s time to compete again for consumer dollars


Personally, I hope the Ag Preserve continues to allow the history and agricultural base of the Valley to continue to shine through-but I also hope that events like this become the rule and not the exception.

Time Posted: May 9, 2013 at 9:43 AM
Mark Aselstine
May 1, 2013 | Mark Aselstine

Stone the Crows

Stone the Crows 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon
Three Twins Vineyard Napa Valley


About Stone the Crows: This is the first time that we’ve chosen to include a single bottle of wine for our Special Selection Club members.  Simply put, we couldn’t bypass this wine and think our customers will appreciate finding an up and coming star in the world of high end, Napa Valley Cabernet.  Stone the Crows is based east of Napa’s Silverado Trail in some of the warmer environs in the area. For that reason, combined with the fact that the Three Twins Vineyard was planted just in 2005 (grape vines generally don’t produce world class fruit and vines aged less than 10 years are generally very young vines) Proprietor Rich Talmadge needed to find a winemaker who could handle his fruit and produce a palate pleasing wine. Luckily he was able to convince Thomas Rivers Brown, perhaps the best known winemaker in the world currently to take on his project.  Brown if you aren’t familiar is the youngest winemaker to craft a 100 point wine according to either Wine Spectator or Wine Advocate and has a handful of such wines to his name.  Additionally, he was the 2010 winemaker of the year according to Food & Wine magazine. He is responsible for winemaking at venerable names such as Schrader, Maybach, Black Sears and Outpost. Known for round tannins, we’ve heard that among the superstar winemaker crowd his style is forced upon wines less than his competitors. Personally speaking, if I had to choose a single winemaker to produce a Napa Valley Cabernet for me, Brown would be at the top of my list.  The question as you’ve already guessed is how Talmadge was able to convince Brown to take a small Cabernet project when he’s already so busy.  As it turns out, relationships in Napa Valley are everything when only about 500 people are responsible for winemaking in the area. Mike Smith is the assistant winemaker on a couple of Brown’s projects (Maybach is the best known of them) and happens to be close personal friends with Talmadge.  Incidentally, that is also how we became the only retailer to be offered this wine, we’ve previously featured a wine from Mike Smith (Quivet Cellars) and have kept in touch over the past few months, leading to the introduction to Talmadge and the ability to feature these wines.  We’re extremely proud to be the first retail partner working with Stone the Crows and we hope over the coming years that they continue allowing us to feature their wines, which are already being sold exclusively to their own internal mailing list.

Time Posted: May 1, 2013 at 2:48 PM
Mark Aselstine
April 11, 2013 | Mark Aselstine

Thank You Forbes

It is always nice when someone has nice things to say about you, don’t you agree?

Recently we were listed among the best wine clubs available anywhere, by Forbes in an online article.

First, thank you for including us Forbes.  We take our responsibility to deliver high quality wines very seriously and it is nice to see a magazine that we enjoy so much, rewarding us for those efforts.

Time Posted: Apr 11, 2013 at 11:01 AM
Mark Aselstine
April 10, 2013 | Mark Aselstine

Have a Rose

So here’s a widely known secret that would surprise most first time wine drinkers-the color of wine is largely determined by how long the grape juice stays in contact with the skins of the grape, moreso than the type grape which provided the juice.


Yes, there are some differences that come by the grapes which are selected-Cabernet Sauvignon isn’t making white wines any time soon, Chardonnay isn’t making red wines any time soon either, but the color differences in these two wines comes largely from the amount of time each stays in contact with its own skin during fermentation.

Rose, as you might expect is actually (or usually at least) a red wine-this one just happens to have its skin removed from the juice in only a few hours-or at most a day or two. It also leads to less direct and noticeable flavors.

You’ll occasionally see a Rose made by removing a small bit of fermenting red wine early in the process, in essence creating a different wine from exactly the same set of vineyards and grapes!

We thought a small heads up might be a good idea given that we have unseasonably warm temperatures here in San Francisco-close to 85 degrees this afternoon.  Those temperatures as well as baseball on tv and the radio, made us think that it was a nice day for Rose

Time Posted: Apr 10, 2013 at 4:40 PM