Uncorked Ventures Blog

Mark Aselstine
October 6, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Tim Fish of Wine Spectator and Value from California Wineries

We spend a lot of time in this space talking about smaller wineries and how they deliver better value than their larger counterparts with massive marketing budgets, staff and wineries.

Of course, we also have to be cognescent that the wine drinker who starts by buying $5 wine at Trader Joe’s eventually tends to upgrade both in terms of palate as well as pocketbook.

To that end, I thought the article written by Tim Fish over at Wine Spectator was an interesting one. I do agree that Bogle does a nice job in its price range, although I do think there are a number of wines in the $15-$20 range which most people would enjoy more, even with the small uptick in price point.

That being said, the thought that there is a lack of value available in California wine is a significant long term issue. As someone working to sell California wine, I want people to begin having good experiences with wine from California as early as possible.

Wineries such as Bogle do provide a valuable service to both the consumer as well as the more expensive wine industry. I’m sure that someone who enjoys an 84point Zinfandel for $12 would be interested, especially as time goes by, in trying a 90 point bottle for $20. Hopefully that enjoyment continues as does the appreciation for a single vineyard Russian River Pinot Noir.

Mark Aselstine
October 5, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Wine Blog Wednesday-Dr. Vino

In many ways it is a surprise that it has taken us this long to feature what is among my favorite 3-4 wine blogs on our Wine Blog Wednesday series, but this week we feature one of the biggest names in wine writing: Dr. Vino.

As with many of my favorite blogs, Dr. Vino doesn’t simply post reviews of wines on his site, which can become tiresome for readers in short order. Instead he features a steady stream of industry insights, features on newcomers to the industry and overall interesting features on what’s happening within the world of wine. It almost goes without saying that only a few, if any other blogs cover such a wide variety of topics such as pairing wine with dehydrated food, the best wines under $15 and the labor situation in South African vineyards (makes that Cab blend I opened last night look a bit different sitting on the table this morning).

So who is Dr. Vino? If you’re one to believe his Wikipedia entry (and you should), Dr. Vino is Tyler Colman who holds a PHD from Northwestern and has been educating people about wine and the wine trade for some time in Chicago and now New York.

Personally, I enjoy his ability to call into questions some of the ethics of reviews such as Robert Parker.

While I think Parker has done a lot for the industry, the constant score focus is a difficult situation for any retailer. In our wine club shipments we have to constantly work to continually find high scoring bottles, which is both difficult and in many ways against our stated goal and model which is to spend time in wine country with winemakers and vineyard owners to receive access to prized allocations.  Our favorite bottles and the wines which have received the highest percentage of reorders have not been the highest rated wines we've shipped (with the possible exception of that Paul Hobbs Russian River Valley Pinot Noir).

In any case, Dr Vino has helped much of the wine world begin to move away from being so score focused which is a really, really good thing. His writing has also been published everywhere from the New York Times to Forbes, with a couple of books mixed in as well.

If you’re ready to move beyond reviews on a wine blog, Dr. Vino should be at the top of your list.  At Uncorked Ventures we have great respect for his work and truly enjoy reading his blog.

Time Posted: Oct 5, 2011 at 8:24 AM
Mark Aselstine
October 4, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Being Family Owned and San Antonio Winery

Those of you that have found your way to this Blog over the past few months, or have spent any time looking at the About Us section on Uncorked Ventures already know that we’re a family owned business-being family owned is something we’re proud of.

A quick fill in, Matt and I are brothers in law. He married the oldest daughter and I married the youngest which makes Uncorked Ventures, according to plenty of people we talk to rather unique in family arrangements. That as you might expect, is a nice fit in the wine industry which is made up largely of family owned wineries and vineyard owners.

The one part of the wine industry, which has largely moved away from family ownership is the mass producers of millions of cases of wine per year. Bronco Wine Company, Mondavi and a few others are good examples of that and while we respect the growth those businesses have showed over the past generation, we hope that the wine industry doesn’t lose the family owned aspect to the business. As we’re found, customers love hearing a great story about why a winery opened and the family dynamics which are often at play.

I bring all this up to mention one large winery (reportedly crafting over 1 million cases of wine per year) which is both still family owned and situated in an area which isn’t home to many wineries.

San Antonio Winery is located in downtown Los Angeles and has been continuously operated by the same family since its founding in 1917. San Antonio has an interesting set of wines, which aren’t a fit for any of our wine clubs as they’re more likely to be sold internationally or at Trader Joe’s, but for the price-we think they’re a nice alternative to Charles Shaw and others.

Mark Aselstine
October 3, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Harvest and Rain Collide

There are few things which worry vineyard managers and grape growers as much as rain right around harvest.

It seems an ever increasing problem in Napa Valley and Sonoma where slight shifts in weather patterns seem to be bringing November’s traditional rains slight earlier, while an attempt to achieve optimum ripeness has pushed harvest dates back several weeks from where they were a generation ago.

California’s historic wine regions are both expecting around an inch of rain within the next 24 hours.

For Cabernet Sauvignon growers, it’s not as big of a concern because they can simply let the grapes hang on the vine for the warm temperatures coming at the end of the week, allowing them to achieve ripeness while drying out. In fact, wine country received a bit of rain about 10 days ago, with many vintners happy to have mother nature’s help in cleaning off their grapes before harvest.

There are two problems though. To start, Pinot Noir growers were frantically picking grapes over the past 48 hours as those grapes are very close to ready for harvest and vintners can’t afford to let them settle on the vine for another week.

Secondly, when rain strikes near harvest, some vineyards experience a level of rot on the vine which reduces yields. In many years growers simply consider it part of the price of doing business on a per ton basis (rather than a per acre which is what most fine wineries prefer these days) but yields are already down at least 50% off their peak and prices are down per ton as well, further pressuring growers to bring in as many quality grapes as possible.

I didn’t realize when starting a wine club that I’d watch the weather as closely as I currently do, but it stands as a good reminder that despite all the technical progress in terms of both winemaking and vineyard management, nature is still making the majority of the decisions.

Mark Aselstine
September 27, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

A Trip to Sonoma

Yesterday brought another trip to wine country for Matt and I. Much of our day was spent in Sonoma, we were looking for another wine or two for a charity tasting we’re involved with at the end of the week as well as wine for our Special Selections Wine Club.

Overall, we were incredibly pleased with what we found. While we won’t share winery names, we did find an outstanding vineyard designate Chardonnay from a relatively unknown winery (although the vineyard is extremely highly thought of), a top flight Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon, a Russian River Pinot Noir from one of our favorite producers and a few others.

As with many of our trips, we spent much of the day well off the beaten path. Our Chardonnay appointment found us, at one point, lost and over a mile off the paved road. Considering we had a half tank of gas still and didn’t have to ask for help……we can’t complain. Traveling down the dirt road did remind me of a previous trip:

Our day ended up picking up a Napa Cab at one of the industrial warehouses next to the Napa Valley airport, which is where much of the wine made in the valley is actually stored and then transported. I think a large percentage of our customers would be surprised to know that much of the wine is not stored at the winery itself, but instead in massive, guarded, temperature controlled warehouses.