Uncorked Ventures Blog

Mark Aselstine
November 8, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Night Harvests

When we first opened Uncorked Ventures we started hearing from winery after winery that they were either already harvesting at night, or were planning to begin the practice. There are some real advantages to beginning and ending your harvest at night according to USA Today:

"Daytime temperatures in the 90s and above change the sugar composition of grapes. Picking at night when sugar levels are stable keeps "surprises" from happening during fermentation such as wild yeast starting fermentation, says Shafer's Andy Demsky.

Pickers can work longer hours in the lower temperatures and also avoid the "wasps, bees and rattlesnakes" that come out during the day, he says. And the grapes are picked cool, saving energy because they don't have to be pre-chilled before they're crushed."

Overall, a practice which brings about both better wine and better conditions for the seasonal laborers whom are largely responsible for bringing in grape crops has to be a good thing.

Mark Aselstine
November 7, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Almost Got to Occupy Oakland

Last week brought me to Oakland to visit an urban winery and tasting room, as well as picking up a few sample cases of a 94 point Syrah. It’s always nice to get out and having a winery contact who makes multiple 90+ point wines, many from acclaimed vineyards like Rockpile only half an hour drive from our warehouse.

The only problem that day was that the Occupy protests which have been spreading across the country found their way into Oakland, even shutting down the Port of Oakland for a time. They also, blocked the street which was my only way back to the freeway for most of the day. Of course, by dumb luck alone my appointment took me to East Bay earlier in the day (missing the protests by 30 minutes or so) which was a really good thing given that part of the Oakland protest turned violent. I’ll try and leave politics out other than to say, it seems simple enough to say companies have both a right and a responsibility to their shareholders to turn a profit, while consumers certainly have a right to take their business elsewhere.  Of course, for a large multinational bank that give and take is further complicated by the series of bailouts, but again we're getting too political for a wine company blog.

Personally I can relate to both sides of the argument and are simply happy to have missed the protest in Oakland last week.

Mark Aselstine
November 4, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

TCHO and Uncorked Ventures Chocolate Gift Baskets

When we first started looking for products for our gift baskets we had a few simple goals:

1) Local Companies
2) Special Products

TCHO chocolates certainly fits both bills and made an easy inclusion in our Chocolate Gift Baskets. Easily the most interesting and unexpected ownership situation of any chocolate company, TCHO was started by a wide range of people with an amazingly varied set of experiences. Jane Metcalfe who is best known as one of the founders of Wired Magazine and helps to show the various and diverse people involved at TCHO. In many ways people are likely to think that someone with interests as diverse as the UC Berkely Foundation, high tech, magazines and the One Economy Corporation (the short story is the idea of how tech can help people living in poverty join the middle class across the globe) wouldn’t be the most likely person to enjoy truly outstanding chocolate, or to make a business out of it.

Of course, given the clear cut connections to UC Berkely and the Bay Area in general, the food focus isn’t as surprising. We’ve talked a lot in this space already about the food and wine focus which pervades the greater Bay Area, not to mention the local love affair with locally grown products.

We wanted to bring that focus on food to our gift baskets and given the immense respect we have for TCHO, their mission and employees, it seemed like a natural fit.

Of course, no chocolate business could be both truly cutting edge without having access to the absolute best raw materials. Karl Bittong is listed officially as a co-founder and from what we’ve heard, his experience and relationships built over 40+ years in the chocolate industry can’t be understated. Much like wine needs the best vineyards and production techniques to be world class, chocolate needs the best cocoa to be truly transformative.

Any mention of TCHO, no matter how brief should also make note that they are one of only about a dozen true manufacturers of chocolate. Most chocolatiers are only re-melting chocolate and not actually manufacturing it on site. Aside from creating better chocolate, this focus on manufacturing also allows people like my wife, who has a peanut allergy, to be able to enjoy the chocolate. It’s nice to be able to find locally made chocolate instead of having to order it from the east coast around Easter to be sure.

If you’re a chocolate fan, or just someone who enjoys a great story or even a high tech start up in an unexpected place, a visit to the TCHO tasting room on the Embarcadero in San Francisco is well worth your time during your next trip to the city.

Mark Aselstine
November 3, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

USPS May Enter the Fold

It's one of the most common questions we receive: What carrier do you use to ship?

Within California we use Golden State Overnight and outside of California we use Fedex.

The follow up questions are usually about the same?  Why don't you use either UPS or the US Postal Service?

For a non winery retailer, UPS is simple more expensive and to this point USPS hasn't allowed wine shipments.  That seems like it may be changing, which IMO would be a good thing for prices and for USPS itself.

More on the problems at USPS and possible solutions at Foxnews.

Mark Aselstine
November 2, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Wine Blog Wednesday- Blog Your Wine

I have to admit, I am guilty of loving bloggers who have a sense of humor. Maybe it’s the difficulty that I have transferring what I think is funny to the written word, but I’m happy when I see something along the lines of the following:

“If you are viewing this site in Internet Explorer, parts of it may not display correctly. This is due to the ongoing issue that Internet Explorer does in fact suck. Do yourself a favor and download either Google Chrome or Firefox. You'll thank me later! :)”

So it begins when you first glance at Blog Your Wine (and frankly I couldn’t agree more). Kris Chislett doesn’t exactly have the pedigree of the most serious and astute wine blogger you’ve ever read. Growing up in the UK (hardly known for their wine production) and now living in Jacksonville Florida doesn’t make him sound like the next Robert Parker, unless you know where the esteemed Mr. Parker actually lives, perhaps it’s that lack of wine industry insiderness which not only draws me to his blog, but also keeps readers yearning for more.

As a Certified Sommelier and a Certified Specialist of Wine, Kris’ ability to judge a good bottle should be both noted and respected-although I read the blog based on the rather unusual look into the world of wine as opposed to the odd wine review. He’s the only wine blogger I know willing to add a Beastie Boy reference to a wine article, even if its one based on the best songs related to wine.

In my opinion, have a look at his short entry on the evolution of his palate and you’ll get a good idea of the writing style and tone set forth in the blog. Entertaining, light hearted and enjoyable are how I’d generally describe the blog, which is exactly what I’m looking for from a wine blog. If I want stuffy, arrogant and condescending there are plenty of winery tasting room managers I can talk to.

I don't think there is any doubt that after only a year writing the blog, Kris has come to an incredible amount of success and attention from the blog.  He's certainly a blogger to watch as time goes by and Blog Your Wine may certainly become one of the 10 most important wine blogs on the internet in the near future.