Uncorked Ventures Blog

Mark Aselstine
November 1, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Washington to Privatize Wine?

We’re often asked both by customers and other business owners about our thoughts on the differing wine laws from one state to another. It’s a complicated and charged question that we largely try to avoid other than to say that we’d like to be able to ship to each state in the country and we’d like the process to be both affordable and respectful of our time (I wish states would remember that there are 50 states in the country, so a $500 fee and 10 hours of work a month is not sustainable).

Washington State is one of the few states which currently allows some amount of private sales, while also having state run liquor stores. Costco, the Washington based retail behemoth, has largely lead a charge to allow in store sales of alcohol at non-state owned locations.

According to Seattle PI, Costco looks to be winning their battle with the upcoming ballot proposition Initiative 1183.

I also thought it was interesting that the initial poll results out of Washington were listed at the top of the article, above the governor’s race poll and the approval rating of President Obama. Liquor laws are certainly something which people feel strongly about, which is something we need to be mindful of.

Lastly, when I see the possibility of the loosening of state direct shipping laws, it gives me hope that a few of the states which are completely off limits currently may eventually make a change in our favor, Pennsylvania is a great example there.

I hope everyone had an outstanding Halloween!

Mark Aselstine
October 31, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

St. Emilion in Financial Trouble?

Saint-Emilion Photos
This photo of Saint-Emilion is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Perhaps no town in the world exemplifies the nostalgia and romance which so many people associate with the wine industry. Unfortunately, the town of St. Emilion also is now showing that economies based strictly on incredibly expensive wine have been hit hard by the down economy.

From Wine Spectator: Bordeaux's St.-Emilion is struggling under debt and has sold a beloved landmark, the 14th-century Cordeliers convent, including the crumbling cloister and leafy park, to its renter, sparkling-wine producer Les Cordeliers, for a mere 750,000 euros (just over $1 million). The outcry has been tremendous….”

Personally speaking, I’m sad to see the convent go. It’s those type of historical ties which gives much of Bordeaux its charm and allows the region to market terrior which they say takes into account everything from sunlight and soil conditions, but even the culture of the winemakers and the vineyard owners. I have to think there was a better use of such an important and historical site, especially in a region which is blessed with millions of tourists each and every year.

Time Posted: Oct 31, 2011 at 8:31 AM
Mark Aselstine
October 28, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Sbragia Sells a Stake

Given that we've previously featured a Sbragia Family Vineyards Zinfandel, I thought it was interesting when I saw that the winery had been sold....as it turns initial reports which said the winery was sold were incorrect, the winery simply sold a portion of its business to Bacchus Capital Management, a San Francisco based private equity firm.

I don't want to bore everyone here with too many details of the wine business, but doesn't this simply make a ton of sense on all levels?  The Sbragia Family gets rich (or at least gets to dramatically expand their winery which would have taken decades of profits) all while likely keeping control of the winery which bears their name.  Bacchus is able to buy a portion of an asset which is likely undervalued due to the downturn in the wider economy and the pressure that has put on wine prices.  To me, it seems like a win-win.

I will make a short note that in my opinion, Bacchus is doing an outstanding job at selecting wineries in which to invest.  They aren't targeting up and coming wineries, but instead those truly primed to become household names.  I think both Sbragia and Qupe fall into that category, especially because the quality of wines produced has never been at issue.

Time Posted: Oct 28, 2011 at 3:15 PM
Mark Aselstine
October 27, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

The Great Cork Debate

Outside of the old world versus new world wine discussion, perhaps nothing is as divisive within the industry as the choice between natural cork, synthetic cork as I’ll call it and of course screw caps. Of course most studies show that consumers for the most part could care less as long as the wine is still good and that it aged as they expected.

Natural cork has had a sort of renaissance, in my humble opinion, because of a series of outstanding marketing messages, namely among them that natural cork is more environmentally friendly. While synthetic cork has largely talked about the percentage of wine which spoils with natural cork, it’s hard to sell a negative over the long term.

What closure do I prefer? I do think there is some real value for restaurants and bars in screw caps which can save a busy bartender or waitress at least 45 seconds per opening, but anything not being sold as a by the glass wine I think natural cork is a clear choice. I think the wine industry benefits from the romance of cork and the process of opening a bottle, especially since you never know exactly what you’re going to find. I think consumers are happy to come across the small, small percentage of cork’d bottles in order to have an outstanding experience with their wine.

Read more at PR Newswire.

Mark Aselstine
October 21, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

The Best Gift Baskets Online Nomination

The Best Gift Baskets OnlineIt’s always nice to have people say nice things about you. I think that’s true both personally and professionally, but when you own a business having people say nice things about your business is just as important to many of us small business owners.

Since starting the gift basket side to our business, we’ve received a lot of positive feedback from suppliers, customers and potential customers-but we’re starting to receive some recognition from outside sources as well.

We were recently nominated for the Best Gift Baskets Online at the Gift Rocket Blog.

Personally speaking I can appreciate what they’re trying to do and their technology which makes any online merchant available for gift card purchases. Having been featured in well known publications like Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Forbes, Wired (to be as clear as possible, yes there is an ownership connection between Wired and TCHO our chocolate supplier) Mashable and TechCrunch……this isn’t any old online gift basket competition.

If you get a chance please head over to the wine category and give us a vote. You’ll notice we’re competing against some of the largest online merchants, many of whom have been open for decades already.

We know our gift basket product lines are the absolute best on the market-it’s nice to begin receiving some outside feedback which agrees with that assessment.

Time Posted: Oct 21, 2011 at 3:24 PM