Uncorked Ventures Blog

Mark Aselstine
August 22, 2012 | Mark Aselstine

Fall is Coming

Fall feels like it may have arrived today for much of the Bay Area.  Cool and breezy.  In Napa Valley, it's still the middle of summer it seems.  We're getting close to sugar levels in some grapes which will lead some wineries to pick earlier than normal, others will wait until the last possible minute, or the first significant threat of rain in the middle of October or later.

Time Posted: Aug 22, 2012 at 4:36 PM
Mark Aselstine
August 21, 2012 | Mark Aselstine

Have a Drink

Will you be having a drink tonight?  With who?  What will you be opening?

Time Posted: Aug 21, 2012 at 2:26 PM
Mark Aselstine
August 20, 2012 | Mark Aselstine

Stolpman Vineyards Zip Line

Stolpman Vineyards is home to some of the nicest people we've met in the wine industry, many of which including Peter Stolpman have been instrumental in getting our customers some incredible wine otherwise not available through other retailers.  In any case, the winery has a tasting room in Los Olivos (about 30 minutes from downtown Santa Barbara) which is perhaps my personal favorite place to taste wine in California.  A lot of people would be surprised to hear that, but the wine quality and quality/price is incredible in the area and Stolpman is one of about 30 winery tasting rooms within walking distance of each other. Plus there is a real congenial atmosphere and small town vibe in the area which is nice.  Lastly, it doesn't get quite the huge influx of weekend and summer/harvest visitors that we experience in Napa-which generally speaking, is a good thing for those who do make the trip.

Time Posted: Aug 20, 2012 at 2:04 PM
Mark Aselstine
August 20, 2012 | Mark Aselstine

Pushdowns on Merlot

Our friends over at Vellum Wine Craft show what hand made truly means.  Having spent some time doing push downs on a much larger scale than this, I can appreciate the amount of effort it really does take.  Vellum's a personal favorite and an interesting project, much more French in style meaning higher acidity and necessitating the coolest weather vineyards they can find.

Time Posted: Aug 20, 2012 at 8:01 AM
Mark Aselstine
August 19, 2012 | Mark Aselstine

Gourmet Ghetto

When Matt and I write the blog section for Uncorked Ventures, we generally try and keep things both relevant to our readers/customers by talking mostly about wine or the wine industry and not getting too local into the wine scene here in the greater Bay Area where we live.

Sometimes though, a local business or a local area sticks out enough that it merits a mention, if only to show our customers what’s happening in our backyard and how it could affect the type of products (especially gift baskets) that we offer.

My wife and I have recently found our way to East Bay (we’re based in the San Francisco Bay Area) for a number of reasons I won’t mention here and one of the real positives to the move has been the food and wine centric culture which really pervades where we live.  We’re only a few miles from the famed Gourmet Ghetto in Berkeley which has been made famous by giving birth to Pete’s Coffee nationally, even though in my opinion some of the businesses without national profiles have given more important impacts into the food culture in this country.

Personally speaking the impact felt by the Cheese Board (a collectively owned store which was probably the first fine cheese merchant in America about 40 years ago, now selling bread, pizza etc) was probably greater within the food community, even if you aren’t familiar with their name.  A true collective the business is owned by those people staffing behind the counter and are among the most cheese saavy folks you’ll meet anywhere.  When the Collective first opened cheese in the United States meant blocks of old American cheese, of which I hesitate to attach a picture, at least that’s how most of the country thought cheese was meant to be.  The Collective started with a handful of locally made artisan cheeses and has since expanded to deliver well over 300 cheeses in any given day.  The relatively new addition of pizza is clearly a hit with college students at UC Berkeley and offers the additional bonus of an easy way to commit your first act of civic disobedience while in Berkeley (it’s illegal to sit in the middle of the street medium, although not enforced it seems to be a local right of passage).

Additionally, Chez Panisse is an institution and has helped spread the entire slow food mantra.  Nationally Chez Panisse is credited with helping to spread the entire idea of California cuisine from the way meals are prepared to the ingredients used in them.  By cooperating with local farmers and suppliers the founders thought they could create truly world class food at a fraction of the cost.  Some of those supplers have gone on to make a name for themselves nationally, perhaps most famously being Acme Bread Company which has supplied the restaurant since the early 1970’s and is known as the first true artisan breadmaker in the country. For over 40 years, Chez Panisse has been making food with the focus on quality ingredients before all else.  The past decade has found the restaurant ranked among the top 100 in the world by Restaurant Magazine, with the average price of a plate around only $20 in the Café and a full three course tasting menu running under $100 putting it among the cheapest restaurants on that exclusive list. 

These businesses have come to reflect the entire idea behind Gourmet Ghetto as it passes its own 40th birthday-food quality and the adherence to quality should never be a secondary idea.  Realistically the whole concept that there could be political activism and food was born here.

One of the things I really like about Gourmet Ghetto is that it seems to continually give rise to new businesses and seems to be able to keep out the huge number of chains which pervade our normal restaurant and grocery scene.

In any case, I wanted to take a time out here to talk about Gourmet Ghetto not only because it is interesting to me, but because it gives a good representation of what we’re trying to do with our wine clubs.  We focus on quality first and foremost.  Yes, there are cheaper wine clubs out.  Yes, there are plenty of wine clubs with major media backers and therefore familiar names.  Neither of those bothers us, we’re happy to offer fair prices and good value given the quality of the wines we ship.

Time Posted: Aug 19, 2012 at 3:06 PM