Uncorked Ventures Blog
I've been told by some people that these slice of life's within the wine industry are interesting, others find them dull. Either way, I'll keep talking about stuff that affects the wider wine industry because I think it's an insight that helps people to buy better value wine. Be it a 90 point wine club from a company like my own, or a cheap bottle from Trader Joe's....knowing some of the back story does lead to better wine.
Hey guys. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.
Yesterday was election day, as I'm sure everybody's aware at this point, given the steady stream of both tv ads and junk mail that comes in. Here locally, San Francisco and Berkeley both voted on sales tax increases for soda and other sugary drinks. It actually includes juice, too. I have a little kid in the house, so that kind of stuff is something that we notice. It passed in Berkeley not surprisingly, 3/4 of the folks voted for it. It's a 1 cent per ounce tax.
In San Francisco the thing failed. 55% of folks voted for it, but they needed 2/3 because it was going to go in a special fund. That's one interesting thing, at least locally. Second of all, around the elections there's always some changes in the way alcohol is sold, what's legal and what's not.
The state of Tennessee probably had the most movement yesterday. Voters unanimously approved the right for grocery stores to sell wine and beer. Frankly, that's not surprising. I don't think Tennessee and the folks that live there are asking too much at all.
Then the other one is in Oregon, they've had a constant churn of initiatives and ballot measures to try to label GMO products and different GMO products within wine or food. The wine industry was watching them pretty closely. It affects beer much more. There's some residual corn syrup often that's used in beer that would have to be labeled. Many wineries don't use anything that would need to be, but it's just something that on the labeling front, the industry itself is watching pretty closely just because as wine makers use sulfur and other stuff after fermentation, or refine wine before it's bottled, they're not sure exactly how much of that process they want to share, even no matter how clean it appears to most of us.
Anyway, election day came and went. Hope you're doing well.
The sale of wineries is more of a real estate transcation than it is a sale of a business (that's one spot where my wine of the month club and the wineries I speak with every day tend to differ dramatically). It's interesting because it's one of the few spots where the average consumer can get some idea about why the price of wine, is as high as it happens to be.
Hi, guys. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.
Wines & Vines had a interesting article today that 10% of all the winery owners that they've surveyed over the last few months - about 5,000 in total which is a huge number in the United States, at least two-thirds of all active commercial wineries were surveyed - 10% of those guys said that they would consider selling their winery in the next five years.
As you might expect, it's a huge number. We'd expect about 1 to 2% to sell over the same term. The one thing that I did want to caution everybody because this is going to be something that gets a little bit of play in the mainstream press, most winery sales aren't sales of a winery asset or brand asset. They're actually sales of real estate, so you can look at it as far as real estate prices. A good example is real estate in Napa Valley. A vineyard in Napa Valley will run you about $500,000 per acre because there's a few things going on. First, the Ag Preserve says that you have to have ten acres to be able to build a working winery on site so anything under ten is worth not nothing but approaching nothing in comparison. Over ten there's a limited number of spots available. Anyway, you'll see that in the press. I think CNN's starting to cover some of this kind of stuff. The business of wine, it's an trying one, but when you see that 10% of all wineries are for sale, the short answer is kind of, not really. It's also something to remember the next time we all complain about why the wine gift we wanted to give from Napa, costs so darn much.
I don’t like to have to talk about how stuff like this shows up in my email every so often, but a few weeks back I was approached by the folks behind Veteran’s Spirit to help with distribution of their new Proprietary Red Blend. Usually these wines suck, no matter how good the attached story.
The story here is that the company gives $1 per bottle sold back to veteran’s groups that help service members when they return home. Having grown up in San Diego, perhaps the quintessential military town, it didn’t come as a surprise that Marines get a 6 week boot camp and then any additional number of training units before deploying even in the worst of circumstances, but receive only a week of part time help to get acclimated to civilian life.
While I didn’t serve myself, I think we can all agree, that seems like it leaves a gaping hole for NGO’s to fill. Veteran’s Spirit works with some of the best around to do just that and it is a project that we were happy to support. Oh and I would have never included in your wine club, if I hadn’t felt that the quality was pretty incredible as well.
Here’s the back story and why I’ll continue to be involved, the Foundry is a winery and custom crush facility originally from Napa Valley and more recently relocated to Sonoma (cheaper, more industrial space etc) that’s behind this wine. I’ve been a pretty big proponent of their high end Cabernet’s, especially those from mountain growing regions, largely because winemaker Patrick Saboe (who learned the trade at venable names like Hanzell & Pezzi King) who is able to capture a mixture of fruit and acidity that pleases everyone who opens a bottle. What’s important to note here is that the guys behind the Foundry feel as strongly about this project as anyone and in essence what happened, was a collection of a bunch of extra barrels, most of which come from wine in price points significantly higher than this one. The wine was combined for a blend that’s pleasing to the palate, wallet and our better nature’s.
About Kasuari: If there was ever a stealth and unknown label coming out of Napa Valley, this is it.
Kasuari is a relatively new project from winemaker Michael Peters, who spends his days helping to craft the critically acclaimed Sonoma wines of Quivira. Sourced from an area of Napa Valley called “The Terraces” this is an interesting Petite Sirah, perhaps more unique than I believe the major wine critics to believe.
I’ve run into Terraces abbreviations before and while there is a winery that uses the name as part of their nomenclature, when winemakers refer to the Terraces, they aren’t referring to a single vineyard and certainly not the entry level price point driven winery that is using the name these days. Instead, they’re referring to the hillsides on the eastern edges of Napa Valley, as wineries and vineyard sites off the Silverado Trail begin to climb into the foothills.
It’s an interesting region and one that didn’t come to the forefront of Napa Valley until the early 90’s when names like Signorello Estate & Darioush started espousing the virtues of Napa Valley grapes, grown with at least a bit of altitude. After all, not everyone was going to be able to find space on the valley floor and some of these vineyards were significantly older than what’s down there anyway, many planted in the 60’s, or even before.
For Petite Sirah when vine age is often capped at 25 years or so elsewhere in California, growers are risking yields anywhere past that point, in the old world they’ll often let a vine continue to be in ground until it goes 2 vintages without a harvest. In Napa though, other than Corison, I’ve never heard of another winery with a similar setup...especially when it comes to Petite Sirah which generally confuses consumers.
Even at our higher end wine club levels, have you ever bought a Petite Sirah at a wine store without prodding? Most of the other old Petite Sirah vineyards were long ago grafted onto Cabernet. For that reason alone, this is an interesting wine, to me at least. It’s also interesting because at 25 Brix, it’s about twice the sugar content as regular grape juice that my 3 year would enjoy drinking, alcohol content rises along with it of course.
Overall, it’s a good wine and a more complete and dense varietally specific Petite Sirah than others that I’ve run into of late.
Bonny Doon and Randall Grahm are among the biggest names in wine, here's a short history as well as some of the notes on their current offerings.
Hey Guys, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. Over the last few days, we have been able to revisit some spots over the central coast, specifically Santa Barbara County and up in the Paso Robles and some of the Rhône varietals that are being produced. Quite frankly, in the State of California, you can't talk about Rhônes without mentioning Randall Grahm and Bonny Doon Vineyards. Randall and Bonny Doon are in essence synonymous with each other. He's the wine maker there and the owner. The short history is that Bonny Doon started in '83. Randall was on the cover of Wine Spectator in '89 where they titled him "The Rhône Ranger." That's pretty appropriate given that at the time he was still making Syrah in the state of California and there was all of 200 acres or so still planted. These days there is over 40,000. Randall has been at the forefront both in crafting Rhône varietals that people with drink and enjoy but also working through the Rhône Rangers and other trade organizations to encourage other wine makers and winery's to craft Rhône varietals.
We talk a lot in sports about coaching trees and such and such learn from him. Locally, we have Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors who is a coaching tree from Phil Jackson who he played for or maybe even Gregg Popovich when he was in San Antonio. We don't talk about winemaker trees quit as much. In this case, my connection to Randall Grahm and to Bonny Doon started with William Allen who makes the wines at Two Shepherds that I think a lot of people know that I enjoy quite a bit. They are some of the lightest in style in the state of California. Randall has been instrumental with William both learning about how to make wine and helping him through the process. I thought it was important to share some of the Bonny Doon wines, and why I think they are important, and why they continue to be important to this day. I was four years old when the winery opened, so it's a weird sensation for me to be talking to folks that have been it for so long.
One of the things that you should know about Bonny Doon is that it is located just outside of Santa Cruz, about ten miles north, in a small town called Davenport. It is truly one of the great wine tasting environments that you are going to find. You can literally walk across Highway 1 to the beach. San Mateo County coastline is starting to turn into Santa Cruz County at that point. Both coastlines are not like how I grew up in Southern California where it is developed and there are parking lots and freeways. The Highway 1 is a one lane road in each direction, at that point, with a 45 mile an hour speed limit. In essence you are parking in small dirt lots along the road and hiking down a couple hundred feet to the beach where there is literally hardly anyone else there. It is a beautiful, beautiful spot. If you are going to visit the bay area and you want to go to the beach, Davenport is a nice place to stay. There are a couple of restaurants, a roadhouse, a hotel or two. I am sure there is an Airbnb Rental floating around at this point, seeing that we are in the middle of the sharing economy.
Here's some stuff from Bonny Doon. First, I want to talk about Black, White and Red Allover. It's a Central Coast blend, 81% Syrah, 16% Viognier, 3% Grenache. It also brings up an interesting thing. I had a conversation with the folks at Bonny Doon about Grenache. (A note, I love Grenache in all it's forms which makes me strange, but gives me another solid choice along with Pinot Noir and Cabernet to sit as part of our wine clubs) None of us like a Grenache that you can see all the way through. It reminds us too much like a rosé at that point. You just get some of the experience of the industry from these folks. They talked about how Grenache needs a cover, a canopy, the vines have to be grown a certain way. You might not lose out on flavor if they grow them differently, but you are going to lose out in color. I thought that was really interesting. Black, White and Red Allover, it's become one of the Bonny Doon classic wines at this point. The Syrah Viognier blended together is done in France, not done in America, it scares people a little bit, I still think. Bonny Doon is fighting to change that. It adds a bit of acidity interest and a different flavor profile than you might be used to. At $25 this is just an absolute steal.
One of the other ones I want to talk about that will fit well in an inexpensive wine club, I might add, The Heart Has Its Rieslings. The Central New York and Western New York County, the Finger Lakes have talked a lot about Riesling and how they think it is going to be a great grape as time goes by in the United States. Mainly because, as millennials, and I count myself among that group, as we get older... we all grew up drinking soda and other sweet beverages. As we are drinking more wine, we're spending more on wine, we are drinking wine earlier than other groups have, at least other generations have, in the United States. We are not at a French or Italian level by any means, but it is a heck of a lot closer than it ever has been before. Riesling is the wine that wine makers feel strongly it is going to be a good intro.
You will see a chart that shows how sweet these are. This is moderately sweet. What I like about this, San Benito County, Monterey county blend, is that it adds a touch of both, the acidity is still quite high but there is some minerality. You can look at this and is it as good as the classic, classic Rieslings from Mosel in Germany that are both mineral driven, and salty almost, and still can be very sweet at the same time. It's not at that level, but for $16 you don't expect it to be. This is a really good wine though. If you have people over with varying palates, you have some people that don't necessarily drink wine, this is a great choice. Quite frankly, as an apéritif your house, this would work really well.
Another thing that I want to talk about, the most wine geeky among us are going to love visiting Randall Grahm and the folks at Bonny Doon because they are willing to do some stuff that quite frankly is just odd in the industry. This is the [Cigare 00:05:34] Syrah from '09. It's 83% Syrah, again it's 17% Viognier, as we talked about a moment ago. What they will do for you that almost no one else will, is they will sit there, they will line up four Syrahs from four different vineyards in the same vintage and you get to see what you like and what do you find interesting about Syrah. This is a crowd pleaser. It's mid-palate, the whole nine yards. It's classic California Syrah. They make a different one in the valley, which is a much cooler climate and it is probably the most acidity driven Syrah I've ever had in my life. There are just a lot of different things going on. Of the interesting things going on, an apple pear cider fermented in bottle, champagne style, with how they make it. They have a little bit of everything for everyone.
That is my quick spiel. If you are in the neighborhood, if you want to try some interesting Rhône varietals that are made a bunch of different ways from a bunch of different vineyards and really get to walk along the central coast and get some history about the industry itself too. Randall Grahm and Bonny Doon, they make probably 25,000 or so cases right now, distributed at a lot of places, but at the same time many of the higher end Syrahs, once you get into the $30 and $40 range are only made a couple of hundred cases each. They fit both levels of a winery that you can find locally but also a small enough production that it is interesting for us to find too. In any case, Mark Aselstine, Uncorked Ventures. I hope you have enjoyed it. Have a good one.
March 30, 2015
March 27, 2015
March 27, 2015
March 24, 2015
March 23, 2015
March 22, 2015
March 16, 2015
March 12, 2015
March 9, 2015
March 8, 2015
- December 2014 (12)
- November 2014 (23)
- October 2014 (17)
- September 2014 (7)
- August 2014 (11)
- July 2014 (11)
- June 2014 (9)
- May 2014 (3)
- April 2014 (1)
- March 2014 (4)
- February 2014 (4)
- January 2014 (5)
- December 2013 (3)
- November 2013 (6)
- October 2013 (7)
- September 2013 (9)
- August 2013 (7)
- July 2013 (14)
- June 2013 (9)
- May 2013 (4)
- April 2013 (2)
- March 2013 (1)
- February 2013 (4)
- January 2013 (6)
- November 2012 (1)
- October 2012 (1)
- September 2012 (2)
- August 2012 (15)
- July 2012 (7)
- June 2012 (2)
- May 2012 (4)
- April 2012 (4)
- March 2012 (1)
- February 2012 (5)
- January 2012 (10)
- December 2011 (4)
- November 2011 (10)
- October 2011 (13)
- September 2011 (12)
- August 2011 (8)
- July 2011 (14)
- June 2011 (7)
- May 2011 (26)