Uncorked Ventures Blog

Mark Aselstine
 
November 12, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

Corison Winery, A Napa Valley Gem Hiding in Plain Sight

I've taken the drive from San Francisco north up Highway 29 close to a hundred times over the past few years, I've never noticed Corison Winery sitting on the west side of the road though, just before you hit St Helena and the section of the 29 that the locals affectionately refer to as Napa Valley's main street, while all the while complaining about the continuously snarled traffic.

It might be that spot on the left hand side of the road that makes it slightly more difficult to reach for most people as they travel into wine country from San Francisco, or maybe people are already looking at the first views of non grape vines that they've had for ten miles as a string of restaurants and high end boutiques begins to appear in the quaint and charming St Helena, but Corison Winery is without a doubt, hiding in plain sight on one of the most famous stretches of road in the wine industry.

Here's an intro from the folks at Corison themselves, as a small word of warning, the sound is pretty low, but I thought it was important to let the people making the wine, talk about what makes them different and unique.

Video Transcription:

Welcome to Corison Winery. Cathy Corison is our founder, winemaker and [inaudible 00:00:06]. She’s one of the first female winemakers in the Napa Valley. She’s specializing in low alcohol, high acid Cabernet Sauvignon, 100% varietal. If you’re here, come give us a visit. Thanks! Cheers

I visited Wednesday September 17th and was greeted by what amounts to a beehive of activity.  Harvest in Napa Valley is well underway and Corison was in the middle of harvested their famed estate Kronos Vineyard. Owner and winemaker Cathy Corison is an important figure on a number of levels, as is the property itself.

Cathy Corison also represents something that I hope we can get back to over time (although with land prices sitting at around $500,000 per farmable acre in Napa, that's increasingly unlikely) which is a winemaker who owns the vineyard from which they produce their namesake wines. These are higher in acidity and more balances than almost anything else produced in Napa-more soon on Corison and why the property and winemaker is important in terms of both the history, but also the future of California wine.

Mark Aselstine
 
November 6, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

Proliferation of 100 Point Wines in Robert Parker's Wine

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate has gone from awarding a small handful of 100 point wines every year, to well more than 100 last year (and a pace this year, for well over 100 once again).  What's that mean for the industry? There's no perfect answer as of yet, but we're all trying to figure it out.  One thing I do know, selling based on scores alone, might get harder-

Hey guys, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.

One of the interesting thing that's come up over the last few days, the Wine Advocate has now awarded over 500 bottles of wine over the course of their history at 100 points or a perfect score. Interesting thing is that there's a real proliferation of 100 point wines coming right now. 5 years ago, I think that the stats were that less than 50 wines had ever been awarded 100 points in the history of the magazine, and last year alone, there was 102 and there's been 68 already this year. That's kind of before the Bordeaux scores come out. We're looking at another kind of year with well over 100 100 point wines, and so it's just a note of when people get really into, "Well, this wine critic says it's 92 points versus 94 points," if you find somebody who has a similar palate to yours, that's probably a better way of going about it than looking just at the scores as you walk down the aisle. Frankly, I do it too, but it's something that I hope the industry in general can start to move away from (that's also coming from a wine club that talks about shipping wines only 90 points or better in quality, as opposed to scored at 90 points or above like our competitors), especially as kind of this score inflation thing goes out of control, which is what seems to be happening. Yeah, if there used to be a handful of 100 point wines every year, I think that makes sense. There's only so many perfect wines being made and now there's 100 or so a year. That just seems like a big number to me.

Anyway, Mark Aselstine, Uncorked Ventures, and this is the Proliferation of 100 Point Wines in the Wine Advocate.

Mark Aselstine
 
November 6, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

2014 Midterm Election Aftermath

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.

Mark Aselstine
 
November 4, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

500 Wineries for Sale in America?

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.

Mark Aselstine
 
November 3, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

Veteran’s Spirit Gallant Few Proprietary Red Blend

Veterans' Proprietary Red WineI 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.