Uncorked Ventures Blog

Mark Aselstine
March 18, 2012 | Mark Aselstine

White House Wine

I have to admit, I’ve always had a fascination with the wines being served at the White House. Maybe it was the pride that winemakers felt when their wines were selected or maybe it was just a fascination with seeing how my tax dollars were spent, but over there years there have been a few interesting choices to be sure. Among my personal favorites was George Bush serving Schafer Hillside Select (retailing at the time for about $500 a bottle) at a G20 summit when the main topic of discussion was possible upcoming bailouts of some of the member economies.

Ok, so what brings wine at the White House back into the news? For the past few months President Obama and the current White House have stopped sharing which wines have been served. All in all it looks largely like a public relations move since they don’t want to show tax dollars being used to purchase $100 wine when it economy isn’t in great shape, in an election year.

That’s understandable, but it does leave me without an interesting conversation piece or two when I talk with wineries. Plus, I think everyone that is paying attention to this stuff already knows that the White House probably isn’t serving $2 wines at state dinners.

Mark Aselstine
February 29, 2012 | Mark Aselstine

Another New Gift Basket

Books are Coming to Uncorked Ventures

We’ve talked a bit here about our expanding gift basket offerings, one that I am especially excited to talk about is an expanded Wine Essentials Gift Basket which will come with at least one bar style book.

Matt and I have certainly been accused of being many things, avid readers is certainly among those.  We love Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate and have both enjoyed Extra Virginity (it is uncanny how similar the wine and olive industries seem to be, if only separated by 100 years).

For those reasons, among others, we're excited to be bringing a range of books into our upcoming gift basket offerings.  We think our average customer is going to be interested in looking even further behind the curtain of the wine industry and there are certainly a few books currently in print which help do just that.

Mark Aselstine
February 22, 2012 | Mark Aselstine

479 Degrees Popcorn

Over the past two months we’ve been working to expand our gift basket offerings here at Uncorked Ventures. Given the success of our Gourmet Gift Basket during the holiday season, we wanted to develop a similar offering for our customers.

Of course we had the same two priorities when it came to developing this new gourmet gift basket. First the products included had to be of a high enough quality that either Matt or I would buy them for ourselves and our families normally and secondly, if at all possible the company had to be local to the greater San Francisco Bay Area.

With 479 Degrees Popcorn we found the best of both.

A local, San Francisco based popcorn maker 479 Degrees focuses on crafting popcorn which is both organic and made by hand. Having been featured recently in Food and Wine Magazine, it seems that other people outside of San Francisco are starting to catch on as well.

You might wonder, why popcorn? As with most things in small business there is a personal connection. I grew up with my parents owning a Dairy Queen which came in their “Treat Center” concept meaning it contained an Orange Julius as well as a Karmel Korn store. I was definitely guilty of loving the taste of warm, fresh carmel corn which was made only a few feet away.

It took a while to find a popcorn maker that made me remember that feeling, until we got a chance to try 479 Degrees.

Mark Aselstine
February 21, 2012 | Mark Aselstine

A Word on Our Wine Clubs

I don't think it hurts to every so often, direct you to things that we believe we do well.

On the wine club side, I think the quality of wines we are sourcing speak for themselves. We feel really good that the wines we feature are among the very best available anywhere.

Unlike our competitors, with a few exceptions we aren't buying wine based on price.  We're buying wine that we think is of high enough quality and then asking wineries for price after we decide which wines are the best fit for our club members.

Mark Aselstine
February 13, 2012 | Mark Aselstine

Thank You James Laube

Since we opened our virtual doors in January of 2010, we’ve seen quite a few changes in the wine club space. The biggest one though has been the rise of the major media backed wine clubs.

It seems like every newspaper in America is starting its own wine club these days in order to try and bring in some extra revenue.

I should start by saying there are a few wine clubs that I have lot of respect for. We’ve run into them buying from some of the same wineries that we’ve spoken with, or we simply know based on conversations which have been relayed to us that they generally care about their customers in the same way that we care about ours. While I still think we consistently source the best wine of any wine club out there (we’re the only ones comfortable showing every wine we ship, every month, directly on our website), I can comfortably say there are a small handful of other clubs doing a good job for consumers as well.

The major media backed clubs fall into that category.

It’s unfortunate, but these major media backed wine clubs have been set up to simply take advantage of the marketing acumen, ad space and subscriber lists which come with being a newspaper or magazine with decades in publication.

The average consumer thinks that the wine writers at these outlets have some role in selecting the wines which are shipped. They don’t. These clubs are run by a 3rd party company, the media companies are hands off other than marketing.

I’ve been amazed that no one in the industry has said anything, until now.

In a recent Wine Spectator issue James Laube mentioned newspaper wine clubs and strongly suggested that you don’t buy wine from them, ever. Evidently he has seen the same type of shipments that we’ve seen, cheap wine or worse yet, private label wine which literally can’t be sold for full retail anywhere. It isn’t a good deal at 50% off, if the retail price is grossly over inflated.

If you don’t know what a private label is, a quick idea is a wine from a winery which only exists on a piece of paper. You can’t visit. You generally don’t get any AVA designation outside of the most generic such as “California”. Frankly speaking, consumers spend money on wine because they like a good story and they like to know who made their wine and why it was made the way it was. At least our customers do. As a consumer I do. Private labels largely increase profits by undermining the exact reasons why consumers like wine.

As both a small business owner in the wine space and also as a consumer, thank you James Laube.