Uncorked Ventures Blog

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
Mark Aselstine
October 19, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Wine Blog Wednesday-Bigger Than Your Head

Where can you find language, literature and a generally interesting take on both the world of wine and life in general?

Our Wine Blog Wednesday feature this week is: Bigger Than Your Head.

Written by Fredric Koeppel who previously worked as both an English professor and a professional wine writer (yes, those still do exist offline) I read his blog because he covers a wide, wide range of the wine industry.

In the past few days we’ve seen posts on the complexity that is Bordeaux as well as Zaca Mesa which has long struggled to gain the critical acclaim and consumer acceptance that it deserves in Santa Barbara.

Of course, we’re also partial to those bloggers who have nice things to say about wines we’ve included in one of our wine clubs, see the Quivera Zinfandel entry.

While I enjoy the wine writing specifically and believe the wine of the week is a nice feature for regular readers, the articles I enjoy most on the blog are those which touch a wider range of possibilities. Koeppel brings up some interesting discussion points when he asks if American wine can be sold based on a place in the same way French wine is traditionally sold. His argument about some AVA’s being simply too big to impart any information about the wine in the bottle is certainly valid and a discussion we had with a vineyard owner during our last trip to Sonoma, which found us in a vineyard which sits in the confluence of the Sonoma Coast AVA, Carneros and Sonoma Valley. Of course the Sonoma Coast AVA is so incredibly large to negate any value from the name.

Personally, I think that vineyard owners, winemakers and marketers have already started to realize these problems and many of the AVA’s being brought online now are much smaller in scope, as an example the Ballard Canyon AVA of Santa Barbara. The problem then becomes, how do you market yourself as one of hundreds of California AVA’s when everyone in the world already knows Napa Valley, Sonoma and to a lesser extent the Russian River Valley?

In any case, Koeppel’s blog provides an interesting take on the world wide wine industry and he does a nice job at mixing reviews for every day wine with that which is more expensive.

Time Posted: Oct 19, 2011 at 10:20 AM
Mark Aselstine
October 17, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

More on the 2011 Vintage

The discussion of old world versus new world wines is both one of my favorites, as well as one of the most frustrating aspects to the wine industry, in my opinion.

While I understand that there are overarching winemaking styles and growing conditions which can largely differentiate French and California wine, I think it’s overly simplistic to make broad statements about literally thousands of wineries.

Jon Bonne is, without question one of the most respected and influencial wine writers in the world today. In fact the wine column in the San Francisco Chronicle is probably the most influencial of any daily newspaper.

His article about the 2011 vintage in California (with a few notes on France) brings up some interesting points.

-Weather conditions in California were much cooler than normal this year, while conditions in France were much, much warmer.
-Experts and wine drinkers who dismiss California’s wine as being too ripe will likely be very surprised at what ends up in their glass from this vintage.

It's an interesting read about what's in the pipeline for the worldwide wine industry.

Time Posted: Oct 17, 2011 at 9:11 AM
Mark Aselstine
October 12, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Beer...Deer and Purple Cauliflower

Yesterday brought Matt and I back to wine country, to both pick up a bit of wine as well as having a few brief meetings with winery partners both new and old to our wine clubs. It was a productive day, Sonoma was especially beautiful having the sun break through after four or five days of rain. For those vintners willing to take some risk and let their red wine grapes hang on the vine for a while longer, it looks like they are going to be rewarded by 10 straight days of warm temperatures and sun. When vineyard owners look back on the 2011 vintage, they might simply thank the rains for helping to wash the grapes off for them, while also helping drive more water into the grapes, which is generally a really good thing right before harvest.

You might be wondering about the title here. Over the next few weeks we’ll be launching a new section of the education section on this site. Along with having access to Uncorked Ventures perfect wine tasting days in a number of places, we’ll also start sharing some basic restaurant reviews. We spend as much time in wine country as anyone and we hope Uncorked Ventures will become your preferred destination to plan your next trip to wine country.

Beer: We had lunch at Hopmonk Tavern. Originally from Sabastopool, it now has a location a few blocks from Sonoma Square. Far enough from the square to find as many locals as tourists as well as one of the nicest outdoor seating arrangements we’ve found yet in Sonoma make this a nice lunch spot. They also have live music (and a breathalyzer) outside in the evenings. My only one small complaint is that the beer isn’t brewed on site, but by a larger more famous brewer in San Jose. Overall, it’s a good spot and we’ve heard the original site is in a historic building, which warrants a visit as well.

Deer: On the way to the Durell Vineyard we came across three deer running through some of the open space before the vines. After a few minutes of trying to get a decent picture, we gave up. Seeing the deer reminded me that all of the land use and permitting which is often contentious in wine country, is so incredibly important. I really do believe that having a healthy natural environment helps create better wine.

Purple Cauliflower: Our evening ended at the southern tip of wine country at Boon Fly Restaurant in Carneros. It’s long been thought of as one of the top restaurants in wine country-for good reason. Dinner was excellent, corkage is reasonable at $15 and the dessert menu comes with their famous doughnuts as well as a variety of non-chocolate choices (one of my major complaints about too many restaurants in wine country is that they only have chocolate desserts).  I mention purple cauliflower because the side of vegetables which accompanied my steak included bell peppers, asparagus and purple cauliflower, all of which are grown on site at this Plumpjack property.