Uncorked Ventures Blog

Mark Aselstine
August 8, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Not to be missed at Family Winemakers

In our last blog entry we mentioned that Family Winemakers of California has another tasting event in San Francisco coming up shortly. We thought a few of our readers might be interested in a couple of wineries that we’re looking forward to meeting and tasting with at the event. While some of our old favorites will be there including Audelssa, B Cellars, Carter, Demetria, Dranonette, Keenan, Pisoni (easily the most fun table in the place most years), Pride, Round Pond, Siduri, Sojourn and a few others….we wanted to mention three names which previously haven’t appeared at the event in this space.

Figge Cellars: A small production Pinot Noir house in Monterey, Figge is probably the first winery we’ve ever seen to proudly proclaim that they are neither Napa Valley, nor Sonoma County. Instead they grow their grapes in the cooler still environment of Monterey. Frankly, we appreciate a winery that simply says they aren’t mass marketed. Neither are we and the focus on authencity is something which makes us very interested in meeting the people behind Figge.

Patland Estate: We can certainly appreciate the thought that when you visit Napa Valley that it is easy to imagine yourself living the wine country lifestyle and making wine as well. We certainly did the same thing before starting Uncorked Ventures although I personally think the life isn’t quite as glamorous as many people make it out to be (winemakers spend as much time driving fork lifts as they do actually blending wine). All that being said the opportunity to taste and visit an owner/winemaker pouring the wine himself or herself is among the biggest thrills any avid wine drinker can have. We appreciate that the family has spared literally no expense by buying Cabernet Sauvignon from the famed Stagecoach Vineyard.

Von Holt Wines: If there ever was a unique story behind a winery, this might be it. We’ve seen plenty of Bay Area locals grow up to own vineyards after working in the wine industry for a while, or even making a fortune in high tech, but we’ve never seen a winery owned by a former secret service agent before. We’re sure that the attention to detail and selfless nature of the Secret Service lends itself well to owning a winery, albeit in a much less stressful environment. More than anything else we’re looking forward to trying another creation which counts Ed Kurtzman among its employees. Ed is easily one of the foremost winemakers of cool climate Pinot Noir in Sonoma County and his projects always offer something distinctive. As with any great winemaker, their assistant winemakers often pick up much of their experience and expertise and we’re excited to try our first bottle made by John Fones.

Time Posted: Aug 8, 2011 at 1:11 PM
Mark Aselstine
August 5, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Family Winemakers of California- San Francisco 2011

Family Winemakers of California

One of our favorite events every year is the Family Winemakers tasting. Matt and I have attended in the past few years both in San Francisco and Del Mar (San Diego). For wine distributors and retailers Family Winemakers offers a nice opportunity to get to say hello to people from a wide geographical area all in one place while tasting wines and making plans for either more extensive tasting trips, or purchases. As a consumer, it’s quite simply the best wine tasting event of the year.

2011 Family Winemakers Public Tasting
Sunday August 21st, 3:00 PM until 6:00 PM
Festival Pavilion
Fort Mason Center
San Francisco, CA 94123-1382

We’ve often asked if we have any tips for consumers. While others have covered tasting etiquette and tips in great detail we’d offer the following suggestions.

• Don’t be afraid to spit. There is a lot of wine there, drinking too much usually doesn’t help you enjoy the event, especially when Ft Mason can get really warm.
• Find a safe ride home.
• Come with a plan. Know which wineries you’ll absolutely want to taste and which one’s you’ll taste if there is enough time. Tables are generally clustered in alphabetical order, so it makes it pretty simple to follow your list.
• Lastly, HAVE FUN!

Mark Aselstine
August 1, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Allowing Access at Pride Vineyards

We’re often asked by customers and of course friends and family about good places to taste wine. Depending on someone’s experience and budget, there are of course plenty of great choices in Napa Valley.

Pride Mountain Vineyards

Napa Valley Vineyard (© Photographer: Tom Purcell | Agency: Dreamstime.com)

One of our favorites though is Pride Vineyards, which does a good job at making its tours easily available and appropriate if you are cellaring wine at home, or if you’re enjoying your first glass. While not a perfect fit for our wine clubs because they are both relatively large (at least in relation to the wineries we normally ship at 20,000 cases of wine per year) Pride does make some good wine.

One thing which we also love about Pride (and something which we think more wineries should do immediately) is having a more hands on area where guests can see vines up close and even try a grape off the vine. I know the first few times I are a grape directly off a vine I was incredibly surprised about sugar levels and how sweet the fruit could really become under the best growing conditions. It really is an eye opening experience for wine drinkers of all types, especially when they see the differences in sizes between grapes up close. It’s another step in the wine world demystifying itself and attempting to be more approachable. Given that virtually every winery owner and winemaker I’ve met are incredibly happy to share information about their process and are approachable, it’s good to see those same traits being passed more easily into tasting rooms.

Mark Aselstine
July 29, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

More About Kenneth Crawford and Babcock Vineyards

With wine club shipments being delayed for our non-California customers this week, it wouldn’t be right to discuss the wines which are being included (suffice to say, there is a 97 point Pinot Noir included though for Special Selections Wine Club members) but we did have the opportunity to re-taste a Pinot Noir from a previous shipments that has done very well with re-orders. We talked about the Kenneth Crawford Babcock Vineyard Pinot Noir before in this space, but thought it might warrant another mention given how positive our customers reaction has been.

Kenneth Crawford is a collaboration between two winemakers in Santa Barbara. Focused not on farming, but on securing fruit from the top vineyards in the area, Kenneth Crawford now crafts only around 1,500 cases of wine per year. As with many wineries in the Santa Barbara area, there are two grapes of distinction being produced currently. Pinot Noir is famous due to the film Sideways and grows in the cooler vineyards closer to the Pacific Ocean and Syrah grows well in the inland vineyards, which experience warmer day time temperatures, but still have cool, coastal influenced fog and temperatures at night.

For our wine club we selected Kenneth Crawford’s Babcock Vineyard Pinot Noir for a few reasons. To start, it really is an incredible wine. Secondly, we thought it offered an opportunity to feature one of the most famous vineyards in Santa Barbara, at a reasonable price point. Babcock Vineyards is owned by Bryan Babcock, who was truly one of the pioneers in Santa Barbara wine production, opening his namesake winery back in 1984. Babcock was chosen as one of the top 10 small production winemakers in the world by the James Beard Foundation and bears another mention here because the founders of Kenneth Crawford both learned the trade working at Babcock Vineyards.

So why is this Pinot selling so well? I think it offers a good combination of mid palate flavors and although it is a bigger body Pinot than many on the market, that ripeness is well balanced by the acidity. In many ways, this is exactly what you want from a Santa Barbara Pinot Noir. Nuanced flavor, but an enjoyable wine to drink no matter if you’re having your first glass of wine, or if you’ve been drinking and collecting your entire life.

Mark Aselstine
July 27, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Wine Bloggers Conference, Thomas Jefferson and Monticello

One of my favorite things about the wine community in 2011 is that there is an easy way for people who want to break into the industry: blogging. No matter is it simply about wine and their experiences in wine, or as a series of tasting notes, writing regularly about wine gives anyone new to the industry the opportunity to attract followers and attention for their work. I think it is pretty clear that there are a number of popular blogs which carry a level of influence slightly below many lesser known wine critics while still having the opportunity to create significant sales for wineries and other wine businesses (yes, even wine clubs). Blogs such as Vinography, Dr Vino and Fermentation should be counted among that group. I also think that even outside of Gary V, there is going to be a wave of new wine critics coming into the public consciousness over the next few decades, the vast majority of which likely got their start with a blog.

Of course, where does a blogger go to in order to interact with industry insiders, learn how to make a living and much more? The annual wine bloggers conference of course.

Started in 2008 in Sonoma, California the wine bloggers conference now travels the United States (and according to press releases over the past 24 hours, soon to be going to Canada in 2013) in an effort to bring industry and bloggers together, while helping wine regions to make a name for themselves. This year, the conference took place in Charlottesville Virginia and gave wine bloggers (who largely are centered in and around California wine country) a good introduction to Virginia wine.

Virginia is, in some ways, the original American wine region. Home to Monticello, the expansive colonial home of Thomas Jefferson, Virginia has long been thought to have perhaps the best chance to join California, Oregon and Washington State as major wine producers in the United States. While New York State, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Michigan and a few others can make claim to the next great wine state title as well, Virginia has an extensive history in wine dating back to the American revolution itself.

Thank You Paul Kucher for supplying the wonderful image.

Jefferson for those who don’t know was the American ambassador to France. During his time in Paris he had the opportunity to not only enjoy French wine, but to travel to Bordeaux and Burgundy. He decided to try and bring something of French wine country back to Monticello by attempting to grow classical French varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and a few others on the estate.

As you might expect, that didn’t go especially well for Jefferson as he found what many others did until the advent of modern pesticides, European rootstock wasn’t resilient enough against American vineyard pests to grow well in the new world.

Ok, enough about Virginia and Jefferson for now. If you’re someone interested in one day working in wine, blogging about what you’re drinking and why is perhaps your best bet to get started. If you want to become a truly professional blogger (the type who gets hired by a major winery to run their social media) attending the annual wine bloggers conference is a must.