Uncorked Ventures Blog

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.

Mark Aselstine
October 10, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Sweet Red Wine


Photo Courtest of: http://withfriendship.com/user/kethan123/port-wine.php

One thing which has been a very positive development within the wine industry of late, is greater education for the general public about wine. As I think we all have experienced, the more education or understanding you have of something, the more comfortable you generally are at sharing your opinion and choosing what you like best, instead of what you’re suppose to like.

In that vein, the San Francisco Chronicle had an article about how sweet red wine is making a comeback with wine drinkers.

For a long time, sweet wines have gotten a bad rap as something that only people who don’t know anything about wine like to drink.

I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time in this space discussing the concept of late, but getting people drinking wine (from the industry’s perspective) is much more important than the type of wine they drink. Someone who likes sweet red wine and drinks it consistently will be more likely to try a dry table wine in the future than someone who only drinks beer.

With all that being said, there are a few grapes which produce slightly sweet wines under normal fermentation conditions. Roussane and Marsanne blends are a good example and when we’ve poured such a wine at tasting events the results are mixed. Some people are completely turned off by the touch of residual sugar, while others tend to enjoy it quite a bit. In the end, these wines typically sell well so I’m sure a sweet red would do just as well.

Lastly, do I think the industry is going to move back to large scale sweet red wine production like the American wine industry was during the two decades right after Prohibition? No. I do think that bringing an increasing diverse range of wines to the marketplace is good for consumers. If you take regional examples, many people would argue that California’s willingness to let vintners experiment is one of the reasons why the state has undergone such dramatic improvements in both quality and quantity of wine crafted within its borders.

Time Posted: Oct 10, 2011 at 9:43 AM
Mark Aselstine
October 7, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Wine Enthusiast and Their Best Value's for 2011

I'll admit, it felt a little early to start seeing best of lists for 2011 when we only recently started the 4th quarter of the year, but Wine Enthusiast released their Top 100 Value Wines of 2011.

While I won't stop to belabor the point, one thing you'll notice with only a short glance at the list, there are still excellent wines produced in California for fair prices.  California has 3 wines in the top 10 and another 3 falling between 11 and 20.

It seems that so many retailers of late have talked at length about the values created in Spain, Portugal and elsewhere while they've seemingly forgotten about California.  It is worth noting that Washington State continues to show well and I think it quickly becoming the clear cut choice for the second most important wine producing state in the United States.  Oregon certainly makes world class Pinot Noir, but the depth of choice from Washington at several price points is almost staggering compared to where it was only a decade ago.

Enjoy the list.

Time Posted: Oct 7, 2011 at 10:01 AM