Uncorked Ventures Blog

Mark Aselstine
January 14, 2015 | Mark Aselstine

Myka Chardonnay & The Santa Cruz Mountains


Hi guys. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. I wanted to spend a few minutes talking about both the Santa Cruz Mountain AVA as well as Myka Cellars. Myka, we've talked a little bit about in the past. I think it's an up-and-coming winemaker who he's still finding an exact direction that he's going to go. He produces smaller, he says terrior-driven wines from the Santa Cruz Mountains and so if you're not familiar with Santa Cruz, you may be, should be, but first ... Here's the background for Santa Cruz.

A lot of people talk about the history of California wine and they talk about the Judgment of Paris in 1976 and how that put Napa on the map. What they don't talk about is that there's a winery, most of us know it if you drink wine consistently, called [inaudible 00:00:43] that started in the Santa Cruz Mountains and their Cab showed phenomenally well in that Tasting in Paris in 76, I believe they finished third, although we'll post the full results for everybody so they can see them, and in subsequent years when, say, Robert Parker and other critics have tasted three of the same set of wines and have gotten largely the same results, saying that the Napa folks bested Bordeaux, which has fared even better in subsequent years.

Santa Cruz Mountains really didn't get the credit that it deserved and I think there's a few reasons for that. First, Santa Cruz is a beach town, it's really for those of us who grew up in Southern California, there's a stretch from Santa Cruz down to Santa Barbara that feels like the Central Coast and to me that's a different, definitely a different type of area than, say, the Bay Area is here, Wine Country is, or Southern California being San Diego and LA, so it definitely feels a little different down there so that's part of it.

Second of all and probably more importantly, it's a hard region to get to. It's 45 minutes or an hour from Santa Cruz or an hour and a half or so from most of the population centers here in the Bay Area, and it's zig zagged up the mountain, doesn't feel very safe to drive, have to know where you're going. At some point your GPS goes out because there's no Internet connection, et cetera, et cetera. It's not a fun place to get it. It's much like when I offered to set some of my friends or family members up at wineries on Atlas Peak in Napa, which is frankly, I think maybe the best place to go tasting in all of California but as soon as they look at the directions, universally I get the response that says, "Hey, that sounds fun and those wines look really, really great but don't you know the wine maker at Alpha Omega, which is right along the 29, that looks like a little easier to get it." That's all certainly true.

Santa Cruz, I think they're trying to move tasting rooms closer to where people actually live or at least where people can visit more easily but there's a certain elegance and understatedness about the tasting room up in the mountain above the fog line. That's really beautiful on its own right and worth a trip but they're not going to get as many people willing to make that trip and you're definitely not going to get the random people driving up to 29 like really if we're honest about it, [inaudible 00:02:55].

That's Santa Cruz Mountains. The wines are also more highly acidic, so it's both warmer up in the mountains but they have a morning fog belt and an afternoon fog belt. A lot of folks are used to hearing that kind of stuff at least from me and from us and from a lot of wine folks but really when you try your first Santa Cruz Mountain Chard, you notice something extremely different than what you get from Napa. It's much more biting acidity. The French will say that they're more balanced and they like them better, the marketplace hasn't quite bore that same kind of reaction to them yet. This wine's in the $25 range, an equivalent priced bottle from an equivalent vineyard in Napa might sell for $50. There's definitely some different stuff going on. Anyway, Myka Cellars, Myka, the winemaker, is an interesting guy. He's I think at this point figuring out what direction he's going with the winery.

He makes some really, really high-quality wine. I think there's a question about is he going to try to go the range of I'm going to make 100,000 good cases or is he going to settle in at a 10,000-case range and makes them really, really excellent, 200 to 1,000 case increments of single-vineyard stuff. Frankly, I hope he does that. The guy has some perspective, which I think were sometimes lacking in industry in general. Myka Cellars Chardonnay, some of our wine club members have received this in the past. If you're a new member to our Wine Explorations Club, which is the most inexpensive of our wine clubs, you may receive this in your first shipment. We have a case or two remaining laying around the warehouse that we're shipping currently.

Once again, Mark Aselstine, Uncorked Ventures, I hope you've enjoyed a short talk on both the history of the Santa Cruz Mountains and I think they're important today and if you have questions, please let us know. We're happy to answer. Thanks.

Mark Aselstine
January 13, 2015 | Mark Aselstine

Portalupi and the Petaluma Gap

Just a little more on the Sonoma coast and when a vineyard might not be coastal, but may have plenty of coastal influence (ie, cooling fog).

Hi guys, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.

I'm joined this morning by a Portalupi Pinot Noir. I thought Portalupi was an interesting story for a couple reasons. First, to start, if you have a wine club membership with us, you might be receiving this in your January shipments, which are set to go out early next week.

Second of all, so Portalupi, it's a small winery based up in Healdsburg, which is Sonoma County, kind of the heart of the Russian River Valley. They source fruit from a variety of different vineyards. It's a husband and wife team who knew each other as children, spent what amounts to 30 years or a lifetime apart, and then met, married, and started the wine label back in the early part of the century. They've been around about 10 years or so.

This is their kind of classic pinot noir. It's called Sonoma County and also Sonoma Coast. I actually thought this was interesting because it's the Petaluma Gap. The Petaluma Gap's kind of exactly what you would expect when you hear the word gap when it amounts to wine regions. Santa Barbara has much of the same thing, when in essence you have a hole in the mountain range, and that allows the kind of cooling influences from the Pacific Ocean to come in. Santa Barbara quite famously has the 1 degree per mile and 1 degree per hour that it cools off during the day and in the evening. Petaluma Gap's something really similar. I had a winemaker a few years ago who makes both Sonoma County pinot and Napa Valley cab, who sent me to what he amounts to his favorite Sonoma pinot vineyard which is Sangiacomo, which is just a few miles from Sonoma Square. The square's pretty hot during the summer, especially for those of us coming from the city or the East Bay. When you get out of the square, you drive a few miles, and then all of a sudden, if you get out of the car, it feels at least 10 or 15 degrees cooler. That's because it's the Petaluma Gap and in essence, you just have the onshore flow coming from the bay and really from the Pacific Ocean as it's coming up. That's where this wine comes from. It's a Petaluma Gap wine.

I think it's an outstanding value at $32. It's also a good [entrance 00:02:04] to what's kind of happening with the wider wine [seed 00:02:06] in Sonoma. There's a push for more and more western vineyards, closer to the ocean as possible. Fort Ross has been so spectacularly successful with their vineyards. It's only a mile from the Pacific Ocean. A lot of people were thinking, "Well, what's kind of the next logical step to that?" I don't know if you're going to see beachfront property taking over for vineyards, at least not in Northern California, but I think that there's going to be a push for these regions, where even if they're not right next to the ocean, if they have some of those same influences, because there's a whole ... One of the unique parts of San Francisco and kind of the wider Bay Area is that there's a mountain range that runs almost right along the coast. That keeps the [inland 00:02:47] ... There's kind of almost a bowl in essence. You have mountain ranges on both sides of the city. That happens in wine country too. That's why, you know, Sonoma is on the western side, there's Napa kind of in the middle, and then if you go east, it gets really warm really quickly. You're going to keep seeing people that are looking for these small microclimates, and how those microclimates might affect the wine that's in your glass. This is highly acidic. It's exactly what you would expect. At $32 though, they probably underpriced it by a few. We hope that our wine club members enjoy this month. Once again, Mark Aselstine, Uncorked Ventures. Hope everybody's having a nice January, and if you're on the East Coast or in the Midwest, I hope you're starting to dig out from the snow a little bit. Have a good one.

Staff Writer
January 9, 2015 | Staff Writer

Food & Wine Pairings

Food and wine go together. They are meant for each other like a good marriage. No dinner is complete without a good glass of wine. Food tastes better with wines because they complement each other’s aroma, taste, and texture. A good glass of wine can bring perfection to your food. Think about the first bite of chicken you had yesterday. The first bite gave you a smell of the rich aromas, the taste of the flavors and experienced the texture of the chicken in your mouth. The second bite is also good, but it can’t be as good as the first as your mouth has already experienced the sensation the chicken provided. A drink of wine is necessary to refresh the senses of your mouth and offer it an alternative set of aromas, flavors, and sensation. (Editor's Note: When giving a wine gift taking these pairing suggestions into account makes a ton of sense, especially as we're still in the time period of holiday parties and host/hostess gifts)

Matching food with fine is a matter of personal taste. The easy way, to match a wine with food, is to think of wine as a sauce and match it to the strength and flavors of the dish to the wine. Here are some tips that you can follow to achieve the perfect combination of food and wine.

• Pair spicy food with wines that include residual sugars. For example, try German Riesling with spicy food as the sugar cools down the spice.

• It is a good idea to pair char –grilled foods with wines that have been aged in oak. The intensity of the oaked wine can be tamed by charred or grilled food and can bring out the fruit flavors of the wine instead.

• Pair foods with wines that have similar or complementary flavors and textures. For example, mildly flavored wines match with mildly flavored foods while the big and flavored foods are combined with flavored wines.

• Combine fried foods with wines that are high in acid. The acid in the wine creates a balance between the fried / fatty food and the wine.

• Pair sweet wines with salty food

• Deserts can be combined with sweet wines that are as sweet as them.

• Pair wine with the foods that come from the same ethnicity and background. For example Spanish food and Spanish wine. For more help here are some of our favorite classic food and wine pairings:

• Champagne and caviar

• Chablis wine goes well with oysters

• Red burgundy wine and roast beef

• Red Bordeaux wine and lamb

• Chinese food and piniot noir

• Smoked cheese with Shiraz(Editor's Note: our writers gives away his background here, other than Australia and some parts of SouthEast Asia....it's Syrah to everyone) 

• Pizza with Dolcetto

• Choose chardonnay with fatty fish

• Artichokes, eggs, spinach, fennel, and horseradish are some of the foods that are impossible to match with the right wine. For example, horseradish spoils the flavor of a wine, so it’s a good idea to limit the amount of wine with these particular foods. People enjoy and appreciate their dinner when the food and wine both are good. So you should try these tips and combinations in your next party.

Staff Writer
January 8, 2015 | Staff Writer

Ніstоrу оf Саlіfоrnіа Wіnе

Тhе оrіgіn оf wіnе рrоduсtіоn іn Саlіfоrnіа саn bе trасеd bасk tо thе 18th Сеnturу. Тhе Ѕраnіsh mіssіоnаrіеs оf thе dау рlаntеd vіnеуаrds аnd рrоduсеd wіnеs fоr usе аt rеlіgіоus sасrаmеnt.

Тhе Саlіfоrnіа Gоld Rush оf thе mіddlе 19th Сеnturу brоught mаnу nеw sеttlеrs tо thе rеgіоn, саusіng thе dеmаnd fоr wіnе tо іnсrеаsе. Маnу nеw vіnеуаrds wеrе рlаntеd аnd wіnеrіеs buіlt tо ассоmmоdаtе thіs dеmаnd.

Тhе lаtе 1800's sаw thе реst еріdеmісs dеstrоу еntіrе vіnеуаrds аnd wіре оut mаnу оf thе smаllеr wіnеrіеs.

Тhе еаrlу 20th Сеnturу brоught уеt аnоthеr hurdlе fоr Саlіfоrnіа wіnе...Рrоhіbіtіоn. Durіng Рrоhіbіtіоn thе mаnufасturе, trаnsроrtаtіоn аnd sаlе оf аlсоhоl wаs соnsіdеrеd іllеgаl. As а rеsult, vіnеуаrds wеrе uрrооtеd аnd wіnе сеllаrs wеrе dеstrоуеd. Ѕоmе wіnеrіеs survіvеd bесаusе thеу wеrе реrmіttеd tо соntіnuе ореrаtіng аs nоn-аlсоhоlіс grаре јuісе соmраnіеs.

Іn 1933 thе 21st Amеndmеnt rереаlеd thе 18th Amеndmеnt's аlсоhоl bаn аnd Саlіfоrnіа wіnе bеgаn іts сlіmb оut оf thе рrоvеrbіаl сеllаr.

Fоr уеаrs, Саlіfоrnіа wіnеs wеrе thоught tо bе іnfеrіоr іmіtаtіоns оf thеіr Frеnсh соuntеrраrts. Тhаt wаs untіl Мау 24, 1976 аnd thе Јudgmеnt оf Раrіs wіnе соmреtіtіоn. Frеnсh јudgеs wеrе аskеd tо реrfоrm а blіnd tеst оf wіnеs frоm Frаnсе аnd Саlіfоrnіа. Whеn thе rеsults wеrе іn, Саlіfоrnіа wіnеs tооk fіrst рlасе іn bоth thе whіtе аnd rеd саtеgоrіеs. Тhе rеsults wеrе rероrtеd bу Тіmе mаgаzіnе аnd thе реrсерtіоn оf Саlіfоrnіа wіnе wаs сhаngеd fоrеvеr.

Мајоr Саlіfоrnіа Wіnе Rеgіоns Тоdау, Саlіfоrnіа іs оnе оf thе wоrld's lаrgеst wіnе рrоduсеrs wіth оvеr 1,200 wіnеrіеs. Тhеsе wіnеrіеs fаll іntо fоur mајоr wіnе rеgіоns: Сеntrаl Соаst, Сеntrаl Vаllеу, Νоrth Соаst аnd Ѕоuth Соаst.

Тhе Сеntrаl Соаst AVA (Amеrісаn Vіtісulturаl Arеа) іs lосаtеd аlоng thе Расіfіс Соаst оf Саlіfоrnіа frоm thе Ѕаn Frаnсіsсо Вау аrеа dоwn tо Ѕаntа Ваrbаrа Соuntу. Тhе Сеntrаl Соаst rеgіоn іs mаdе uр оf sіх соuntіеs whісh аll quаlіfу аs thеіr оwn AVA. Тhеsе соuntіеs аrе Соntrа Соstа, Моntеrеу, Ѕаn Luіs Оbіsро, Ѕаntа Ваrbаrа, Ѕаntа Сlаrа аnd Ѕаntа Сruz. Сhаrdоnnау mаkеs uр оvеr hаlf оf thе rеgіоn's 100,000 асrеs. Тhе Сеntrаl Vаllеу іs thе lаrgеst wіnе rеgіоn іn Саlіfоrnіа. Іt strеtсhеs оvеr 300 mіlеs frоm thе Ѕасrаmеntо Vаllеу tо thе Ѕаn Јоаquіn Vаllеу. Тhіs rеgіоn іs mаdе uр оf Саlіfоrnіа's Сеntrаl Vаllеу аnd thе Ѕіеrrа Fооthіlls AVA аnd рrоduсеs rоughlу 75% оf аll Саlіfоrnіа wіnе.

Тhе Νоrth Соаst rеgіоn іs lосаtеd аlоng thе nоrthеrn соаst оf Саlіfоrnіа аbоvе thе Ѕаn Frаnсіsсо Вау. Тhіs lаrgе rеgіоn соntаіns twо оf thе mоst fаmоus аnd vіsіtеd wіnе rеgіоns іn thе Unіtеd Ѕtаtеs: Νара Vаllеу аnd Ѕоnоmа Соuntу. Νара Vаllеу іs а wоrld fаmоus wіnе аrеа аnd hоmе tо numеrоus аwаrd wіnnіng wіnеrіеs. Сhаtеаu Моntеlеnа аnd Ѕtаg's Lеар Wіnе Сеllаr thе wіnеrіеs whо wоn thе whіtе аnd rеd саtеgоrіеs оf thе 1976 Јudgmеnt оf Раrіs аrе bоth lосаtеd hеrе. Тhе Ѕоuth Соаst rеgіоn runs аlоng thе Расіfіс соаst frоm thе sоuthеrn еnd оf Lоs Angеlеs tо thе Мехісаn bоrdеr. Тhеrе аrе sоmе nоtаblе wіnе rеgіоns hеrе suсh аs: Antеlоре Vаllеу/Lеоnа Vаllеу AVA, Rаmоnа Vаllеу AVA, Ѕаn Раsquаl Vаllеу AVA аnd Теmесulа Vаllеу AVA.

Staff Writer
January 6, 2015 | Staff Writer

How to Buy Wine for a Gift

How to Buy Wine for a Gift

Relaxing with good friends and exquisite wine - it seems only fitting to experience life this way. Who has no friends who love wine? Giving (and receiving) the gift of wine is a special thrill.

On the other hand, you have a few decisions to make. After all, wine is personal, like clothing, jewelry or music. The great thing about this: your gift can be both unique and genuinely appreciated. If the recipient is family or a close friend, choosing is much easier. You may already know what they want (Editor's Note, or simply like, such as anything from Napa Valley or Paso Robles).

However, some worry that others, especially their boss, coworkers or business clients may not like their choice. In any case, you may have a number of questions.

What kind of wine should I buy - red, white or sparkling?

Should it be foreign or domestic?

How much should I spend?

First of all, think of the occasion. Wedding gifts are usually more elaborate than hostess gifts. A variety of bottles helps a new couple start building their collection (Editor's Note: we see newlywed gift message often come across in our wine clubs because they show up every month and do exactly as has been described).

If you are giving wine as a business gift, a Chardonnay or Merlot pleases most people. You might even want to include personalized wrapping or labels. Dinner parties seldom require the most expensive or exotic. You have a number of choices in the $20 to $50 range to wow your friends. What is your budget? You probably know that wines can be anywhere from a few to several thousand dollars. Chances are, unless your friend is the most finicky oenophile, they may not appreciate a gift that costs thousands. Unless you are making a statement or have too much cash, avoid overspending.

Will foreign or domestic be better? If you are in France at a French restaurant, by all means, go ahead and get the French bubbly. Oui! Otherwise, domestic wines are a great option. You and your friends will appreciate you are supporting local business. Not only that, domestic wines these days stand up to and often exceed foreign wines for quality.

Which varietal is best? Some of your friends may prefer a buttery Chardonnay. If you don't know what your friends like, keep the following in mind. Even if it is a hundred degrees outside, three fourths of American wine drinkers at a party will ask for red. If you are outside, go for a lighter red, such as a Pinot noir or Merlot (Editor's Note: everyone continues to disregard Grenache and that's a shame).

Are you sitting around the fireplace in the middle of winter? Bolder wines can warm your soul. Where should you get the wine? Physical stores get you a bottle of wine quickly. Nonetheless, if you desire higher end enjoyment, online sources are a far better option.

Internet retailers are definitely not all the same. Some offer gift baskets with low-cost afterthoughts. Only with careful shopping, can you find exceptionally paired cheeses, chocolates and spreads. Even fewer still are obsessed with hand-sourcing wines from local vineyards. If you are looking for a truly one of a kind offering - one that will convince your loved ones and special friends that you are amazing - find the best online retailer and send their wine club membership as a gift.

Choosing wine should be simple. When it comes to enjoying wine, it is truly all about the experience. Get the experience right and everyone will enjoy the wine. Unless, of course the wine is awful - and that is just not going to happen with what you have learned here!