Uncorked Ventures Blog

Mark Aselstine
 
March 16, 2015 | Mark Aselstine

2 Shepherds Winery

Hi guys, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. It's been a while since I've done one of these and I've been remiss completely in not mentioning what might be my favorite winery in all of Sonoma. I'm joined today by a bottle of 2 Shepherds and, so you can get a little better look at that. This is 100% cinsault from the Bechtold Vineyard.

I'll talk a little bit about the Bechtold Vineyard for a minute first because I think it does a good job of explaining kind of what 2 Shepherds does. 2 Shepherds is actually a one man show. William Allen's become a little bit of a friend in the industry, at least I hope so. He's the north coast president of the Rhone Rangers. William got a start in the industry, he works a high tech sales job by day and makes about 1000 cases, or 1500 cases of wine by night under this label. He has a small tasting space just outside of downtown Santa Rosa called Avenue, which is well worth a look on a number of levels. William wrote a blog called Simple Hedonisms for quite sometime. He espoused two beliefs and [traits 01:03] on that blog and that was first he loved Rhone varietals and second, he was firmly in the camp of lower alcohol in California wine.

When I think of Lodi, I think of, you know, Lodi's hot. Hotter temperatures lead to bigger, more dense wines, but that's not what we have here. This is 130 year old cinsault vines, they were planted in, give or take, the late 1880's and unbelievably, in Lodi where the average summer temperature is well over 100 degrees, they are able to dry farm them. The Bechtold vineyard has this sandy soil, which is fairly consistent for Lodi, water tables at least 30 to 35 feet down. The vines clearly are in the water table if they're still producing this long. Just to give you some idea about the finesse and depth that is possible when you leave a vineyard alone for 130 years, especially when it's on native root stock, because 130 years ago we weren't grafting yet.

2 Shepherds, it's worth a look. William, this is kind of what he does. I love his Saralee's grenache, which is kind of one of the few sites left in the Russian river valley that grows grenache. He finds these really small parcels. The cinsault is all of 37 cases, and that's what you'll find with the majority of stuff he produces. You'll see a grenache block that's about 200 cases, that's the big production wine that he makes. It's a really hands on kind of outfit. I tell people when they ask me, "Hey are you a member of any wine clubs?", you know Napa or Sonoma, since my wife and I are a half hour or 45 minutes away. Quite frankly, we'd consider something that had events that we'd like to do on the weekend or that kind of stuff. William's maybe the only wine maker who's wine club I would consider

joining personally, just because I love what he makes so much. I feel like it's the profile and just the whole experience of one man making wine and being able to sit down and tell you about it that people are looking for right now.

If you're interested in tasting what John Bonne from the San Francisco Chronicle has called the future of Californian wine, 2 Shepherds was one of 150 wineries that Bonne listed in his book as kind of the lower alcohol movement and helping to shepherd that forward in California. 2 Shepherds is also a member of 46 Brix, which is a program that we're a member of here at Uncorked Ventures. In essence it's Amazon Prime for wine shipping. You pay a $79 fee once per year and then you're given free shipping on two bottles of wine any time you order them. I have a number of wine club customers who take part in that. Quite frankly, it makes the monthly wine club shipments, $6 for shipping as opposed to $10 to $15, depending on where they live. 2 Shepherds is a member of that as is Cornerstone and a few other bigger names than we are for sure. In essence, if you want to get to know William and his wines a little bit better, you can read some of his older stuff on Simple Hedonisms. The hype for 2 Shepherds label has well left the station at this point, and we're far from the first retailer to say that we really support this and we really, really like this. When we've shipped it to customers, to wine club customers, they've really, really liked it. Quite frankly, it's one of the few wineries that really feel lucky just to be able to take part in and to be able to support as time goes by. Mark Aselstine, Uncorked Ventures, if you want a small production, lower alcohol Californian wine, 2 Shepherds might be the first place to start. Thanks again, have a good Monday.

Staff Writer
 
March 12, 2015 | Staff Writer

How Dessert Wines Are Made

Dessert wines have become more popular over the recent years. This is especially true with people that do not usually partake in drinking wine. However, because of its sweetness they are more willing to give it a try. What classifies a dessert is its sugar content. These wines have higher sugar levels than that of red or white wines.

There are a number of methods that wineries may use to make a dessert wine. Regardless of the method that they use, the process of making sweet wines could possibly begin with a late harvest. A late harvest means that the fruit was gathered later in the harvest season. By allowing the fruit to over ripen it produces a higher sugar ratio in wine. Along with the high sugar comes a higher alcohol volume as well. This process can be used alone or in conjunction with another method.

One of the most popular methods for creating dessert wines is to stop the fermentation process. When the fermentation process is stopped early it prevents the yeast from turning all of the natural sugars into alcohol. Thus allowing the wine to maintain a higher residual sugar content, resulting in sweet wine.

There a number of ways in which the fermentation process can be stopped. One of which is called fortification. When using this method the fermentation process is stopped by adding liquor, usually brandy, to the wine. Another technique is called cold stabilization. If this method is used the batch is refrigerated to stop fermentation. The last manner in which the fermentation process can be stopped is to sue sulfur dioxide. This method is called chemical stabilization. Though chemical stabilization is an effective way to stop fermentation, it is not recommended as a first option. When using this process it is possible that the sulfur dioxide will interfere with the natural aroma of the wine. (Editor: We've shipped a dessert wine previously in our Explorations Wine Club as well as our Special Selections Wine Club, even though we don't do it often)

Another way to achieve a sweet wine is to use Noble Rot also known as Botrytis. (See Our Explanation of Noble Rot Here) Noble Rot is a mod that develops in the vineyards on the grapes. It creates small cracks along the grapes skin. As a result it attacks the grapes water content. While this can be distressing to a vineyard that is trying to produce a merlot, it is welcomed with open arms to those that are looking to make a sweet wine. By dehydrating the grapes, noble rot leaves behind only the solid material. By using these grapes wineries produce wines with much higher sugar content.

Wineries go to great lengths to ensure that their wines are of the highest quality possible. They take even more care in creating their dessert wines. The processes that are used and the time that it takes to develop the sugars for a dessert wine are taken with great care. While you sip on your next glass of Moscato or perhaps a glass of bubbly Champagne, take a moment to think about the process the winery took to provide you with this subtle pleasure.

As always we hope you'll consider joining one of our wine clubs today!

Staff Writer
 
March 9, 2015 | Staff Writer

Corks, Corks, Corks

The purpose of adding a closure to something is to prevent it from spilling and to preserve its contents. There is a plethora of ways in which to close something. There is not one right or one wrong way. Wine bottle adhere to these same standards. When it comes to these fancy bottles, we as a society have gotten use to seeing them with a cork at the top. That little piece of spongy, wood like texture has captivated our minds and has us fixated on its presence. The infamous “pop” as you unplug the cork brings a smile upon ones face like a kid in a candy store. You know that you just opened something magnificent and your palate is patiently waiting.

Change is something that can be hard to accept. Even though it may be for the right reasons, it may affect our perception of an object. When wineries started introducing the screw cap on their bottles, many consumers turned their cheek and looked upon them as unacceptable. The common perception of a screw cap wine bottle is that it is inferior to its predecessor, the cork. (Editor: We don't discriminate based on the closure for any of our wine clubs, but we do realize that if people are going to age wines from either our Special Selections Wine Club, or our Reserve Wine Club that cork is likely a preferable choice for the vast majority of our customers)

Corks have been around for well over 300 years as a means to stopping wine bottles. So it’s easy to understand the resistance to change. They are made by using the bark of a Quercus Suber or better known as the cork oak. These trees are harvested about every 9 years and are not harmed during the harvesting process. (Editor's Note: Cork is also 100% renewable and recyclable, as you might expect since the cork can be harvested from trees, without cutting the tree down, in fact some of the cork trees in Portugal, which is the largest supplier of natural cork, can be many hundred of years old)

This material is exceptionally durable to be so lightweight. It is flexible and extremely resistant to the penetration of moisture or air. Knowing these key components makes it easy to understand why corks have been the material of choice for so long.

However, there is one major flaw to using a rock. Corked wine is the result of a contaminated cork leaking into the wine. The contamination comes from TCA, which is a chemical compound that is often referred to as cork taint. TCA may have contaminated the cork during the production process. When this happens the wine will have an unpleasant odor.

Minor disadvantages include wrestling with the cork to remove it from the bottle. Only to have it break on you at the last minute. Now you have tiny pieces of cork floating in your glass that you may need to spoon out before sipping.

Screw cap wine bottles are becoming more of the norm in the recent years. Well known wineries have begun investing in these closures. Whether the bottle is stopped with a cork of with a screw cap it still performs the same job. It’s also easier to open the wine bottle with a screw cap. (Editor: I've talked about my thoughts on corks vs screw caps in the past as well)

There is still much hesitation for all producers to convert over to using a screw cap because of the consumer’s opinions of them being cheap wines. As better known wineries convert to using the screw cap societies opinions will change. They will see the benefit of being able to easily open a wine bottle. Get ready to clean out those kitchen drawers and remove those corkscrews. 

Mark Aselstine
 
March 8, 2015 | Mark Aselstine

Wine Pairings for Fish

Everyone may not find a great meal to be a fish dish. There are quite a few people that do not like seafood at all. Then you have the few that like fish, but do not like any other seafood item, such as shrimp or lobster. Regardless of your stance, it’s never too late to give it a try. You never know you may be surprised how the meal tastes when it is served with the perfect wine.

With any meal you need to take into consideration the meat that you will be serving. Whether its beef, chicken or fish it will affect which wine you will serve. Generally speaking, white wines will often pair well with fish, but you will need to be aware of the type of fish that you will be providing.

There are about four specific types of fish. Each group differs greatly in texture and taste. These groups include medium flaky fish, lightly flaky fish, rich and meaty fish, and the strong flavored fish. Knowing these groups of fish will help you pair it with the perfect wine.

Let’s begin with medium flaky fish. These fish include trout, Halibut, Cod, Red Snapper and Grouper just to name a few. These fish are a little firmer and slightly thicker than a lightly flaky fish. A rich full bodied white or a medium bodied white will pair well with these fish. Try a Californian Sauvignon Blanc or a Chardonnay.

Sea Bass, Tilapia and Flounder are all considered lightly flaky fish. These white fish are very lean. In order for a wine to blend well with these fish look for a white wine that will not overpower their subtle taste. Champagne or an Italian Pinot Grigio will suit these fish nicely.

A rich and meaty fish can remind you of a cut of red meat because it is so thick. Salmon, Mahi Mahi, and Tuna are all meaty fish. These fish are very firm and have a strong texture. Flavorful white wines that are rich in flavor pair will with these fish. A Chardonnay or a white Pinot Noir will blend well with a meaty fish.(Editor's Note: add Rhone varietals here like Viognier or even  Roussane) You may even find a few red wines that may pair well with these fish because of their meaty texture. A Lambrusco, for example, would serve a fish in this group well.

Sardines and Herring are considered strongly flavored fish because they are salty and have what some would term a “fishy” taste to them. If serving a strongly flavored fish look for a white wine such as a Pinot Noir or a Champagne.

When served with a meal, wines are just considered a drink. That notion is easily understood, especially when you take into consideration that they are liquids. Unfortunately, we may not be giving a good glass of wine enough credit. In most cases a great wine pairing enhances a dish. It is because of this, that perhaps wine should be considered a side instead of a beverage.

(Editor: As always, if you're looking for a combination of white and red wines delivered straight to your door on a monthly basis, please consider joining our Explorations Wine Club.)

Staff Writer
 
March 7, 2015 | Staff Writer

Sediment in Wine

We all love the ability to age a good red wine. As with anything that ages, the longer it sits the more prone it becomes to developing certain unflattering attributes.  Red wine, as appealing and beautiful as it may be, provides us with a perfect example. If you are a serious wine collector, you may be more familiar with this than most.

When you reach for a bottle that you’ve been holding onto for almost a decade, you happily brush off the little bit of dust that may have collected on the bottle. You then uncork the wine and inhale the fresh aromas. However, when you go to serve it, you notice that it has a little bit of a jelly like substance floating around.

Wine that has been sitting for many years, closer to a minimum of ten years, may have begun to form sediment. We know sediment as a matter that forms within a liquid, because of the force of gravity the sediment settles at the bottom. The sediment that forms in many aged wines is no different.

Sediment is a natural formation in wine. It is comprised of the settlement from the tannins and other solid matter in wine. There are at least two distinct forms of sediment that can develop within a bottle of wine.

The most obvious from that you may see is the sediment that resembles pulp. It can easily be seen by holding an aged wine bottle up to the light. If you have stored your wine bottle properly, which is on its side, then the sediment would most likely be found on the side of the bottle. If your bottle has been stored up right, you will see that the matter has settled at the bottom of your bottle.

Another form of sediment that you may encounter is tiny crystals, called tartrate. Tartrate is formed when potassium and tartaric acid unite. As a result of the combination a solid is created in the form of crystals.

Sediment is not harmful to you in any way. Its prime downfall is that it is not appealing to the eyes. Even the tartrate crystals, as gorgeous as crystals can be, are unflattering when seen floating or adhered to the rim of your wine glass. Even more can be said of the pulp sediment. The thick matter sitting in a glass can easily unsettle a stomach.

If you do find sediment in your wine, do not discard the wine. It is still a great bottle of wine, it just has a few unflattering qualities that need to be removed. Before serving the wine take care to remove as much of the sediment as possible. You may even need to aerate the wine before serving. If by chance you are not able to remove it all and a few straggling pieces of sediment remain, do not be alarmed. The sediment itself may taste a bit bitter, but it shouldn’t ruin the complete taste of the wine. (Editor: I had a member in our Reserve Wine Club tell me that he opened one of the first bottles we ever shipped, from Alpha Omega Winery in Napa Valley, here's me stirring the lees at Alpha Omega, the other day, some sediment needed to be removed from the top of the bottle, but other than that, perfect.  As always I hope you'll consider a wine club membership with us!).