Uncorked Ventures Blog
Over the years, the wine industry in northern California has gone through any number of significant changes. Napa of course modernized and stepped onto the international stage after the tasting of Paris in the 1970’s. Sonoma hasn’t had a similar coming out party so to speak, but I wanted to spend a couple of moments in this space talking about what’s happening in Sonoma-a real start up winery movement centered in warehouse spaces in and around Santa Rosa.
Over the past few years, I have found myself increasingly moving away from fruit forward wines that have helped make California famous and increasingly searching out cooler climate and higher acidity versions of common varietals. I’d count Grenache as my favorite grape today, that’s something I would have scoffed at a couple of years ago.
More and more, I find interesting, unique and noteworthy wineries nestled in warehouses in and around Santa Rosa.
While I wouldn’t say that Adam Lee and the people at Siduri created the movement by themselves, for some number of years Siduri has offered the best example of what is possible using this type of winery setup. Lee crafts a large number of wines, sourced from grapes from Oregon all the way to Santa Barbara. If you’re counting at home, they’re probably the only winery in the world that offers a chance to taste Pinot Noir from every famous growing region in America, next to each other. That’s incredibly valuable as a wine drinker and Siduri has earned every bit of acclaim they’ve garnered over the years.
More recently, I’ve run into a number of other wineries with compelling stories and similar setups. At Vinify (a custom crush facility) there’s at least a dozen wineries making notable wine. Matt Duffy is the winemaker in charge of the day to day operations of the facility, he also crafts his own personal label (Vaughn Duffy) and has had his Rose, priced under $20, fall into the San Francisco Chronicle’s top 100 wines of the year. Sojourn and our old friend Eric Bradley make their multiple, award winning and increasingly allocated wines there (if you are able to buy $50 wines consistently, Sojourn is probably the first Sonoma wine club I’d suggest you join). Jon Grant has one of the best looking resume’s in wine that you’ve never heard of, being listed as Turley’s assistant winemaker will do that for you. His projects (Couloir and Straight Line) offer a combination of great Pinot Noir and my favorite American Tempranillo, both at price points that are impressive in their brevity.
Elswewhere in Sonoma, I’ve talked about 2 Shepherds ad nauseam I think in this space and elsewhere, but I hope it suffices to say, if you want to know who’s next in wine…..2 Shepherds would be my pick. The winery is only a handful of vintages in and I’m already having to beg for wine. 2 Shepherds is, without a doubt, the most unique and significant new wine project I’ve come across in the past four years. Cool climate and small production sizes make for good bedfellows and they come together nicely here.
Lastly, there are any number of small wine projects cropping up in the larger Russian River Valley players. A great example is the Cabernet Franc project Mark David, which is a personal project of Mark McWilliams, whose family owns the highly respected Arista winery situated in the center of the Russian River Valley. Sure, some of the fruit comes from Napa, but if you want something unique and utterly California, look here.
Let me be the first to simply say thank you to our customers. Your business is greatly appreciated. Here’s some of what we’re working on as the page turns and the new year begins:
-Even better newsletters: Last year we upgraded our newsletters from a half page to a full single page each. This year, we want to continue providing at least that much custom information (unlike many of our competitors, we don’t copy and paste from the winery site, we share our own personal notes and thoughts) while improving the look and feel of the newsletters themselves.
-More Gift Baskets: Your thoughts and feelings about our three gift baskets and the program in general have come in loud and clear. There’s a place in the gift basket industry for a company with better packaging, better wine and better products included. We’ve also seen your ordering preferences loud and clear the wide variety of products within the Gourmet Gift Basket is a clear selling point. More are coming, we promise.
-Easier Re-Orders: We’ve heard you loud and clear, discounts are fun and welcome especially as December credit card bills come due. In the next few month’s you’ll see a wine club members only store that makes it easier for you to re-order wines you’ve already received, as well as offering a number of other wines that don’t fit in our wine clubs, at a discount. As you might expect, even though we focus on west coast wines and wineries, we do find interesting international wines on occasion.
-More Video on the Blog: One thing we’ve heard quite a bit as well, introduce us to the people behind the wine that we’re drinking. On our trips to wine country, you’ll start to see more video from the people that live and work at the wineries we’re shipping to your front door. They can explain the important parts of their winery better than we can, so we’re going to let them.
-Carbon Neutral Shipping: The wine industry, perhaps more so than others is dependent on both a consistent and stable environment to continue its growth. A few degrees warmer on a daily basis in Napa is going to radically change the character of Napa’s wines, so the wine industry itself, in my opinion at least, has a responsibility to be a steward for the environment. Much of that stewardship comes from behind the scenes, like Napa Valley, Sonoma and other world class wine growing regions protecting both open space, as well as their water table levels. For us, we’re not the most environmentally efficient part of the wine sales process. Yes, we use recyclable or compostable materials, but IMO there is more to do. In the next few months, we’ll be partnering with an environmental agency here locally in the Bay Area to off set the carbon we’re using to ship everyone their wine. The process is incredibly easy and frankly cheap, so it’s simply the right thing to do no matter where you fall on the long term affects of climate change-this isn’t something that our customers will be charged for, but it’s something that I believe to be an important step for us.
'Cork taint' is a term that's all-too familiar in the world of wine. Whether you're a wine enthusiast or someone who enjoys an occasional evening glass with your dinner, you've probably heard of it before. Cork taint is used to describe a broad range of undesirable flavor/aroma changes in wine. When you order a glass of your favorite wine at a local restaurant and there's something slightly off with the flavor and/or aroma, chances are it's affected by cork taint. But what exactly causes this to happen? To learn more about cork taint and how it affects your wine, keep reading.
Sources of Cork Taint
The general consensus among the wine community is that cork taint comes from oak barrels or the cork stopper used during the bottling process. Contrary to what some people may believe, this doesn't necessarily mean that it will have a 'cork' like flavors. Wine suffering from cork taint may possess a broad range of flavors, ranging from bland and flat to bitter and sour. Since all wine is made differently, cork taint creates its own unique flavors and aromas.
Is It Safe To Drink Wine With Cork Taint?
One of the the most common questions people have regarding this topic is whether or not it's safe to drink wine with cork taint. Unfortunately, there's no easy answer to this question, as it depends on the particular type of chemicals in your wine along with their concentration. With that said, minor cases of cork taint will only cause small changes in the flavor and aroma, making the wine perfectly safe to drink (as long as it's still palatable). Cases of severe cork taint, on the other hand, can literally spoil the wine to the point where it's no longer safe to drink. Keep this in mind and avoid drinking wine with heavy amounts of cork taint.
What Causes Cork Taint?
The exact cause of cork taint remained a mystery for the longest time. It wasn't until recently that a group of Japanese researchers identified the chemicals responsible for cork taint. 2,4,6-trichloroanisole, or what's more commonly referred to as TCA, is a naturally occurring chemical that's created from the interaction of plant phenols with the oak barrels or cork bottle tops.
TCA does more than just affect a wine's flavor and aroma. According to a recent study, TCA actually alters the human body's sense of taste. This is why cork taint can result in a broad range of flavors rather than just a single 'musky' flavor.
How To Prevent Cork Taint
There are a couple of steps wine drinkers can take to help reduce the risk of cork taint. For starters, you should store your wine properly, keeping it in a temperature and humidity controlled environment. Regulating the atmosphere of your wine will reduce the chance of TCA from occurring. Drinking your wine immediately after opening it is another step people can take to help prevent cork taint. When a bottle of wine is left open for long periods of time, oxygen will enter where it causes chemical changes to occur.
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Ashton is a wine enthusiast and travels around the world experiencing new wineries. Click here to see one of his favorite places to get a quality wine refrigerator.
Ah wine. No other drink can quite compare to it, and no other drink has quite the reputation that it holds. It’s the beverage of choice for drinkers who take pleasure in complex flavours and rich aromas. Whether red or white, wine is a drink of elegance, sophistication, distinct taste and class.
But what happens when that opened bottle starts to taste terribly tart? All these fancy ideals that wine embodies withers away and for many, when the rich flavour of wine dissipates, the rest of it literally goes down the drain. But old or leftover wine doesn’t always have to meet this end.
Because of its many wonderful components and characteristics, wine can play different roles in areas other than drinking and merrymaking. Here are some of the ways you can use wine that may sound quite unconventional, but are definitely worth a try:
A Drink to Dye For
Most people hate it when they spill red wine all over their crisp white shirts. But if you’re looking to bring a unique colour to clothes and even shoes, you can use red wine’s powerful colouring capability to your advantage. Simply heat your wine to a simmer in a big pot before stirring in the clothing or fabric you want to colour. Let the fabric absorb the colour for about 10 minutes before taking it out to cool. For shoes, you can use wine like paint and give your shoes a wine-coloured blush using a paintbrush. After rinsing, your clothes and shoes will have a fabulous and natural colour that can range from pale pinks and greys to deep reds.
You may have already heard that wine is potent in antioxidants and is therefore great at slowing down skin ageing. But did you know that you don’t have to drink it to enjoy this great benefit? You can apply wine directly on your skin and still get the same effects. You can do this in many ways: you can use it as a toner by applying a small amount on a cotton ball and spreading it evenly on your skin; you can pour some in your bubble bath; you can add it to a homemade body scrub or use it as part of your spa facial. The polyphenols within wine will help boost blood circulation, skin-cell renewal and skin elasticity.
Frozen Flavour Cubes
Wine is an excellent additive to food, but extra wine stored in bottles can easily lose flavour, not to mention take up a lot of space in your refrigerator. The solution? Pour your extra wine in ice cube trays and stick them in the freezer. The moment you need an oomph of flavour in your stews and sauces, you can simply pop a couple of frozen wine cubes into your pan. These cubes will also work great for cooling down the same kind of wine without diluting it.
The Disinfectant Drink
Because of its alcohol content, wine can be used as an effective disinfectant. Use it to clean fruits and vegetables, as well as kitchen countertops. It can effectively remove stains and impurities, and kill harmful pathogens like E. coli and Salmonella.
Cure for Cuts and Bruises
Being rich in flavonoids and anti-oxidants, wine can be a very good remedy for cuts and bruises. It can soothe inflammations and remove harmful bacteria.
Wine as Windex
Old white wine has practically the same components as vinegar, so like vinegar it can act as an effective glass cleaner. Mix a couple of tablespoons to a spray bottle full of water and use it like regular glass cleaner.
Spill, Stain & Grease Remover
Is your garage spotty and stained from grease and oil? Do you have a deep dish that’s covered in fat and grease? Use wine to cut through that grease and get rid of stains. The combination of alcohol and acid will help take grease and stains away. And as odd as it may sound, you can also use wine to clean up spilled wine. Pour white wine on spilled red wine and blot immediately with a paper towel to reduce the stain.
Fragrant Fruit Fly Trap
Are fruit flies becoming a nuisance in your home? Get rid of them using red wine. Pour some red wine in a glass, cover the top with plastic wrap and punch tiny holes on top using a toothpick. The delicious aroma of red wine will be irresistible to fruit flies, luring them into the glass. And once they’re inside, there’ll be no going out.
Wine is an excellent addition to compost piles. They’re highly compostable and can activate bacteria in no time to give you clean and green compost for your garden.
Whatever your reason may be for choosing a bottle of fine wine, remember that its usefulness doesn’t end when the party does. You can savour every last drop by using wine in these unusual yet very practical ways.
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By Debra Wright
Debra Wright is a creative and innovative blogger and online marketing specialist. She uses her wordsmith skills to share her ideas, thoughts, and tips to other people about topics that fascinate her, such as her favourite wines. Follow Debra on twitter @debrawrites...
If you want to go on an amazing day trip within driving distance from Los Angeles, a great option is the wine tours located in Santa Barbara County. The drive is only around an hour and a half from the smog and congestion of LA and will take you along the beautiful, eye-popping scenery of the Central Coast.
There are many rural charms that Santa Barbara County can offer travelers that are looking for a relaxing escape from the concrete jungle. There are meandering country roads, horse ranches, and world-class food and wine. If you take the drive from Los Angeles you’ll be blessed with stunning views of the California coast, the rugged topography, and easy access to beaches offering relative privacy.
In the last two decades, Santa Barbara County has earned an boom of winemaking production, acquiring some of the top wine-making talents, solidifying it’s place among the famous and elite wine-growing regions in the world.
There are many wineries to choose from on your visit both in Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Valley, hidden behind the costal mountain range. You can literally spend days viewing the many wineries and attractions in this easy-to-reach oasis, off the beaten path of overcrowded tourism attractions.
For those interested in a first-class luxury wine tour, you can book a private Santa Barbara wine tour, with or without a guide. You can choose a self-guided tour of the wineries, picking from your favorites or adventuring out to find new brands and varietals.
If you prefer to do more than a standard day trip, you can opt for a multi-day mini-vacation in Santa Barbara wine country, exploring the nooks and crannies at your leisure.
There are excellent overnight accomodations in the area, including the five-star Four Seasons Biltmore in Montecito. It features private bungalows, and amazing landscaping making it a beachfront paradise. You could also opt to stay in the secluded San Ysidro Ranch tucked away agains the foothills where JFK and Jackie Kennedy spent their honeymoon.
Santa Barbara’s many wineries include the best-known right downtown, the Santa Barbara Winery. This winery was instrumental in bringing the modern winemaking era to the county, opening their doors back in the early 1960’s. However, the winemaking tradition of the San Ynez Valley dates back to the 1780’s when Father Serra brought the first cuttings to the Santa Barbara region.
An experience you cannot miss on your way to the Santa Barbara wine tastings is driving down Highway 154 crossing the famed San Marcos Pass. You’ll get spectacular views of the coast and the Santa Ynez Valley from over 2,000ft.
If you want to get away from the valley and do something different, head eastward from the summit of San Marcos Pass down Camino Cielo for incredible mountain and ocean views. The Camino is a steep, windy road that takes you to La Cumbre Peak, 4,000 feet above sea level, and the highest mountain seen from Santa Barbara. You’ll see hikers, paragliders, and hang-gliders leaping off the sheer cliffs and lazily floating to the beaches below.
Another attraction worthy of a visit is the Cold Springs Tavern along San Marcos Pass. It’s a historical building established in the 1800’s as a way station for a stagecoach run. Today, it’s a popular romantic getaway destination with live music and delicious tri-tip sandiwches.
Thanks to the famous 2004 film Sideways, which featured many of the locales around the valley, the area has seen an increase in tourism. Especially, the Fess Parker winery and the Hitching Post restaurant. The film also helped build the popularity of the Pinot Noir wine, long a staple of the Santa Barbara wineries; considered to be among the best wines in the world by experts. The Syrah grape and Cabernet Sauvignon are also well-known wines from the area you’ll want to sample.
Wineries You’ll Want To Visit
The more established wineries in the area are Firestone Winery, Fess Parker, Zaca Mesa, Sanford and Kalyra, and the Sunstone. Each location has tasting rooms, private tours, and feature almost year-round tours dates.
If you find yourself in the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, make sure you stop at the Firestone Vineyard. This family-owned estate has over 500 acres of vineyards and they feature a horseback vineyard tour; something to give the wine enthusiast a definite new experience. They also have a barrel cellar, fermentation cellar, crush pads, tasting rooms, and a bottling line for full-production from vine to bottle. An amazing site to see.
In 1972, the Firestone was founded as the first estate winery in Santa Barbara country, pioneering the Santa Ynez Valley as wine country. In 2007, the Firestone Tires family sold the winery to another vintner, but they remain a heavy influence in the wine industry owning local vineyards as well as the Paso Robles brewery, which brews Firestone Pale Ale beer. That beer was voted the Best Beer in America by the 2006 Men’s Journal.
When touring the wineries comes to an end, your trip doesn’t have to end as well. There are find restaurants with famous chefs where you can partake of a gourmet lunch or dinner. You can see some of the Santa Ynez Valley horse ranches, famous for the best breeders in the country. You’ll be able to catch glimpses and photographs of Arabian Thoroughbreds munching on the lush grass of the valley.
If you’re a wine enthusiast and you love touring vineyards, you will find it difficult to compete against a trip to Santa Barbara wine country in southern California.
All in all, it would be hard to come up with a more perfect choice than going to Santa Barbara for a lovely day trip in a luxury van when you are visiting Southern California. With an abundance of scenery, natural sites, eateries and wineries and museums; you’ll find plenty to enjoy on your trip.
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By Ryan Scott
Ryan is the Marketing Manager at Brilliant Transportation. A luxury transportation provider based on Los Angeles and New York. He blogs about travel, luxury, and some of the greatest trips you can find in the USA. Find him on Twitter and YouTube.
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