Uncorked Ventures Blog

Julia Austin
November 3, 2014 | Julia Austin

The Best Wines to Drink with Pumpkin Treats

With Thanksgiving and Christmas within our sites, and not to mention the market shelves filled with pumpkin-flavored treats and your free will to eat said treats because you’re an adult—damnit…! Okay, we got ahead of ourselves there thinking about pastries. But as we were saying, you need a good wine to enjoy all those pumpkin goodies with this fall and winter. And here are the wines for the job.

Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato

This refreshing wine with its bright pink grapefruit and mandarin offset some of the richer flavors of pumpkin desserts, but it also has notes of cotton candy and toffee apple, which pick up some of the nuttiness of pumpkin pie.

Chateau Des Charmes Late Harvest Riesling Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

This is a nice crisp Riesling that you can drink several glasses of (which you’ll need because you want to try every dessert at the enormous dessert table—duh) without getting tired of it. The wine has notes of peach and nectarine, so it’s fruity but light and great for heavy or cream-based pumpkin desserts.

Inniskillin’s Sparkling Icewine

All you want to do is leave room for dessert after a big holiday meal, and it also happens to be one of the most challenging things to do. At least you can save a little room by sticking to this refreshing, bubbly wine. The bubbles actually aid digestion—something you could probably use a little help with at this time.

Andrew Quady Essensia, California

Let’s say what everyone is thinking right off the bat: it doesn’t hurt that this wine has 15% ABV since where there is pumpkin pie there are often insufferable in-laws, relatives and unwanted guests. But, this wine boasts much more than booze. It’s made from the orange muscat grape, so it has all the aromas you’d want of fall like orange blossom, pear, honey and apricot. It’s great if you’re having a pumpkin pie that has a lot of spices.

Pedro Ximénez Sherry

If you want a rich, full wine to eclipse your pie, this is it. Often made with raisins, this port wine is quite sweet, but the sweetness is slightly cut by the 15% to 17% alcohol content.

Château Lamothe Guignard

This sweet white wine is part of the Bordeaux family. It has strong notes of honey, as well as some ripe, sweet orange and slightly bitter marmalade—perfect for a zesty but sweet pumpkin dessert. Charles Thomas Pouilly-Fuisse This is a truly complimentary wine for pumpkin pie, with notes of baked apple and cinnamon—the flavors of fall. But because it’s a Chardonnay, it also has a crisp acidity that works well to temper a rich dessert.

Mark Aselstine
November 2, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

Kasauri Petite Sirah Napa Valley

About Kasuari: If there was ever a stealth and unknown label coming out of Napa Valley, this is it.

Kasuari is a relatively new project from winemaker Michael Peters, who spends his days helping to craft the critically acclaimed Sonoma wines of Quivira. Sourced from an area of Napa Valley called “The Terraces” this is an interesting Petite Sirah, perhaps more unique than I believe the major wine critics to believe.

I’ve run into Terraces abbreviations before and while there is a winery that uses the name as part of their nomenclature, when winemakers refer to the Terraces, they aren’t referring to a single vineyard and certainly not the entry level price point driven winery that is using the name these days. Instead, they’re referring to the hillsides on the eastern edges of Napa Valley, as wineries and vineyard sites off the Silverado Trail begin to climb into the foothills.

It’s an interesting region and one that didn’t come to the forefront of Napa Valley until the early 90’s when names like Signorello Estate & Darioush started espousing the virtues of Napa Valley grapes, grown with at least a bit of altitude. After all, not everyone was going to be able to find space on the valley floor and some of these vineyards were significantly older than what’s down there anyway, many planted in the 60’s, or even before.

For Petite Sirah when vine age is often capped at 25 years or so elsewhere in California, growers are risking yields anywhere past that point, in the old world they’ll often let a vine continue to be in ground until it goes 2 vintages without a harvest. In Napa though, other than Corison, I’ve never heard of another winery with a similar setup...especially when it comes to Petite Sirah which generally confuses consumers.

Even at our higher end wine club levels, have you ever bought a Petite Sirah at a wine store without prodding? Most of the other old Petite Sirah vineyards were long ago grafted onto Cabernet. For that reason alone, this is an interesting wine, to me at least. It’s also interesting because at 25 Brix, it’s about twice the sugar content as regular grape juice that my 3 year would enjoy drinking, alcohol content rises along with it of course.

Overall, it’s a good wine and a more complete and dense varietally specific Petite Sirah than others that I’ve run into of late.

Julia Austin
November 2, 2014 | Julia Austin

Loveable Wines from TV

Does being a wino make a person lovable? Or do lovable people just tend to be winos? Either way, here are 7 winos from television history that are always a joy to watch, and would probably be fun to drink with.

Lucille Bluth

Lucille’s drink of choice is, of course, a martini, but she’s got to have something for breakfast. And that’s usually a glass of white with her egg whites—hold the egg whites.

Olivia Pope on “Scandal”

How does Kerry Washington’s character on “Scandal” cope with all the, well, scandal? Drinking expensive red wine. In fact, she was once tracked down by her enormous purchases of “94 Duvillet.”

Robin Scherbatsky on “How I Met Your Mother”

The scene where Robin guzzles a bottle of red under her desk when she is jealous Barney is paying attention to someone else has become so popular that it’s become an internet GIF.

Cersel Lannister from “Game of Thrones”

If Cersel is going to tell someone, oh so eloquently, that she’s going to chop their head off or take over their kingdom or sacrifice their child, you better believe she’s going to swill sweet wine in between her very sour words.

The ladies of “Cougar Town”

A divorced Courteney Cox with her single partying friend and her unhappily married BFF drink out of an enormous glass named “Carl” on Cougar Town while they attempt meaningful conversation that just lends itself to comical, wine induced anecdotes.

The gals from “Awkward”

Looking for great relationship advice? Watch “Oprah.” Looking for hilarious but probably misguided relationship advice? Watch the ladies of “Awkward” guzzle wine and try to advise the star Jenna Hamilton.

Alicia Florrick of “The Good Wife”

Being the first lady of Illinois as well as a partner at a law firm and a mother can be stressful. So Alicia turns to a nice goblet of red to deal. And even with a wine buzz, she never breaks that cold expression on her face.

Editor's additions:

Raymond Reddington on "Blacklist"

My favorite show on television, they've ended more than one episode with "Red" having a first growth Bordeaux and a steak in his hotel room. Is he a super villan? Sure, but you have to admit, it would be a fun conversation, right?

Sean Spencer and Gus on "Psych"

A nod to Santa Barbara, even if the show was filmed in Cananda.  One of the first hit shows on cable, the premise was that of a fake psychic and his best friend.  Sure, there wasn't much drinking on the show, but this is a classic in our house both because of the Santa Barbara connection, but also because it was hilarious to watch Dule Hill adjust to life on a comedy after working on the West Wing for so long.

Julia Austin
November 1, 2014 | Julia Austin

Bizarre Wine Labels and How They Got Their Names

You might think funny wine labels are just gimmicks to get you to buy the wine, and in part, perhaps they are. But these outrageous wine labels have stories behind them that might help you enjoy the wine just a little more because you’re drinking up history, as well as alcohol.  (an early Editor's note, we realized pretty early that wine club memberships were just as much about the story, as what happened to be in the glass.  There's plenty of really good wine being made, sorting though is as much about flavor profiles, as it is the people behind the wine)

Dracula’s Blood

Dracula’s Blood comes from Vampire Vineyards, which originated in Transylvania. The vineyard got its name because, at the time the vineyard was established, Transylvanians were as afraid to do business with Westerners as Westerners were afraid of Vampires. Today, the vineyard is located in California.

Cat’s Pee On A Gooseberry

Busy English wine critic Jilly Goolden described drinking a glass of New Zealand sauvignon blanc as like “diving into a gooseberry bush.” Many believe her colleague Oz Clarke added the “Cat’s Pee” part and then Coopers Creek released “Cat’s Pee on a Gooseberry Bush.” '


This other-worldly label is the product of a company called Vineyard in a Van—a company that goes to landowners who hope to start a vineyard, with everything necessary in their van to get them all set up. One part of the service is helping you design your own wine label, and one customer started a label called “Cosmic Cruisers” under which they created ChardonnAlien.

Bulls Blood

This is an Egri Bikavér—one of Hungary’s most famous red wines. Legend has it the wine was named after a famous invasion in Hungary’s history, when a military leader mixed bulls blood into the wine of his soldiers to give them strength.

Gnarly Head

This sounds like it might be a surf term (editor's note-I know our author here Julia is from Southern California as am I, even in San Francisco people are confused by the gnarley term), but the label actually comes from the vines. The owners of this label started their vineyard in a row of “gnarled” old vines. The twisted, old vines(that's characteristic of Zinfandel where the vines can age well over 100 years, as some wild fields in California will show) yield much fewer grapes than regular vines, but the grapes pack a lot of flavor.

Fat Bastard

Fat Bastard was created by two friends—it started as an experimental wine that was never meant to hit the market—and when one of the friends tried it for the first time, he used the expression he used to describe anything that was really, really good. He said, “Zat iz what you call eh phet bast-ard.” That’s “Fat Bastard” with a French accent.


Wolftrap wine is made in the Franschloek valley in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. When the wine makers first established their vineyard there, they got an understanding of just how old the valley was by finding a real wolf trip there. However, in their time there, they’ve never seen a wolf. The wine was named to invoke the mysteries around the vineyards.

Mark Aselstine
October 31, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

Boony Doon Vineyards, History and Interesting Wines

Bonny Doon and Randall Grahm are among the biggest names in wine, here's a short history as well as some of the notes on their current offerings.

Video Transcription:

Hey Guys, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.  Over the last few days, we have been able to revisit some spots over the central coast, specifically Santa Barbara County and up in the  Paso Robles and some of the Rhône varietals that are being produced.  Quite frankly, in the State of California, you can't talk about Rhônes without mentioning Randall Grahm and Bonny Doon Vineyards.  Randall and Bonny Doon are in essence synonymous with each other.  He's the wine maker there and the owner.  The short history is that Bonny Doon started in '83.  Randall was on the cover of Wine Spectator in '89 where they titled him "The Rhône Ranger."  That's pretty appropriate given that at the time he was still making Syrah in the state of California and there was all of 200 acres or so still planted.  These days there is over 40,000.  Randall has been at the forefront both in crafting Rhône varietals that people with drink and enjoy but also working through the Rhône Rangers and other trade organizations to encourage other wine makers and winery's to craft Rhône varietals. 

We talk a lot in sports about coaching trees and such and such learn from him.  Locally, we have Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors who is a coaching tree from Phil Jackson who he played for or maybe even Gregg Popovich when he was in San Antonio.  We don't talk about winemaker trees quit as much.  In this case, my connection to Randall Grahm and to Bonny Doon started with William Allen who makes the wines at Two Shepherds that I think a lot of people know that I enjoy quite a bit.  They are some of the lightest in style in the state of California.  Randall has been instrumental with William both learning about how to make wine and helping him through the process.  I thought it was important to share some of the Bonny Doon wines, and why I think they are important, and why they continue to be important to this day.  I was four years old when the winery opened, so it's a weird sensation for me to be talking to folks that have been it for so long. 

One of the things that you should know about Bonny Doon is that it is located just outside of Santa Cruz, about ten miles north, in a small town called Davenport.  It is truly one of the great wine tasting environments that you are going to find.  You can literally walk across Highway 1 to the beach.  San Mateo County coastline is starting to turn into Santa Cruz County at that point.  Both coastlines are not like how I grew up in Southern California where it is developed and there are parking lots and freeways.  The Highway 1 is a one lane road in each direction, at that point, with a 45 mile an hour speed limit.  In essence you are parking in small dirt lots along the road and hiking down a couple hundred feet to the beach where there is literally hardly anyone else there.  It is a beautiful, beautiful spot.  If you are going to visit the bay area and you want to go to the beach, Davenport is a nice place to stay.  There are a couple of restaurants, a roadhouse, a hotel or two.  I am sure there is an Airbnb Rental floating around at this point, seeing that we are in the middle of the sharing economy.

Here's some stuff from Bonny Doon.  First, I want to talk about Black, White and Red Allover.  It's a Central Coast blend, 81% Syrah, 16% Viognier, 3% Grenache.  It also brings up an interesting thing.  I had a conversation with the folks at Bonny Doon about Grenache. (A note, I love Grenache in all it's forms which makes me strange, but gives me another solid choice along with Pinot Noir and Cabernet to sit as part of our wine clubs) None of us like a Grenache that you can see all the way through.  It reminds us too much like a rosé at that point.  You just get some of the experience of the industry from these folks.  They talked about how Grenache needs a cover, a canopy, the vines have to be grown a certain way.  You might not lose out on flavor if they grow them differently, but you are going to lose out in color.  I thought that was really interesting.  Black, White and Red Allover, it's become one of the Bonny Doon classic wines at this point.  The Syrah Viognier blended together is done in France, not done in America, it scares people a little bit, I still think.  Bonny Doon is fighting to change that.  It adds a bit of acidity interest and a different flavor profile than you might be used to.  At $25 this is just an absolute steal. 

One of the other ones I want to talk about that will fit well in an inexpensive wine club, I might add, The Heart Has Its Rieslings.  The Central New York and Western New York County, the Finger Lakes have talked a lot about Riesling and how they think it is going to be a great grape as time goes by in the United States.  Mainly because, as millennials, and I count myself among that group, as we get older... we all grew up drinking soda and other sweet beverages.  As we are drinking more wine, we're spending more on wine, we are drinking wine earlier than other groups have, at least other generations have, in the United States.  We are not at a French or Italian level by any means, but it is a heck of a lot closer than it ever has been before.  Riesling is the wine that wine makers feel strongly it is going to be a good intro. 

You will see a chart that shows how sweet these are.  This is moderately sweet.  What I like about this, San Benito County, Monterey county blend, is that it adds a touch of both, the acidity is still quite high but there is some minerality.  You can look at this and is it as good as the classic, classic Rieslings from Mosel in Germany that are both mineral driven, and salty almost, and still can be very sweet at the same time.  It's not at that level, but for $16 you don't expect it to be.  This is a really good wine though.  If you have people over with varying palates, you have some people that don't necessarily drink wine, this is a great choice.  Quite frankly, as an apéritif your house, this would work really well.

Another thing that I want to talk about, the most wine geeky among us are going to love visiting Randall Grahm and the folks at Bonny Doon because they are willing to do some stuff that quite frankly is just odd in the industry.  This is the [Cigare 00:05:34] Syrah from '09.  It's 83% Syrah, again it's 17% Viognier, as we talked about a moment ago.  What they will do for you that almost no one else will, is they will sit there, they will line up four Syrahs from four different vineyards in the same vintage and you get to see what you like and what do you find interesting about Syrah.  This is a crowd pleaser.  It's mid-palate, the whole nine yards.  It's classic California Syrah.  They make a different one in the valley, which is a much cooler climate and it is probably the most acidity driven Syrah I've ever had in my life.  There are just a lot of different things going on.  Of the interesting things going on, an apple pear cider fermented in bottle, champagne style, with how they make it.  They have a little bit of everything for everyone. 

That is my quick spiel.  If you are in the neighborhood, if you want to try some interesting Rhône varietals that are made a bunch of different ways from a bunch of different vineyards and really get to walk along the central coast and get some history about the industry itself too.  Randall Grahm and Bonny Doon, they make probably 25,000 or so cases right now, distributed at a lot of places, but at the same time many of the higher end Syrahs, once you get into the $30 and $40 range are only made a couple of hundred cases each.  They fit both levels of a winery that you can find locally but also a small enough production that it is interesting for us to find too.  In any case, Mark Aselstine, Uncorked Ventures.  I hope you have enjoyed it.  Have a good one.