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Mark Aselstine
October 22, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

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3 Steves


Mark Aselstine
October 22, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

3 Steves Winery

After my experience with Cuda Ridge and their Semillon, I took a few extra days and tracked down a couple of industry insiders and asked for a few additional recomendations for wineries in and around Livermore. One of which is a local winemaker here in the East Bay, who sources some fruit from that direction and another is a distributor that handles wineries largely from the Sierra Foothills, but lives in Livermore.

One name that came up during all three conversations was 3 Steves.

So you'll notice a few things that are different about 3 Steves right off the bat.  First, yes there are literally 3 Steves, which is different than the standard family setup.  They also got to know each other during a failed winery project, something that's pretty common, but no one else ever wants to mention.  Lastly, the guys generally seem to have good senses of humor.  I came across a business card to one Steve that mentioned that yes, he does exist.

Evidently two of the three Steve's work full time at the winery, while the 3rd has a regular job.  I'm sure that regular job comes with both better pay, as well as less perks.

In any case, it's that slightly off beat persona at play here that helps to draw people in, but the wine that's keeping them coming back.  I had the opportunity to taste the Zinfandel which comes from a true old vine Zinfandel vineyard in Cienega Valley, which sits about 25 miles east of Monterey and given the Napa earthquake last week, at least bears a mention that is transversed by the San Andreas fault. That also bears a mention because stressed vines make better wine and having a constantly moving soil underneath you (reports are the region moves 2 inches per year on average) has a way of stressing people out and plants I'm sure as well.

The Zin is as you'd expect, big, bigger and bold.  With vines over 100 years old, the flavors are packed in and it's about as dense of a wine as you can imagine.  If the wine was made in the more well known Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma, they'd be charging something closer to $55 for it, rather than the $34 that it's priced at currently.

Reports are, folks within the industry feel like this is one of the best examples of a winery in Livermore taking a balanced and nuanced approach to wine and they are going to be rewarded for that in due time I am sure.  The Cabernet Franc is also suppose to be quite good, but as you might expect for a winery that's still in start up mode (that I can appreciate to be sure) but with a fully functioning tasting room, both the Zin and Cab Franc are sold out.

Mark Aselstine
October 22, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

Davis Family Vineyards

Davis Family VineyardsDavis Family Vineyards

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending Pinot Days in San Francisco.  While writing about some of the wines and wineries that I found during that beautiful afternoon in San Francisco has largely been pushed onto the back burner, there's a number of wineries that certainly deserve a mention in this space.

I decided to start with Davis Family Vineyards for two main reasons.  To start, the wine really stuck with me throughout the day.  Despite tasting at least fifty different versions of Pinot Noir throughout a three hour course through the grape's different manifestations from California and beyond, I thought the Davis Family Vineyards version offered the best combination of acidity and richness.  Quite simply it was a wine that I really enjoyed and think anyone, no matter their level of "wine geekyness" will enjoy.  Over at the Pinot File, the stature of these wines are summed up well enough indeed: "The perfect Pinot Noir hasn't been produced yet, but some of the ephemeral Pinot Noirs crafted by Guy Davis of Davis Family Vineyards have come darn close. Guy's style matches bright, complex aromas and flavors with silky textures and impeccable balance, while capturing the essence of Russian River Valley terroir."

Davis Family Vineyards has largely been created with two simple and concrete assumptions by the family.  First, wine is part of the good life that we've talked about for some time here as well.  Think about the last time you had good friends to your house for dinner, that's better with a great bottle of wine right? Secondly, the Davis Family will be stewards of their environment and the vineyards that they own.  As you can tell by only a few moments with any of the family, or just by visiting their website, this is a family operation all the way.  I think we can all agree that you are likely to treat the land and vines a bit better if you want your sons to be able to make world class wine from the property for years after you're gone, rather than looking to increase the sales price of your winery.

I should also mention that Davis happens to be a family name on my wife's side, so I absolutely had to stop and say hello when I realized that it wasn't a sales manager or tasting room employee manning their Pinot Days booth.  Mentioning the name to Judy Davis brought a laugh and shake of her head, she mentioned that I'm far from the first person to mention the connection.  Given that Ancestery.com has over 27 million records for the last name, that's not surprising (compare with about 900 for my own!) but Judy seemed to enjoy being able to talk about it and how it's

Benjamin Ehinger
October 21, 2014 | Benjamin Ehinger

What are the Top Colorado Wines During the Fall Season?

Finding the right wine for the season isn't always easy. Sometimes the best choice comes from an unexpected place. Here's a look at a few of the top Colorado wines to try this fall.

Carlson Vineyards 

This vineyard provides a wonderful Riesling for the fall. The 2010 Laughing Cat Riesling is made with about 4% sugar and packs a punch of acidity. It's very balanced and goes very well with turkey or just about any other white meat. 

The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey

One of the wines coming from this winery is simply a must try for any wine lover. The 2012 Wild Canyon Harvest, which only comes out in early November, is an excellent rose. This light, sweet wine blends 28 grapes picked from the backyards of residents. It's perfect for one of the unexpected warm fall days.

BookCliff Vineyards

If you're in search of a Colorado Syrah for the fall, BookCliff Vineyards is the right place. They produced a 2010 Reserve Syrah, which provides notes of molasses perfect for pairing with BBQ or those looking for a tailgating wine.

Sutcliffe Vineyards

A sexy wine with flavors of natural oak comes out of the Sutcliffe Vineyards. The 2011 Viognier is perfect for the fall season and provides a similar buttery flavor to a Chardonnay. However, it's balanced with acidity and vibrant fruit flavors, which makes it perfect for pairing with many fall meals.

Jack Rabbit Hill

Those searching for a blend will enjoy the 2009 M&N. This is a blend of Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir, which makes it light enough for turkey, yet flavorful enough to pair with a steak.

Graystone Winery

An interesting port comes out of the Graystone Winery called Lippizan Pinot Gris Port. This amazing wine provides the basis for a spring cocktail, but also provides a nutty and smoky flavor perfect for fall desserts.

These are just a few of the many Colorado wines perfect for the fall season. Whether you want to enjoy wine at your next tailgate or you're looking for the perfect bottle for Thanksgiving, these choices provide something perfect for fall.

Editor's Note by Mark Aselstine: Our wine club only technically features wine from California, Oregon and the state of Washington....but we have featured international wines a few times in the past and also featured a New Mexico sparkler a couple of years back (Gruet makes some amazing stuff to be sure). I'm not someone who believes that there's something intrinsically unique about west coast vineyards, instead there's a confluence of factors that have driven the three states that we cover into the wine elite in America.  From location (for Napa and Sonoma specifically) to education (UC Davis still is the preimminent winemaker education program in the country, perhaps the world) and of course climate has something to do with it. Remove any of the three and you have a much different local wine industry.  That also menas that other states have an opportunity to gain market share as time goes by.  Colorado is one such example, especially as the industry itself seems to be interested in higher altitude wines and the affects that altitude has on what ends up in your glass.  Combine that with an influx of California residents after the real estate run up over the past decade and it's certainly possible that Colorado takes a step forward in the coming years to join the second tier of winemaking states which IMO, includes New York and Texas among others right now.

Mark Aselstine
October 20, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

The Ongoing Legacy of Robert Mondavi

Robert Mondavi is a name that brings a reaction no matter who you mention it to, for good reasons, without his work at both Krug and the winery which bears his name, Napa Valley would hardly be the same. Here's another part of his ongoing legacy, the people who grew up in the marketing departments of Mondavi and how they're continuing those good practices elsewhere.

Video Transcription:

Hey guys, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. So over the past couple weeks I've had a couple conversations with a few different people, and it's brought to mind the legacy of Robert Mondavi and kind of the Mondavi legacy, and what that means in Napa Valley and kind of throughout the wider wine industry. You know, it started with a conversation up at Canard Vineyard, where the owner (my insert here, Rich Czapleski whose name I didn't want to mispronounce) up there was telling me that the way it used to work in the valley, if they'd get a pest, as he said - and I pretty much quote here - you'd call Bob and say, "Hey, I'm having this problem, we're not really sure what it is." And later on in the afternoon the Mondavi farmers would show up and they'd - you know, in essence - figure it out, fix it, and they'd go along their way. So it was a really nice, kind of collegiate setup in the industry.

Over the past couple days I've met Stephanie Grubbs, who's at Benessere Vineyard, which is kind of at the northern reach of Saint Helena as it turns into Calistoga. They do a range of Italian varietals that's starting with Sangiovese and then these days,  a little more Cabernet. And then Tom Samuelson who met Stephanie and worked with her at Mondavi, and now Samuelson's up in the greater Pacific Northwest working with wineries to find larger distribution models for them. 

The thing that kind of strikes me is that all the folks that I continue to meet that worked in that period at Mondavi, when they went from the small family owned to growing, growing, growing, and eventually being sold into the market itself, is that there's a real kind of sense of calmness, openness, and just really, really good marketing. You can see in large part why Mondavi was as successful as it has been.

So there's a definite legacy of Robert Mondavi. You can still feel it, even me, who, you know - I'm relatively new to the industry still; this is year four for us. You feel Mondavi and his influence to this day, even well after he's gone. For me as someone without goals of selling a million cases of wine per year, there is still plenty to be interested in as the owner of a wine club.

Once again, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. Thanks again.