Uncorked Ventures Blog

Staff Writer
February 16, 2015 | Staff Writer

Benefits of Attending a Wine Tasting

A lot of people drink wine, but few have actually gone to a wine tasting.

We have all had a sample of a wine while we were out, perhaps at your local grocery store. Stores will often allow vendors to set up small tables and provide customers with a small sample of the wine in order to boost sales. While you are getting to taste the wine, you aren’t actually learning what to look for in the wine.

If you haven’t been to a wine tasting, then you are missing out on what could be a joyous experience. The idea of going to a wine tasting may seem intimidating to a lot of people. Attending a wine tasting is especially beneficial to someone that is new to exploring wines. Wine tastings will help you learn valuable information about wines that will help you in the future. The best part about attending a wine tasting is that you get to drink wine, and a lot of it. (Editor's Note, find a safe way to drive, either with a designated driver, or better yet, public transportation)

There are so many wines to choose from, you will be sure to leave with at least two new favorite wines. You may think that most people at a wine tasting are probably drunk if not on the verge of having a very nice buzz. The truth is, the professional wine tasters a far from entering the drunk zone. They spit the wine out. Swallowing every wine will eventually begin to cloud your judgment towards the end of the night, prohibiting you from focusing on the wines aromas and flavors. (Editor's Note: one of the things that professionals talk about a lot among themselves is how to keep their palate's from becoming fatiagued when tasting wine, or even how many wines they can realistically get through in a day.  The number is pretty different for a ton of people, many saying the number is in the low hundreds, but personally after 25 or so, I find they start to run together.  That's another reason our wine clubs feature only wines from California, Oregon and the state of Washington)

Wine tastings provide you with the opportunity to sample a wide range of wines. You will be introduced to reds, whites, and sparkling wines. While it is possible to try a variety of wines in the comfort of your own home, you would need to buy the entire bottle of wine just to try it out. The atmosphere at a wine tasting can be setup in one of two ways. The first setup would have more of a classroom feel, almost like a seminar. This arrangement can seem more formal and to some may be uncomfortable. (Editor's Note: When I have friends who work in other industries come to tastings with me, they tend to enjoy this setup the best, simply because it's easier to get a good handle on what's going on, formal and stuffy probably: but it's fun for mostly everyone)

There are also wine tastings that have a more relaxed atmosphere. These wine tastings may seem more like a party or a little get together. Another benefit of attending a wine tasting is the opportunity to meet new people that have similar interest as you. There are all different levels of people that attend wine tastings. You will obviously encounter some people whose wine knowledge may be that of a novice. On the other hand, you will also meet some people that are more advanced in their wine knowledge. These advanced wine tasters can prove to be useful in your introduction to understanding more about wine. You can learn key information about how to properly taste a wine or how to train your palette from your peers. Going to a wine tasting will prove to be beneficial to you in several ways. You will be able to sample a large variety of wines and meet new people. You will learn the proper techniques for tasting wine.

Mark Aselstine
February 11, 2015 | Mark Aselstine

Amity Vineyards Pinot Noir Winemakers Reserve 2008

Members of our monthly wine club are receiving (at least some of you) this Amity Vineyards Pinot Noir, Winemakers Reserve 2008 in wine club shipments this month.  Here's why:



Hi guys, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.

I wanted to do a quick video intro here on Monday morning about an Amity Vineyards Pinot Noir that we're shipping this month. We don't often get an opportunity to ship aged wines that come directly from the winery. I know there's a few folks out there that do it, but, in essence, I was told during my first meeting after starting Uncorked Ventures by Jean Hoefliger at Alpha Omega winery in Napa that 98% of wine is consumed within 48 hours of its purchase and I think from our conversations with wine club members and, frankly, with friends family and, quite honestly, with our own house as well, that seems to ring true.

Every once in a while, we ask, "Hey, do you guys have anything from an older vintage that's available?" and sometimes we'll taste through it and say, "You know, this is not holding up that well," or whatever the situation is... Amity vineyards was recently sold to Union Wine Company. Union Wine Company actually came from a box wine background and Amity is a high end producer in Oregon that's focused on their own single vineyard stuff, so we're shipping their wine makers reserve, they call it. In essence, they pick the vineyards, they go through, they find the best barrels and they throw them into a reserve program. Retail on this? 45-50 dollars.

Our special selection wine club members will get it and the reserve selection level, which is our premium wine club, you'll get it too. We were really excited about this because it's a 2008. We know we're well into 2015 at this point. You're starting to see '11 and '12 Pinot hit the market, hit your local wine store. Its aged 6 or 7 years beyond what you would typically see and its starting to get to the point where your average wine store is going to say "We don't really know what to do with that." Well, our customers do and we wanted to do an '08 for a simple reason: its been called the quote-unquote vintage of the century; it's been called outstanding; Wine Spectator gave it an "A" on the "A" to "F" scale. The '08 and the wine valley is... if you want to taste the best of Oregon, 2008 was a great year to do it. We often talk about how in great vintages you get great wine from everybody and then in bad vintages you get great wine from only the best and the brightest. I think this is a great example of the best and the brightest produce really great wine in all vintages, but really memorable stuff in great vintages, and I think that's what we have here from Amity Vineyards. You pour this in your glass ... the thing is, like I said, from '08 so its 7 years aged at this point ... there's still really bright fruit. I think it can easily go another 5 or 10 years after this. It just speaks completely of sour cherry and some of those classic Oregon Pinot notes that you'll notice with blackberry and cassis and some of those flavor profiles that fit along the wine, but the acidity is really the memorable thing here. Oregon often talks about how if you drink one of their Pinots, you want to have a piece of grilled salmon next to it, and that's really what comes through with this wine. We hope you enjoy it. I'm sure you will. It's quite honestly one of my favorite wines that we've shipped in the last few months in our wine clubs, so I think it's pretty simple. Enjoy.

Staff Writer
February 9, 2015 | Staff Writer

Which Wines Pair Well with Your Takeout?

Ordering takeout can be the perfect meal when you don't feel like cooking, but you want to get together with a friend. Just because you decide to eat takeout doesn’t' mean you have to skip the wine. In fact, there are a few wines that pair quite well with takeout.

For Curry Dishes

A very popular choice for takeout is Indian cuisine. Often, this type of cuisine will include curry, which comes in a variety of choices with plenty of complex flavors. The dishes are often spicy and include ingredients, such as dried hot chilies, coriander and turmeric. With these types of spices found in curry, it only makes sense to pair Indian takeout with a spiced wine(Editor's Note: let's go with Syrah here as a specific example). The wine will complement the spices of the curry and provide a delicious choice for your takeout meal.

Another choice for your takeout is Thai cuisine.

A very popular cuisine that can also be paired with a spiced wine, but can also be paired with a ginger beer or a wine cocktail. Pad Thai actually pairs well with a lighter white wine, as well. If the dish you have chosen includes lemon grass, you will want to choose a wine with a floral note to compliment the dish. (Editor's note, any time I hear a floral white....that's Viognier in my house)

For Mexican Dishes

Mexican often goes with margaritas (Editor's Note......TEQUILA), but you will need multiple ingredients, the knowledge to mix the drink and a blender, if you want the drink to be frozen. However, a refreshing Sangria or a nice bottle of red wine from Paso Robles can pair nicely with Mexican cuisine.

Chinese Dishes

Chinese takeout may be the most popular and comes in a variety of flavors. Whether you choose something sweeter, such as an orange chicken dish or something spicier, you can find the perfect wine to pair with it. Spiced wine will go well with many Chinese dishes, such as sweet and spicy pork or hot and sour soup. However, if you choose an orange chicken, you may want to pair your dish with a lighter wine, such as a moscato or something with a sweeter flavor.

Takeout doesn't have to be boring anymore. You can get a bottle of spiced wine or any other recommendation to pair well with your favorite takeout, of course many of these solid choices would also show up, takeout style courtesy of your favorite wine of the month club!

Mark Aselstine
February 8, 2015 | Mark Aselstine

Ponzi Vineyards Riesling

A brief intro to Ponzi Vineyards and their Oregon, Willamette Riesling.


Hi guys! Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.

If you're looking for January wine club shipments, you might have noticed the national news for the East Coast and the Midwest has involved stuff like, "Frozen Disaster," or "Frost-quake in Kansas City," so shipments have been going out the last couple of days and you'll continue to see them go out over the next few days, into early next week, depending on where you live.

January shipments are coming, February weather looks a little bit nicer, so that will go out a couple weeks after, and we'll get everybody all caught up. I'm sorry about the delay, but like we tell people if they call or ask us via email, sending out wine popsicles doesn't do anybody a whole lot of good. In any case, part of our regular wine club shipments this month, includes a Ponzi Riesling from the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

Ponzi is kind of a known quantity, a known name if you are an Oregon wine fan, and while we might never ship a no-name from California, because we find it not very interesting, distribution for Oregon wines is still quite lacking in the wider marketplace. Even here in San Francisco, there's really only one or two folks who do Oregon, or do it very well. Most of the folks that we work with up in the Pacific Northwest would struggle to find a distributor or even a broker that would willing to represent them, both in terms of the amount of wines they make, which is usually quite small, then also there's a whole level of critical acceptance or consumer knowledge about Oregon wines that's just a little bit lacking.

We still feel comfortable serving Ponzi once in a while, depending on the vintage and the varietal because sometimes I think it still deserves some attention. The basic story is this: In the 1960's, a Ponzi family, husband and wife, moved to Oregon to make Pinot, they were influenced heavily by Burgundy, they wanted to find a cool-climate growing region. At that point, the Anderson Valley had not even been really discovered in California as far as a wine-growing region, so if you wanted to find true burgundy, you had to go further North. They staked out about 20 acres or so Southwest of Portland, and away they went. And Ponzi's kind of one of those great Oregon wine stories at this point, they've made a name for themselves with the brand, the family name, as well as Oregon Pinot in itself. So, we didn't ship a Ponzi Riesling because, you know, Oregon Pinot, we're finding small producers and club members seem to be liking that.

This is a Riesling. When you talk to folks in the Pacific Northwest, or even in California, they're kind of at a loss for what that secondary grape is going to be. I'm not sure Oregon's been able to come to a conclusion about what's their white wine grape going to be. You hear Pinot blanc from some people, you hear that they still think they're going to be able to pull off Chardonnay, but it's going to be a ... less fruit-driven and more acidic version of the grape than what's been popular in California. Riesling's popular even among Napa wine makers who think that maybe as Chardonnay has gone out, there's that whole "Anything but Chardonnay" movement, Sauvignon blanc has come in to take its place, in large part.

A lot of wine makers still feel like Riesling is maybe the correct answer. I think that you're starting to see more and more wine regions, if not singular wine makers or groups of wine makers, who think Riesling is a really great choice for their vineyard. If it's a warmer climate, like Napa, they feel like Riesling does really well. Oregon might be most traditional as far as ... you think of Riesling, you think of the Mosel Valley in Germany. It's one of my favorite parts of the wine industry. In Germany, when they harvest, we think of cellar rats or harvest hands. In California, it's either being, folks that are getting paid an hourly wage or, in the wine industry mostly, the cellar rat folks are, and that's a term of affection, more so than not, so let's be clear about that, are people who are still in college, or just out of college, and looking for their first job within the industry, and, just frankly trying to take it all in and learn a little something, to get their first regular paid gig. In Germany that's not the situation at all, employment ... being different in Europe kind of leads to some different things going on. Most of the harvest hands in Germany are actually retired folks. The Moselle Valley is kind of a really steep valley, and the river's at the bottom, as you might expect, and they carry the grapes on their backs, in backpacks, and they have these big slate rocks, and one of the only reasons why the Mosel Valley can exist at all as far as grape-growing is these big slate rocks take in the sun, and really keep the vineyard a little bit warmer at night than they would be otherwise. You'll often see these folks in their 60's and 70's trying to push these rocks back up into the vineyard as they are starting to fall down, because they need every little bit of ripeness they can get.

That's pretty similar to what happens in Oregon, and that's one of the reasons why we wanted to feature this Riesling. I also wanted to feature it personally because we've reviewed some Rieslings from New York State, and some from other folks, and they do a really nice job with this sweetness scale on the back, where, because a Riesling can go from not sweet at all to pretty sweet, like dessert wine style, and the New York folks will tell you exactly where it is. This Ponzi bottle doesn't do that at all, and one of the reasons why they don't do that is simply because it's not sweet, and they don't plan it to ever be sweet. It's a dry version of Riesling, it's a more mineral-driven than it is a sweetness-driven. I hope if you're not familiar with Ponzi, you'll take some time to have a look. When they have movies and stuff filmed in Oregon, typically at the premiere it's Ponzi that's poured. It's a well-known name, it's a really great wine-making story, and frankly I think they deserve all the credit in the world. They're on of the ones who have really driven the market to be accepting of Oregon wine, and I think that they deserve our attention still to this day. Once again, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. We've been called one of the best wine clubs to join by Forbes magazine, and I think this is one of the reasons why. From big producers to small producers, as long as there's really high quality wine you can find stuff like this Riesling that's made in under 1,000 case increments that's really interesting and it's not at your local wine store, and that's one of the things that we really enjoy doing. So, once again, thanks for the time and for considering joining our wine club and we'll see you again soon. Thanks.

Mark Aselstine
January 29, 2015 | Mark Aselstine

Champagne vs Sparkling Wine

Champagne vs Sparkling Wine. Why there is a difference between the two, even if the French and American governments can't exactly agree what the difference should be.

Hi guys. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.

Couple of things today. I want to spend a couple minutes talking about the difference between champagne and basic sparkling wine. In essence, there's kind of one thing that happens here.

In California, there's been a large kind of ... not a fight, but an argument over can California vintners use the word champagne on their label. One of the examples that we have here is Korbel. Korbel's maybe the best-known kind of American producer of what is champagne or sparkling wine. In essence, they're the same thing.

Champagne is supposed to be made only in the Champagne region of France, but the French don't do us any favors here in using a, basically varietal name for something that they make with the growing region, making them one and the same. Yeah, from a marketing perspective in the 1800s, this probably made a lot of sense, but these days, it probably makes less sense. Just like although if there is a town in France called Napa, we wouldn't want Napa Cabernet Sauvignon or we wouldn't want a vintner in Sonoma using the Napa label. Just like, when I went to the Fancy Food Show, I wasn't thrilled to see a chocolate vendor from New Jersey using the Napa Chocolate Factory label. At the same time, there's got to be some influence of ... Dom Perignon basically invented this way to make wine, and there's got to be some way for people to be able to differentiate what's a sparkling wine in a champagne style, versus what's just a sparkler. Korbel uses the... Which is, at least in America what we're allowed to do is put California champagne.

It is what it is. I have 3 wines with me, none of which are technically champagne, all of which would love to call themselves champagne, and they're all not allowed to call themselves champagne for different reasons. First Korbel. Korbel is kind of a classic name in American wine. There's two brothers that came to, in essence, what is Sonoma in the late 1800s. They started producing champagne. Then they survived prohibition and everything that's come after. This is probably still served ... it came up I think in Obama's first inauguration, they served a California champagne, and the French government kinda threw a hissy about it. I think things have settled down enough for everybody to cool our heads for real. I think everyone realizes that if you want a champagne from France, buy champagne from France. If you want an American sparkling wine, calling it champagne is not going to kind convolute it enough for anybody to really be confused. [Inaudible 00:02:25] we've talked a little bit about in this space before. I think it's one of the truly up and coming names in California Wine.

They're from down in Monterey. The thing that people don't realize about the champagne region of France is it's pretty damn cold. I think that's why the kind of wine got made the way that it did. In essence, what happens with champagne when they're producing it is that when you have a normal fermentation ... and we have some pictures of this up on our site ... is that CO2 is produced. It goes up in to the sky. It goes away. Done, goodbye, thanks for coming. If it's cold enough, fermentation can stop midway, and the CO2 is trapped. One of the things that they figured out in the champagne region of France is that they were just cold enough that they weren't being able to finish fermentation before the cold really set in after harvest, so they were allowing fermentation to finish in the bottle. If you think about it, if you put everything into a bottle of wine and put the cork on, where's the CO2 go? It's trapped within the wine itself, and so then the only way for it to escape is in bubbles once you open the thing. That's how you end up with a sparkler. Jacques Pelvas, this is another French guy. They're from the Languedoc. I've talked about the Languedoc a little bit in this space before. The French, just like champagne, burgundy, Bordeaux, there's a lot of rules that go int o what can be grown, what can be made, how do you label your wine. They're certainly the most restrictive country in the world when it comes to wine labels and how to create them and even what you're allowed to plant in your vineyard. The one region in France that is truly open for anything, which reminds us a little bit of California, is the Languedoc. The Languedoc has done a little bit of everything. They'll remind you of the [Rhone Valley 00:04:09] in parts where they're Syrah and Grenache and doing a pretty good job of it. They'll remind you a teeny-tiny bit of Bordeaux in parts where they've growing [cab 00:04:17], and this is kind of a grower cooperative champagne from ... no, not a champagne. See? Now I've got myself doing it. From the Languedoc too. Three wines, none of which can actually be champagne but all of which are champagne, at least production-wise. I hope that over the long-term that they can come to some conclusion. I think putting an American champagne on the label is frankly ... it's fine. I think there's bigger things for everyone to worry about within the wine industry than simply how to label something, especially when you have two different countries and two different laws and much different laws going into it. BTW, I think there's a quick answer here, I talk about this stuff and pay attention to it because as a wine of the month club, I think it can be important to follow trends and fads within the wider wine industry.

The French definitely do a larger amount of rules and regulations than do American wine companies and American wine kind of oversight. I think there's going to be naturally some butting of head there. I think there's probably more than there should be right now. Once again, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. I hope you've enjoyed this short talk of what is champagne versus sparkling wine, and wine in California is technically all sparkling wine, but some folks if you had your label before 2006 are still allowed to use champagne on your label one way or another. Champagne versus sparkling wine.

Thanks again