Uncorked Ventures Blog

Staff Writer
January 6, 2015 | Staff Writer

How to Buy Wine for a Gift

How to Buy Wine for a Gift

Relaxing with good friends and exquisite wine - it seems only fitting to experience life this way. Who has no friends who love wine? Giving (and receiving) the gift of wine is a special thrill.

On the other hand, you have a few decisions to make. After all, wine is personal, like clothing, jewelry or music. The great thing about this: your gift can be both unique and genuinely appreciated. If the recipient is family or a close friend, choosing is much easier. You may already know what they want (Editor's Note, or simply like, such as anything from Napa Valley or Paso Robles).

However, some worry that others, especially their boss, coworkers or business clients may not like their choice. In any case, you may have a number of questions.

What kind of wine should I buy - red, white or sparkling?

Should it be foreign or domestic?

How much should I spend?

First of all, think of the occasion. Wedding gifts are usually more elaborate than hostess gifts. A variety of bottles helps a new couple start building their collection (Editor's Note: we see newlywed gift message often come across in our wine clubs because they show up every month and do exactly as has been described).

If you are giving wine as a business gift, a Chardonnay or Merlot pleases most people. You might even want to include personalized wrapping or labels. Dinner parties seldom require the most expensive or exotic. You have a number of choices in the $20 to $50 range to wow your friends. What is your budget? You probably know that wines can be anywhere from a few to several thousand dollars. Chances are, unless your friend is the most finicky oenophile, they may not appreciate a gift that costs thousands. Unless you are making a statement or have too much cash, avoid overspending.

Will foreign or domestic be better? If you are in France at a French restaurant, by all means, go ahead and get the French bubbly. Oui! Otherwise, domestic wines are a great option. You and your friends will appreciate you are supporting local business. Not only that, domestic wines these days stand up to and often exceed foreign wines for quality.

Which varietal is best? Some of your friends may prefer a buttery Chardonnay. If you don't know what your friends like, keep the following in mind. Even if it is a hundred degrees outside, three fourths of American wine drinkers at a party will ask for red. If you are outside, go for a lighter red, such as a Pinot noir or Merlot (Editor's Note: everyone continues to disregard Grenache and that's a shame).

Are you sitting around the fireplace in the middle of winter? Bolder wines can warm your soul. Where should you get the wine? Physical stores get you a bottle of wine quickly. Nonetheless, if you desire higher end enjoyment, online sources are a far better option.

Internet retailers are definitely not all the same. Some offer gift baskets with low-cost afterthoughts. Only with careful shopping, can you find exceptionally paired cheeses, chocolates and spreads. Even fewer still are obsessed with hand-sourcing wines from local vineyards. If you are looking for a truly one of a kind offering - one that will convince your loved ones and special friends that you are amazing - find the best online retailer and send their wine club membership as a gift.

Choosing wine should be simple. When it comes to enjoying wine, it is truly all about the experience. Get the experience right and everyone will enjoy the wine. Unless, of course the wine is awful - and that is just not going to happen with what you have learned here!

Mark Aselstine
January 5, 2015 | Mark Aselstine

How We Taste Wine, Winemaker Testing

Before I forget, Happy January...the grind begins again.

Hey, guys. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.

First, a happy January to everyone as we start to get back into normal business. As I'm sure, everybody's finally back to work. At least it seems that way in the Bay area. Most of the folks that we know are off for the entire region around the holidays. One of the questions that's come up a few times over the last week or two is, how do we taste wine and how is that different than both our wine club competitors but then also as consumers?

These, I think, are a pretty good example.

One thing that we like to do that I think is an opportunity if you work in the wine industry that you don't necessarily have as a consumer. I always like to say, "What does a winemaker like to do?" We have these super star winemakers, Phillipe Melka, Michel Rolland from France, who is maybe more of a consultant than a winemaker at this point. These guys who, if you drink wine [inaudible 00:00:47], in essence have become household names.

One of the things I like to try to figure out out is, "What are they doing that's just a little bit different than the competitors?" While you can make these broad generalizations about these folks, I think the only way to really tell is to be able to drink stuff that is made from the same vineyard and the same vintage and then try two different winemakers to see what the output is and how it's different. I think I have a good example here.

We talked a little bit about Lennox Vineyards a few days ago, and I love Mike to death, and Mike makes some good juice from, what in essence is a back yard vineyard. He just happens to live in Sebastopol which is in Sonoma, in western Sonoma County, and it's a really good place to grow grapes. Envolve Winery may be a household name, and at this point. It may not. If you ever watch the Bachelor TV show, this is the juice. If you look at the bottom there, you will see the Lennox Vineyard insignia. In essence you have a really professional trained winemaker, professional enough to even get a reality show out of it, and then a guy who has taken a few classes at Davis and makes some good juice of his own. I think that you can really tell where the finesse comes in and in essence, the the big difference between these two bottles. Envolve you get a little bit more acidity. The wine is truly, a little bit cleaner. It's a little bit lighter on your pallet and you can really see what they're going for with the Pinot Noir.

I think that one really interesting way to drink wine. Especially when you get into Napa and you start having larger vineyards, or especially when you start traveling up Atlas Peak and you see the folks at VinRoc, or Dos Lagos is another great example where they have quite a famous winemaker making their wine in Bob Foley. You can see what folks are going for as winemakers versus what kind of other people who might not be as famous, or is kind of [flowned 00:02:41] out in the profession end up going for.

Once again, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. Lennox Vineyards, it's a good example of how do we taste wine that's different than other folks? As consumers, how can we do this and enjoy it? This is an interesting point to make. It's something we like to do with friends and family is opening two bottles, same vineyard, same vintage and saying, "Hey, what do you like better?" You're kind of surprised at the results sometimes.

I hope everybody had a nice holiday season, and I will be returning emails, phone calls and everything else here in the next 24 to 48 hours, as quickly as we can. Thanks again. Have a good one.

Mark Aselstine
December 29, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

Through the Holidays & The 10's

We'll have a more complete-what's coming up post early in the new year.

Hey guys, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.

We've been pretty quiet over the last few weeks as far as on the video blog front and that's in large part, like most retailers, we're just desperately trying to get shipments out as fast as possible. I think we hit most of the deadlines this year, wine club shipments definitely pretty much on the ball. Gift baskets for the most part got at as well. Those are a little bit more of a challenge because they take a little bit extra time and there's kind of some inventory control issues that come into play. I don't mind sharing that but in essence we've gotten rid of the backlog of orders and we're happy to be moving on to a regular schedule.

First if you're watching this and you received a gift from someone, we do do a large percentage of wine club gifts over the holidays. Your January shipments will probably go out around the 10th or so. I tell a lot of people that I grew up with my parents owning an ice cream shop in San Diego and I hated the fact that they had to watch the weather so often and now I have to watch the weather for the entire country. While we can't predict more than a few days out at least it does look like the early January weather should be fine so we'll be getting out wine club shipments both for our regular monthly wine club members as well as gift recipients in early January.

Also this is the time of year when you hear about New Year's resolutions, we certainly make those in my house too although maybe I don't take it as seriously as others. You tend to do that at work too in a lot of places and it's a good time to kind of reflect what you're doing and try to set up a new range of offerings for folks. For us you're going to see a few different things this year. First and foremost you will finally see a new range of gift baskets. More excited about those and those will start rolling out kind of at the end of January or early February. Second, I'm joined today by a, as you can see this is a 375 milliliter bottle which is a half bottle of wine and you can see absolutely no markings. This was a barrel sample. We've been doing a little bit of this, we do it for work and for try to get an idea of where vintners and wine makers are going. But this was a little bit more specific. For our four years in business we've long kind of struggled with the fact that many of our competitors offer discounts and more severe discounts on reorders than we do. From our part at Uncorked Ventures we haven't been comfortable offering huge discounts on reorders because quite honestly it pisses winers off. A lot of the folks that we work with flat out wouldn't work with us if had to do that. We've kind of had to go about it a different way and we've said we want to provide some extra value to wine club members but how can we do that? We're going to have a range of wines, I believe they're going to be called The 10's and there will be a very good reason for that. Ten dollars a bottle add a tier on club shipment for free shipping and I think that's going to be an exciting thing. It's something that we're working with wine makers on currently, it's something that I'm going to continue to work with them on as time goes by. I hope it's a way that we can both grow our wine club base but then also offer something as a ... You know, we all go to Trader Joe's, we all go to Safeway, Ralph's, whatever, Kroeger, whatever you call your local grocery store and buy Tuesday wines. We're hopeful that we can add a range of Tuesday wines to the site without killing everybody on shipping charges. You can look for that with us here in the New Year, it's going to be called The 10's. We may roll out with just two or three wine examples in that range but hopefully over the course of the year that we'll be able to source more and more different stuff that's interesting and quite frankly we'll be doing at break even. But it's something that I think our customers deserve and I think it's something that they want and I think it's a good value added feature. I hope you'll look for that in the new year.

Once again Marked Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. If you have questions, concerns about an order please don't hesitate. Call us, email us we'll get back to you as soon as we can. Thanks again.

Staff Writer
December 22, 2014 | Staff Writer

Which Washington State Wineries are Found in the Top 100 in the World?

Many Washington wineries are known as the best in the country.

There are even six that were named to the top 100 wineries of the year list by Wine and Spirits Magazine. The six wineries found on this list include:

• Chateau Ste. Michelle

• L'Ecole N 41

• Gramercy Cellars

• Andrew Will

• aMaurice Cellars

• Cadence

(An Editor's note, we've shipped both Gramercy Cellars and Andrew in our Special Selections Wine Club and our Reserve Selections Wine Club over the past year) Over 14,500 new wine releases were tasted by the panels of the magazine before determining which wineries made the top 100. Some of the wineries have been named to the list before, such as Chateau Ste. Michelle, which has been honored 20 times and L'Ecole, which has been named to the list 13 times. An event was held in October by Wine & Spirits to honor the top 100 wineries in the world. The highest rated wines were poured for guests, which included the Artist Series Meritage and the Eroica Riesling from Chateau Ste. Michelle.

Five Wineries Nominated for the Best Winery in America Another award will be given out to the best winery in America by Wine Enthusiasts Magazine. The editors' award is given out for outstanding achievements in the wine and beverage world. Delille (Woodinville) was nominated, along with Channing Daughters (New York), Fetzer Vineyards (California), Jordan Winery (California) and Ken Wright Cellars (Willamette Valley, Oregon). These were the five choices out of more than 8,000 wineries in the United States. The award winner will be announced in on December 31st, 2014 in the release of a special Wine Stars Award issue of the magazine. An awards gala will be held in New York City in January for those receiving Wine Star Award Trophies. Many consumers use these magazines and lists to determine which wines they try and purchase on a regular basis. With six wineries in Washington making the list, it's clear there's something great coming out of this state. Many of the wineries provide excellent choices in their regular collection and they also provide plenty of limited releases throughout the years. If you're looking for a great Washington State wine to add to your cellar, choose one of the top wineries in the world from the list above.

Mark Aselstine
December 19, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

Murphy's Law Riesling and More

A short intro to Murphy's Law Riesling, Riesling in Washington state and why, I think, we're a different type of wine of the month club:

Hi guys. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.

It's been a while. Truthfully, I've been under the weather pretty much and I didn't think anybody wanted to listen to me hacking on a video. I hope everyone is having a nice holiday season. We're certainly in full swing. We're having a couple of ... we have shipments going out every day and so if you need a tracking number or anything ... sometimes they end up in the spam ... e-mail us or shoot us a phone call. We're happy to help.

I wanted to spend a couple minutes talking about a wine that I really like that some of our customers are receiving right now. This is Murphy's Law Riesling. It's made by a company called Local Wine and Spirits based up in the Pacific Northwest. I think this is a good representation of something that we do well and perhaps, if I should be so brave to say, that some of our wine club competitors perhaps don't do as well.

We handle Oregon and Washington in addition to California and most folks don't. That's because most wineries are really, really small. After prohibition the Federal Government set up wine sales to be what's called a three-tier model. The theory is the winery sells to a distributor. The distributor is supposed to kind of take these thousands of wineries and condense them into the good ones and then sell them to retailers. The retailers are just supposed to take that and then condense it and sell it to people. In reality what's happened is that there's about four nationwide distributors, Southern Wine and Spirits, Chambers and a couple other ones. It's really difficult to get a placement with a huge distributor if you're a small winery. Each individual State usually requires at least a pallet of wine which is 56 cases, you know, 700 bottles give or take. Small wineries have issues getting larger distribution.

That's where we come in and we try to in essence help them find a market for themselves with consumers that are interested in getting 90+ point quality wine at an affordable price. As an example, for this month a lot of folks received a Napa Valley Sangiovese from Benessere Vineyards. It's a retail $35 or so, just an incredible, incredible wine. It's a great story. We'll do a video on that one shortly too as well because I think it's so interesting. If you're paying $40 for a Wine Club and you get a 30- or 32-dollar bottle of wine, you're going to get something that's cheaper. This Riesling, the price point, you'll see it online for anywhere from the suggested retail of 12 up to 20, so in essence the price went up a little bit for most retailers because it got rated between 87 and 90 points from most major wine critics.

I think it says two things. First small winery projects in the Pacific Northwest are making really, really good wine and they're doing it in kind of a hands-off version. This is a classic Riesling. You'll see kind of hints of minerality and then the sour apple and they'll kind of affect those classic flavors that you get from the soil at a fraction of the price. That's what they're kind of looking for. It's more acidic than you might be used to if you've only been drinking a lot of Chardonnay but price point's a lot lower too. Murphy's Law, it's made by a company called Local Wine and Spirits. I think Riesling's an interest grape on a couple levels. Napa hit it big when they had Cabernet and Chardonnay both kind of take off at the same time for them. There's a big question right now is if Chardonnay is going to be able to kind of keep up that market share and if it doesn't, what should be that other white wine grape that people are starting to move towards? While Sauvignon Blanc might be the most logical first place to try, a lot of people think that Riesling might be the long term winner and that's because ... I'm in my 30's. I think that's fairly obvious. People drink Coke, juice, whatever, as Millennials and as you grow up, maybe that taste of sweetness is a little bit more ingrained in your palate than it would be for people that have been of previous generations. Riesling can be made in a wide variety of sweetness levels to the point of ... you know the Finger Lakes in New York that have sweetness, a little chart that they put on the back of every bottle. This one doesn't have it. They don't particularly use it as often in Washington because this one is more off dry than actually sweet. A lot of wine makers and a lot of people within the industry think that natural gravity towards sweetness is going to be something that helps Riesling gain more plantings and more consumer acceptance as time goes on. Really that kind of minerality and that kind of biting acidity that you can get with Riesling, is a good combination for a lot of food that we typically eat. I think in the United States, especially here in California more so maybe than other parts, you're moving ... big cities too ... moving away from kind of this typical burger and fries fare and getting more internationalized with different kind of food groups and all the [current 00:04:38] flavors that come with those. Asian fusion is something that pairs really well with Riesling if you eat Thai very often. In fact, even if you were going to go down to your local taco shop, assuming that you have one, Riesling is something that fits pretty well. Once again, Mark Aselstine, Uncorked Ventures. I hope you guys are having a good holiday season. I hope you'll consider a wine club membership for yourself or one of your friends. We also do arrange a gift basket so I hope you also look at those too. I hope everybody's having happy holidays and if I don't get a chance to say it before then, Merry Christmas. Thanks again.