Uncorked Ventures Blog

Mark Aselstine
 
October 10, 2013 | Mark Aselstine

Winemakers Personal Labels

We've realized that we've referred to winemakers personal labels a number of times in this space, without ever really talking about what we mean by that, which by the way is in no way a standard piece of industry jargon.

When we talk about a winemaker's personal label, we're usually talking about a winemaker who makes the wine at one vineyard (one that you probably have heard of) while making a smaller amount of wine, selling it himself (or herself) with little or no help.

Often the wine is made at the same facility where the winemaker works during the day and the fruit is generally purchased from vineyards that have larger than normal yields for the year (although more frequently vineyard owners are realizing that winemakers pay their bills and are offering longer term contracts to start ups).

In any case a winemaker personal label is often a nice way to get a really, really nice deal on a bottle of wine.

Mark Aselstine
 
October 8, 2013 | Mark Aselstine

New Stuff Happening in Paso Robles

What's New in Paso Robles

So, we’ve written about a few wineries in Paso Robles already but over the past few weeks and months a few interesting wineries have been introduced to us.  We thought our readers and eventually our customers, would enjoy these wines as we all continue to search for more great wine. Over the remainder of the week, we’ll be featuring three wineries from Paso that you should probably know, for a variety of reasons.

The wineries of Paso Robles are crafting incredible wines that are priced fairly for the quality and the area still offers a unique and a tasting atmosphere where the average consumer can enjoy themselves at a variety of vineyards.  Paso has been called everything from the “Next Napa” to “Like visiting Napa in the 1970’s” while I don’t want to comment on either of those statements, I know that it does seem that the cheaper land prices and great sense of working together in Paso pervades the wine industry and leads to really, really good wine especially given the price points involved.

In any case, there’s a lot of really interesting stuff going on in Paso from their continued focus on Rhone varietals, to increasingly high quality Cabernet Sauvignon and their continued, if sometimes futile search for vineyard sites cool enough for Pinot Noir.  Perhaps the most interesting group of wines being produced in Paso are white wines which are made from Rhone’s, but are dense and interesting enough to make even the most ardent “I don’t drink white’s” guy stand up and take notice.

 

Mark Aselstine
 
September 29, 2013 | Mark Aselstine

What is a Vigeron?

Vigeron is a French term for someone who not only grows grapes, but then makes wine with them.  We think of estate wineries in those terms here in California, but the French term means something smaller, usually a winery and farming operation run by a single individual, or by a family who not only owns the land, but plans on keeping it for generations to come.

Mark Aselstine
 
September 25, 2013 | Mark Aselstine

Lang & Reed Wine Company

Lang and Reed Wine CompanyEvery once in a while you end up running into a bottle of wine that you really like, even when it comes from an unexpected place.  I’ve already talked about the chagrin that often overtakes me when I have a friend, or a neighbor who suggests a friend’s wine, or a wine that they really like.  I mean, if I had a couple of bucks for every time someone suggested that we purchase some wine from their friend who was making it in their garage, or this great wine from a 1M+ case winery, well my wife and I would be choosing better restaurants.

Enter a bottle from Lang & Reed Wine Company.

I was blown away.

Lang & Reed fits the mold of a winery which would open, make some good wine and then rapidly scale up production before being sold.  But it hasn’t.  I thought that would be the model for Lang & Reed based on the founders having a long stretch of experience in the wine industry, which in this case seems to have made them sure that building a brand for themselves and theoretically their children, makes more sense. 

A husband and wife team of Tracey and John Skupny own Lang & Reed Wine Company. John’s resume in Napa Valley and beyond is longer than virtually any others than you could possibly find, but stops in the marketing departments of Caymus (in the 80’s no less!) and Coppola certainly would open the entire world of Napa to him in terms of grower relationships and the opportunities that help to create a world class wine.  His wife and business partner Tracey spent over a decade in the marketing & sales departments at Spotswoode (I warned you, good connections abound) before taking time off to raise their two sons (something I can greatly appreciate in terms of the amount of work, stress and the lack of genuine road map given I have my son a couple of afternoons a week) and as the kids have grown closer to adulthood, has focused more attention on the winery. She’s also the director of the Napa Valley Vintners Board of Directors, so it’s pretty clear that Lang & Reed are every bit of a partnership.

What really interested me about Lang & Reed was the fact that despite a St. Helena address, they have chosen to focus their winery project on Cabernet Franc.  There are a number of issues with Cabernet Franc, not the least of which is that the average consumer isn’t necessarily going to choose a bottle of it when a more familiar Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir is present.

North Coast Cabernet FrancThe winery offers two versions of the Cabernet Franc, an entry level more approachable bottle (the one I was able to taste) priced at $24 retail and a more structured and dense, single vineyard offering priced at $48. While the number of available varietal specific Cabernet Franc’s isn’t wide even here in the Bay Area, I’d have to say this was among my favorite versions of the varietal that I’ve tasted over the past three years (well right up there with Mark David).

Oh and as you’ll look around their website, you’ll notice their love for animals, especially a set of Saluki dogs.  We’re lucky to have neighbors who have a couple of them a few doors down and I can attest that the dogs really are intelligent and incredibly gentle with the variety of little kids trying to do everything short of ride them around the block.

Lastly, I can’t help but say that we need more wineries like this in Napa Valley, but elsewhere as well.  Focusing on a more obscure varietal like Cabernet Franc should be something that those of us in the industry respect and average consumers try to support when possible.  More choices in terms of wineries and types of wines is a good thing for consumers and Lang & Reed is a great example of a winery taking a chance of sorts, but crafting a really high quality wine at the same time.

Mark Aselstine
 
September 23, 2013 | Mark Aselstine

What is an Estate Wine?

What is an Estate Wine?


While Alcohol-Beverage-Control and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacoo and Firearms have their own distinct rules for an estate wine, really there are two important notes.  First an estate wine must have 100% of the grapes grown on a winery owned vineyard.  That happens less often than you think, but perhaps more importantly the wine must then be made in its entirety in a continuous process, on its own site.  Estate wines therefore are an expensive proposition with some estimates in Napa Valley showing minimum investments of $30 million needed to create an estate wine program.