Uncorked Ventures Blog

Mark Aselstine
August 13, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

Arroyo Seco AVA

When it comes to wine and wine regions within California, it's getting expensive.  It seems that every year, there's an increasing number of AVA's and entire regions making wine that's commiserate in quality with Napa and Sonoma which have been the standard bearers for generations.  First it was Santa Barbara and Paso Robles joining the wine elite, increasingly the Sierra Foothills is making inroads into the $40 price point.

All that is to say, if you want to continually find flights of wines around $20-$25 which are imminently drinkable, you're left to look further afied.

Mendocino County and Lake County are good places to start for sure, but so is the relatively unknown Arroyo Seco AVA.

Located in Monterey County between the cities of Soledad and Greenfield, with the Santa Lucia Mountain range forming the western boundry, the Arroyo Seco AVA is one of the smallest AVA's within California at approximately 18,000 acres.  To put that number in some perspective, the famed Russian River Valley of Sonoma is close to 100,000 acres and the more well known Santa Lucia Highlands is about 25% larger.

We're featuring a couple of different Arroyo Seco wines in our wine clubs this month and after tasting through a wide range of wines made in the AVA over the past few years, I think I can attest to both the quality of the wine being produced, the fair prices being charged, as well as some of the unique aspects of what's happening.

At it's core the Arroyo Seco is going to known for its unique and interesting soil composition.  Literally meaning dry riverbed, that's exactly what you run into as soon as you exit the 101 and start to see vines growing.  At times, it just looks like a ridiculous idea that anything of value could grow, mostly because a large number of the vineyards that I toured included  stones about the size of a man's fist.  The locals call them Greenfield potatoes and yes, they're everywhere.  I've never visisted the Mosul in Germany, but the Arroyo Seco sounds pretty similar in terms of the presence of larger rocks, not much top soil and a continual challenge to achieve ripeness.

That challenge of finding ripeness led me to want to feature, as you're probably already suspecting, Pinot Noir.  Having been tasting Pinot Noir over these past few months from Sonoma, Santa Barbara County and the Willamette Valley, the Arroyo Seco version surprised me at first.  These are dense versions of the grape and one's that I felt an overwelming sense of tightness to the wines.  Yes, many of them are 2011's, meaning they could likely use some more time, but the 2011 vintage was among the coolest in memory within most of the well known California AVA sites. Arroyo Seco growers report the 2011 vintage as the coldest in at least a decade and under consideration as the coolest they have experienced since the AVA was first granted its status in 1983.  The good news about the vintage and the region in general is that, these are the types of wines that so many wine lovers and vintners are searching for these days-made in cooler vineyard sites that produce wines that are varietally correct in a more classical European sense.

Over the coming days and weeks we'll be sharing some of what we found in the Arroyo Seco.  If you can't wait quite that long, I've written about Mercy Wines previously and they are definitely a great example of what I am talking about here.

Mark Aselstine
August 8, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

The California Drought and My Concern: Growers vs Vintners in Napa

My thoughts on the California drought which is becoming a bigger story with each passing day.  While wine isn't necessarily being affected as of yet, there are some short term (quality of wine in the 2014 vintage and beyond) and longer term concerns (how this affects the grower vs vintner debates that always happen in Napa and no, these debates are not typically cordial).


How are you doing? Mark Aselstine from Uncorked Ventures. So, one of the
things that is starting to come up again and people are starting to ask
about is what effect, if any, the California drought, which is starting to
show up on the national news, is going to have on the wine industry.

We've talked a little bit about it before, both in terms of hot and cold
and the fact that a lot of vineyards actually use more water in the winter
when it's really cold to protect against frost than they do during the
summer to water. But I think a more interesting concept is what's going to
happen over the long term.

Napa specifically has had some historic problems between the growers and
the vintners. There's a whole Ag Preserve system that has been set up at
Napa and has been functioning really since the '60s. There's kind of been a
continual back and forth for exactly how much in terms of marketing should
be able to be done, how many new wineries should be able to be set up,
weddings in Napa and the whole nine yards. I think as there's even more
pressure applied to growers, both in terms of vintners feeling like they
need more quality fruit, better quality fruit continuously on a year by
year basis and now a lack of water, I think you're going to start seeing
some more stuff come up in that regard.

So, it's the growers versus vintners, I don't want to say a battle, but it
could turn into that once again. We've definitely been there before in
Napa, and I wouldn't be surprised if we're going to start to go back.

Mark Aselstine
July 11, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

J Vineyards

Didn't realize J is female owned and operated.  Our table was rather excited for this visit.  60,000 cases is more than half of production.  You can see why they've grown so quickly and easily.  It's a really well done wine and at $12-$14 just an excellent value


Time Posted: Jul 11, 2014 at 2:53 PM
Mark Aselstine
July 11, 2014 | Mark Aselstine


2500 in total production.  Sauvignon Blanc at 500 cases with a family owned winery that is completely off the grid.  Welcome to Happy Canyon.  With all estate grown fruit and the owner of the winery here-it's a project I can get behind.

Time Posted: Jul 11, 2014 at 2:49 PM
Mark Aselstine
July 11, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

Ferrari Carano

Ferrari Carano-it's nice to see a familiar face occasionally and this is an interesting Fume Blanc.  At $14 and in a warm conference room, it's a perfect fit.