Uncorked Ventures Blog
We won't often link to competitors in this space, but we couldn't see the following without making a comment on a number of levels.
Other than Robert Parker on the review side, I don't think you can compare Gary V's utter dominance of the video realm of wine to anyone else in the industry. He helped to not only create the medium, but continued to define it during his time at Wine Library. I'll certainly miss his style as I think his brand of bringing wine into a level that everyone can understand (who else compares a wine flavor to a 50/50 bar?) which was badly needed in the industry when he started and continues to be a need to this day. Too often we see tasting room employees acting like everyone coming in the front should know everything about wine, especially when you compare that to the average winemaker who is among the most approachable people we've ever met. For his influence on the wine industry, Gary V will certainly be missed. Given our short attempts at adding video to the site and our Youtube channel, I can also appreciate the drain that a daily video must have been. It's a lot of work to be sure and while the Daily Grape wasn't ever really daily, I can certainly understand why not. All of this is to say that Gary V is certainly going to be missed by the wider wine industry on a daily basis, but I highly doubt that we've seen the last of him. If you haven't read Crush It, it's almost required reading for anyone doing business online and if we can build Uncorked Ventures to have the same type of industry acceptance that Gary V has created for himself, we'll be incredibly happy and fortunate to have done so.
Lastly, I do have a brief personal note. I also must admit that having spent some time guest writing over at Cork'd (a previously closed Gary V project) I got to know Jon Troutman a bit through email. Jon was and always has been a close Gary V associated (they swing the camera around to show him off during the final video) and I've come to respect the way he carries himself in the trade immensely. I hope that there are as many opportunities for Jon in the coming months as there are for Gary V. By all accounts, he deserves them.
Maybe it’s our entrepreneurial spirit, but both Matt and I are intensely interested in the business of wine. We both came into the wine industry without any formal experience outside of loving wine and collecting it ourselves, which I think still gives us a sort of outsiders perspective.
One thing we’ve noted is that we find very few female winemakers. In fact, there aren’t a ton of female assistant winemakers or cellar masters either. It didn’t surprise me when Reuters released an article about the state of female winemakers, especially in California.
While I don’t want to speculate at length on the reasons behind there being relatively few female winemakers, I do have a few ideas on the subject. I don’t think there is anything structurally wrong with the wine industry which is preventing women from gaining the top job at many standout wineries throughout the west coast. Additionally, I don’t believe that winery or vineyard owners think women are any less capable of being their head winemaker, but the culture of many wineries is to promote from within and women aren’t as well established in those feeder jobs as of yet.
I do know that one of the main ways to become a winemaker is to begin as an intern (yes, an unpaid one) and then slowly move from cellar master to assistant winemaker and finally to head winemaker. It’s a progression which can be broken with education and the lower number of female winemakers in Southern California can likely be attributed to not having a top flight wine education program within 300+ miles and the simple fact that cellar master jobs often require knowledge of driving a forklift and the ability to lift 50+ pounds at a time. That isn’t to say women aren’t qualified for cellar master jobs, far from it, just that if I think of my wife or any of my female friends as an example, that wouldn’t be the path they'd choose if they wanted to make wine. Anyone who has worked in a human resources department can likely tell you that it is important to promote from within when you have qualified candidates and the lack of educational opportunities when it comes to wine in southern California (and frankly the lesser opinion many hold of the wineries operating in the area) certainly isn’t helping bring in strong qualified candidates from outside these wineries.
As many would expect, the premiere United States wine regions of Napa Valley and Sonoma are incredibly competitive when it comes to winemaking jobs and are having UC Davis give the region a continual supply of qualified candidates keeps the pool of available candidates as diverse as anywhere in the world, even if there is still plenty of room for improvement in access to those coveted head winemaking jobs.
It’s been an interesting week, moving 500+ miles has a way of eating up all of your free time. That being said, I’m now both relatively settled in and looking forward to continuing my work on this blog.
One thing which caught my attention this week was the fact that Champagne is allowing one of the earliest harvests on record this year. French wine tends to be among the most controlled in the entire world and the fact that there is a controlling body which decides when picking grapes can occur wouldn’t sit well with many American vintners, but it is a fact of life in France.
As it turns out, 2003 was the earliest picking date on record, happening only one day sooner than 2011. Given the amount of conversation going on currently within the wine community about the affects of global warming on old world regions which are more stringent on the types of grapes which can be planted and when they can be picked, earlier and earlier picking dates can be construed as an ominous sign by some and simply a small sample size according to others. How regions deal with even small changes in temperatures is going to have a dramatic effect on wine quality in the coming years, but we’ve heard a number of winemakers talk about the potential side effects of late. It’s not all doom and gloom though with the Champagne region. Farmers in the area increased production 20% year over year (thanks Decanter) to deal with world wide increases in demand.
Pinot Meunier is the first variety to be picked, followed by Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
In our last blog entry we mentioned that Family Winemakers of California has another tasting event in San Francisco coming up shortly. We thought a few of our readers might be interested in a couple of wineries that we’re looking forward to meeting and tasting with at the event. While some of our old favorites will be there including Audelssa, B Cellars, Carter, Demetria, Dranonette, Keenan, Pisoni (easily the most fun table in the place most years), Pride, Round Pond, Siduri, Sojourn and a few others….we wanted to mention three names which previously haven’t appeared at the event in this space.
Figge Cellars: A small production Pinot Noir house in Monterey, Figge is probably the first winery we’ve ever seen to proudly proclaim that they are neither Napa Valley, nor Sonoma County. Instead they grow their grapes in the cooler still environment of Monterey. Frankly, we appreciate a winery that simply says they aren’t mass marketed. Neither are we and the focus on authencity is something which makes us very interested in meeting the people behind Figge.
Patland Estate: We can certainly appreciate the thought that when you visit Napa Valley that it is easy to imagine yourself living the wine country lifestyle and making wine as well. We certainly did the same thing before starting Uncorked Ventures although I personally think the life isn’t quite as glamorous as many people make it out to be (winemakers spend as much time driving fork lifts as they do actually blending wine). All that being said the opportunity to taste and visit an owner/winemaker pouring the wine himself or herself is among the biggest thrills any avid wine drinker can have. We appreciate that the family has spared literally no expense by buying Cabernet Sauvignon from the famed Stagecoach Vineyard.
Von Holt Wines: If there ever was a unique story behind a winery, this might be it. We’ve seen plenty of Bay Area locals grow up to own vineyards after working in the wine industry for a while, or even making a fortune in high tech, but we’ve never seen a winery owned by a former secret service agent before. We’re sure that the attention to detail and selfless nature of the Secret Service lends itself well to owning a winery, albeit in a much less stressful environment. More than anything else we’re looking forward to trying another creation which counts Ed Kurtzman among its employees. Ed is easily one of the foremost winemakers of cool climate Pinot Noir in Sonoma County and his projects always offer something distinctive. As with any great winemaker, their assistant winemakers often pick up much of their experience and expertise and we’re excited to try our first bottle made by John Fones.
One of our favorite events every year is the Family Winemakers tasting. Matt and I have attended in the past few years both in San Francisco and Del Mar (San Diego). For wine distributors and retailers Family Winemakers offers a nice opportunity to get to say hello to people from a wide geographical area all in one place while tasting wines and making plans for either more extensive tasting trips, or purchases. As a consumer, it’s quite simply the best wine tasting event of the year.
2011 Family Winemakers Public Tasting
Sunday August 21st, 3:00 PM until 6:00 PM
Fort Mason Center
San Francisco, CA 94123-1382
We’ve often asked if we have any tips for consumers. While others have covered tasting etiquette and tips in great detail we’d offer the following suggestions.
• Don’t be afraid to spit. There is a lot of wine there, drinking too much usually doesn’t help you enjoy the event, especially when Ft Mason can get really warm.
• Find a safe ride home.
• Come with a plan. Know which wineries you’ll absolutely want to taste and which one’s you’ll taste if there is enough time. Tables are generally clustered in alphabetical order, so it makes it pretty simple to follow your list.
• Lastly, HAVE FUN!
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