Uncorked Ventures Blog

Mark Aselstine
June 26, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

Do Wine Medals Matter?

How are you doing? This is Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. So I had a customer ask a fairly interesting question the other day. They wanted to know if I thought that medals awarded at state fairs and other wine competition were important and if you saw a winery advertising those results, if they mattered? We got 17 gold medals this last summer season, if that was something that was indicative of a quality winery?

Do medals from a wine competition matter?

The short answer is, no. I mean here's the longer answer of why. The California State Fair is one of the mostly highly thought of wine competitions every summer. The results were recently posted over the last few days. So about 3,000 wines were entered, about 2200 of which walked away with a medal of one type or another. So you're talking close to 70% earned a medal.

So if you think that 7 out of 10 wines are something that should be marketed with a medal then sure they can be a good way to judge wines but in essence that's just too many. They're not doing a good enough job at judging quality. There's some problems with critics scores in ways if you want a high score with wine advocate there's a certain type of wine that you probably, need to make, a certain style at least and there's some complaints about that, but at the same time certainly, wine advocate, wine spectator, wine enthusiast, a lot of the other critics even some of the online guys. PinotFile does a great job. They're not scoring 7 out of 10 if something's kind of worthwhile. So that's a better place to look.

So yeah, the short answer is, don't bother with medals. They frankly, don't mean anything.

Thanks a lot. Have a good one.

Mark Aselstine
June 21, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

Sonoma Water Wars & Pinot Days in SF

How you doing? Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. A couple things going on today in the world of wine. First, the Russian River Valley continues to have ongoing conversations about the legality of water restrictions and water use. The Environmental Protection Agency has been hearing cases since '08 about how the farmers have damaged Salmon populations by using water and therefore draining the river down. It actually occurs more in cold weather than in warm. 

That's actually a really common misconception is that everybody thinks that, you know, like your backyard garden, the wine growers need to water when it's really hot outside. You know, that happens a little bit but a large portions of the Russian River still dry farm during the summer. Cold is actually a larger concern for most of them, so that's when you really start to see the water use kind of stuff come up. And so that's kind of an ongoing issue. 

Speaking of the Russian River Valley, coming up on Saturday, the 21st of this month, the city of San Francisco hosts the 10th Annual Pinot Days. It's a collection of Pinot Noir producers. You know a lot of them are California based, but then you also get some folks from Burgundy coming out, as well as Oregon and New Zealand. 

So, if you have a chance to check Pinot Days out when they come to your city, be it New York, Chicago, San Francisco, LA, it's well worth the trip. Like most of these large scale tastings in the wine industry, there's a large number of events both the day of and in the week, both preceding and a few days after. In any case, Mark Aselstine , Uncorked Ventures, thanks for taking a listen.

Time Posted: Jun 21, 2014 at 6:18 AM
Mark Aselstine
June 20, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

New Sonoma AVA's, It's Still Confusing Though

Hey again, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. 

One of the neat things that came across the last few days . . . Sonoma's has the one of the most confusing and complex sets of AVAs, really in the world. There's little, if nothing that you can tell about a wine just based on the AVA in Sonoma. To that end, we've been trying to create a clickable map with some information on each AVA. 

As an example, the Sonoma Coast AVA is massive and you can't really tell is this a cool climate vineyard or is this a warmer climate vineyard just by saying "Sonoma Coast." We have some assumptions based on that, but those aren't necessarily always true. The Russian River Valley also kind of in the same kind of thing, if you're right next to the river, kind of by Copain or Artessa, Mark David, some of those wineries, it's a pretty cool climate growing region. If you move out into the hills above Sebastopol, it still counts as Russian River. You find Lennox Vineyards, which we've done a couple wines from lately. That's pretty warm. 

So Sonoma is working to at least divvy up the Russian River Valley into what sounds like between four and eight smaller AVAs that actually tell you a little bit more about the wine. Of course, the problem with that is that makes it even more confusing for consumers.

Personally, I wish they would just scrap the whole system in Sonoma and just start over. I think there are some logical ways to divide stuff up that just can't happen based on how it's set up right now.

Sonoma is a really large area in and of itself, so you have stuff like the Sangiacomo Vineyard, which is technically Sonoma, but it's actually in three or four different locations throughout Sonoma. So just hearing "Sangiacomo," then you have to ask, "Hey, which one actually is this?" 

So its complex, we're trying to figure out a way to make it a little bit less complex for consumers. Sonoma is trying to figure it out. I don't know if they're there yet, but they're working on it. And I think that's a good thing. I think there's some pressure on them too, because Napa is pretty easy to understand. And that's the elephant in the room.

In any case, Mark Aselstine from Uncorked Ventures, and I hope everyone is having a good week.

Mark Aselstine
June 19, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

Vina Robles Red 4 East Side Paso Robles

How are you doing? Mark Aselstine here with Uncorked Ventures. We just had a couple things to talk about this morning. First is a bottle of wine that's actually showing up in our Explorations Wine Club this month. We'll get you a little bit closer. Great video work by me, I'm sure. It's a Vina Robles Red 4 red wine blend, which is Paso Robles, which I think is interesting kind of on two levels.

First and foremost, it's just a really good wine. And it's about $20 in Price Point. Wine Enthusiast Magazine put it at 90 points and editor's choice. I couldn't agree more. It's an interesting Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache Petite Sirah blend in almost equal parts, more or less, of all four. It's an easy-drinking red. It pairs well with kind of what we're getting into; summer, barbecues, and all that kind of stuff.

And then the winery itself, Vina Robles, is interesting in that it's kind of Old Paso almost. And I feel almost bad saying that because there's just so much hype around Paso Robles right now. And all of it is well deserved, but that's all West Side Paso, which is a little bit cooler, and that's kind of the way the industry's going, is a little bit cooler vineyard sites, a little bit denser, thicker wines.

Warmer sites, they harvest earlier, and sometimes the wines are a little bit thinner because they don't hang quite as long. That's probably apparent with this Red 4. It's a really good offering, and I also think it shows that, you know, people are too quick to discount the areas and the regions of more established sites that are no longer being talked about by the general public, or talked about in wine magazines. Vina Robles does just an excellent job making wines and they make it at a variety of price points. And they're worth a chance to spend some time if you ever find yourself in Paso. And it is East Side Paso, and there's some other good stuff going on over there. 

But you know, these days I don't think everybody makes it east of the 101 Freeway, which is just too bad. So in any case, Mark Aselstine on Uncorked Ventures, that's Vina Robles, it's an R-4 red wine blend from Paso Robles, East Side Paso. There's more to see there than you might first think.

Thanks again.

Time Posted: Jun 19, 2014 at 6:42 AM
Mark Aselstine
June 10, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

Amador County

Mark Aselstine from Uncorked Ventures. So the last couple of days, we've
had a couple of tasting bottles come in the front door from Amador County,
which if you're not familiar, if you leave Napa and Sonoma and head further
east into the Sierra Foothills, that's Amador County. Turley Wine Cellars
is based out there, and they're quite famous for single-vineyard Zinfandel.
And there is a Zinfandel focus. We're also starting to see more Rhones pop
up as far as stuff being grown and vinified both in Amador and kind of the
surrounding counties down in the Sierra Foothills.

I think what's most interesting, though, about Amador County is that it's
kind of home to a lot of really great value in the $20 per bottle range.
Then, in addition to that, because of lower prices and kind of easy access
to markets, like San Francisco, the vintners can be pretty creative with
what they grow. We saw a Semillon, which came out from Amador County, which
was pretty brand new. You'll see Barbera and some other kind of Italian
grape varietals out there. Then we even saw a Touriga a few weeks back,
which is a Portuguese grape that they use to make port, but you have only
seen maybe 200 or so acres planted in the entire state of California.

So if you're looking for something different, if you're looking for
something that's a good value in kind of the $20 and under price point,
Amador County is the spot to look. There are some professional winemakers
out there who are doing quite a nice job, and frankly they don't get enough