Uncorked Ventures Blog

Mark Aselstine
December 8, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

Picpoul-An Introduction

Hi guys. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.

So the first happy Monday and it feels like the holidays are really getting into full swing. For us that means phone ringing, wine club memberships and wine club gifts starting to go out.

I hope everyone's shopping is coming along well. Every once in a while we get a return package from somebody who isn't able to sign when the wine comes to their front door. Fed Ex will typically make three attempts, after that it's held for a few weeks locally. Eventually it comes back to San Francisco to us. We try to contact the gift giver or the recipient, depending on whose email or phone number we have, typically email.

Every once in a while we can't get a hold of everybody so their last shipment makes its way to the back of the warehouse for us to follow up. Eventually, some times, we end up with a bottle of wine. Sometimes those feel like old friends come to visit. So this is a Picpoul which is something that a lot of wine drinkers have never experienced before. The short history of the grape is that the thing is from the Languedoc in France which is one of the French, most interesting wine regions. France as a country they've decided that they're going to have this historic look at wine. The way that wine existed in the 19th century was the way it's going to exist for an indefinite period. They classified wineries at that time and they won't change them. There's also this arcane kind of law system that prevents vintners in certain areas, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, from planting different types of grapes. The Languedoc is one of the few areas in France where they're truly allowed to plant what they want. This is one of the few grapes that have come and are genetically from native to that part of the country of France.

A Picpoul it's technically a Rhone varietal so you do see it in the Rhone Valley, but Languedoc is probably where it's planted the most. Chateau de Paup it is actually one of the approved grapes in the Chanteau de Paup, although the total plantings are so minuscule that you're talking about one-tenth of one percent in the total Chateau de Paup  area. I just wanted to say a little something about Picpoul.

It's a really interesting grape. It's something that you're starting to see kind of pick up a little bit in California, in areas that they focus on Syrah and other Rhone varietals they haven't quite found that perfect white wine. You see Marsanne & Roussane blended together a lot, that's certainly been successful in areas of Santa Barbara that they [inaudible 00:02:25] known varietals. But there is some of these warmer areas in the inland Valleys, the Alexander Valley is probably a good example of that, where they've used Zinfandel and they've used Syrah, but they haven't quite found something that's perfect on the white wine side. Picpoul is something that I know a few wine makers feel pretty strongly about. Most haven't even had it and they certainly never had a domestic version of it. You're talking about a few hundred acres total in California. This is something you're going to start to see more.

Once again Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. I hope you liked that short intro to Picpoul. We'll talk to you soon. Thanks again.

Mark Aselstine
December 5, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

The Lack of Sparkling Wine Startups in California with an Exception

A short intro to why you don't see many small sparkling wine producers within California and more importantly, where to look:

Hey guys, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.

First, welcome to another rainy day in San Francisco for us and we hope you're enjoying your holiday season as it continues to move along. During this month's reserves selections wine club, which is really our premium wine club offering, we're featuring one sparkling wine, and that is this Caraccioli Brut Cuvee from ... This is, what is this? This is the '08 version, which is actually what is going in our shipment. Sometimes, we have samples laying around from other vintages so I just wanted to make sure I have the right bottle sitting in front of me.

There is a few things that come up with sparkling wine in the United States, especially in California. First, everyone always asks, "Hey, why are you only able to source sparklers for higher end wine clubs that you guys do?" It's kind of two fold. First, when you make a sparkler, there is one major issue that prevents California from having a lot of start up wineries that focus on sparkling wine. That's that grapes need to be picked at brix that is the sugar content within a grape, that leads to alcohol levels between 10 and 12%, give or take. For most California vineyards, it's just warm enough that to pick at that level, you are left with this under ripe and kind of flavor free fruit. That's not a good way to make any wine, let alone a sparkler that needs every little bit of intensity that you can soak out of it.

Caraccioli does a good job. It's from the Santa Lucia Highlands, which is really one of the coolest growing regions in the state. It is one of the few places where you can get champagne grapes that come out the most champagne-sih in the United States. That's why, especially our explorations wine club level, which is the most inexpensive choice that we have, we end up ... When we do sparklers, we do them from Oregon.

For the most part, Oregon. I was going to say Oregon and Washington, but in reality, Oregon is the best choice if you're looking for a West Coast sparkler at a sub-$20 price points. That's just because it is a cooler climate in the state of Oregon and it's a heck of a lot easier to get grapes out at the right format. Caraccioli is a pretty good story. This is a really, really outstanding wine. It's something that when you open with people, it's different. I think Schramsberg has become kind of the defacto this is what we do for sparkling wine within Napa and within California and they do a really good job. To be better than that at a reasonable price point is difficult to find sometimes.

I think we have found one. We have worked with these guys in the past and gotten really good feedback. Quite awesome. My wife absolutely loves this wine and I feel like she is as good a judge as anybody. Once again, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. I hope you have enjoyed this short intro to sparkling wine in California and why it can cause a problem for wine makers and more importantly, why on the West Coast, Oregon might be a better spot to look. Thanks again.

Mark Aselstine
December 4, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

An Intro to Wine Label Requirements

Hey guys, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.

First, happy Thursday as we move closer and closer to the Christmas season, and we have three weeks before the holiday. Again, Happy Holiday. I want to take a minute today, so if you get a better look at that. This is a Klickitat Pinot Gris, and you can see the most interesting marking on this bottle is that it is an "American" wine.

I thought it was a good opportunity to talk a little bit about labeling requirements.

I know during the holidays as you're looking for a wine gift or something that was unique to bring to a party, we find ourselves, myself included, at Beverages And More or at your local liquor store looking for just a bottle to grab on the way out. I thought a quick conversation about labeling requirements was probably in order.

First, the region of the country, you need seventy-five percent of the grapes to come from the region, eighty-five percent to come from the AVA or seventy-five percent again, for a specific wine grape to be listed. Pinot Gris ... This is actually a hundred percent Pinot Gris so that's an easy one.

It's actually marked an American white wine and that's something that you don't see very often because quite frankly people don't usually source grapes from multiple states, so that's what's happened here. This is seventy-five percent of the wine comes from the Dampier Vineyard which is up in the Columbia Gorge AVA.

The Columbia Gorge is interesting in itself. It's one of the few, one of only two or three in the United States actually where the AVA is actually broken up into two states. It borders the wine between Oregon and Washington. They market themselves as you can experience the entire world of wine in forty miles. That's partially because part of the Oregon side is very cold, and then you move over the mountain range and the Washington side is warm. This is from the Washington side and that influences the wine. It's made so well the label doesn't show it on the front. It's made by Margerum Wine Company, which is a classic Santa Barbara producer, and twenty-five percent of the grapes come from their state vineyard which is outside of Buellton. It's central coast plus Washington, and that gives you a "American" white wine. Which we actually think is kind of cool. We've seen one of two of these over the course of a year or two. When we've shown them to friends within the industry they're kind of amazed. I know there's distributors and there's wine retailers here in San Francisco that have frankly never seen an American wine before, so that's fun in itself.

Once again, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. That's a little bit about wine labeling requirements. In essence seventy-five percent for grapes, seventy-five percent for an area like a state, but eighty-five percent for a specific AVA like Napa or in this case it would have to be eighty-five for Columbia Gorge, and this doesn't reach it so they labeled it as an American white wine and confuse everybody at the same time. I hope if you're looking for a new wine club membership or if you're looking for a gift basket you'll keep this in mind. Thanks again.

Mark Aselstine
December 3, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

Petite Sirah or Durif...Who Really Knows

Hey, guys, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.

First, happy holidays from everyone over here at what I hope is your favorite wine club.

Second, we’re having a bout of rain here in the Bay Area, which is really good for the California draught that we’ve talked about so much and has been all over the national news, but it also brings up what are you drinking and what are you cooking, those kind of questions from customers that I talk to on the phone and through email.

This is definitely one of those when winter meets broiled meats and stews and all that kind of stuff. A wine that I think is really underappreciated in the United States is Durif or Petite Sirah.

Here’s the quick history. François Durif is a French botanist in the 1860’s. He had a lab in France much like they still have to this day in Bordeaux. They have at UC Davis and a few other countries also do some good wine research and grape genetic research. Australia is certainly a good example of that.

He had Syrah plants and he had a bunch of other plants and lo and behold the wind blows and you comingling of stuff. It’s something you see in vineyards to this day and so he ended up with a new grape. He called it Durif after himself and we call it Petite Sirah in California. You’ll see both labels interchangeably if you talk about international grapes. For the United States it’s Petite Sirah. You can tell the Sirah is one of the parents; it’s a big thick gemmy kind of grape. People think Zinfandel, Syrah, in that same vein of fruit.

Ursa is an interesting winery out in the Sierra Foothills. They focus on this. They have both single vineyard versions of it as well as the field blend which comes out a little lighter. If you’re having a big stew or a broiled meat, Petite Sirah is the wine that could work. I think it’s something that has struggled in essence because the few versions of it that you get of it in Napa, Sonoma and well-known winery gens are out on the periphery of we’ve got this little warmer spot in the vineyard. What do we do with it? Oh, who knows? Throw in Petite Sirah and see what happens. Then consumers trying to say it’s not the best thing that they make so I really don’t like the grape. That’s certainly true. Napa and Sonoma aren’t the best places to grow it. Sierra Foothills has been pretty successful with it. Internationally you see it in Australia still. You’re starting to see it in Mexico, especially in the Guadeloupe Valley. They’re starting to do a pretty job with it.

Domestically, the state of Arizona who’s not desperately trying to grow their wine industry but are certainly trying. In essence if you look at how well New Mexico’s done with some of their sparkling wines, there’s certainly hope that there’s the Other Forty-six Movement, that’s being the forty-six states other than California, Oregon, Washington, the tree that we handle and then New York.

Obviously with New York growers and vintners having access to New York City and the size of that market, they have a little bit easier time.

The Other Forty-six Movement is just the other states other than that. New Mexico led by Gruet and a few other folks have made some really, really good sparkling wines. Next door in Arizona they look at themselves and they say we’re only a few hour drive from San Diego and from Los Angeles and from the thirty, thirty-five million people in southern California. Why can’t we do something similar and make a similar quality of wine? Personally I’ve been wine tasting through Willcox which is a little small town outside of Tuscan and actually came away pretty impressed. The critic’s scores haven’t quite followed through yet, but Arizona is a state to watch if you’re drinking Petite Sirah. It’s worth it to try and track down a bottle or two. There’s a few guys that have legitimate winemaking experience, both taught at UC Davis and then working at wider wine industry folks or regions like Napa and Sonoma that have then moved to Arizona because, frankly, the land’s cheaper and if you want to make Petite Sirah, frankly, if you want to plant a field of Zinfandel, it’s not a bad place to try it. They do benefit from the fact that they have sea level for most of the state, but then a few miles outside of town often there’s some mountain ranges and stuff. It gives you some wide variety of places to plant. Frankly, the land is cheap enough that they can try and see; toss it against the wall and see what sticks. I think they’re doing better than other states in the Other Forty-six Movement are, and it’s worth a look. Petite Sirah, it’s an interesting grape. If you’re feeling like trying something new this holiday season and you’ve got a cut of meat on the grill or better yet in the oven, it’s not a bad place to start.

So, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. Hope you guys are enjoying your holidays. Shipments are going out for us daily at this point. Monthly wine club shipments should go out early part of next week. As I mentioned, we’re having rain here in the Bay Area. We’re going to have to track this as it moves across the east coast to make sure that we don’t ship in the middle of snow, but so it goes. Once again, I’m Mark Aselstine. Thanks again for listening.

Mark Aselstine
December 3, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

December Shipment Deadlines, Christmas to the East Coast, California & Everywhere Inbetween

Briefly, information on our December shipment deadlines:

Hey guys. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.

For the last couple days we've gotten a couple questions about when is the last day we can order for Christmas delivery.

Really briefly, we're based just outside of the City of San Francisco so if you live on the East Coast, it takes a full week to get there. If you want your wine club delivered or gift basket for that matter, delivered on Christmas Eve, you should order by December 17th. The cut off is about 4 p.m. If you're going to be pushing the envelope on a time frame and that kind of stuff, it's quite honestly a lot easier for us to get wine club deliveries out rather than gift baskets.

If you live in California, the deadline's really December 23rd. We use a company called Golden State Overnight or GSO. They are an interesting kind of delivery company in that they're the pizza model style so the guy shows up in a random Honda Accord for the most part with no markings or anything but they are a truly overnight delivery service for all of California. If you order the 23rd, it'll get there Christmas Eve, no problem.

If you're in most of the more urban areas of Arizona and Nevada, the deadline is the 22nd. GSO is kind of two days. They say overnight but in reality it takes two days to get to Phoenix, Tucson and Vegas. We hope we can help you.

If you're in the Midwest, it's three or four business days so you know as opposed to the 17th, you have the 18th or 19th. What would really help if FedEx would work the weekend before Christmas. They usually don't. Unfortunately it's out of our control.

Once again, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. We can also do an expedited shipping for you if you want to pay a little bit extra. Ground shipping is kind of standard for us. We do watch weather to make sure the wine or your gift basket shows up in good condition. Once again, Mark Aselstine, Uncorked Ventures. Hope you guys are having a good holiday season and I hope that helps a little bit with the shipment dates. Thanks again.