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Corporate Gifts by Uncorked Ventures

I’ve been working for quite some time on redesigning our corporate gifts page. One fun part about owning an ecommerce store in January is that I can do quite a bit more of this kind of stuff. Here’s an intro to buying a corporate gift from Uncorked Ventures.

Thanks for finding the Uncorked Ventures Corporate Gifts page. My name’s Mark Aselstine. I’m the founder and, if you’ll allow me to use a wine term, proprietor of Uncorked Ventures. That simply means that I’m involved in the day to day operations. In this case, it means I’m probably packing a lot of the boxes that are going out and handling most of the orders.

You came here looking for corporate gifts. We’ve done a number of these, from, say, small hotel management companies outside of Jackson, Wyoming, to Airbnb sending gift baskets to early stage investors. I know that you probably had a look around in the site. We do a range of gift baskets. We do a range of wine clubs. I just wanted to take a moment and say thank you for considering us.

But then also, I know most corporate gifts come with some specific budget or something in mind. Our off-the-shelf offerings don’t always perfectly align to what those are. My really point of this intro is saying is if you have something in mind and we don’t have something that’s perfect for it, please email me. I’m happy to put something together special for you or with your requirements in mind.

That might be a pared-down gift basket. That might be a gift basket with more wine. That might be a specific type of wine club with only wines. Say we do a law firm here in the city of San Francisco and they only want wines made in San Francisco for their San Francisco clients. That’s all stuff that we’ve done before. I’m happy to put something together custom for you.

The other thing that we can do, we can send you a link to an Excel spreadsheet and you get to fill in all of your information there. It will save you a bunch of time from trying to order one-offs on the website. Once again, my name’s Mark Aselstine. I’m the founder and owner of Uncorked Ventures. I appreciate you considering us for your corporate gift business. Please have a look around.

If you have any questions, please, my direct line is just Not trying to be hard to find in this case at all, and I do appreciate the business and hope that answered some of your basic questions. Thanks again.

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Wine Brunch on a Budget in New York City

blackberry waffles

Mark’s Comment: Today I bring you a guest post from Avery Phillips.  New York’s an interesting market for any number of reasons.  One of the big ones for me though is because it’s about equidistant from many old world growing regions in Europe as it is from 90% of American wine production (the states we cover for our wine clubs, California, Oregon and Washington).  Plus, given the utter ridiculousness of many state by state shipping laws in America, it can actually be easier for New York based stores to access wine from France rather than California.  It’s a competitive marketplace and one that virtually every small winemaker would love to have access to both direct to consumers, as well as, through a distributor or broker.  Last, if you can write for us, as well, if you’re willing to produce something truly local for our blog.

Wine and brunch go hand in hand, but when you’re looking to wine and dine in New York City on a budget, things aren’t so simple. Sure, you could spend a little less and settle for a mimosa or a bloody mary, but if you’re looking for a rosé paired with your benedict, you’ll have to agree to spend a little more – or get frugal with your spending. New York is an expensive city filled with amazing wine and fabulous food, so when you’re looking to experience both on a budget, you’ll need to get creative. In NYC, the possibilities are endless as long as you know where to go.

Find a Free Tasting

You can’t get much cheaper than free. Though few things are actually free, there really are some establishments spread throughout the boroughs that offer free wine tastings – though the cab fare might offset the free price tag a bit. You may not find an establishment offering free tastings with brunch, but in order to work with your budget you may want to adapt. Go get brunch, then head to a wine tasting afterwards. Some places that have been known to offer free tastings are:

Bottlerocket Wine & Spirit – Manhattan: This location has fun, themed tastings every now and again that will turn free tasting into an entire adventure. Check out their calendar and stop in to end a brunch outing right. They are near Zio Ristorante for a great brunch spot.

Dandelion Wine Shop – Brooklyn: This little gem has free tastings every week and has  a vast and eclectic selection of wines. The tastings are pretty popular, and usually on Thursdays. They are near Early for a great brunch spot.

Chelsea Wine Vault – Manhattan: Chelsea Wine Vault offers a ton of tastings per week offering 4 or 5 wines. They are pretty good about putting their tastings on their calendar and allow you to just drop in. They are near Catch for a great brunch spot.

Astor Wine & Spirits – Manhattan: Not only do they offer free tastings, they also occasionally offer discounts on the bottles that are featured. They are near Lafayette Grand Cafe & Bakery for a great brunch spot.

Wine and Brunch in the Park

In reality, going out for brunch and wine in the city is going to cost you a little. It might cost you in terms of the food, the wine, or the cab to get there. However, you can choose where to put that money by deciding to have your own brunch adventure in one of the amazing parks in NYC. The parks in the city are not like the parks anywhere else and serve as an amazing backdrop for a weekend brunch. This way, you can spend a little less on food and wine but get a little more. Grab a basket and have a brunch picnic. Grab a few bottles of wine, some pastries, jams, and savory additions and make your way to a park. Plus, you won’t have to wait ages for a table. Some of the parks that serve as a good brunch destination are:

The High Line: The High Line is such a great location that it’s one of the top choices for places to go in NYC on a Sunday morning. This is because it’s a unique and beautiful location created from freight rail line elevated above the city. Your wine can’t be in glass, and your brunch must be in the designated concessions area, but it’s a lovely place for a picnic brunch with your choice bottle of wine.

Central Park: Central Park is an NYC staple, and with a new take on rules about drinking in public, it’s become a popular area for a wine and a picnic. However, it’s still technically illegal, just decriminalized. Police officers now consider drinking in public to be low on their priority list given the other things that need their attention. So as long as you’re being respectful, chances are you won’t be given a summons.

Brooklyn Bridge Park: Brooklyn Bridge Park is amazing and offers views of city lights and, of course, the Brooklyn Bridge. Again, if you stay in designated areas and be respectful, you should be fine with your chardonnay and your toast and marmalade.

Spend Less on Food and More on Wine

In some cases, brunching on a budget involves finding the best deal on food in order to spend any extra cash on wine. The city is great for many reasons: it’s one of the best cities for young professionals, it’s a foodie’s dream location, and it is a place that really does have something for everyone. However, it’s also not a cheap city to live in. Luckily, New York has a lot to offer in terms of affordable and bottomless brunch options. Granted, they almost always get paired with mimosas and bloody marys, but don’t let anyone tell you how to live your life. If you’d rather have a sparkling wine, you do that. The key is knowing where to spend less on food so that you can spend more on wine.

The Bluebell Cafe – Manhattan: The Bluebell Cafe’s brunch starts early and is extremely affordable. They have a great wine selection as well as an amazing food selection.

Le Parisien – Manhattan: This bistro offers an amazing brunch special as well as a great selection of French and regional wines.

Agave – Manhattan: Agave tops the list of many brunch destinations in Manhattan. It’s located in the West Village and has a higher price tag than some other brunch locations, but the food is bottomless and the higher expense is well worth it.

Sweet Chick – Manhattan: The food is good and the drinks are great at Sweet Chick on Bedford Avenue. They even have vegetarian chicken and waffles.

Hosting Wine Brunch

Obviously, the best way to brunch on a budget in NYC is to host your own wine brunch at home. This way, you can focus on the wine you’d really like way cheaper than a glass you’d get at any restaurant. Talk to some friends and arrange a potluck, or do all the cooking yourself. Find some fun brunch recipes from cinnamon roll bakes to savory egg casserole dishes and enjoy brunch in the comfort of your own home. Create a buffet style spread and create some fun brunch pairings to go with it. When you host your own wine brunch, you have the freedom to create an atmosphere and menu that you’d prefer. So, for the ultimate in brunch and wine freedom as well as sticking to your budget, just stay in and create it on your own.

New York is an expensive city, there’s no doubt about that. When you already have to spend a fortune on rent, who can afford the extra expense that it takes to find a wine brunch? Well, everyone can if you get creative. Instead of following the crowd to the locations the rest of the city goes to on a Sunday, create your own hidden gems. Find the best free wine tastings next to an affordable breakfast, brave New York’s open container laws and take your own picnic brunch to the park, find the cheapest eats and spend your extra cash on nicer wine, or just host your own wine brunch with your people at home. New York is the city of possibilities, and that includes finding cheap brunch and a glass of wine.

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2018: This is the Year


Back in 2011, I was a kid.  Barely 30 and starting a business that I don’t think I had any business doing at the time.  I didn’t know enough about life, about ecommerce, about myself, about wine.  Amazingly, we survived.  In some ways, it’s more unexpected than you might realize.  Our competitors largely fell into one of two buckets: those that existed pre-internet as mail order wine clubs, or those with significant storefronts.  More recently, we’ve seen the rise of venture capital backed wine clubs.

These days, I know enough.  I know where my next sale is coming from.  I know a bit about PR. I can market this thing a little bit online and off. I have a decent handle on what people expect in terms of customer service and experience even if providing the perfect experience in a bootstrapped startup that’s down a business partner (don’t worry Matt and I continue to not hate each other, I’m happy he’s happy and I know he’s rooting for Uncorked Ventures to be as successful as we initially expected it to be) is about as tough as you might expect.

I’m thankful to have a shot to really get this done.  In 2018, I’m going to give something a try occasionally in this space.  Something approaching a real update of what’s happening.  People seem interested, so why not?

So what’s coming in 2018?  Largely, I view this as the year when I get to find out what I have.  Am I insane for thinking I can do this is an ever more crowded field with no real built in advantages?  Or are relationships and being a pretty darn good generalist enough to build a business?

So here’s what I’m working on and how the experience will be better in 2018:

  • Uncorked Ventures branded social media. You’ll see something more corporate on Twitter and Instagram at least.  Don’t worry, I’ll still be around on those myself, surely annoying people with a general lack of wine conversation.  I’ll also be resurrecting the Facebook page. I don’t really like the platform, but if my mom’s on it, there’s sales and interest there to be sure.
  • Newsletters Are Going To Be More Official: When mentioned that they really enjoyed the wine club, they mentioned that the newsletters looked to be printed on my home printer.  They are.  They’ll continue to be.  If you’re wondering why, I simply would rather ship better wine and spending 10-15% of the price of your shipment on printing, for the Explorations Wine Club, seems nonsensical.  But, they’re going to come with better information and will have a short snapshot of each wine at the beginning as well as an update directly from me about the wine club and my progress at the end.
  • I’ll have continued website improvements throughout the year.  Starting the first week in January you’ll likely notice a much, much faster website.  Then, you’ll see redesigned pages and some added functionality.  As an example, the wine gifts page is getting a complete, utter re-do. It’ll come with the opportunity to print customized gift message directly from the site.
  • Gift Baskets.  Seriously.  I think my friends and family are sick and damn tired of hearing me talk about everything I want to accomplish on the gift baskets side of Uncorked Ventures.  Largely that’s due to the fact that I kind of hate the old, tired gift basket choices available everywhere else.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like Starbucks and Ghiradelli as much as anyone…..but I want to do something more local, more unique.
  • Corporate gifts: I don’t think many of you would be surprised to hear that corporate gifts, are quite nice when they happen.  I’ll be getting things set up to make this easier on company representatives to order.
  • The Blog: I’ve done an adequate job here.  I’d like to do better.  I’m going to attempt bi-weekly long form content, think something closer to my predictions for the future of wine. The smaller goal here is to provide daily content.  Some of that is going to be video, that’s pretty simple and not entirely time intensive.  I’d like to increase production value on those, even if it’s only slightly. I’ll have a video intro for each wine that shipped as part of our wine clubs, that’s something that I increasingly hear that people like to see/read.  I’ll continue to transcribe those videos as well, since I know not everyone always high speed internet available. I’ll also be posting some of what others are writing for the site in this space.  If you’re interested, please get in touch: write for us. Don’t get me wrong in terms of the blog, I don’t want to be writing blogs about how to start a book club in order to try and sell more wine or to provide daily updates.  I’d rather be more geeky and ask a winemaker about his Carignan.

Ok, there’s a few other things.  Winemaker TV continues to progress and episodes are going to start in the middle of the month.  While that’s not necessarily directly Uncorked Ventures related, I know you all like to see the winemakers that made the wine that’s in their glass.  Video is the future.  I think we have a really cool concept and I think there’s an obvious overlap in play here.  I’ll assume that you’re interested in tv quality video about the wine industry, until I’m told otherwise.

Thanks for coming along for the ride.  It’s going to be an awfully interesting year around here.

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Fausse Piste Vegetable Lamb Pinot Noir 2014

Fauste Piste Pinot Noir

Yeah, yeah I know.  Weird label.  Weird name.

So some background, I’ve hit on wines from this vineyard before, the Momtazi Vineyard (there’s also some fruit from a smaller, lesser known site called Johan). Both are farmed biodynamically and organically, which is something we should spend a few moments on.

I think most consumers these days are pretty accustomed to the rules governing organic farming.  Some major regions like Sonoma have stayed away from chasing the designation, in large part because it can tie your hands a bit.  There are times when powdery mildew creeps in, or when a certain pest becomes overwhelming that a grower might want to make damn sure they’ve taken care of the problem.  Rightly or wrongly, although they often argue the point, vineyards aren’t as ecologically diverse as a forest and that type of monoculture is ripe for pests (they’ll better than corn fields though).

In terms of biodynamic farming, there are some theories which seem spot on according to basically everyone I speak with.  Burying cow horns and letting them partially ferment in the ground, then digging them up and spreading the resulting compost…..seems like a next step in the evolution of a self serving system.  Other stuff is taking away winemaker control though according to many, such as picking on a specific day.  Winemakers basically rage against that concept, yet are happy enough to schedule a crew a day or two after their intended pick date if no other alternative exists.

Winemaker Jesse Skiles is an interesting guy.  He calls himself a cook first, winemaker second.  He’s also a millennial.  That’s something I notice in large part because of my own age.  I started my business when I was about 30.  Signed the final permits in the hospital when my son was born after a 6 month process with alcohol-beverage-control (yes my wife is as supportive as she sounds).  All told, I’m right on the border of being a millennial or not.  I hope I can take some of the positive aspects of the culture and add in some of my own.  Yes, work life balance is important. I bring all that up because, there aren’t that many people a handful of years younger than me sitting in the winemaking chair for their own brand yet.  That’s changing because I’m getting older, but also the industry is beginning to skew a bit younger on the winemaking side of the ledger as well.  It’s a good thing, newer perspectives are always a positive in an artistic endeavor.

So Fausse Piste means something along the lines of red herring, or even the lack of success in its native French.  Skiles sees himself as much more than a standard American winemaker, in many ways he sees the Rhone Valley as his natural spot and a natural accompaniment for what he’s trying to accomplish.  A wild ride of restaurant careers led him to the Culinary Institute in New York, back to Oregon and then to Washington before he eventually had a winery and restaurant sharing a 2,800 square foot space in Portland.  I’ve seen a lot of small spaces over the years, but this might take 2nd place (Tom Rees makes Pine and Brown in downtown Napa out of a converted 1 car garage, a setup no one should ever enter into).

Fauste Piste Pinot Back LabelSkiles heart still stays with the Rhone’s.  But, I do so damn many of those and at times, people want something more expected.  Enter an Oregon Pinot Noir.  He’ll tell you, this is a more food friendly wine. In part I agree, but I also think it’s important to note how darn acidic this thing is.  That’s partially winemaker choices, it’s partially simply Oregon Pinot, but it’s also farming practices.  We know a few things about different farming practices and how they help control what happens in the winery.  Using native yeast as an example, lowers alcohol content given equal amounts of sugar.  In this case, organic and biodynamic farming tend to increase acidity, compared to conventional counterparts in the same regions. While people that spend a lot more time with wine grapes than I do, can argue over why at length, I think there’s one fairly certain conclusion. A well managed, organic or biodynamic vineyard often leads to healthier plants overall than does a conventionally farmed one. Healthier plants tend to have berries with both, more liquid inside of them as well as higher sugar content (think of a sweeter strawberry as an example). Those things added up, should produce a more acidic wine.  Really, the acidity that we all taste is the ratio of tannin (skin) to acid (juice).  Some berries have thicker skins.  Some berries are smaller (this is largely dependent on location, mountain berries are dramatically smaller).  But vineyard practices might move the needle 10-15% in one direction or another.  If you’re encouraging acid, you can let grapes hang longer on the vine, perhaps creating more easily distinguishable tastes.

Last: This is being included in a couple of wine clubs in the coming months.  It’s a fun, good wine.

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Patricia Green Pinot Noir Durant Vineyard 2013

Patricia Green Pinot Noir Durant Vineyard 2013

Patricia Green Pinot Noir Durant Vineyard 2013Yup, another Oregon Pinot Noir.  Pairs well with the holidays.

93pts Vinuous (if you aren’t familiar, that’s Antonio Galloni, who at one point was slated to take over for Robert Parker, but had a falling out of sorts with the new ownership of Wine Advocate, only to create his own imminently helpful online property).

I can’t move forward without noting the major story here:Patricia Green, or Patty as literally everyone called her, passed away at the beginning of November, after I had planned to ship this wine. She lived in an isolated cabin and there aren’t many explanations for her tragic death at 62, other than the fact that it doesn’t seem to be related to foul play. To her family and friends: I’m sorry for your loss.

Ok, so some more information about what’s in your glass and how a winery moves forward when their namesake passes on: The winery carries her name, but it’ll continue because it really was a joint project between Patty and winemaker Jim Anderson.

The winery owns 52 acres in the Rabbit Ridge Appelation.  The Rabbit Ridge AVA is totally contained within the Chehalem Mountains AVA.  Yes, the Chehalem Mountain AVA is also completely contained within the Willamette Valley AVA.

What makes Rabbit Ridge different than its neighbors?  To start, the AVA is basically defined by the placing of old ocean flow on the mountaintop. Secondly, there’s some elevation at play as well.

I think the main and most interesting part of the story in this case, is the Durant Vineyard.  David Lett was affectionately titled Papa Pinot.  Only a few years after Lett planted up on Rabbit Ridge, the Durant family did the same.  You can tell that it was a simpler time by one main difference in the Durant Vineyard from any new vineyard.  It’s planted facing south.  These days, everyone plants facing west.  Facing west, as many folks near the coast can tell you, gets you every last few bits of sunlight.  South is probably second best, but it says something about the Durant’s that they were willing to even take the risk given that back in the 70’s (they planted in 73) nobody was quite sure if Oregon would ripen Pinot Noir.  Heck, they wondered if Sonoma could east of the freeway as well.

In many ways, though the Durant Vineyard is like 2 vineyards in one.  First, you have their Bishop’s Block which is the original plantings from back in 1973.  There was an addition planted back in 2000, which creates an entirely different type of wine.  They used clone 115 for that one-showing again that Oregon and it’s clone wars are never ending.

What’s in your glass is a combination of the two. Last, this is going into our red wine club shipments this month.

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Bethel Heights Estate Chardonnay 2012

Bethel Heights Chardonnay

I’m working on a rather lengthy piece on Oregon Chardonnay, both the history of as well as the future.  I thought given my current writings, as well as a few tastings over the summer when I spent some time in the Willamette Valley, shipping an Oregon Chardonnay made a lot of sense.

Ok so then the question became, which one?

Bethel Heights Chardonnay Back LabelTo start, Oregon Chard can be expensive and to get something that I really, really liked, I was having trouble finding someone relevant to pair it with.  I knew I needed to make the pricing work….so a half bottle.  If it’s too annoying, let me know and I can replace it.  I’ve done this in the past, interestingly from Oregon, without incident so I hope you all are cool with it.

So there’s a couple of things that I’ve learned about Oregon Chardonnay. In the industry winemakers OBSESS over clones, consumers even the most ardent, can’t really tell the difference beyond other factors

But, in Oregon the clones being used for Chardonnay really do seem to have mattered.  The grape didn’t really jump off in the state until Dijon clones made their way to Oregon.  

Dijon is a region of France, that’s cold and wet. Oregon’s pretty cold and wet (by comparison, by comparison).  Before that, they took the clones that were easiest to get and most available….stuff from California.  Say what you want about the state in which I live, cold and wet isn’t how it’s normally described.  Also, they attempted the Wente clone more than others.

Wente is a winery in Livermore.  While Livermore once challenged Napa Valley for preeminence among Northern California grape growing regions, no longer is that up for debate. The reason? The region is about an hour east of San Francisco.  It’s a warm, inland valley.  It’s the type of spot where you know that the grapes are going to ripen.  Back a hundred or so years ago, that was more important than it is today, at least for many folks.

Anyway, a warmer climate grape clone  in Oregon? Yeah, what could go wrong?

Good for vintners in the region for adjusting to what the market would bear (increasingly more acidity is a good thing) as well as realizing what might be constraining sales of Oregon Chardonnay in the first place.

Don’t take my word for it: 90pts Wine & Spirits Magazine: The aroma on this wine brings to mind warm apples in the sun, the fragrance touched by oak and finely integrated on the palate. The salinity of its texture gives it energy, grip and precision, with enough detail to merit pairing with coq au vin blanc. We’re offering this as part of an Explorations Wine Club shipment (it’s our cheap club)

Lastly, what about Bethel Heights? The winery opened in 1977, largely funded by twin brothers. Now, they have 11 investors and have grown from their initial 14 acre investment, into a 75 acre parcel.  Until the late 90’s they sold fruit to many different wineries, but over the years, they grew their own brand enough to handle all of the wine themselves.  Plus, two of the original owners kids are now intimately involved in the business.  One makes the wine, the other functions as the general manager.

Originally I heard about Bethel Heights from a history book, but also from Randall Grahm.  Randall started Bonny Doon Vineyard and back in the 80’s, he was producing a huge range of wines, including an Oregon Pinot Gris from Bethel Heights.  He still has good things to say about these folks, which only came up the last time I ran into him because I was set to take a family road trip (yes, partially for work) through Oregon and Washington.

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Kinero Cellars Alice Grenache Blanc

Kinero Alice

Grenache Blanc, I can’t quite quit you, even if there are only 300 or so acres within California (that’s almost equivalent to 0 btw).  Here’s one of my favorite examples!

Video Transcription:

Hi guys, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. I’m joined today by a bottle of Kinero, and it’s called Alice. What they’re not going to tell you, and Kinero’s a label made by Anthony Yount, Anthony is one of my favorite winemakers down in Paso, and probably in the state.

I think the Kinero story is a good one, we’ve told it here a number of times. He’s the winemaker at Denner Vineyards, which is one of the truly high-end Paso wineries, by day, and Kinero’s a small label that he makes on his own. For a long time, he didn’t make any red wines with the label. He made only whites. His dad, as the story goes, doesn’t like to drink white wine, so he wanted to make something that his dad would like, that is a white.

Having two boys in the house myself, I can totally see how that would be part of the thought process. In any case, they’re outstanding white wines, highly scored, highly acclaimed. He doesn’t make a whole lot of them, so they’re rather difficult to get. In fact this Alice that’s going out to Wine Club members this month, it’s actually already sold out from the winery so we’re happy to ship it to our Explorations Wine Club which is our cheapest option.

In any case, Grenache Blanc. One of my absolutely favorite varieties of white. I think it hits two high points. First, it is very acidic, at least it can be, and second, it does give you a floral mouthfeel. So it’s a floral mouthfeel plus some acidity, which doesn’t usually always go hand-in-hand, and I think it makes it a good fit for what people are looking for in the 21st century experience of wine in the state of California.

It definitely wasn’t, say, in the 80s when Chardonnay was bigger, bolder and buttery and oaky. Anthony does this one, not in steel and not in wood, but in cement egg. Cement has two aspects to it that are important. First, think about when it rains outside when you look at your sidewalk. Do you get a pool of water like you do in a piece of steel that you left out, or on a piece of plastic? No, you don’t get a pool, because actually it does breathe and seeps into the cement, much like if you left a piece of wood outside, right?

As far as oxygenation during the aging process, cement is much, much more similar to wood than it is to steel. So, I think that’s a good thing. Second, unlike oak or any other type of wood that you would use, cement is not going to impart a flavor. This is in many ways 16th century winemaking technology that has just started to circle back around in California. I also think it’s kind of interesting that eggs are not usually shared. This is something that winemakers have to purchase themselves and then use themselves. Quite honestly, there’s not much of a playbook for these yet. They’re just figuring it out as they go.

So, Grenache Blanc, last little bit. There’s not much of the grape in the state. There’s give or take 300 acres in total, that if you were to graph it you can’t even see Grenache Blanc on the graph. It’s maybe the 35th most popular white wine grape to be planted in the state of California. Like everything else that’s growing, there’s more plantings, but there’s just not a whole lot of it.

A Kinero Alice, which is really Kinero Grenache Blanc 16, was one of the last years of drought in the state that we’re going to have to deal with, and it’ll be interesting to see how everything comes about, but this is a really outstanding wine, and if any of the critics happen to receive a bottle of it at some point, I think you’ll see multiple 90 point scores show up again.

He had a bottle, actually, rated a few years ago for the first and only time by anybody other than [Vinuis 00:03:48] and I think 92 point Spectator and Enthusiast, but Antonio [Gallinari 00:03:52] does a outstanding job covering Kinero on his online outlet, and so that’s one spot to see if you don’t want to trust me, and you want to trust somebody you’ve heard of before.

So, once again, Mark Aselstine of Uncorked Ventures, and Explorations Wine Club shipment out shortly.

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Taming Mourvedre

Villa Creek Mourvedre

Mourvedre is a blending grape because it’s so damn tannic. Google is running a commercial right now about changing a statement to a question mark.  So Mourvedre is a blending grape because its so damn tannic?  The answer from the Russian River Valley and Paso Robles might surprise you.

Video Transcription:

Villa Creek Mourvedre Back LabelHi guys. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. So, I’m joined today by, I’ll hold this up so you can see it. So, this is a bottle of Mourvedre. So, if you’re part of our reserved selections point club, you’re gonna get two different Mourvedres in this month’s shipment. If you’re a special selections or any of our other red wine club members, you’ll get likely one. Some of you will end up with two, if I know your preference.

So, Mourvedre. So, it’s a Rhone. So, it’s familiar to a lot of wine drinkers because it’s part of GSM blends, and that’s Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre. Often times Grenache is the largest component of those blends, especially in the Rhone Valley, well over 50% in some cases. The vast majority, so, if you’re going to guess what the percentages are in those situations, it’s 60/30/10 on average, I would say. 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre.

Mourvedre is used for two things. So, first, it is pretty darn dark. It’s purple, almost to the point of running black at times. So, that’s part of it. So, that’s to darken the wine. But really, the real reason why winemakers use Mourvedre in these blends is for tannic structure.

So, in California, we have some folks who are looking at the grape and saying, “Look, let’s try,” so in this case, the Front Porch Farm, they have maybe an eighth of an acre, or no, eight tens of an acre, so they get maybe 100 cases or so per vintage. We’re doing another one from Villa Creek down in Paso Robles, and they have a few rows of it that gives them a couple hundred cases only. So, you’re getting folks that are starting to really experiment with it here in California as a varietal specific wine, and that’s so it’s 80% or so of the varietal at least. Most of the folks doing it are all in and doing 100% Mourvedre. In the old world, that’s almost unheard of because they feel like it’s so tannic and so out of control that you can’t actually sell the wine to anybody and it’s just disinteresting, much like Petit Syrah, maybe, would be for other folks, or Petit Verdot if you’re in Bordeaux.

So, how do you bring this grape that’s so tannic that people don’t even think you can make a varietal wine out of it and bring it and kind of walk it back into a reasonable level. So, we’re finding out a few things. So first, much like all quality wine, literally the most important thing is yield in the vineyard. So, if you let the thing grow wild and you get five tons per acre, it’s gonna be terrible. It’s gonna be terribly tannic, you’re not gonna be able to drink it, it’s a blending grape. And that’s okay. But it just is what it is. If you can scale that down to two to three tons per acre, you get something that’s usable.

Secondly, there’s a whole cottage industry in wine where people argue about the use of inoculated fruit versus natural or native yeast, depending on where you sit. We know two things. So, first we know that at the same bricks, i.e., the same amount of sugar, sugar and during fermentation turns into alcohol. If you use native yeast in fermentations, that corresponding alcohol level is lower than if you inoculate. We don’t know why that is. It’s likely that that happens because there are nine to 10 different types of native yeast on every grape skin. So often, what you’ll find if you look at a micrological level, is that you’ll find one yeast starts fermenting, ends its ferment, and is used up, and then the next one takes over, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, until you end up with all the sugar turned into alcohol.

The second thing that you find is that consumers, when you blind taste test this stuff, and we have done this from the same vineyard, one inoculated, one native yeast, people universally almost will tell you that they find the native yeast stuff to be a little bit softer mouth feel. So, for Mourvedre, that’s incredibly, incredibly important because it takes that tannin bite down just a little bit and really what we’re talking about here is this is still gonna be a tannic wine, it’s still gonna be kind of this full mouth feel kind of thing, but how far down the wine can we run it? From, “Hey, we can’t do this by itself,” to Cabernet. How close can we get it?

And we’re not gonna get it all the way there, but from controlling yield, from using native yeast, then there’s a third part, too. Whole cluster fermentation. I’ve got a winemaker friend down in Paso, Anthony Yount, who makes Kinero Cellars, truly one of the great little, small, independent labels. He also makes the wine at Denner, which is a huge kind of well known winery appointment only, join the wine club kind of thing. And he has expressed that he likes a lot of whole cluster in warm vintages, and he likes a lot of whole cluster in cool vintages, and he likes a good amount of whole cluster in normal vintages. And so, one that we do find in whole cluster ferments, especially at lower yields, is that it tends to damper down the tannins again. So, I think it’s an interesting thing when you have a grape where a winemaker sets out and they know what they’re getting at the start, and they know that they need to make every wine making choice that they can to tamper down the tannins, and to get it to the most easily accessible mouthfeel as possible.

And so, I think that’s what we’re finding with Mourvedre. There’s a few names where they’re doing it [inaudible 00:05:34] varietal. I’m excited to ship it as a part of the wine club this month, and I hope that our customers enjoy it. So, that’s a quick update, and if you’re wondering where the heck your shipment is, we’re shipping concurrently. It was a hot summer, and as you know, we had fires in Northern California. It was a hell of a time to do Napa and Sonoma wines the last month or two, so we’re doing a little bit of digging out. And I’m definitely helping as best I can with that.

So, yeah. This is a Front Porch Farm. It’s a Russian River Mourvedre. Quite honestly, there’s so few grapes being grown in the Russian River these days that’s not really Pinot, but either Pinot or Chardonnay is probably 95% of production throughout the Russian River, if not more, so I really, really wanted to support the guys doing something different.

So, once again I’m Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures, hope you guys are having a good week so far.

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Sales Pressures and Differences For Blends

Longevity Wines Philosophy

Blends are where a ton of winemakers think they make their money. Every single one of them will tell you how good their palate it and if they don’t, they think it.  Here’s why we see so many varietal specific wines despite this.  Blending makes for some challenging sales here in America and that’s because of how we structure wine stores.

Video Transcription:

Hi guys, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.

I’m joined today by a body of Longevity 2010 Philosophy red wine, and so, Longevity’s that winery out in Livermore that we taped for Winemaker TV a week or so ago, and have talked about on at least one occasion in this space, and I wanted to bring up Philosophy.

This is their namesake blend. The winemaker’s name is Phil, so this is Philosophy. He makes another Rhone blend for his wife under her name, and so, it’s Merlot, Cab Franc … Oh no, I’m … Yeah, Merlot, Cab Franc, Cab Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec … It’s kind of the classic Bordeaux blend, so why don’t more wineries do this in the United States?

Longevity Wines Philosophy Back LabelAnd the answer really comes down to, this is not how we sell wine in America, so if you go to a wine shop in France or if you look at a wine list in France, you’re shown the way that they show a bottle. You’re given not varietal-specific but region-specific, so if it’s Bordeaux, you won’t necessarily see if it’s Cab Sav or Merlot that’s the dominant varietal. You’ll see that it’s Bordeaux, and so if you think about it, it makes it a hell of a lot easier to do a blend that’s not based on a specific varietal if you set it up by location instead of it you set it up by varietal.

In the United States, that Bordeaux is often … You’ll see a Merlot section of Bordeaux, and then you’ll see a Cab Sauvignon section of Bordeaux, like we’ve separated the left and right bank from each other, like they’re in completely separate regions. It’s a little silly to do it that way, but there’s also an element of success in saying what varietal it is, it makes it a little easier for people. They have to learn less about wine to get started, but the problem is, for wine’s like this, if you are a wine shop, where the hell do you put it?

And that’s really the question. Can you put it with Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, when there’s really only 40% of either in there? Not really, so you get this kind of nebulous other red section in the back, and that’s why winemakers tend to avoid it, and so this is kind of a tasting room sale. This is a, “Hey, 90 Point Spectator, buy this wine,” kind of sale. This isn’t like a … You know, people will seemingly just fall into this and purchase it kind of thing, so that’s a challenge for winemakers.

You know, a lot of winemakers will say that the best thing they do is their blending, but really, our market is not set up to encourage blending in the way that it is in Europe, although our wine market is set up to help people have that first glass of wine in the way that theirs just simply is not.

So in any case, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures, we are recovering from fires and from some sourcing issues caused by the fires here in California. We have a bunch of Napa and Sonoma stuff ready to go out, and we’ll make that happen over the next coming days, and if you’re a wine club member, shipments’ coming soon.

Hope everybody’s doing well, and hope everybody enjoyed Halloween. We had a good one at our house. Thanks.

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What’s A Shiner?

This is a Shiner

So what is a shiner?

This is a Shiner
A shiner is a bottle of wine that has been filled, but doesn’t have a label.

Why do shiners exist?

For a winery, they often end up with some extra juice and they don’t necessarily want all that extra juice to effect the price people are willing to pay for their wine.  It’s a hell of a lot easier to make a lot of wine go away if it’s in shiners, rather than if it’s in a labeled bottle. It’s also easier to sell a shiner than it is a barrel of wine, after all not every retail client has an easy way to get that wine into bottle.

Plenty of restaurants and stores do wines under their own label, which often are originally purchased as shiners.