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How Many Ounces in a Bottle of Wine?

How Many Ounces in a Bottle of Wine?

Quite simply, it’s 750ml. Or about 25 ounces. (Ok, so it’s technically 25.36, but 25 should be close enough right? When’s the last time you didn’t spill anything?)

A more interesting question, how many ounces are there in a glass of wine?  It’s less than you think, which also means that there are more glasses of wine in a bottle than you probably think.

In any case, there’s about 25 ounces in a 750ml wine bottle.

Also, if you’re wondering why a wine bottle is that size today.  Think back to ancient times, glass wasn’t made in factories, but instead by people.  750ml is about the amount of air held in the average humans lungs. (here’s my write up on that one).

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J Christopher Pinot Noir 2014 Intro Video

J Christopher Pinot Noir

J Christopher marks the end of what was way, way too long without an Oregon Pinot Noir.  I won’t have that happen again any time soon.  For wine club members looking forward to good Pinot Noir from the Northwest, or really just anyone wanting to experience one of the best vintages in a region, Oregon’s 2014 vintage offers a fun look at what’s possible.

Hi all. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. I’ll hold this up so you can get a good look at it. So this is a special selection and a reserve selection. Both of our red wine clubs are getting one of these this month. And this is J. Christopher. So I’ve been a bit remiss, I haven’t done an Oregon Pinot in a while. Personally love Oregon Pinot. So while the wine club newsletter this month is going to go into some more in depth information about J. Christopher, the winery and the winemaker and all that kind of stuff, I thought I’d take a couple of minutes here and introduce the wine, and more importantly, maybe, the wine region.

So everybody knows Oregon, and they think of Oregon and the Willamette Valley as a Pinot Noir destination. That’s 100% true. The vast, vast majority of what they grow is Pinot. So this is the Willamette, a lot of people aren’t aware is there is six sub-AVAs within the Willamette Valley, and this is the Eola Amity Hills*. And so it’s kind of tricky to say, which means people are less likely to visit, and it’s also southwest of the city of Portland, and it’s the most southern AVA in the Willamette Valley. And so typically, when we hear “southern,” I think we as an American wine drinker, we think southern as warmer. And that’s definitely true, but this is southwest, and this is actually one of the cooler spots in the wider Willamette Valley.

And it’s also further away from Portland, and being further away from Portland means that you’re much more likely to find dirt roads, and winemaker actually pouring the wine, than you are at spots that are only half an hour outside the city, as you might expect. We have a long history in the wine industry of wine regions popping up about an hour or so outside of major cities. People like to kind of get out, for lack of a better term. Napa and Sonoma both fit that profile from San Francisco. Long Island in New York, we don’t think of Long Island as having wine. For a long time, they did produce wine, before population pressures have kind of moved vineyards out to other parts of the state. But that was about an our outside New York City. Obviously in Europe there’s a million examples. Champagne is an hour outside of Paris. You know, Mosel is only an hour or so outside a couple major cities in Germany, et cetera, et cetera.

So anyway, the Eola Amity Hills. So it’s the coolest of the sub-AVAs within the Willamette, so that means that you get these guys doing things a little bit differently. So you get the Melon de Bourgogne, which is kind of this weird varietal that nobody’s ever heard of. You get people growing Pinot, of course, and you get people growing these others, like Dornfelder and these other weird grapes that nobody’s ever heard of before, and that only grow in the coldest and coldest of American climates. So that’s what the Eola is famous for.

And I think the results for Oregon 2014s are exemplary. I think the “vintage of the century” in this case could almost be justified. There’s definitely been critic scores that seem to suggest that it is. I don’t think we should take vintages off, because I think that really hurts small wineries and helps large ones, but I do think that at times like this, it’s maybe smart to, if you see an Oregon 2014 as opposed to a ’15, that’s probably a good time to pick it up.

J Christopher Pinot Noir  Back Lable

So in any case, I hope you enjoy an Oregon Pinot. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. We’ll be doing more as we move into the fall and into the spring this year. I rally do like telling the story of Oregon, what’s happening up there. You know, in a lot of ways it reminds me of Sonoma a few years back, where you have Pinot plantings reaching, perhaps, a crescendo and you’re starting to see smaller winemakers branch out from Pinot and make some other, maybe, more interesting stuff. So in any case, J. Christopher, coming out to you if you’re a wine club member, and if you’re not, this is a darn good bottle of wine if you happen across one. Thanks again.

Brooks Winery is based here, and they’ve brought the profile up significantly over the years. J. Christopher sources some grapes from here as well. So this is 2014 Oregon, and 2014 Oregon, the folks in Oregon call it vintage of the century. In the wine industry, “vintage of the century” happens every five years or so. But in 2014 in Oregon, basically what happened was that it was a little bit warmer. And the one thing they struggle with in a lot of regions is making sure they get the ripeness at a time of the winemaker’s choosing.

And so they ran about two weeks early in 2014, and that gave the winemakers really a chance to pick exactly when they wanted to. In Oregon, if they run late, and they start running into late September or even early October, it’s actually quite a problem for them, because they get heavy rains. And so running a couple weeks early brought them into the beginning of September for Pinot picking, and that really let them have this, “I don’t want to pick this on Thursday, I’d rather pick it Friday morning,” kind of thing, which they don’t always get a chance to do.

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What Does Uncorked Mean?

what does uncorked mean

Uncorked simply means to pull the cork.  In other words, to open a bottle of wine. What does uncorked mean though on a wider scale, it’s often considered in the urban dictionary, to include being unpredictable, or carefree.

That’s an interesting part of the definition of uncorked, in large part because in the wine industry, when you uncork a bottle of wine, you’re often not sure exactly what you’re getting.  Even if you opened an exact bottle of the same wine a moment before, there are often subtle changes.

The last part of the definition of uncorked, the part about being carefree is something that I think a lot of wine brands are striving towards.  The industry has certainly, for many, many years, been too serious and that level of attitude has been off putting for younger and less experienced wine drinkers.

For us, at Uncorked Ventures, uncorked was meant to have 2 meanings.  Yes, of course, we want customers to uncork our product.  Secondly though the secondary meaning of being unpredictable wasn’t lost on us.  We’re bootstrapped and building a small business in a sea of well funded (some venture backed) competitors and another group so old they predate the internet… both a challenge and a non linear path.

But yeah, when someone asks what does uncorked mean? I know they’re talking about this:

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How to Eat Like a Local in Australia


First, a big thank you to Brittnay Sharman, for writing this guest post.  Brittnay owns and operates a rather interesting business called the Traveling House Sitters.  I mean, as far as dream jobs go, that’s got to be pretty high on the list. She was kind enough to run an article I wrote about the differences between Syrah and Shiraz and so giving her some space here to share her thoughts, seemed only fair. If you’d like to write for us, please get in touch, but please, please take 5 minutes to read my guidelines. Seriously.

How To Eat Like A Local In Australia

Travelling to Australia soon but you don’t want to indulge in all the ‘touristy’ things? Truly experience the Australia like how the locals eat, don’t worry it’s not all kangaroo and shrimp!  You will find out how to host an Aussie barbie (BBQ) and the classics, they just love (nope it’s not vegemite!).

First Thing in The Morning

Aussie breakfast starts out pretty similar for most people (no we don’t have avocado on toast everyday). Firstly is it is the classic Weet-Bix, throw some in a bowl of milk with either sprinkle of brown sugar, a dollop of honey, or some sliced banana. As a kid this was usual go to, not mention every sporting hero on our tellies (TV’s) was sponsored by Weetbixs.

eggs and vegemiteNext you have vegemite egg soldiers. First you want to throw some bread in the toaster, then you want to soft boil a few eggs. When they are cooked find yourself an egg cup, spread some vegemite on your toast and cut it the toast into 8-10 finger sized dippers. Knock the top off your egg and dip those tasty soldiers in!  

Mark’s Add: Pairing vegemite with wine? I hear that Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon both work.  But heck, it isn’t like I can find vegemite locally, so your guess is as good as mine.

Get Excited About The Melting Pot of Cultures
Australia is a country that’s incredibly proud for their inclusion of cultural diversity. In fact, Australia is known worldwide for being home to people from a vast array of cultural backgrounds.

Locals don’t only restrict themselves to burgers, fish and chips, seafood and steaks. Australians love their Chinese, Indian, Italian, Mexican, Korean, Vietnamese & Thai

Host Your First Barbie Right
To start off the barbie (BBQ) right you need to get yourself some snags (sausages). Snags are an essential item to pulling off an Aussie barbie. When your grabbing the  snags make sure you’ve got bread, tomato sauce, and onions ready to go with them. BBQ’ed onions are essential for a Aussie BBQ. All you need to do is thinly slice a few onions, throw them on the barbie with some oil and sugar (only a tablespoon or so) and caramelise.

There are plenty of Australian approved ways to classy up your BBQ (or barbie) if snags aren’t for you. You could try some beetroot burgers or prawn and avo skewers ( yep, we call then prawns not shrimp). Now a beetroot burger might sound strange, but that tangy and sweet veggie will have you wondering why you haven’t added it before. We recommend cutting them in half and grilling them.,.

When your invited to an Aussie BBQ make sure you bring a salad. A favourite at all Aussie barbies,would be the Asian crunchy noodle salad, everyone will have a story of how there mums used to make this classic. As we mentioned most Aussie BBQs involve (a lot of) beer so make sure everyone is aware of your gas smoker safety, you might want to dedicate someone to enforcing this, so you don’t have a trip to the hospital ruining your barbie. (Mark’s note, also a good idea based on a friend’s experience recently, to get the BBQ away from a fence, especially one with an overhanging tree, even if the kids do enjoy the firetruck coming to the house)

Wine for a BBQ?  In America, the class is Zinfandel. Especially Old Vine Zinfandel.  In Australia though, a cooler climate Grenache, or even the ubiquitous Cabernet Sauvignon works just as well as Syrah, which is the standard suggestion.

Do Your Research
With technology being so readily available and accessible, you can easily turn to your phones for some great locations for amazing local Australian food places! You might of heard of the usual ones like Yelp & Trip Advisor however they are some locals ones which really get down and dirty on where the locals actually love to eat 

Try using Zomato, it has local food bloggers who take find and eating great food very seriously.  You won’t be lead astray here or end up in some tourist trap.

Visit Local Pubs
Australia has some of the world best pub food!.We love their our pubs and there’s honestly nothing more comforting than some great local pub food.

 You can never go wrong with the pub, it is  are relatively inexpensive, and always provides for a great atmosphere to catch up with mates.

 We recommend trying a Chicken parma (parmigiana). This  is the most classic Aussie pub food, you will find it either  served on a burger or with a plate of chips. The parma is a crispy chicken fillet that is smothered in marianna sauce and topped with cheese that is then melted. It is what every Aussie will turn to when in doubt of what to order. 

Australia’s a great country that offers some of the freshest produce and meat. Take advantage of it and create some amazing meals from the best foods local Australian grocers have to offer! Some our favorites include the pavola (every grandma has a delicious recipe for this up their sleeve). If you looking for something a bit meatier give the classic shepards pie a go make sure you grab some Aussie beef, it bloody delicious

Head to The Markets
Australia has some of the most incredible food markets. Some notable Australian food markets to take note of would include: the Saturday market at Carriageworks in Sydney, NSW, Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne and the Fremantle Markets in Perth.

Fairy BreadThe True Classic
A true favourite at every Aussie birthday party under 10 (maybe 20) is fairy bread. You make fairy bread by buttering some white bread and pouring hundreds and thousands on it then cutting into small triangles or squares. Now that may sound odd, but it is truly a delicacy. If you mention fairy bread to any Aussie adult you will see memories of childhood and happiness floating past their eyes.

So there you have it, those are some key foods that you should know in order to eat like a local here in Australia. Now go out and enjoy yourself a fairy bread sandwich (it will make you totally cultured).

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Bad Weather Leads to Declines in Production & What Else?

rain, a good or bad thing for a vineyard

It’s something that’s come up a few times of late.  Weather has been crappy in France, leading to likely lower production quantities of French wine during the upcoming vintage.

In Paso Robles, 2015 was down a ton from the top range of production values, according to some Cabernet Sauvignon production was down by 60%.

So generally speaking when the media reports that a vintage is smaller than normal, they’ll also say that prices are going up.  Sure, that’s true but I also wanted to talk about the specifics of what’s happening during smaller vintages.

So if you’re a winery working on either a long term vineyard contract, or with an estate vineyard, things don’t change much.  After all, it’s usually not worth it to have to worry about adjusting the price of your flagship offering, based on a few less tons of fruit.

But, the secondary market can be severely affected and that’s where the average price point tends to go up significantly.  In terms of the secondary market, I’m talking about some well known Negociants like Cameron Hughes, but also even bigger fish like Costco’s line of wines, or Trader Joe’s.

A smaller vintage means there is less juice that ends up on the secondary market.  Wineries can sell everything they make and smaller vintages also typically mean that quality is higher than normal, so again, sales are easier.  In a land of easier sales, there aren’t extra barrels (or at least not as many extra barrels) for those secondary guys to access.  If you’re Trader Joe’s you might eschew most California and French wines during that vintage and instead stock more stuff from other regions that aren’t having the same issues. As an example, while California had a tiny 2015 vintage, Spain had the largest vintage in their history.

So that’s one thing that’ll happen on the lower end of the price spectrum, choices from the regions with lower production quantities, will be lessened. Market share is going to be grabbed by those producing enough, cheap enough juice.  Before you think that’s a great thing though, when’s the last time you thought about Chile or Argentina for your next $30 bottle? Even when our wine clubs included international selections, we didn’t source anything beyond $20 a bottle for them. Wine drinkers do typecast entire regions or countries and it’s hard to come back from everything being $5.

There’s also one other issue at play, how do markets recover after something like a very, very small vintage happens.  It’s actually more difficult than you probably think.  Take Paso as an example, any shelf space that they couldn’t fill because of the lower amount of wine available, was filled by others.  Say new producers in Walla Walla as an example for a region that makes similar wine.  What happens if that wine sells well?  Obviously that shelf space isn’t going to go back any time soon.

For higher end growing regions, that’s a really, really significant issue that often gets left out of the conversation.

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Firefly Ridge Pinot Noir Review

Firefly Ridge Pinot Noir Review

Welcome to my Firefly Ridge Pinot Noir Review. Every so often, it’s fun to buy a bottle of wine the way that most people do, on site, without any prior research having been done.  So I judged this bottle as worth the $10 only based on the AVA that’s on the label.  There’s really nothing else you can do.

Video Transcription:

Hi, all. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. This is my Firefly Ridge Pinot Noir Review.  I’ll hold this up, so you can get a look at it. This is called Firefly Ridge and this is a Central Coast pinot noir. So I wanted to do this for a couple of reasons.

First, a quick review. So it’s a lighter in style pinot, priced $10 or under. Kinda of tough spot. This was drinkable, though, and not all pinot at this price point is drinkable and that’s kind of the whole point.

So I wanted to test myself and say, can we come up with any type of scenario or rules for people, “Hey walk through an aisle at a grocery store and how do you pick something that’s going to be better than the majority of stuff that’s there?”

And really, there’s not a whole lot of information on a bottle. You can look at labels, but that’s what they want you to do when there’s no real sense of place here. I’ll show you the back and so I’ll hold this up, if anybody really cares that much, and I’ll post a picture on this too.

But in essence, they’ve got this flowery language and then they’ve got some kind of pairing suggestions, and a little bit of information about the wine; but there’s really not that much there that’s usable. There’s really only one piece of information that matters here and that’s that it says Central Coast.

So most bottles of wine $10 and under from the state of California say “California” and there’s kind of one big reason why they do that, because they’re grown in the warm inland valley where you get yields that are huge. 10, 12, 15 tons per acre, whereas Napa’s like two, Sonoma’s like three to four at most. Coastal Paso Robles is like in that same range.

Firefly Ridge Pinot Noir Review Back LabelGenerally speaking, thinking four tons per acre and under is a rarely high quality of wine grape. In any case, mostly everything says California on it and they do that to cheat, in essence. They don’t want to say, “We’re in an inland valley. This is really hot, we planted cabernet even though that’s not the best choice for this area. We planted cabernet because you’re gonna buy it because you like cabernet. And we’re gonna get a whole lot of grapes out of this same acre of land, more so than we would if we planted something that might grow better here, say syrah; but you won’t buy syrah so we planted cabernet, still. Even though it’s not the best grape for this neighborhood and temperature.”

So pinot’s especially hard because pinot likes cold climates. Central Coast is hard to pin down. If you think about what the Central Coast AVA actually looks like, it starts somewhere … say Santa Cruz, which is maybe an hour south of San Francisco, and it goes all the way down almost to Los Angeles. Which if you think about it, when I used to drive from UC Santa Barbara to my wife, girlfriend at the time, in Santa Clara, which is San Jose, it was 280 miles door to door. So that’s a huge swatch of land and there’s a kind of commiserate 25 or 30 miles, at least, inland from where the grapes start to where the grapes end.

So you get this huge swatch of California and so it doesn’t tell you all that much about it; but what, the thing it can tell us, is we know it’s not the inland valley. And really, if you’re buying $10 and under wine that should be your primary goal. Especially if it’s pinot noir. Just avoid the inland valley.

And the only way to do that is to know a little bit about the AVA system and why it’s broken. And it’s broken because even if it’s San Joaquin Valley, you don’t have to put San Joaquin Valley. You can almost put a wider AVA on it, like California. So I suspect for stuff like this, when it says Central Coast, that’s it’s going to be multiple smaller AVAs within the Central Coast and that’s just the widest … that’s the first one that they could put on there.

They could also put California; but Central Coast is a higher quality than the state of California as a whole, the way we think about it currently. Which, if you think about it, if these are secondary or thirdly in their choices it’s silly in itself; but that’s the way that the AVA system is broken. It continues to be broken, there’s no easy fix.

And so, again, this isn’t something I’d chuck in a wine of the month club; but I think it’s something that’s interesting as customers continue to buy wine outside of the wine club. I hope that you learned a little something about … if you’re gonna buy a $10 bottle of pinot, might as well buy a better on than a worse one. And so I hope that helps a little bit.

Look at the AVA, it’s the only thing on the label that really matters. I hope you’ve enjoyed this Firefly Ridge Pinot Noir Review.

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Branded Wine

Branded Wine

There was a story a while ago about the Philadelphia 76ers creating a branded wine for what they hope will be the start of a much better period of basketball than they’ve been in over the past few years, where the team has chosen to be as bad as possible to gain better chances at higher draft picks. It’s been called the Process and while the architect of that process has been fired (and wrote one of the most interesting goodbye’s I’ve ever seen in any industry), after all it seems billionaires can get impatient, the larger trend I think holds true.

Sports teams may have been the first to truly jump on the branded wine bandwagon so to speak, but they aren’t the only businesses thinking of doing this.  Off the top of my head, the San Francisco Giants (working with Mmm Napa) the Los Angeles Dodgers (working with Dave Ludquist who makes Qupe by day) and about half of the other professional sports teams in America now have branded wine.

In the business world, we’d refer to that as a “brand extension” and more and more companies are starting to see wine as a logical way to increase revenues.  Really, a wine brand, or even a wine club, is an easy choice for any company with a rather large email list.  Newspapers have been all over the concept due to their falling revenues (Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times) and while quality for these can be suspect, especially given that they are all receiving wine from the same company, the idea of a sports team owning a wine brand, is a relatively new one.

This isn’t the end of the brand extension stuff, it’s converging with the wine industry as wine sales in America increase and other industries contract, it’s a sign of the times. I mean, would anyone really be surprised to see an office supply store start some type of wine club given the amount of non essential products that clutter their stores these days? What about a wine club owned by a cable tv company? What about the old video stores (I won’t name names) but wouldn’t it make sense for them to try a movie and wine monthly shipment?

Part of the reason so much of this is happening, is that a number of the fastest growing wine brands in America, are just that, virtual brands.  I did a Carnivor Wine Review yesterday and that’s a truly wonderful example, where’s the winery?  Where do the grapes come from?  Who makes the wine?

Those type of questions aren’t really important if you’re making a brand, instead of a winery.  After all, here’s the two step process for these virtual brands.

  1. Have a bottle that’s interesting enough to encourage people to grab it the first time.
  2. Make a wine that’s either good, or at least good enough to have people grab it a second time.

Lastly, it would be great if the wine you were producing wasn’t tied to a vintage.  After all, these are going to be more casual wine buyers.

It’s a different way to look at the wine industry, but it’s growing.

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Carnivor Cabernet Sauvignon Review

Carnivor Cabernet Sauvignon Review

Today I decided to try something new for me, one of the fastest growing wine brands in America: Carnivor.  Here’s my Carnivor Cabernet Sauvignon Review, which brought up a number of interesting theories and questions about changing consumer tastes and how in America we market labels, more so than vineyards, putting us at odds with our old world winemaking counterparts.

Video Transcription:

Hi, guys, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures, so I’ll hold this up so you can get a good look. That’s a Carnivor cabernet sauvignon from California, and this is 2015, although in this case, vintage doesn’t really matter. Here’s my Carnivor Cabernet Sauvignon Review:

If you’re familiar with what we do here at Uncorked Ventures, this is the antithesis of what we typically do. This is, at least with my wine clubs, what do I want do, I want to show a sense of place, or at least a wine maker and their style, and what they’re trying to accomplish.

Carnivor Cabernet Sauvignon Back LabelCarnivor, it’s interesting, I was at a bulk wine conference a couple weeks back in Napa, and there was a lot of talk about how is the California wine industry growing? Or not growing, in some cases. And in this case, the growing part of the industry, part of these fit … In a lot of places around the world, this would be considered a negociant wine, or even maybe an off-label kind of thing. But these are label first, wine second. The idea for Carnivor is that every vintage, no matter what, it produces a cabernet sauvignon, and they want the wine maker to hit their exact target. These are these private label king of things. You can refer to a lot of different ways, but in essence, what they’re doing is doing a commoditization of wine. Wine as a widget, wine as less so an agricultural product and more so a beverage.

That’s not how we typically think about it at the premium or ultra premium level, but there’s definitely a range of folks in this $10 to $15 range where you’re like, “you want a good beverage, but then what’s the draw?” And the draw often for these folks is the label. So you want something that’s easily marketable, you want something that people are gonna grab off the shelf without any other information about it. But the question then becomes, after they do that once, you get one or two sometimes, but what’s your draw? What makes you different and what is gonna make that wine be memorable enough for someone to look for it the next time?

The Carnivor folks have been pretty direct about what they’re gonna do about it. They have been adding a bit of residual sugar, not adding, but they’re allowing a bit of residual sugar to stay, even in reds. And so you get these semi-sweet on the, at the end of your palette, there’s a small bit of sweetness to it. It’s something that wine makers that make $50 cab or more tend to hate, and they think it’s not well-made. There’s, I think, a lot to be said for trying to round out flavor profiles that can exists in this price point with a little bit of residual sugar. I can understand why they ended up there, because it allows you to allow cabernet to hang in warmer vines for longer, and then not have to deal with an overly tannic thing, because the sweetness will counteract that.

But then also, secondary to that, you have a lot of people who grew up drinking a lot of soda, and they’re trying wine as a beverage for the first time. And what does that mean for flavor profiles that are gonna be more popular over time? And I do think that there’s a good argument to be made that those more popular flavor profiles are going to include more residual sugar than what the wine industry has been accustomed to providing. And so, obviously Carnivor, this isn’t a great fit for my palette. I think it’s important to know what people are drinking in huge droves, and by any stretch of the imagination, Carnivor has been a wildly successful brand. But just know that for most of the Carnivor series of wines, you’re going to have a little bit of residual sugar. I think it’s an interesting juxtaposition compared to what happens at other wines in the same price point, and I think, at some point you don’t argue with success. And while it’s not something that I’m going to pick up and love, people obviously really, really like it.

So once again, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures, I hope everybody’s having a good start to their week and that you enjoyed this Carnivor Cabernet Sauvignon Review.

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District 7 Pinot Noir Review

District 7 Pinot Noir Review

Every so often, it’s fun to grab something simply off the shelf.  That’s what I’ve done a few times of late, including this one.  A reasonably priced California Pinot Noir though?  Pretty rare indeed.  In fact, we need a hell of a lot more of these.

Video Transcription:

District 7 Pinot Noir ReviewHi, all. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. I’m gonna hold this up so you can get a better look at it. So, front label, District 7. Back label, in essence it talks a little bit about how California has 17 crush districts, and District 7 happens to include Monterey. And so this is kind of an interesting one. Here’s a quick District 7 Pinot Noir Review:

So, a couple things. First, talk a step back. This is a new label that’s showing up her locally in the Bay area. District 7 is owned by Scheid family, and that’s S-C-H-E-I-D. They’re a kind of well-known grape-growing family down in Monterey. They handle, including stuff on the Monterey Peninsula and some warmer climates in the Salinas Valley and some kind of hill top stuff maybe, you know, depending on who you ask, 4,000 acres or so in total.

So there’s obviously a huge farming operation and a huge farming family and that allows them to do this which is a $15 bottle of California Pinot. You know I’ve talked a lot about how California struggles to get stuff into this price point. More so than other states it’s easy for California to hit. You know that like crazy two buck chuck or five dollars and under category because we have these warm central valley locations where you, you know, you have a little bit of water, which is going to be an increasing concern going forward. But, if you have a little bit of water stuff will really grow, you know, ten or twelves tons per acre.

We can hit the high end pretty easily because we do have these grape growing regions. You know I was in Napa yesterday with my family and as you drive through it’s relatively easy to kind of feel how, you know, if you can control yield on how you can get some really, really high quality fruit. So you kind of have these two extremes and the problem for California is finding that middle ground. So obviously Napa has priced itself into the stratosphere but you know, even when you’re talking Sonoma Pinot, you know, it’s relatively easy to hit that $35 or $40 price point, but then how do you get people from that $6 bottle of pinot to $40 bottle of pinot. There’s got to be some connect strand in the middle, and that’s where California has challenges.

I’ve talked about cabernet in the past just because I feel like the state of Washington is kind of interjecting themselves into that middle category and then kind of saying, “Well, even if we can’t hit the entry level stuff at five dollars, maybe if we hit $12 to $20 and then we’ll be able to keep, at least some of those into Washington wine as they move from $20 to $40.” And that’s proven pretty true. So I think what the Scheid family is doing is pretty important in the history of California wine and kind of hitting that middle ground.

You know wines often broken in the price points and, you know, Pinots somewhat different from others just because it is more expensive to grow and it’s a little riskier based on the vineyard locations that you have to have. Monterey is kind of an interesting place because it is cold and so it’s cold enough that Pinot grows well but it’s maybe not so cold if you go a few miles inland that you have to risk the grape actually not ripening. You might have to let it hang for a while, but you know, it usually will get there. And it might get there in like a say, Burgundian or Oregon Pinot kind of way where you might get five out of seven years in one set and then you might get seven out of seven in the next one. You might not get nine out of seven like you do in Sonoma, where you don’t have to worry about it.

So in any case, so it’s a pretty solid bottle of Pinot for $15. I think they’ve left some residual sugar in it which is not my cup of tea. But I think it’s more important to talk about the winery industry sometimes and as we see these kind of so, when you see large growers and 4,000 acres by any stretch of the imagination, is a large grower. We often think about those guys as producing kind of entry level wine. And that’s not the case with this Scheid family. You know, they are using this whole large growing operation in essence to be able to produce the one price point in California that we really struggle to get to.

If you walk through a grocery store or a wine store here in the Bay area you’ll see plenty of stuff $40 and above the Pinot and you’ll see plenty of Oregon. But then to get this $15 bottle of Pinot, where does it come from and it’s often overseas. And that’s kind of a challenge in and of itself as the industry moves forward.

So obviously not a good fit for a wine clip shipment but I thought it was interesting and it’s a good bottle of wine. At least good enough for the price point. I think it’s a good intro to what’s happening and it will be interesting to see how well they do with this. I expect it’s going to be very, very, very well and this is probably a household name sooner rather than later.

So once again Mark with Uncorked Ventures and I hope everybody had a nice weekend.

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Portalupi Barbera

Portalupi Barbera

Barbera is an interesting and largely misunderstood grape in America.  But, it is growing. Here’s some more information on the grape, why winemakers like it and a wine made in the Foothills, but from grapes harvested in Mendocino California.

Video Transcription:

Portalupi Barbera Back LabelHi guys, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. All of the stuff you can get a better look at, so this is a Portalupi Barbera. And so, this is going out in wine club shipments this month. I do think Portalupi’s kind of an interesting story. We’ll get to that a little bit more in the newsletter.

For our purposes here, I want to talk about Barbera for just a quick minute. So it’s an Italian wine grape, so in theory it should be an international varietal. It’s obviously planted many places outside of Italy. It’s kind of one of those grapes that if you think about grapes that can exist in a warmer climate, this is kind of on the list. In California here, we’re seeing increased plantings in a number of regions, but most namely in the Sierra foothills. And really in the foothills, their issue is that if you grow Zinfandel, you have to wait, depending on the wine maker that you talk to, 30 years, 60 years, even a hundred years, to get to old vine Zinfandel.

Obviously that’s fairly inconvenient. So what a lot of foothill wineries have done and they won’t talk about, is that if you look at the space where their tasting room is, they’ve actually pulled out Zinfandel to put the tasting room, and in every square inch of the property now, they’re putting in Barbera. And really, Barbera in the Sierra foothills and [Amador 00:01:16] county is functioning the same way that it does in Italy.

You can’t always expect people to either age their wine for decades, or you can’t always age your vines for decades before you sell the wine, so Barbera is this kind of backbone grape that can be planted, sold, consumed immediately. Structurally, it’s this deep, kind of intense flavor. It’s almost like a cooler climate Cabernet, as far as mouth feel and texture goes. And that’s something that people are really looking for. I think, especially when it comes to the difference between Barbera and Zinfandel, you can really kind of see it. Especially older vine Zinfandel, it tends to mellow out and be almost light in body at times. Barbera is this kind of thick, jammy, fruit-forward wine, and I think that’s something that works pretty well, especially in California, and really internationally. So while we think of international grapes really only among the Bordeaux and other French varietals, Barbera might be the one from Italy that stands the best chance to gain wide acceptance in many, many wine regions. Quite frankly, I would think that the folks in Australia would probably really consider planting it in ways that they haven’t quite yet.

So in any case, Portalupi Barbera, it’s very, kind of the Italian style in this case, this actually comes from up in [Mendocino 00:02:39], which is something we’ll get into in the newsletter a little bit. Mendocino has an interesting tale of being this forgotten wine region for a number of years, now kind of coming back into prominence because grapes in Sonoma and Napa, which are directly to its south, got so expensive. So Portalupi sources this from Mendocino county in a specific kind of farm out there, and I think it’s going to be a good example of what Barbera can be in this country and why wine makers love the grape so darn much, because although these vines have some age on them, you can also plant the grape in new soil and good growing conditions and get out a usable product within a handful of years, which isn’t true with some of the other grapes that you might get in the same region.

Thanks again.