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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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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.

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Veuve Du Vernay Review

Veuve Du Vernay Brut Review

You can’t always drink what you sell. So here’s a Veuve Du Vernay review of a sparkling wine made in France.  No, not Champagne.  More on that…..


Video Transcription:

Veuve Du Vernay Brut Review and NotesHi, all Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures so I’ll hold this up so you can get a look at it. So this is a Veuve Du Vernay, and you’ll have to excuse me. My French is not nearly as good as my Spanish, and probably my Italian, too. But, I thought this was interesting for a few levels.

So first, so let’s see if I can get this up there. So this is from France, but if you look on the back, it says sparkling wine, and that kind of gives you a couple hints. So the Veuve Du Vernay is sold kind of mass-market here in the United States. It’s a French sparkler, but they can’t call it champagne because it’s not from the Champagne region of France. So that’s something that I think throws people off sometimes is that you can be a French sparkling wine, but not a champagne. And so, often what that entails is that the grapes are coming from a less expensive wine region than that.

So this brand, they make a kind of single vineyard because nobody really does that for champagne or sparkling wine. But, they make something from the lower valley, which is kind of the higher end. So you’re going to get some more fruity here, which is kind of the coldest occurring climate in France. It’s where they a lot of Cab Franc, but then, also a lot of white wine ingredients as well. But then, you’re also going to get other kind of lesser-known regions in France and more kind of the bulk wine market. I think that’s where this is kind of interesting.

So the wine retails for, call it eight or nine bucks at kind of a huge place like Total Wine. We have a little, teeny, tiny grocery store, kind of market-style thing, down from the house and it’s maybe 12 bucks in there. So this is actually brought into the country and produced by Bronco Wine Company, which is the same folks that do Two Buck Chuck for Trader Joe’s. They do a number of other kind of huge brands, too, and that’s kind of their profile and what they look to. And I think this is part of the challenge for sparkling wine, is that it is so much more darn expensive. Because if you think for a company that’s doing three, four, and five dollar bottles of, say Cabernet and Pinot, and then, all of a sudden, you have a sparkler that’s coming in at 12, it’s a pretty big price point step forward.

This is actually a really, kind of good introduction to sparkling wine in a lot of ways. It’s light, it’s crisp, it’s refreshing. It works, probably best as an apéritif, as opposed to being paired with food because it is pretty light. You’ll see it described as [inaudible 00:02:26]. I don’t think that kind of does it justice. I think it’s a lot lighter, citrusy, and zingier than that, which is I think not so bad when it comes to a sparkler.

So in any case, a couple of things, I think if we can take anything away, yes, you can have sparkling wine from France, that’s not champagne. It just comes from a different region. They could have some champagne grapes in there. Obviously, at this price point, I don’t think that’s a realistic possibility. Two, mass-market wines do exist internationally, and there are American wine brands producing these wines internationally and bringing them into market. The Bronco Wine Company does do a good job of that. I think that’s fair to say. And three, you do see one of these huge brands that come in, you do see a pretty significant price point difference between your local small store and the large national or international retailers. And often, I think this is pretty consistent, it can be 50 percent or more per bottle difference. Like, you might think, for mass marketed wines, mass sales lead to lower pricing.

So it’s a good sparkler, and it’s something that if you needed it for say, a Christmas party or a large gathering of people where you needed a case or two, I think this is a great choice. It’s not going to offend everybody, it’s not going to be a bottle where you walk home and you say, “Hey, that was a great sparkler,” but it’s completely reasonable as far as palate goes. You can pair it with pretty much anything, and everybody will walk away and say, “Yeah, that was good.” And I think that’s really all you can ask for ten bucks or so in a sparkling wine coming from France.

So once again, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. Obviously, not coming in a wine of the month club, but I think it’s interesting to talk about how the wine industry actually works in practice, and I think this is a good example of that. Thanks again.

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Kirkland Gigondas 2015 Review

Kirland Gigondas 2015 Review

Every so often, it’s fun to drink something that you aren’t selling. My wine clubs only deal with west coast wines, yet this Kirkland Gigondas comes from the south of France in the Rhone Valley.


Transcription:

Hallmark, this is me with Uncorked Ventures. So all you subs can get a good look at this, which hare the lights we have which are the best we can do unfortunately. So this is Kirkland, which is Costco. This is kinda something they bottle themselves. And this is a gigondas wine. If you’re not as familiar with smaller french growing regions, I think a lot of people who drink french wine consistently (or at least like Rome wines in general) know that Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre on a red wine side are either native or have largely evolved in Southern France in a section called the Rhone Valley.

As part of the Southern Rhone Valley, there is an area called Chateaux du Pape, which has the most highly thought of, the most age-worthy, etc, etc. the most expensive growing region in Southern France is Chateaux du Pape. A lot of people in the United States, the attempt is to copy that stuff. As you might expect over time, they’re not producing any extra wine, but there are more people on the planet, so prices have gone up. So the logical thing for a lot of people to do is try to figure out kind of where that next growing region is that will remind them of Chateaux du Pape without the price point. And that’s led to some stuff like Paso Robles, kind of growth on the international wine scene. But it’s also led to some smaller fringe growing regions that remind people enough of it, or are at least close enough that the average wine drinker might say, “Hey, this is gonna be similar.”

So gigondas is definitely one of those. It’s bout 10 miles northeast of Chateaux du Pape. It carries some of the same characteristics, and as since they’ve kinda modeled their wine region after their more famous neighbors. These are grenache-based blends. It’s grenache, serrat, mourvedre blended together. Not in a DSN kind of way, but in kind of an 80% grenache, 10% the others kind of thing in most cases. So how is this similar to Chateaux du Pape, and how is it different? The most similarity comes from the soil. This section of France has a lot of wines known. It’s been kind of exposed and withered away down into larger veins deeper in the rocks over millennia. So you have a limestone-rich environment which most winemakers will tell you is kind of the ideal growing condition for wine.

Where is it different though? A lot of these are grown at altitude, so while Chateaux du Pape is largely on the valley floor, gigondas is often at some significant elevation. The ADA is actually approved up to 2600 feet, and you see a lot of vineyards planted at 1500 and 2000. That really has a dramatic effect on the wine in the glass. While the Chateaux du Pape tends to be kind of thicker, heavier, jammier kind of substances, and that sets them apart from what’s produced in much of France. His gigondas wines end up being lighter in style because it’s harder for the grapes to ripen all the way when they’re at significant altitude. That’s why you’re seeing Arizona, New Mexico, and other warmer parts of the United States that are trying to grow rind for the first time, or at least world-class wines for the first time. Attempting, “Hey, even if it’s 110 degrees over the summer, what if we go to 4,000 feet? What does that do to the end result?” The end result is it kinda calms everything down quite a bit.

So if you’re looking for a decent look for what a Chateaux du Pape might be if it was that altitude, this might be the way to do it. But just to have a good understanding, this is a solid french wine for 10 or 15 bucks, it’s just not what most people think they’re getting. So once again, Marcus, here with Uncorked Ventures, obviously not sipping for a wine-of-the-month club shipment, but I thought it was kind of an interesting wine, and I hope everybody’s doing well.

Kirland Gigondas 2015 Back Label

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Aselstine Family Cellars Carignan Intro Video

Aselstine Family Cellars Carignan

So I realized, that after I changed my wine club newsletter format, that some of the wine in the warehouse was still stuck in the old school format.  It felt weird to be shipping two wines in some people’s initial shipments, one with the  new newsletter format and one with the old

Video Transcription:

Hi, all. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. I’ll hold this up so you can get a better look at it. This is a wine that we’ve had for a while. This is under my own label which is Aselstine Family Cellars and this is actually a Carignan. It comes from a vineyard up in Mendocino and just as a quick reminder if you’re unfamiliar, every so often we get offered a barrel or two of wine from a winemaker that I like. The situation can change dramatically from year to year for some folks. Most of the men and women that I work with tend to be very small houses. They tend to either have jobs for other wineries or other jobs that happen to cause them to make wine as something of a side [inaudible 00:00:42].

In this case the guys got a “promotion” at work which lead to twice as much travel with no extra paycheck and he had been planning to expand production by a thousand cases or so which left him a few extra barrels that he would like to get rid of without having to decrease prices. I was happy enough to take a barrel and bottle it on my own and so that’s kind of where this comes from. It’s a Mendocino Carignan and so why Carignan? I think if we look at where the industry has moved, it’s interesting to watch that the type of wine that people are drinking is more acidic. We talked a lot about cool climate vineyards and why that exists. Mendocino is definitely cooler overall than a lot of other places.

But it also means that there’s an opportunity to grow Rhone wines and Carignan is a Rhone. There’s only 200 acres or so in California. Can we create these Rhones instead of these dark, brooding style, like almost too tannic to drink now considering consumer preference. Do they come out a little bit lighter? I think when you open this you’ll find that it be kind ofk generally pleasing mid palate. That’s one of the things that I like to do when I end up with a varietal that people aren’t familiar with. I want to have it made in such a style that we can present it so people can focus on the flavors not on, “Oh, my God, this is so tannic I can’t drink it.” Or, “There’s no fruit here and I can almost see through this red wine kind of thing.” I want it to be middle ground in a lot of ways. That way you can say, “Hey, do I actually like what this tastes like?” As opposed to, “I don’t like the style or the mouth feel of this.”

I think Carignan is one of those grapes that behooves the grape in some ways because it can, if it’s grown in a cooler climate, produce something that is a Cabernet alterative. If we look at California and really washington and … Okay, everything, every wine growing region really in the new and old world other than say Oregon or Burgundy, the Pinot spots, Cabernet tends to dominate and so you end up with a lot of vendors and winemakers who want to do a little bit something different but they have an easy time selling Cabernet so they don’t want to go too far away from it. This is a nice way to not go too far away from it.

I think if you’re at the receiving end, a wine shipment from us, if this is your first shipment, I hope you enjoy it. I hope you learn a little bit something and you get to experience a different varietal. We’ll do plenty of Cabernet. We’ll do plenty of Pinot. I also will try to present some of these that are a little bit lesser known. I think it’s fun. I think you’ll a little something and I hope that you’ll be more comfortable ordering wine in the future if you know a little bit more about some standard growing regions in California and some non-standard growing regions in California. I have a little bit more experience with what comes out of Oregon and Washington traditionally and kind of groups of grapes.

I don’t think it’s necessarily important to know exactly what flavor combinations you get, but I think you can reasonably expect to say, “Hey, I had Carignan from Uncorked Ventures and I actually thought that was pretty good. Maybe I’ll try another one.” That’s where I hope we get to. I know you won’t buy all your wine from me. I’m generally just okay with that. So once again, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. This is Aselstine Family Cellars Carignan and I think you’ll find it’s a good, pleasing mid-palate wine. It will remind you of a lot of wines that you’ve had that I think if you can focus on the flavor combinations instead of the acidity or the tannins, I think you get a good intro to a varietal that is pretty darn rare in the United States. Once again, thanks for your business.

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Union Sacre Gewurztraminer Intro Video

Union Sacre Gewurtraminer

A couple of interesting things here.  First, yeah it’s Gewurztraminer.  (it’s not as hard to say as many expect) Second, this is a different take on Rose and a good intro that not every grape is either green or darker in skin color.  Gewurztraminer is more like pink……

Video Transcription:

Hi all, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. So, I’m going to hold this up so you can get a little better look at it. So, this is a union sacre, which is a winery down on central coast and this is a Gewurztraminer. So, if you look, I’ll see if I can do this. So, first the back of the bottle, if you look at the back of the label, it’s one of the great unused marketing places that wineries have. And these guys actually put stuff on the back label. So, that’s kind of cool. So, if you look through something that’s kind of pale as far as wine goes, you can get a little something there on the back, and it’s just a little level of interest. I think that’s something that we’ll see a little bit more of as the years go by. One of the few places they can actually telemarketing message or show a picture or something without kind of having to change what they want to show on the front, so it’s kind of fun.

So in the newsletter for this, and this is expiration’s wine club wine. You’re going to get some more information on the winery, which I think is kind of cool, ’cause it’s a joint project between two folks, one American and one French. And, we’re going to talk a little bit about Gewurztraminer on the central coast and the kind of grape as a whole.

So, Gewurztraminer’s kind of one of those grapes that you’ve probably never heard of. People in the United States and really, much of the English speaking world won’t order it because they don’t think they can pronounce it correctly. And, frankly, have never had one. So, there’s a number of sales issues that go into it. So, it’s also kind of a strange grape. So, most people aren’t aware, we think of grapes as being either red or white. And, really white, when you see the actual berries, they’re green. But, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris are actually more pinkish than they are green. And that’s not where this actually comes from. Most Gewurztraminer is actually ends up being the color of a normal white wine, just like pinot gris does. So, one of the things that they do a little bit differently is they leave the contact with the skins a little bit longer, and instead of a white, you end up with something closer to a rose, which I think is kind of an interesting look at Gewurztraminer.

So, why is it so darn hard to find these? And it’s not just the name. The grape itself ripens really quickly, if it’s warm. So, it in essence eliminates 95 percent of all vineyard space. It’s a grape that’s native to the Swiss Alps. And you see it in parts of France and Italy, at higher elevations where it’s really cold. So, you have to have a really cool climate and often an altitude to grow the thing and there’s just not that many spots for it. Napa used to have a lot of it in the 50’s, and that was because it can be made into a sweet wine really easily. But, as sweet wines went out, and cabernet prices went through the stratosphere, everybody pulled the Gewurztraminer and put in Cabernet, makes sense.

So, only now are we starting to see more plantings of this around the central coast. And it’s really the only place in California where you can reasonably expect to grow it. I wish the Oregon folks would try more of it. There’s kind of this constant push and pull with rose, people in Oregon are so Pinot focused, much like in California, in Napa at least, maybe in much of the state, Cabernet focused. And so, you don’t ever want to make rose because it’s priced so much less than your pinot would be. So, I do wonder if maybe there’s some cooler vineyard climates that wouldn’t always to ripen pinot, that they could maybe make a Gewurztraminer rose. Instead of having to either bleed off to make a pinot or to intentionally plant pinot that you know is not going to ever get ripe to make a rose from. And, I think this is just a different level of interest.

So, I know this is a different one. I think it’s a good part of going club to expose people to different varieties, and different wine making styles. People think of rose as either bleed off, or a vineyard choice where you only can’t ripen something. And this is kind of a third entry into that. There’s not a lot of rose made this way with a pink skinned grape and leaving it on the skins for a little bit longer. It’s a traditional way to make rose but you don’t see it with this [fridal 00:04:09]. So I think it’s an interesting look. It’s a fun wine and as the summer gets here in more full force, I think it’s something that people will enjoy.

So, what are you going to taste with a Gewurztraminer? It’s really pineapple flavors that you end up, you get these tropical aromas. If you’ve ever heard of lychee, that’s the classic flavor and smell that you get from this. And, really, when you open the bottle, I think the first thing that I really strongly request that you do is, let it sit for ten or fifteen seconds and then take a smell. Gewurztraminer, it’s really made a name for itself because the aromas on it are so dramatic and, that’s why people like it. So, in any case, I’m Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures and I hope you enjoy your monthly explorations wine club [showing 00:04:55].

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Odonata Malbec Intro Video

Odonata Malbec Back Label

Malbec.  It’s literally the one varietal that my father in law and my sister in laws, won’t drink.  They all hate it.  That may bring up some interesting possibilities of course in terms of limiting the need to share, but it’s a grape that gets a bum rap so to speak, in large part because people are only now growing it in spots where it has a chance to be successful.

Video Transcription:

Hi all. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. I’ll hold this up so you can get a look although you have a bottle of this in your Wine Club shipment this month already. So this is an Odonata Malbec.

So I’ll leave the vineyard kind of explanation for the newsletter. There’s kind of a lot of information about [Lodi 00:00:18] Vineyard and kind of how Malbec might end up in Lodi in the first place. Long story short is that Malbec tends to rot and mold and some other bad stuff if it’s too cold. Lodi’s a logical place to grow a grape that needs it to be warm enough to dry out completely on both sides of the bunches.

So I do want, as far as this intro, I want to focus a little bit on Odonata, the winery. So the winemaker’s name is Denis. It’s kind of winemaker as owner, as general manager, as the dude’s doing pretty much everything down there. So they’re based down in Salinas, which if you’re not familiar with California geography, is maybe an hour south of San Jose or so. So a couple hours out of major wine growing regions.

As most people think of them, but Santa Cruz mountains is right there. And Denis has kind of got this kind of cool story. So he has a business degree, not a viticulture degree. He met the folks at Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyards, which is a [inaudible 00:01:21]name of the space. And Santa Cruz Mountains is actually pretty close in Salinas and some of these central valley spots.

And so he learned to make wine as an old school internship. And I think that’s one pretty cool part of the wine industry and it’s something that we’ve been exploring a little-bit here as part of the Wine Club of late. In that, there’s a lot of people that go to Davis or go to Cal Poly or go to Fresno and they learn to make wine there, but there’s this whole other subset of winemakers and it’s maybe half or 60% or so of folks that learn it as an internship. As a trade. And as we kind of move through the industry and quite honestly, more places are starting viticulture programs.

Cal Poly didn’t have one when I was in school, as an example and they have one now that’s really highly respected. So you’re getting more winemakers from actual wine making programs. So what happens with those guys? So if you go to Davis, you can get the big job. The job with health insurance. The job that pays the bills. The job in a winery that people have actually heard of. What happens if you’re somebody who learned it as a trade? You might intern or make $10 or $12 an hour, maybe $15 in California here pretty quickly, but you’re not paying the bills unless you go out on your own and do something a little bit different and sell some wine.

And so that’s kind of where Wine Club wise we end up getting maybe more of those than I would set out to do because those are the folks that fit the profile, I think, of what people are looking for and Odonata definitely fits into that.

So you’ll see an interesting kind of take from Odonata and Denis on a number of varietals, but he’s trying to be varietal specific in a lot of ways, especially in the red wine side and I think that’s interesting. Yes, some wine makers want to cut their teeth on either Cabernet or Pinot or they want to show you what a great blender they are and they’re going to make a Bordeaux blend with 80% Cabernet.

So I think it’s interesting when somebody is kind of zigging when everyone else is zagging. Malbec’s not easy to sell. And I think he’d probably tell you that. From a business perspective, there’s probably easier things to do than make Malbec or Riesling or all these other kind of second or third tier grapes that people don’t ask for specifically. It’s a smaller subset of the market, maybe it’s easier to make sales if you’re not fighting all the big boys that people have heard of. Maybe not.

So that’s an interesting discussion for a later date, but I do think it helps tell the tale of what do people do when they actually need to or want to make a living in the wine industry, but they don’t have that viticulture degree that would allow them to go work for Kendall Jackson making millions of barrels of wine every year.

And what does that lead to as an industry and I think it’s mostly it’s a really positive thing and I hope it’s something that we don’t lose. So once again, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. If you’re a member of Special Selection, it’s Old Reserve Selection Wine Club, you’ll see an Odonata. Almost everyone’s going to get a Malbec just because I think it’s an interesting story. This is one of the better versions I’ve had from California.

It fits a good kind of spot of tannin versus lack of sweetness and mouth feel. And I think you’ll notice that as soon as you open it up. It’s not kind of … sometimes you get French Malbecs and they’re so clear that you … they’re so light you can almost see through them. Sometimes South American Malbecs are overpowering tannin wise. I think this is a nice intro to the varietals for something that I think is the style that people should be going for if they want to sell.

So once again, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures and thanks again for your membership.

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Herman Story Casual Encounters Intro Video

Casual Encounters by Herman Story Front Label

Back to one of my favorite winemakers, in one of my favorite wine regions.  This is a hedonistic style, that people should appreciate for what it is, simply really good juice.


Video Transcription:

Hi all. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. So I’ll hold this up so you can see it. So that’s the front label, and I’ll give you the back too. So this is a Herman Story wine from down in Paso Robles, and this is called Casual Encounters, and this is the 2015 version. So if you’re a special selection or a reserve selection wine club member, really if you’re somebody who receives a red wine from us, you’re likely to see this. Ninety-four points [inaudible 00:00:26]. Herman Story is somebody that we’ve done a few times in the past. Classic, high-scoring, central coast wines. Which is kind of unusual for a few reasons.

So first, there is a scoring mechanism that often happens. It’s a hell of a lot easier to get 100 points for a Cab than it is for anything else. If you make Syrah, you’re kind of capped at 92. Grenache, you’re maybe a little bit lower than that. But Herman Story has kind of broken through a lot of those old rules about what the maximum score might be for for a certain varietal. And one of the ways that he’s done that in large part is he makes these kind of lush, larger-than-life wines.

There’s this whole thing in the wine industry that happens, and we’ve had this conversation now a few times with people over the last couple days. When people first start drinking wine, they tend to want fruit-forward wines and even partially sweet wines. If you look at the success of, say, The Prisoner, which is something that obviously I won’t sell because it’s so mass-marketed. But Prisoner is incredibly successful and they keep a touch of residual sweetness. The first wine that I really remember drinking was probably a Riesling, and that’s because it was sweet and it reminded people more of kind of soda that they drank as kids. And so it’s a good introduction. Much like beer. People don’t usually start with IPAs.

So as people move through the industry, then, and they start drinking more wine, what often happens is they move away from these fruit-forward or even slightly sweet wines and they move to these kind of lower alcohol things. And we’ve all kind of been there, and I’ve talked about it ad nauseam to the point of I think customers as getting annoyed. But that’s kind of the … maybe not logical progression, but the progression that seems to happen more often than not for people. And then at some point after they go crazy into the, “I’m going to try out to see what an Old World palate or how Old World my palate can be.” Then they kind of come back to the center and they figure out kind of where they fall on the scale of, “I want a lot of fruit” and … or “I want to fruit at all.” And for most people, I think what I find is that it’s not about the amount of fruit. It’s about a sense of balance.

And that’s where the Herman Story wines really, really shine through. So there’s a ton of fruit, and there’s, if we’re going to be honest, a ton of alcohol. These are 15% over. Well, 15.2 in this case. So plenty of fruit, plenty of tannin, plenty of alcohol. But everything is in balance. And so I think that’s one of the things that you really need to kind of … As a wine drinker or somebody in the industry, it’s something that I can focus on, is a more basic question than “Is this fruit-forward? Is this New World palate? Is this less fruit, Old World, more acidity palate?” Or can I ask a simpler question that maybe is more important in the long run: “Is this wine in balance?” And obviously this is balanced. There’s a certain mouth feel that comes with extra fruit and extra tannin, but there’s a silkiness and a smoothness which is what you get from Herman Story wines, which is why he garners such huge scores.

And for somebody, myself, that really likes Rhone varietals, it’s kind of exciting to see somebody who’s able to do this because I feel like [inaudible 00:03:36] somebody who is this successful in training … And Herman Story does a great job training other winemakers. And so it makes you wonder if this guy’s this successful with this style in Paso, maybe they’ll get a little bit more Grenache planted, or maybe somebody’s going to try one of his wines and say, “Hey, I want to make a Syrah like that.” And it’s good for the industry. Cab seems to dominate almost everywhere that it’s planted, and even in Paso it’s starting to encroach on some of the Rhones. In Santa Barbara, as you go inland a little bit, people are staring to think, “Well, maybe the Bordeaux varietals are where we should be focused on as far as marketing efforts go.”

And I think that any time we have kind of this great example of somebody who can really do it with Rhones and not have to do Cabernet in California, I think it’s a great example to follow. So it’s somebody that I like to support, and Herman’s a good … Well, Russell. Herman’s his grandfather. But Russell’s a good dude. And we always appreciate it. Thanks again.