Archive for July, 2009

Central Coast Wineries

Probably a short blog today, but I’ll soften everyone up for Matt’s blog later on today/tomorrow.

Going into this past week we’d heard a lot of good things about Paso Robles and the wine industry in the central coast in general. I spent some time in Santa Barabara so when Matt started telling me how friendly a work environment it would be to work with wineries from the region, I was not surprised. I’ve had a few people tell me that the central coast reminds them quite a bit of living in the midwest because the people are friendly and everyone knows everyone. It’s certainly not what people picture when they think of California, farm land and small towns although the beach is as beautiful as any I’ve ever seen.

Aside from generally liking the peole I also heard a lot of great things about the wine that they are producing. Plenty of people are familar with Turley, but there are plenty of other producers putting out truly exceptional wine.

In many ways this is an area we’ll look to work with more in the future. We don’t want to simply be sending monthly wine shipments that people can get in their local wine store, so featuring some outstanding wineries from the central coast, some of which don’t even work with a distributor, is going to be a very good thing for our clients as well as the wineries themselves.


Last Day Of Summer

I hope everyone is doing well on what is another beautiful Thursday in San Diego.

I took most of the day off today, save this blog to spend some time with my wonderful wife who(as a school counselor) returns to work first thing in the morning. Not only willl she miss being able to sleep in past six thirty, I’ll miss being able to see her during the day.

That being said, I’m extremely excited to start really, really pushing to get Uncorked Ventures up and off the ground in a timely and stable manner.

I’ve had a few more interactions with wine owners over the past few days and everything continues to be a complete positive experience. It also has reminded me that not all of my real estate background is going to go to waste in the wine industry. For example, I have spoken with Doug McCrea from McCrea cellars, the Washington winery I’d previously mentioned. He has talked about a couple of things I find especially interesting that I’ll come back to in later entries:

1) The location listed on the bottle is where the wine was bottled, not where the grapes are grown. In some areas this isn’t that important because climates are consistent(think Tuscany Italy) but if you’re paying for Napa grapes….you should be getting Napa grapes and not Victorville grapes.

2) The national wine publications don’t give enough respect to west coast wineries outside of northern California. I would say the quality of the Napa/Sonoma region surpasses what you find anywhere in the world outside of Bordeaux, however there are plenty of other wineries that provide an outstanding product. I wish I had an old copy of the Robert Parker map that I saw in a Santa Barbara wine store, but the picture of the west coast showing the wine making regions showed California only between Napa and Santa Barbara. To me I do see a sense of that type of thinking, I think having a couple of people working to start a wine club who haven’t been brought up in the industry should allow us to look at certain underappreciated labels with fresh eyes.

For example I know my business partner Matt has been very happy with the quality of wines offered in Paso Robles on the central coast. Finding areas that are producing consistent, what he considers 90+ point wines across different varietals and bottlers is not common.

We’re looking forward to working with great winemakers that produce consistently great product…..that might just not have gotten the right breaks to really expand their business yet.

What’s on tap for me? You should be able to “hear” this blog via podcast in the very near future.

Thanks for your time and please join or Interest List, or Become a Fan on Facebook.

Not so Fast Amazon, New Facebook App

My business partner Matt forwarded me an interesting article this morning that appeared over at Luxist, talking about how New Vine Logistics which Amazon had planned to use as their wine shipping arm…..has closed.

Of course, this isn’t to say the idea of Amazon in the wine business is dead….far from it.

There are already reportedly multiple offers to take over the debt of New Vine Logistics….this certainly isn’t going to kill Amazon’s entry into wine, it may delay it by 6 months or so though.

A number of people have asked me if I’m concerned about Amazon entering the wine market. On some level, of course, having the second largest retailer on the web entering your field when you’re still in the start up phase is far from a good thing from a competition stand point and a search engine standpoint. Moreover looking at how Amazon has chosen to go about their entry into the book market, they slash prices and wait for the competition to go under before raising them….it’s a good business plan for them and who could blame them for it.

On the other hand, I highly doubt that Amazon is going to want to deal with the type of small, boutique high end wineries that we’re targeting at Uncorked Ventures. Is it worth the trouble for them to ship 25 cases of wine considering the bureaucratic hassle that is going to be involved? I highly doubt it.

If we were looking at having $30 monthly wine clubs I’d be very, very concerned though because Amazon can certainly corner the market for entry level wine drinkers. The question becomes a few years after their customers start drinking wine, do they move up within Amazon, or do they look outside for a smaller more intimate operation?

We’ll continue doing what we’re doing because we know it will work in both the short term and the long term. There is never any substitute for customer service and we believe having direct access to the owners of the wine club will give us that added advantage…..we’re also happy to move forward with our export operation….that is one part of the business plan that hasn’t been matched anywhere else.

We’re also happy to announce we’ve created the first of our Facebook applications. This is a short quiz that allows people to choose the right wine club for them….yes we’ve included our competitors. Check it out:

Which Wine Club Is Right For You?

More Chicken, More Egg

That old chicken and the egg problem is surfacing again:

A couple of facts for you to start:

1) Our interest list is growing.
2) Our outreach to wineries is going exceedingly well.

Add those two up and you’d think we’d be pretty darn happy with ourselves, right? Kind of yeah.

Truthfully though having a response from wineries which has frankly exceeded our wildest dreams has started to apply the pressure to grow our interest list and to provide these great wines to the public is growing.

When we first got started I thought that I would have a couple of months to work on search engine placement and set up other means of obtaining our initial business. Given the level of interest by pretty much every winery we’ve spoken with though I’m feeling the pressure to start producing real paying customers. We realize the wine club business is competitive and we only get one shot to provide great wine to customers. We had thought finding top notch wine at the right price would be the difficult part, that hasn’t been the case thus far. Our interest list is larger then we had initially thought we’d have at this stage-but we never thought we’d have access to such a great product so early in our club.

Overall it is a good thing, yesterday was a good day on the search engine front. We’ve officially moved Uncorked Ventures from a Google page rank N/A…..all the way to a Google page rank of 0. Doesn’t sound like much to the wine connoisseur reading this blog, but the Google page rank system effectively functions like the Richter scale for earthquakes….a 1 is actually 10 times bigger then a 0 which is 10 times greater then a N/A.

I’ve have a number of other things to finish up on the website front this morning: Adding more accurate Title tags to each page, adding Meta tags(in case they still matter to Yahoo and Bing, yes I know Google doesn’t care) and setting up this wonderful blog(as well as my business partners) so that each entry is actually its own page.

As always we hope you’ll join us over at Uncorked Ventures and sign up for our interest list. We’re debating when the appropiate time to announce our first group of wineries is, although we realize this will help our interest list grow and give us a much larger level of respectability….we don’t want to jump the gun and announce too soon.

We’re very much looking forward to our September shipment. I feel like this is really our time. Putting the long hours now will lead to the type of business I’ve always wanted to be a part of.

Almost forgot to add, I have a Sterling Reserve 2004 Cab waiting for me later….that should be the best part of the day!

Food Pairing is Important

Last night we had a small family Reunion gathering at my in laws. Present were my father in law, mother in law, wife, sister in law and her husband from Peru and also good friends Sarah and Chris who live in San Diego.

We had a fairly common objective yesterday. Given a $100 budget, find 3 bottles of wine that could pair with london broil, red potatoes and squash.

Given time constraints we found ourselves at Ralphs in 4S Ranch…..yes a grocery store. Luckily this grocery store has a better wine selection then any other chain grocery store I’ve seen, but it’s still not going to have the best options.

We tried to make it into an official tasting, each trying a small amount of each wine followed by a short discussion about what we each we able to taste… there isn’t a Robert Parker in the group either.

What we drank:

Ghost Pine Merlot 2006 $21.99

Wood Winery Cab 2004 $25.99

Stag’s Leap Petite Syrah 2006 $39.99

We were only able to accurately poll six of the eight of us the next morning about which wine was the best, but there was something conclusions which only lead me to believe that wine is complicated.

All three men liked the Cab from Wood Winery the best.

Two of the women said they liked the petite syrah the best, while my wife said she liked the merlot the best with appetizers(including artichokes) and the petite Syrah the best with dinner.

To be honest the Syrah from Stag’s Leap is the best wine of the group, but I felt the Cab helped bring out some of the marinate on the steak(which was well done, not my favorite)

Additionally I am partial myself to Cab’s.

Truthfully we did not correctly pair our wine with food, which is something that generally helps make the meal that much more enjoyable.

If I could go back and find a normal wine store, or into a wine cellar that had been appointed over the past few years with the types of wines our clubs will provide…. with my $100 what would I do?

For our main wine I’d head into the cellar for Casa Lapostolle’s Clos Apalta which is a Chilean red wine. It was scored at 95 points by Wine Spectator and at one point was selling for $40 per bottle before the maker figured out the type of product he had-which now retails at over $100 in the US. Again Chile and other younger wine regions typically make bigger red’s then Napa and Bordeaux even with the same type of grapes so be careful what it is paired with. This is a great example of the type of young wineries that produce great product and then get more expensive as they age. It’s amazing when you find these deals early on and see the winery grow and change over the years.

I’d also offer a Napa Merlot becuase everyone always likes Merlot at least ok…except that guy on sideways.

Looking back pairing with the artichoke was a problem. I had originally picked the Merlot because I thought we were grilling the artichoke…the thinking being that the grill would give a certain bitterness that would stand up to the red wine. In fact it was steamed, so pairing it with a Chardonnay or a Sauvignon Blanc would have been a better bet.

As always we try and enjoy our food and wine but this was a good example that simply running out to the grocery store because your in laws don’t cellar anything isn’t going to give you the best return on your wine investment.

To that end we’ll be providing pairing ideas with easy to follow recipe’s with all of our bottles.


Washington Wineries….McCrea Cellars is a Standout

With the recent news that the wine bloggers conference will be taking place in Wala Wala Washington in 2010 it got me thinking about Washington state wineries. Well at first it got me thinking that all of those people from the east coast are going to have a brutal travel day to get there(Wala Wala is a 4 hour drive from Portland which is the closest major airport) but then I thought that it was great to see the conference move to an area with an expanding wine region in terms of both quantity and quality.

Many California residents are still getting used to the idea that wineries in the central coast are producing world class wines so needless to say wineries from Oregon and Washington don’t get the credit that they deserve.

One of the Washington wineries which I think many people miss out on is McCrea Cellars.

McCrea Cellars Syrah Amerique

As many of you know I enjoy a good family story and if you look at the McCrea Cellars website you’ll see that the winery itself is owned by two couples with the McCrea’s handeling the winemaking and the Neal’s handling the marketing and other facets of running a winery from afar.

So why would I love to do business with the winery?  To start they’re a family business like we hope to be-successful over the long term.  Secondly many of our wine club customers and certainly our export customers would not have the chance to try any of their wine normally.  That itself is a shame because to me and many other reviewers the winery has a hard time making a bad wine.

Some other general info about the winery:

They were named a top 100 winery nationally by Food and Wine magazine in 2007.

They grow 10 of the 22 varitals of French grapes, the most in Washington state.

One thing that struck me when I read over the information available about the winery is that they took the time to explain each type of grape on their website.  If they take that much care in print, it’s no wonder it transfers to their care for their final product.

So what should you be drinking from McCrea? Many of their wines routinely rate 90+ points, however my favorite of the bunch currently available:

The Orleans
Their 2004 Syrah, Curvee Orleans is an inspiring Syrah which comes off quite different then many of the Syrah’s I’ve tasted in the past.  To me the Washington Syrah’s which are typically grown in colder climate’s then their California counterparts come off smoother with simplier berry flavors.  I don’t feel overpowered like I do with some Syrah.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this short review and will consider buying a bottle/case from McCrea Cellars and also joining one of the Uncorked Ventures wine clubs.

Categories: Uncategorized

Why I love FaceBook + Peru

July 23, 2009 2 comments

I was asked the other day why I love social media and think it can help in spreading our wine business. At first I was thinking, it just can, I know it can because it helps to connect people.

This morning I got a better answer when I checked my FaceBook profile.

We recently made a trip to South America, Peru in peculiar for my sister in law’s wedding. Two days before the wedding she set up all of us from the states, well about 8 of us anyway, on a Preuvian culinary tour from Pica Peru. We piled in a van with our guide/translater/owner Sandra and a driver and set off. We started by having juice(a Peruvian tradition) at a local juice bar called La Gran Fruta which is in essence an extremely high end Jamba Juice. After that we visited a local market where chef Carlos Otero helped us through a tasting of locally grown fruit like the following:

After the market we headed about an hour outside of town to a restaurant/organic slow food farm called El Gloria Del Campo. Seeing how the slow food movement started in SF it was very nice to see it spread 8,000 miles south. While there we enjoyed Peru’s national drink Pisco Sour, learned to cook some Peruvian cuisine and generally enjoyed our time at one of the most beautiful places I’ve been in some time.

This part of the post was a little too complicated for me to make from memory but you can read more about it at my friends food blog Food Spiration.

All of this brings me to the point of this post, on FB this morning I saw a friend of mine(Chris) had made one of the Peruvian dishes that we’d learned on this tour. Chris is originally from Arkansas and may be one of the first Southerners to make a Peruvian dish……yes I joke because I care.


I am constantly amazed at the power of the internet and social media to bring people together. Without either you wouldn’t be reading this and my sister in law certainly wouldn’t have been able to comment on how Chris’s dish looked.

It does bring to mind one one thought and one question:

The thought is, I’d like to incorporate this slow food movement into our wine business.

The question is to Chris: Why wasn’t I invited for dinner?

Hope you all are having a great day.

Categories: Uncategorized