Day 2 in Wine Country

August 14, 2009 1 comment

Just another fairly quick update before some more substancial notes over the weekend, but we spent yesterday in wine country with Copain in the morning and then after getting thoroughly lost…..Audelssa in the afternoon.

We started our day at Copain which is one of the most beautiful sites you’ll ever find. Their vistas are gorgeous and the people from Juliana their tasting room manager to Jennifer their sales director, to John the assistant winemaker were available and happy to answer questions and generally talk about the way they make wine and how they do business. We tasted perhaps ten different wines over about two and a half hours, all of which were excellent and in our opinion…..under priced. I’ll give more detailed reviews of the wines at a later date, but we’re very excited to continue working with Copain.

After leaving Copain we had thought that the easiest way to head to Sonoma for our afternoon meeting would be to take the 12 across. Of course we somehow missed the turn off for the 12 and ended up in Petaluma(about 20 miles too far south) before realizing what we’d done. On the way to the Audelssa tasting room we saw a sign for Glen Ellen(the small town where the tasting room is located) but our directions were for a turn off at Arnold Drive. Well after a couple of wrong turns and another 15 miles in the wrong direction we spoke to Mike who gave us a better idea where to turn. We eventually found our way to the Audelssa tasting room……about an hour late.

Audelssa is one of those wineries that when you look into the quality of wine they produce frankly you’re surprised that you’ve never heard of them….at least I was. They have multiple varietals rated 90+ points by Robert Parker and honestly I had never tried the wine before ending up in their tasting room. Neither Matt nor I were disappointed with the wine, far from it. In fact it was certainly competitive with everything else we tasted/ Audelssa has a great family story and great wine which I’m looking forward to explaining in more detail some time in the next week. We had an enjoyable conversation with Mike in their tasting room and really look forward to featuring their wines as part of our wine clubs and export services in the future.

We finished our day at the Girl in the Fig restaurant on the square in downtown Sonoma. Great meal at my sister in laws favorite restaurant.

Needless to say it’s been a very fun trip and also extremely productive as well for Uncorked Ventures. I honestly did not think that about 45 days into this new business venture that we’d be able to source this type of wine from 4 top notch wineries.

More to come, but this is an exciting time.

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A great day in Napa

August 13, 2009 Leave a comment

So a quick synopsis of our day today in Napa. Matt(my business partner) and I have had a great trip thus far despite at least 1 small hiccup.

We started our day without much trouble in the way of traffic, we had some extra time and stopped in at Bouchon bakery. I had an almond-strawberry scone and a cup of coffee, the scone was a rare treat having a nut related item….my wife is allergic so I typically obstain from eating nuts products that I’m not familar with.

We then headed over to our tasting at Alpha Omega. We had a great time visiting with Jean who as I’ve mentioned before is both the GM and winemaker. Both Matt and I were impressed by the full selection of wines as well as Jean’s passion for his type of winemaking and the type of support he has at AO to make truly top shelf wines. I plan on giving a more detailed review of both the winery itself and some of the conversation when I have some extra time over the weekend. Bottom line we enjoyed the wine and believe it represents a unique style that will be enjoyed by our wine club customers.

After spending about 90 minutes with Jean we headed over to lunch in St. Helena. We had a nice meal at Cindy’s, one of the best burgers I’ve had.

After lunch we headed over to Cornerstone Cellars tasting room, which incidently is now off premisis of their winery and right across the street from Bouchon. We weren’t able to taste as scheduled with Craig who is their general manager because of a scheduling problem. I’ll go into some more detail later, but with a lot of the wine we’re thinking of including in the club we’re not sure Cornerstone is going to offer the right compliment to some other producers we’re positive we want to work with.

After Cornerstone we stopped by and spent some time with Skip Karabian who is the director of sales and marketing for Elizabeth Spencer. We did like the wine and would be interested in having more substancial discussions with Elizabeth Spencer in the future, although to be perfectly honest we might not be a perfect match to move forward together.

Lastly we had a quick bit to eat at the Bear Republic Brewery in Healdsburg. Good meal and a beautiful area to spend some time in. We also stopped in to Golden Spoon for a yogurt before spending some time driving around to take a few quick photos.

Tomorrow brings meetings with Copain and Audulssa.

Very much looking forward to both and please come back the next few days for more substancial updates on each of our meetings.

Caliza Winery

August 12, 2009 Leave a comment

Another fairly quick blog for me tonight, but with some nice tasting notes. Had a great trip up north in that I was able to sleep most of the way on the plane and wasn’t forced to chat with someone about their cats/dogs/squirrels for hours on the plane without any hope for escape.

Matt, whom it is really great to see, and I opened a 2006 Caliza winery Syrah. GREAT bottle, really great. I have an appreciation for the wineries of Paso Robles, but this bottle really was a great example of the type of colder weather product they’re able to produce. It comes with an alcohol content of 16.5% which is quite high and we were expecting some sort of sting from that….no sting at all was evident. This wine was smooth, very smooth. As you can tell, I was quite happy with the bottle. Although we could taste the beginnings of fruit in the bottle I wasn’t able to make out the specifics….maybe after a couple of years in the cellar.

At the end of the day the 2006 Syrah which is listed at $45 was worth every penny and then some. I have a feeling if we include this bottle in a tasting against much more expensive competition most people will wrongly think it is the most expensive bottle on the table.

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Packing….Ready to Go

August 10, 2009 Leave a comment

Every so often I think we all feel like we reach a point in our lives where things are about to change. That can happen with personal relationships, work or even within ourselves. I get the feeling that professionally I am reaching one of those points this week.

I leave for my first Napa trip since forming Uncorked Ventures tomorrow morning. I’m very excited to have the opportunity to really start taking the next step forward with Uncorked Ventures and do believe that we’re very close to closing on agreements with a few producers on this trip.

One of the great things about the trip for me is that it seems it is coming at the perfect time. We have an expanding interest list and we’re getting close to having a fully completed and functional website.

While we have plenty to do, we’ve come an incredibly long way in about a month. I’ll be packing much of the day today so this will be shorter then normal and while I cannot promise definitive updates from wine country….we plan on having an extensive review of our trip as well as finally getting the first of our videos and podcasts rolled out.

Birthday Part 2

August 10, 2009 Leave a comment

So I had another sort of birthday dinner last night with my wife and in laws. We celebrated with my favorite meal arroz con pollo (chicken and rice with saffron) a bottle of St. Francis Cabernet Sauvignon and various starters as well as mighty good cherry cheesecake, which evidently we neglected to get a photo of before it was cut into pieces- the Wagon Wheel Restaurant makes some of the best pies in all of Southern California.

Arroz con Pollo

A quick review of the wine which retails for between $22 and $27 depending on where you buy it. It was well received by everyone, it is a big Cab so maybe the arroz con pollo isn’t its perfect match, but good food and good wine always can work together.

St. Francis Cab Sauv Sonoma

I can definitively say that it holds up with the Sonoma/Napa tradition of moderate tannis and a pleasing texture/aroma. I wasn’t able to pick up much in the way of oak, cherry or chocolate flavors which are more easily accessed in their higher priced bottles. Overall it isn’t a wine that I’ll make a point to buy, but it is a solid drinkable wine that I enjoyed and would gladly purchase again if it were available at a local grocery store. It added to a good meal with good food and good company which is always appreciated.

Yes, the wine went over well

Thanks again for reading and please join us over at Uncorked Ventures.

Palumbo Winery, Lake Elsinore, Happy 30th to Me

August 8, 2009 Leave a comment

Had a great day yesterday, after meeting my wife at her work, which was a mad house even after she was suppose to be able to leave we got on the road.

Mark driving to Temecula 001

To start we went to taste at Palumbo winery in Temecula. Iit is very much off the beaten path, about a mile off the main road on a side street that is paved with houses and other wineries around. You drive into the winery, in essence through the vineyard which is quite nice and unexpected in Temecula. They have a dirt/gravel parking area with room for about 10 cars and a small tasting room which in essence is part of the garage of the house. I can see why they only accept limos and tour groups reluctantly with an appointment. Another note-no public restroom as of yet, although they are about to begin construction on a small addition to the property which will add public restrooms. When we arrived at Palumbo after wondering if our little Volvo was going to be stuck forever in the gravel, we were noticed the dog laying in the sun in front of the tasting room. Inside two more dogs seemed to enjoy the cool tile floors.

Dog at the Front of Palumba Winery

Palumba Winery Tasting Room

On to the wine. The hard part of this blog to me is that I am still learning the proper amount of information to share and what needs to be withheld. I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading other wine blogs to see how wine bloggers handle their reviews. It seems that they either will only post positive reviews, or they don’t review at all. There isn’t a ton of negative press out there, for good reason. While at Palumbo we met the winery owner and had a chance to chat with him and he talked some about the small number of cases he produces and generally cares greatly about his craft…as all winemakers do. That being said I will never be overly negative, but I feel like since Uncorked Ventures is asking for your money we need to be up front about the types of wines that we’re likely to feature. This is exactly the type of winery I’d love to work with, family owned, accessible owner etc etc.

We were able to taste the following wines for $7.00 or for $10.00 if we wanted to take the glass home with us. We opted to take the glass. Prices per bottle are listed.
2006 Syrah $34
2006 Merlot $36
2005 Cabernet Sauvignon $38
2005 Cabernet Franc $36
2006 Meritage$36

Finally their Port was not listed on the tasting menu, but they did pour it for us. My general impression of the wine was the earth tones came through too strongly. To me the Merlot seemed especially earthy, which I was surprised to say because I typically love Italian wine which is generally more earthy then the French grapes which they are growing at Palumbo. The Syrah was my favorite of the wines however I did not consider bringing a bottle home. At $34 there are plenty of other options in that price range including Stag’s Leap which we tried a few weeks ago which I prefer.

An older gentlemen in the tasting room was especially happy with the Cab Franc, absolutely loved it is probably a better explanation. I do know that they typically sell out most of their wines and at points there has been a waiting list of up to 1 year for their wine clubs. The Cab Franc is a unique offering for Temecula.

Although a much better experience then tasting at other wineries in Temecula I thought the wines were too earthy to be included in any of our wine clubs. I do see potential though in their vineyard and wish them the best in the future, I’ll be watching their progress.

After leaving the winery we contemplated going to another tasting that our guide at Palumbo had recommended however we decided to stop while we were ahead and head to Lake Elsinore to get a cup of coffee at Flour Fusion. Upon arriving I realized my wife had called ahead and ordered a small birthday cake for me which was very nice and unexpected.

30th BDay Cake

We enjoyed the cake, chatted with the staff(they make muffins for Trader Joe’s locally) and also played two games of chess. I was victorious in both games, despite a random passer by trying to instruct me how not to put myself in check.
Playing a Game of Monster Chess
After the coffee shop we had thought we’d get a glass of wine at a local restaurant, but everything in walking distance was either an antique shop or a Mexican restaurant….my wife has a bell pepper allergy so eating at an unknown Mexican restaurant isn’t really an option.
We decided to head over to The Diamond for the game. As we found out when we pulled in, we were there entirely too early as the gates didn’t even open until 6pm and it was only around 5.

We returned a couple of phone calls and enjoyed having some time to the two of us.

Entrance to The Diamond Lake Elsinore
I will say that if you’re not a baseball fan, go ahead and skip this part as it is another passion of mine and I wanted to share a couple of observations about the game in general, we had GREAT seats in the first row almost directly behind the plate. It was a fun game to go to with Lake Elsinore scoring early and often on their way to an 8-2 win.

Mark driving to Temecula 016

For the Storm:

James Darnell has been thought of as a ton 10 Padres prospect and he definitely looked the part of a future MLB player He hit a ball a ton to right center off the wall and later pulled an inside fastball down the left field line for another double. He can clearly hit and takes the game very seriously. Additionally he’s fairly fast for a corner infielder, at least fast and quick enough to play an outfield corner if he had to.
I was happy to get a chance to see Jeremy Hefner pitch in person and I was not disappointed especially considering the competition. He showed an above average fastball and an above average curve which no one seemed to be able to track last night. Additionally it comes out of his hand quite well and is indistinguishable at times from the fastball. Change-up seems to have some empathsis and was useful a couple of times at 1-1, but still needs work. He’[s a projectable arm which is something the Padres lack at upper levels.
I’ll follow up with some of the Mariners prospects to follow in a future entry, but I don’t want to bore any of the wine people with too much baseball stuff.

As always thanks for reading.

Tasting Trip

August 7, 2009 Leave a comment

Just a quick couple notes before I head off for a tasting and Lake Elsinore Storm minor league baseball game….yes happy birthday to me.

At Uncorked Ventures our trip to Napa next week is really coming together, we’re very much looking forward to tasting and speaking with Alpha Omega, Cornerstone, Copain and Audelssa, all of which have been confirmed.

I’m very happy that we’re going to be able to source the type of high quality wine that our customers will demand for our different wine of the month club options. As always the winemakers and everyone involved in the business has been a joy to work with and I’m very much looking forward to the trip and meeting everyone in person.

I hope everyone is able to have a good glass later tonight and that the weekend gets off to a great start!

Tomorrow will bring a rather lengthy blog about our tasting as well as anything else we try along the way.