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Alpha Omega Meeting

August 17, 2009 Leave a comment

On Wednesday morning of last week(Aug 12th, 2009) Matt and I had the chance to sit down with Jean Hoefliger the lead winemaker and the general manager of Alpha Omega winery in Napa. To start Alpha Omega is in a great location on highway 29 in Rutherford, just a couple of miles south of St. Helena. They have recently opened a new tasting room which we were impressed with both in terms of architecture and the general feel inside.

The winery itself is much as you would expect with the vines surrounding the tasting room and some construction still going on, the one point of interest is definitely the fountains that they have between the tasting room and highway 29. It really is a beautiful location and the tasting room is situated in such a way, and slope, that you don’t notice highway 29 while you are there.

Alpha Omega Tasting Room

Alpha Omega Fountains

After arriving and meeting Jean he took us into a side room which had a long table with seats for approximately 10 people, leather chairs, rustic orange chandeliers which we later found out had been installed that morning and place settings for the three of us.

We spent the next 90 minutes or so talking with Jean about his wine-making philosophy, the history of Alpha Omega and how our two companies could work together in the future.

It was definitely a fascinating conversation especially because Jean’s passion for his work definitely shined through and he was completely at ease talking about everything from why they use only naturally occuring yeast, to how he was recruited to Alpha Omega, to his like for new ventures.

Our conversation was intermixed while tasting their 6 different wines, so I’ll go over conversation first and wine second.

Jean Inside the Tasting Room

A couple of things especially stick out in my mind:

*Alpha Omega uses only naturally occurring yeast in their wines. Instead of using one type of industrial yeast they allow their wines to spend more time in barrel (100% French because the grain is finer and imparts a more even flavor) in order to allow the 7 types of yeast that occur naturally on grapes to work without an outside addition.

* He tastes each wine daily as it is barrel to check and make sure it is being blended appropriately, it is definitely a more hands on approach then most winemakers use.

*98% of wine sold in the USA is consumed within 48 hours of purchase. Although this isn’t hugely popular in winemaking circles, he understands this fact and needs to create wine that will be good when consumed immediately as well as aging well when cellar-ed.

*Specifically in regards to both the Proprietary Red and ERA, asked what the blend was exactly. Interestingly Jean said he wasn’t sure off the top of his head because he never wants to think that he made the perfect wine a couple of years ago and now he needs to try and duplicate it. Each year will have a different blend because different fruit gives different results.

As for the wines:

I thought everything offered would stand the test of time, some notes on the 4 wines which stick out in my mind to this day:

Chardonnay Napa Valley 2006: By far the best Chardonnay I’ve ever tasted. I typically find the varietal too acidic but this was quite smooth and the flavor combinations which I found to be unique really did shine through-specifically honey and almond. When we got into the car we were wondering why we didn’t bring home a couple of bottles. To give you an idea of the winemakers taste he said he would bury this wine in the vineyard and drink it in about 15 years. I’m not sure I’m quite that patient.

Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2006: I thought this was simply put an outstanding wine. It is quite masculine because you do get a sense of pepper as well as cherry. The three of us all remarked that this would be an outstanding Cab to pair with a slice of grilled meat. We took home two bottles of this wine.

Proprietary Red Wine Napa Valley 2006: To me, if you want to see what Alpha Omega does differently in their winemaking then many of the other wineries around the world, you need to try their blends. To start the wine is a beautiful purple color and on the nose you really can easily pick up red cherry. On the tongue the wine is smooth and overall it comes across as balanced. I would gladly drink this by itself, or with a meal. We took two bottles home with us.

ERA: Ok, so yes we did taste the $160 a bottle ERA. Did it live up to expectations? Yes it did, it is the smoothest wine I’ve ever tasted. The three of us all agreed that it is perhaps a more feminine wine then the others we tasted, most likely because it has a much higher amount of petit verdot, which incidentally is Jean’s favorite wine grape. Matt and I didn’t take a bottle home but would certainly buy a couple of bottles for a special occasion, especially if our wives and mother in law would be drinking because we know without doubt that all three of them would love the wine. I did especially enjoy the wine as well, frankly if we weren’t allocating funds to our business purchases we would have loved to bring home a few bottles and cellar them for a while.

Lastly we were able to talk with Jean about moving forward with a business agreement between our two companies. We are extremely happy to say that we will be featuring an Alpha Omega wine in one of our first shipments. Jean was very gracious and shared our opinion that having a long term partnership between our two companies would be good for both of us moving forward. I can’t say that at Uncorked Ventures we disagree, we’re very happy to add Alpha Omega to our growing list of partner wineries.

At the end of the day, this was a great meeting for Uncorked Ventures and we can’t thank Jean Hoefliger and the staff at Alpha Omega enough. We’re looking forward to working a day of harvest with the staff in the next few weeks.

Jean, Mark and Matt outside Alpha Omega

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Wine Club Decisions + A Couple of Thank You Notes

Hope this blog finds you all doing well this morning.

As my business partner Matt pointed out in his blog last night we are on the verge of a significant announcement regarding our first winery partner. Needless to say we’re very excited about the opportunity to work with this peculiar winery because of the wine, the people and the way they’ve dealt with us from the very beginning.

In other news we’ve formed some more firm conclusions on the types of wine clubs that we’re planning on offering:

-One will be a truly high end quarterly mailing club which is going to average approximately $300 per shipment. This will be a limited enrollment wine club and we expect it will sell out fairly quickly and have a waiting list.

-The other will be a monthly mailing that average approximately $100 per shipment.

We’re very excited about coming to these conclusions and truly being on target for a September release date.

Lastly I’d like to thank Jean Hoefliger for stopping by the blog. We’ll certainly be taking you up on your offer to come and taste at Alpha Omega in the very near future. I did mean everything I said in that post I look forward to meeting you in person.

That’s all for now-please leave a comment or join us on Twitter.

Alpha Omega Winery

July 19, 2009 1 comment

alpha omega photo

In my last post I started to talk about a group of wineries that I’d love to work with in regard to our high end wine club and also our wine export services to Central and South America. Needless to say these are some of the great names in the wine industry and although I am sure they are approached by different wine clubs often, I think our export services may give us an advantage that others lack.

Maybe its just Sunday morning talking as I sit here with a cup of coffee and the golden retriever that I’m dog sitting sitting on my feet, but I think we can add significant value to these wineries by opening up markets that they do not currently have a significant presence in, or really any presence at all.

I’m asked by friends and family which one winery would you love to work with? It’s not really possible to answer that question so much of the answer is going to come from the personal relationship side of things in addition to the actual wine, but from the wine perspective there are probably 50-75 wineries that are based in California, Oregon and Washington that would all be close to the top of my list. I won’t differentiate between those wineries in this space, at least not at this time.

The winery that I wanted to give some background on first here is Alpha Omega Winery. It’s located in the Rutherford part of Napa and includes more then a few historic vineyards.

Why would I love to work with Alpha Omega? I have a ton of respect for the business decisions that they have made. I think all businesses struggle to find the correct ratio between profit taking, investing in their product and providing value to their customers. Alpha Omega took an incredible step when they hired Michel Rolland starting for their vintage back in 2006. For those of you who don’t know who Michel Rolland is, here is a little background along with his photo:

Rolland

He’s from a famous French winemaking family.
Is a Bordeaux based oenologist
Is the foremost wine consultant in the world
Favors technological advancements to improve wine(good for him!)
Probably the most influencial winemaker in the world
Owns a couple French vineyards
Consults with over 100 truly high end wineries

I found what I consider a great quote from the man himself:

“What I bring is a range of experience and a span of reference that other people here, however talented they might be, do not have…A consultant cannot know everything. I am here to give advice with an open mind to the resident winemaker. So the personality of the people is an essential. It’s fundamental. If you have no contact with the people, it’s impossible. I’m no magician.”

Quite frankly what I see in Alpha Omega is a winery which is completely committed to providing its customers the absolute best wine that it can produce. Hiring Rolland shows how committed they truly are because I’m sure his consulting services are not inexpensive. Given his quote above I would think that Alpha Omega’s resident winemaker Jean Hoefliger (see photo below) would be an interesting person to speak with.

Jean Hoefiger

Aside from what sounds like an interesting life experience(born in Switzerland having lived in South Africa and France for some time) I’m always impressed by people who are comfortable in their jobs and are able to bring in the best talent possible to help them along the way, I know from limited experience this isn’t always the easiest decision to make.

Hoefiger-Rolland

Oh yeah-the final and most important reason why I’d love to work with Alpha Omega. They make great wine that is even improving. We’ve liked their products for a while and now Robert Parker is starting to agree giving them a score as high as 94 on one bottle.