Posts Tagged ‘Mark Aselstine’

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


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.

Ethical Choices Abound

August 6, 2009 Leave a comment

Sitting here listening to We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things by Jason Mraz with some interesting stuff to talk about:

So we’re working out some fine details about Uncorked Ventures as we speak, we’ve made some conclusions with some interesting notes that go along with them.

We will keep our original pricing structure where we charge a different price each month for our wine shipment(yes each club will have a limit) while charging each customer individually for shipping.

It almost didn’t go this way for a couple of reasons. More then anything else, it adds a ton of work for the resident **web developer** no that isn’t a title I ever expected to have. Realistically we’d be ready to launch the website if we set a price and stuck by it monthly. Neither Matt nor I felt great about that option because some months we’ll find great bottles for our Special Selections wine club for $30 and other months it is going to be $50. We don’t want to have to refund money and we definitely will not gouge our customers.
Additionally charging everyone for shipping individually stops our closer customers from in effect subsidizing shipping for other customers. Charging individually for shipping based on what it actually costs to ship is the only equitable and fair way to bill for a wine club.

Lastly I’m left with a substantial dilemma. I know for a fact, with proof, that the company I consider to be our main competition is buying links. Yes buying links is, well I can’t say illegal because I don’t know if it technically breaks a law, but I do know for sure that it is against Google’s terms of service. How do I they are buying links? They’ve posted on a message asking for referrals for link purchases and now have links from “interesting” sources showing up on Yahoo Site Explorer. I’m left with some of the following choices:
Do I risk alienating a company exponentially bigger then my own by reporting it to Google?

Do I wait until we’re on the #1 page on Google then report them so we gain the market share?

Do I do nothing and simply beat them?

and I have decided to simply beat them.

When we decided to start this business we had a number of other options, but wine and the culture that surrounds it is something we’re both passionate about. We’re convinced that by putting ourselves out there that our winery partners and potential customers will be able to get to know us. You’ll see pictures of us with the winemakers whose wine you’re drinking and we’ll hold yearly events for our wine club members. I don’t ever want our customers or partner wineries to think they’re simply being used for their product or monthly payment.

I turn 30 tomorrow and one thing I’ve found lately is that I’m valuing personal relationships more and more. Maybe I’m turning more sentimental but turning the largest possible profit isn’t the number one goal on my list for this wine club. Don’t get me wrong, a profit is essential otherwise I’d be letting my own family down, but I want everyone reading this to feel like they’re going on this journey with us….because you are.

To that end I’ve added a couple of pictures of myself to this post. Please say hello when you stop by.

In Parislast year

In Paris last year

With my wife

With my wife