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Final Napa/Sonoma wrap up

August 21, 2009 Leave a comment

So I’ve been asked to give a quick wrap up of our trip by a couple of friends and since both Matt and I have been straight forward about what wineries we were visiting…..I’ll be much more honest then I probably should be politically speaking.

We’re excited to partner with(yes in alphabetical order): Alpha Omega, Audelssa, Copain and K Vitners(from Washington state). We also have a couple of wineries from the Central Coast that we like and should work with as well. To be honest, from a wine sourcing standpoint we’re in excellent shape, at least for our September and October shipments.

After meeting with Cornerstone Cellars as well as Elizabeth Spencer I don’t anticipate moving forward at this time with either of them.

So what’s next on the Uncorked Ventures agenda? We’re constantly working on SEO stuff because we do believe that long term that is going to be a key to our business. Matt and I are also more activly engaging our personal networks to see what they’d like to see from our wine clubs. One thing that has come up repeatedly is a corporate gift either on an ongoing monthly basis or a one time gift for either a birthday or holiday.

Those conversations will lead to another section of our website(Gifts) which we plan to have completed by Tuesday of next week. You’ll also see some changes in format to the About Us page, the Other Media page as well as at least 3 new articles added to the Education section around that same time period.

Lastly we’re continuing to work toward sourcing new and exciting wineries. We have a few that we’re looking forward to speaking to on our next visit to Napa and Sonoma.

Specifically I think we may be a little Cabernet Sauvignon heavy right now, so a great Zinfandel producer would be nice…..of course I also love more Pinot Noir.

Audelssa Tasting Experience

August 20, 2009 Leave a comment

I’ve talked at some depth about a couple of our winery visits in Napa, but as I’ve said we’re especially pleased to be moving forward with Copain (as Matt states very nicely in his blog) Alpha Omega and of course Audelssa.

Audelssa was a winery that I was looking forward to tasting with at the end of our trip for a couple of reasons. Like most of the other wineries on our list they are family owned and have been very open to talking with us. I’ve appreciated the time Dan gave me on the phone, including his stories of previous frustrations with exporting wine, especially the taxes and exploding prices involved, I’ve gotten to know Gloria a little bit from both Twitter and email (we are at a similar place, how do you correctly use Twitter to actually sell a product?). Lastly I am pretty much fascinated with their V 27 concept.

A quick run-down of V 27 and remember I worked in real estate for a while, so this is probably especially interesting to me. V 27 explained simply is a timeshare. They are building a Tuscan Villa on their mountain ranch (where they grow most of their grapes) after buying into the concept you’d have the right to stay there, I believe 4 weeks a year, plus the capacity to create your own red wine blend with their resident winemaker. Please don’t hold me to exact details, but I’ll say I think it is underpriced for what they’re charging….how many people do you know that would love to have a second home in wine country? What about a 2nd home that comes with the ability to bottle your own wine? Pretty interesting concept huh? I’m guessing you know more then a few people who would be interested depending on price….. and this is going to put you back well less, well much less, then a 1 bedroom condo in Napa/Sonoma. Plus, check out the view:

Audelssa view

Ok, so we were set to meet with Mike at their Glenn Ellen tasting room at 2pm on Thursday Aug 13th. Matt and I thought we would have plenty of time since our Copain tasting was at 10am and the trip, according to Mapquest, would take about 45 minutes. We left Copain around 12:30 thinking we’d still have time to get a quick lunch at a small cafe in Glen Ellen and decided we would take, what we thought at the time, the safe route to the tasting room. The safe route takes us down the 101 south to the 12 east and then right on Arnold Drive….more on that later.

After being on the 101 for some time and discussing our previous meetings, both the positive and negative, we realized that we were seeing signs such as Welcome to Petaluma. I’m not a bay area resident but I do now that Petaluma is about 30 miles north of San Francisco….we were suppose to catch the 12 somewhere around Santa Rosa…..which is 17 miles further north.

Needless to say that meant we weren’t going to have time for lunch…..so just make that right on Arnold. Well to make a long story short we missed Arnold…mostly because it isn’t marked Arnold from the 12….it’s marked Glen Ellen….yeah we should have known better, but what can you do.

In any case we arrived at the Audelssa tasting room at least an hour late, Mike was still waiting for us, which was quite kind especially because the air conditioning was being worked on. It was set up to be a bad tasting, we hadn’t eaten all day, were hot, tired and frustrated.

We sat down and got a chance to try all the different wines(which are all red) and we were impressed by all of them.

We started with the Tephora which is a $25 retail bottle, we hadn’t seen the price point yet and were guessing that it came in around $40 which has been backed up by other friends and family when we’ve had them try it as well, except one family member who named the $25 price tag exactly, but I’ll let her stay anonomous for now.

In fact we opened one of the bottles I brought home last night and my mother in law (who knows her high end wine, especially those of French varietals) said quite simply that for $25 she’d definitely buy more of this wine which is a nice compliment in my book. My wife agreed that it was certainly worth more then the $25 that Audelssa is charging. The bottle went very, very well with a steak from the BBQ and also with a couple of pieces of dark chocolate for dessert.

The two real standout wines for my palate were the Zephyr which is a right bank Rhone blend which was an interesting wine. I don’t believe I’ve tried any, at least not many, wines from Napa/Sonoma that come from volcanic soil like this one does. You definitely get a stronger fruit taste then you do from many Napa/Sonoma wines, we were told it is because the grapes are grown at altitude which leads to a much smaller yield and more intense flavors of the fruit then you get at the valley floor.

Lastly Matt and I both quite enjoyed the Summit estate wine. Like many great blends it takes some of the major parts of all its components like the Cab Sauv, Merlot and Cab Franc. I’d hesitate to try and describe it in detail here, but I will say that it is very nice wine. I’m having a moderate size dinner party over the weekend to finish up my 30th bday activities and will be bringing a bottle with me. Of anything we smelled the entire week, this was perhaps the best and I do enjoy complicated tastes in my wine….so this was a real winner and one that I’m looking forward to trying to figure out more about this weekend.

Overall Audelssa was a good tasting experience and offer a nice series of wines that we can feature in our wine clubs. Despite our experiences their Glen Ellen tasting room is pretty easy to find. At Uncorked Ventures we’re looking forward to working with Audelssa and featuring their wines in one of our first wine club shipments.

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.

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.

Plans

August 4, 2009 Leave a comment

Ok so this blog has been a little(or a lot according to my wife) business heavy lately. As I sit here with a cup of Salvadoran coffee I wanted to share my plans for the next two weeks or so.

Coffee From El Salvador

I’m turning 30 on Friday. I’m actually quite excited I have a feeling that my 30’s will be a better decade then my 20’s were and frankly I’m ready to get started.

On Friday my wife and I will be kicking out of work after a half day and taking a short trip up north. We’ll be stopping by Palumbo Winery in Temecula. Again, I don’t want anyone to get the wrong impression, I’d much rather be stopping by Dumol in Napa…..but I live in San Diego and it’s nice to stop and get a glass of wine after dealing with Southern California traffic. Additionally Palumbo is the type of winery that I like. The owner is also the winemaker, they make small batches of wine, all red and only what they can grow themselves. The tasting room is only open 3 days a week and it is off the beaten path. It should give my wife and I a chance to chat without any significant distractions. Frankly I’m interested in seeing what is reportedly the best Temecula has to offer.

After that we’re heading to Lake Elsinore for dinner(no idea where) probably a cup of coffee and a cookie and then a minor league baseball game.

In some ways I guess you could say that wine in Southern California is like the minor leagues in comparison to Napa/Sonoma and even the central coast.

I’ll also be taking that long mentioned trip to Napa to work on getting a couple of agreements finalized with my business partner. I’m looking forward to the trip very much. I’ve talked a lot about loving the whole experience of wine tasting, Napa is especially fun because the experience is so much grander. Great architecture and outstanding best in the world wine, who can complain?

Lastly I’ll be having a wine tasting party with a few friends, I hope to video the responses to this gathering where we’re planning on blind tasting 3 California Chardonnay’s as well as 3 red wines which are yet to be selected.

If everything goes well I’ll have a short video posted shortly.

As always please visit us over at Uncorked Ventures.

Why We Love Wine

August 2, 2009 Leave a comment

One of the reasons why I prefer wine to beer is that each bottle from the same winemaker and vineyard is different year after year. You can get interesting taste arrangements that you weren’t necessarily suspecting.

I enjoy the fact that you never know exactly what you’re going to get, often you’re pleasantly surprised and sometimes you’re disappointed.

This comes to mind because Northern California had an unusual weather year in 2008. There were substantial fires in June 2008 which is peculiarly worrisome because as most of us know summer is the main growing season for grapes.

How much of that smoke was trapped in the fruit? I’ve heard that some grapes trapped a significant amount of it and no matter how much the juice has been filtered, all of it cannot be removed.

To me, we all need to be aware that this could be a problem with the 2008 vintage. We’ll find out which micro climates were affected and which were not. We’ll learn which winemakers are the true class of their region based on how they handle what could be an extremely difficult situation…..or it could be nothing.

That’s part of the fun with wine.

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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.

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