Posts Tagged ‘Uncorked Ventures’

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.


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

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.

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.

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.

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