Can’t believe it has been so long since I posted a blog on my personal site. Needless to say I have been busy. Can’t believe summer is almost over and the rush of forth quarter really isn’t that far away.

Lot’s has gone on from a business perspective. Most importantly we launched the new Uncorked Ventures website. I am really happy with how it turned out. It does a much better job of representing who and what we are about. If we are uncovering and sharing some of the west coast’s greatest wines shouldn’t we have a website that represents that? Well, I think we have taken a big step in that direction.

wine gift basketsAlong with the launch of the new website we debuted our first wine gift basket offerings. Our gift baskets are focused on customers who lean more toward the middle to upper end of the market. At $125 / $175 you can choose between a 1 bottle or 2 bottle offering in three different wine gift basket categories. While our gift baskets won’t suit everyone’s taste, we are confident that it will be of interest to the savvy consumer.

Beyond the business, we have had an enjoyable albeit quick summer. With a few trips tucked in the weeks flew by. Always good to have some downtime and see our families. Throw in some good wine and bbq and everyone seemed to have a good time.

Now it’s on to the rest of the year which holds so much possibility. Hopefully we can achieve what we are hoping and planning for. Starting a small business has been an experience for sure. I do think the next 9 months will bear the fruit of our efforts to date. I have sure enjoyed the positive feedback we have been receiving from our growing customer base.

Cheers to the possibilities!

With so much going on for Uncorked Ventures , I haven’t focused on my personal blog much.  Given that we are featured in the local paper today, I felt inspired to post a short blog.

It feels good to get a little press. Both Mark and I have been working hard to get the word out on Uncorked Ventures’ wine clubs and other services.  Uncorked Ventures operates in a highly competitive space with lots of noise.  We remained committed to shipping top quality wines sourced from the best boutique wineries in California, Oregon, and Washington.  Our focus on quality versus what would net us the highest margins continues to be validated from a customer satisfaction perspective.  While we would make more money shipping cheaper, less stellar wines.  We are just not interested in that business model.  We are proud of the wines we source and ship and believe their are savvy wine consumers out there that will appreciate our offerings.

In the coming weeks and months we will be quite busy.  We will of course be visiting wine country a few times, but there are a lot of other initiatives we continue to focus on to help grow the business.  We look forward to launching our wine gift baskets offerings in the next few months.  Like  the wines we ship, these will be premium offerings for the discerning customer.

In the meantime, I hope to survive what seems to be a never-ending rain storm here in the Bay Area.

Take care.

 

I can finally say that I have completed my digestion of the holidays both personally and business wise.  While I would have liked to hit the ground running as fast as I could on January 1st, it just didn’t happen.  Chalk it up to holiday travel, my first year of holiday sales with Uncorked Ventures, and a few other things but I was down right tired as the new year kicked off.  Lots of gray skies and rain didn’t motivate me much as well.

But here we are finishing up the third week of January and I feel refreshed and ready to tackle what should be an interesting and good year for me, my family, and Uncorked Ventures.  Having added a good number of customers in November and December, Uncorked Ventures is looking forward to more growth this year.  Both Mark and I have many ideas percolating that will be put into action in the coming weeks and months.  We aren’t typically short on ideas, but it does take a bit of time to bring them to action.  As our operations become even smoother this year we should have more time for growing the business versus just sustaining it.

As February approaches we are looking forward to heading off to wine country again.  We have already locked up some additional winery partners this year and are looking for more.  It will be good to get away for a few days and hang out, meet some new wineries and winemakers.  I still get a buzz when I find a great wine that I know others will love.  I only wish I could see first hand what some of our customers’ reactions will be when they try some of  the good juice coming their way.

If you have been thinking about joining a wine club,  join soon so you can take advantage of what we are shipping soon.

I think I should go spend sometime in the garden and enjoy this beautiful Northern California Saturday.

Take care.

Thanksgiving is now officially in the rear view mirror.  I had an enjoyable trip down to San Diego to visit with my family and my wife’s family.  Of course, I could do without the 8 hour plus drive both ways.  What can you do though – and no flying wasn’t an option.  The drive down was worse than the drive up as we decided to stop for dinner which added another hour and 45 minutes to the drive.  The restaurant in Paso Robles we planned to eat at was closed.  We turned to Yelp for help which was a mistake.  Finally, we settled on place only to have it operating at what seemed like a snails pace.  Next thing we know it’s 8 o’clock and we are just getting back on the road.  All that being said, the drive was worth it.  It was nice and sunny in San Diego even if the mornings started off quite chilly (low 30’s).

Both Thanksgiving meals we participated in were wonderful.  The food was great and the wine I brought down did the trick.  With the in-laws, I cracked open a few different bottles.  The Copain Pinot Noir seemed to be a hit.  Amazing how well Pinot pairs with turkey and the trimmings.  After dinner we enjoyed and darker and fruitier Shiraz from Australia.  At my parents house, I sampled some craft beers with my brother before the meal and opened a 2005 Copain Les Copain James Berry Vineyard.  Yes, I do drink my share of Copain Wines made by the critically acclaimed winemaker Well Gunthrie.    Uncorked Ventures has shipped a couple different Copain wines over the last year with lots of good feedback from our wine club members.  Back to the Les Copain which is wonderful wine made from one of California’s top vineyards.  In fact, this vineyard which is owned by Saxum Winery produced this year’s #1 wine according to Wine Spectator.

After a few days of family and relaxation in San Diego, we headed back home to the Bay Area.  Fortunately the night we arrived home our good friends and neighbors had us over for dinner.  Abalone fritters and abalone steaks.  Good living for sure, especially when it was paired with a Rhone-styled white from Paso Robles.   Fresh abalone is a gift from nature for sure.  Just glad to have a good friend who is an accomplished abalone diver.  Needless to say, I slept great Saturday night having eaten well combined with the comforts of my own home.

So you would think that come Sunday, I would be anything but focused on food and wine.  Wrong.  After getting the Christmas tree up and lights up outside I decided another good meal was necessary.  Enter prime steaks, grilled asparagus, fresh baked bread, and a bottle of 2005 Saxum Heart Stone.  Yes, I said Saxum.  Saxum Winery has been on a tear these last few years.  Wine critics have been lauding the work of Justin Smith, owner and winemaker.  The mailing list had grown and now the waiting lists extends a couple miles.  Hopefully the press that comes with Wine Spectator awarding one of their wines the #1 rating for 2010 doesn’t send the winery over the edge which has unfortunately happened to a few other wineries of the past.  One could argue that the hype has been building for a while and that Robert Parker’s rating of 100 points (aka perfect) for the 2007 James Berry had already kicked things into high gear.  Hopefully the winery will keep prices close to what they have been.  Of course all of this was neither here nor there on Sunday night.  Once I removed a good portion of the wax overlay, I popped the cork and prepared for something special.  The wine did not disappoint.  Out the gate the dark fruit flavors and aromas jumped out of the glass.  At first the flavors seemed a bit jumbled up, but with a bit of air everything calmed down.  A “Wow” was uttered from my wife.  Yes, this wine was seriously good as the tannins were well integrated and while this wine is on the higher end of the alcohol scale – it was not hot or jammy.  It was damn good.  Not a bad way to cap the holiday week.

Fast forward to today.  Some new wine club orders had come in overnight.  Always good to wake up and see those e-mail notifications.  Feeling good, I decided it was finally the day to ditch the 1998 style cell and officially join 2010 by purchasing a smart phone.  Enter my new best friend, the HTC 4-G My Touch.  How did I have enough self regulation to let my contract expire and not jump into this earlier.  All I can say is that it took some serious self control.  With a couple business functions scheduled at the end of this week, its good to know that I will have the pocket office with me.  Amazing how powerful these devices have become.  Time will tell if it makes me more efficient.  For now, I know it will make my life a bit easier.

Ok – plenty more ramblings to come, but I will call it quits for now.  I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.

With the holidays upon us, I would be remiss to not suggest that you consider Uncorked Ventures for your hard to buy for relatives or friends or even yourself.  We have been getting lots of praise on our shipments.  Just a couple months back we shipped the #6 wine for 2010 according to Wine Spectator.  The 2008 Paul Hobbs Russian River Pinot was and is delicious.  Too bad we can’t get our hands on any more of that.  just wait to see what we have planned for our next few shipment.

Take care.

 

It is a cold rainy day here in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Snow is falling in the Sierras, puddles are forming in my backyard, and leaves cover my front yard.  If I was wondering, yes, Fall has arrived and Thanksgiving is knocking on our door.

Like most people, the Thanksgiving holiday helps me to reflect on how good I have it.  My immediate family is healthy and for the most part in good spirits.  My wife’s and my siblings and parents are all doing well.  It will be great to see everyone next week as we celebrate Thanksgiving.  We have now settled into a tradition where we celebrate Thanksgiving over two days.  First is Thanksgiving with my in-laws on Thursday then we celebrate with my side of the family on Friday.  We started this new two day tradition several years ago.  It really relieves the pressure of having to jump between two houses.  It also allows us to enjoy each meal as we don’t have to save room for another meal.  In the coming days, I will be making my wine selection for both meals.  As my in-laws tend to be more of the wine drinkers, I will likely bring home a magnum that I have been cellaring for a few years.  The larger bottle seems a bit more celebratory.

Beyond family and friends, I have a lot more to be thankful.  Fortunately, Uncorked Ventures first year in operation has gone relatively well.  Having launched the new business in January, our business has grown slowly but steadily over the last 11 months.  The outpouring of support we received from family,  friends and former co-workers helped to kick-start our wine club sales.  Going into business with my brother-in-law Mark was not a decision I entered into lightly.  Over the last 11 months, my brother-in-law has been a valuable partner, confident and friend.  I clearly made a good decision and look forward to working with him in the coming years.  With regards to starting Uncorked Ventures, I am also thankful to have a wife who has supported my desire to strike out as an entrepreneur.  With a mortgage to pay and kids’ college funds to save for, she has let me take this risk and pursue a dream even in this shrunken economy.

As we near the Thanksgiving holiday, I hope you take time to reflect on what it is you have to be thankful for.  I am going back to cleaning out my closet and chest of drawers, searching for items that I am not making the most of but someone who is less fortunate will.

Take care.

The first few weeks of fall are always interesting.  To start, you get teased by the weather, especially in Northern California.  In the same week you can have rain one day and a few days later be hanging out in the backyard with shorts, t-shirt, and flip-flops on.  Playoff baseball can be seen in the not so distant future while college football (GO DUCKS!) and the NFL are at the early part of their seasons.  The changeover from summer to fall is like any transition for me. I am not yet ready to say goodbye, but I am looking forward to what’s ahead.

I will miss the warm weather (ok, we really didn’t have much of that this year).  I will miss having the kids out of school and seeing them run like a bunch of crazies in the backyard with the sprinklers on.  I will miss bbq’ing on the Weber 3 times a week.  Summer is great, but I am ready for fall and what it brings along with it.

For Uncorked Ventures, fall is shaping up to potentially mean big things for us.  A number of marketing activities are beginning to bear some fruit for us.   Funny how you can toil at something for a good bit and then all of sudden things start to click.  While there is no guarantee everything we are doing will produce dividends, I am confident that we have planned and are executing thoughtfully.  Many thanks to my business partner who has been working the long hours and is enjoying the trails and tribulations of all of this with me.  It helps that he is family and that we share similar goals and that we know we can count on each other 100 percent.

Harvest in wine country has already started.  In California, it looks like it will be a particularly long harvest given the mild summer we had.  With patience and some good luck 2010 could produce some good and interesting wines.  In the meantime, we will continue to scour for the best of what’s available from previous vintages.  We have some exiting wine club shipments already planned for the fall so stay tuned.

Take care.

Hard to believe we are already in early August.  Where did June and July go?

It has been a busy summer for me.  My family and I went on two separate family vacations lasting about a week each.  Each trip was special as we got to hang out with our respective families and enjoy being together.  The trip with my in-laws included a extended family reunion.  We had the opportunity to visit and enjoy being with cousins, Aunts, and Uncles that we don’t get to see on a regular basis.  Life happens so fast, so it was good to take a pause this summer and enjoy our families and moments we got to share with them.

School has started in our area, at least for those on year-round schedules.  I look forward to settling back into more of a routine and being able to focus more time and energy on Uncorked Ventures.  The business has continued to grow through the summer which has been wonderful.  Both Mark and I have a number of initiatives we will be leading in an effort to further establish and propel us in the right direction.  We have appreciated the support of our early customers, but look forward to growing the base and extending our reaches further.  The long hours put into SEO (search engine optimization) have paid off as we on the front page of Google for several key search terms.  Looking forward to what’s next for us makes me excited about our possibilities.

As this weekend approaches, I will get a chance to look back as I will be attending my 20 year high school reunion.  It will be fun to catch up with a number of individuals I have not seen in sometime and hear about their lives, their families, and what it is they are up to.  I have enjoyed my last 20 years of life a good bit.  I have married a wonderful woman and am raising some incredible children.  I feel fortunate to have transitioned from my corporate positions to owning my own business with my brother-in-law.  Life is short, so it is good to be doing something I truly enjoy which gives me more flexibility and opportunity to be with the individuals who matter most in my life.

I hope you are enjoying your summer as much as I am.  I look forward to letting you know how my reunion goes.

Take care.

I will get back to writing about my Mammoth vacation in a few days, but there is something more immediate that I feel compelled to write about.  My grandmother passed away this past Sunday July 4th.  While her passing was not unexpected, the news was no less saddening.

I am fortunate to have known my grandma for many years.  While I have fond and distant memories of her from my childhood, my best memories came from knowing her as I grew older.  As I see it, she was my grandma the moment  I was born, but she became my friend after I graduated high school and I lived with her and my grandfather during my first two years of college.   A lot happened during the two years I lived with her including the passing of my grandfather, whom I loved very much, as well as the passing of my grandmother’s sister Aunt Dorothy.  Both of my grandparents loved and supported not only me, but both of their children and their respective spouses and all of their grandchildren.  My grandfather did not get the opportunity to meet any of his great grandchildren, but my grandmother delighted in the opportunity to chat and play with the youngest members of her family.

While my parents provided the most influence on my life as a I grew to an adult, my grandmother’s love and guidance also helped shape me.  Some of the best advice she ever gave me was to “focus on what you can control and don’t worry so much on what you can’t”.  Sage advice from a petite old lady. After completing my first two years of college, I moved to Long Beach and lived with a few of my friends.  While I enjoyed being on my own, I visited Grandma frequently often doing my laundry while we caught up on the latest happenings with each other.  The many hours and days I spent with Grandma while attending college form a collection of memories and emotion that I will carry with me the rest of my life.  I guess being a little too wild my last year in high school causing my parents to require me to live with my grandparents was really a blessing in disguise.

My grandma:

  • Coffee drinker
  • Stubborn as a bull
  • She taught me how to iron (seams together)
  • Watcher of old black and white movies
  • Gardener
  • Late night snacker
  • Not a friend of bees
  • Hair in curlers
  • Gin and tonic drinker
  • Reader of romance novels
  • Host of the family Christmas bonanza
  • Person who said “wash my teeth” not “brush my teeth”
  • See’s Molasses Chips eater
  • Stain removal expert
  • Loving wife
  • Master chef of baked beans
  • Decorator focused on the color gold
  • Pal to several good friends – Mary,  Boots, Ramona, Rose
  • Player of “Kings in the Corner”
  • Not the best traveler when flying was involved
  • Frank Sinatra fan
  • Had a wonderful laugh that could crack me up
  • My grandma
  • My friend

I miss you Grandma.  I love you.

I just got back from my first trip of the summer.  My family and I spent a week in Mammoth Lakes (Eastern Sierra) with my parents, sister, and my brother and his family.  Needless to say it was a full house, but thankfully a spacious house.

From the Bay area, the drive was around 7 hours which included a couple stops.  On the drive there, we went further north than required, but this gave us the chance to take the Sonora Pass and see some sights that we wouldn’t get to see if we went through the Tioga Pass in Yosemite on both drives.  We wandered into Jamestown as we headed to the Sonora Pass.  Jamestown is an old quaint gold rush town that still has charm.   While I wasn’t that hungry, we still managed to find a store serving delicious ice cream and of course I had a cone.  From Jamestown we made our way up and over the Sonora Pass climbing to 9,624 ft.  Breathtaking views abound on a drive like this, but I couldn’t gaze as long as I would have liked as the road is full of twists and turns and the shoulder … wait there often wasn’t a shoulder.  After making it through the pass you make your way to 395 and head south passing Mono Lake and less than an hour you find yourself in beautiful Mammoth Lakes, a quintessential ski town that has diversified slightly by embracing mountain biking in the summer.

Good times in Mammoth

While in Mammoth we basically took it easy.  Members of the family took turn cooking breakfast and dinner with lunch being your own responsibility.  Although I am a huge wine lover (big surprise as I own a wine business), my family aren’t big wine drinkers.  Instead of sailing into the wind, I embrace my beer drinking side on these vacations.  This year my brother and I decided to do a bit of sampling and brought a number of different beers to try.  Of the various beers we tasted, I really enjoyed the Biere De Miele from Rabbit’s Foot Meadery. Not too sweet, it had good crispness and seemed to be a wonderful beer for summer.  I have had the Rare Vos from the folks at Ommegang Brewery in Cooperstown, New York many times before and enjoy that beer a whole lot as well.

- more to come

It’s Saturday about noon,  I just got home from picking up some South African Sauvignon Blanc from an importer here in the bay area.  Took the family with me on this errand and added a stop at a park in a community a little south of where we live.  The park was relaxing as the kids were not fighting and really enjoyed being outside.  The weather is just perfect, around 70 degrees, with a slight breeze.  Even though I was raised in San Diego, I don’t have a particular fondness for it being too warm.  High 60s to low 70s seems ideal to me now.

I have some yard work ahead today, as the lawn needs to be mowed and some plants need to be trimmed.  I never thought of myself as much of gardener, but the front and back yards are quite respectable even with the dandelions.  Spending a couple to a few hours in the yard every other week (or weekly during late spring and summer) has turned out to be good therapy.  Back when I was working my corporate job, gardening provided a nice release.  It provided real time satisfaction.  You mow the lawn or trim a tree or even weed a little and you can take a few steps back and see the fruit of your labor.  Much different than projects at work that can last months and seemingly have little impact.  Beyond a bit of gardening today, I will turn my attention to tonight’s meal.  I was originally planning on making calzones, but with the weather being so perfect I won’t be able to resist firing up the weber grill.

I just love this time of year as you can spend so much time in the back yard just hanging out.  I will typically bbq once if not twice a week during the late spring and summer months.  As bbq seasons ramps up, so does my focus on finding wines that go well with the spicy and smoky fair that finds it way on to our plates.  Right now, I am in love with the 2007 Kaena Hale.  This a wine that has been shipped to a number our wine club members already.  Kaena wines are crafted by Mikael Sigouin, who is the winemaker at Beckmen Vineyards in Los Olivos – Santa Barbara County.  The 2007 Hale is 65% Grenache and 35% Syrah.  Very approachable, delicious,  and food friendly.  At $18 this is a great house wine for the summer and will complement most anything coming off the grill.  With only 300 cases produced, this wine will be gone before summer is over.  While I love the Hale, I am still on hunt for some other great bbq wines.  Stay tuned to see what I track down next.

Well, I should get to lunch and the garden.  I hope everyone is enjoying their long weekend.  Uncorked Ventures would like to give a nod to our fallen soldiers and their families.  We appreciate the sacrifice you have made on our behalf.

Take care.

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