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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.

 

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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

A former co-worker of mine used to say, “Sometimes you need to slow down in order to speed up.”  This past week I definitely slowed down and feel like I got myself in better position to accelerate some of opportunities that are unfolding for Uncorked Ventures.
 
It’s Sunday morning and I am sipping on my cup of Peets coffee.  It’ is French roast which means it’s dark and fortunately for me it is still nice and hot. I am beginning to wake-up.
 
Sunset in Cayucos

Sunset in Cayucos

Yesterday, I downloaded the pictures from my vacation in Cayucos which also included a few excursions into the Paso Robles wine country.  The picture to left was taken Wednesday evening from the pier in Cayucos and is one of my favorites from the trip.  The central coast and its wine country are truly beautiful and I feel fortunate to have just spent a week there with my extended family.

 
Prior to taking the trip, I was a bit hesitant though.  Having  just pushed the go button on starting Uncorked Ventures , I thought taking time away from all the activities that need to get done wouldn’t be fair to my business partner who is also my brother-in-law. Well as it turns out, I was completely wrong as the vacation turned out to be very fruitful for our emerging company.  Yes, there were the trips to Paso Robles wineries which were very fruitful, but more than that was the opportunity to just unwind and clear my mind.  Additionally, this trip reminded me that it is important to focus on living life not just existing which is also why Mark and I have gone into business together.
 
I do want to thank the various wineries I visited while on vacation for their hospitality.  In particular I enjoyed my visits to Linne Calado, Ecluse, Atla Colina, and Caliza.  Caliza was my last stop as we headed out of town and back to the bay area Friday morning.  Caliza Winery is located off Anderson Road in the Templeton Gap area of West Paso Robles. They are located near L’Aventure Winery as well Booker Vineyards and Torrin Vineyards.  We were greeted by Pam just as the tasting room opened at 11am.  I also met her husband and co-owner Carl, who is the winemaker.  Both Pam and Carl were very delightful as they shared some of their thoughts about their winery and the Paso Robles wine community.  In turns out that just a few years ago they lived not more than 3 or 4 miles from my house.  Although Caliza has just come onto the Paso Robles scene, it produces some top flight wine with production currently around 1,000 cases.  Of particular interest to me where their three reds:
  • 2006 Azimuth (51% Syrah, 19%  Grenache, 14% Mourvedre, 8% Tannat, 8% Alicante Bouschet)
  • 2006 Companion (50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre, 10% Tannat)
  • 2006 Syrah (100% Syrah)
IMG_7419Each wine is worthy of purchasing multiple bottles.  After some internal debate, I opted to purchase a few bottles of the 2006 Syrah as it seemed just a bit more special.  This wine also bucked the trend of a lot of Paso Robles wines in that it isn’t a blend.  I am glad I visited Pam and Carl at Caliza and hopefully look forward to creating a partnership with them and Uncorked Ventures.  Working with these small family wineries, helping them get their wines out in the marketplace to wine drinkers who will truly appreciate them really is really motivating for me.
 
As we loaded up our last wine purchase for this trip and said good-bye to the central coast and Paso Robles I felt content.  The week with family had gone very well.  The new relationships I am building in Paso Robles will help fuel Uncorked Ventures success going forward.  As we cruised north on 101 heading back to the bay area, my thoughts began to focus on the next couple weeks of activities for our business.  Fortunately, our interactions with the wineries have been wildly successful and I feel that we will have a pipeline of great wine to offer to our customers.  We will look to bolster that pipeline further as we meet with several wineries in Napa in a couple weeks.  In the meantime, we will continue to focus our attention on growing our own customer base for the wine clubs and getting things place to begin exporting wines to Central and South America in the first half of 2009.
 
If you haven’t checked out our website, please do and provide us with some feedback.  More content will be loaded in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.
 
 Take care.
 

The last couple days on the central coast and visiting Paso Robles have been both relaxing and invigorating.  The relaxation spawns from several things including; listening to the waves break just 100 yds or so from where I am staying, eating good food, drinking good wine, and just hanging out with the family.  Today we headed north of Cayucos and played tourist by visiting Hearst Castle  and then we headed up to one of the beaches where the elephant seals congregate.

In the afternoon, I went for a walk in Cayucos and found myself at The Brown Butter Cookie Company.  What a  gem.  Within a minute of walking in the door we were offered samples of the various cookies by Christa, one of the two sisters whom co-own this great establishment.  Christa was very charming, answering all of our questions and sharing her enthusiasm for her new business which just sprung to life this past January.  So far things are going well for The Brown Butter Cookie Company as they have been mentioned in Gourmet magazine and orders continue to climb.  It was great to spend time with another small, family business owner who is focused on delivering a high quality product to her customers and generally loves what she is doing.  Her passion and excitement and the taste of those cookies is quite addictive.

IMG_7194Rewind back to Monday and I was off to Paso Robles for some more wine tastings.  First up was Ecluse which is located on Killer Canyon Road a bit off the beaten path.  Steve Lock, the owner, greeted us along with two of his rescue dogs.  While the Ecluse tasting room may not make it into Architectural Digest, the wines where worth the visit.  Of the several wines poured, I most enjoyed the 2005 Syrah, Lock Vineyard as well as the 2006 Rendition which s is a blend of Syrah (59%) , Grenache (22%) , and Mouvedre (19%).  Both of these wines would make for good offerings within our Special Elections wine club. 

From Ecluse, I headed into downtown Paso Robles for a lunch at Artisan.  Everything at lunch was good.  I shared the poached shrimp club with my sister and sampled my wife’s fettuccine with prawns, arugula, lemon, and chile de arbol.  The atmosphere and staff at Artisan compliment the fine food quite well.

From lunch I continued on to Alta Colina Winery where Maggie greeted us.  Alta Colina is an up and coming winery who has released its first wines this year.  Production is tiny this year, as they are selling a good portion of their grapes to other local wineries.  I suspect that as their wines begin to take hold in the marketplace production will increase which is a good thing based on what I tasted.  Two of Alta Colina’s wines appealed to me.  The 2007 Old 900 Syrah and the 2007 Ann’s Petite Sirah were quite delicious.  Both wines will likely get better in the coming years as their vines mature.  Ultimately, I choose to bring a couple bottles of Petite Sirah home with me, but would have been just as happy to have the Old 900.  Congratulations to Alta Colina on their first offerings.

Having spent time at these two wineries and a special cookie company these last two days, I am invigorated.  These small operations are turning out very good offerings and their customers are truly enjoying the fruits of their owners’ labor.  As Uncorked Ventures  prepares for our fall wine club shipments, we will continue to focus on identifying and delivering top notch wines to our customers.

Take care.

 
 

 

Pier at Cayucos

Pier at Cayucos

Day three of the family vacation and everyone is still alive.  We have all vacationed together before, but the previous times have all included international travel and a lot more sightseeing.  This vacation is a lot more “chill”, which translates to us spending a heck of a lot more time together than on our previous vacations.  With less to see, we are just hanging out at the house or beach with an occasional adventure taken to another local seaside town.  All the cousins are enjoying the extended time together and the parents and grandparents are holding up just fine.

IMG_7124Yesterday, we celebrated my mom’s birthday.  Nothing too extravagant, but we did manage to have a good dinner.  In total, we ended up bbq’ing 6 racks of ribs.  I prepared 3 racks my usual way, which includes about one and half hours to two hours of smoking, with bbq sauce only being applied during the last 20 minutes or so.  My brother opted to bake his ribs for a couple hours and then finish them on the grill.  Both styles had something going for them. Of course, I preferred my ribs as they had significantly more smoke flavor.  In my book, smoke flavor = delicious.  We also served cornbread and a green salad.  It was not a white table cloth type of dinner,  but it was one of the best meals I have had in a long time given with whom I was breaking bread.

While my family isn’t big on wine, I still managed to open up a 2006 Juvenile Zinfandel from Turley Wine Cellars.   I really enjoyed the zinfandel with the ribs and their slight char.  The wine also worked well with the birthday cake, chocolate on chocolate. 

Tomorrow, I will head back up to Paso Robles and/or Templeton for some more tasting.  I have scheduled one appointment in the afternoon and will probably drop in on one or two other wineries.  As mentioned in a previous blog, I enjoy tasting wines at wineries and getting to know the staff.  These tasting aren’t too clinical, but they do give me a good sense of the quality of what is being offered.  I look forward to what I will uncover tomorrow.  More to come …

In the meantime, I hope you are enjoying your weekend as I am.  I have squeezed in a bit of work this weekend as my business partner in Uncorked Ventures and I are beginning to discuss our next trip to Napa in few weeks.  Our plan is to have three or four meetings set up with wineries we would like to partner with regarding our wine clubs and export services.  If you have any particular wineries you would like to see us partner with, just drop us a note.

Take care.

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