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What Makes a Table Wine?

I couldn’t help but think the other day-what makes for a good red table wine?

I posted part of what we wrote about Krutz and an award winning Syrah that they make the other day, but we also shipped an entry level version of their wine, a Magnolia Series red from the acclaimed Bugay Vineyard.

The Bugay Vineyard is quickly gaining a reputation for outstanding wine, especially Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc (it might be one of the top 5 vineyards in the state when it comes to Cab Franc) so it is surprising to find a red wine produced from the vineyard priced at only $20 or so.

For our wine club, it was a great fit on a couple of levels and we’ve received some really good feedback about the wine.  That being said, they market the wine as a sort of great red table wine.

What are your expectations when it comes to a table wine?  Is it simply something to drink on a Tuesday, or should it hold up to a nice steak on the BBQ as well?

Krutz Stagecoach Syrah 2009

A great example of a wine we included in our Special Selections wine club as well as part of our Reserve Selections wine club.

What it is: Krutz Stagecoach Syrah 2009

Why We shipped it: 94pts Wine Enthusiast:
A Top 100 Wine of the Year according to Wine Entusiast
What We Said: About Stagecoach Vineyard: We’ll start with the vineyard, instead of the winery simply because the vineyard is a more recognizable name.  If you were to make a list of Grand Cru vineyards in California in the same way that the French did so many years ago, Stagecoach might well be a Premier Cru spot, or in layman’s terms among the top 5 in the state.  It’s known for Cabernet Sauvignon, but  having been there ourselves and having tasted a variety of wines from in and around Atlas Peak we kept coming away impressed by the Syrah.  Stagecoach sits up a windy road, the type of wine country road where the locals will often wave at you as you go by, since there simply aren’t many tourists at the small number of wineries close to an hour’s drive up the mountainside. We wanted to feature an Atlas Peak wine at our Reserve level for a specific reason-mountain AVA’s are all the rage in Napa Valley right now and there is more plantable land on the Atlas Peak AVA than all other mountain AVA’s put together.  It’s a name you’re going to see more and more of in the coming years and Stagecoach Vineyard is one of the main reasons why.

Tasting Notes:  Stunning flavors of blackberry and blueberry liqueurs, and crème de cassis mix with traditional Syrah notes of smoked bacon, licorice, and pepper. Medium- to full-bodied on the palate with a ripe and voluptuous profile. Some oak is hiding under that Californian ripeness of the fruit, while the complexity is very northern Rhône.
Krutz Family Cellars:About Krutz Family Cellars:  Founded by Patrick Krutz who also leads the winemaknig effort, this is a young operation based out of Monterrey, California.  There is a focus on securing relationships with other family owned companies in and around the greater bay area in order to source grapes and providing value to consumers at realistic price points.  This Syrah is the type of wine, which we think equates best with what the winery does well.  Classic California in style, but at a smaller price point than you’d expect. Syrah pairs well with BBQ because of its spicy undertones and this is the type of wine which has the potential to change people’s long held opinions about Syrah.

Selling Syrah?

One aspect of our wine clubs that always brings up a lot of questions is the type of wines that we typically ship.  As you might expect, we’re probably heavy into Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Many people also expect to receive a lot of Merlot, but we’re generally more focused on Rhone varietals since we think they deliver better value overall.  Syrah is one such Rhone varietal, but there are some issues with Syrah.

Let’s start with the good stuff: Syrah can be found in world class quality for about $40 per bottle,  That’s pretty incredible and is approximately half the price of an equivalent bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% less than an equivalent bottle of Pinot Noir.  Plenty of consumers still do prefer  Cabernet to Syrah though, so there are some questions about where it can gain market share.  Pairing with BBQ makes sense given the spicy characteristics of the grape, but many consumers simply say they’d prefer Cabernet.

The thing is, most of the Syrah that we’ve all tried isn’t really good examples of the grape. Much like Cabernet, a great Syrah can be a smooth and dense wine, capable of pairing with BBQ, grilled meats and plenty of other game.  When you start getting into blends of Syrah with Grenache and Mouvedre, you’re looking some of the most interesting wine on the planet.  One of the reasons we continue to ship Syrah is that after our customers stop trying to compare the wine directly to their favorite Cabernet, it is easy to see how interesting and unique the grape really can be.  In fact, the world class Syrah that we ship, tends to receive the highest number of re-orders.

How Many Bottles?

It is one of the more interesting questions that we faced this month-how would it affect our customers if we chose to ship a single bottle shipment at our Special Selections Wine Club level instead of two bottles as we normally do?

If you were a consumer, what would you think by the change for a single month?

Personally, I wouldn’t be bothered by it.  The wine in question is made by Wine Spectator’s Winemaker of the year for 2012 and offers a 94 point score in its first vintage.  Additionally, if you wanted to buy the wine directly from the winery itself, it would have to come in 3 or 6 bottle increments.

Look, the last thing we want is to lose monthly wine club customers so we’re careful about this stuff-but shipping what we widely consider to be a top 10 wine in 2013 has to be a good decision and welcomed by most customers don’t you think?

A Couple of Cool Wine Club Add On’s

So we’re constantly talking to wineries, both on the winemaking side of the ledger, but also the marketing side as well.

We’ve seen some pretty cool promotions, that would certainly be interesting for other wineries to take advantage of, but also for consumers of course.

At the end of the day, any winery or wine club needs to provide value and consumers want to receive some good value in terms of wine, but also in terms of entertainment if they join a winery direct wine club.

1)      Movie Night: So, we’ve seen it done quite a few times as adult only functions which is fun to be sure.  What made us include winery movie nights at the top of our list though was a winery which decided to have their movie night come equipped with a kids area and babysitting service for free.  Since we’d all be paying $10+ for a sitter at home, having some type of sitting service available makes us not only more likely to attend, but likely to spend more money when we’re there!

2) Free tasting with membership.  So this works for wine clubs with in person tasting rooms as well, but overall I think any wine of the month club, wine bar or even a winery with any type of tasting room should be providing some level of free tasting when consumers who are spending multiple thousands of dollars per year, happen to come into their tasting room.

How Online Wine Club Differ From Winery Clubs

Online wine clubs and winery direct wine clubs offer two different ideas, both based on the same general concept.

First, online wine clubs are meant to serve one specific purpose-ship you high quality wine.  Sure, any wine of the month club really worth something can tell you that introducing you to new wineries is another huge positive, but really it’s about the good wine.

A winery direct wine club serves an additional purpose.  They offer a range of nice and fun events on site (most of them do actually).  Those events and the free tastings that often come with them make joining a winery direct wine club an interesting and useful choice.  If you live near one of the preeminent wine regions in the world it is even better, but your local winery deserves your support as well.

Just please don’t forget about us in the process.

What Your Wine of the Month Club Doesn’t Tell You

So here’s what your wine of the month club might not be telling you: bulk wine.

As someone who runs a wine of the month club which is at the top end of the price spectrum, we find bulk wine to be the scourge of the wine industry.  So here’s the background, after the growers vs winery battles largely fought in Napa back in the 1970’s and then the huge price kicks of the late 90’s, growers are committed to having at least 15% of their total inventory going into the bulk market.

For wineries just starting, that’s a great thing to be sure.  Of course, it’s also incredible for a wine club only interested in its bottom line.  We don’t ship bulk wine, even if it is of equal quality for a simple reason-people are paying us to discover new and exciting wineries, not to maximize profits.  Let’s be clear here, we want people to be able to travel to wine country in California, Oregon or the state of Washington and see the winemakers and vineyards which we feature in our wine club.


Bulk wine takes away the romance and the ability to visit these wineries in person.

Three White Wines Your Wine of the Month Club Should Be Including

So we previously talked about red wines that a wine of the month club should include-the inverse of course are white wines which should be included.  As you might expect, a wine of the month club is often set up to ship one red wine and one white wine.

Chardonnay: It’s the most planted white wine grape in the world for two reasons.  The varietal specific wine that we are all familiar with, as well as the sparkling wine Champagne which is most often (well exclusively in France at least) made from Chardonnay grapes.  The grape does well being made in a variety of styles from the most austere and straight forward, to the buttery and rich versions which helped California to become famous.

Sauvignon Blanc: Speaking or California, the Napa Valley region has been looking for a compliment to its huge Chardonnay plantings for some time because consumer sentiment in some corners is turning away from Chardonnay.  Sauvignon Blanc makes sense and creates a lighter and crisper version of white wine than Chardonnay does when grown in the same vineyard locations.

Riesling: A personal favorite, it’s often slightly sweet and grown to its fullest quality in Germany, both of which make the grape a tougher sell in the United States than it should be. If more vintners planted Riseling in their coolest weather growing spots, I think you’d see a dramatic rise in both the quality of domestic Riesling, but also the number of consumers looking to purchase it.  The grape has an added bonus for any wine club that non traditional wine states like Michigan and even parts of Canada should be able to produce world class versions of the varietal.

Three Wines Your Wine of the Month Club Should Be Including

One of the challenges of running our wine of the month clubs here at Uncorked Ventures is that it is difficult at times to tell what level of wine experience our customers have.

We want to ship complicated enough wines that our wine club customers will find something they find interesting and unique, but we don’t want to be so complicated that people who consider themselves to be entry level when it comes to wine are scared off by our three different wine of the month club options.

In any case, in our view any wine of the month club should be featuring these three wines which we find please both the experienced wine consumer as well as those who are tasting some of their first wines.

Cabernet Sauvignon: Called the “King” of red wine by a number of people, there is a good reason for the nickname.  It is not only the wine which gains the highest price per bottle, the highest price average but it also has the most plantings over the course of the last decade.

Pinot Noir: Yes, it’s one of the most talked about red wine grapes right now because of both marketing acumen but also because it is more complicated than many red wine choices.  That complexity is a good thing since wine drinkers are drinking a wider range of wines at earlier ages, meaning they are ready to be challenged by wine more than our parents generation happened to be.

Syrah: So, we all thought it was set to be the next big thing.  Simple right? The quality is incredible, but wineries can’t sell it.  Consumers don’t see the real difference between Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, except for some spice.  The quality for the price though is still off the charts when compared to other wines.

I hope you enjoyed this short intro into wine varietals that your wine of the month club should be shipping!