By Alexa Chipman November 6, 2017
Disclaimer: I received six complimentary bottles as a sample shipment and dinner with four additional pours.
Winemakers are scientists and artists; giving them the freedom to explore without worrying about marketing or crafting a brand allows them to try new ideas and create what they have a vision for. Naked Wines fills a niche for directly supporting winemakers, allowing them an opportunity for expression and the ability to start their own label. They add approximately 300 wines per year from independent winemakers.
Their core group of “angel” investors has grown popular enough to have a waiting list and is known internationally. Rather than a traditional wine club, which is usually pre-ordering from a specific winery, it is closer to crowd funding. The “angels” deposit $40 per month that they can use to purchase wine from a variety of regions and winemakers.
As part of the Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Rosa, I was given a chance to taste a sample shipment of their wines.
Jacqueline Bahue Albariño (2016) Gomes Vineyard California
Succulent melon with a hint of grapefruit aroma melds into a tart combination of ripe pink grapefruit and honeysuckle in full bloom that gives this wine a tangy, refreshing flavor.
ROX Scott Peterson Chardonnay (2016) Sonoma Coast
With a mulled holiday cauldron aroma of spicy orange zest and bruised peaches, it hints at the rich apricot flavor, although its finish of petroleum I did not care for.
ROX Scott Peterson Pinot Noir (2016) Sonoma Coast
Dark color plumes into a damp forest of mulberries and earthy bark. It is sweeter than I expected, with syrupy molasses transforming into a punch of dark berries at the end.
Ken and Derek “Crowdpleazin” Zinfandel (2016) Dry Creek Valley
Its deep current scent with wafts of cedar is intoxicating, becoming a strong balance of berries and damp woody notes. I admit to being fond of Zinfandel puns, and this one had me laughing when I saw the label.
Ken Deis Cabernet Sauvignon (2015) Napa Valley
A freshly picked bucket of blackberries and strawberries with slight layer of burnt toast is a standby combination. I am not usually a Cabernet enthusiast, but this was enjoyably mild as a table wine.
ROX Scott Peterson Cabernet Sauvignon (2015) Sonoma
Smoked wood groves surround an intense rush of oak flavor with mayonnaise dipped artichoke that lingers in a savory cascade with this powerful wine.
While none of the flight was exceptional, I did enjoy the Albariño and Zinfandel. Sparkling wines are where they shine; if you enjoy a frothy bubbly, I recommend selecting that as a shipment. If I was a member, the next step would be to go online and rate the wines, much like Netflix. Thumbs up would suggest similar tasting varietals for future shipments, while a thumbs down and dissatisfaction results in a refund and the system would steer me away from that sort of wine. People have definite tastes, I have witnessed passionate discussions over oaked versus stainless aged chardonnay, for example, so a thumbs down does not necessarily mean the wine itself is poor.
I met with winemaker Alexandra Farber, who created 5,000 cases of the delicious Miriam Alexandra Chenin Blanc; Naked Wines gave the opportunity to put her skills to work. She purchased grapes from Clarksburg, and used the top-notch equipment and tanks at LangeTwins which she describes as “perfectly sized and chilled.” She became Head of Planning at the company, due to the rare combination of business and hands-on wine industry knowledge from her time as an enologist at wineries in Napa Valley.
While membership is currently closed, you will receive three bottles for adding your name to the wait list. This is an intriguing alternative to wine club membership, especially if you do not live geographically near a wine region. Naked Wines is not necessarily cheaper than similar options, think of it as a way to support winemakers who want to step out on their own, providing the resources and funding that they need.