When 2 Napa pals team up, wine is Available, Complicated and Taken


Carlo Trinchero, left, and Josh Phelps

Carlo Trinchero, left, and Josh Phelps use social media to connect with millennials to market their wines under the Taken, Complicated and Available brands. (Images courtesy of Trinchero Family Estates)

Taken, Complicated and Available may be unlikely names for wine brands, but millennials probably get it — they are words that relate to your dating status at social media web sites and they get easy approval from the feds because they are not taken by other wineries.

Josh Phelps, 30, and Carlo Trinchero, 29, launched Taken Wine Company in 2009, relying on social media to bond with wine drinkers their age. They kicked off their venture with a seriously sculpted Red Wine blend from Napa Valley under the Taken brand, and then added the Complicated Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Red Wine, followed by two Available wines from Italy — a Pinot Grigio and sangiovese-based Red Blend.

“Our wines are reasonably priced, but not cheap,” said Phelps on a recent stop in Detroit. “Theyavailable_pinot_grigio[1] are lighthearted and fun, but are made to be taken seriously.” Indeed. The 2013 Taken Red Wine collected 90 points from Wine Spectator and the 2014 Complicated Chardonnay won 92 points from Wine Enthusiast this month.

And the back story? Josh Phelps is the son of Chris Phelps, a highly regarded winemaker of Napa Valley and Bordeaux wines who was founding winemaker at Dominus Estate in Napa Valley, and went on to make wine at Caymus and Swanson. Carlo is a third-generation member of the Trinchero family, which founded Sutter Home in 1948 in Napa Valley and set off the blush wine craze in the 1970s with White Zinfandel. Since then, the Trinchero family has expanded their land holdings to build an empire of fine wines under Trinchero Family Estates, including Taken Wine Company, which was added to their portfolio in 2013.

Phelps and Trinchero grew up together in the Napa wine town of St. Helena, went their own ways as adults but nurtured the dream of doing a business together. Phelps takes care of sales and marketing of the wines, Trinchero is the winemaker. They have grown the three brands to a hefty 50,000 cases a year.

These wines are available at Holiday Market in Royal Oak. They also are available at the Taken web site and from online wine sellers.

Available Pinot Grigio IGT Puglia, Italy 2014, $13: Puglia is in southern Italy on the Adriatic Coast where it’s sunny and hot. This means the grapes will produce richer, fuller wines with more body and alcohol, like this example. It’s got those citrus-herbal notes you expect but also tropical fruit — pineapple and melon. It’s clean and refreshing — perfect for summer seafood.

Available Red Blend IGT Puglia, Italy 2013, $13: This is a terrific bargain, just like the Pinot Grigio. It’s a blend of 50 percent Sangiovese filled out with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It has bright dark berry flavors with spice and notes of licorice and plum.

fyi: The Available label is intended to give Josh Phelps and Carlo Trinchero the opportunity to source grapes from around the world, not just California.

Complicated Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2014, $18: For Chardonnay lovers who like crisp acidity, good structure, alcohol that’s not over the top and French oak that’s not like chomping on wooden staves — you might fall in love with this one. It’s dry, almost austere, with white peach, white nectarine and apricot fruit and an underlying stony minerality.

Complicated Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2014, $20: The words “Sonoma Coast” are magic — that is where good winemakers head for cool-climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. This Pinot, which Wine Enthusiast gave 91 points, is dry, with a firm spine of acidity, dark berry/cherry fruit with a little bit of spicy ginger. It has good weight and fruit without being jammy.

Complicated Red Wine Central Coast 2014, $18: Such ripe, juicy tannins, creamy texture, bright fruit flavors and spice. It’s so easy-drinking. It’s tailor-made for pizzas, pastas with red sauce, any kind of burgers on the grill. It’s a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignane.

Taken Red Wine Napa Valley 2013, $39: Dig around the Internet for the best price on this one — it will be worth your time. This beauty has structure and complexity; the intense fruit wakes up every taste bud in your mouth; tannins are soft with gentle grip; oak is seamlessly woven. Think dark currant, blueberry, chocolate and plum with notes of expresso and toasty oak. Inhale that cigar-box tone. The wine is 60 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 40 percent Merlot. It’s evenly divided between mountain fruit and valley floor.

You can reach Sandra Silfven at ssilfven@hotmail.com.