General Overview of Wine Varieties Series on My YouTube Channels – James Melendez

Being a large creator of video and written content it is hard to keep track of it all.  I do revisit the topics that I have published.  I thought it important to highlight the videos that I created as it relates to a general education on specific wine grape varieties.  In general I don’t watch my videos after I review before publishing–I like most people in video don’t want to see themselves again for a lot of reasons.  However, I did look at the General Overview of Pinot Noir (Long Version) I noted that I created a 10 minute video in one take–no editing!?  Well in the old days–just a few ago I would film my videos over and over until I found I didn’t need to edit.  But the technique of perfect taping is very hard and extremely time consuming.  I found that I have had plenty of content and it was time for the big “E” editing to save time and after reviewing videos most people on YouTube edit their content for optimum viewing.

I covered a lot of well known varieties (Bordeaux, Rhône) and a few that are still relatively not common (Juhfark, Rkatsiteli, etc.).   I have more general overview videos to make.

Here are all my videos in the General Overview series (32).

Take a look.

Thank you!

James

 

Salud!

Demystifying Wine…One Bottle at a Time from all wine regions around the world.

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526 Million Reasons PA House Bill 466 was Vetoed

Prohibition (or the continuous effect of post-prohibition) is still alive and kicking in Pennsylvania and especially with Governor Tom Wolf at the helm.  Governor Wolf vetoed House Bill 466 because as it says on his website “In the most recent case of another state that pursued the outright privatization of liquor sales, consumers saw higher prices and less selection.”  I am not so sure this governor or even a governor is completely concerned about wine, beer and spirits pricing for their citizens.  And I am not sure any governor cares about their public have a lesser selection.  Living in California where private off-premise establishments have demonstrated a considerable assortment in that if you don’t find what you are seeking at one retailer might be available at another. And California is not the only US state to have privately run stores where competition is thriving and is the norm.  Competition is quite effective in keeping pricing down and selection optimized.  State run stores quite often only feature larger producers–bowing only slightly to smaller producers to show a fuller assortment but truly don’t have the interest or call to reach to a larger set of smaller producers.

I remember one memorable meal I had in Philadelphia only a couple of years ago.  I wanted to sit down and enjoy a nice lunch but when I asked for a glass of wine I was pointed to go to that corner and order from the state run store.  So going over to the state run store to order a 375 ml bottle there was very little choice–I could only order by the bottle not by the glass.  I didn’t want a whole bottle 750 ml so my choice was drastically limited and the awkwardness of simultaneously ordering my food and then stepping away from my table to get my wine was something I contemplated giving up and chalking it up to ‘only in Pennsylvania’.

Looking at Governor Tom Wolf’s statement I looked at Washington state because that is his reference point; when Washington privatized liquor sales it also took a sharp northerly turn as it relates to liquor taxes (some of the highest in the US and Washington has traditionally always has had a very high general sales tax).  But I looked at one particular product which shows two things–great variability in pricing across each of the fifty states but also shows great competitive forces especially during holiday times.  Veuve Clicquot both a darling and demon for the off-premise community–easy(ier) to sell than most Champagnes (often sells itself whereas another brand perhaps lesser known takes a greater effort to hand sell) a demon because the competitive forces especially during holiday time drag margins way down–sometimes to low single digits. Pricing for Cliquot at state run stores in Pennsylvania that I saw on their website is $49.99 and in Arizona at Total Wine is $41.97 (same size) some 16% percent cheaper in Arizona.

Governor Wolf also mentions “It makes bad business sense for the Commonwealth and consumers to sell off an asset, especially before maximizing its value” Does this mean expansion of Pennsylvania’s chain of stores? Drive higher margins?  Creating operational efficiencies and/or increasing share of market pie for liquor sales in Pennsylvania?   There is very little clarity to this statement–it would nice to know what Wolf means by this.  Ultimately, Governor Wolf has $526 million reasons (2014 net profit from the Commonwealth’s wine and spirits retail empire)  to never privatize liquor in Pennsyvlania.  While the legislature agreed to privatization Wolf did not.  I am not sure there will be a time in the future that everything aligns for this this to ever happen in the Commonwealth.  There is only a great disincentive to privatize and Pennsylvania does not have the willpower to kick the bottle.

Salud!

Demystifying Wine…One Bottle at a Time from all wine regions around the world.

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Another Milestone for James the Wine Guy on YouTube – James Melendez

I have reached over 200,000 views today (7-July-2015).  I see this on my backend metrics and you will see this in a few days on your public view of my channel; there is a lag and I am not sure why that lag exists.

More importantly reaching over 200,000 views in the wine category on YouTube is very hard to achieve.   Wine does not match spirits or beer or food for that matter in terms of click rate.  The Audience is not ‘Listening” to Wine Videos on YouTube…Yet is an article I wrote talking about improvements for content for wine videos.  I believe there is an audience but has not found the content they are seeking on YouTube.  Also audiences are seeking a high quality content.  And then a unique feature that wine has that beer or spirits doesn’t have; significantly larger number of labels as well as something called vintage.  Also, there are so many wine labels produced each year that only a very small fraction are covered on YouTube.  Very important in that if one searches for two or three bottles they would like more information one–likely that content does not exist.

I think there is a problem with many people starting wine vlogs/video is that they abandon their channels.  They abandon their channels because of low click rates but that is unfortunate as I think most video producers have low(er) click rates and the necessary ingredient that few producers recognize is the need to build a community.  There is a big void on quality wine content and that doesn’t mean there aren’t good producers of wine video content–it means there are only a handful of producers covering a very gigantic category.  Some wine video producers do well because they have a name coming from the print world – Jancis Robinson.  Ironically, Jancis Robinson has a video on YouTube entitled  “Jancis wonders how wine is best tackled on video” and she express doubt by saying she was “slightly put off by the standard format” of wine videos.  While Jancis says that wine is not a spectator sport–I have looked at the beer, spirits, even the coffee and tea world as being successful in that approach and perhaps this could be helpful for wine.

From what I have seen of her videos–she has a tow deep in the YouTube world but I think her commitment is print.  She has 230,000 total channel clicks–I have 30,000 more to catch up.  I think the miss is to not recognize what YouTube is in terms of social media.  YouTube has been influential and taking market share of all traditional broadcast media channels in the US.  YouTube has been a great phenomenon of how people communicate and express themselves.  If wine is viewed not just as an object but as a subject this will attract a greater following.

Gary Vaynerchuk, the now retired darling of the wine world, made appealing content that helped to make him widely recognized vlogger.  His approach was unorothordox and I am sure his demo was a segment that skewed perhaps drinking age to mid-30s, male, New York Jets fans who liked wine.  I remember stumbling on his channel and his click rate was small and in some videos today small when compared with some producers of beer and Scotch videos.  But what made Gary more visible and successful is that he worked to make a community of viewers not just a random act of viewing.

While Gary was very successful as a wine vlogger I do think his demo’s didn’t cover everyone.  And, in fact, wine in itself does not have category killers as it relates to wine video producers.  I don’t think any one person can do that.  But that is good news for the rest of us.  As there is a need for more producers of wine video content.

Back to me; I have seen content types that I won’t repeat like videos of wine events, no one wants to see a wine event happened that they are not attending.  When I am at a group setting video someone talking about their wines.  I much prefer to do a video with that person especially in interview format.  I have found trying to collaborate with other people hard to do because there are many people who don’t want to make or be in a video.  But I am still interested in this format.

I do look forward to making more wine video content and to continue to build a community.  So stayed tuned for more and thank you for watching my videos on YouTube!

Salud!

Demystifying Wine…One Bottle at a Time from all wine regions around the world.

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Wine Twitterers and the Great Race for Followers

And they are off… the proverbial horse race known as the league of getting large number of followers on Twitter has become more so in the past 6 months then ever before. Since Twitters earliest days wine has been a very sticky and compelling subject matter. The subject matter “wine” has had a lot attractors – whether the Twitter handle is a wine interested person, producer, promoter, writer, reviewer, etc. From data sets that I have collected over time, the wine category tends to attract followers on the order of 5 times a non-wine subject.

The great followers race of wine and Twitter is simply this that wine Twitters are adding followers by following at an unprecedented rate. While this might not be a headliner–it is noticeable and made me question – why? Most people and especially as it relates to wine are trying to garner their position, voice and authority. Having a lot of followers is not a recipe for success in fact collecting and attracting followers for followers sake is truly the art of building an empty empire. Having a large Twitter following by developing a community as well as brand building is altogether a different proposition. A true mark of success of where there is a bonafide community of wine interested people is when there is an actual community. I have looked at a few wine Twitterers that have followers above 50,000 and have noted in a short period of time that these have been built up quite quickly.

One wine Twitterer has 215,000 followers and is following over 180,000 Twitter handles. I randomly selected a few of the people he is following to see what those individuals wine or even allied subjects like food or travel might reveal about the people he is following. In many of his followings seems to be a good portion who have no interest in wine, food, travel or anything slightly related. The best way to look at that is not the bio but look at actual tweets to verify any wine interest whatsoever. And the following to follower rate seems to be a constant addition of people constantly.

There is another wine Twitterer who has 100,000 followers and gloats about his days at a well known brand that has no affiliation with wine whatsoever. His involvement in wine can best analyzed as someone with at best a wink and not terribly well tied up interest in wine.

I am not picking on the above but they are quite noticeable Twitter handles. There are plenty of more examples of Twitter wine people building a non-organic base of followers–in fact there are so many I cannot mention all of the examples. I have more than the average wine subject matter Twitter handle but I have not been working on getting numbers for numbers sake as it relates to followers. In the end the fruit of follower creation is a considerable waste of time for those individuals when they squandered time in not developing a community and brand.

¡Salud!

James Melendez

James the Wine Guy

“Demystifying Wine—One Bottle at a Time”
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Grape Expectations: Social Media and the Full Spectrum of Content Expectation – James Melendez

There is a great expectation in wine as it relates to content and that too has a relationship to social media.  The ‘wine blogger’ has been a term for anyone had talked about wine regardless of channel or media type.  I have been lumped in as a ‘wine blogger’ but I have resisted this term and label for sometime and I will continue to resist.  I have had a wide range of interest and experience in wine: marketing, direction, judging, reviewing, education, writing and the business end of wine.

I have thought that the term ‘wine blogger’ has become antiquated.  The European Wine Bloggers changing their name to the Digital Wine Communications Conference. I liked the name change and I think in time the US version will have to update it’s name.

I have completed both a considerable amount of both written material on my WordPress site – over 3,000 pieces and over 2,060 videos on my YouTube channel.  My content creation isn’t about quantity but a desire to cover this immense subject.  Though I did feel over time in writing that I needed to supplement the written word for the video word.  I do think there is a large amount of interest in video–not from producers rather consumers.   I have said many times before there are tens of thousands if not several hundred thousand wines released per year.  Wine is a peculiar and of course alluring category–a unique feature of being more than often a vintage product as well a very limited product.  Hence there are very few wine video compared to the actual number of topics or even labels.  I think many consumers come to YouTube and actually walk away and stop engaging the wine category because search over search does not yield content to their interest.

I do think video is a logical extension of the written word. This subject is an emotional one where video can cover it quite well–many want to see an emotional touch or what is the emotional read on a particular wine or subject about wine.

Looking at Jancis Robinson as it relates to video I can only glean that there is not much of an interest in video–perhaps it was an after thought or that video content didn’t need much preping, editing and getting ready for optimum playback.  She has over 1,800 subscribers and over 227,000 hits and her last video upload was a year ago.   Jancis’ completed a video entitled: “Jancis wonders how wine is best tackled on video” and the message I took away was one of skepticism and that skepticism truly shows in all her videos.  Jancis can be a bit fussy and her skepticism on video is not looking at what consumers want but only what she thinks.  When it comes to video consumers are seeking new ideas, thoughts on wine, validation, solution and personality, etc.  I think Jancis is truly showing her print only preference and that is okay that is her preferred style.  I don’t think Jancis has the personality or vision for video and that is okay.  I personally seek to build out content to match my brand.

James Suckling’s YouTube presence has garnered him 1,141 subscribers and over 237,000 views.  Suckling’s video content seems sporadic and no general cadence.  I see the 100 point Lalique videos which feels more like product placement than an actual review.  Both James and Jancis both completed videos with Gary (yes, that Gary) –it would be interesting to know whom invited whom?   The Suckling video shows him tasting with Gary and then what feels like an awkward moment he pays for the wine they both drunk at Gary’s family wine store; I can say for myself I had no interest in that and I won’t speculate on the reason–what ever the reason this video and the entire content not necessarily interesting.  The anointed drinking with someone who wishes to be?

My YouTube channel stats – 800 subscribers and over 190,000 views and I am a stone’s throw from James Suckling and Jancis Robinson.  While James Suckling is still producing videos and it looks like Jancis Robinson is either on hiatus or has stopped producing videos overall.  I do think at some point this year I will surpass Jancis and I may Suckling.   I only found this data points when I was looking on a larger view of the wine community on YouTube.  I was surprised by the numbers and how close I am to their metrics.

I am after all an underdog because I don’t have either prominence or recognition that either has been luxuriously afforded.

Ultimately, video is important and the audience is not necessarily there yet but I do think at least for myself I have been building community person by person.  Without a concerted, deliberate and high quality videos the full spirit of a diverse wine content will be elusive.  I am optimistic–I have been and continue to be.  The surface has yet to be scratched.

¡Salud!

James Melendez

James the Wine Guy

“Demystifying Wine—One Bottle at a Time”

© 2015 James Meléndez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content and logo and all designs.

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Dreaming of Bierzo and Mencia… A Delightful Visit to Tilenus – James Melendez

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The distinctive and historic flag of Castilla y León.

 

 

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Map of Bierzo D.O.

 

 I am all about worldly wines… wines from around the corner to the furthest ends.  Wine I think is seemingly an unfolding story–an old story both ancient and quite new all at the same time.  Ancient because the wine trail is a constant unwinding story of tradition, merriment and intertwined with food culture for at least six millennia but new because of a constant refinement of this beverage art form.

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The Castle of the the Knight’s Templar

 

 My latest further reach was to visit Bierzo D.O. in northwest Spain in Castilla y  León.  In the collective imagination it is hard to think of red wine in this part of Spain.  That is due in part to Albariño and this white wine grape thriving in Galicia in Rias Baixas.  Galicia being an solidly Atlantic Spanish region and Albariño popularity takes that share of imagination of what is grown in northwest Spain.  I think the collective imagination of the most northerly regions for red wines are Ribera del Duero and Rioja.  I have known about Mencia for quite sometime and yet it was only a little over a half decade ago I got my first glass of Mencia.

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Pablo Frias, GM of Bodegas Estefania

 

 

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 Mencia is a grape found in several regions in Spain: Bierzo, Ribeira Sacra, Valdeorras and Liébana; Jaen (Portuguese name) has been DNA fingerprinted as being Mencia.  Mencia has about 10 synonyms and an exact relationship to other Vitis vinifera grapes has yet to be established.  One thought of Mencia is that it is a clone of Cabernet Franc and that had perhaps transported via the Camino de Santiago.  Ponferrada is the capital of the El Bierzo in the Province of León; a very historic and charming city on several crossroad: Camino de Santiago, the Knights Templar castle, mining and viti-viniculture all come together here.  Bodegas Estefania whose label is Tilenus is quartered in Ponferrada.  The Tilenus label features several very fine Mencia wines as well as Godello – the first in class wine grapes in Bierzo D.O.

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 Bodegas Estefania founded in 1999 is producing 200,000 bottles (16,666 cases) per year are devoted to Mencia. The label name Tilenus is a Latin name for Teleno a name for an ancient Celtiberian god that Roman’s dedicated to Mars.  The label name and ancient coin on each label truly pays homage to this part of Spain’s ancient history.

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The Ancient Vines of Finca La Florida

 

Bodegas Estefania produces a very small production of 10-15,000 bottles (1,250 cases) maximum per year of Godello.   Over 80% of all of the grapes utilized are from estate vineyards of Bodegas Estefania and 20% is purchased from wine grape growers where there has been a long relationship.  Pablo Frias, the General Manager, spoke about the emphasis of keeping production levels at the current rate and that quality is the vanguard of the Tilenus label.  Pablo mentioned that the aging potential for Godello is approximately 10 years and Mencia up to 20 years but Bodegas Estefania has yet to reach that anniversary but will do so shortly.  From what I have tasted I do think Mencia does have good aging capability and I look forward to tasting Tilenus wines when they reach that 20th vintage. I was privileged to the their 2002 bottling known as Tilenus Pieros–so this was the glimmer of how the wines age with grace.

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Doing my Favourite Thing of A Site Visit in Late Spring

 

 Bodegas Estefania has about 30 hectares (74 acres)–I was fortunate to have visited Finca La Florida in late March.  The weather was chilly 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit / 7-10 degrees Celsius on a very moist day.  The transport was via truck to the steep hillside of Finca La Florida of very old vines 60-90 years old.  Being at Finca La Florida for me was to appreciate the coolness, the moist earth of clay, sand, and slate.  As I have mentioned before that I love wine regions in winter, early spring and late Fall–these are moments to be in touch with the vineyards renaissance and promise.  And I was keenly aware of the warm days that will blanket this vineyard with essential sunshine and heat.  This is a continental climate and a dash of influence from the Atlantic.

I was excited to taste Tilenus by themselves, with Tapas as well as a very wonderful meal of regional cuisine in stone town of Castrillo de Los Polvazares, This town reminded me of New Mexico in the U.S.  New Mexico with it’s roots in The Spanish settlers still has things for me reminiscent of New Mexico.  I was thinking of Acoma Sky City with it’s ancient homes and church high atop a high elevation Mesa.  This stone town and I cannot find a reference as to how old it its –this town feels very ancient and special.

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The stone church here in Castrillo de Los Polvazares has very large nests on bell tower where there are resident storks.

 

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Tasting the cuisine in Castrillo de Los Povazares in a style known as Cocido Maragato. I have eaten a large number of regional cuisines in Spain but this for me was so different and unique from other cuisine styles. The meal starts off heavy and then goes to lighter dishes.  I was eating this meal with the team from Bodegas Estefania and Tilenus wines and other wine writers the following dishes La Ración consisting of sausage, chicken, pork shoulder, pork cheek and ears.  I was able to taste the 2002 Tilenus Bierzo Pieros Mencia–a hauntingly memorable wine and hope to be fortunate to taste once again.

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Here are the wines I had paired with fantastic fare from Castillo y Leon that made such an impression on me:

Tilenus Bierzo Godello – 2013 – 9.2 (92)

9.2
2 vineyard sites 20 years old vines.
Scent characteristics:  yellow citrus tones, tea, sesame, wild flower honey and mineral
Flavour profile:  lemon, white peach, sesame, tea, and white flower.

Tilenus Bierzo Vendemia –  2014 – 9.0 (90)

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Scent characteristics: Black cherry, bay leaf dicideous forest and lavender

Flavour profile:  Tayberry, wild strawberry, cinnamon and hint of Thyme

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***

Tilenus Bierzo Mencia – 2011 – 9.2 (92)

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Scent characteristics: Red cherry, hint of game, crashed red candy, blackberry and suede

Flavour profile: Tayberry, strawberry preserve, Cardamom and hint of red pepper

***

Tilenus Bierzo Mencia – 2010 – 9.2 (92)

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Scent characteristics: lavender, graphite, germanium, and rose petals
Flavour profile:  warm black plum, strawberry, and baking spices pepper

***

Tilenus Bierzo Mencia – 2008 – 9.3 (93)

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Scent characteristics: black/blueberry pie, hint of dark flower floral garden.
Flavour profile:  blackberry, very slight hint of Ethiopian coffee

Tilenus Bierzo Finca La Florida Mencia – 2008 – 9.4 (94)

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Scent characteristics: Blackberry, cassis, rose garden in afternoon heat, leather, Ethiopian coffee and geranium
Flavour profile:  long and complex strawberry and blackberry tones, anise, Cardamom and clove

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***

Tilenus Bierzo Pagos de Posada Bierzo Mencia – 2006 – 9.4 (94)

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Scent characteristics: blackberry, strawberry, game and leather bound books
Flavour profile: pulsating acidity, strawberry, cassis, pepper, clove and graphite.

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***

Tilenus Bierzo Reserva Mencia – 2007 – 9.5 (95)

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This wine spends one year barrel and two years in bottle

Scent characteristics: black berry, red tea and thick forest
Flavour profile:  blackberry, Acai, tea, pepper, cinnamon stick and Black Krim Tomato

***

Tilenus Bierzo Pieros Mencia – 2002 – 9.6 (96)

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The grand dame of fine Mencia.

Scent characteristics: Blackberry confit, mountain strawberry, raspberry, cinnamon, rose petal and hint of forest.

Flavour profile: Cassis, Tayberry, blackberry Coulis, Heirloom coffee, sweet spices and lavender

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****

Tilenus is one of the finest producers of Mencia in Spain. A must experience producer.

¡Salud!

James Melendez

James the Wine Guy

Website for Tilenus

Bodegas Estefania
http://www.tilenus.com/

MGWines Group

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http://mgwinesgroup.com/?lang=en

“Demystifying Wine—One Bottle at a Time”

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World Wide Wine Day – 1-July-2015 – To Celebrate All Varieties – James Melendez / James the Wine Guy

World Wide Wine Day Rev

 

I am in favour of all wine variety days.  While I think many groups want to represent their flagship wine varieties.  I think there have been so many in the past half decade.  I do think that because there are so many and probably many more to come it becomes harder to rally for all grape varieties on separate days.  I think most people are so busy that to celebrate every wine grape day might be an impossibility.

While the top and most widely produced grapes get their own day – 99% of other wine grape varieties never have their day in the limelight.

I had thought of a specific day where the entire wine category is important to celebrate.  To celebrate all varieties, all wine making tradition, all regions and all styles on one day a year.  I envisioned 1-July of every years as a great day since it is the day that toasts the first half of the year and looks forward to remaining portion of the year left.

I noticed all the sudden an interest on a Like page I created on Facebook.  For the longest time and I did give up for a bit of time that there was no interest.  Now this renewed interest seems to be blossoming.

There can only be a World Wide Wine Day only if you want there to be one and if you think it is important.

Celebrations can have the following elements:

  • Proclamations
  • Festivals
  • A Twitter tasting
  • Trending in Tweets – #WorldWideWineDay #1-July-2015
  • On and off-premise events
  • A Facebook community – give a like: – https://www.facebook.com/pages/World-Wide-Wine-Day/124594817597294

It’s time to celebrate, taste and learn about known and soon to be known wine regions, wine grapes that are rarely tasted and rarely get any publicity, renew interest in popular wine grape varieties.

Tweet me if you have idea or a comment: https://twitter.com/JamesTheWineGuy

Add comments on how you will celebrate World Wide Wine Day this year: https://www.facebook.com/pages/World-Wide-Wine-Day/124594817597294

Old videos when I tried to launch this day several years ago:

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Bodegas Lavia – A World Class Monastrell Producer – James Melendez / James the Wine Guy

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I’m in front of Bodegas Lavia in the middle of the vineyard.

 

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I was fortunate enough to put my foot on ground in Bullas, D.O in Murcia, Spain to experience a world class producer of Monastrell: Bodegas Lavia  I think the most amazing thing is to visit a wine country in it’s pre-budding period–for me the wetter and the cooler season is often more memorable than peak growing season because I have to use my imagination of what I see and what I taste.  And simply the focus is not a wandering mind due to ideal weather but because the cool and moist weather makes my mind focus on the subject at hand.  I have a greater appreciation for this site when I tasted finished wines and see a cool and yet-to-bud vineyard and for me there is nothing so inspiring.  Bodegas Lavia is panoramic and the site and winery are immaculate–showing a constant attention of both site and facility is a labour of love which reflected back to each bottle I tasted.  Bodegas Lavia’s logo depicts the peak that represents the landscape and combination of climate, weather, soil type and a neighbouring forest of pine trees to help the ecosystem retain moisture.

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The beautiful peak logo on each label of Bodegas Lavia

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Barrel cactus in front of the Bodegas Lavia

 

It is time for more Monastrell!  Monastrell from Bullas is a grape that found the right region and the region found the right grape.  Monastrell (Mourvèdre) is a grape that in my opinion selects the region where it is planted or better said Monastrell is defined by being planted in the optimum region.  Southeast Spain is a great place for Monastrell and Bullas is an optimum region.  Nicely hot the way Monastrell likes in the summer and excellent soil content make for the right conditions.  The best of fruit does not always yield the best of wine; the best fruit and the best wine makers makes for outstanding wine.  I had the honour and privilege to visit Bodegas Lavia with winemaker Sebastien Boudon.  Sebastien lets a combination of judiciousness and balance to produce wines that have a full sense of art, place and variety that result in memorable wines that put Bodegas Lavia on the world wine map.

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Sebastien Boudon giving us a sample from barrel

 

When I think of the many Monastrell (Mourvèdre) I have tasted in the past half decade have landed often on a singular note: Chocolate.  I kept thinking that this variety was stuck on the chocolate note and no other.  I thought–how nice–I’ll keep this variety in mind when I need a full throttle chocolate experience.  There is nothing wrong with this note as I have tasted many a variety with a hint of chocolate, however, this note was amongst many other characteristics.   My experience in Bullas and Alicante has changed my view of Monastrell (Mourvèdre) as there is a great liveliness that expresses a delightful texture and depthful complexity.  I love the complexity of Monastrells from Lavia–each held symbolic and symphonic notes of black/blue fruit, intense red floral, winter spices and fresh herbs.  I love complexity in wines and to do get there does not mean using intense toasting of barrels but rather a balance of barrels and toasting signatures.  The stylzation that Sebastian creates is an homage to the best for this regions but also an overall of great expression but not at the expense of excess but of absolute authenticity.  Sebastian employs native yeast, a posture to not overly extract fruit in maceration, French barrels and ho heavy toasting, and non-reliance on new barrels.  The coopers in the barrel room range from François Frerers, Boutes, Remond, to Redoux.  No one in Bullas D.O. has the same touch and depth of experience as does Sebastien Boudon–a master Monatrell wine maker.

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Sebastien Boudon – Wine Maker (Center) and fellow wine writer Liza Swift – Brix Chicks (Right)

 

 

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Finca Paso Malo

 

Bullas D.O. is 2,500 hectares / 6,100 acres and became a DO (Denominación de Origen) in 1994.  Though a long time wine grape producing region it has come a long way to become a region of high quality and artistically driven wines.  Bodegas Lavia is easily one of the flagship producers of the region.  While Monastrell is king here–the regions also produces Syrah, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Viura.  The Oxford Companion to Wine gives a very very brief paragraph about Bullas which is both unfortunate and telling–unfortunate in that it is a big miss to not talk about this regions fine wines and telling insofar as not either viewing or experiencing this regions to document the beautiful craft of winemaking that is happening here and now.  When I see all too brief entries it appears to be an assessment of the region and/or perhaps not paying attention.  Soil composition in Bullas is limestone and alluvium and unlike many agricultural crops–Vitis vinifera either does okay if the soil is not optimum or thrives if the soil type allows for proper growth, nutrition and access to water.  Bodegas Lavia has a great set of soil and climate circumstances to support outstanding old vines.  The vines in Finca Paso Malo are 50 years old Monastrell vines, other sites of Lavia include 40 year old Monastrell and 16 year old Syrah vines.

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Beautiful metamorphic rock found at Finca Paso Malo

 

On this trip, I tasted many tissues from pork to chicken to fish and I tasted with Monastrell.  As I have tasted Tempranillo with many fish dishes–the harmony and matching capability of Monastrell was a definitive experience.  Spain is alive with great wine to pair with a lively food culture. I had one experience of tasting Paella and Monastrell and the pairing was superb–neither got lost in the mix–instead a complement to each other.   While Bodegas Lavia’s wines can be enjoyed without food–my optimum experience with these wines is to taste and enjoy with food.

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Squid and Squid Ink

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Bacalao

 

Here are a list of wines that I got to taste with my point scores.  I did taste a couple of barrel samples and they were near their time to be bottled:

Lavia Bullas Monastrell-Syrah 2004 – 9.4

9.4

Monastrell is the lead partner of 80% to 20% Syrah

Scent characteristics: Wild strawberry, cedar, cherry and leather bound library

Flavour notes: Strawberry, white pepper, cassis and cardamom.

 

Lavia Bullas Monastrell-Syrah – 2006 9.4

Monastrell is the lead partner of 80% to 20% Syrah

Scent characteristics: Boysenberry, ancient forest, cassis, and underbrush

Flavour notes: Bright cherry, Black Krim tomato, cardamom and hint of chocolate

 

Lavia Bullas Monastrell-Syrah 2009 – 9.3

9.3

Monastrell is the lead partner of 80% to 20% Syrah

Scent characteristics: Blackberry, strawberry, cinnamon, spice rack, and violets

Flavour notes: Cherry, strawberry, hint of chocolate, pepper, cinnamon stick

Lavia Bullas Monastrell-Syrah 2010 9.3 (93)

9.3

Monastrell is the lead partner of 80% to 20% Syrah

Scent characteristics: Tayberry raspberry, tart red cherry, rustic wood pile and hint of suede

Favour notes: Tayberry, raspberry cardamom, cinnamon, brittle, and hint of Thyme

 

Lavia+ Bullas Finca Paso Malo Monastrell 2009 (95)

9.5

Scent characteristics: Allspice, Licorice, hint of Cacao, game

Favour notes: Cassis, blackberry, mineral, Bay leaf and hint of lavender

 

This tasting highlighted old vine Monastrell as well as how it ages–these wines need not be consumed right away.  The aging potential of Monastrell of Lavia wines has promise.  I was delighted to taste wines a wine 11 years old–no sign of weakening but rather a wine holding considerable finesse.

***

I know it is hard to just read about great wine and experiences–as I like to say tasting is believing.  I would encourage Bodegas Lavia’s wines be tasted at some point in your wine tasting plans.  The point of difference of artistically crafted wines from Bodegas Lavia are a treasury of delight.  Seek out these wines—I am.

¡Salud!

James Melendez

James the Wine Guy

Website for Bodegas Lavia

www.bodegaslavia.com/

Bodegas Lavia is part of MGWines Group

MGWines Group

IMG_5239 - Version 2

http://mgwinesgroup.com/?lang=en

“Demystifying Wine—One Bottle at a Time”
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Visiting Sierra Salinas – A Time for Monastrell, A Time for Alicante D.O Wines – James Melendez

Spain’s well-known regions are coveted, appreciated and are sought after – Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Rias Baixas, and Priorat. And yet there is a whole world of Spain that needs to be discovered and is in the process of being discovered – Bullas, Alicante, Bierzo, Campo de Borja, Reuda, Basque Country. Spain in many ways is thought of as a wine producing country dominated by Tempranillo and Cava (Xarel-lo and Parellada) and maybe a smaller extent Albariño that are at the centre of attention.  Spain is growing many varieties with excellence: Monastrell, Viura, Verdejo, Bobal, Mencia, and yes International varieties quite well.  Spain’s landscape is varied and every climate type is well represented and hence can support a cavalcade of wine grape varieties.

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All of Spain’s well-known wine countries have done an outstanding job of developing, refining and defining their wines as well as their markets. Wine doesn’t sell itself—people grow grapes, create wine, and people are integral to selling wine and those people can only sell wine if and only if they are definitively outstanding in quality and artistry. I don’t’ hear many people talk about wine as art and some times that is part of the equation of good versus great. Great wines are by design—pardon me by saying this—not all wines are simply just created in the vineyard. This may sound good but it is through tremendous effort great wines are created. Artistry is an important feature and to think of the blend and which in many respects many wines are. Think of varietal wines and there is often a touch of one or several varieties and that is truly the winemakers artistic decision/direction—making as it relates to the most expressive and lyrical of wines.

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On my visit to Spain (March 2015) is to taste from regions that are slowly gaining traction and that I don’t taste from frequently – Alicante, Jumilla, Bierzo, and Bullas. Today I visited Sierra Salinas and producing phenomenal Monastrell (Mourvèdre) and I would position that these wines as definitively world class. Monastrell can be a straight shot to a singular note of chocolate or cacao (when I taste a Monastrell I find many too linear and not very interesting). Sierra Salinas has several wines that I found to be stunningly gorgeous where the lead variety is Monastrell and I love it when a spectacular wine can be confident but not showy; when a wine is reliant on excellence of fruit, process, barrel time, and time in bottle for a glass that needs to be refilled again and again.

Sacred Soil

 

MIRA 2010

9.4

I’ll be writing up more of Sierra Salinas wines—I do want to point to Mira Alicante 2010 9.4 (94 Points) which a wine composed of 70% Monastrell, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouschet) at a 15% ABV—a higher ABV that some might feel comfortable with shows how these varieties play well together and does not show heat. This wine has a great depth of silken texture, not flashy but confident. My initial experience with this particular wine is an appreciable experience of weight and texture—truly silken, truly even. The scent notes exhibits blackberry, red cherry, forest floor, leather, suede and pepper. The flavour notes exhibit Tayberry, blackberry, Thyme, white pepper, and a very small amount of chocolate. This wine estate was a landscape of many head trained vines and the oldest on site are 90 years old on a blanket of red clay, large stones and situation in a valley with Sierra Salinas as the visual crown jewel in this landscape.

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I appreciated the wines are on their own but coming together was a regional Paella of rabbit and snails and another of chicken was especially convincing. And made me think of the excellence of these from Sierra Salinas. A high recommendation to taste these beautiful wines where Monastrell is the star. More to come from this magical journey! Stay tuned.

Sierra Salinas

http://www.sierrasalinas.com

Restaurante Mesón La Despensa

Calle Cervantes, 27, Villena, Alicante

965 80 83 87

http://www.mesonladespensa.com

****

MGWines Group

IMG_5239 - Version 2

http://mgwinesgroup.com/?lang=en

¡Salud!

James Melendez

James the Wine Guy

“Demystifying Wine—One Bottle at a Time”

© 2015 James Meléndez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content and logo and all designs.

James the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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J Vineyards and Winery – A Must Visit Destination for Exceptional Wines and Food in Russian River Valley – James Melendez

J Vineyards and Winery is the one of the few places where you can have a sparkling wine tasting and sit down and experience a seasonally adjusted food and wine pairing.

 

Pinot Gris Sign

I have seen J grow in their artistry and their assortment of wines still and sparkling. In Northern California it is especially difficult to find a great winery to visit that has any food service. And this is often the function of the respective county or municipality and the number of rarefied number of licenses available. Luckily J Vineyards and Winery has put theirs to exceptional use.  It’s one thing to have the right license but another to execute the business to the highest level of great service, brand experience and stellar wines.

Last year being in Okanagan Valley I could count at least a dozen wineries that had food service the same cannot be said for Sonoma or Napa Counties. It may be hard to imagine a significant and impressive tasting menu in your head versus actually having one to try.  Sparkling wine is often subjugated to a starter or celebratory wine instead of being a wine continuously served during a meal. Even further is that one could suppose that sparkling wine have a limited range of what can be served. But until it is done one can finally taste great sparkling wines paired with exceptional food to expand their horizons.

Wine brands are probably born every day—around a dining room table and a great imagination of what can be.   Wine brands maybe born but it is the only most passionate and visionary ones that survive the long stretch. Judy Jordan the founder of J Vineyards and Winery and who was educated at Stanford created J to showcase outstanding Russian River Valley sparkling wines. Judy has been a visionary of not just selecting great sites but to select a business and wine making team to create a compelling label and to give an exceptional experience for everyone who walks through their doors.

I find J’s sparkling wine program to be extra thoughtful and many cuvées containing Pinot Meunier to the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to blend in extra depth and beauty.  J Vineyards and Winery has also expanded their still wine program with Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinotage, and Pinot Meunier.  J also has an exceptional Pear Liqueur and Ratafia.

There are several thoughtful ways to visit J.

  •           J Terrace – food and wine pairings outside
  •           J Tour and Tasting – great way to view the behind the scenes of this winery
  •           J Signature Tasting – tasting through selected wines at the tasting bar
  •           J Bubble Room – chef prepared, seasonally adjusted and optimum wines for each food course. This is my favourite experience. In general service is outstanding at J and I think the Bubble Room is fun to treat your self to an extra pampered experience with exceptional food and wine.

Late last year I visited the Bubble Room and was delighted with the tasting menu. Somewhere between a complete meal and heavy appetizers—fully appreciable and satisfying. The price point is $75 per person and $60 for Club J Members – an outstanding price point for what you get.

Here is both the food and wines I experienced:

2007 J Vintage Russian River Valley Brut – 9.3 (93 Points)

Paired with Coastal Hill Duck Egg, Celery Root and Truffle

Bin 1008 Russian River Valley NV Sparkling Wine 9.3 (93 Points)

Paired with Goat milk yogurt, Quinoa, and wheat grass

Goat Milk Yogurt

J Vintage Brut Russian River Valley Late Disgorged Brut 2005 – 9.5 (95 Points)

Such a spectacular wine—highly nuanced and yet definitive in character, graceful, and elegant; easily one of my all time favourite wines.

Paired with Petrale Sole, Dungeness Crab, Kohlrabi and Citrus

Petrale Sole

J Vintage Russian River Valley Brut 2008 – 9.4 (94 Points)

Paired with Niman Ranch Pork, Quince, Cabbage and Wheat Berries

Pork

J Brut Russian River Valley NV Rose – 9.3 (93 Points)

Paired with Cheese Plate – Moses Sleeper, duck Proscuitto, Persimmon

Cheese plate

J Russian River Valley Ratafia – 9.4 (94 Points)

Paired with Chocolate Cremeaux, coconut and Pecan Brittle

 

Here are a few videos of some of my favourite J wines:

 

For more information and to make a reservation for any of the special tastings or tour be sure to contact:

J Vineyards and Winery, 11447 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg, CA 95448

Telephone: 888.594.6326

https://www.jwine.com/visit

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