Napa Valley and the State of M & A – James Melendez

There has been a lot M&A activity in Napa Valley in the past few years probably more than usual and probably more on the corporate side than a property or label passing say to another wine producer or family.

I recently past along on Twitter a Tweet about Constellation purchasing Schrader and I think there was a chord of response.  I know, for example, when Goosecross was acquired by Golden Equity I was well.. disappointed.  Not just myself but many people like that family connection with wineries.  I think there is desire that a brand remain in family hands and after all that does happen more often in Europe than say California.

Napa Valley more than any other wine region in North America has seen more M&A activity and high end producers will certainly encourage more turn over.

But what we see today is just an continuous change over.  Coca Cola owned Sterling, then it was purchased by Seagrams then Diageo and now Treasury.   Heublein, a former American holding company that owned A1 Steak Sauce, food service companies like KFC and wineries owning at one time Beaulieu and Inglenook.

I think people mourn the loss of a family owned business that becomes corporatized.  Corporations will not have the same feel and touch as a family owned business.  For example, I visited a large wine holding company operation in Napa and the visit was well… not compelling or interesting.  It was a dry and an un-emotional experience–I will not go back because simply there is no reason to go back.

As long as valuations are sky high the urge and temptation to sell to highest bidder will not just be a phase but a continuous activity.  I do understand why people are surprised…even dismayed.

It isn’t just Napa Valley or Sonoma but through all wine growing regions in North America.  There is not the same value of a family holding on to a wine business for many generations like in Europe.  And maybe just maybe the value of holding onto a family business for many generations will develop in North America not now but at some point in the distant future.

****

Santé,

James

James the Wine Guy

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

Wines courtesy of producer.

© 2017 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine GuyJames the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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The Most Misunderstood and Often Vilified Grape: Chardonnay

Why is Chardonnay Still Misunderstood?  And well vilified wine grape variety?

I recently read a Tweet that said something to the affect: “I am not a classic Chardonnay drinker” I was intrigued….what does that mean?

Well Chardonnay is still mis-understood—or at least the myth of Chardonnay in a certain style is still perpetuated.  I actually don’t know what “classic Chardonnay” means – is it highly oaked?  Buttery?  Or does it mean stainless or neutral barrique?  I don’t think heavy oak or heavy malolactic fermentation as “classic.”

I prefer to stand away because I do think at least with North American Chardonnay drinkers are not worrying about too much oak or even MLF.  I think most high quality producers have pulled away from considerable oak or MLF for at least a half a generation.  Using a phrase like “classic” is confusing because what is the basis for “classic.”?  Also perhaps this person mean Chablis as classic?  Too hard to tell and yet Chardonnay is still vilified needlessly.

Then there are those who think of Chardonnay as only an inert wine grape variety.  Chardonnay is still the most widely planted of white wine grape varieties – 400,000 acres / 160,000 hectares.  Chardonnay is a work horse wine grape with a touch of elegance.  Chardonnay does matter in terms of a still or sparkling state.  There are no two Chardonnays that are exactly the same.  Chardonnay presents an opportunity to pair with a wide variety of foods.   Chardonnay adds weight and texture and is a necessary and needed wine grape variety in the library of all white wine grapes.  It is a needed white wine variety with no necessary classic interpretation–it would be a mistake to interpret California Chardonnay of a generation ago as classic–that experience will not land itself in terms of positive distinction but a blimp on the radar–once there and now gone.

I have grown so tired of ABC “Anything But Chardonnay” which induces an immediate ennui–so it not just tires me –it is a less commonly used phrase. If Chardonnay were suddenly not available I do think we would have a large hole in our wine canon.

****

Santé,

James

James the Wine Guy

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

Wines courtesy of producer.

© 2017 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine GuyJames the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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Keeping Your Brand Up to Date on YouTube – James Melendez

I was looking at my YouTube channel and I am trying to ready for video 2,500.  I took a thoughtful review in terms of titles.  I think that on YouTube a title is certainly the proverbial books cover.  The right title is important to get a potential viewer to click.  Also, I am one of the few individuals who have as many videos–it is not just a challenge to keep uniformity…it is a must.

My YouTube channel I can say has been not just about specific bottle reviews but I have been adventurous because in someways YouTube makes you be adventurous.  YouTube per se doesn’t do it but by merely being on YouTube and if you take your art seriously you automatically challenge yourself.  I have challenged myself in terms of video types: what works / what doesn’t work.  I have also had to take a look at metrics–and simple things such as determine best video length.

For me, what has been successful is interviews, specific wine reviews and general wine and beverage subject matter.  What has not been successful are events and too short videos.

I have seen an evolution of my own video presence, delivery and honing in on a conversational tone.  I have seen my cameras improve hence the output much easier on the eyes–I started in 2009 and in video terms that was several generations ago.

As I mentioned earlier I focused in on titles.  I could just leave things the way they are but I also tried to imagine what my brands looks like in total from my viewers point of view and I thought it was too much of a mishmash.

Example of My Point Score Graphic

I had gone from my 10 point scale to the 100 point scale.  I was determined to get my 10 point scale to stick.  But the 100 point scale is so engrained in many wine buyers expectation of wine scoring: I had to update and match that expectation by updating my scoring.  I still show my 10 point scale and 100 point scale (such as above) unified when I publish a wine review.  So here is what I did in wine reviews is a standard titling convention:

Wine Brand / Appellation / Variety / Vintage / Score / Episode Number and my Name

By aligning the titling convention is now uniform.  It did take a while to do it all but I believe it makes for a crisper brand.

Some things I removed was “James the Wine Guy” my video entry clearly displays who I am…. also my last name – I can use an accent mark on the second “e” in my last name or without.  I thought the easiest thing for uniformity sake is to remove the accent mark.

I am glad I made update–I also reminisced on small things… glasses, clothing, background and even subject matter.  I also thought about what I was doing in my life at that time and I can look back and look forward on things I have done since.

Take aways for your YouTube channel

  • Review your channel for consistency in titling
  • Review your playlists:  my belief is that they are too few playlists out there.  The value is to have your playlist being indexed and found and to play more of your videos
  • Promote the videos not just once but several times
  • Do you have enough information for your viewer to take action in the comments section?
  • Review your metrics
    • Look at average views duration
      • Are people tuning out early?
      • Where are your viewers
      • How are they watching them
  • Review your content for:
    • Intro
    • Outro
    • Music

If you have decided on video–I can guess that you have invested time and money—why not maximize your investment and message?  Video tells a lot and it offers a touch of brand enlivenment more than any other media.

****

Santé,

James

James the Wine Guy

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

Wines courtesy of producer.

© 2017 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine GuyJames the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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Troon Whole Grape Fermented Riesling 2016 93 Points – James Melendez

Full name: Troon Whole Grape Fermented Applegate Valley Riesling

A delightful orange wine and I love it is Riesling as an orange wine versus Pinot Gris.  A wine that is fully appreciable, fun and a very reasonable price point – $20 from producer.  It is a great wine to pair with seafood, Asian cuisine and to also enjoy on it’s own.

Scent: Dried fig, green apple, cinnamon, nutmeg, carnation, moist stones

Palate: Dried fruit, ground nutmeg, pepper, hint of flowers, oyster shell, and flowers

Troon Vineyard: http://troonvineyard.orderport.net/product-details/0434/2016-Red-Label-Whole-Grape-Ferment-Riesling

****

Santé,

James

James the Wine Guy

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

Wines courtesy of producer.

© 2017 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine GuyJames the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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Bila Haut Pays d’Oc Rosé – 2016 – 90 Points – James Melendez

Scent: Mountain strawberry, early season cherry, hint of fennel, moist stones and flowers

Palate: fresh strawberry, oyster shell, red tea and hint of white pepper.

****

Santé,

James

James the Wine Guy

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

Wines courtesy of producer.

© 2017 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine GuyJames the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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Corona B Aragon Cariñena 2011 – 90 Points – James Melendez

 

Nose: strawberry, crushed red candy violets underbrush

Palate: Rustic notes of dried strawberry, cherry, pepper, bay leaf and thyme

****

Santé,

James

James the Wine Guy

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

Wines courtesy of producer.

© 2017 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine GuyJames the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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Ferraton Père & Fils Côtes du Rhône Samorëns Blanc and Rosé – James Melendez

Ferraton Père & Fils Côtes du Rhône Samorëns Blanc 2016

This wine is 35% Roussanne, 30% Viognier, 25% Grenache Blanc, 5% Clairette, and 5% Marsanne,

 

Scent:  orange blossom, nectarine, Adriatic fig, flowers, and beeswax

Palate: moist stones and minerals, yellow nectarine, green citrus pulp and peel, tea and white floral notes.

 

 

 

 

 

Previous review:

****

$14 SRP

Ferraton Père & FilsCôtes du Rhône Samorëns Rosé 2016

Scent: mix of green, gold citrus, yellow peach, white flowers, moist rocks

Palate: mountain strawberry, crushed oyster shell, tea, and hint of white pepper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Previous review:

Santé,

James

James the Wine Guy

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

Wines courtesy of producer.

© 2017 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine GuyJames the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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Why No Large Wine Shows in US? – James Melendez

It is a surprise there are no major wine shows like Prowein, Vinitaly, or Vinexpo in the United States.  I know there has been an effort to have a Vinexpo and finally in March 2018 it will return to a New York edition.  Where are there no large wine shows in the United States?

I do think the world’s largest wine market could have a west coast major wine show–either a franchise of a major European wine event or a home grown one.

Because the US is the world’s largest wine market is an opportunity for trade and media to gather in one city per year.  The idea of this germinates in a place to show a producers wines from the US and wines from abroad and those seeking importers to pick up new producers this could be a productive place to do this. And it could help as a venue for export for domestic producers for international markets.

The current way international producers come to the US is a respective tour which do not always go the same cities every year (only exception would be New York).  There is an Australian tour coming to the US but missing San Francisco.  I wish I could attend a nearby tour stop such as Los Angeles but I do not have the time to go to for one tour of one wine region.  I would have time if it were a large multi-day and many regions show.

San Francisco has many wine events especially for specific wine regions or categories such as Rhone varieties, Pinot Noir, North American Iberian varieties, etc. The peaks and valleys of these specialised events is not fatigue necessarily on event attendee but with the producers–it can be costly to attend many events to pour wines versus fewer events.  It is not just the cost of the wines but in terms of personnel, cost of the event itself and even travel expenses.

I think there is much to be gained for both participant and attendees for a Prowein, Vinexpo or Vinitaly in the Western U.S.  San Francisco for example has a strong interest in wine events from trade, media and a very strong interest from consumer who like to make discovery of new producers and wines.

San Francisco is a city with where venues are quickly disappearing and those that still exist can be expensive and even more difficult is how difficult is to do a wine event in California in general due to ABC regulation.  Even though super tall towers (Salesforce Tower, Oceanwide Centre and other towers) are being built in San Francisco sadly open space and event space is not on any future plans.  If current trends continue we may see a decreased capability of fewer wine events in San Francisco.  But a large wine event could happen and may be economically viable if this event could use convention centre space.

But for a true discovery of producer by trade, media and consumer is the continuation of wine events; even if more of a consolidation to help bolster the capability of having a rich and durable year-over-year wine show.

Santé,

James

James the Wine Guy

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

Wines courtesy of producer.

© 2017 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine GuyJames the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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State of US Wine Retailing – Brick and Mortar – James Melendez

 

First, this article is not about specific metrics.  It is a general perspective, I have searched for metrics and haven’t found a data set that I like or believe tells the story of the off-premise wine trade in the U.S.

A lot of people make inferences of chain retailers and their impact on the general wine retailing landscape.  I think sometimes there is a viewpoint that the large or mega wine, beer and spirits (WBS) stores make smaller WBSs less advantageous.  I don’t think it is as simple as that.  I do think it is much more complex just as the subject of wine is itself.

I have been a former wine marketing manager at large retailer with over 275 stores.  I had a great view and understanding of the wine retailing landscape.  Wine as I have said many times in my videos and in my writing is a complex product–vastly more complex than any other consumer category.  The attributes are many–such as vintage, variety, region, style, cuvée and vastly limited supplies.

While some off-premise retailers are huge and sell a lot in the US they are not necessarily category killers–there are simply too many labels and to few places to sell all of these wines.

Wine retailers try to sell their private labels wines for good reason–there is a healthy margin in doing so but it does require more hand selling.  The “easiest” to sell are very well known brands which have razor thin margins.  But the wine retailing landscape and especially in brick and mortar is as relevant today as it was a generation ago.  While DTC (direct-to-consumer) has been growing and will continue to does not provide a solution for all wine buying households.  DTC can be a wine club or perhaps an online wine retailer and the limitations are that the assortment may not be strong as a wine enthusiast might prefer.

I am curious and I do have doubts on warehouse retailing.  I personally do not like shopping at a warehouse retailer–the lines, the time investment to shop is large and I don’t have the time to go to shop in person and the experience is not me.  I don’t like the wine assortment options either.  I do think there will be a decrease over time for this type of retailing activity.  I do think that many people especially wine interested in getting wines from many regions, many varieties and so fourth but will seek a different way of getting their wines.

As it relates to online wine retailing, the barrier to entry for an online wine business is relatively difficult–not just a mere list of licenses to obtain (which can be difficult on it’s own) but the ability to flex the business to update with new SKUs and ability to support new SKUs does require IT support.

Amazon has carried wine and it seems has eased up on the gas pedal.  I use to see a lot more wine a few years ago.  I recently completed a search for 10 different wines; well known, lesser known and I only found one wine out of 10.  To a customer who might have had a multiple of searches would give up and assume that Amazon is not in the wine business.   To a wine consumer you have to either be in business or not.  I’ll be curious to see if Amazon who is tremendously successful in almost all other categories if they delve back into the category.

There are holes in many assortments in many brick and mortar wine retailers.  And it may not be just holes in assortments but it is also meeting the expectation of customer experience.

Here are my specific examples to support the above.  I visited my local neighbourhood food and wine retailer–it is a retailer that has a approximately 600+ wine SKUs; heavily assorted in French and California wines.  Being back from a trip from Sicily I asked for a white and red Sicilian wine that I wanted to buy (and yes I do buy wine).  I could only buy a Nero d’Avola.  I did look at other San Francisco retailers and these two additional wine retailers had several red and white Sicilian red wines.  My point on the a hole in assortment is that I am not alone especially if I am making a meal for guests I will always buy a white and red wine – I think this retailer instead of capturing a sale–lost it (at least not selling a white wine to me).

Assortment coherency is not just a nice to have but a must have. Coherency is if you are offering only white wines from a particular region and not the red wines–if they have sparkling wine–why not pick up the sparkling wine.  Maybe a consumer might be thinking a particular regions white wines… it is an opportunity to point out other wines available.  It is not just cross selling but it is reminding consumer of the full spectrum of wines.

I was at wine generalist in San Francisco’s Russian Hill and it was on my quest for Sicilian wines that particular day.  I got a white and red and the owner of the store said to me “you know we have a Nerello Mascalese Rosato.” I like anyone else is in such a hurry didn’t see it and because of his suggestion I picked it up–so this retailer increased my shopping basket by 50%.  I was surprised to find a white, red and a rosato from a generalist wine retailer. The owner was focused on me and my purchase and he was doing a great job.  Not all of my wine shopping experiences are as good. I actually came to this generalist wine retailer as I had been to an Italian-French wine retailer nearby.   I didn’t stay too long at this small specialist wine retailer because I and three other customers were ignored.  The shop associate was with a customer and only focused on this person.  No “hello” or “I’ll be with you shortly” to me or the other customers.  I kept thinking this shop associate not only lost my sale–lost the other consumers.  Interestingly we all went to the generalist retailer and we all bought something. I had been a fan of this small retailer and in that instance was turned off.  The sales associate was focused on what appeared to be a long time customer who literally ran in–he was in his running clothes.  I won’t go back because while I can appreciate a small store with one associate–I certainly have patience to wait but being totally ignored helps me to think my money is not needed.

While I care a lot about regions, labels, varieties the other three customers (by they way they were friends hanging out together) I don’t think cared as much as I did and they found a few wines at the generalist retailer.  The take away is that if a wine retailer is not greeting and treating all of it’s customer with interest and respect–that customer will go somewhere else.

I attend a lot of wine events and I always find brands wanting to break into the US market.  There is not enough shelf space either for online or brick and mortar retailers.  While there are some very large retailers there is room for the independents.   Retailing for other product categories is down but I do not think wine will follow the same trends of the general retailing community.  The independent or smaller multi-chain retailer is as relevant today as it was a generation ago.

Service is king and experience and assortment is equally important.  Unless there is some radical change in ABC (Alcohol Beverage Control) laws and there is a a profound ABC simplification wine retailers of all sizes are still and will be needed.  We have an estimated 40,000 ABC laws in the US on the books and that too regulates online wine retailing activity.  I doubt simplification will happen ever–we have lived with the 40,000 ABC laws since the 1930s.

As long as there is wine, people who want to buy wine and as long there are many producers there will be the need for many off-premise retailers online and brick and mortar for the foreseeable future not just monoliths.  It will be up to independent wine retailers to seize the day and optimise their client base or not.

****

Santé,

James

James the Wine Guy

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

Wines courtesy of producer.

© 2017 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine GuyJames the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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10 Rías Baixas Albariño – James Melendez

It had been a while since I had tasted Rías Baixas Albariño – I was on an online tasting with Snooth.  This was the largest tasting I had ever done online ever.  I loved the variance of Rías Baixas Albariño there wasn’t a particular bandwidth of characterization–instead the expression was on the producer and even subregions.

I love that I was tasting just a mainline white wine but another variety.  One of Spain’s best white wines.  While Galicia has a very seafood dominate cuisine–and I am a huge seafood fan–these wines can pair easily with a variety of dishes: pasta and white sauces, pesto, Gouda, burgers, pizza, Jamon, oysters, mussels and much more.

Here are my notes from each wine I tasted:

Vionta Rías Baixas Albariño 2015 

Delightfully dry and full of character; 12.5% ABV

Scent: beeswax, green, yellow cities peel, moist granite, flowers and white tea

Palate: Meyer lemon, quince, white flowers and a savory note of sesame.

****

Martin Codax Rías Baixas Albariño 2015 

Scent: white peach, oyster shell, passion fruit, and star fruit

Palate: mineral approach gives way to Sicilian lemon, white peach, salinity and essence of white fig.

12.5% ABV

****

Bodegas Terras Gauda Abadía de San Campio Rías Baixas Albariño  2015

Scent: White stone fruit orchard, green apple, and green citrus

Palate: hint of graphite, sesame, mineral, salinity, lemon confit, and white nectarine

12.5% ABV

****

Pazo de San Mauro Rías Baixas Albariño 2015

Scent: passion fruit, star fruit, orange fleshy tropical fruit-honey, beeswax, white tea and flowers ->

Palate: hint of dried flowers-saffron, oyster shell, salinity gold citrus peel

12.5%

****

Robalino Rías Baixas Albariño 2016

Scent: beautiful floweral notes, orange blossom, citron, crushed oyster shell

Palate: hint of marshmallow; graphite, buddha hand, white pepper and lemon rind.

12.5%

****** 

Valminor Rías Baixas Albariño 2015 

Scent: minerally, graphite, white pepper, and tea.

Palate: Crushed sea shell, crisp green apple, beeswax; graphite, white pepper, lemon/orange peel and tea

12.5% ABV

*****

Altos de Torona Rías Baixas Albariño 2015

A lovely balance of acid to fruit and mineral.

Scent: crushed, shells, sea air, delicate flower garden

Palate:  Passionfruit, orange marmalade, moist stones and dried apples.

13% ABV

***

Condes de Albarei Rías Baixas Albariño 2015

Scent: orange blossom, graphite, pine nut, kumquat

Palate:  rocks in a stream, sesame, white peach, and green-yellow citrus and pulp

12.5% ABV

****

Pazo Senorans Rías Baixas Albariño 2016

Scent sun dried river rocks, jasmine, green app,e and comic pear,

Palate:  white nectarine, green to gold citrus zest and peel, hint of almond and moist stones

13.5% ABV

***

Santiguo Ruiz Rías Baixas Albariño 2015

Scent: orange blossom, honey comb, crisp green pear and acratic fig,

Palate:  moist stones, citrus peel, almond, bergamot, and sesame

13% ABV

****

Wines courtesy of Snooth and each producer

*****

Santé,

James

James the Wine Guy

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

Wines courtesy of producer.

© 2017 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine GuyJames the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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