Oregon Chardonnay and Pinot Noir On New York Restaurant Wine Lists

I was recently in Oregon judging wines for the McMinnville Wine Classic Competition and I had a subsequent post tour of Willamette Valley. 

Needless to say that Willamette Valley is devoted to Pinot Noir by 69% of all wine grapes planted.  Keep in mind that Oregon is growing 100 varieties in total and in addition to cool climate regions it also has warm climate AVAs like Rogue Valley, Umpqua Valley, Applegate Valley and The Rocks Districts of Milton-Freeman.  Pinot Gris is synonymous with Oregon and it is the largest produced white wine and Chardonnay is the number two white wine grape.

I have always wondered why Chardonnay is not the number one wine grape. I will be writing about Oregon Chardonnay in greater detail later.  Chardonnay has long been planted for some time in Oregon. The continuous rise has been due to optimum plant material.  While the New World is dominated by the Wente Clone it is not the optimum clonal material for Oregon.  Dijon Clone 95 and 96 are more suited to the Willamette Valley (and there are additional clones being implemented in Oregon).  While Wente Clone had been utilized in some Willamette Valley vineyards in past generations; the fruit produced was less than satisfactory.  Going back to the drawing board Oregon producers sought to implement the optimum plant material i.e. Dijon clones for it’s cooler climate.

Oregon Pinot Noir has been successful because of climate, terroir, clonal material and world class wine making capabilities.  The careful congress of choices has been made, and it shows with Pinot Noirs, the most anticipated world class wines produced from Oregon.  So too are the Chardonnay’s coming from Oregon—I have asked for so long ‘but what about Chardonnay’?!  I am getting the answer; it is a serious effort and the proof is in the wine glass.  An awesome variance of styles and expressions are being produced now–expressive, authentic and, in some producers, absolute delight, sophistication and elegance. 


New York is the US’s greatest wine market.  Outstanding wine collections, assortments and wine lists are not just the best in the US but amongst the best in the world.  I do look at wine lists carefully wherever I am and I do love a large wine list.   While it is not a testament of finally having arrived as a recognition point it is still an important nod.  Oregon Chardonnay is being discovered and being recognized; its recognition is slower than I would expect.  I have a friend who only drinks Chardonnay and no other wine variety (white or red); and he doesn’t have Oregon Chardonnay on his ‘must taste list’ (until now–I keep driving the point that Oregon Chardonnay’s are ready to taste and relish now).

In New York, and yes some wine lists are nearly exclusively French or Italian like Baltazar or Babbo (a few French wines mainly Champagne); I did look for lists that would include Oregon and California wines.  I looked for restaurants that have published lists and some restaurants that previously published a wine list like Eleven Madison Park no longer publish their list.

Wine lists are always going to feature French and Italian wines in often higher proportions than other wine producing countries.  Wine lists do show their personality of the establishment and also the wine director/Sommeliers – a large wine list is done over time and given the rarity of some wines it is assembled by several people.  I was curious to look at how many Oregon Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are listed as well as California Chardonnay and Pinot Noir on lists (I knew right away Oregon would be in the minority position).  Also, what is the relationship of wines featured from Oregon and California on wine lists?  Firstly, it is a recognition that the selected wines deserved to be on the respective wine list and secondly it is the label itself but also the appellation.  Lists also show the wine director/Sommeliers palate as well.

Here are the New York restaurant wine lists I looked at:

Many of the above are well known restaurants and some newer and not-as-well known restaurants are in this mix.  I did expect to see both more Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from California and Oregon on restaurant lists in general but that is not what I found. Also, this search was not to pin one wine state against another but I did want to see what relationship that might exist between them (Oregon and California).

I did create these two charts below to review.  The red and blue lines (California and Oregon respectively) and the slightly transparent lines are trend lines. I used a trend line to show the difference between each state’s number of wines on respective wine lists.  This trend line does not show a difference in time.  The trend line does help to show a difference between Oregon and California wines on each restaurant’s wine list.  While it might seem like a large difference, Oregon Chardonnay is being represented nicely especially as many more Oregon producers have a Chardonnay than a generation ago.

Y-Axis Represents # Wines


Oregon and California Pinot Noir producers show a closer relationship between each wine state’s Pinot Noirs on respective wine lists.  Each wine state has quite a number of AVA/Sub-AVAs producing Pinot Noir.  This is a closer relationship between California and Oregon Pinot Noirs as there are a large number of AVA/Sub-AVAs between both states.  If I was an Oregon producer, I might see this in two ways – 1) achievement/recognition 2) growth and opportunity for more Oregon wines to be featured.

Y-Axis Represents # Wines

There is no perfect way to sort this chart for a better view – I did sort from low–to-high. Union Square Cafe has a lot of California Pinot Noir on their list and relatively few Oregon Pinot Noir.  The trend line is helpful in visually understanding of relationships.  Again, this trend line is the difference between Oregon and California Pinot Noir and does not represent a difference in time.  Oregon Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is not a competition with California Chardonnay and Pinot Noir; I see them as offerings from each state.  I do think both can be represented and both have an opportunity to be increased over time in terms of wine list representation.  Now the selection of these wine categories is made by wine professionals and it is evident especially looking at Union Square Cafe. 

There is a room for increased assortment in wines from both Oregon and California for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on all wine lists.  I would urge a viewing of these and additional wine lists periodically; not even yearly but every other year to observe if there are changes.  Changes are slow insofar as change out of wine selection but also turn over of inventory and the opportunity to buy new vintages from producers familiar to producers new.

There will be changes and I don’t think it is an increase of “pie slice” but it is increasing the size of the pie itself i.e. increased coverage of both states wines on respective New York wine lists.  In all of the wines in the lists there is some predictability of wines selected but also a few good surprises.  Diversity is the future and that doesn’t mean turning backs on esteemed producers—that will not happen (and rightly so) but newer producers or yet to be selected producers will be featured.  My trip to Oregon verified Pinot Noir and Chardonnay as being world class once more amongst other wines being produced in the state.  I’m haunted by so many beautiful, dazzling and memorable experiences and wines from Oregon.

I’d love to hear your thoughts as well.  And a great New Year to you!

Cheers,

James

© 2023 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original content, drawings, art work, graphs, photographs, logo, brand name, rating, rating, taxonomy, graphic and award, my original art work and all designs of James the Wine Guy.  James the Wine Guy is also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

#NewYorkWineLists #NewYork #Oregon #OregonWine #WillametteValley #PinotNoir #Chardonnay

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Wines of Uruguay Tasting

I have not tasted wines from Uruguay for quite some time; at least half a decade.  It was like riding a bicycle but for the palate to get back to this wine production nation-state that has worked hard to showcase it’s wines to the world. 

Some of my initial thoughts like many is Tannat and few whites. But to put this into to focus while Tannat is the largest product of red wines which represents 27% of production and yes white wine varieties exist such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier and Albariño amongst others.

Also, Uruguay is an Atlantic wine producing climate; as Mendoza is a continental-semi desert climate

The above shows the wine grape growing regions and I was surprised to learn that 83.4% is the Metropolitan region which is near the capital of Montevideo.

I did taste a good number of Tannat wines in addition to one blend which was Tannat, Merlot and Tempranillo and another wine that was Tannat domination with a small portion of Viognier. I wondered if this was a new way of producing Tannat but it was one producer who visioned this wine to existence.

There are many great foot pairings with Tannat – beef, lamb, spicy tomato vegetarian dishes, Salumi and hard cheeses.

Here are the wines I tasted:

Marichal Etchevarría Canelones Sauvignon Blanc 2022 – SRP $14
Nose: gooseberry, golden Kiwi, melon and mineral

Palate: Dried yellow citrus, Meyer lemon, fresh mild herbs and flowers


Bracco Bosca Ombú Atlantida Moscatel 2022 – SRP $16

Dry wine; nose of fresh yellow citrus and flowers

Palate: citrus zest, stone fruit, touch of mineral and flowers


Familia Deicas Bodegones del Sur Vineyards Select Cabernet Franc 2020 – SRP $20

Nose: Red fruit, Thyme, Tarragon

Palate: fresh red fruit, mix of dried and fresh herbs, white pepper


Giménez Méndez Alta Reserva Las Brujas, Canelones Tannat 2020 – SRP $18

Nose: fresh red fruit, simmering spices, evergreen forest and violets


Palate: lively acidity, red fruit, clove, abundantly savory and red floral


Montes Toscanini Gran Canelones Premium Tannat 2019 – SPR $59

Nose: red rose petal, blackberry, forest, violets

Palate: vivid acidity, red and black cherry, black pepper, tarragon and red floral


Pisano Reserva de la Familia Tannat 2018 – SRP $24

Nose: fresh red bramble, plum orchard floor, suede, and spice

Palate: awakened acidity, red cherry, white pepper and dried herbs


Alto de la Ballena Sierra de la Ballena Maldonado Tannat Viognier 2018 – SRP $24

Nose: Peaked red cherry, leathery-suedey, dried herbs and fresh red flowers

Palate: Fresh red cherry, raspberry, ground spices, and Thyme


Bouza Tannat Merlot Tempranillo Montevideo Monte Vide Eu 2019 – SRP $67
Bottle number 15755/15824

Nose; dark fruit, suede, freshly ground spices, hint of red floral

Palate: black cherry, clove, pepper, dried herbs, lively acidity


Basta Spirit Canelones Vermut Flores Rosé NV – $16

Nose: deeply herbaceous, rich red, flowers

Palate: red fruit, freshly crushed herbs and botanicals, ground spices


Wines and two above images courtesy of Uruguay Wine https://uruguay.wine/en/

© 2022 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original content, drawings, art work, graphs, photographs, logo, brand name, rating, rating, taxonomy, graphic and award, my original art work and all designs of James the Wine Guy.  James the Wine Guy is also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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Top 100 Wines of 2022

This is the 12th edition of top 100 annual wines. This is my most anticipated yearly article and receives the most hits upon publication and beyond. My point of difference is that this ranking doesn’t mean that the number “One” entry does not mean it is the wine of the year. Some publications do that and I say it makes no sense whatsoever. It is not realistic to measure and being able to rank the number one wine in the world. It is a slippery slope of nonsense. My list is simply in alphabetical order.

What does make sense is to rank wines and score them according to their merits. I like a more democratic way of scoring and being able to cull from the total tasting of one year to a top one hundred list. I do think that is possible. If I had to pick just one wine in my top 100 list as being the wine that I find to be the greatest wine in that year I couldn’t do that. The more one tastes in a given year the list is even more difficult to produce; but that is a good thing.

I also think it is strange to publish a top 100 list in August or September of any given year. I do think it takes most of the year to capture what you have tasted. I also look at tasting and ranking all wines from just released vintages to vintages old. This is a point-in-time for me to gratefully taste a unique set of wine that unto itself is a once in a lifetime experience. I long to go back in time for many reasons and this is the only way I can do so.

I get wines to sample throughout the year and I also look to attend tasting but there were many fewer in San Francisco. Tasting in my home base is that there were many fewer media and trade tastings as when compared to prior to Pandemic era. I am not sure media and trade tasting in San Francisco will ever be the same. I get the sense this might be the same across the US perhaps New York might see exactly the same tasting patterns prior to the pandemic. I am not optimistic for San Francisco.

I was extremely fortunate to put foot-on-ground in Italy and attend four Anteprima’s in Umbria: Montefalco, Orvieto, Trasimeno and Torgiano. Umbria is magical and I am captivated by history. Italy’s many regional cuisines are fascinating and Umbria is no exception. It is a landlocked region and emphasis is less on fish than other peninsula cuisines.

I was greeted by the Apennines, and the historical towns of Spoleto and Terni and both are on the ancient Roman Via Flaminia. On the 553, I was fascinated to see the town of Trevi on route to Montefalco. M ontefalco served as my base to attend the Anteprima Sagrantino and thus my reunion with the namesake grape – Sagrantino. While my list is overwhelmingly Italian–it is the place I tasted from the most. I was very fortunate to taste older vintages like Lungarotti Torgiano Rubesco Riserva Vigna Monticchio DOCG – ’74 – 97 Points and Lungarotti Rubesco Rosso di Torgiano DOC – ’81- 96 Points to name a few; these wines were created when the Iron Curtain was still operating.

I do urge you to travel to taste wines that you will not fid in the US or elsewhere. Italian wines in Italy will be a selection of older vintages, producers who don’t export to the US, rare varieties and much more. Tasting wines in Italy is exciting as well as pairing with the respective cuisines is something that cannot be exported as well. Yes, glad and grateful, we have Italian food products in the US but cuisine is all about place. Yes, there is Italian cuisine in the US but it is a distant replication of actual Italian cuisine.

I always look for opportunities to taste; I have my tasting roadmap I have each year which attempts to drive tastings from all wine countries/regions.

Look for opportunities to taste these wines!

Santé,

James

James the Wine Guy Top 100 Wines of 2022

(click on underlined link to see video review)

1. Adanti Arquata Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG – ’14 – 95 Points
2. Agricola Mervante Montefaclo Rosso DOC – ’19 – 93 Points
3. Antonelli San Marco “Chiusa di Pannone” Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG – ’08 – 96 Points
4. Antonelli San Marco “Mollino dell’Attone” Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG – ’16 – 95 Points
5. Antonelli San Marco Anteprima Tonda Spoleto Trebbiano Spoletino DOC – ’19 – 94 Points
6. Antonelli San Marco Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG Passito – ’16 – 95 Points
7. Antonelli San Marco Trebium Spoleto Trebbiano Spoletino DOC – ’18 – 94 Points
8. Arnaldo Caprai 25 Anni Montefaclo Sagrantino DOCG – ’18 – 95 Points
9. Arnaldo Caprai Grecante Colle Martini DOC Grechetto – ’21 – 93 Points
10. Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Rosso Vigna Flaminia-Maremmana Montefalco Rosso DOC – ’20 – 94 Points
11. Arnaldo Caprai Spinning Beauty Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG – ’06 – 97 Points
12. Arnaldo Caprai Valdimaggio Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG – ’18 – 95 Points
13. Bellenda Sei Uno Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG Prosecco Superiore Extra Brut Rive di Carpiseca – NV 95 Points
14. Beni di Batasiolo Barolo DOCG Bussia Vigneto Bofani – ’13 – 95 Points
15. Beni di Batasiolo Barolo DOCG Cerequio – ’13 – 94 Points
16. Beni di Batasiolo Barolo Riserva DOCG – ’12 – 96 Points
17. Beni di Batasiolo Gavi Del Comune di Gavi ’21 – 94 Point
18. Bocale Montefalco Rosso DOC Riserva – ’18 – 94 Points
19. Briziarelli Montefalco Rosso DOC Riserva – ’18 – 94 Points
20. Castelvecchio Carso DOC Vitovska ’20 94 Points
21. Champagne Launois “Cuvée Réservée” Grand Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne NV 94 Points
22. Champagne Les Mesnil Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs NV 94 Points – Episode No. 3200
23. Cocco Montefalco Fontiola Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG Passito ’16 – 95 Points
24. Cocco Montefalco Phonsano Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG ’15 – 94 Points
25. Colle Ciocco Montefalco Rosso DOC – ’18 – 94 Points
26. Colpetrone Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG ’14 – 94 Points
27. Domaine Amirault Les Quarterons Crémant de Loire – NV – 94 Points
28. Domaine Carneros La Reve Carneros Blancs de Blanc 2015 98 Points
29. Domaine Michel Briday Crémant de Bourgogne NV 94 Points
30. Donnafugata Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria ’19 – 96 Poins
31. Donnafugata Mille e Una Notte Sicilia DOC Rosso ’18 96 Points
32. Donnafugata Sul Vulcano Etna Rosso DOC ’19 – 95 Points.
33. Duca della Corgna Divina Villa Trasimeno Gamay DOC – ’21 – 94 Points
34. Ducugnanano dei Barbi Mare Antico Orvieto Classico Superiore DOC – ’20 – 94 Points
35. Ducugnano dei Barbi Frammento Orvieto Classico DOC – ’20 – 93 Points
36. Fiddlehead Lollapalooza Sta Rita Hills Pinot Noir – ’14 – 95 Points
37. Gary Farrell Russian River Valley Bacigalupi Vineyard Chardonnay – ’14 – 95 Points
38. Hartford Old Vine Zinfandel Highwire Vineyard Russian River Valley – ’19 – 94 Points
39. Il Molino di Grace Toscana Gratius IGT 2017 – 95 Points
40. Jeff Cohn Cellars St. Peter’s Church Vineyard Alexander Valley Zinfandel – ’19 – 94 Points
41. La Follette Heintz Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir – ’19 – 95 Points
42. La Querciolaia Gamay di Boldrino Colli di Trasimeno DOC – ’19 – 93 Points
43. La Querciolaia Gamay Trasimeno DOCG Riserva ’19 – 94 Points
44. La Veneranda Montefalco Rosso DOC – ’20 – 94 Points
45. La Veneranda Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG -16 – 94 Points
46. Lapone L’Escluso Orvieto Classico Superiore – ’21 95 Points
47. Lapone Verdicchio Umbria IGT ’19 – 93 Points
48. Le Cimate Meliade Spoleto Trebbiano Spoletino DOC Passito – ’18 – 93 Points
49. Le Thadee 128+ Spoleto Trebbiano Spoletino – ’20 Prefillosera – 93 Points
50. Le Thadee Fijoa Spoleto Trebbiano Spoletino DOC – ’21 – 94 Points
51. Luca di Tomaso Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG – ’16 – 94 Points
52. Lungarotti Aurente Chardonnay di Torgiano DOC – ’18 – 94 Points
53. Lungarotti Rubesco Rosso di Torgiano DOC – ’00 – 95 Points
54. Lungarotti Rubesco Rosso di Torgiano DOC – ’09 – 95 Points
55. Lungarotti Rubesco Rosso di Torgiano DOC – ’79 – 95 Points
56. Lungarotti Rubesco Rosso di Torgiano DOC – ’81- 96 Points
57. Lungarotti Torgiano Rubesco Riserva Vigna Monticchio DOCG – ’74 – 97 Points
58, Lungarotti Torgiano Vin Santo DOC – ’10 – 95 Points
59. Marchese Antinori Orvieto Classico Superiore DOC ’21 – 94 Points
60. Perticaia Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG – ’03 – 96 Points
61. Revi Trentodoc Dossagio Zero Millesimato 2021 – 94 Points
62. Rocca delle Macie Campoaccionne Vermentino Maremma Toscana DOC – ’21 – 94 Points
63. Rocca delle Macie Sergio Zingarelli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG – ’16 – 95 Points
64. Rockwall Russian River Valley Alegria Vineyard Zinfandel ’17 95 Points
65. Romanelli Capo di Casa Montefalco Rosso DOC – ’19 – 94 Points
66. Romanelli Medeo Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG – ’16 – 95 Points
67. Romanelli Terra di Cupa Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG – ’10 – 95 Points
68. Rombauer Twin River El Dorado Zinfandel – ’19 – 95 Points
69. Scacciadiavoli Rose Vino Spumante Bruto Methodo Classico – NV – 94 Points
70. Scacciadiavoli Spoleto Trebbiano Spoletino DOC – ’20 – 94 Points
71. Sciacciadiavoli Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG – ’16 – 94 Points
72. Seghesio Cortina Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel – ’19 – 94 Points
73. Smith-Madrone SMD Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ’19 95 Points
74. Tabarrini Campo alla Cerqua Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG – ’16 – 94 Points
75. Tabarrini Colle Grimaldesco Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG – ’02 – 96 Points
76. Tabarrini Grimaldesco Montefalco Sagrantino – ’02 – 96 Points
77. Tabarrini Grimaldesco Montefalco Sagrantino – ’05 – 95 Points
78. Tenuta Alzatura Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG – ’15 – 95 Points
79. Tenuta Bellafonte Collenottolo Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG – ’15 – 95 Points
80. Tenuta Castelbuono Lunelli Carapace Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG – ’16 – 95 Points
81. Tenuta Castelbuono Lunelli Lampante Montefalco Rosso DOC Riserva – ’18 – 96 Points
82. Tenuta di Saragano Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG -’16 – 94 Points
83. Tenute Baldo Montefalco Rosso DOC Riserva – ’16 – 94 Points
84. Tenute Baldo Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG – ’15 – 94 Points
85. Tenute Baldo Preda del Falco Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG – ’15 – 94 Points
86. Tenute Baldo Spirito Della Vite Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG – ’16 – 95 Points
87. Tenute Baldo Rosa Ancestrale Vino Rosato Spumante – ’21 – 94 Points
88. Terre de La Custodia Exubera Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG – ’16 – 95 Points
89. Terre de La Custodia Montefalco Rosso Riserva DOC – ’16 – 94 Points
90. Terre di Trinci Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG – ’98 – 96 Points
91. Terre di Trinci Ugolino Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG – ’16 – 95 Points
92. Terre Margaritelli Bianco di Torgiano DOC – ’21 – 93 Points
93. Terre Margaritelli Freccia degli Scacchi Torgiano Rosso Riserva – ’16 – 94 Points
94. Terre Margaritelli Pictoricius Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG – ’18 – 95 Points
95 Terre Margaritelli Thadea Vino Spumante Rosato Brut Biologico NV – 93 Points
96. Terre di San Felice Montefalco Rosso DOC Riserva – ’18 – 94 Points
97. Tudernum Fidenzio Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG – ’15 – 94 Points
98. Valdangius Angelina Sagratino DOCG Passitio – ’16 – 95 Points
99. Valdangius Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG – ’14 – 95 Points
100. Valdangius Campo di Pico Spoleto Trebbiano Spoletino DOC – ’21 – 94 Points

Past Top 100 Posting

2021 Top 100 Wines

2020 Top 100 Wines

2019 Top 100 Wines

© 2022 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original content, drawings, art work, graphs, photographs, logo, brand name, rating, rating, taxonomy, graphic and award, my original art work and all designs of James the Wine Guy.  James the Wine Guy is also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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Crémants of France – A Sparkling Wine Opportunity for Tasting Regional Expressions

I cannot say enough positive words for the Crémants of France. I do think there is much that has been mystified or at last misunderstood about these wines. 

I was re-reminded when I visited a club warehouse recently and found that the wine assortment didn’t even contain one Crémant.  While it could be argued that a club warehouse cannot carry everything; I do think there is a great opportunity to carry a few Crémant in any assortment.  My bigger callout is that when a wine category is missing it does intentionally or unintentionally carry a connotation that the whole wine categories are not worthy for that retailer and consumer.  This particular retailer had no Cava and no domestic or new world sparkling wines either. Club warehouses good and bad anoint wines that are worthy of being sold i.e. what is “in” and not selling what isn’t. I do think some consumers do read what is at a club warehouse and buys accordingly and have future viewpoints directed for them.

I have said countless times for wine consumers to keep an open mind and make their own mind up on what wines are appealing for them. Also to diversify where they buy wines from–not just one online retailer with a one year flat fee shipping or to not just buying at a club warehouse but a wide spectrum of wine buying options.


Crémants of France are a fantastic intersection of tasting delightful bubbles often at very reasonable price points and encompassing a regional expression  Firstly, the Crémants are not trying to replace or even compete against Champagne. Crémant is further misunderstood by the name–firstly Crémant has been misunderstood to be a level of atmosphere of pressure lower than Champagne (Champagne Crémant 2–3 atmospheres instead of 5–6 for Non Crémant Champagne).  While there has been a very rare style in Champagne to denote this it has hardly been the mainstay of Champagne ever.  I do not know of any producers who are producing this style of wine now. Also, today’s Crémant will be in line with Champagne regardless of region in terms of atmosphere of pressure.

I read an article online that noted that Champagne GH Mumm had a Crémant – I am not aware of a Mumm producing a Crémant rather they have produced a Blanc de Blancs wine from Cramant which is a Grand Cru Villages in the Côte des Blancs.

There are a few California producer that use the term Crémant to denote a very specific style – Demi-Sec. This is problematic for the Crémants of France as an US consumer might assume Crémant from France is to mean sweet sparkling wine. Crémant de France follows the Brut scale and does not just produce sweet wines but most of the wines are dry. I don’t know why some US producer feel the need to use the term “Crémant” when they could use the term Demi-Sec or other Brut scale terms. It is a bad practice and harkens back to California producers of yesteryear using the words of Burgundy or Champagne for wines that are not specifically from those regions.

The focus of this article are the eight Crémant in France and there are two other European regions that use the term in the E.U. in Belgium and Luxembourg which I would like to highlight once I get more experience with those wines.

The eight regions of Crémant are generally named after major wine regions with the exception Crémant de Die.

I’ll highlight each Crémant with baseline information such as allowed varieties and other information. I’ll start with the first regions and progressing to the latest elevated regions. I’ll also make some wine suggestion of wines that I have tasted and or the most part are all available in the US. The only exception is the Crémant de Die which I have not found any in the US at this time.

If you have not tasted a Crémant before be sure to try some by the glass at a restaurant. I have seen many more Crémant on wine lists more than ever. One part is economics but more importantly is that these wines are delicious and delightful and deserved to be poured.

Sparkling wines in general for Americans have been associated with celebratory occasions only. The British have historically imported Champagne on nearly the same level of the US but the population is 5x smaller. The British don’t just consume just Champagne but also Crémant, Cava and Prosecco. The British have made sparkling wine something to enjoy beyond a special occasion.

The US imported 34 mm bottles of Champagne in 2021 up from 21 mm in 2020 (this does show that US consumers only view sparkling wine as for special occasions only). But the growth in 2021 might show a slight change.

While the total number of bottles produced by the Crémant de France is 83.6 mm bottles (2018) – I don’t see a more updated number from the Crémant trade organization: Fédération Nationale des Producteurs et Élaborateurs de Crémant. While the aggregate production might seem large it is divided by 8 Crémant regions. Also, note that Champagne produces approximately 290 mm bottles per year; Prosecco produces half a billion and Cava produces 245 mm per year. I don’t have a figure for US import of Crémant but I do have an estimate based on total export percentage listed in slides and assuming a US a prominent number of import hence my estimate is 6 mm bottles.

I do think that consumers still feel judgement about enjoying sparkling wine too often. Still a very judgy view of wine, beer and spirits but some potential progress of enjoying sparkling wine more often will happen. I too feel that and this is from my off-premise wine marketing work (at a wine retailer with locations in 30 states) that people feel a sense of judgement from family and friends when someone brings a sparkling wine to a dinner or get together.

I do think the most complementary relationship with wine is buying what is most pleasing to you. I don’t worry when I gift someone a Crémant thinking I should only buy from another wine region. I buy intentionally and hoping to get more people to enjoy a wider set of wines.

I love Crémant and the regional wines that confidently reflect a regions grapes. I have also found very sophisticated and modern producers. Producers are coming from a diverse set of experiences and philosophies. I have tasted wine reflecting biodynamic, organic and vegan practices that reflect sensitivity and relevancy of product.

Crémant producers aren’t just trying to produce a category of wine but many if not most are producing wines they are proud of and hope to spread the great tastes of Crémant. Open up a bottle of sparkling wine once weekly; that is what I do.

Enjoy – A Votre Santé,

James

© 2022 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original content, drawings, art work, graphs, photographs, logo, brand name, rating, rating, taxonomy, graphic and award, my original art work and all designs of James the Wine Guy.  James the Wine Guy is also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

#Crémant #SparklingWine

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Domaine Carneros: Always a Stellar Still & Sparkling Wine Producer

Domaine Carneros is  very well known and lauded for their sparkling and still wine production.  Domaine Carneros founded by Claude Taittinger of Champagne Taittinger in 1987 with 138 acres/55 hectares. The pedigree was further defined by Eileen Crane, the founding winemaker and recently retired CEO, who headed Domaine Carneros for 33 years of outstanding still and sparkling wine production.

While there may be other sparkling wine producers who might use Carneros fruit it is not usually for their entire wine line up.  Domaine Carneros uses Carneros as the overwhelming focus of fruit for wine production. This commitment is impressive as I cannot say enough positive words for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from this AVA (American Viticultural Area).  Los Carneros or Carneros AVA was the first true cool climate wine growing region in California.  And yes many producers use this AVA’s fruit, and I do think other regions get greater acclaim for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay but this is my favorite wine cool climate wine region in California.

The adage of “wine is made in the vineyard” is partly true and the other part comes when vinification takes place. I think a great starting place to “taste” Carneros is to firstly start with still wines.  I have found constancy and consistency in Domaine Carneros still and sparkling wine program. 

I have been greeted by Domaine Carmernos from my first visits to Napa and I look forward to my visits today.  It has been my welcoming winery or the winery I enjoyed lastly to ponder the day’s visit to Napa.  There is excitement in the early part of a day on Highway 12 from San Francisco and the anticipation of that visit. I love the view of undulating hills of Carneros which is quite different from the Napa Valley floor further north in the valley.   I have always been intrigued by all things French and the view from ground-to-hill of this beautiful Chateau inspired by Champagne Taittinger’s Château de la Marquetterie in Pierry, France is outstanding.  My visit strategy is to either book my visit to Domaine Carneros in the very early part of my wine tasting day or at the end of that particular day.

My most fond memories are closing out the day and my final stop at Domaine Carneros at any time of year. The Fall and Winter will represent haunting and gorgeous late afternoon sunshine that begins to dim early and you will see gorgeous softening marine layer skies. Sparkling wine tasting is a must but so is to cap the visit to Domaine Carneros with tasting the still wines as well.  I value and prize all the Pinot Noir and, in particular, Famous Gate and Avant-Garde Pinot Noirs. I have always loved Pinot Noir from almost all cool climate regions but the language of the Domaine Carneros Pinot Noir have always spoken a Terroir driven dialect.  Specifically, what I mean is I always experience fine balance and get the mineral character that represents Carneros as a whole.  Domaine Carneros Pinot Noir have shown finesse via flawless extraction and hence letting the balanced wine speak of a compelling experience.  Carneros additionally represents a wonderful chord of graphite, floral, fruit and spice that is distinct even from nearby or far away AVAs.

I was fortunate to have sat down with the T.J. Evans, Domaine Carneros’s long time still winemaker.  T.J. is a delightful person and is a quentessential winemaker’s winemaker.  I enjoyed talking about our personal intrigues with wine: likes, loves and preferences.  I was able to taste some of T.J. ‘s delightful Chardonnay’s.  Chardonnay, the grape, is not just a workhorse grape, it is a white grape that can do so much that other white grapes cannot.  While the Pinot Noirs at the Domaine are stunning, so too are TJ’s Chardonnay’s.  When you visit be sure to try one if it is on the tasting list.  His approach to Chardonnay is to let fruit speak with ease–seems easy–right?  But I do think a seasoned hand is needed in creating a compelling and sophisticated New World Chardonnay.  A careful approach to the subject matter is where alignment to fruit character is expressed and not to create a stifled austere wine or one too dependent on the oak regimen.  TJ Evans Chardonnay’s are compelling. and rewarding experience of weight, texture, fruit, and mineral to express elegance.


The sparkling wine program has grown thoughtfully through the years and can encompass an entire meal from first to last plates. For every occasion you can pour a different Domaine Carneros sparkling wine.  

In my video below, I talk about Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs which is one of the houses two Tête de Cuvée wines.  This fine Blanc de Blancs has been programmatically not been about creating a wine that is 100% Chardonnay but to built a wine of pedigree, nuance and finance coupled with fine bubbles and delicate creaminess.


I have said in my videos that you could easily have a meal where it is a meal focusing on sparkling wine.  

Domaine Carneros sparkling wines can begin with the Estate Brut Cuvée or Ultra Brut or Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs paired with Triple Creme Brie, Oysters, Caviar and so on.

The main course and adjusting to what you will be surviving but could be the Late DisgorgedLe Rêve Blanc de Blancs or the Blanc de Noirs wines with duck, pork loin, Salmon, white fish, shellfish and steak (yes, beef, can be a delightful paring)

And dessert highlighting the Vermeil Demi-Sec or Ultra Brut for a sweet dessert or cheese offering.


And lastly, I always say that sparkling wines are not just a once or twice yearly wine but something I enjoy a glass of once per week.  It is important to normalize sparkling wine and enjoy it frequently.  Enjoying sparkling wine routinely doesn’t make sparkling wines less intriguing and it is something I look forward to.  I cannot imagine life without a weekly experience of sparkling wine.  If you need a special occasion then make one up for you, your friends and family.  Go ahead, open up a bottle of sparkling wine–you know you want to!

While Eileen Crane has retired her legacy continues under the leadership of Remi Cohen.  Remi ensures that each experiences at Domaine Carneros will be warm, friendly and inviting.  She is also working towards the optimum still and sparkling wines to come.  When you visit–be sure to taste both still and sparkling wines.  If you don’t see anything on the tasting list ask if there might be a bottle open like the Chardonnay which I highly recommend.  And never leave without getting a taste of Famous Gate and Le Rêve wines.  Reservations are needed and can be secured online

Wine Tasted:

Domaine Carneros La Rêve Rose 2016 97 Points


Domaine Carneros La Rêve Blanc de Blancs 2014


Domaine Carneros Late Disgorged Brut 2015


Domaine Carneros Estate Chardonnay 2020


La Ciel Serein Chardonnay 2017


Domaine Carneros Palmer Vineyard Carneros Chardonnay 2018


Famous Gate Carneros Pinot Noir 2018


Domaine Carneros Le Ciel Serein Pinot Noir 2018

Santé,

James

© 2021 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original content, drawings, art work, graphs, photographs, logo, brand name, rating, rating, taxonomy, graphic and award, my original art work and all designs of James the Wine Guy.  James the Wine Guy is also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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James Melendez Early Autumn 2022 Wine, Spirits & Glassware Reviews – Le Grande Parade

I love Autumn!

I posted flowers on my Facebook page recently and someone thought it was not that thrilling and while others enjoyed it. I love all of the things Fall bring–cooler, crisper temps; fallen leaves, angle of sunlight change. And I adore the food and the wines of Fall.

I don’t like to segment wines that they can only be enjoyed certain times of the year. I do believe all wines can and should be enjoyed year round. I love sparkling wine all the time but somehow Fall and early winter make sparkling wine even more special.

I am an old world sparkling wine fan. There is much fewer producers in the new world. I do especially love five new world producers (I’ll highlight more of those wines later). The many producers in Champagne, Prosecco, Cava, Crémant and other regions are staggering; it is not an issue of quantity but a comment about so many stunning producers and wines to be enjoyed yearly. Many European regions present considerable opportunity for excellent Quality-Price-Ratio ratios.

Also Autumn is a time to bring out your best wine glasses (and I urge doing this all of the time).  Wines served in the appropriate vessel is essential – it is appreciated.  You will see a few videos of wine glasses here and on my YouTube Channel.  Here is a playlist of my glassware videos


Champagne Henriot Millésime 2008

The latest vintage release for Champagne Henriot is 2012. This is the previous vintage and a special vintage because it is the year of the 200th anniversary of Champagne Henriot. This is equal parts Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Minimum aged 6 years on the lees; dosage at least 6g/L.

Aptly dry; gorgeous wine and represents 2008 superbly well. This wine has a nose of passionfruit, Meyer lemon curd, freshly roasted pine nut and Brioche. Palate is skillfully luxuriant with vibrancy and finesse; passionfruit, hint of autumnal fruit, fresh flower bunch and crushed sea shells


Esporão Bico Amarelo Vinho Verde 2021

This wine is composed of 40% Loureiro, 30% Alvarinho and 30% Avesso. SRP $12. 11% ABV

Clean and fresh wine; nose is expressive of fresh Amalfi lemon, moistened stones and early spring flowers. Palate is highly nuanced, appreciable dry; yellow citrus, heirloom apple, and oyster shell. An outstanding value.


Esporão Quinta do Ameal Loureiro Vinho Verde 2021/

100% Loureiro; 11.5% ABV; SRP $18

Nose presents with an exhilarating green citrus notes and uplift of tropical fruit, moisten minerals and white flower bunch; lively acidity, noticeable and appreciable sapidity; tart green apple, fresh green citrus, floral and cracked oyster shell.


Casas del Bosque Botanic Series Valle de Casablanca Sauvignon Blanc 2020

This wine is 13.5% ABV, Price Point: $18.00 (price can vary from location-to-location and off and on premise). Nose of grapefruit skin, golden kiwi, and flowers

The nose gives a suggestion of tartness but the palate is much more balanced of lemon curd, mineral, hint of fennel.


Tabali Talinay Valle de Limari Sauvignon Blanc 2021

This wine is 12.5% ABV; Price Point is $24 (price can vary from location-to-location and off and on premise).

Nose of yellow citrus skin, nuance of gooseberry, and flowers. Palate of orange citrus, moisten stones, and hint of dried herbs.


Château de la Noblesse Bandol 2021

Bandol is an exhilarating region which I rarely get to enjoy wines from this region. Even in San Francisco these wines are a rarity. They shouldn’t be. These wines are often filled with finesse and a point-of-difference from other Rosés and to be enjoyed year round. The nose presents with mountain strawberry, hint of dried herbs, and light red floral notes. The palate is nuanced with notes of wild strawberry, orange skin, flowers and moistened mineral.


Viña Koyle Costa La Flor San Antonio Valle de Leyda Sauvignon Blanc 2021

2,500 case production; 13% ABV. $18 (price can vary from location-to-location and off and on premise).

I have only tasted Koyle’s Cabernet wines and this was the first I have ever tasted their Sauvignon Blanc. Nose of Lisbon lemon, yellow stone fruit, fresh herbs, and white flowers; palate of dried and fresh Lemon peel; compacted sea shells and flowers.


Matetic Vineyards EQ Coastal Casablanca Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2020

13.5% ABV; $18 SRP (price can vary from location-to-location and off and on premise).

Nose of mix green and yellow citrus, hint of tropical notes; and notation of fennel; appreciable palate of Lemon curd, hint of tropical fruit, and fennel.

Viña Garcés Silva Amayna San Antonio Valle de Leyda Sauvignon Blanc 2020

13.9% ABV; $25 (price can vary from location-to-location and off and on premise).

Fresh and lively wine; nose of Meyer lemon, grapefruit, and flowers; palate of Meyer lemon, yellow stone fruit, fresh herbs and oyster shell.


Ventisquero Wine Estates Grey Atacama Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2019

This is wine is 13% ABV; $25 (price can vary from location-to-location and off and on premise).

A superbly fresh and lively wine; nose of freshly cut citrus, tropical fruit and moistening minerals. bright palate and rich acidity; grapefruit skin, hint of tropical fruit, hint of fennel and fresh flowers.


I’ll be back for another set of reviews for the holiday season ahead!

Come back for more and see you soon! Santé, James


Here are recent reviews of wine, spirits and wine glassware:


© 2022 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original content, drawings, art work, graphs, photographs, logo, brand name, rating, rating, taxonomy, graphic and award, my original art work and all designs of James the Wine Guy.  James the Wine Guy is also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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The Great Wine Shelf Still Doesn’t Exist Today; A Future State of Wine Availability is Needed

A Recent visit to Wine Retailer in October 2022

I was at a wine and spirits retailer in San Francisco and the picture above shows the holes in inventory in the Italian section.  There is no shortage of wine (good wine) and this tells me that only certain wines can be placed in spaces and there are no profitability pressures whatsoever.  It wasn’t just that one day I was there but for weeks on end as I visit this retailer nearly weekly and it is still this way today (October 2022).

It is a wine retailer that has a large set of SKUs, probably 4,000 wines, 1,500 spirits just from visual estimate.  I was a national wine marketing manager for a fleet of 300 stores and I learned to assess SKUs in any retail setting quickly.  Most wine retailers have by necessity SKUs of wine brands with an overwhelming customer recognition.  Internationally known Champagnes and even a Pinot Grigio from the Veneto command the attention of consumers and are often sold at very low margins (2-5%); margins that are truly a loss leader (especially if you add operating costs).  So it is understandable that many wine retailers are looking to have assortments that have richer margins and import wines directly to the retailer to help to set retailers with higher average margins.

I am a big consumer of French and Italian wines, but I look to all regions new and old world to supply my household.  I do understand that my reach is not the typical wine consumer’s selection but I do think wine fans are always seeking to maximize their experience with wine.  That wine retailers have an opportunity to educate and introduce new producers, varieties and regions to their assortment and to realize healthy and sustainable margins.  I don’t mean retailers who are chasing or trying to create “trends.”  I am opposed to buying into a wine trend; first and foremost it is an odd concept and it tends to pit one region against another.   Also, a well known wine region is not suddenly irrelevant or uninteresting because wines from a lesser known wine region are suddenly on “trend.”

I do think there is an opportunity to highlight new wine producers and, for some, consumers an esoteric wine will hit the spot for expanding their horizons.  There are people who host their own wine tasting events and it is exceptionally fun to introduce new wines, regions and varieties to a receptive audience of friends and family members.  Marketing wine via wine regional trade organizations is truly essential; without organized efforts such regions would be lost in the mix of wine assortments that we see in on and off premise organizations.

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Back to the example of the wine store that I am referencing above. I typically don’t call out a wine store by name–I do that for a lot of reasons–in this article it is not a review of this wine retailer but an example of practices that are happening today. Also, a community of on and off premise institutions that are stuck in holding assortments today as they are not truly working towards the assortment of the future.  The above retailer is either waiting for replenishment (which I doubt is not happening) or they have not had identified SKUs or have received them. This wine distributor community is obviously known to the wine retailing community and could easily pull wines from many bonded warehouses in the Bay Area or nearby. Many retailers use very outdated systems that are time consuming to manage and use. Also, SKU setup and overall inventory management perspectives want dependability of SKUs and are not eager to court new SKUs. But the wine world is different, very different from almost any other consumer category.  There are significant limitations of all wines produced and only mass market producers can supply with near certainty.  But the limitation of wine availability is the magic of the wine proposition. I wouldn’t want wine to have a nearly inexhaustible inventory.  On and off premise wine buyers need to be much more receptive to the in and out strategy of wine inventory management.  I do question the wine retailer who expects/demands replenishment of a product that by its nature has case and bottle limitations.. If I was a wine retailer, I would expect my store(s) to jump on keeping a flow of wine selling through and to never have open shelf space (there is a cost of empty shelves as well) loss in potential sales and a carrying cost of empty selling space. Retailers do look at square foot sales productivity.

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Amazon has delved into the wine business, first as a direct supplier from its warehouses and secondly and most predominantly now via their Whole Foods business and their Fresh grocery business.  There was concern from wine retailers about the Amazon effect on their category.  And, from what I see, Amazon is not a power wine retailer today and perhaps will never be in the future.  Amazon, JPMorganChase and Berkshire failed in their attempt to manage healthcare cost and this speaks to the fact that combined effort had no effect based on poorly designed goals and outcomes that were not achievable.  When many hear the word Amazon many people fear for their business but Amazon is not able to deal with complex products that have a long regulatory tail and healthcare, pharmaceutical products as well as wine, beer and spirits are in that equation.

Today, there is no dynamical wine retailer that can quickly adapt to a very large wine world out there—none.  I see so many assortments that seem to either have no thematic, speciality or even a slight adjustment to their assortments.  I could look back in time say a decade ago at many retailers and their assortments are nearly frozen in time still today.  And some wine retailers have no coherency to their wine assortment; I live near a wine retailer that has what I can only describe as an accidental assortment–what I did find is that the “wine” buyer is buying for other non-related categories.  

When I travel to the Old World many producers and regions are working to get their wines known and to be sold on and off premise in the US.  But the shelf space is quite limited and I don’t think I am advocating for longer shelf spaces but retailers that can pivot to their own supply shortcomings and to offer fuller assortments and movement in their assortments.  And by today’s off premise wine community in the US change is needed to enhance a vast array of wine assortment possibilities.  I would say the dynamic wine retailer still doesn’t exist and yes this means online as well.  I do think a revision on how wine retailers manage their inventory, enticing customers with better marketing tools including in-store will help to entice consumers that increasingly have limited access to in-store help when making a wine selection.  The club warehouses have been successful in “explaining” their wine assortment in training their customers in that what is supplied is the best selection available–wine consumers just buy  because of trust.

I do think the biggest challenge today is for coherency and cogency in wanting to be in the wine retailing business.  Consumers I do believe ultimately know that they cannot get wines from only one wine retailer and even those that depend on one online wine retailer (and that is because of a yearly shipping fee) do leave a lot behind.  This happens in the grocery business–I have tried just using one grocer but often need two at minimum.   The online wine retailing community catapulted during COVID and that was a boon to these businesses but they too didn’t change their old business style.  I have said to people who seek my opinion on using one wine retailer because of a yearly shipping fee that they are leaving much behind when it comes to a broader selection (and are boxing themselves in).

Lastly, wine retailers can and should seek flexibility in their floor space if they have them or wine pages if they are online.  Using more proactive wine assortments, maximizing their selling capacity, finding ways of adapting and adopting to faster turns and ways to run more SKUs.  There is an amazing wine world out there and wine consumers in the US only see a small fraction especially in the aggressive potential of the entire global wine community.

© 2022 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original content, drawings, art work, graphs, photographs, logo, brand name, rating, rating, taxonomy, graphic and award, my original art work and all designs of James the Wine Guy.  James the Wine Guy is also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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Titus Vineyards – Authentically Napa Valley

I was privileged to go to Titus winery and enjoy a sit down with Eric Titus and enjoyed a conversation about his family site and wine making experience and taste his family’s wines.

Titus was the first bottle of Napa Valley Cabernet I purchased when I moved to San Francisco a generation and half ago. I remember I was at a San Francisco wine merchant and I carefully selected a bottle that I would put down for a few years. I visited this wine merchant for several weeks to make that important purchase. This was a time when wine information was rarified and while this wine merchant had a nice stock of wines then and now; somehow I had the good fortune to select Titus. I looked at only Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons and over time eliminated those that I wouldn’t buy and selected one bottle! It was Titus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1992 which I opened up in 2005 (I wish I had a taken a photo of that bottle; it was before iPhone and camera’s with film weren’t plentiful back then).

Titus was founded 50 years ago and encompasses 50 acres at the base of Howell Mountain growing Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc. The Titus family has owned this site for 100 years. It is one of the oldest continuously owned Napa Valley family owned vineyard sites.

One constant is not necessarily change but adaptability, approachability and passion.

Napa Valley more than most wine regions has more than it’s share of corporate ownership from Hublein to Coca Cola for at least three generations and that trend has not ceased.

Napa Valley has a total of 44,210 acres planted to vine.

1. Treasury Wine Estates: 3,416* acres4.

2.TIAA/Silverado Investment Management Co.: 2,500 acres

3. Constellation Brands: 1,330* acres

4. Bayview/Laird Family: 1,811 acres

5. E&J Gallo: 1,123 acres

6. Beckstoffer Vineyards: 1,015 acres

5. Jackson Family Wines: 690* acres

6. Antinori California: 561 acres

7. Yount Mill Vineyards/Napa Wine Company: 500 acres

8. St. Supéry Vineyards and Winery/Chanel, Inc.: 535 acres

Total: 13,481 acres are corporate owned; which represents 30.4% of total vines planted.

Napa Valley over time unlike the old world doesn’t have a tendency to keep vineyard and winery in family hands. But Titus is different and unique and makes for a larger reason to retain the site and it’s lineage of wine making. 


Here are the wines I tasted:

Titus Napa Valley Red Wine Lot 1 2018 – $89.00

This wine represents the majority of wine grapes they produce with 45% Petite Sirah, 28% Malbec, 22% Petit Verdot, and 5% Zinfandel. This is barrel aged for 20 months in 60% new French and Hungarian oak, 430 cases produced; 14.5% ABV.

The nose represents considerable dark and brooding fruit, mixed spices, dried red rose petal and autumnal forest. The palate is silken with noticeable and appreciable texture; black fruit, espresso, and dried herbs.


Titus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 $65

This wine is 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7.5% Petit Verdot, 7% Merlot, and 4.5% Malbec; this is barrel aged for 20 months in 60% new French and Hungarian oak; 4,800 cases produced 14.5% ABV,

A very nice homecoming experience to taste the latest release and 20 years difference shows wines that are approachable for food and wallet. Handsomely crafted from my first bottle from the early 90s to the ever present. Nose; red-black bramble, cassis, clove, red rose petal and autumnal herb garden. Palate of cassis, ground clove, hint of anise, pepper and Thyme.


Titus Napa Valley Merlot 2019 – $54

This wine is 77% Merlot, 17% Malbec, and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon. This is barrel aged for 20 months in 55% new French and Hungarian; 400 cases produced, this wine is 14.5% ABV.

The colour is deep rich and dark; nose of cassis, Bay leaf, dark chocolate and suede; palate has appreciable acidity, cassis, blackberry, dried herbs, pepper and red floral; a great choice with beef and pork.


Titus Napa Valley Cabernet Franc 2019 – $62

This wine is 86% Cabernet Franc, 7% Malbec, and 7% Cabernet Sauvignon; this wine spend 20 months in 60% new French and Hungarian oak. 1,400 cases produced and ABV is 14.5%.

It is hard to find a new world Cabernet Franc that is not green. There are many. But this is finely balanced and nicely approachable. Nose of red-black bramble, clove, leathery-suedey notes, and accented with dried herbs. Palate is Red Bramble and red cherry, clove, Bay leaf and dried red floral


The price points on Titus wines are within reach and compared to other Napa Valley producers are completely reasonable. Wines with promise of aging, a friendly place to visit and a family owned and operated is a welcoming experience that is becoming increasingly rare in Napa Valley. Think of these wines for your special autumnal and winter meals ahead and all meals year round.

Reservations and more information on acquiring these wines Titus Vineyards

Map courtesy of Titus Vineyards.

© 2022 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original content, drawings, art work, graphs, photographs, logo, brand name, rating, rating, taxonomy, graphic and award, my original art work and all designs of James the Wine Guy.  James the Wine Guy is also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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Visiting Napa Valley; Reserve the “Heck” out of It Before You Step Foot On Ground

Reserve the “Heck” Out of Your Napa Valley Visit

I have been to Napa Valley more times than I can count.  I have always enjoyed my experience and love being there. The early visiting days were much more magical and romantic than they are today unfortunately.

I do hope the bedside manners of Napa Valley improves in due course; it is off putting to be ignored or to have an okay experience.  Specifically, I had called a winery (and, of course, got voice mail) and I also emailed the winery east of Silverado Trail in the hills and did not even receive the courtesy of a returned email or call.  It is perfectly fine to say you are busy.


I think I made more discoveries in the ‘come as you are days’ than I do today.  I remember that you could visit many (not all wineries) and no appointment was needed even in the ‘reservation required’ wineries.  Not everyone has a completely open-to-the-public winery and I am not sure in Napa’s current mood if that even matters anymore. Go to a winery that is “open” with no reservation needed and you will be asked “do you have a reservation?” which is code for “you must have a reservation.”

The days of $25 basic tasting and $40 reserve tastings can now only be seen in the rear view mirror.  Pricing of tasting and wines have easily outpaced inflation for the past generation.  But it is not just the price of tastings and pricing of bottles; it is that reservation are required everywhere you go and whatever you do (I dare not say post-pandemic era) but the pandemic has changed things in Napa Valley once more and I do think it is permanent.

Visiting Napa and Sonoma Valley during the early days of the pandemic was not enjoyable at all but it was not enjoyable anywhere to be fair.  I remember dialing up a winery while I was in Napa and food purchases were required and wine tasting limited which wineries were allowed to be open; it was a clustered mess. I scratch my head and wonder why food purchases were required at all.


While when it was easier to visit a generation ago there were fewer producers and fewer wines at each producer than today.  But today there are many wines and many producers and it is more difficult to get a reservation to visit now than ever before.  Also, there are no good times of the year to visit and that too is a change; there is no off-season any longer.

On a recent visit to Napa Valley, I spoke with a tasting room manager and he was glad that there were changes in Napa Valley to keep those that are not “serious about wine.”  I said that accessibility should not be rarified and the long mission should be as welcoming as possible to all those who have an interest in visiting.

On a recent visit, a friend wanted me to arrange our Napa Valley visit and I suggested that I make a reservation at Domaine Chandon. I thought it would be a nice start of the day with a glass of bubbly.  My friend said that a reservation was not necessary. I did say Napa has changed and I do think a Napa visit needs a reservation everywhere you go.  I was anticipating and couldn’t wait for a glass of bubbly to start the day.  But it was not meant to be.  And, of course, when we got there we were told we got there too early; we arrived at 11:00 am to see if we could walk-in.  And it was not just me and my friend but many other people who arrived too “early” experienced the surprise as well.  We all walked away disappointed…. The hosts were not terribly friendly or even apologetic.   We then went to Yountville for a quick lunch.  The idea was tossed to not go back after an early lunch because we had an appointment at 1:00 pm at another winery.  I do suspect that if we went back we still would not have been able to have a glass of bubbly.


The excitement of the early days was where tasting rooms were not well appointed or spacious as they are today–the access was open and fun.  It was open for exploration. The friendliness was there–it is still here today but it is not as abundant.

I remember in the recent past;  a nearly comical experience by visiting a winery on upper Highway 29 close to Calistoga and when me and another friend were “greeted” at the car to confirm if we had a reservation or not.  We had not but I also explained that we kept calling and left a voicemail and tried again hoping to talk with a person to see if there was availability.  We couldn’t leave the car and it was like a moment from Pretty Woman in the “Please Leave” Scene.

Napa Valley’s bedside manners needs to improve–sure busyness is a good thing for business but it can be off putting as well.  While a winery might have to deliver a message of being completely booked there is always a good, better and best way of conveying the message in a tactful and professional manner.  After all, might those that are turned away be future guests? 

“We have some availability tomorrow afternoon”

“How about later today?”

”Let me take your number in case we have a cancellation…. “

You get the idea.


Lettie Teague of the Wall Street Journal published on Saturday 23, April 2022 Who Can Afford Napa Now? Not This Wine Columnist about the extremely expensive costs of hotel stays.  She mentioned that a hotel above a garage station was where she could reliably stay but today it is different and exorbitant.  The cost of an entry level tasting is $50 and now for a reserve tasting is $75 to $100 or more per tasting; meanwhile in other wine countries it is still $15-$20 dollars.  

The question is how long will prices increase above inflation for both wine prices, wine tasting and hotels?  This may be happening for a while but I do think there is a limit and we have not seen that line crossed yet.  The visitor infrastructure is strong for Napa as well as the closeness of producers to each other than any other wine country in the US; I don’t think another wine country in the US will catch up to Napa’s infrastructure.

But whatever the price points; expect sticker shock even in our days of high inflation Napa will be above that.  The only spots for normalized pricing is the cost of eating at Napa Valley restaurants which are on par with San Francisco and which I do think is higher than the national average but not terribly north of there. I do expect prices here too will increase well above the national average soon.

Whatever you do before you put foot on ground in Napa is to reserve everything–cars, hotels, restaurants and especially tastings.  Do not expect to be too lucky to just happen to find a winery while driving along a roadside in Napa to pull into and have a tasting—those days are gone forever. 

Reserve the “Heck” out of Napa Valley and do it Way Before You Arrive

© 2022 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original content, drawings, art work, graphs, photographs, logo, brand name, rating, rating, taxonomy, graphic and award, my original art work and all designs of James the Wine Guy.  James the Wine Guy is also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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James Melendez First Quarter 2022 Wine Reviews

This quarterly wine review has been so hard to put together not because of any technicals of tasting or even formatting this page. But because of the loss of my mother in January of this year. The loss was profound and I found writing or even creating videos so difficult to do. I was in mourning and for the most part almost posted nothing on social media – one of out of respect for my mother and a time out to reflect and recall and keep a remembrance ongoing.


Here begins this list of tastings that I have completed and for the first time ever is a 99 point ranking. I know some reviewers give out 99 and 100 points so routinely that they have muted the bell curve distribution. I have for the most part from my previous reviews of my score distribution have a more classic bell curve. Monkey is such a memorable experience that tasting is compelling and identifiable as Monkey. Also, Monkey 47 never gets lost in a mix–it boldly and confidently stands up in any mix. This is a product that is undeniably a product of outstanding excellence. A 99 Point Score might be my 100 Point but I do shy away from a 100 Point Score as I do believe it tends to stand for something that is perfect. I do not believe in perfect anything and if we had a “perfect” object would we recognize perfection? I do think for those who feel the need to issue a lot of 100 Points it does make for a number of questions and does dilute the perfect scores–it could be argued that not everything is perfect….


Aquilini 10000 Hours Red Mountain Red Wine

This wine is 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot, 4% Malbec 4% Merlot, and 2% Cabernet Franc

15% ABV; 20 months in 40% new French oak, $35.00 SRP, 1,600 cases produced

Nose: blackberry, sanded cedar, underbrush, dried flowers and bay leaf

Black fruit, pepper, thyme clove, and spices


Chasing Rain Red Mountain Red Blend 2019

This wine: 14.5% ABV, 2,700 cases produced, $25 SRP

Nose: Fresh red bramble, forest floor, suede, and freshly ground spices

Palate: Red fruit, thyme, pepper and clove


Chasing Rain Red Mountain Merlot 2019

This wine: 4,600 cases produced, $25.00 SRP

Nose: pomegranate, red chery, spice, violet and lavender

Palate: black cherry, clove, tarragon and white pepper 



Chasing Rain Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

This wine is 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot, 14.5% ABV, $25.00 SRP, 2,900 cases produced; 19 months in new 20% American oak and 10% French oak

Nose: red/black fruit, spice, suede-leather and red flowers

palate: red bramble, red cherry, bay leaf and pepper


Be Human Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

This wine is 94% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% of Petit Verdot, 19 month in 33% new American oak, $17 SRP and 3,700 cases produced.

Nose: red bramble, cherries, freshly sanded wood, and spices

Palate: Pomegranate, cherry, black pepper, and ground spices

***

Terranobile Gran Reserva Valle de Maule Carmenere 2018

This wine is 14%

Nose: black fruit, red tea, suede and forest floor

Palate: black fruit, pepper and clove, dried red flowers


Cattleya Sonoma County Chardonnay 2020

Nose: Autumnal and winter fruit, oyster shell and hint of nutmeg

Palate: Granny Smith apple, green pear, moistened mineral and delicate note of nutmeg.

14.1% ABV, 220 cases produced, and $26 SRP.


Cattleya Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Nose: Meyer lemon zest, white peach, moistened rocks and white flowers

Palate: Grapefruit, white peach, Lisbon lemon and white flowers

13.5% ABV, 2000 cases, $22 SRP


Cattleya Sonoma County Rosé of Pinot Noir 2021

White peach, Meyer lemon skin, and mountain strawberry.

Palate: delicate notes of mountain strawberry and mix of fresh citrus skin and hint of flowers

11.8% ABV, 1000 cases produced, $22 SRP


Video reviews:


Enjoy–Santé,

James

© 2022 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original content, drawings, art work, graphs, photographs, logo, brand name, rating, rating, taxonomy, graphic and award, my original art work and all designs of James the Wine Guy.  James the Wine Guy is also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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