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

World Wide Wine Day Rev

 

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrations can have the following elements:

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

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

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

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

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

“Demystifying Wine—One Bottle at a Time”
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Bodegas Lavia – A World Class Monastrell Producer – James Melendez / James the Wine Guy

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

 

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

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The beautiful peak logo on each label of Bodegas Lavia

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Barrel cactus in front of the Bodegas Lavia

 

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

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Sebastien Boudon giving us a sample from barrel

 

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

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

 

 

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Finca Paso Malo

 

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

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Beautiful metamorphic rock found at Finca Paso Malo

 

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

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Squid and Squid Ink

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Bacalao

 

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

Lavia Bullas Monastrell-Syrah 2004 – 9.4

9.4

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

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

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

 

Lavia Bullas Monastrell-Syrah – 2006 9.4

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

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

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

 

Lavia Bullas Monastrell-Syrah 2009 – 9.3

9.3

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

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

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

Lavia Bullas Monastrell-Syrah 2010 9.3 (93)

9.3

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

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

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

 

Lavia+ Bullas Finca Paso Malo Monastrell 2009 (95)

9.5

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

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

 

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

***

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

¡Salud!

James Melendez

James the Wine Guy

Website for Bodegas Lavia

www.bodegaslavia.com/

Bodegas Lavia is part of MGWines Group

MGWines Group

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

 

 

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Visiting Sierra Salinas – A Time for Monastrell, A Time for Alicante D.O Wines – James Melendez

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

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

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

Sacred Soil

 

MIRA 2010

9.4

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

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

Sierra Salinas

http://www.sierrasalinas.com

Restaurante Mesón La Despensa

Calle Cervantes, 27, Villena, Alicante

965 80 83 87

http://www.mesonladespensa.com

 

¡Salud!

James Melendez

James the Wine Guy

“Demystifying Wine—One Bottle at a Time”

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

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

 

Pinot Gris Sign

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

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

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

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

There are several thoughtful ways to visit J.

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

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

Here is both the food and wines I experienced:

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

Paired with Coastal Hill Duck Egg, Celery Root and Truffle

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

Paired with Goat milk yogurt, Quinoa, and wheat grass

Goat Milk Yogurt

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

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

Paired with Petrale Sole, Dungeness Crab, Kohlrabi and Citrus

Petrale Sole

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

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

Pork

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

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

Cheese plate

J Russian River Valley Ratafia – 9.4 (94 Points)

Paired with Chocolate Cremeaux, coconut and Pecan Brittle

 

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

 

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

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

Telephone: 888.594.6326

https://www.jwine.com/visit

Continuous Community Building of A Wine Channel on YouTube – James Melendez

Last February (2014) I wrote down my overall click rate of 97,976 and in the middle of the last month February 2015 was over 180,000 click rates. While in the YouTubeverse the click rate may not be similar to iJustine or CTFxC multi millions click rate. But I have noted in an online article I wrote “The Audience is Not Listening to Wine Videos on YouTube…..Yet – James Melendezthe 85% increase demonstrated a growing community—a community that I created that is being cultivated.

The wine category is sleepy and yet I see many opportunities to increase and continuing to develop my community. The sleepiness can be shaken with more videos—videos that highlight individual bottle reviews as well a general wine subject matter. I was impressed at looking at my subscribing base and the subscribers are not necessarily producers but individuals who have an interest in wine.

Many people have tried producing wine videos and there has been a segment that instead of trying to cultivate a community of  just producing content of “film it and it will be watched” mentality but the YouTube viewer is more demanding a rightfully so.  Content to be watched should be watchable.

Many wine videos still have a preponderance of simple problems—such as leaving video file type (video.mp4), video naming without a call to action, beginning and ending format that is non-existent, a bit of music and a phraseology to close video, amongst a few of the many issues that exist.

I recently looked at two prominent wine writers/reviewers with more of a print background than a video one. Their videos are unlike their written work—the videos were of low production quality, the narrative frame was missing and it told me that they created videos because “they were suppose to” versus having a passion to do video. These two wine writers have videos and their initial click rates were promising but each subsequent videos are anemic; the videos are a low click rates and that is due to a promise of the video content not delivering to their audience.

I do hope more people have a commitment, desire and passion to cover wine in their videos. A rising tide does lift all boats and with that I would welcome having an active and responsive community.

I proved to myself that there is an audience there—it is about creating that audience, having the  diligence and a point of view of unwavering commitment. I also look at other video producers for inspiration.  There is an audience hungry for wine content–look at beer and whiskey–significantly more active than wine videos.  May we be in a period of many more wine videos to come.

¡Salud!

http://www.jamesthewineguy.com

***

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

Read more of my wine reviews:   WORDPRESS

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Michter’s Whiskey… a Great Whiskey Story – James Melendez

Michter’s Whiskeys got me to think and re-think the whiskey movement in the US.  I have always had a great appreciation for all whiskey styles.  And yet it seems that the collective imagination is on Scotch and Scotland.  And the lion’s share is a big pie slice weighted more heavily to Scotch than other whiskey traditions.

The American movement like any other alcoholic beverage has a point where the craft was put on hold–that being Prohibition.  And the road to where we are today has been a long and winding one.  Prohibition was a massive failure and yet after it’s repeal the movement of fine wine, beer and spirits doesn’t happen for quite some time after.  We would have to wait a few generations before the demand and creation of these beverage arts would happen.

 The legacy of Michters was founded in Schaefferstown Pennsyvlania in 1753 by Swiss Mennonites John and Michael Shenk.  It is said that General Washington had purchased whiskey from this distillery for a long and trying winter in Valley Forge for his troops.  The distillery was purchased by Abraham Bomberger in 1860 and through a series of owners and after Prohibition the distillery was purchased by Lou Forman and he named this distillery Michters after his sons Michael and Peter.  Michters brand lasts until 1989 when the distillery and label are shuttered.  In the 1990s the Michter’s label is resurrected and begins to create fine American whiskeys once again.  Joseph Magliocco and Richard Newman recharter Michters in the 1990s and the tradition begins again.  The appreciation and market demand finally comes back to life; a whole host of new labels are started and this is during a period of great demand and appreciation of smaller production beer, wine and spirits.  Looking in the review mirror to a generation we see the upstart of this great movement of small and thoughtful batches in this past decade and half.  The market was both developed and partially ready.  Now in 2015 is the expectation of a well stocked bar to have a wide selection of Whiskies, Vodkas, Gins, Tequila and so forth.  I hear often from people seated next to me asking for a particular spirit; bartenders are knowledgable and adventure seeking consumers.

Master Distiller Willie Pratt’s interpretation of each whiskey style Michter’s producers are seamless whiskeys with considerable artistry and yet a great leaning and homage to each style this house produces.  See below for a video review I completed for each Michter’s Whiskey

Michter’s Whiskeys

Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish Whiskey 9.6 (96)

Scent:  cinnamon stick, moist autumnal leaves, aspen forest, stone fruit orchard, and leather

Flavour notes: mix of citrus zest and peel, white peach, cinnamon, cardamom,hint of maple, and anise

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ljtv24L-0jk

Michter’s Straight Rye Whiskey – 9.5 (95)

Scent: leather, aspen forest, vanilla, exotic spice rack, and dried flowers

Flavour notes:  peach, citrus tones, cardamom, allspice, tea, and white pepper

Michter’s Bourbon Whiskey – 9.5 (95)

Scent: rich wood tones, suede, clove, allspice, and moist forest

Flavour notes:  roasted stone fruit, lemon peel, cinnamon, red pepper, smoke and hint of butter scotch

Michters Unblended American Whiskey – 9.4 (94)

Scent:  spiced Comice pear and heirloom apple, nutmeg, roses, allspice, and suede

Flavour notes: Comice pear, dried fig, allspice, toffee, thyme, cinnamon cardamom and pepper

Michter’s Sour Mash Whiskey – 9.4 (94)  

Scent: mix of juniper and cedar wood, ancient forest, forest floor, cardamom, nutmeg and exotic tea.

Flavour notes: butterscotch, peach, white pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, and mace

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyXaCme-MSc

Each of these whiskeys are great proof of both the central spirit and history of Michters.  These bottles highlight exemplary quality, depth and beauty of the American whiskey movement.

¡Salud!

– James Melendez

***

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

© 2015 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 Guy.

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And they are off….The Wine Tasting Season Begins Again in San Francisco – James Melendez

San Francisco is the west coast  capital of wine tasting–the other coastal partner is New York.

In 2014, I attended fewer wine events than each previous year–the primary reason was my agenda just keeps getting busier and I have to pick and choose carefully–and sometimes I have no choice to make as I have other obligations that choose for me.

Another reason is that some events have abandoned the City–others are on the brinks of not existing.  I have been to fair number of consumer wine tastings and contrary to the wine community belief is that wine events are fading, becoming irrelevant–au contraire–some events have been superbly packed.

Venues for larger trade or consumer tastings in San Francisco are few and couple that with CA ABC that make wine events difficult but not impossible.  I do think some event operators have not graduated to higher level of social media savviness–in fact some have a very weak grasp of this fact of life.  Social media is not a trend but where online activity has always mean to be.

I would also say some event operators didn’t vet for trade or media.  I went to trade/media only tastings and some people there were not trade nor media; and that is not a bad thing unto itself but a very course and bad mannered attendees–there were two specific events in 2013 where I experienced this.  In these two events I was told to move out of the drinkers way.  I was moving always but generally I go around as I know I a not the only attendee.

I truly have doubts that for wine events leaving the City to Point Richmond or San Mateo if they will continue or fade away.  I do think that at least one event this year will cease but I don’t think it will be due to irrelevancy or non-interest but an inability to keep moving forward.

I hope to attend a good number this year–I like a venue to taste new wines and specific regions.

¡Salud!

– James Melendez

***

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

© 2015 James Meléndez / 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 Guy.

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Symington Family Estates – A Heritage House of Port – James Melendez

I am writing about this tasting late but in some respects that is fine–after all Port wines can age gracefully and the memories of these wines linger.  Non-fortified wines are on a time clock and that is a vast majority of wines.  Ports like non-fortified wines can be enjoyed right out of release. And yet for the vintage declared wines become more interesting vintage by vintage and the function of age itself plays a role in further development of a Port wine.

 I was at that Symington Family Estates tasting (2013).  The main stay of this tasting was the 2011 vintage ports of the Symington Family Estates and also treats from the 1955, 1963, 1966, 1970, 1994 vintages were also poured.  

Port like other fortified wines can age gracefully, sterlingly and convincingly.  Many older non-fortified wines I have tasted that are past their prime are often not worth the calories they require to consume.  I have winced at many of these tastings and I am not sure what is worst the perceived audience and wow appeal or the wine itself.

Port has a place at the table and still today many people shun a Port or other fortified wine at evenings edge… perhaps it it is too much consumed already or the usual practice of not expecting anything drives some people to not expect anything more.

Fine Ports place at the table is at once a requisite and true vinified gift.  This Symington tasting was a walk through time and the current release of a vintage year that gives the function of house, vintage and time of tasting.

Here are the wines I was privileged to taste:

  • Cockburn’s 1955 – 9.6 (96 Pts) – Scent: lavender, clove, violets, and rare flower honey; flavour characteristics: Geranium, rose petals, truffle, Cardamom, cinnamon, and a hint of graphite
  • Dow’s 1963 – 9.5 (94 Pts) – Scent: wild lavender, smoke, earth and geranium, flavour characteristics: clover honey, lavender, rose petal and hint of sweet dark chocolate
  • Graham’s 1966 – 9.3 (93 Pts) scent; mix of roasted nuts, smoke, tea and blackberry; flavour characteristics: Blueberry, passionfruit, freshly ground cinnamon, and hint of mild pepper
  • Warre’s 1970 – 9.4 (94/100 Pts) – Scent: nuttiness, earth, rustic wood pile, and leather; flavourcharacteristics: blackberry, pine nuts, toasted almonds
  • Quinta do Vesuvio 1994 – 9.3 (93/100 Pts) – Scent: spice rack, geraniums, and sandalwood; flavour characteristics – 9.3 (93/100 Pts) Scent: violets, spice rack, geranium, and sweet wood; flavour characteristics: tea, truffle, thyme, rose petal and blackberry
  • Cockburn’s 2011
  • Dow’s 2011
  • Graham’s 2011
  • Warre’s 2011
  • Quinta do Vesuvio 2011

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¡Salud!

– James Melendez

***

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

© 2014 James Meléndez / 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 Guy.

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Paso Robles Wine Country … A Land of Great Diversity – James Melendez

Visiting Paso Robles in July 2014 was an important visit for me. Important because though it is in my time zone, same state and easily accessed in a few hours it is a wine country that I rarely ever visit. I rarely visit not because I don’t care for the region but rare solely because it is far for a day trek.   It is a minimum 3 hours door-to-door assuming that traffic is behaving acceptably hence a round trip is a 6-hour car trip. It is not just a day trip but a weekend commitment but it is an ideal weekend commitment.

Niner Estate

Niner Estate

But the car trip should not deter anyone—in fact it is a reason—one amongst many to go. Flying is an option from SFO and especially for someone like me who hates to drive for extended periods—and yes anything north of an hour and half is an extended period for me.

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Paso Robles captivates me and not just for it’s Rhône varieties but also for it’s rich heritage and diversity of all varieties cultivated. In fact, it is very interesting while it may seem that only Rhône varieties thrive and even strive –they are not the only set of Vitis vinifera that are planted and the most widely planted red grape is Cabernet Sauvignon and the most widely planted white wine grape is Chardonnay.

Here is a list of the top ten wine grapes:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Merlot
  • Zinfandel
  • Syrah
  • Petite Sirah
  • Petit Verdot
  • Pinot Noir
  • Grenache
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Malbec

And the top ten white grapes are as follows:

  1. Chardonnay
  2. Sauvignon Blanc
  3. Viognier
  4. Muscat Canelli
  5. Pinot Gris
  6. Riesling
  7. Roussanne
  8. Grenache Blanc
  9. Muscat Blanc
  10. Chenin Blanc

If I compared and contrasted between what is more predominate in terms of Bordeaux v. Rhône varieties (based on total acres/hectares of wine grapes) I might have thought several years ago it was certainly in the Rhône camp but I would have been wrong. Bordeaux varieties have a 3 to 1 margin with respect to the Rhône varieties in the region.   Just because this margin exists doesn’t make one group better against another—it is just an interesting number. A number I think that is important to uncover the more accurate story of Paso Robles.

 

Paso Robles also has plantings of Aligoté, Barbera, Carménère, Charbono, Cinsault, Counoise, Gewürztraminer, Lagrein, Picpoul Blanc, Refosco, Sangiovese, Tannat, Tempranillo, Souzao, Tinto Cao, Touriga Nacional, Verdello, Vermentino which may be completely unexpected. I don’t think I have tasted Paso Robles Aligoté, Lagrein, Barbera or Charbono and hope to at some point. I would like to know the history why/how these wine grapes got planted. It is one thing to have a wine grape grower who believes in a wine grape cultivar and has the ability to sell Aligoté or Lagrein—while popular in their mother ship growing regions in France and Italy are relatively unknown in the U.S.

Paso Robles also has plantings of Aligoté, Barbera, Carménère, Charbono, Cinsault, Counoise, Gewürztraminer, Lagrein, Picpoul Blanc, Refosco, Sangiovese, Tannat, Tempranillo, Souzao, Tinto Cao, Touriga Nacional, Verdello, Vermentino which may be completely unexpected. I don’t think I have tasted Paso Robles Aligoté, Lagrein, Barbera or Charbono and hope to at some point. I would like to know the history why/how these wine grapes got planted. It is one thing to have a wine grape grower who believes in a wine grape cultivar and has the ability to sell Aligoté or Lagrein—while popular in their mother ship growing regions in France and Italy are relatively unknown in the U.S.

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My recent visit to Paso Robles was a very brief but compelling way to put a foot on ground and taste all that I could. I knew Rhône wines were going to be there and that I would taste a number of them. I seem to taste a lot of them in San Francisco. Rare is to taste the Bordeaux varieties or other varieties in San Francisco from Paso Robles.   I enjoyed the small highlight at DAOU Vineyards of the CAB Collective. The CAB Collective represents Cabernet Sauvignon and the other red Bordeaux varieties. I tasted wonderful wines from Justin, Calcareous, Adelaida, Villa-San Juliette, J. Lohr, DAOU, Hammersky, Chateau Margene, Oyster Ridge and Sextant. First the stunning site was to be marveled—gorgeous in daylight even more fantastical in sunset.   The high perch above valley floor and very cool temperature in July was a compelling place to experience this part of Paso Robles. A sense of ruggedness and shear Paso Robles natural beauty.

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I am dazzled by all of the wine countries I visit and I can say that most wine countries leave me wanting more. I certainly felt that instant connection of the DAOU site –a longing to stay for a while and come back again and top and front of my mind is the instant love of place.

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The great assembly of Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blends spoke volumes of the great wines being created here and now. I was dazzled by the many producers I tasted from. I tasted inspired, boldly confident wines from the CAB Collective.   And it reminded me to think more carefully about Paso Robles and to center my attention to seek and encompass Bordeaux wines from this region. I also felt that the wines I tasted should be showcased here in the Bay Area store shelves and wine lists. I do think there to be an evolution of wine lists (and not just in the Bay Area) but throughout the U.S. San Francisco wine lists are good especially when compared to many other regions of California or through the U.S. But even San Francisco can do better.

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I too think that consumer perception can and does change when there is a choice and an exposure to wines from many regions. Hence the consumer does lean and pull on retailers and on premise to diverse their offerings—but only if the consumer consistently asks.

****

I enjoyed hearing the panel discussion from a variety of wine makers on the their Paso Robles wine experience. The panel discussion was held at the beautiful Niner Estate during prime time growing season and a robust carpet of lavender between each of the facilities. I heard Niels Udsen of Castoro, Patrick Muran of Niner Estate, Augie Hug of Hug Cellars, Stefanie Terrizzi of Giornata, Gary Eberle of his eponymous label, and J.C. Diefenderfer of Hope Family.   I enjoyed the collective and background of the winemakers. Gary talk was greatly appreciated—he is very humorous and I looked forward to every word. I, of course, apppreciate his pioneering efforts. Listening to Stefanie Terrizzi talk about her devotion and love of Nebbiolo—her experience in Italy and her path to creating a world class Nebbiolo in Paso Robles—is without a doubt not a task for the timid. Her Nebbiolo is outstanding and showed how Nebbiolo can thrive here.

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I did taste the following wines from each of the wine makers respective labels; this was a very nice representative tasting of Paso Robles as one can get in a tasting of 6 wines—the expected – the Rhônes, Bordeaux, Burgundy as well as Zinfandel and the completely unexpected Nebbiolo.

Castoro Cellars Balena Whale Rock Estate Paso Robles White Blend – 2013

48% Pinot Grigio, 37% Grenache Blanc, and 15% Falanghina

Niner Estate Paso Robles Grenache Rose – 2013

 Hug Cellars Paso Robles El Magnifico Zinfandel – 2011

 Giornata Luna Matta Vineyard Paso Robles Nebbiolo – 2011 – proof positive that there is Nebbiolo outside of Italy and that it can be just as compelling

 Eberle Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon – 2011

 Hope Family Treana Red Wine – 2002

60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 20% Syrah

And finally on my way down south to Santa Barbara—I got to experience a nicely assembly of Zinfandels. I hear a lot of people say they identify Paso Robles as a Zinfandel land and yes it is the third largest produced wine grape—I find it pretty rare for me to taste any Paso Robles Zinfandels. I did get to taste Tobin James and he was there pouring with his son. I also got to taste Turley Dusi, Brochelle and Barrel 27. Janelle Dusi was talking about her path of winemaking and her family’s old vine Zinfandels. Tasting and walking on the soil of Dusi was especially nice and memorable. There was a very nice and gentle cool breeze in the morning.  Turley poured their White Zinfandel! I greatly appreciated the well sculpted Zinfandel and the earnestness of the producers. Now –I need to get bottles of Paso Robles Zinfandel.

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Dusi Ranch

*****

Paso Robles is a relative late comer when it comes to sub AVAs. I get a sense that some people feel there are too many in the U.S. I generally don’t agree with that except for a few places. I recall attending a seminar of a particular sub-AVA (in another region in California) and I asked what distinguishes or characteristizes their region when compared to it’s neighbouring AVAs. The answer….. no response.   I was disappointed in this group of both wine grape growers and producers that even a slight distinguishing characteristic was not mentioned. I thought to myself—perhaps one of the producers parents or grand parents worked hard to get their wine region to become an AVA and that sentiment would be remembered or at least recalled.

From my observation of The Paso Robles AVA Committee has worked rigorously to distinguish this great land called Paso Robles and carefully delineated it’s precious 32,000 acres / 12,949 hectares into AVAs.   I do think there is merit and I do support it. I do think it will bring a fuller and more thoughtful discussion of Paso Robles other excellent wines beyond The Rhône (and not to pick on this set of varieties—and of course adore them from this region). Has this worked in other AVAs maybe and maybe not –it depends on the sub AVA and how they have marketed their designations.

I also kept hearing on my journey through Paso Robles and that it is isolated. And while it may take a while to get to for a casual spur-of-the-moment visits it can easily be accessed in California in a reasonable time. One has to plan their visit here but that would be like flying most anywhere in the US. If one is coming from the Bay Area—the travel time is less than coming up from the LA basin. Regardless it is an accessible wine country made better by great wineries to visit along side a good food culture and having all of the travelers amenities one might need.

Take a visit and take time to have a sip of wonderful Paso Robles wine.

 James 

¡Salud!

– James Melendez

***

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

© 2014 James Meléndez / 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 Guy.

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Planning for My 2,000th Video; Send Me Your Suggestions – James Melendez / James the Wine Guy

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Several people reminded me that my 2,000 James the Wine Guy video is coming up.  I was asked if I was planning on doing something special.  I had thought in the back of my head I would feature a vintage bottle of Champagne.  I also thought a small party might be nice and record several people at the event perhaps on Google Hangouts.

I am anticipating I’ll reach my 2,000th video sometime in January 2015.  I do find it interesting I have all of my planned material recorded and I often have more content then what I have written down.  Wine is a curious subject–so simple to enjoy–and yet a very complex category in all other aspects.  I know that reaching 1,800 today–I have about a dozen that have not been edited and will be published shortly.  My most immediate list has about another dozen that I will be recording shortly.

In today’s video #1,800, I mentioned that it seems like it was relatively quick to get here but in realty it was hard, time consuming and each video was made one after the other–yes, I know it is obvious.  I also know that 2,000 videos hardly covers wine and the beverage arts–it is such an expansive topic.  I do believe that wine videos on YouTube are a sleeper.  There are lots of reasons for this but mainly because those people that are seeking wine video content are not finding what they want.  I know I can go into a well stocked wine merchant and there can be 1,000 to 1,500 SKUs and this number doesn’t cover everything out there.  But I do not think wine content on YouTube will always be a sleeper.

My video production experience has been very interesting.  I have garnered a bit of a subject matter expertise.  I have used YouTube analytics to hone in on better formats and video techniques and also length of video.  I have learned who and where my audience is located.  I have also learned incremental improvements.  I do hope to do more collaboration which is interestingly hard to do–not technically speaking but to find people to collaborate with.  I know there are a few people that I will be working with in the wine writing community in the near future.  I am also looking to collaborate beyond the borders of the wine writing and reviewing community.

I do want this wine video to be special–I only know one other YouTube who has gone over 2,000 — Charles Trippy at CTFxC–hence just a few individuals have reach this mark.

If you have any ideas for what video #2,000 should be –let me know.

Thank you!

¡Salud!

– James Melendez

***

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

© 2014 James Meléndez / 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 Guy.

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

Follow, subscribe, like, browse:

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