James the Wine Guy Interview Series – Alessia Travaglini, Travaglini Gattinara

I was delighted to taste Travaglini wines in San Francisco recently paired with food at such a perfect place to taste these wine–Perbacco.  When I am longing for Italian cuisine in San Francisco this is my number one place to visit.

I looked at my tasting database to see if I had ever tasted a wine from Travaglini or from Gattinara DOCG and surprisingly I had not.  While I have learned to not be too surprised anymore it is hard not to feel excitement when tasting something new.

Travaglini is the largest producer of Gattinara DOCG in this 103 hectare denomination of just a dozen producers.  The DOCG rules allow for additional grape varieties of Vespolina and Bonarda no more than 10% to be input into Nebbiolo.  And Travaglini uses only 100% Nebbiolo.   Travaglini was started in the 1920s by Clemente Travaglini and four generation later is still a family operated winery.

I have included the above map to see where Gattinara DOCG is located–NE of Torino (Turin) and NW of Milano (Milan).  A natural question is where is Barbaresco and Barolo?  These denominations are located to the south.

Nebbiolo is without a doubt a most alluring grape variety–to me it is haunting just like Pinot Noir.  Travaglini’s approach is to produce fine wines and to frame Gattinara DOCG as the centre of their painting.  Their wines are polished, expressive and, of course, have the capability of aging for considerable time.  The bottle is also another nice point of difference (pictured above) is not just a nice touch but also shows the passion of Travaglini to think and produce thoughtfulness at all touch points for their wines.

And this tasting including another first for me which was to taste their sparkling Nebbiolo called Nebolè.  This sparkling wine is white and expresses with elegance–to the best of my knowledge this wine is not available in the United States as it is such a limited product.

I was very excited to get fourth generation Travaglini family member Alessia to be part of my interview series.  I enjoyed meeting her in person and I also love to learn more about Travaglini via the interview.  I hope you enjoy as much as I do.


Alessia Collauto Travaglini (L) and Cinzia Travaglini (R)

It was wonderful to meet you in person in San Francisco and taste through your wines! Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed today.



JTWG #1: When was Travaglini founded and were the wine grapes planted at that time Nebbiolo?

Travaglini was founded around 1920s when in Gattinara Clemente Travaglini decided to replant vineyards in Gattinara after years of abandonment of viticulture due to phylloxera and a heavy hailstorm in 1905. Since that moment the Spanna wine (the original name of Gattinara wine) was a blend of Nebbiolo, Bonarda and Vespolina.


JTWG #2: Your DOCG is unique in Italy as it is one of the oldest – how many hectares is Gattinara?  And how many producers?

Gattinara obtained the DOC designation in 1967 and the DOCG in 1990. Gattinara DOCG is only 103 hectares with a very restrictive disciplinary that help to preserve the quality. We are the biggest (52 hectares) and the most important winery among the other 12 wineries.


JTWG #3: What are the requirement of Gattinara DOCG? (grapes, aging etc.)

The disciplinary for Gattinara DOCG is one of the most restrictive: to be able to call the wine Gattinara is necessary that the grapes come from the vineyards planted in Gattinara, that all the process from vinification to aging to bottling is made in Gattinara. This help us to protect quality by avoiding trade in grapes and wine. Today it is possible to produce Gattinara wine with a minimum of 90% Nebbiolo grapes and the remaining 10% with Bonarda and Vespolina grapes. we prefer to use 100% Nebbiolo. The aging is in oak barrels of minimum 2 years for the classic Gattinara (we do 3 years) and 3 years for the Gattinara Riserva (but we do 4 years).


JTWG #4: What are the oldest vintage in your cellar?

The oldes bottle of Travaglini Gattinara in the “twisted bottle” is the 1958. We have some Bottle of “Spanna” of 1952.


JTWG #5: What are the challenges with growing Nebbiolo

Nebbiolo is considered one of the finest grape variety in the world for many reasons. One of these reasons is precisely the difficulty in cultivating and getting the best expression of this variety. Nebbiolo cannot grow in all wine areas but only in specific ones which have a specific terroir. Nebbiolo, as it has one of the longest vegetative cycles, does not grow in zones with too cold temperatures, especially in the spring period. Also to better express its noble notes, the need for specific soils. Gattinara is one of the perfect area for growing this great grape variety.


JTWG #6: Is it difficult or easy to talk about your wines when compared to other Nebbiolo wine regions in Piemonte?

To date the answer could be almost “easy”. But if you had asked me the same question 20 years ago the answer would have been different. Gattinara from the last years have been seeing a great growth. The reason is because grew the interest for fine and high-quality wines that you can easily find in Gattinara with an interesting quality-price ratio compared to other areas (for example south Piedmont). Moreover, also the small dimensions of our territory, make of Gattinara a product more and more requested.


JTWG #7: Describe the characterization of your wines?

A sip of Gattinara contains in itself the history of the land of the North, the nobility of a vine like Nebbiolo, the unique geology and climate of a place that speaks of ancient volcanoes, rocks and austere mountains. Everything in a glass that seduces the eye thanks to the delicate transparency of an ancient and shiny ruby colour, which conquers the senses with soft floral perfumes, from violet to petal, to take on a dash of spice and balsam as time passes. To complete the fresco with hints of minerals, sometimes ferrous, in a game of meticulous detail and complexity that in this land only Nebbiolo know to give. The pleasure is then sublimated in the mouth with the extreme elegance of a balance between freshness, noble, just outlined tannins and a subtle, infinite persistence of small fruits, flowers and fruit jelly. A wine that has a very long life, refining, in time, its own aristocratic elegance.


JTWG #8: I had never tasted a sparkling Nebbiolo before?  What was your inspiration – I am assuming there is a low dosage / I am guessing a Brut style?  It is a lovely and memorable wine and taste like no other sparkling wine I have tasted before.

Nebolè is an Idea, a Project, a Wine. Is the result of a surprising and innovative research applied to the cluster of Nebbiolo grapes, made by our oenologist Sergio Molino in the first decade of the years 2000. The idea for this new project was trying to realize another expression of Gattinara and Nebbiolo, not the typical red wine but a white sparkling. This is a Wine made only with the tips of the bunches vinified in white, from our most suited vineyards. After a maturation of minimum 46 months, this Blanc the Noir pas dosè is a synthesis of uniqueness, elegance, freshness, and harmonious complexity. The delicate tannicity of Nebbiolo marries the very fine bubbles of pearl in a thick platinum mist.


JTWG #9: What was you most treasured experience with your wine?  A great dinner? A milestone celebration? Traveling abroad? Discovered your wine being poured at a state dinner?

Everytime we have the chance to open an old bottle of our wines of 30-40-50 years old is an unforgettable experience. Every time I think that a wine can have all those years, I’m impressed and speechless. It’s a masterpiece! The last experience we had was some months ago with a 3 litres of Gattinara DOCG 1967 in a restaurant close to Gattinara. Was still in perfect shape with its intense red color tending to copper, expressions of perfumes so complex and tertiary that reflected the taste.


JTWG #10: Your wines are quite versatile and can go from vegetarian to seafood, beef, pork and lamb?  What are some of your favorites dishes to serve with your wines?

The The most beautiful feature of Nebbiolo is its versatility. We suggest to drink Nebbiolo in every occasion depending on which of Travaglini wine you decide to drink. for example the Nebbiolo Coste della Sesia is perfect with appetizers or pizza; the classic Gattinara with a pasta or risotto for example with mushrooms; the TreVigne and Riserva is phenomenal with meat for example beef, pork, lamb or game. Il Sogno is still a wine you can drink during an entire meal but express its best with complex dishes like meat or cheeses. It is interesting also to drink to conclude a meal with pieces of dark chocolate (70% or above).


JTWG #11: I love your bottle silhouette–so distinct and I would think of no other producer except you.  Can you tell my readers the origins of your bottle design?

This bottle was designed by Giancarlo Travaglini in 1958, because this special shape actually catches the sediments during pouring, allowing the wine to be served directly form bottle to the glass without decanting.

The dark-colored glass prevents light from passing through and impacting the quality of the wine.

His elegant bottle was perfectly designed for storage and aging in the cellar

Today it is a registered trademark (exclusive for Travaglini) in the world by Travaglini and is the symbol of the company itself.


JTWG #12: What are the top countries importing your wines?

We export the 60% of the total production in 42 countries worldwide. One of the most important is USA with which we have been working since 1965.


JTWG #13: What is your Cantine’s total production?

We produce every year an average of 250,000 bottles. Actually, the total production it’s different each vintage.


JTWG #14: What is your favorite vacation destination?

I love traveling. Each place is an experience to live at the best you can from which you have to catch as much as you can and add to your personal culture.  


JTWG #15: And lastly, what is your favorite thing about a being a wine producer?

The most exciting thing about being a producer is the opportunities this world has to offer you. is a world so vast that gives you the opportunity to experience, meet people or live special moments. wine gives you the opportunity to share emotions.


Thank you kindly for your time and it was a pleasure to meet you in San Francisco!

Salute e molto grazie,


James the Wine Guy

Travaligni Gattinara website is here.

Travaligni bottle shot is courtesy of Palm Bay/Taub Family Selections.

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

© 2019 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 and designs of James the Wine Guy.  James the Wine Guy is also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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Posted in Gattinara DOCG, Italy, James the Wine Guy, James the Wine Guy Interview Series, Nebbiolo | Leave a comment

Four Reasons for San Francisco Restaurant High Closure Rate

Opening a restaurant in San Francisco is not for the faint hearted.  Perhaps steely courage and an unfettered belief is the only way to think about this superbly risky venture.

One interview I saw a restaurant owner said that meal delivery and meal kits plus increases in lease rates and labour costs are what make a restaurant operation a loss making venture.

The increase in closures seems steady this year than the entire decade.  It seems not just restaurants are closing in let say an organic way–natural causes but at a very un-natural rate.  And this trend has caught my attention–I have written about it twice in the past few years: San Francisco’s Quick Sand of Retail and Restaurant Landscape in 2018 and in 2017 San Francisco’s State of Restaurant Closures.

So if there is a further decline in retail and restaurants walking neighbourhoods like Valencia Street what will there be to walk to?   I do see an increase in decline in the city being less and less civic oriented.  While this is not new across the US it is for San Francisco.  San Francisco is a unique city in which a large part of the population has only been here a 2-3 years–my longevity’s here is unusual and perhaps there is less fondness and affection for what is here.

There are four main reasons that I will talk about that account for the bulk of San Francisco restaurant closures.

1. Lease Rates, How Many Glasses of Wines Do You Need to Sell?

More precisely what does it cost just to pay rent?  How many glasses of wine or cups of coffee that just go to pay the base rent?  The answer is yes many glasses of wine and cups of coffee to pay monthly leases.  While the lease rates are quite high–there is increase rents year over year that take their toll.

I reviewed a lease for a restaurant/coffee bar this year and the terms were on the onset not favorable for this operation.  The percentage rent was remarkably low–meaning that this operation has to pay a percentage of sales in addition to rent based on certain sales benchmarks achieved.  I advised that this should be eliminated or increase so that the sales benchmarks would not kick in too soon.  So there was not sure were the terms right–there was also a preference of operator.  The landlord in this deal were keeping their options open to get a “perfect” tenant.  And well perfection is not possible and being selected is tough so what does an operator do?  They might agree to terms in the beginning that are not favourable for long-term success.

For chain restaurant or coffee operators the terms are often in their favour and they have the power to have either an edge or get suitable terms.  Landlords are doing their best to get their best deal–they do think in San Francisco–you just have to wait long enough for that perfect tenant… but this is often Waiting for Godot.

I do believe the city should do more to discourage store fronts from being shuttered for months to years on end.  San Francisco reputation is on the line and even in obvious terms the tourist trade will be affected.  I am not sure why anyone would be a tourist in San Francisco–so superbly expensive and the experience might be more interesting or compelling somewhere else.

2. Check/Customer Expense

While San Francisco has a very large population of wealthy people who call this city their home–not everyone is wealthy.  San Francisco restaurants are expensive–and add on the wine, beer or cocktails that can be a special occasion for many residents is expensive.  Just add up the costs as a diner by looking menu of a ‘moderately’ priced restaurant – a first, second and two glasses of wine with high taxes and tip is somewhere between $50-75.  While this may not sound like a lot there is a large population that live here with large student loans and are not always in the 6-figure salary bracket.

I just got back from Italy where the costs are reasonable as a patron.  A simple breakfast is my preferred breakfast mode and paying €2 is pretty common for a Cappuccino and Cornetto.  Dinners are equally inexpensive–where last week I spent €22 for a two plate meal and wine…. it was not a fluke it was easy to repeat.  I kept thinking it was a much more expensive meal than when I received the check.

The opposite is what I experience in San Francisco.  While there are wine countries near San Francisco that doesn’t matter for wine prices–they are high.  In Italy it is not a struggle to get a great bottle of wine for an exceptional price not just at a restaurant but off premise as well.

3. It’s Those Free Lunches

Yes, it is those free lunches that have had an impact–Silicon Valley did not just create jobs in San Francisco it brought it’s free lunches to San Francisco.  Last summer I recall on Friday’s I tried enjoying a nicer lunch and I had eaten at all those that were open for lunch.  I eventually ran out of lunch places during the business week?!?  Unlike New York or other cities San Francisco has a large population that are not open for lunch.  Simply if there was a demand more restaurants would be open for lunch.

Just a few years ago Alta, CA was a very nice restaurant opening mid-Market (Van Ness and Market) but it was doomed–while Twitter and Uber are nearby–it didn’t matter because of those free lunches.

But unlike in Europe or New York most people don’t have a glass of wine with lunch… it is a restaurant culture that doesn’t fit my sensibilities of where wine is requisite with my meals.  I do think if I am dining out at a full service –a glass of wine is not or should not be unusual but in San Francisco it is.

4. It’s A Cultural Thing

While there has been a high closure rate in San Francisco another city has been hit hard as well this year: London.

San Francisco is a very different restaurant town–some very nice restaurants are still operating and I hope will continue.  But I am skeptical.  The ‘cultural thing’ is that there is a different emotion and relationship to restaurants.  I was surprised there was little disappointment from what I could ascertain when Fleur de Lis closed in 2014 after 28 years in operation as an example.

To extend the “cultural thing” is it that people don’t have the devotion to eating out if they can afford to do so.  San Francisco is home to Lyft and Uber–it is also quarters for many home, grocery and meal delivery services as well.  San Franciscan are amongst the highest percentage buyers of online products.

Being in Italy—I certainly recognized and felt the civicness of eating out.  It is not just fulfilling needs of nutrition but it is a way of life.  I am not sure that civicness is still a part of a San Francisco—which is a ‘change of heart‘ from a generation ago if not longer.

Further and as a personal example I remembering eating at a legacy restaurant.  While at that restaurant it was impossible to not look outside and outside was some very unsavory behaviour.  Me and my dinner guest made the waitstaff aware–it was so unsavory that our appetite indeed was teetering.  So the cultural thing is also about the ever increasing difficulty of living in San Francisco and the lure and love of the city has and continues on a downward slope.

I do hope the “restaurant” closure rate decreases and I do believe the City will not to help small business owners directly in keeping their restaurants open.  I do think that rent control for restaurants would be a great idea.  I do not hold my breathe for city officials to make the right decision to help small businesses (restaurants) in San Francisco in any way.



James the Wine Guy

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

© 2019 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 and designs of James the Wine Guy.  James the Wine Guy is also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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Posted in Restaurants, San Francisco | Leave a comment

James the Wine Guy Interview Series: Charles Scicolone

It was wonderful to have met Charles and being on the same judging table at Radici del Sud in Bari in 2016.

As a wine judging team we had a free afternoon–and we all decided to explore old Bari and have a fantastic lunch at Biancofiore – a specialist in Pugliese style food.  It was Charles who found this restaurant and made arrangements for this fantastic experience.  Because it was all wine professionals there was plenty of very nice wines that were enjoyed for this brilliant lunch.  The restaurant features a nice selection of wines senza solfiti.  The meal was perfect–superbly fresh pasta and seafood–a complete delight.  Before our lunch we did an informal walking tour of old Bari where we saw the Castello Normanno-Svevo, the revered Basilica San Nicola and the Duomi di Bari was a great way to get a cultural on-boarding to further appreciate Pugliese food and all Southern Italy wines.





Charles was wine director for I Trulli in New York and today he and his wife–Italian cookbook writer Michele Scicolone appear together for a food and wine show on WNBC.

It is a pleasure to feature Charles Scicolone in my interview series.


Thank you Charles for taking time to be interviewed today!

JTWG Q1 How did you become an Italian wine expert? Was it a set of experiences or even a great experience with an exceptional bottle?

CS: I began drinking wine in 1968 but when I went to Italy on my honeymoon in 1970 I fell in love with Italian wine. I have been studying it and drinking it ever since. I have travelled often to Italy and always enjoyed visiting the producers and learning from them.


JTWG Q2 What was the first city that you have visited? (Mine was Pisa–totally not planned and unexpected) and what is your favourite Italian city and why?

CS: The first city I visited was Rome. I loved it at first sight and love it still. It is the scale of the city, its long history, the food and the wine that makes me return there year after year.


JTWG Q3 You have been surrounded by great food and are married to a prolific and award winning cookbook writer Michele Scicolone. I know you have a passion for pizza – what is your favourite place to enjoy pizza – my guess is Napoli? If so which pizzeria?

CS: Yes, it is Naples but I can’t name just one. Da Michele, Le Notizie, Ciro a Santa Brigida are just a few of my favorites.


JTWG Q4 What is your favourite restaurant or restaurants in Roma?

CS: Checchino dal 1887 is my favorite. I have been going there since 1983 and the same family still runs it. They serve traditional Roman food and have a great wine list.


JTWG Q5 You are also fortunate to live in the US best food and wine town–what are you favourtie New York Restaurants?

CS: Norma Gastronomia Siciliana, Il Gattopardo and Temple Court are favorites.


JTWG Q6 What are regions in Italy that are still under recognized for their wine excellence?

CS: Wines from Basilicata and Molise are little known here.


JTWG Q7 New York has everything that no US city has in terms of wine selection; in my base of San Francisco lesser known known Italian varieties are as ‘rare as rubies’–I am always looking for Schioppettino but haven’t found a bottle off-premise for a couple of years. I am guessing New York there is much more diversity and selection of Italian wines – right?

CS: Yes, you can find a very diverse selection of Italian wines in New York.


JTWG Q8 What are your favourite Italian red wine grapes?

CS: I particularly enjoy red wines made with Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and Aglianico grapes.


JTWG Q9 What are your favourite Italian white wine grapes?

CS: For white wines, I like Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino, Caricante and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo as it is vinified by Edoardo Valentini.


JTWG Q10 I very much enjoy Pallagrello Bianco and Nero–I would love to taste more of these wines. Will we see rare varieties being produced more often in the future (increased plantings)?

CS: Yes, I think they are becoming more popular among consumers who are looking for something new and good to drink.


JTWG Q11 What are you reading now?

CS: “Rome – A History in Seven Sackings by Matthew Kneale”.


JTWG Q12 What is your favourite travel experience?

CS: My month-long annual visit to Rome in February/March.


JTWG Q13 Where has your wine and food travel taken you this year and any highlights?

CS: Rome, Naples, and Abruzzo. Visiting Abruzzo and enjoying dinner on a Trabucco, a wooden pier built for fishermen and now used as a restaurant, was a memorable experience.


JTWG Q14 Any parting thoughts for my readers? You are a wealth of information on all things Italian – tips, thoughts?

CS: I urge readers to go beyond the big cities and major tourist sites. There is much more to see and enjoy in Italy.


Thank you Charles so much for participating in my written interview series!

Salute e molto grazie,


James the Wine Guy

Charles Website is here.

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

© 2019 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 and designs of James the Wine Guy.  James the Wine Guy is also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

Photo of Charles courtesy of Charle Scicolone.

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Posted in Food, Food and Wine, Italian Wine, Italy, James the Wine Guy Interview Series | Tagged | Leave a comment

James the Wine Guy Interview: JMC Luxury Portfolio – Mitch Cosentino & Paul Scotto

Mitch Cosentino

Paul Sotto

This is my 18th interview in the James the Wine Guy Interview series.  This is the first time I have featured two people at once: Mitch Cosentino and Paul Scotto.  It was much needed to represent their latest venture of JMC Luxury Portfolio wines.  I very much enjoy writing questions to answer to get to the heart of the matter–wine and much more.

Mitch Cosentino is a well known figure in Napa Valley for producing wines from the Eponymously named winery Cosentino Winery, pureCru Napa Valley.  Mitch was founder of the Meritage Association (now known as the Meritage Alliance) and the first to produce a bottle labeled Meritage.

Paul Scotto graduated from UC Davis and went to work for his families wine brands based in Lodi of both Lodi and Amador county wines.  Additionally the family has a footprint in Napa as well.  Paul and Mitch have partnered to have their take on a Napa Valley wine brand – JMC Luxury Portofolio their collection includes Lost Chapters, 50 Harvests and John McClelland Cellars.  JMC Luxury Portofolio’s focus are Napa Valley Bordeaux variety wines

I am intrigued in that I have never had a predictable interview but one where I am delighted to read about the people I am featuring.  I always learn something new.  I love the art of the interview because it offers a different flavour of understanding the subjects or people that I am featuring.

It is refreshing to taste superb wines from Napa Valley that are easy on the pocket book.  Price and quality ratio is a fantastic value that is nearly absent in Napa Valley today.  Be sure to check out the JMC Luxury Portofolio website.

Each response is listed with the respective initials of Mitch (MC) and Paul (PS). I hope you enjoy this interview!


Thank you Mitch and Paul for taking time to be interviewed in my series!

JTWG #1 Both of your families have been making wine under your respective labels for a very long time – I understand it is about tradition but isn’t also a vision of both of your styles of winemaking?

MC#1 Tradition can mean different things to each person or family. Our vision is to make wines classic to the grape’s origins. We are committed to bringing out the best balance and character of each varietal in a most age worthy style.

PS#1 One of the biggest reasons Mitch and I work together so well is because we share both tradition and vision.  My goal is to make balanced wines that authentically express varietal and vintage.

JTWG #2 The JMC label offers outstanding value and quality – is this one of your tenents of your brand?  Reaching to a new group of consumers

MC #2 Too often, value and quality are declared in wines of all price levels. But for us, quality is number one. In my mind, without supreme quality there is no value. While it may be unfair to say that value and quality is a tenet of the brand, it certainly is a result. We may be reaching out to “new” groups for the Scotto family of wines through the JMC Luxury Portfolio, but I personally have been playing to this targeted wine savvy consumer group for decades through every wine I’ve made throughout my career.

PS #2 Yes! At J. McClelland Cellars we strive to always over deliver on our wines. When compared with other competitive Napa Valley bottlings, we feel that our wines really shine both in quality and price. Our wines appeal to experienced Napa Valley wine consumers as well as millennials seeking new wine drinking experiences and great value.

JTWG #3 What does Napa Valley represents to you both?

MC #3 Napa Valley represents the best, most versatile grape region of the new world with the largest potential audience.

PS #3 Having spent much of my winemaking career in Lodi and Amador counties, Napa represents a new and exciting world. I have learned so much from Mitch over the last 6 years, he has opened my eyes to the true nature of Napa’s quality and diversity.

JTWG #4 What is your philosophy on oak and your wines?  (New, semi-new, French, toasting profile)

MC #4 Oak is essential for proper aging of most noble varieties. We use both new and “seasoned” barrels to complement the specific varietals and blends we are working with. For me, oak should never mask the grape, it should only be the platform or a complement. My old line is that the barrel is “the black velvet in the jewelry store”

PS #4 Oak is there to complement the wine, NOT to take over the wine. I never want the oak to wear the pants in the wine relationship so to speak. We use oak as a spice to enhance the wine’s flavor and overall complexity.

JTWG #5 What is the aging potential of your wines?

PS #5  Aging potential is essential in the wines we produce and that’s why balance is extremely important. Each variety in each vintage has its own potential on its own or part of a blend. That said, it is not outlandish to declare that each wine in the program should age well for a minimum of a decade including the whites. Many of the reds should approach or exceed two decades.

PS #5 Our wines have different aging potentials, but on average, they will age a minimum of 10 years.

JTWG #6 I know you let your wines age a bit prior to releasing–is that another tenant of your wine making philosophy?

MC #6 In a way, yes. We want each wine to show proper development prior to release. because we make wine with structure and precise acid balance, they need time to blossom.

PS#6 We are never in a rush to release our wines. We’ve sold out of a vintage and still held off from the release of the next until we feel it is ready. Time in the bottle is the final chapter – a critical time when the wine’s balance really comes together prior to release.

JTWG #7 You source your Chardonnay from Oak Knoll–did you find this to be optimum for your Chardonnay program?  

MC#7 – Yes. It’s an excellent area for this grape and it gives us what we want in varietal character, balance, potential richness and the ability to develop further with age.

PS #7 –  Mitch brought this grower to us through his extensive contacts. It is great to be able to work with such beautiful fruit from a site he is so familiar with. The grapes come in with naturally beautiful flavors and balance. Our aim is to let the exceptional fruit shine through in the finished wine. We accomplish this by eschewing malolactic fermentation and through minimal intervention in the cellar.

JTWG #8 Is 50 Harvests label your Tête de cuvée?

MC#8 I would say yes, given its expression of the Scotto family’s history and commitment to California viticulture. We chose to tailor the 50 Harvests brand to the deep, traditional roots of Bordeaux and the belief that each varietal in the Meritage blend must enhance the expression of the others. The cépage may vary from vintage to vintage but our stylistic vision remains the focus.

PS #8 The 50 Harvests Napa Valley Meritage Red Wine Blend is crafted to be a Bordeaux-style wine. In making the blend we hand-select the barrels that we feel will make the very best wine of the vintage. Each year both the percentages and varietals might change — always with the goal of crafting the best possible wine.

JTWG #9 What is your favourite dish to enjoy with your wines?

MC#9 I am not a “one food” person and I enjoy making wines for a wide range of cuisine. Thus I make different wines to complement many dishes. That’s a reason why chefs appreciate my contributions to the many winemaker dinners I participate in throughout the year. Working together with the chef, and sharing my knowledge of each wine being poured, they have a clear path in being able to get creative with each course.

PS #9 Momma Scotto’s rigatoni with meat in a red tomato sauce.

JTWG #10 Will you add sticky or sparkling wines to your portfolio?

MC#10 Possibly a bubbly, experimenting for now, but not ready to commit. It has to be at a very high level to do so.

PS #10 We are currently making Charmat style sparkling wines out of our winery in Lodi.

JTWG #11 What makes for the best Cabernet Sauvignon?

MC#11 It all starts with pristine fruit and that’s why I spend countless hours in the vineyard long before harvest. Then it relates to determining the desired blend of fruit, structure and balance through the proper vinification techniques I’ve learned over many years of winemaking, along with careful barrel aging and judicious blending.

PS #11  BALANCE from the beginning to the end. I love when the wine flows through my pallet with a roundness from start to finish. At the very end, I really enjoy a Cabernet that lingers, teasing me to want another sip.

JTWG #12 Favourite wine moment? 

PS#12 Hard to decide really. Meeting the Baron Philippe Rothschild in April of 1980 at the announcement of his impending collaboration with Robert Mondavi was one. A 1986 vintage First growth Bordeaux tasting with the big five plus Cheval Blanc in 1991. Or maybe winning The Best American Cabernet Sauvignon in 1986 with all of the commercially made Cabs made in the US at that time. Or seeing Four various sized bottles of my 2000 Secret Clone Cab sell for $100,000. at the Auction Napa Valley in 2002. There are more but that is a peak.

PS #12 I will never forget when Mitch and I first met, and I referred our Bordeaux blend as a Mer-i-tauge! He looked at me with the weirdest look and said would you say Her-i-tauge and I said no, it would be Heritage. He said exactly, don’t ever pronounce it like that again it is Meritage!

JTWG #13 Best books on wine?

MC #13 My book covering 40 + years in California winemaking in its most critical era. In the process of writing currently.

PS #13 I really enjoyed the book “Sense of Place”


I have more interviews to come.  Leave your questions and comments below and also whom you would like to see me interview next.



James the Wine Guy

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

© 2019 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 and designs of James the Wine Guy.  James the Wine Guy is also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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“If You Have Room….Please Post This…” – Much ado About Spam – James Melendez

My in-box is choking from so many “Press Releases” and press releases; simply what I getting is not newsworthy.  And some truly is beneficial and important information that I want to know about but those types are in the minority position.

I am also getting a lot of “If You Have Room….Please Post This…” usually it is about a place or product which I have not experienced (which of course I would never publish)

I am also getting a 100% increase in subject matters that I don’t cover:

  • Politics
  • Soy beans
  • a for profit museum in DC
  • A Norwegian festival
  • And so many other subjects that I have never covered or will ever cover  

I got an announcement recently for a degreasing product called DrainXcel an “All-Natural Ingredients to Eliminate Build-Up in Grease Traps” –I have not covered this product category and it is safe to say that I will never write about this or complete a video on this subject!

Not only am I getting these emails. I am getting a lot of “following up” emails from the same requests as the above.  It is annoying to get these in the first place and I do have a wide interest in many things so I am not overly specialized–I do cover food, wine, travel, lifestyle, fashion, beverages other than wine, books, and other subjects.  I know there are people who write about wine and only from a specific region and in one case one writer who specializes in one wine retailer selection.    But just because I have a large interest doesn’t mean I’ll cover everything or anything.

But the level of those who are pitching for categories I do not cover has increased several hundred percent in just a year and that I have never worked with before.   I am, of course, open to new PR professionals so I do not necessarily dismiss people that I have not worked with before.

The many solicitations I am getting are spam–casting a wide net is not truly helpful for corporate or brand communication.  It truly is alienating and it shows a lack of discipline of these wide net “PR” people.  There is an accepted practice of 1% return rates as a justification for doing things to people that is taxing of their time and respect.

I am also getting way to many “If you have any questions….” I am not sure the reason this has increased–the logical question to those people is that if I had a question–wouldn’t I ask it?

I have never been shy to ask a question.


I do have a large PR and marketing community of top notch professionals that I have worked with for years and appreciate those relationships.  The good PR/marketing people are strategic and the strategic lens helps to make for better results for their clients and the media outlets that cover their clients products and services.  When a PR professional is doing this is using good and great practices of making good use of their own time and mine.  I have never had too many emails from a solid PR and marketing professional.


We live in a world of robocalls, junk mail and email that it is okay to cast a wide net of poor PR and marketing practices.  I would challenge those people why they have so much time to cast nets that will not yield anything for them to catch.  Why not make friends instead of having their emails marked as spam?



James the Wine Guy

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

Products in this review are courtesy of each producer.

Spam photo is a creative commons photo – I do not own this photograph.  Credit:  Cypher789 Zu sehen ist eine 200g-Dose SPAM der Firma Hormel Hinweis: Fotografische Abbildung auf dem Etikett per Nachbearbeitung entfernt. Zur Lizensierung: Das Photo von der Dose ist GFDL, die Schriftzüge auf der Dose selbst PD wegen mangelnder Schöpfungshöhe

© 2019 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 and 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 the Wine Guy Interview Series: Leeann Froese, Town Hall Brands

It is a delight to feature Leeann Froese in my James the Wine Guy Interview series.  I met Leeann at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Penticton, Okanagan Valley in British Columbia in 2013.   Leeann is co-owner of Town Hall Brands with her husband Andrew Von Rosen.  Town Hall Brands focus areas are PR, business strategy, graphic design, and event management in Vancouver, B.C., Canada.

Leeann is passionate about food and wine–she lives her professional life as a vocation and she wears it perfectly well.  Leeann is also a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, an invite only organization for women leaders in the food and beverage industry.

Leeann is outstandingly knowledgeable and her business instincts intersects with excellence in brand building.  She is an outstanding person to know and if you haven’t had the opportunity to meet her put her on your ‘to meet’ list.  And if you know Leeann–I hope you learn something new.


Thank you Leeann for taking the time out to be part of James the Wine Guy Interview series!

JTWG Q1:  You and your husband are owners and founders of Town Hall Brands–a marketing, PR and strategy house based in Vancouver, B.C., Canada – you have been doing this for sometime–what keeps you driving to success?

LF: It’s a bit of a long story; Town Hall Brands is only six years old, but I have been in the business for 22 years.

I was a partner in a marketing agency called Coletta & Associates, and my husband Andrew had his design company Andrew von Rosen Creative. Our agencies were two creative, productive, and highly respected groups that worked together to define, decorate, and promote world class brands for 15+ years.

Coletta & Associates was owned by Christine Coletta (Sr. partner), Julian Scholefield and me, and Andrew was our out-of-house graphic designer.

In 2013 we closed Coletta & Associates as Christine had opened her own winery Okanagan Crush Pad a few years before and it needed her full time. Julian joined her to work there.

So… since we shared so many clients already, our two teams (me and Andrew) merged to be a new, united, collaborative team; Town Hall Brands. And now instead of a partner, Christine is a client. We are proud to do graphic design and PR for her winery.

What drives us always is the belief in the beautiful people that make up the industry, and that we know we offer skills that can really help them shine. When our clients succeed, we do.


JTWG Q2: You always are top of mind when I think of BC wines.  I try to keep up with wine trends and distribution everywhere (it’s a bit daunting to keep track of many things) — has interprovincial wine distribution become more open in Canada?

LF:  First of all, thank you for saying if you think of BC you think of me. That’s so flattering. Regarding the interprovincial wine distribution: do NOT get me started on this. The short answer is that it is SLOWLY improving but we are far from having open provincial borders. We are one country!


JTWG Q3: Canadian wines sans ice wines are as ‘rare as rubies’ in the US.  Will there ever be a time when BC wines will be more available in the US? 

LF:  I have no crystal ball for the future but what I can tell you is that right now there are a small number of BC wineries that sell in the United States. British Columbia is such a tiny region though that we mainly consume all the wines made here ourselves, so you’ll have to come here to enjoy.


JTWG Q4: I recall when I first visited Okanagan Valley there was comments that Okanagan Valley produce only enough wines for BC and a bit beyond that–is that true?  Or is there an increase in production over time?

LF:  There is only so much cultivatable land and we are reaching our limit in the Okanagan. However, there are a few other areas of BC where grapes are grown and wines are made, and this helps the overall production in the province and proves out that there is more to BC wine than just the Okanagan. Vancouver Island and the Fraser Valley are two areas that are amassing wineries. Look for VQA for help in navigating quality.


JTWG Q5: What is Okanagan Valley doing today that the world needs to taste and know about?

LF:  We have many diverse microclimates in the Okanagan. We have this amazing climate that allows us hot days and cool evenings. The Okanagan has a lot of fantastic sparkling wine, made in all methods from traditional to Pet Nat to Charmat. Our climate affords us high acid with a lot of fruit ripeness at the same time, and the bubbly wines show this off well.

There are myriad grape varieties used in still wines, from aromatic Siegerrebe to Riesling, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, and full-bodied Cabernet and Merlot. It depends on the area the grapes are grown in. As a region we are working out how to plant for site.


JTWG Q6: What is your favourite food and wine pairing?

LF:  Wow that is a VERY tough question. Sparkling wine with something fried, or a crisp white wine with slightly salty Charcuterie. I guess the answer is something a bit fatty with the acid to cut it?


JTWG Q7: l have been fortunate to put ‘foot on ground’ twice in Okanagan Valley – a truly magical land – I think it is is North America’s undiscovered wine country; super easy and friendly wineries to visit–fantastic food and restaurants at wineries…. At least from a California perspective that is quite nice.  What might be a suggested itinerary you might recommend someone do when they visit Okanagan Valley.

LF: Okanagan Valley… there are a LOT of wineries in the 100-mile-long Okanagan.

The BC Wine Institute has a terrific trip planner https://explore.winebc.com/

You will need several days but here are surface-scratching suggestions grouped by area from North – South. I tried to give you a range of sizes and styles.

Lake Country

  • Gray Monk Estate Winery
  • Arrowleaf Cellars
  • 50th Parallel
  • Ex Nihilo


  • Summerhill Pyramid Winery (can eat here)
  • Martin’s Lane
  • SpearHead
  • CedarCreek (can eat here)
  • Tantalus

West Kelowna

  • Quails’ Gate
  • Mission Hill
  • Little Straw
  • Niche
  • Indigenous World


  • Sage Hills
  • Okanagan Crush Pad: maker of Haywire Narrative and Free Form wines – owned by my former business partner
  • Lunessence
  • TH Wines


  • TIME Winery (and do the barrel tasting)
  • Painted Rock
  • Pentage


  • Poplar Grove
  • Upper Bench
  • Hillside
  • Singletree
  • Howling Bluff
  • Red Rooster
  • Bench 1775
  • Serendipity
  • Moraine
  • Terravista
  • La Frenz

Okanagan Falls

  • Stag’s Hollow
  • Noble Ridge
  • Blue Mountain
  • See Ya Later Ranch – amazing view
  • Liquidity
  • Wild Goose


  • Black Hills Estate Winery
  • Covert Farms
  • Bartier Bros.
  • Stoneboat
  • Le Vieux Pin

Golden Mile Bench

  • Culmina
  • Tinhorn Creek
  • Hester Creek
  • Checkmate
  • CC Jentsch


  • Adega
  • Lariana
  • Nk’Mip Cellars
  • Moon Curser


JTWG Q8:  Vancouver’s food scene is quite nice–what is blossoming now?  Micro distilleries, microbreweries?

LF:  We have it ALL here in Vancouver. Name it and you can get it. All nationalities have representation here. Our sushi is excellent here; Vancouver is where the California Roll was invented! Bubble tea is as popular as coffee and there is a trend toward more casual eats like fried chicken places. Also, vegetarian and vegan restaurants are increasingly popular. There is an excellent craft brewery scene here. Come and visit and I will take you around! (And come hungry!)


JTWG Q9: When you are not drinking BC wines what are some of your wine passions?

LF: I am a wine LOVER (officially, as Canada’s first ambassador for #winelover) and so I love wines from all over the world. A couple I am passionate about are Prosecco DOCG and Valpolicella from Italy, and am a fan of Vinho Verde wines too.

When not drinking wine I love to try different gins.


JTWG Q10: What is a place you have visited often and cannot wait to go back?

LF: Northern Italy for sure, and I love Paso Robles.


JTWG Q10: What are you reading now?  What is your favourite book or books?

LF: I have very little time to read but I like to read books on birds – mainly how to identify. Right now I am reading a business book Marketing 3.0 by Philip Kotler.


JTWG Q11: What is your favourite restaurant town and current favourite restaurant there?

LF:  Vancouver and if I can only choose one: Sal Y Limon – a casual Mexican restaurant – the food is authentic and affordable and delicious.


JTWG Q12: What is a talent that you have that few people know about?

LF:  I can sing and act. I went to theatre school when I was 18.


JTWG Q13: I know you are a gin fan–what is your current favourite gin?

LF:  Totally loving this gin called Ampersand from Vancouver Island here in BC


JTWG Q14: Where will travel take you the remainder of the year?

LF:  Back to Italy for sure to Conegliano/Valdobbiadene. Maybe to Southern California if I can squeeze in one more trip before the end of 2019. There are only a few months left!


JTWG Q15: Any parting thoughts for my readers? 

LF:  The wine world is both vast and small at the same time. I am grateful to social media for keeping wine lovers connected. I also think that the beauty of the world of wine is that there are people all over the world who make and enjoy it, so it is one of the many things that unites us all globally, and we need that now more than ever before it seems.

Leeann–thank you very much for participating in my written interview series!



James the Wine Guy

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

Photo courtesy of Leeann Froese.

© 2019 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 and designs of James the Wine Guy.  James the Wine Guy is also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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Canned Wine: It’s the Wine Hype Right Now – James Melendez

It was this headline from the Wall Street Journal’s weekend section ‘Off Duty’ about canned wines “Is the Wine Bottle Over? That begged to be answered.






While Nielsen reports $79 mm (July 2019) in canned wine sales. This is hardly a large portion of all wines sold in US.  Chiefly the wine bottle is the way most people buy their wines and on and off premise.   There is a small portion that buy their wine in a box and buy on premise from a tap but that is still a small number.

The WSJ provocative title is premature.  Though it can be argued that hype can have an effect on the reader.  After all who would have predicted the downward sales of Merlot after the film Sideways.  

Much has been written (here is a piece I wrote: Will We Ever Get Over the Movie Sideways?)  Merlot took a hit.  Sideways got so much wrong and because it was popular it drove opinions about this Bordelaise beauty.  It pinned Merlot as a dull and uninteresting wine variety.  Oh, of course, the glaring error was Cheval Blanc which lead character Miles loved thought this wine is a Merlot dominant wine.  The damage caused by the the movie extended to decrease Merlot sales.  I remember during this period (BI) ‘Before Instagram’ that an Oak Knoll producer who in part was probably dying to sell their Merlot wrote on a big banner that could be seen from Highway 29 “Clearly, Miles had not yet tasted Napa Valley Merlot.” a bit of humor but it actually said more than that.

This hype reminds me of this Miles phenomenon.  There is no need to put a nail in the coffin for the wine bottle.  The wine bottles will be continue to be the dominant format.  

I am not canned wines prime customer – I get that.  But I look at my  view of caloric consumption insofar as I want to consume the highest quality wine and not consume the least high quality wines.  If I am going to commit to some calories why not have them be the most pleasing.  I have not seen premium juice in a can; it may be general appellation from California or other non specific appellation or general AVA instead of a specific AVA.

I think the $70 billion dollar market is not going to be a dominated by canned wine.  While it may have been in vogue to have canned beer–the preferred beer format is glass.  Cola in a glass bottle is favoured by the consumer.  While I am not saying that canned wine is a fade–it is here to stay but it being a dominant packaging is still to be determined but if I were to guess; I would say that glass is king now and in the mid to even long term glass will still reign as a preferred package.


This makes me think of QR (quick response) code which I thought had a lot of play for wine as well as for many consumer categories.  Here is my article about the QR Code in 2011. While you do see some packages (back labels of a wine bottle) has more often than a bar code not a QR and a bar code.

I was thinking the consumer would be reaching for their phone to photograph the QR code for future reference.  But that hype never lived up to the expectation. The QR failure for wine is two fold–there was never an easy and dominant app to use for retaining/reading a QR codes.  I thought people were going to use to retain information on a label they liked.  And the second failure was that say at a trade/consumer tasting few people are taking a photo of the wines they are tasting or even taking notes.  I think that the idea as before is that someone thinks they will remember their favourite wines or worse don’t feel the need to recall what they tasted.

Also, QR code could not compete against Instagram – which is not a QR replacement per se but is the interest many people have is to socialise their photos.  There is an active wine community but the dialogue has changed when social media and wine’s first home was Twitter.  The thematics of Instagram can be specific about wine or wine brand but not necessarily on specific wines.

I am not sure of the reason for so many recent articles on the wine can but my article is quite different from the many published in the past 2-3 weeks.  But I did feel the need to give a different thought on the wine can.

The can can convey a casualness about wine–an approachability and ease with wine.  But the congress is that when people regardless of generation keep the gyration of what wine is and what is popular to always be evolving, always changing.

I do not predict that wine can sales will decelerate but rather stabilize in low to mid single digits in the near term and slow down to low single digits in the long term.

I am glad to respond to this and other articles as it is important to not have one voice but differing opinions… wine has always been about this anyway.



James the Wine Guy

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

© 2019 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 and designs of James the Wine Guy.  James the Wine Guy is also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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