James the Wine Guy Interview Series – Arto Koskelo

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In this edition of James the Wine Guy Interview Series is Arto Koskelo.  Arto is a Helsinki-based wine and food writer, wine judge, wine vlogger and radio host of a programme on food and wine.

I met Arto while we were judging wines in Bari, Italy for the 2016 Radici del Sud.  I was fortunate to be on the same tasting table.  Arto wine and food knowledge is vast and I appreciated his thoughtfulness.  I feel it is essential to not just know wine writers in North America but my many friendships with European wine writers helps me to hone in on European wine and food and even the trends in respective locations throughout Europe.

Arto has such a great sense of humour that I found myself chuckling constantly at his quick wit.  I had a flight scheduled to Helsinki this year that was cancelled and I was very disappointed as it would have allowed me time in Helsinki.  But this was before I got to meet Arto–now I know a Helsinki resident and when I do get to visit it will be a great and optimised experience because I know I will get a great list of activities from him.

It is with pleasure here is the interview with Arto:

Q: What is your favourite southern Italian variety

A: I have two favourite Southern Italian varieties. No, wait, three. I adore Nerello Mascalese, the lusciously elegant reason behind Sicily’s Etna’s rise to stardom. I also love the nerello’s white counterpart Carricante, able to produce zippy and vibrant wines on volcanic soils that are closer kin to Chardonnay from Chablis than fat Grillo from the same neck of the woods. The third is my new love, Gaglioppo from Calabria. Especially from the region of Cirò, the variety is able to produce some stunningly appealing wines with finesse and poise but that come with an unforgivingly rustic tannic structure.

Q: What makes Primitivo so compelling?

A: To be brutally honest, I’m not sure if anything does. This is of course terribly harsh of me, but let me try to explain. The variety is capable of producing some lip smacking wines with depth and a tempting juicy character, but too often the impression I get from the variety is soupy, plummy and straightforward, which are not my favourite characteristics in an Italian rosso. Sorry Primitivo lovers but nothing ruins a perfectly decent day in South of Italy like a 16,5% Primitivo, served under the scorching sun of South Italy. Feels like a monster truck running over your palate and yelling prego while fleeing from the crime scene.

Q: Any stand out Primitivo’s for you from the 2016 Radici del Sud competition?

A: I enjoyed the Primitivo di Manduria from Masseria Pietrosa. It was juicy and savoury, like a Southern Barbera but with more muscle. It’s all about the balance.

Prior to judging wines at Radici del Sud had you tasted so many Primitivo and other Southern Italian wine varieties?

I had experience with Aglianicos, Primitivos, Negroamaros and so forth but visiting the source is always an altering experience for a wine lover. I’ve visited Sicily a few times and next on my list are Campania and Calabria.
Q:  What is your ideal food wine pairings for Primitivo?

A: I’d go with All American Barbeque with lots of hickory smoke. Maybe a thick sauce to make it official. Nothing too elegant for Primitivo, it’s a big boy. The paradox of Puglia is that the local cuisine is mostly about delicate seafood and gargantuan red wines. This has a lot to do with the history of Puglia supplying Northern wine regions with a full bodied blending component with lots of colour and alcohol. Doesn’t really fly with uncooked shrimp, I tell you.

Q: How do Primitivo compare to Zinfandel?

A: I’d be careful with the comparisons, but it is obvious that the two share some of the same traits. Whether Zinfandel is irrigated or not seems to make a difference similar to also witnessed in Puglia. At worst, Primitivos and Zinfandels can be as overbearing and sappy, but with a touch of restraint, they can be very palatable and delicious.

Q. Any other callouts of from Radici del Sud?

A: Cote di Franze from the Cirò region of Calabria. Marvellous stuff, very easty to get geeky about. The Cirò boys are dong wonders down there as we speak.

Q: In addition to Italian wines any other favourite regions, varieties?

A: I seem to like many wines that come from Volcanic soils. For example, the Assyrtiko from the Greek island of Santorini is nothing short of stunning. I’m also a big fan of serious Beaujolais coming from one of the crus. A hidden gem with a bad rep, if you ask me.

Q: Has the wine culture changed in the past 5 years in Helsinki? What are the top 5 regions you will find in both restaurants and wine retail shops?
A: Helsinki is going through a restaurant boom with lots of great new places opening all the time. I’d say the sommelier favourites are German Riesling in general and French natural wines (any region, to be honest). Champagne is always a good thing to offer. Orange wine is bubling under. The general public is drinking more and more sparkling wines. Cava and Champagne are growing double digits. The most popular wine country is Chile with it’s bold and affordable wines.

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About Arto Koskelo: Arto Koskelo is a Helsinki-based trouble maker on eating and drinking. He started with video blogging 2009 and was the wine guy of the Finnish morning show until 2014. Arto’s a published author on food and wine and a member of the prestigious Circle of Wine Writers. He’s hosting a radio show about gastronomy and writes to different medias about beverages and restaurants. Arto was elected as “the Food Ambassador of Helsinki” earlier this year as a token of his commitment to eating and drinking.

Arto’s blog: http://viinipiru.fi/ and http://koskeloonwine.com/

Twitter: @Arto_Koskelo

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About the James the Wine Guy Interview Series.  I love to interview people in my blog as I think it is essential to highlight people from all aspects of the wine world. The series is to look at not just wine makers, people who have had some touch to wine.  I also believe it is important to highlight contributors to making wine a highlight and delight on each and every table.

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Salute,

James

James the Wine Guy

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

© 2016 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.

Photo is courtesy of Arto Koskelo.

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New and Present Online Wine Writers and Wine Video Creators Are Essential – James Melendez

Attending this year’s Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi I met a whole new group of people that I didn’t know before.  I feel that it is essential to support new online wine writers as well as videographers.  Traditional press I feel have not always been complementary about a large community of online wine writers–who for the most part are largely unpaid.  I think the traditional and paid press might pick up on those who write to get “free” wine.  But the industry has recognised those who write because there is a higher purpose and those who are seeking samples only are those who I believe over time get fewer and fewer samples.

No one has a number of how many wine labels exist year over year.  Needless to say it is very large and I have talked often about how there are not enough people to cover all the wines that exist.  Wine publications do cover a large portion but there are so many others that are not picked up by the publications.

The newer online wine writers I feel are important to not just keep content fresh but also new approaches.  I also like seeing a great diversity of online wine writers–that cover gender, race, ethnicity, age and experience and every walk of life.  I know a lot about my demographics of my viewers and readers but I also know that I cover a lot of important demos but I don’t cover every person.  When Gary Vaynerchuck retired from wine videos–I could hear a collective sigh of disappointment.  I pointed out to many people in the industry that Gary while he and his PR partners brought a lot of attention to the wine world — even his reach was limited.  I look at his videos today and they are certainly aged – I am not sure I can connect with a particular game of the NY Jets and still find that relevant today.  While wine producers loved Gary I am not sure his demographic reach touched all wine consumers.  After Gary the wine world survived as I had expected and now I think there is a time for new people who are committed writers to find their audiences and their potential viewers and subscribers to find them.

I think the community of online wine writers will succeed not by competition but by cooperation and collaboration.  When I meet new(er) online wine writers or even wine vloggers I give encouragement.  I have rarely received encouragement but it is my recognition of little encouragement that I do want to encourage other people who write or complete videos about wine.

I do believe that a wine bloggers conference does bring people together once yearly.   I would love to see a stronger organization or platform to get to know each other and to support one another.  I do think an organization is needed and I could see such an organization can lift all boats.   This organization could also keep it’s foothold of relevance and value of online video creators and wine writers.

I look at the many online wine writers communities and there are many are not necessarily what I am speaking of–as each time a new community is created it is a place to post material.  Perhaps there is a higher calling that we can come together and offer our value proposition via an organization.  After all Sommeliers have various organizations to represent their value.

While I am an advocate of a more formal group–I am not saying that I want to create this potential organisation by myself.

Post your thoughts below.

Salute,

James

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

© 2016 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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There is a Very Active and Good Online Wine Writing Community Out There – James Melendez

I have never been married to the term “Wine Blogger” as I think the term Blogger was much more relevant and necessary a decade or so ago.  I have had many experiences in wine both professionally an non-professionally and have applied the many wine terms I have experience with as appropriate per situation.

The Wine Bloggers Conference may change it’s name next year and that will be determined I am guessing by the survey issued by Zephyr Adventures.  I do know a few people who are married to the term wine blogger and would be disappointed by any disuse of this term.

More to the point of this article is that attending the past Wine Bloggers Conference I was less than thrilled with both the expense (and yes it does cost more than the registration fee)–I keep saying I could have bought a Burberry jacket with all of my capital outlay for past conferences.  But whether I go to a future wine bloggers conference I am impressed with the online wine writing community regardless.  In the old days there were so many nay sayers of ‘wine bloggers’ and I hardly think those people have changed their minds.

The criticism of wine blogging has been that the community is self appointed and there are actually more criticisms than that.  I’m not going to list the people who criticize–they don’t need more clicks.  But the self appointing is not just mutually exclusive in the wine category.  There are vloggers and bloggers in every category imaginable and most have selected themselves as opposed to being appointed or anointed.

The online wine writing (OWW) community has a large corps of people who are committed to excellence in writing about wine.  I think there is a notion that OWWs are only in it for the wine samples, parties, dinners or even travel.  And I would say most of the OWWs are not in this for a “free” bottle of wine.  I do not believe there is a free lunch.  I do believe, however many OWWs have a taller purpose to be the best writers they can be–to be insightful and to be truth tellers and to enjoy their craft. If there is a person who isn’t a good painter do we call all painters bad—no of course not.  I believe the OWW has taken a bruising over the year and I hope to chip away at that a bit.

And back to the anchoring of this article.  When I was in Lodi I did see many online wine writers that I know and so many that I have great respect for.  I felt that in the past couple of years I have become closer to many other writers and I have felt a sense of cooperation and collaboration versus competition.

I think there is a great value that OWWs serve in the wine world and I think it is recognized some of the time and another part of the time we are taken for granted.  I remember half a decade ago I gave a talk in Rioja and ‘talked about social media as something we have been waiting for’ insofar as it is free.  Even in the room I posed this question–several hundred people in the room–there was a nominal hand raise for each social media I mentioned as well as how active they were in each respective media.  The sum of this story is that few people were actively engaged–who doesn’t want a free media and on top of that a way to speak directly to a customer or potential customer?

I think the same holds true for OWWs who often work for free.  And when I know of an online wine writer has a paid gig–good for them–they have often done quite a bit of free work to get that opportunity to be paid for their writing.  This unfortunately doesn’t happen that often for the entire community.   Maybe free anything is always under appreciated.  I think some people think that producing articles for free is just paying dues.

I had someone recently who kept asking for things from me in both video and in my written pieces.  I almost wanted to say and I should have said “you know everything I have done for your brand I have done for free.”   I have been asked to give video files that I created for my YouTube channel to a very successful retailer…..  to format that in a certain manner, etc.  Basically this retailer has metrics that they won’t share with me…. and I need to do this because?!?

To an exporter, I was asked to send a video file to an unknown website so they can host from that site as YouTube was not viewable in their respective country.  And this is just the beginning of asks and demands.   I did have one producer send me a pocket sized journal–what a kind gesture and I really appreciated as it said to me this company appreciated my time.   I am not asking for gifts of anything like this as it is just an example.

I can only devote so much time to one particular label or wine subject matter content.  I think the OWW has not articulated how much is done for free and I hope this article gives that inform.   I know many of my fellow wine writers give a lot of themselves and do so with a smile, with grace and with exacting professionalism.  I think many people think I have a limousine lifestyle–and oh I wish that was true!  There is a notion that I get paid to write my articles or I make a killing doing video.  But sometimes it is important to make these comments to build that awareness.

I hope this is read by fellow writers, PR agencies, wine producers, marketing and on and off premise businesses.  And I would point out that I have a great relationship not just with a PR agency, wine producer, marketing agency but also with people who work in the field, people who read my articles or view my videos.

I plan on more James the Wine Guy Interview Series (either video or written articles).  I like how I get to know someone or know them better and there I hope to highlight many great people that have a touch on a bottle of wine.   I think this is a good series to learn about writers, Sommeliers, wine producers, winemakers etc. and to highlight their talents. So stay tuned.

Salute,

James

 

James the Wine Guy

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

© 2016 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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James the Wine Guy Interview Series – Craig Camp

I have known Craig for over half a decade and have followed him and his wines from Cornerstone Cellars in Yountville to Troon Vineyard.  Craig has been involved with producers that are top of their game for wines of distinction, wines of balance.  Craig has a grand passion for the best that wine and great food can offer.  His European experience has show his devotion to the art of creating great wines.  I think many producers believe they craft the best wines but the attention to detail is essential.  Producing crowd pleasing wines is not a check mark for Craig.  I have talked with him and it is clear that he has a clear sense of a 360 view of wine–his involvement in wine is admirable of working on the back and front end of many wine businesses.

Craig has such a broad interest in many things and is one of the nicest people I know in any industry and I am glad to know him.

Now that Craig is based in Southern Oregon will certainly mean I get to see him less but I certainly hope to go to visit at Troon at some point and taste new vintages and new wines that I have not tasted before.

Gorgeous an unexpected varieties await you at Troon from Malbec, Tannat, Sauvignon Blanc/Vermentino and Sangiovese.  Yes, Oregon does produce not only Burgundian varieties.

Troon Vineyard

1475 Kubli Rd
Grants Pass, OR 97527

 

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Craig pouring Troon wines at the WBC16 Conference in Lodi, California

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Q. Tell me about your new job at Troon Vineyard?

A. It’s very exciting to be working in an emerging AVA and to be able to make wines based on the varieties that do best in this terroir. The energy and freedom here is energizing.

Q. How was the change of going from Napa to Southern Oregon

A. The natural beauty is just so compelling and inspiring here. You feel much closer to nature. There are no traffic jams here like there is in Napa and the people that work the vineyards can actually afford to live here instead of commuting in.

Q. You have had a very long and prolific career in wine – why wine?

A. In 1973 I spent a semester and summer in Europe “studying”. My first real wines were at winestube in Austria then in Alsace. Then I ended up in Paris where I would buy a cheap bottle of grocery store wine, which I would take to the park. The park was fill of other hippies and if you had something to share you could just join in a communal meal.  That’s how I survived in Paris. When I returned home I considered myself quite sophisticated, but soon learned I did not know how to buy a bottle of wine here as the labels were a mystery to me. So I bought a copy of Alexis Bespaloff’s Signet Book of Wine and that was it for me.

Q. You have the rare skill set of being in front and behind the wine label – few people have done that – why did you pursue this set of experiences?

A. After twenty years as an importer and distributor I decided I wanted to make wine, not just sell it. Best choice I ever made. In a few years I’ll have been in the fine wine business for 40 years. Half of that as importer/distributor half as a wine producer.

Q. What was your first bottle of life changing wine?

A. It wasn’t a bottle, but a pitcher of Edelzwicker in a winestube in Alsace back in 1973. The wine and the meal just blew me away. That’s were I really started towards a life in wine.  The other thing that really influenced me was when a group of friends formed a wine tasting group in the mid 1970s. In those days by chipping in about $50 each once a year we could taste all Grand Cru Bordeaux then for another $50 do Grand Cru Burgundy including DRC. Tasting those great wines defined my palate and does to this day. Obviously this is a thing of the past and it’s sad people can’t taste these wines anymore. On the other hand, there are a lot more great wines in the world than there were then.

Q. What is the most difficult wine you ever made and why was it difficult?

A. I don’t know if any wine was more difficult than another. My biggest struggle in Napa was to try to keep alcohol levels at a moderate level. The most difficult thing for me is convincing people that wine from a difficult vintage can still be wonderful to drink. That’s frustrating.

Q. I know you have a passion for food, what is your favourite cuisine style and what wines do you pair with that cuisine?

A. After three years in Italy it will aways be Italian. The majority of the food I cook at home is Italian in style. I truly love all Italian cuisine, but the food is Piemonte has to be my favorite. obviously you have to pair it with Piemonte wines to be authentic. No problem for me as the wines of Piemonte are my favorites.

Q. I feel in the past generation to a generation and a half the American wine industry has changed dramatically—what is the future state of wine?

A. For small wineries the future depends on the evolution of the three tier system. If the laws are not relaxed for wineries under a certain size, small wineries will find it harder and hard to succeed. The other challenge is to find ways to make direct shipping costs cheaper. The biggest challenge we all face is climate change.

Q. What is your favourite vacation destination/city?

A. Alba – Barolo and Barbaresco with a side trip to Milano and Lago Maggiore.

Q. What was your latest great and perhaps surprise wine find?

A. Thanks to Kermit Lynch I have really been enjoying the wines of Sardegna. Really exciting wines.

11. What is the most under appreciated wine variety?

A. Gamay. There are few wines more enjoyable in almost any situation than Beaujolais. I always have some in the house.

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Reviews of Troon wines:

Salute!

James

James the Wine Guy

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

© 2016 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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James the Wine Guy Interview Series – Michel Friou, Winemaker of Almaviva

It was a pleasure to interview Michel Friou, winemaker of Almaviva in San Francisco on his visit in June 2016.  He has a rich experience beginning with completion of education at Ecole Nationale Superieure Agronomique de Montpellier in France.  He has spent time honing in on his winemaking skills the Loire Valley, Languedoc, and Bordeaux at Chateau Margaux.  Michel has been Almaviva since 2007 making beautiful Bordeaux blends.  I had the privilege of tasting the 2012 vintage which is Cabernet Sauvignon: 65%, Carménère: 24%
Cabernet Franc: 8%, ,Petit Verdot: 2% and Merlot: 1%.  I loved this Bordeaux blend as the Carménère, a Bordeaux variety, is showing the complexity this variety adds to the blend as well as the fine fruit coming from Puente Alto in Maipo. I don’t often get to do in person interviews and I very much enjoyed meeting Michel

Almaviva is a partnership of Concha y Toro and Baron Philippe de Rothschild.

 

 

Salute!

James

James the Wine Guy

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

© 2016 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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Seek Wines and Food from Near and Far… Be Local and Equally Embrace the Far Away – James Melendez

The Localvore Movement is important in both food, wine, beer and spirits. I think there is exceptional pride eating and drinking locally.  I think what can be something that introduces guilt is when you are eating something not local.  We do it all the time and for good reason.  I like coffee, chocolate, bananas, tropical fruit and wines from abroad which I can not live by only local foods and drink experience all the time.  I do think it too esoteric and narrow minded to following something so strict and I think misses the point of connecting with people around the planet.

I love knowing the heirloom tomatoes on my plate are from a farm one county away–I love knowing the Meyer lemons I have came from a neighbour–yes, you get the idea.  I have listened to the many hard core people about eating local.  I think the intent for many is to eat local where possible.  I think following a path of just eating local is narrow minded as we cannot always get what we want from a local source.

I think there are things that go a long distance that could be made locally–cars–what a carbon footprint.  I drink wine from Alsace, Champagne, Turkish wines, wines from Montenegro, Uruguay or perhaps South Africa.  Maybe I want olive oil from Tunisia or coffee from Ethiopia– I don’t feel guilty by buying these products.  While some might rely on buying only Fair Trade or Direct Trade I want to put my money where my mouth is–I do think it is essential to buy from regions that need the economic activity.  While my one purchase is not going to have a long term impact but imagine if many people were buying olive oil or preserved lemons from Tunisia?

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Mustapha’s Preserved Lemons from Morocco

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Nabali Olive Oil from Palestine

Olive oil like wine is filled with many options.  I love olive oil and I cannot get enough and I go through it quickly which means many options to try new olive oils from new places.  I recently picked up Nabali olive oil from Palestine.  I had read a good review and I thought I had to try.  I also feel that I need to spread my dollars around as much as possible.  I often wonder about the economics of Palestine and I know the population is 4 million people with an average income of $2,900.

I have also been buying preserved lemons coming from Tunisia. The per capita income is $4,700.  I think the only way that poverty is going to be addressed is to seek food sources from lesser sourced food regions.  Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, Cyprus, Palestine, Jordan, Indonesia, New Mexico, Georgia, Turkey, South Africa, Peru, Chile, etc.  So I ask you seek these regions and more.  Seek a way for people to have a dignified life.

Zumot St. George Cabernet Sauvignon-Pinot Noir from Kingdom of Jordan

 

Adoria Zacowice Poland Riesling

Adoria Zacowice Poland Riesling

I also look at wine as a great thing to seek–to help people look towards the ancient and sometimes the new producer.  Cuisine is a full circle of food and wine.  Now for wine I hope you look for wines from the lesser known regions as Republic of Georgia, Mexico, Lebanon, yes, Syria, Kingdom of Jordan, India, South Africa, Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland, Morocco, Cyprus, Turkey, Peru, Uruguay, Ontario, British Columbia and New Mexico to name a few.  

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Valenta Nitrianska Rizling Vlassky from Slovakia

 

Suha Punta Grada Kontra from Croatia

Suha Punta Grada Kontra from Croatia

 

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Gala Farm from Czech Republic

 

I think that if we were about only about eating local we miss the opportunity for a more fuller, more ecumenical tasting.  We miss the beauty and uniqueness of place.  Seek local and seek far away.  After all you are not importing a car which seems to not induce concern for carbon footprint… you are importing something self sustaining.  And I think peace will not come from politicians but it will come from people helping people.

Salute!

James

James the Wine Guy

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

© 2016 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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Review of Wine Bloggers Conference 2016 – James Melendez

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I have been to six Wine Bloggers Conferences (WBC) and each are uniquely different and often highlighting the region where it is visiting.  Given all of the WBC all of them have had a central hotel and the conference was at the hotel.  Lodi, the host region for WBC, had a conference centre far from the “official hotels.”  This WBC was quite different in terms of energy and connection and networking opportunities than any of the conferences I have visited before.

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I traditionally like the networking opportunities–they are rich, needed and necessary, and good old fashion fun.  What I traditionally don’t like about WBC is the content and the speed tastings.  Because of the non-proximate location of the conference centre to the Hampton Inn and the Holiday Inn Express getting connected was quite difficult.  I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express is some place: I had never stayed at this chain of hotels before.  I thought the other official hotel was an easy walk away but that was not true–at least not a place you want to traverse in the dark–not a sidewalk to walk on and not a particularly active part of Lodi.

On Sunday of WBC I ran into a friend that I hadn’t seen all the days before at the conference–I thought perhaps she did not come to the conference but the truth of distant of conference hotels was evident and unfortunate.  I was also surprised that there seemed to be a lot less presence of sponsors or at least number of sponsors.  My evidence point was the final evening’s “Wines of the World” reception where there were only two sponsors pouring their wines.  The evening was quite warm and the wine ran out quickly not due to heat but due to not enough sponsors to pour more wines.  

2016 Content

Consistently over time the content is rather weak.  Putting this in the following framework: if you are traveling large distances and paying one’s own way the expectation is that it is not just good it is great and it helpful to move one’s wine blog needle.

I think the content and delivery has often been disappointing because the bar is often set low.  From a conference management perspective there should be a set of requirements for content and expectation of superb delivery.

I’ll use myself as an example–when I have been invited to speak I have given a topic and which I accompany with an outline.  I do this in case I need to hone in specifically to the need of event and audience and I give my outline before I step on speaking platform.  As a speaker I want to manage and meet expectation or organiser and attendee.  I always want to give the best I can give.

I felt many speakers did not rehearse or perhaps don’t speak that often.  The PowerPoint presentations were less than satisfactory.  I think it is essential to given an agenda or list of topics to be covered.  I think you have to manage the audience insofar as letting people know when you will take questions or asking questions of the audience–rhetorical or even from a polling perspective–audience engagement is essential.

Nothing loses an audience faster than if everything fails, slides don’t advance, too difficult to read as the front is too small, too much text, no overall theme or sense of direction.  I was in one talk where the presenter seemed frustrated that the material was not advancing correctly.  I like anyone else is there to hear about an experience, a best practice, industry information etc. and not feeling stuck with the presenter.  I think a take away is important e.g. my slide deck is available on Slidenet, a worksheet or questionnaire as an example.  I don’t mind if person doesn’t have an answer but asks if someone might know or the old fashion “I’ll get back to you.”  

It is not just the presentation style that is the only thing–it is the content itself.  I think the organizing committee could be more helpful by giving a guidance to presenters–e.g. An emerging topic may need some very foundational information, if it is a well known topic than a specific issue or piece can be highlighted.  I always ask if I am going to speak–and I ask many questions ranging from duration of talk to audience to goal or aim of conference or topic presented.

I have felt that I have not received value over the years with WBC’s weak content–If I am traveling to New York, Virginia or Canada it is much more expensive than going to Lodi.  Regardless even short distance travel has it’s expenses.  And conversely someone traveli from East Coast or abroad has to endure a large expense.   I need to maximize the value of what I spend in both time and money and I know I am not the only one that has felt this way.

I proposed content with a focus on video in this WBC.   I think video is essential and I think what I proposed would have been a perspective that is lacking from past WBCs.  My topic was rejected and I don’t know the criteria for acceptance or rejection.  I use to have a lobby meet up about video but I also felt strongly that this should not be a clandestine topic.  I would have been out of luck this year as the hotel settings were not strong to support a meet up like event.  Even if there was one hotel I would not have done a video meet up–I just don’t feel this topic needs to be presented only in a lobby and not a conference setting.  I am not an unknown quantity in the blogging community or the video community or even wine community as I have never been invited to be part of a formal team presenting or a panelist.  I know that I will not submit for another presentation slot at WBC because I know it will be rejected.

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So there was so highlights that I greatly appreciated:

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  • Discovery Session: Wine Educator Deborah Parker Wong, DWSET presents From Prosecco to Amarone – 12-August-2016  Deborah presented this tasting experiencing through the WSET methodology of Italian wines.  Deborah framed the tasting so well and made this tasting experience a welcoming and inclusive one.  Her touch with the audience was superb and I truly enjoyed the experience.

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  • From Passion to Pro – Getting Paid to Write About Wine with Randy Caparoso (moderator), Deborah Parker Wong, Jameson Fink and Debra Meiburg – 13-August-2016 Each panelist and moderator talked about their lifeline and how they go where they are today–each of them said something unique and important.  Deborah Parker Wong talked about her journey and it wasn’t an easy one and I took particular attention.   Her comments resonated not just at the conference and are still with me in terms of “turning over many rocks” for opportunities.  
  • Increase Your Audience & Engagement 14-August-2016 – Mary Cressler and Sean Martin of Vindulge – a husband and wife team from Portland; Sean is a barbecue expert and Mary is a sommelier.  I almost missed this presentation because I was skeptical of Sunday or last day material.  I went to see a few people before I left–I ducked into this presentation on accident.  This fantastic duo gave valuable insights, experience and great ideas so social media sites and other ways to increase traffic.  The level of presentation was excellent and I appreciated the way it was delivered and I walked away with things I can do in the future.

Speed Tastings

While I attend and I may tweet but I don’t like this approach.  I think the notion that everyone wants to quickly gulp or taste and spit wine and tweet about it isn’t helpful for anyone.  I don’t look to the conference screen and see if my name appears on the screen.  I stopped writing pithy notes to tweet out.  I do want to meet winemaker and producer representatives but doing so more thoughtfully.  I also find that the speed of getting each tasting session a massive rush–not a lot of fun and I would say unnecessary.  This element needs to change and become relevant.

Lodi

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I tasted some Lodi wines but much fewer than I expected.  I hope there would have been more opportunities to taste.  I thought that LoCA would have a table there throughout the conference and would have participated in the wines of the world.  There were plenty of opportunities but they never materialised.  I think it was a missed opportunity.

I missed events that were held at venues off site–it was not easy to get from one event in the evening to the next and hence was a delimiter to get to a large number of events.

Overall comments

I was disappointed in there was no survey on the event to give feedback to the organizer-Zephyr Adventures .  I got a survey request from the hotel where I stayed a few days after my stay.  I think it is a key function and even expectation of participant and it is norm of business and customer service.  I don’t want to just “give” my feedback here as that was not my intent.  

In spite of several levels of disappointment of WBC16, I was delighted to see many people I know near and far.  I loved seeing my many friends and I did see many people late at the event but it was better to see late than not at all.  I also enjoyed many new friends as well.

Will I go to WBC17? Yes I will.  Will the content be upgraded? Probably not.  I will go to make what I can from it–at least next year it will be in Fall time in Autumn and I think there may be fewer people since it will be in November but hope I will see my many friends and again meet new friends.  I am hoping for a better WBC in 2017.  

Salute!

James

James the Wine Guy

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

© 2016 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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PS I Don’t Love Petite Sirah – James Melendez

Petite Sirah.jpg

I don’t love Petite Sirah but I don’t hate it either.   There are few varieties that I simply don’t like.  I updated my wine sample policy where I stated that I will no longer review Petite Sirah wines–I will continue to review where PS doesn’t take an overwhelming percentage and where overall I feel the wine needs a review.  Like many wine writers I don’t promise I’ll review all wines I receipt as samples or even that which I purchase.  

There is an organization called PS I Love You which I personally have never uttered those words.  I had attended one of their Petite Sirah Symposiums and tasted a number of the presenters Petite Sirahs.  It was a good symposium but it didn’t bring me closer to the words “I Love Petite Sirah.”  Petite Sirah for me tastes very linear–dense, inky, high alcohol and a narrow range of notes–if blind tasting Petite Sirah from across California I and anyone else would be hard pressed to pick up where the wines came from because of its low frequency of regional characterisation.  I think what I find interesting is that Petite Sirah can truly over take a cuvée even at small percentage levels say in the 25 to 40% levels which I think re-characterises the wines considerable and take a commanding lead anything at any level of 40% can only be thought of as a Petite Sirah wine.

I like a wine variety that can express its region, its site and has a vast variation and complexity both by earth and winemaker.  I know that some people think of PS as alluring and seductive.  I think high alcohol can sometimes add to seductiveness of a wine. Also a wine that can be drunk without food can be a good thing but I have not had my enjoyment of meal where Petite Sirah was the featured wine.  I felt that PS overtook the lead even in the food-wine pairing zone and for me I would have preferred another wine variety.

Consumers have had a love affair that is quickly dashed over the historical period of a couple of decades.  In the 1980’s there was approximately 14,000 acres in California going down to 2,000 in the mid-1990s.  Today the current acres planted to Petite Sirah are approximately 6,584 acres in California according to Wine Grapes (Robinson, et al.).   I look at Zinfandel which has approximately 47,000 acres planted in California as a grape that has a firm foothold as a variety.  I can say easily that I do love Zinfandel–it is a wonderful variety that has a vast range of variation.  Interesting a lot of Zinfandel producers might add single digit percentage of Petite Sirah.  Zinfandel can hold its own especially with a dash of Petite Sirah.  This I am not bothered by–if a wine is varietally labeled Zinfandel that is the chief expression that I am seeking.  Above single digits can overly influence the wine.  Back to Zinfandel–Zinfandel has had it’s ups and downs but I do think it is a cornerstone wine grape in California.  I think people who are fans remain a fan for the long run unlike Petite Sirah.  I do not think that is the case with Petite Sirah drinkers–someone and I hypothesize many people start here and go to other varieties – Bordeaux, Burgundy, Iberian and Italian varieties and stay in those camps.  If Petite Sirah had a base that consumed it year over year there would be many more acres planted.  Will we hit 18,000 acres in the near future?  No.  Will we hit this in the mid-term: No.  And the long run: most likely not.  

Petite Sirah if not nearly extinct it is most likely extinct in it’s birthplace of France.  If this wine grape had been loved there there would be many examples of Petite Sirah or Durif (synonym) today in France.  I have had many samples run across my desk and I have decided to not review that which I do not love.  Also read into this that I do not hate Petite Sirah either.  I thought it was important to highlight my revised sample policy.

Let me know your thoughts on Petite Sirah–like, love, indifferent or hate the variety?

Salute!

James

James the Wine Guy

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

© 2016 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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So Many Wines: Never at a Loss of Content to Write or Video – James Melendez

busy

I have never have a shortage of topical matter to write and to complete video.  I think some subject matters there might be a struggle.  The opposite struggle exists for thoughtfully writing about wine and the time to do it.

No other consumer category is like wine–a strange and compelling product–strange in that there are a plethora of wines multiplied by vintage, vineyard, region and cuvée to name a few features.  My intention has been to write and video wine content (as example: a wine review of the same bottle) as I believe I do not always have the same audience–the audience self selects the media type they prefer – written or video.  I am constantly struggling to produce content–I don’t know where to begin and how to do this all in a timely manner.  I do get the occasional “where is the video review” query though I do not promise to complete a review either written or video.  I got one from a PR agency recently asking “are you going to review the wines or not?”  I often get an email before a sample is sent and I disclose that I may be traveling or to wait a certain time before sending.  But sometimes I just get a sample being delivered.  For this particular agency, I was going to review because the wines were compelling and I wanted to do that.  I, of course, did change when I was going to review these wines as I had a big queue and would get to them as soon as I reviewed previous receipts.

I rarely get an inquiry of this nature and when I do it is that I have often already produced the video or written piece.  I was taken aback by such a query–I didn’t want to not produce a video if it was for the agency itself I might not have based on the aggressiveness of tone.  I think this particular PR agency thinks all wine reviewers/writers are either paid or love doing things for free 24/7 or just because they are presenting them I’ll do it.  99% of all other PR agencies have had a very professional touch and have never made me feel I had to do something or they directed any piece I have ever written.  

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I don’t think anyone knows how many wines are produced today–but it easily 10x what it was a generation or two ago.  There are not enough publication or wine writers or videographers to cover everything.  And some wines receive multiple reviews and some of that is based on sampling programmes.  I don’t rely on samples and like the independence of acquiring wines on my own additionally and I am also gifted a good number by friends.  

I have looked at how I can cover more regions and varieties and am developing a method to review all wine regions of the world.  I have held back on samples when I get too full of one region because I have them staring at me on my review table and have been over assorted in some regions.

I have never thought I would only review one or a small handful of varieties or concentrate on one region.  Of all of the “specialist” I have met there seems to be a regret when doing so.  I think wine as a subject matter can best be addressed as a whole and not to only specialise in a region or two or only in a set of varieties.  I think for me it is the betrayal of my intellect if I only specialise in just one region.  Now for the people who do – it is their choice and I am not criticizing them but it is not my style or wish.

I have only excluded one variety in my sample policy and that is Petite Sirah.  I do not love Petite Sirah and it is something that I no longer want to do.  I still review every other wine variety except Petite Sirah.  I have had almost no comment on that choice.  I would love to see what people think.

Some people think all I do is review wine as my job–unfortunately–that is not the case.  I am sure I could produce substantially more content.  Being a full time reviewer is hard unless you have a site that produces ad revenue or other income streams.  

The only thing I can do is to continue to write and video and when I look at the blogger or vlogger sphere I am in rare company as I know I am top tier producer and that I know not every is producing at the same rate.  It is all about discover and finding patience with oneself and that others find in you as well.

Salute!

James

James the Wine Guy

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

© 2010, 2014, 2016 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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Is there an Ideal Colour for Rosé? James Melendez

Rose

Is there an Ideal Colour for Rosé?

Well…. that is two questions:

Is there an ideal colour for Rosé: NO

Is there an idealised colour for Rosé: YES

I’ll start with the yes, first and foremost I do not believe there is one correct colour.  So many people get wrapped around a tree when they believe that a Provence coloration is the perfect and ideal colour.  That without the Provence pigment all Rosés are less than ideal.  Idealise other things that are worthy of it: world peace, cures for diseases and sensible work environments and great jobs to name a few.  Dramatic?  Maybe.  But many people believe in only one stylized colour–the very pale pink.

Why is this of concern or at least note?  Last month I talked with a large number of wine importers and distributors and a common theme was buying Rosé and concern of selling deeper hued Rosé.  I asked what the problems were with darker hues and it was that anything too deep in colour doesn’t sell.  Now the importers and distributors were not just from the US but also all around Europe.

I thought why should one style influence other producers around the world.  I think many consumers are seeking dry Rosé and I do think many writers and reviewers have over time had a love affair with Provence Rosé hence the influence does rub off.

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Now onto the raison d’etre for this article: Is there an ideal colour for Rosé: NO

I do prefer only dry Rosé – though I have seen pallet of the sweet pink stuff at a warehouse retailer near you.  I do think thoughtful producers are giving us good and sometimes great dry Rosé wines both sparkling and still.  I don’t get hung up nor should you on colour alone.  In fact, I love to taste multiples of the same variety Rosé and I can see that skin contact and hence the colour itself is affected–and there is an influence to the characterisation.  I do love a mid-hue colour that I call cathedral stained glass window.  And I also must declare that, of course, I love Provence Rosé – I never put down one style in place of another–I see beauty in many wine styles sans sweet wines when they are not dessert wines.

I do think wine makers someday will be freer to make the colour of Rosé the colour they want it to be and that wine importers/distributors won’t hesitate to make a buy.  I hope this article encourages you to try different hues of Rosé and you will be instrumental in that some day this won’t even be a topic.

Until then enjoy your Rosé the way you want to enjoy them.

Salute!

James

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

Read more of my wine reviews:   WORDPRESS

© 2016 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 and photographs.   If you have any questions or comments please let me know.

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