The Instagram Follow/Unfollow Culture – James Melendez

I like Instagram for the sure bliss of liking photos and especially those people I know and what they are doing, brands that I like and subject matter than I enjoy.

BUT the Instagram culture of today is strange, very strange.

I have noticed for almost the entire time that I have utilised Instagram and this social media is markedly different than Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube or even Instagram‘s sibling Facebook.

Instagram is a social media filled with it’s more than fair share of spam– questionable subjects that are lures for the follow-unfollow culture.  I am not the only one to notice the Yo Yo Affect of follow-unfollow meaning how Instagramers quickly follow and unfollow; I am not sure why people even follow if they are going to unfollow.  My only guess is that it is better to appear that an Instagram personality has more people following than they are following.

I recently met one Instagrammer with 50,000+ followers and I noted she was constantly on her phone…. I asked how did she get to 50,000 followers and she said “by spending countless hours” on Instagram   She felt her technique was to follow someone back right away and like a couple of their photos right away.  I said does that help to keep or retainer followers?  And the answer as it turns out is exactly like my experience–that the game continues and the follow-unfollow phenomenon goes on regardless of what you do.

I am sure if you are well known personality it is the same — most likely not.  I am not sure if you are a well known person that you have time to observe the Yo Yo.  The relativism is the same if you are famous on one social media–you will be equally high profiled on other social medias.

So what to do–there are two clear cut answer: 1) don’t buy followers and 2) use a good number of hashtags.  While a big practice is to use popular hashtags.  But I think being descriptive and accurate hashtags is the best practice.


I am not surprised about what spammers do in terms of the follow/unfollow but I am more surprised when it is someone I know does this on Instagram.  So here is the peculiar: the people you know who unfollow you on Instagram don’t unfriend you on Facebook or unfollow you on Twitter?  That is really strange?!  I think it is less to do with fatigue or lack of liking posts–it is a Culture of Unfollow.

So how do I know who follows or unfollows?  I use this tool (Followers) from the App Store as Instagram doesn’t have any tools of worth as it relates to understanding this question.  I don’t have a strict follow or unfollow policy and I follow people or brands who may not follow me but have important content that I enjoy.

I wish there was a much more “at ease” culture on Instagram instead of the fiesta of follow-unfollow.  In the mean time I will enjoy Instagram.

Let me know your thoughts on Instagram follow-unfollow culture.



James the Wine Guy

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

Product in this review are courtesy of publisher.

© 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 Instagram, Social Media | 1 Comment

2019 Midsummer Wine & More Reviews – James Melendez

A lovely month of diversity.  I love red and white wines year and, of course, rosé is particularly appreciable but I do love rosé year round.   I am constantly asked if I prefer red or white wine to which I say I love then equally.  There is also what your palate might be seeking as well as adjusting for a season or special wine.

Here is a combination of all the wines for this month and some video reviews as well.  I have one olive oil review and several Japanese microbrews.







St. Urbans-Hof Nik Weis Mosel Dry Riesling ’18 – $18 SRP

Nose of Yellow peach-citrus, honeycomb and oyster shell

Palate of Granny Smith apple, pear, crushed shells and beeswax







St. Urbans-Hof Nik Weis Mosel Old Vines Riesling -’18 – $18 SRP

This producer selects grapes from 35 to 70 year old vines.  It is off dry–I could not find grams of sugar per litre.  It is not intensely sweet and I would pair with Asian dishes.

Nose of quince-apple, honeysuckle, and hint of spice.

Palate: quince, pear, moist stones and beeswax









Alma de Cattleya Sonoma Chardonnay 2017

14.1% ABV

Nosel lemon peel, almond, moist stones, and flowers

Pear: pear, apple, and crushed sea shell







Alma de Cattleya Sonoma County Pinot Noir 2017

Nose of bright tones of black/red bramble rose petal, and dried herbs

Palate of red bramble, white pepper, and thyme violets









Nose of blackberry, bay leaf, and moist red earth

Palate of black cherry, pepper and dried thyme and marjoram









Lucy Rosé of Pinot Santa Lucia Highlands

Nose of strawberry, stone fruit,  stones,

Palate of mountain strawberry, beeswax and fennel











Herdade do Esporão Enologico dos Arrifes Organic Extra Virgin Portuguese Olive Oil – SRP $18 

I am always surprised how many olive oils I don’t taste from producer where I taste their wines.  I was privileged to taste this gorgeous olive oil.  Have you ever used a substandard olive oil and realized a good or great olive oil is rare.  This is one to use for bread to taste the richness and beauty.  The nose presents with a note of freshness – green apple, rosemary and nuttiness.  The palate presents with Meyer lemon, white pepper and bay leaf.








Wrath Ex Dolio Monterey County Falanghina ’16 – $29

I had never tasted an orange wine of Falanghina nor I had never tasted until now a North American Falanghina.  The wine exhibits on the nose – bright fruit notes of yellow peach, lime, and flowers;  Palate gives yellow tart fruit like nectarine and peach, dried lemon peel and beeswax.  This is a SIP certified wine.








Esporão Reserva White 2017 – SRP $20

Nose of yellow peach, apricot, and flowers

Palate of moist stones, white floral, white stone fruit and beeswax







Fitapreta Alentjano White Wine ’18 – $22

13.0 ABV – this wine is a lovely blend of Roupeiro, Rabo de Ovelha, Antão Vaz,
Tamarez, Alicante Branco and Arinto.

Nose of fresh citrus, citrus grove, almond and field flowers

Palate of tropical fruit, balanced with sea shell and fresh pine nuts








Quinta dos Murças Minas Douro Red Wine ’16 – SRP $20

This is a blend of Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cão and Tinta Francisca.  Nose of cherry, boot polish, good pile and dried red flowers.  Palate of black cherry Hoisin pepper violets








Esporão Colheita Red ;17 – SRP $18

This is a blend of Touriga Franca, Aragones and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Nose of cherry, boot polish clove and leather

Palate of  Pomegranate, cherry, pepper violets and Bay Leaf.








Herdade do Rocim ‘Mariana’ Branco ’17 – $13

This wine is a blend of Antão Vaz, Arinto and Alvarinho blend

Nose of Bergamot, almonds, and moist stones; a palate of orange zest, white peach and fresh flowers.








Herdade da Malhadinha Antão Vaz da Peceguina ’16 – $25

100% Antão Vaz; small production of 13,942 Bottles.  A nicely focused wine where Antão Vaz is a star–considerable finesse.  Nose of quince and yellow peach, beeswax and fresh flowers.  Palate of quince, dried lemon peel, oyster shell and fresh white flowers.








Domaine Olivier Merlin – Macon La Roche Vineuse 2016

13% ABV  a delightful Burgundy; nose of apple, quince, moist stones and flowers; palate of Comice pear, white tea, and oyster shell.







Yoho I’m Sorry Umami IPA

A very unique IPA if not the most unique – this IPA is brewed with Bonito flakes.

Nose of bright tones of fresh yellow and green citrus and toast
Palate: pepper, clove, dried lemon and sesame







Hitachino Nest Beer Yuzu Lager

5.5% ABV – an oh so Japanese expression of lager – using a Yuzu lemon-this delightful lemon is quite noticeable and nice.

Nose of exotic citrus zest and dried, floral and fresh herbs

Palete: bright citrus tonality, fresh, clean and fantastic capture of Yuzu








Jason Stephens SCV Reserve Chardonnay ’16

Nose of green apple, quince, nutmeg and sea shell

Palate of fresh apples, ground nutmeg and flowers





James the Wine Guy

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

Product in this review are courtesy of publisher.

© 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 9.2, 9.4, Alicante Branco, Argentina, Arinto, Burgundy, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carneros, Chardonnay, Chianti Classico, Corsica, Douro, Falanghina, Japanese Beer, Monterey, Monthly Reviews, Mosel, Mourvedre, Napa Valley, Nero d'Avola, Olive Oil, Paso Robles, Pinot Noir, Port, Portugal, Rabo de Ovelha, Riesling, Rosé, Santa Clara County, Santa Lucia Highlands, Sicilia, Sicily, SIP Certified, Tamarez, Wine Review | 2 Comments

James the Wine Guy Interview Series: Cindy Rynning – Grape Experiences

My friend Cindy and I on a media tour of Montsant, Catalunya, Spain

I am featuring my friend Cindy Rynning, Grape Experiences in my interview series.  It was an easy choice for me as I appreciate Cindy’s writing style and perspectives.  Cindy’s writing style presents her subject matter of food, wine and travel that is accessible and honours her topics and I very much appreciate her photography.

Cindy has completed her WSET Level 3 with Merit.  She knows wine and all that surrounds wine–food and place.  She is a resident of Chicago a great town for food and wine.  So when she isn’t traveling she is out and about in Chicagoland visiting the city vast array of thoughtful, world class and cutting edge restaurants.

I had the honour of being on a press tour with Cindy and other wine journalist in beautiful Montsant.  Cindy is such a wonderful person and treats her subjects with the same respect she gives to everyone she encounters.  I always look forward to seeing Cindy and I am glad that I can enjoy her social media posting (I have listed Cindy’s social media’s below interview).


JTWG Q1: How and when did you begin wine writing?

CR: I’ve always loved wine, but once I began my wine education journey, I didn’t realize that I had such a love for not only sipping, but learning more and writing about it. Several years ago, in 2011, I decided to enroll in the Level 2 Wine & Spirits Education (WSET) course, an internationally wine education program, in order to become more educated about wine. My intention was to understand the process of wine production, the regions of the world, the various grapes, and more with depth and breadth, I hoped to be inspired to take my already existing teaching career on a different path. After passing that class, friends and family asked “what are you going to do with all of this incredible information?” to which I responded, “I’ll write about wine!”, a noble statement to be sure! To that end, I began my website, Grape Experiences in the fall of 2011. A few months later, I enrolled in, then passed with Merit, the WSET Level 3 class.

JTWG Q2: What are you favourite aspects of wine writing and any specific interests?

CR: Writing for others is yet another form of teaching, of course, and I’m thrilled that my website has garnered many readers on a consistent basis. Because of its success, I’ve been offered many opportunities to visit wine regions throughout the world for “hands-on” learning, to attend events and classes hosted by winemakers and others, to taste wines that are exceptional examples of terroir, and to speak about wine in front of groups. I’m honored to share my stories on my site and in real life conversation.

JTWG Q3:  Where is online wine writing going today?

CR: At this point, I continue to post two articles per week on my own site, but more opportunities for freelance work and wine related projects are coming – it’s an exciting time!

JTWG Q4: What wine regions do you collect?

CR: It seems that I gravitate towards wines from France, a country where I feel very comfortable due, in part, to the fact that I’ve visited consistently since college days. I also collect wines from Paso Robles where I love to visit and sip with friends and family.

JTWG Q5: What is your single most favourite traveling moment?

CR: I have many wonderful traveling moments, so this is a tough question to answer! In general, though, my favorite traveling moment is when I have an opportunity to listen to stories from the winemaker(s) or winery owner at their property, learn from them and ask questions about their wines and more. To taste and chat while gazing at vineyards and a stunning landscape are magical moments.

JTWG Q6: Do you have a favourite wine country to visit?

CR: In the United States, I would say Paso Robles, Sonoma, and Virginia and in Europe, Beaujolais and the Loire Valley are beautiful with wines with stories to tell. There are special elements in every area I visit.

JTWG Q7: What has writing taught you?

CR: The process of writing has taught me to be disciplined, to be detail oriented, to edit multiple times, to never post an article unless I’m happy with the content and its message, and to continue to engage in lifelong learning about wine – I can never learn enough!

JTWG Q8: What is on your travel bucket list?

CR: I have plenty of areas. Bordeaux, Champagne, Piemonte and Sicily are high on the list and I can’t forget The Margaret River Valley in Australia and Croatia. I need to get going!

JTWG Q8: What is your favourite restaurant right now?

CR: Living in Chicago affords me plenty of chances to explore some amazing restaurants. Right now, Avec and Sepia in the West Loop are my go-to spots and The Gage on Michigan Avenue is always on my list. I love to try new places, though… in another year, I may have different answers!

JTWG Q9: What is your favourite food and wine pairing?

That’s easy: popcorn and Champagne.

JTWG Q10: What book(s) are you reading now?

CR: I just finished That Churchill Woman by Stephanie Barron for my book club this month. I’ll be starting Fire Road by Kim Phuc Phan Phi this weekend. I sneak in a non-fiction book about wine from time to time, so there’s that…


Keeping up with Cindy:

Her website:





James the Wine Guy

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

Product in this review are courtesy of publisher.

© 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: Frank Morgan, DrinkWhatYouLike


It is very nice to feature Frank Morgan, DrinkWhatYouLike wine writer and host/creator of Virginia Wine Chat in my interview series.  Frank has been writing on wine for a decade (since 2009) and hosting an online show called Virginia Wine Chat.

I have admired and appreciated Frank’s writing and hosting his live Virginia wine show.  Frank is in my judgment the leading wine subject matter expert on Virginia wine and history.  Frank has instilled in me the excitement of Virginia wines that lives on today.  The Commonwealth of Virginia has worked hard to promote their wine industry but the heartbeat is with individuals like Frank who keep Virginia top of mind.

Frank’s Virginia Wine Chat is a great way to keep the conversation going and to build awareness of Virginia wines to an online audience.  It is not easy to produce videos for my YouTube wine channel and I appreciate many fold how difficult it is to do a live show like his.  Frank is a one-person show and doing this live is a testament of his capability of doing this giving 100% to the brand where he is shooting live and he has very good screen presence.

Frank has a great sense of not just Virginia wines but wines from all points on the planet.  I am always glad to know another person like myself who is passionate about Champagne and oysters.  Frank has impeccable taste of wine, food, and travel.  I have been lucky to be on a press tour with Frank and other wine writers to Montsant, Spain.  I do hope to be on more wine events and media tours where Frank is also an attendee.  He is a fantastically nice person with a great sense of humour and his brightness is a pleasure to be around.

Frank’s social media information is below this interview and I have included a video where Frank and I talk about Barboursville 2008, 2009 and 2010 Cabernet Franc.


JTWG Q1: You are one of the most prominent wine writers highlighting, supporting and talking about Virginia wines. What are some things people may not realize about Virginia wines?

FM: Thank you. There is so much to share about the Virginia wine industry. Many wine enthusiasts may not realize Virginia has a deep history with viticulture dating to 1619 when the House of Burgess passed Acte 12 requiring all colonists to plant ten grapevines. Today, Virginia is home to just over 275 wineries and is the sixth largest wine producing state in the U.S.

JTWG Q2: Will there be an expanded distribution of Virginia wines in the US? Opportunities for Virginia wines?

FM: Right now, over 90% of all Virginia wine is sold ‘in’ Virginia leaving little for distribution. I remain hopeful that more grapes will be planted (very much needed!) and production will continue to increase but, at this point, demand for wine ‘in’ local tasting rooms is outpacing supply (in most cases).

JTWG Q3: While Virginia is well known for it’s signature grapes of Cabernet Franc and Viognier–what are other wines from the Commonwealth are underrated and deserve much more attention and accolades?

FM: The Virginia Wine Board designated Viognier Virginia’s official signature grape for marketing purposes in May 2011 but the decision proved premature. Virginia’s wine industry is too young to have or need a signature grape. Of the roughly 70 grapes cultivated for wine in Virginia some of the most promising are: Petit Manseng (used to make dry, off-dry, and sweet), Petit Verdot, Tannat, Albarino and Vermentino.

JTWG Q4: What was your inspiration to become a wine writer?
I wish I had a romantic story that led to wine writing. Instead, I started writing about wine by accident (or, slowly).

FM: In early 2006, while working on an extended project in the Bay Area (in the Aerospace industry, where I worked by day), a colleague invited me to join a group of friends for a weekend trip to this place called Sonoma to take a break from the weekly coast-to-coast commute.

The first winery tasting room I visited was Gundlach-Bundschu and that weekend served as the catalyst for my love of wine. I spent every other weekend for several months roaming the routes of Sonoma and Napa learning about this infinite subject.

In late 2006 I started taking wine classes and started visiting wineries wherever my travels took me.

In 2007 I started sending friends and colleagues an informal email newsletter with reviews and suggestions for wineries to visit (my colleagues traveled each week like I did at the time). Those informal emails turned in to an email newsletter for longer reviews. In 2008 a friend suggested I consider starting something called a ‘wine blog.’

I started in 2009 as a way to chronicle my wine travels and experiences for a small group of friends and to bring some order to my wine notes. The blog led to print writing opportunities for various east coast magazines and being the Associate Editor of Virginia’s only print magazine dedicated to local wine and cider.

Today, I write two regular wine columns for local papers/magazines and occasional articles for state-wide magazines and various websites like Snooth. I’ve been approached by two publishers about writing a book about the local wine (and drinks) industry.

JTWG Q5: Hosting Virginia Wine Chat is certainly hard to produce both organising and producer–you do so with ease–though I know it takes a considerable amount of work. What do you like most about your wine show?

FM: When I started Virginia Wine Chat in March 2013, I thought it would be fun to do for a year or two at most but here we are still going six years later. I believe Virginia Wine Chat is one of the longest running monthly tasting series (if not the longest running) in the wine interwebs. From getting the online participants confirmed, working with winemakers’ schedules and making sure the wines arrive on time, the ‘chats take considerable time to organize. If only I could find a way to monetize to at least break even on the time and cost of traveling to the wineries (monetize in wine… har har har). I keep having the ‘chats because I love the interaction and the inside perspective from interviewing winemakers. I have six years of content so I hope to convert it all to some form of chronicle of the Virginia wine industry.

JTWG Q6: What is your favourite wine regions outside of Virginia?

FM: The Loire Valley and Beaujolais. I’ve visited the Loire several times and find myself reaching for Cab Francs and Chenins from the region more than any wine. I also love Gamay from around the world but especially the beautiful and floral wines from the Fleurie and Julienas Crus. Also love the Rieslings of Germany, especially the Nahe region.

JTWG Q7: What is your favourite style of Champagne/sparkling wine (and I know what you love to pair this wine–oysters!) and do you have a favourite Champagne/sparkling wine?

FM: I love Extra Brut Champagne! Emmanuel Brochet ‘Les Hauts Meuniers’ is one of my favorites. Also love the bubbles from Prevost, Lelarge-Pugeot, Paul Bara, Selosse (wish I could drink more of this). Virginia has a thriving sparkling wine industry. For value bubbles, it’s hard to beat Gruet, based in New Mexico, especially their Extra Brut Sauvage. So many bubbles… could drink them every day!

JTWG Q8: What will your travels take you this year?

FM: In March, I visited a couple of sparkling producers in the UK. It’s exciting to see how English fizz has matured. I’ll be visiting Oregon in July and Germany in August. Will also visit plenty of Virginia wineries.

JTWG Q9: What are you reading right now?

FM: Just started reading Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow and James Salter’s A Sport and a Pastime. My daughter and I are reading our way through A Series of Unfortunate Events books together.

JTWG Q10: What is your most treasured travel moment?

FM: In March we took a family trip to London and Paris. It was my daughter’s first trip to Paris. Seeing her eyes light up the first time she saw the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe and other sites she had only read about was priceless. Even with all the amazing historic sites, her highlight may have been dessert at Angelina. My wife and I drank a lot of Champagne and Beaujolais during the trip, which was memorable.

JTWG Q11: What is your favourite food town?

FM: I love the evolving food scene in London and Charlottesville, VA, but Washington, DC is so exciting and diverse.

JTWG Q12: Where is wine writing online going?

FM: I’m bearish on online wine writing. The amount of noise in the wine interwebs has increased exponentially in the last few years, but there is still some quality writing to be read. In general, I prefer to read print magazines like The World of Fine Wine, Pipette, and Noble Rot. I believe it’s important to support print publications.

JTWG Q13: Have you made wine? If so what did you make? If not would you like to make a wine?

FM: I have toyed with the (insane) idea of buying property in Western, Virginia for a small vineyard and orchard and I do keep an eye on vineyard property sales across the state. I did try to make a small batch of Viognier in 2011 but was traveling too much for work (and my daughter was born that May) so there wasn’t as much ‘winemaking’ in my wine as there should have been. I’m thinking about sourcing Cabernet Franc this year.


Frank Morgan’s social media:






Thank you and stay tuned for more interviews to come.



James the Wine Guy

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

Product in this review are courtesy of publisher.

© 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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Technique to Reduce Wine Glass Breakage


There is no way to reduce wine glass breakage completely BUT there is a way to reduce the number of glasses you might be breaking.

I was clocking at least a dozen if not more per year.  No I don’t have raucous parties but I do open a lot of bottles for reviews and I do entertain.  Breaking wine glasses that you love is painful–and if they are expensive like Zalto–super searingly painful.

I think each time I have broken a wine glass it was in an instant and often involved in cleaning but not always.  I use my dishwasher… and of course–may the riot act begin.  So many people are against this–including videos I have seen people who are against it but they often use a soap to hand wash wine glasses.

But guess what–do you dine out?  Well the reality is most of the time they have been through a dishwasher.  There are those who will pontificate to not do this.  Sure if you have nothing else to do, don’t work or have a copious amount of time to wash your wine glasses by hand then be my guest.

Sure the gentler the wine glass and I have many many different wines and I know what I can place in dishwasher and those that must be hand washed.  My Schott Zwiesel wash well in the dishwasher and with their non-leaded wine glass tend to be particularly strong but not invincible.  I have noticed that the rims are delicate no matter the brand–place carefully in the dishwasher so they don’t bounce around or fall to one side or another.  Also, I have learned to not to pack too tightly.

While dishwashing can do a very nice job (I use as earth friendly detergent as possible).  I always use half of the amount of detergent.  I also find that I sometime need to touch up.

Here is something that I have learned to not to do.  If you are in a hurry and want to touch up especially before a dinner party–don’t.  Also, when I think I can use a little more force to get a stubborn streak out–wrong–they will always break.  Also, if I am touching up I never ever hold by the steam or the base (foot).  I have snapped so many.  When I have broken a wine glass I have been lucky to not cut myself.  I also want to do what everyone else wants to do is have a nice clean wine glass.

The technique that has helped me to reduce wine glass breakage by a significant percentage is for me to clean by holding the bowl and never the stem.  I also use less pressure on the rim when I clean around this area.  I also use different cleaning clothes–one I will use a lens paper and then I use a kitchen towel.

By holding the bowl I have a better grip as I am holding the strongest part of the wine glass–regardless of shape it should be easier to grip–which may seem counter intuitive.  Stems are only meant hold while sipping on your wine and to transport from “A” to “B.”  Below is video to demonstrate how to clean your wine glasses.

Take the utmost care and be careful when cleaning your–safety first is always paramount.  Never over exert and always exercise the highest level of safety when cleaning your wine glasses.   You can have the best of both worlds.







James the Wine Guy

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

Product in this review are courtesy of publisher.

© 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: Josè Rallo, Donnafugata Wines

Gabriella "Gabri" Rallo and Josè Rallo

Gabriella “Gabri” Rallo and Josè Rallo

Josè Rallo heads up communication at Donnafugata and also is a member of the Rallo family that owns and operates Donnafugata.  Donnafugata is emblematic for me in terms of gorgeous labels that convey Sicilia, an homage to the book by Prince Giuseppe Tommasi di Lampedusa entitled Il Gattopardo and in the English The Leopard and is a tale of Sicilian wine in the bottle.  Label art is important and it is the cover to the book of wine–the art work which are designed by Stefano Vitale: a very successful translation of the very essence of Sicily in terms of visual presentation.

This graphic highlights Donnafugata sites in Western Sicily – Marsala, Contessa Entellina & Pantelleria; and Eastern Sicily in Vittoria and Etna.















Josè is bright and energetic and passionate about her families labels, vineyard sites and production facilities.  Josè has a spirit that is contagious when she speaks about her family’s wine history and the many wines they are producing.  She is full of amazing ideas that has made Donnafugata a place to visit and to experience their wines.  The family’s historic cantina in Marsala and their summer event series at the site in Contessa Entellina are fantastic ways of experiencing Donnafugata with foot on ground and wine in the glass.  Also the historic site on the island of Pantelleria is where they produce their elixir of goodness–Ben Ryé wine which is a Passito di Pantelleria and is a creation of what the island is known on this windswept volcanic island.  Ben Ryé is a gift to us all and a wine that I recommend for your desserts–a silken wine that imparts sweetness and a full spectrum of fruit, nutty, and spice characterization.  

And as I mentioned above–she has also has instituted an event series at the Contessa Entellina site in the summer called Calici di Stelle (Goblets of Stars)–enjoy the stars with music, food and, of course, wine.  This event is in it’s twenty second season and is every August – the beginning of the harvest which last in total 100 days (for all Donnafugata sites) for their grapes to be picked for the years current harvest.






Donnafugata produces 22 of wines from Etna, Contessa Entellina, Vittoria and Pantelleria and produces wines from indigenous varieties, international varieties and a combination of international and indigenous varieties.  The expression for all of the wines is picking up on the rhythm of what is the heartbeat of Sicilian wines–a gift to palate and the sensory experience.  All of their wines (which I am a fan of them all) are well produced with a great sensitivity to the environment as well as styles that give the fullness of Sicily.  All of the wines are approachable not just with Sicilian and Italian cuisine but all cuisines.  The styles are thrilling and can be found widely in the US and around the planet–the wines are completely reasonable on the pocket book.





I was very fortunate and thrilled to have Josè Rallo participate in my interview series.  I hope you enjoy the interview as well.  She is vibrant and talented–she is also a singer and encompasses her love for Sicily and passes it on with passion and commitment.  I love her singing the sensory perception of her families wine (video is listed below).


JTWG Q1: What does Sicily mean to you?

JR: Sicily is my homeland. I adore the sun and the sea as well as all the colours and scents of this land.

JTWG Q2: Sicilian wines are on the world stage – how did this happen?

JR: It’s a story of men and women. Great people like my father Giacomo and my mother Gabriella, but also members of other wine families that in little less than 30 years managed to innovate the perception of Sicilian wine. Strongly engaged in the vineyard to reach ever higher quality goals, in the cellar through refrigeration technologies to safeguard the aromas, on the market with an always modern and innovative marketing approach.

JTWG Q3. Just a generation and a half ago–I rarely saw Sicilian wines; now I see so many more on wine lists and in stores; and yet I do think there is a lot of opportunity especially in the US. Do you share that view?

JR: Absolutely. The U.S. are a huge market, the largest in the world for wine consumption. Today, we drink and eat always more conscious when it comes to quality and this is crucial for Sicilian and Italian wines in general, which are meant for food pairing and for moments of conviviality. I do not see problems from the consumer’s point of view, but from the point of view of the distribution system. A complex and expensive system that often makes it difficult to meet the wine lover and the wine brands known through marketing.

JTWG Q4: Sicilian is producing gorgeous international varieties? I would love to see more of them in the US. Is there an opportunity to present this wines?

JR: The international grape varieties grow very well in Sicily: e.g. we have splendid Chardonnays with a marked freshness, which I like to call “Mediterranean” for their flavor; then we have splendid Cabernet Sauvignons that distinguish themselves for elegance and balsamic notes. All grapes that have been grown for decades in Sicily, one of the reasons why we are able to produce great expressions of those.

JTWG Q5. I love tasting the 1996, 2005 and 2014 Chiarandà Chardonnay. The 1996 was lyrical and I will always remember this wine. I would have never expected to have ever tasted an aged Chardonnay from Sicily. And I think this is proof positive of your family’s wines great capability of aging. What are some of the oldest bottles in your library?

JR: We have done vertical tastings of Mille e una Notte with Ian D’Agata starting from the 1995 vintage… and with Monica Larner of Ben Ryé starting from 1989 tasting 22 vintages. Both were stunned by the ageing potential and results of those wines and grape varieties.

Ian stated on this occasion that “It’s a great tasting not just for Donnafugata but for Sicily and Nero d’Avola.” Monica Larner instead said: “I confess to be supremely smitten by Sicily. Donnafugata’s Ben Ryé is one of the thousand reasons why I fell in love with this paradise in the middle of the Mediterranean […] Passito di Pantelleria is explosive in its intensity and unhinged in its sweet abundance.”

We believe this is not only an exciting result for us, but also a great proof of Sicily’s viticultural and enological potential despite the fact that still some people may have a different idea of our region.

JTWG Q6. It was because of your label that I read Il Gattopardo / The Leopard in both English and Italian. What does the book represent to you?

JR: Il Gattopardo recounts a Sicily of bright colors, a Western Sicily where we as a winemaking company were born. A land of passion and overwhelming feelings, a place that has experienced strong social changes and that today represents a vanguard in the style of production and communication in the world of Italian wine.

JTWG Q7. Your label and the gorgeous artwork are iconic. It is not just beautiful art work but beautiful art in the bottle. How did the brand vision begin and how do you sustain it?

JR: Wine is an art and that’s why my mother Gabriella thought of dressing our bottles like that. The desire to attract the consumer with a “talking” packaging, a series of labels whose colors tell about Sicily and the wine inside the bottles, but also about the many faces and shades of the fleeing woman (Donnafugata) who dreams, marvels and transmits emotions.

JTWG Q8. What is your favourite wine memory?

JR: My best memories are those of my childhood. I grew up in the vineyards and with wine. I remember my first harvests alongside my grandparents. I remember my first sips of wine always from my grandfather’s glass during Sunday lunches. I believe a perfect way of approaching wine is during a family lunch.

JTWG Q9. Donnafugata now has a Etna Rosso and an Etna Rosato wine — is there an Etna Bianco planned?

JR: Etna Bianco has already been produced, but the production is very limited so far, so we could not distribute it in all markets. In the USA we will arrive soon with this wine, hopefully by the end of 2019.

JTWG 10. Ben Ryé is a gift to the palate and I enjoy with cheese–but I do need to expand my horizons. What is an ideal Sicilian dessert(s) to pair with this wine?

JR: Dry biscuits with sesame or almond cakes. Delicious also with the famous Cassata Siciliana especially when prepared with little sugar.

JTWG Q11. What are the oldest bottles of Ben Ryé in your cellar?

JR: 1989, not for sale obviously!

JTWG Q12. What is your most treasured travel moment?

JR: The Donnafugata Music&Wine performance at the Blue Note in New York which was an idea of ​​mine and my husband Vincenzo, both very fond of jazz and Brazilian music.  As producer and lead vocalist, I propose a multisensory experience that pairs each wine with a musical piece whose rhythm follows the tasting sensations.


Two resources below 1) wine list of all Donnafugata wines (a majority are imported into the US) and 2) my video review of some of Donnafugata wines.  Many of these wines are available in the US–ask your wine merchant to bring the bottles in and also your favourite restaurant to bring some in as well.  The wines can be enjoyed with ANY cuisine and of course can be enjoyed on their own.

List of all wines from Donnafugata:

  • Donnafugata Brut – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir
  • Donnafugata Brut Rose – Pinot Noir
  • Donnafugata Anthìlia Sicilia DOC – Lucido Catarratto
  • Donnafugata Prio Sicilia DOC – Lucido Catarratto
  • Donnafugata SurSur Sicilia DOC – Grillo
  • Donnafugata Lighea Sicilia DOC – Dry Zibibbo
  • Donnafugata Sul Vulcano Etna Bianco DOC – Carricante
  • Donnafugata La Fuga Chardonnay Contessa Entellina DOC
  • Donnafugata Vigna di Gabri Sicilia DOC – Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier
  • Donnafugata Chiarandà Contessa Entellina DOC* – Chardonnay
  • Donnafugata Sul Vulcano Etna Rosso DOC* – Nerello Mascalese
  • Donnafugata Etna Rosso DOC – Contrada Montelaguardia* – Nerello Mascalese
  • Donnafugata Bell’Assai Vittoria DOC – Frappato
  • Donnafugata Floramundi Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG* – Frappato, Nero d’Avola
  • Donnafugata Sherazade Sicilia DOC – Nero d’Avola
  • Donnafugata Sedàra Sicilia DOC – Nero d’Avola dominate wine with
    Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah
  • Donnafugata Angheli DOC Sicilia – Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Donnafugata Tancredi IGT Terre Siciliane* – Cabernet Sauvignon, Nero d’Avola, Tannat and other grapes
  • Donnafugata Mille e Una Notte Sicilia DOC* – Nero d’Avola, Petit Verdot
    Syrah and other grapes
  • Donnafugata Kabir Moscato di Pantelleria DOC – Zibibbo
  • Donnafugata Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria DOC* – Zibibbo
  • Donnafugata Ben Ryé Limited Edition  Passito di Pantelleria DOC* – Zibibbo

* Enjoy all the wines now but also get some bottles to place in your cellar to age.  Splendid now and have great aging potential

Donnafugata Website

My video reviews of Donnafugata wines on my YouTube channel



James the Wine Guy

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

Product in this review are courtesy of publisher.

© 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.

Graphic map of Donnafugata Sicilia is courtesy of Donnafugata.

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Posted in Carricante, Catarratto, DOC Etna, James the Wine Guy Interview Series, Nerello Mascalese, Nero d'Avola, Sicilia, Sicily, YouTube, Zibibbo (Muscat of Alexandria) | Leave a comment

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

In case you didn’t see this previous interview

James the Wine Guy

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.

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