Top 100 Wines of 2019 – James Melendez

Here is another annual listing of the top 100 wines tasted this year.  Another lovely tasting year of wine.  This is the last of the decade and I enjoy getting to make this yearly pick of the Top 100.  Every year is different and those wines that presents themselves changes year-over-year–I do seek out ALL wine regions and it is interesting what I get to taste.

I do seek out ALL wine varieties except Petite Sirah (too one dimensional for me).  I did step foot in Siclia, Calabria, Basilicata, Puglia and Abruzzo and was able to taste many splendid wines.  The experience was also nicely paired with lovely regional Italian foods.

I always list Top 100 wines in alphabetical order as opposed to the first wine as being the number one wine of the year.  The reason I do this is to not make any particular the one and only wine in this top spot because I think it is essentially impossible to do.  I do list in this order format to de-emphasize a hierarchy in order to show fantastic wines tasted this year.

I don’t just look for wines only released this year but to find wines that I was privileged to taste like Florio Aegusa DOC Marsala 1964.  I love to taste a rare wine any year and I do think if the wine is remarkable it should be listed here if any only if it makes the ranks for the best of wines tasted this year.

I am listing any videos that I listed below this list. Seek out these wines to taste–all delightful wines!

A Vita Cirò DOC Rosso Classico Superiore Riserva DOC – 2014 – 94 Points
Abtei Muri Südtirol/Alto Adige Blauburgunder Riserva – 2016 – 94 Points
Alessandro di Camporeale DOC Sicilia Benedè – 2018 – 94 Points
Alessandro di Camporeale Kaid Syrah DOC Sicilia – 2016– 94 Points
Alta Mora Feudo di Mezzo Etna DOC – 2015 – 94 Points
Alta Mora Guardiolo DOC Etna – 2015 – 94 Points
Altano Douro – 2016 – 93 Points
Anthem Mount Veeder Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – 2014 – 94 Points
Antinori Tignanello IGT – 2016 – 94 Points
Barone Ricasoli Colledila Chianti Classico Gran Selezione – 2015 – 96 Points
Brandlin Mount Veeder Brandline Estate Henry’s Keep Proprietary Red Wine – 2015 – 94 Points
Ca’del Bosco Franciacorta Anna Maria Clementi – 2009 – 94 Points
Cantina Bolzano Perl Südtirol/Alto Adige Lagrein – 2018 – 93 Points
Cantina Produttori San Michele Appiano Südtirol/Alto Adige Sanct Valentin Sauvignon – 2017 – 93 Points
Cantina Tramin Nussbaumer Südtirol/Alto Adige Gewürztraminer – 2017 – 94 Points
Cantina Valle Isarco Aristos Südtirol/Alto Adige Grüner Veltliner – 2018 – 93 Points
Cantine Settesoli Mandarossa Bertolino Soprano DOC Sicilia –2017 – 93 Points
Torre a Cona Casamaggio Colorino IGT – 2016 – 93 Points
Cava Pere Ventura Vintage Brut – 2014 – 93 Points
Cerbaia Brunello di Montalicino – 2014 – 94 Points
Cesarini Sforza Brut – 2019 – 93 Points
Champagne Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve NV – 94 Points
Col Solare Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon – 2016 – 95 Points
Col Vetoraz Valdobbiandene Superiore di Cartizze NV – 94 Points
Collosorbo Brunello di Montalcino – 2014 – 94 Points
Conterno Fantino Barolo Castelleto Vigna Pressenda – 2013 – 94 Points
Cusamano 700 Brut Metodo Classico – 2015 – 94 Points
Diamond Mountain Napa Valley Volcanic Hill Cabernet Sauvignon – 2015 – 95 Points
Donnafugata Mille e Una Notte – 2015 – 95 Points
Donnafugata Sul Vulcano Etna Rosso – 2016 – 94 Points
Donnafugata Bell’asai Vittoria Frappato Sicilia – 2017 – 94 Points James Melendez
Duca di Salaparuta Duca Enrico IGT Siliciane Nero d’Avola – 1997 – 94 Points
Enotria 106 IGT Calabria – 2017 – 93 Points
Enotria Cirò Rosso – 2017- 94 Points
Enotria Piana delle Fate Cirò Rosso Classico Superiore Riserva DOC – 2015 – 94 Points
Feudo Arancio Hedonis DOC Sicilia Riserva Nero d’Avola 2015 – 94 Points
Feudo Arancio Inzolia DOC Sicilia – 2018 – 94 Points
Feudo Disisa Granmassenti DOC Monreale Perricone – 2017 – 94 Points
Feudo Disisa Vuaraia DOC Monreale Nero d’Avola 2013 94 Points
Feudo Principi di Butera Symposio Sicilia Red Wine – 2014 – 95 Points
Firriato Etna Rosso Prephollexera DOC Etna – 2014 – 94 Points
Florio Aegusa DOC Marsala – 1964 – 94 Points
Franz Haas Alto Adige Pinot Nero – 2017 – 93 Points
Gulfi Neromaccarj IGT Terre Siciliane Nero d’Avola 2015 – 94 Points
Hawk & Horse Red Hills Petit Verdot 2014 – 93 Points
Hess Collection Mount Veeder Small Block Series Estate Chardonnay – 2017 – 94 Points
Ippolito 1845 Colli del Mancuso Cirò Classico Superiore Riserva, 2015 – 94 Points
Kabaj Goriska Brda Merlot – 2012 – 94 Points
Kabaj San Lurinz Sparkling Wine NV – 93 Points
Kukeri Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon – 2016 – 94 Points
Lagier Meredith Mount Veeder Tribidrag – 2014 – 93 Points
Lampyridae Vineyards Mount Veeder Communication Block Cabernet Sauvignon – 2014 – 94 Points
LAN Edicion Limitada Rioja – 2013 – 95 Points
Librandi Megonico Mollioco Val di Neto Rosso – 2016 – 94 Points
Librandi Montonico Val Netto Rosso 2018 94 Points
Marketta Mount Veeder Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – 2006 – 94 Points
Masi Costasera Amarone Classico – 2007 – 94 Points
Masi Riserva Costasera Amarone – 2013 – 94 Points
Mithra Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon – 2013 – 94 Points
Mount Veeder Mount Veeder Rosenquist Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon – 2015 – 94 Points
Muri-Gries Abtei Muri Südtirol/Alto Adige Riserva Pinot Bianco – 2016 – 93 Points
Palmento Costanzo Bianco d’Asti Superiore DOC Etna Bianco – 2018- 94 Points
Palmento Costanzo Contrada Santo Spirito DOC Etna Rosso – 2015 – 94 Points
Peju Napa Valley Petit Verdot – 2013 – 94 Points
Peju Province Napa Valley Cabernet Franc – 2014 – 95 Points
Penfolds Grange – 2014 – 96 Point Bottle # AR142 Bin 95
Pertinace Marcarini Barbaresco – 2013 – 94 Points
Pertinace Nervo Barbaresco – 2015 – 93 Points
Peter Vinding Montecarrubo Cuvée Suzanne GT Terre Siciliane Syrah – 2017 – 95 Points
Peter Vinding Montecarrubo Il Carrubo IGT Terre Siciliane Syrah – 2017 – 94 Points
Pietro Caciorgna N*Anticchia DOC Etna Rosso – 2015 – 94 Points
Pio Cesario Barbaresco DOCG – 2015 – 94 Points
Pio Cesario Langhe DOC Chardonnay – 2016 – 93 Points
Planeta Etna Bianco DOC Etna Bianco – 2015 94 Points
Planeta Nocera DOC Sicilia – 2017 – 94 Points
R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rioja Reserva – 2010 – 94 Points
Robert Craig Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon – 2011 – 94 Points
Roederer Estate L’ermitage – 2012 – 94 Points
Signorello Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – 2014 – 94 Points
Signorello Napa Valley Padrone Estate Red Blend – 2014 – 94 Points
Smith-Madrone SMD Riesling 2016 – 94 Points
Sojourn Sonoma Coast Rodgers Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir – 2017 – 94 Points
Stemberger Kras Zelen – 2017 – 93 Points
Szaszi Birtok Olazriesling – 2017 – 94 Points
Tablas Creek Adelaida Dist. Mourvèdre – 2017 – 94 Points
Tenute Bosco Rosso Prephylloxera DOC Etna Rosso – 2015 – 94 Points
Tenuta Sant’Antonio Campo dei Giglio Amarone della Valpolicella – 2015 – 94 Points
Tenuta Sant’Antonio Famiglia Castagnedi Monti Garbi Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso – 2017 – 94 Points
Tenuta Sesta Brunello di Montalcino – 2014 – 94 Points
Terre di Giurfo Kuntari DOC Sicilia Nero d’Avola 2016 94 Points
Terre di Giurfo Maskaria DOCG Cerasuolo di Vittoria – 2015- 94 Points
Torre Mora Anteprima DOC Etna Rosso – 2016 – 94 Points
Torre Mora Scalunera DOC Etna Rosso – 2015 – 94 Points
Travaglini Gattinara Tre Vigne DOCG – 2013 – 94 Points
Travaglini Il Sogno – 2014 – 95 Points
Umani Ronchi Verdiccio dei Castelli di Jesu Classico Superiore – 2018 – 93 Points
Umathum Burgenland Zweigelt – 2015 – 93 Points
VGS Chateau Potelle Mount Veeder VGS Cabernet Sauvignon – 94 Points
Vinoce Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon – 2015 – 94 Points
Zisola Effe Emme IGT Sicilia Petit Verdot 2016 – 94 Points

Here are four videos from the too 100:




James the Wine Guy

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

© 2019 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, drawings, art work, graphs, photographs, logo, brand name, rating, rating, taxonomy, graphic and award and designs of James the Wine Guy.  James the Wine Guy is also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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Posted in Top 100 Wines | 3 Comments

November 2019 Wine Reviews – James Melendez

Here are my tastings for November–just one more month of tasting to finish out this year and decade.  While it seems like it has gone by quickly–it has also been a decade of great tastings and travel.

I’ll be publishing my top 100 wines of this year quite shortly.







Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Rosado 2018 – 90 Points

96% Tempranillo, 4% Garnacha Tinta; Mid-rosé colour, 13% ABV

Nose of field strawberry, fresh flowers and hint of spice.  Palate of just picked strawberry, cinnamon, moist stones and dried flowers.









Villa Maria Cellar Selection Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec Hawkes Bay 2017 – 92 Points

54% Merlot, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Malbec; 13% ABV. $18 SRP.

Nose of heirloom blackberry, clove, stacked cedar, and dried flowers

Palate of Loch Ness blackberry, clove, Bay leaf and violets








Villa Maria Private Bin Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2019 91 Points – $14

Nose of grapefruit skin and moistened minerals

Palate of golden citrus, orange marmalade and flowers









Villa Maria Private Bin Marlborough Pinot Noir 2018 90 Points $18

Nose red roses, early season cherry, and spice

Palate of tart cherry, fennel, pepper and roses.







Smith-Madrone Spring Mountain District NV Chardonnay 2016 93 Points

Rich and delightful Chardonnay–while it can be served as a stand alone I think most optimized by food–think oysters, crab, shrimp.

Nose of apple/Bosc pear, fresh flower bunch and moist stones.

Palate of heirloom apple, beeswax, oyster shell, and flowers.







Alara San Benito County Grenache 2017 91 Points

15.4% ABV

Nose of red cherry, pepper and dried herbs.  Palate of early season red cherry, fennel, white pepper and violets.







Nik Weis St. Urbans-Hof Bockstein Mosel Kabinett 2018 91 Points

Nose of Comice pear, petrol, flowers and sea shell

Palate of Heirloom apple, pear, ginger and flowers.







McIntyre Kimberly Vineyard Arroyo Seco Merlot 2015 92 Points

SIP Certified wine, 14.5% ABV.  Nose of fresh blackberry, evergreen forest in autumn, suede and violets. Palate: black cherry, white pepper, fennel and Thyme.


Ferraton Cotes du Rhone Samorens Red 2017 

This wine is 85% Grenache, 10% Syrah, and 5% Cinsault. $16 SRP.

Nose of red cherry-raspberry, boot polish, autumnal forest floor

Palate of black cherry, pepper, fennel and Cardamom.







Domaine Bousquet Reserve Tupungato Uco Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 – 91 Points

85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Malbec 15% ABV. Notes of black cherry, blackberry, forest floor, suede and Thyme. Palate of black cherry, pepper, Bay leaf and Tarragon







Ferraton Crozes-Hermitages La Matinière 2017 

Nose of blackberry, underbrush, fallen leaves and dried red rose petal.

Palate of blackberry confit, Thyme and white pepper

100% Syrah





James the Wine Guy

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

© 2019 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, drawings, art work, graphs, photographs, logo, brand name, rating, rating, taxonomy, graphic and award and designs of James the Wine Guy.  James the Wine Guy is also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Cotes du Rhone, Grenache, Merlot, New Zealand, North Carolina, Pinot Noir, Rioja, Rosado, Rosé, San Benito County, Sauvignon Blanc, Spring Mountain District, Wine Review, Wine Score, Winery Rating | Leave a comment

Cookbook Review: Rustic Joyful Food – Danielle Kartes – A Thoughtful Cookbook for Your Kitchen 95 Points

I love cookbooks–I think it is at the intersection of caring for those around and to implement ingredients and steps to making your dining room table pop full of flavor.

I have stopped using online recipes simply because I have been disappointed in the results.  Anyone can produce a recipe but is it the optimum in flavor and results?  I have been selective and careful and I do follow recipes because I want to see how a dish might turn out.  I have complained about my own food as ‘tasting the same’ even though those I serve like it.  I do think the ‘tasting the same’ is falling back to prescribed past methods.  I do challenge myself to follow a recipe from a cookbook writer I trust–when I do I am more often than not delighted in the results.

Rustic Joyful Food – My Heart’s Table by Danielle Kartes is a thoughtful collection of recipes that represents the new American table which are Italian, Mexican, American and Asian.  There are some splendid recipes and things that I never thought of like a Pico de Gallo Cioppino which looks delightful and am inspired to prepare.  I like the internationalizing approaches to dishes like a Beef Stew ala Beef Barcelona Stew–a stew that has the dynamical flavors of the Mediterranean.  There is a recipe for black pepper biscuits–I make biscuits often and the addition of pepper sounds ideal for a white gravy.  There are is a large list of recipes in the ‘Simple and from Scratch’ section on creating your own spreads, butters, syrups and dressings that will be an item that can be implemented often.

A complete meal starting from a cheese board (lovely and exhaustive list of things to include in a cheese board) to starters, mains, sides, soups, and desserts.  The dishes are each thoughtful–great ingredients – which I want to point out that Danielle lists staples for your kitchen.  I have snapped a photo so when I go to the grocery store and scan for items that are in short supply in my pantry.  I do appreciate this thoughtful touch.  I hear the love for food and entertaining in Kartes’ cookbook–and there is a balance between not having complicated recipes but also making sure quality and flavor are king.

I think this is an ideal cookbook for someone’s first cook but and for anyone wanting a thoughtful expression of food and recipes that you might make already with added touches certain to delight.

I appreciate the quality of the book–the paper, the photography and easy for me to open up while I am cooking and not have the cookbook close when my hands might be immersed in ingredients.

Rustic Joyful Food – My Heart’s Table  by Danielle Kartes


ISBN-10: 1634439163

ISBN-13: 978-1634439169

8″ x 1″ x 10″ 2.4 lbs


A very appreciable cookbook and I have enjoyed the recipes that I have utilised.

Salute e molto grazie,


James the Wine Guy

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

© 2019 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, drawings, art work, graphs, photographs, logo, brand name, rating, rating, taxonomy, graphic and award and designs of James the Wine Guy.  James the Wine Guy is also on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and most major social medias.

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Posted in Book, Book Review, Cookbook | Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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



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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


JTWG #5: What are the challenges with growing Nebbiolo

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


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

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


JTWG #7: Describe the characterization of your wines?

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


JTWG #14: What is your favorite vacation destination?

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


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

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


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

Salute e molto grazie,


James the Wine Guy

Travaligni Gattinara website is here.

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

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

© 2019 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, drawings, art work, graphs, photographs, logo, brand name, rating, rating, taxonomy, graphic and award and designs of James the Wine Guy.  James the Wine Guy is also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

Follow, subscribe, like, browse:


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

Four Reasons for San Francisco Restaurant High Closure Rate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Check/Customer Expense

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

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

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

3. It’s Those Free Lunches

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

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

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

4. It’s A Cultural Thing

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

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

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

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

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

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



James the Wine Guy

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

© 2019 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, drawings, art work, graphs, photographs, logo, brand name, rating, rating, taxonomy, graphic and award and designs of James the Wine Guy.  James the Wine Guy is also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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James the Wine Guy Interview Series: Charles Scicolone

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

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





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

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


Thank you Charles for taking time to be interviewed today!

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


JTWG Q8 What are your favourite Italian red wine grapes?

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


JTWG Q9 What are your favourite Italian white wine grapes?

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


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

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


JTWG Q11 What are you reading now?

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


JTWG Q12 What is your favourite travel experience?

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


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

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


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

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


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

Salute e molto grazie,


James the Wine Guy

Charles Website is here.

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

© 2019 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, drawings, art work, graphs, photographs, logo, brand name, rating, rating, taxonomy, graphic and award and designs of James the Wine Guy.  James the Wine Guy is also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

Photo of Charles courtesy of Charle Scicolone.

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

Mitch Cosentino

Paul Sotto

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JTWG #11 What makes for the best Cabernet Sauvignon?

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

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

JTWG #12 Favourite wine moment? 

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

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

JTWG #13 Best books on wine?

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

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


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



James the Wine Guy

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

© 2019 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, drawings, art work, graphs, photographs, logo, brand name, rating, rating, taxonomy, graphic and award and designs of James the Wine Guy.  James the Wine Guy is also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

Follow, subscribe, like, browse:


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