Wine Twitterers and the Great Race for Followers

And they are off… the proverbial horse race known as the league of getting large number of followers on Twitter has become more so in the past 6 months then ever before. Since Twitters earliest days wine has been a very sticky and compelling subject matter. The subject matter “wine” has had a lot attractors – whether the Twitter handle is a wine interested person, producer, promoter, writer, reviewer, etc. From data sets that I have collected over time, the wine category tends to attract followers on the order of 5 times a non-wine subject.

The great followers race of wine and Twitter is simply this that wine Twitters are adding followers by following at an unprecedented rate. While this might not be a headliner–it is noticeable and made me question – why? Most people and especially as it relates to wine are trying to garner their position, voice and authority. Having a lot of followers is not a recipe for success in fact collecting and attracting followers for followers sake is truly the art of building an empty empire. Having a large Twitter following by developing a community as well as brand building is altogether a different proposition. A true mark of success of where there is a bonafide community of wine interested people is when there is an actual community. I have looked at a few wine Twitterers that have followers above 50,000 and have noted in a short period of time that these have been built up quite quickly.

One wine Twitterer has 215,000 followers and is following over 180,000 Twitter handles. I randomly selected a few of the people he is following to see what those individuals wine or even allied subjects like food or travel might reveal about the people he is following. In many of his followings seems to be a good portion who have no interest in wine, food, travel or anything slightly related. The best way to look at that is not the bio but look at actual tweets to verify any wine interest whatsoever. And the following to follower rate seems to be a constant addition of people constantly.

There is another wine Twitterer who has 100,000 followers and gloats about his days at a well known brand that has no affiliation with wine whatsoever. His involvement in wine can best analyzed as someone with at best a wink and not terribly well tied up interest in wine.

I am not picking on the above but they are quite noticeable Twitter handles. There are plenty of more examples of Twitter wine people building a non-organic base of followers–in fact there are so many I cannot mention all of the examples. I have more than the average wine subject matter Twitter handle but I have not been working on getting numbers for numbers sake as it relates to followers. In the end the fruit of follower creation is a considerable waste of time for those individuals when they squandered time in not developing a community and brand.


James Melendez

James the Wine Guy

“Demystifying Wine—One Bottle at a Time”
© 2015 James Meléndez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content and logo and all designs.  James the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.
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Grape Expectations: Social Media and the Full Spectrum of Content Expectation – James Melendez

There is a great expectation in wine as it relates to content and that too has a relationship to social media.  The ‘wine blogger’ has been a term for anyone had talked about wine regardless of channel or media type.  I have been lumped in as a ‘wine blogger’ but I have resisted this term and label for sometime and I will continue to resist.  I have had a wide range of interest and experience in wine: marketing, direction, judging, reviewing, education, writing and the business end of wine.

I have thought that the term ‘wine blogger’ has become antiquated.  The European Wine Bloggers changing their name to the Digital Wine Communications Conference. I liked the name change and I think in time the US version will have to update it’s name.

I have completed both a considerable amount of both written material on my WordPress site – over 3,000 pieces and over 2,060 videos on my YouTube channel.  My content creation isn’t about quantity but a desire to cover this immense subject.  Though I did feel over time in writing that I needed to supplement the written word for the video word.  I do think there is a large amount of interest in video–not from producers rather consumers.   I have said many times before there are tens of thousands if not several hundred thousand wines released per year.  Wine is a peculiar and of course alluring category–a unique feature of being more than often a vintage product as well a very limited product.  Hence there are very few wine video compared to the actual number of topics or even labels.  I think many consumers come to YouTube and actually walk away and stop engaging the wine category because search over search does not yield content to their interest.

I do think video is a logical extension of the written word. This subject is an emotional one where video can cover it quite well–many want to see an emotional touch or what is the emotional read on a particular wine or subject about wine.

Looking at Jancis Robinson as it relates to video I can only glean that there is not much of an interest in video–perhaps it was an after thought or that video content didn’t need much preping, editing and getting ready for optimum playback.  She has over 1,800 subscribers and over 227,000 hits and her last video upload was a year ago.   Jancis’ completed a video entitled: “Jancis wonders how wine is best tackled on video” and the message I took away was one of skepticism and that skepticism truly shows in all her videos.  Jancis can be a bit fussy and her skepticism on video is not looking at what consumers want but only what she thinks.  When it comes to video consumers are seeking new ideas, thoughts on wine, validation, solution and personality, etc.  I think Jancis is truly showing her print only preference and that is okay that is her preferred style.  I don’t think Jancis has the personality or vision for video and that is okay.  I personally seek to build out content to match my brand.

James Suckling’s YouTube presence has garnered him 1,141 subscribers and over 237,000 views.  Suckling’s video content seems sporadic and no general cadence.  I see the 100 point Lalique videos which feels more like product placement than an actual review.  Both James and Jancis both completed videos with Gary (yes, that Gary) –it would be interesting to know whom invited whom?   The Suckling video shows him tasting with Gary and then what feels like an awkward moment he pays for the wine they both drunk at Gary’s family wine store; I can say for myself I had no interest in that and I won’t speculate on the reason–what ever the reason this video and the entire content not necessarily interesting.  The anointed drinking with someone who wishes to be?

My YouTube channel stats – 800 subscribers and over 190,000 views and I am a stone’s throw from James Suckling and Jancis Robinson.  While James Suckling is still producing videos and it looks like Jancis Robinson is either on hiatus or has stopped producing videos overall.  I do think at some point this year I will surpass Jancis and I may Suckling.   I only found this data points when I was looking on a larger view of the wine community on YouTube.  I was surprised by the numbers and how close I am to their metrics.

I am after all an underdog because I don’t have either prominence or recognition that either has been luxuriously afforded.

Ultimately, video is important and the audience is not necessarily there yet but I do think at least for myself I have been building community person by person.  Without a concerted, deliberate and high quality videos the full spirit of a diverse wine content will be elusive.  I am optimistic–I have been and continue to be.  The surface has yet to be scratched.


James Melendez

James the Wine Guy

“Demystifying Wine—One Bottle at a Time”

© 2015 James Meléndez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content and logo and all designs.

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

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Dreaming of Bierzo and Mencia… A Delightful Visit to Tilenus – James Melendez


The distinctive and historic flag of Castilla y León.




Map of Bierzo D.O.


 I am all about worldly wines… wines from around the corner to the furthest ends.  Wine I think is seemingly an unfolding story–an old story both ancient and quite new all at the same time.  Ancient because the wine trail is a constant unwinding story of tradition, merriment and intertwined with food culture for at least six millennia but new because of a constant refinement of this beverage art form.


The Castle of the the Knight’s Templar


 My latest further reach was to visit Bierzo D.O. in northwest Spain in Castilla y  León.  In the collective imagination it is hard to think of red wine in this part of Spain.  That is due in part to Albariño and this white wine grape thriving in Galicia in Rias Baixas.  Galicia being an solidly Atlantic Spanish region and Albariño popularity takes that share of imagination of what is grown in northwest Spain.  I think the collective imagination of the most northerly regions for red wines are Ribera del Duero and Rioja.  I have known about Mencia for quite sometime and yet it was only a little over a half decade ago I got my first glass of Mencia.


Pablo Frias, GM of Bodegas Estefania




 Mencia is a grape found in several regions in Spain: Bierzo, Ribeira Sacra, Valdeorras and Liébana; Jaen (Portuguese name) has been DNA fingerprinted as being Mencia.  Mencia has about 10 synonyms and an exact relationship to other Vitis vinifera grapes has yet to be established.  One thought of Mencia is that it is a clone of Cabernet Franc and that had perhaps transported via the Camino de Santiago.  Ponferrada is the capital of the El Bierzo in the Province of León; a very historic and charming city on several crossroad: Camino de Santiago, the Knights Templar castle, mining and viti-viniculture all come together here.  Bodegas Estefania whose label is Tilenus is quartered in Ponferrada.  The Tilenus label features several very fine Mencia wines as well as Godello – the first in class wine grapes in Bierzo D.O.

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 Bodegas Estefania founded in 1999 is producing 200,000 bottles (16,666 cases) per year are devoted to Mencia. The label name Tilenus is a Latin name for Teleno a name for an ancient Celtiberian god that Roman’s dedicated to Mars.  The label name and ancient coin on each label truly pays homage to this part of Spain’s ancient history.


The Ancient Vines of Finca La Florida


Bodegas Estefania produces a very small production of 10-15,000 bottles (1,250 cases) maximum per year of Godello.   Over 80% of all of the grapes utilized are from estate vineyards of Bodegas Estefania and 20% is purchased from wine grape growers where there has been a long relationship.  Pablo Frias, the General Manager, spoke about the emphasis of keeping production levels at the current rate and that quality is the vanguard of the Tilenus label.  Pablo mentioned that the aging potential for Godello is approximately 10 years and Mencia up to 20 years but Bodegas Estefania has yet to reach that anniversary but will do so shortly.  From what I have tasted I do think Mencia does have good aging capability and I look forward to tasting Tilenus wines when they reach that 20th vintage. I was privileged to the their 2002 bottling known as Tilenus Pieros–so this was the glimmer of how the wines age with grace.


Doing my Favourite Thing of A Site Visit in Late Spring


 Bodegas Estefania has about 30 hectares (74 acres)–I was fortunate to have visited Finca La Florida in late March.  The weather was chilly 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit / 7-10 degrees Celsius on a very moist day.  The transport was via truck to the steep hillside of Finca La Florida of very old vines 60-90 years old.  Being at Finca La Florida for me was to appreciate the coolness, the moist earth of clay, sand, and slate.  As I have mentioned before that I love wine regions in winter, early spring and late Fall–these are moments to be in touch with the vineyards renaissance and promise.  And I was keenly aware of the warm days that will blanket this vineyard with essential sunshine and heat.  This is a continental climate and a dash of influence from the Atlantic.

I was excited to taste Tilenus by themselves, with Tapas as well as a very wonderful meal of regional cuisine in stone town of Castrillo de Los Polvazares, This town reminded me of New Mexico in the U.S.  New Mexico with it’s roots in The Spanish settlers still has things for me reminiscent of New Mexico.  I was thinking of Acoma Sky City with it’s ancient homes and church high atop a high elevation Mesa.  This stone town and I cannot find a reference as to how old it its –this town feels very ancient and special.


The stone church here in Castrillo de Los Polvazares has very large nests on bell tower where there are resident storks.





Tasting the cuisine in Castrillo de Los Povazares in a style known as Cocido Maragato. I have eaten a large number of regional cuisines in Spain but this for me was so different and unique from other cuisine styles. The meal starts off heavy and then goes to lighter dishes.  I was eating this meal with the team from Bodegas Estefania and Tilenus wines and other wine writers the following dishes La Ración consisting of sausage, chicken, pork shoulder, pork cheek and ears.  I was able to taste the 2002 Tilenus Bierzo Pieros Mencia–a hauntingly memorable wine and hope to be fortunate to taste once again.



Here are the wines I had paired with fantastic fare from Castillo y Leon that made such an impression on me:

Tilenus Bierzo Godello – 2013 – 9.2 (92)

2 vineyard sites 20 years old vines.
Scent characteristics:  yellow citrus tones, tea, sesame, wild flower honey and mineral
Flavour profile:  lemon, white peach, sesame, tea, and white flower.

Tilenus Bierzo Vendemia –  2014 – 9.0 (90)


Scent characteristics: Black cherry, bay leaf dicideous forest and lavender

Flavour profile:  Tayberry, wild strawberry, cinnamon and hint of Thyme



Tilenus Bierzo Mencia – 2011 – 9.2 (92)


Scent characteristics: Red cherry, hint of game, crashed red candy, blackberry and suede

Flavour profile: Tayberry, strawberry preserve, Cardamom and hint of red pepper


Tilenus Bierzo Mencia – 2010 – 9.2 (92)


Scent characteristics: lavender, graphite, germanium, and rose petals
Flavour profile:  warm black plum, strawberry, and baking spices pepper


Tilenus Bierzo Mencia – 2008 – 9.3 (93)


Scent characteristics: black/blueberry pie, hint of dark flower floral garden.
Flavour profile:  blackberry, very slight hint of Ethiopian coffee

Tilenus Bierzo Finca La Florida Mencia – 2008 – 9.4 (94)


Scent characteristics: Blackberry, cassis, rose garden in afternoon heat, leather, Ethiopian coffee and geranium
Flavour profile:  long and complex strawberry and blackberry tones, anise, Cardamom and clove



Tilenus Bierzo Pagos de Posada Bierzo Mencia – 2006 – 9.4 (94)


Scent characteristics: blackberry, strawberry, game and leather bound books
Flavour profile: pulsating acidity, strawberry, cassis, pepper, clove and graphite.



Tilenus Bierzo Reserva Mencia – 2007 – 9.5 (95)


This wine spends one year barrel and two years in bottle

Scent characteristics: black berry, red tea and thick forest
Flavour profile:  blackberry, Acai, tea, pepper, cinnamon stick and Black Krim Tomato


Tilenus Bierzo Pieros Mencia – 2002 – 9.6 (96)


The grand dame of fine Mencia.

Scent characteristics: Blackberry confit, mountain strawberry, raspberry, cinnamon, rose petal and hint of forest.

Flavour profile: Cassis, Tayberry, blackberry Coulis, Heirloom coffee, sweet spices and lavender



Tilenus is one of the finest producers of Mencia in Spain. A must experience producer.


James Melendez

James the Wine Guy

Website for Tilenus

Bodegas Estefania

MGWines Group

IMG_5239 - Version 2

“Demystifying Wine—One Bottle at a Time”

© 2015 James Meléndez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content and logo and all designs. James the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.
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World Wide Wine Day – 1-July-2015 – To Celebrate All Varieties – James Melendez / James the Wine Guy

World Wide Wine Day Rev


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

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

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

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

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

Celebrations can have the following elements:

  • Proclamations
  • Festivals
  • A Twitter tasting
  • Trending in Tweets – #WorldWideWineDay #1-July-2015
  • On and off-premise events
  • A Facebook community – give a like: –

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

Tweet me if you have idea or a comment:

Add comments on how you will celebrate World Wide Wine Day this year:

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

“Demystifying Wine—One Bottle at a Time”
© 2015 James Meléndez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content and logo and all designs. James the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.
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Bodegas Lavia – A World Class Monastrell Producer – James Melendez / James the Wine Guy


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



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


The beautiful peak logo on each label of Bodegas Lavia


Barrel cactus in front of the Bodegas Lavia


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


Sebastien Boudon giving us a sample from barrel


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


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




Finca Paso Malo


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


Beautiful metamorphic rock found at Finca Paso Malo


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


Squid and Squid Ink




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

Lavia Bullas Monastrell-Syrah 2004 – 9.4


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

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

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


Lavia Bullas Monastrell-Syrah – 2006 9.4

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

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

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


Lavia Bullas Monastrell-Syrah 2009 – 9.3


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

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

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

Lavia Bullas Monastrell-Syrah 2010 9.3 (93)


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

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

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


Lavia+ Bullas Finca Paso Malo Monastrell 2009 (95)


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

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


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


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


James Melendez

James the Wine Guy

Website for Bodegas Lavia

Bodegas Lavia is part of MGWines Group

MGWines Group

IMG_5239 - Version 2

“Demystifying Wine—One Bottle at a Time”
© 2015 James Meléndez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content and logo and all designs. James the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.
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Visiting Sierra Salinas – A Time for Monastrell, A Time for Alicante D.O Wines – James Melendez

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


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



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

Sacred Soil


MIRA 2010


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


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

Sierra Salinas

Restaurante Mesón La Despensa

Calle Cervantes, 27, Villena, Alicante

965 80 83 87


MGWines Group

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James Melendez

James the Wine Guy

“Demystifying Wine—One Bottle at a Time”

© 2015 James Meléndez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content and logo and all designs.

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

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

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


Pinot Gris Sign

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

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

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

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

There are several thoughtful ways to visit J.

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

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

Here is both the food and wines I experienced:

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

Paired with Coastal Hill Duck Egg, Celery Root and Truffle

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

Paired with Goat milk yogurt, Quinoa, and wheat grass

Goat Milk Yogurt

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

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

Paired with Petrale Sole, Dungeness Crab, Kohlrabi and Citrus

Petrale Sole

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

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


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

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

Cheese plate

J Russian River Valley Ratafia – 9.4 (94 Points)

Paired with Chocolate Cremeaux, coconut and Pecan Brittle


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


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

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

Telephone: 888.594.6326

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

Michter’s Whiskeys

Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish Whiskey 9.6 (96)

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

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

Michter’s Straight Rye Whiskey – 9.5 (95)

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

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

Michter’s Bourbon Whiskey – 9.5 (95)

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

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

Michters Unblended American Whiskey – 9.4 (94)

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

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

Michter’s Sour Mash Whiskey – 9.4 (94)  

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

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

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


– James Melendez


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

© 2015 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine Guy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


– James Melendez


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

© 2015 James Meléndez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine Guy.

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