Côtes du Roussillon – Wines of Distinction, Easily Accessible – James Melendez

Wines of Côtes du Roussillon is about wines for a focused tasting and a clear journey.  Côtes du Roussillon is not thought of as appellation but rather as the name sake of the gigantic region often and only mentioned as Languedoc-Roussillon.  But let’s not count on Wikipedia to give the full picture of what the wines of Côtes du Roussillon are – instead think of this wine region as wines that are fully accessible both in terms of price and also immediate impressions.  I offer another example in terms of wine country comparisons as it relates to naming: what if Napa and Sonoma would only be mentioned as one name: Napa-Sonoma. They are two distinct regions—though close to each other are identically different.  The same can be said for Côtes du Roussillon and Languedoc.

Cote du Roussillion

Languedoc is known for a power region of vast quantities of wine being produced; while Roussillon can be a hand sell of each wine. But drill down to understand the region and to understand it’s place and relationship of grape varieties. This region is about about Rhone varieties as well as Iberian varieties. (Macabeu, Garnacha, Carignano. It is no surprise there is Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Carignan. Carignan is a historical variety much bruised but an integral part of the region. Carginan has received notes from Jancis Robinson who in the past has called out as bitter. And yet other wine reviewers/writers say Carignan is not identifiable—that is there are no distinguishing characteristics. To be fair the same has been said of Syrah. Syrah has been noted as a grape with no distinguishing characteristics such as Bordeaux or Burgundy varieties. Not every grape can be Pinot Noir. Syrah does vary on region (I don’t like to use the word Terroir over used in my opinion and misapplied) Syrah is a grape with body, texture, weight, a freshness that other grapes can’t quite capture, elegance, and not always about power. Syrah is both something that stands completely on it’s own and can also bring kindred varieties together and plays both a supporting cast partner as well as lead partner. I was a part of the an online tasting sponsored by Wines of Roussillon.

Michel Chapoutier Bila Haut Côtes du Roussillon Blanc 2014

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Michel Chapoutier is producing a memorable wine that is well balanced with varieties that are comfortably part of the Côtes du Roussillon.  Macabeu is part of this regions wine scene and is known as Macabeo in neighbouring Catalan.

This wine is 13% ABV and composed of the following varieties: Grenache Blanc,  Grenache Gris and Macabeu.  Scent characteristics of Meyer lemon zest, Adriatic fig, tea and crushed sea shells. Nicely dry and giving key flavour notes of Meyer lemon, Heirloom apple, hint of Papaya, sesame and white floral tones Chateau

This wine I am going to serve with appetizers and first plates such as a cheese board, first dishes like a seafood crudo and can be appreciable served and enjoyed on it’s own with no food.

Chateau Planeres La Romanie 2014

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Superbly fresh in every sense experience with this wine. Scent characterization of cedar forest, juniper, red clay earth and black cherry. Flavour notes of raspberry, blackberry, dark cherry tamarind white pepper and cinnamon. This wine has a suggested retail price of 16 USD per bottle. This wine contains the following varieties: 50% Syrah, 30% Mourvèdre and 20% Black Grenache.

I appreciated this wine for it’s quality and artistry that went into making this wine.  A hauntingly lyrical and memorable wine.   I will serve this wine with Rib-eye, Barbecued meats, and roast chicken.  Try this wine first and enjoy alone with no food.  A completely gorgeous wine.

Gerard Bertrand Grand Terroir Tautavel 2011

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This wine comes from the village of Tautavel; the wine grapes are hand picked and de-stemmed and after fermentation spends 10 months in barrel.

This wine is 50% Grenache, 35% Syrah and 15% Carignan and registers at 15% ABV Scent characteristics of cedar, underbrush, raspberry black cherry, moist earth, and savory spice. Flavour characteristics of blackberry, dark cherry, hint of coco powder, pepper and red tea.

A very nicely sculpted wine and leaves the palate with a long and appreciable finish.

Domaine Cazes Muscat de Rivesaltes 2011 

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This wine is15.5% ABV and includes the following varieties: 50% Muscat of Alexandria and 50% Muscat à petits grains.  Scent characteristics: lemon peel, truffle, white flowers, tea, and beeswax. And flavour characteristics: mineral, hint of savory notes, honeycomb and beeswax. This is a splendid wine to enjoy with a cheese plate. If you think of the alcohol is too high this is certainly in line with other wines you might start of evening’s meal—Sherries are certainly in this range.  A superbly well made wine.  I love this wine with appetizer plates such crab cakes, and oysters.  A gentle hint of sweetness that makes the food wine experience that more tantalizing–don’t worry this over all is not a full throttle sweet wine.

Domaine La Tour Vieille Banyuls 2014

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I love Banuyls – this wine is a composition of Grenache and Carignan.  A delightful style and something that should be thought of as a wine to close out the evening but it should also be thought of as an appertif wine. Scent characteristics: Mineral orientation; coco powder and Tayberry, blackberry coulis Tamarind.   Flavour characteristics of Tayberry, fresh blackberry, acai, cinnamon, clove and cardamom.  The hint of sweetness is mild and compelling and for me I view as thrilling.  I love sweet wines and think they deserve a greater space and place at the tasting table.

Domaine Cabirau Serge and Nicolas Maury Sec 2013

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This is a very small site and producer; this wine is a composition of 60% Grenache, 28% Syrah and 12% Carignan.  The grapes are hand harvested and Grenache comes from 60 year old vines.  The scent notes of this wine include: wet stones, toffee, chocolate, blackberry and savory spices.  The flavour characteristics are giving notes of black pepper black cherry, blackberry cinnamon, espresso chocolate.  I would serve a variety of beef dishes either spiced or grilled.

Taking a tasting tour of Wines of Côtes du Roussillon is easily within reach; outstanding quality, easy on the pocket book and full of richness to start and end your evening with these wines. If you have not tasted Côtes du Roussillon  ask your wine merchant for these wines to begin your tasting tour. I believe we are going to see many more wines from this region gracing our table—a journey of region and one easily and enjoyably done.  Start your journey to tasting wines from this fantastic region.

Salute,

James

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

Wines courtesy of Côtes du Roussillon.

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#BBM Better Bottle Monday – Not a New Meaning; A New Application – James Melendez

Monday’s are days to either look at as an opportunity day for wine.  I often hear people talk about wine as being a Monday or Tuesday wine as very separate wine from Saturday. I also created a video to mark this day on my YouTube channel.

I don’t want an uninteresting wine just because it is a Monday–punishing me with Monday on top of a “Monday” wine.  Mondays are opportunities to lay the foundation for a great week ahead.  Celebrate that you made it through a tough Monday or delight in goodness in the glass even on a Monday.

My intention was not to say open that special vintage bottle of Champagne on Monday but open something that you might not normally open up.  Perhaps for you it might be a bottle of bubbly, a Barolo or something simple and delightful as an Alsace Pinot Blanc.

 

Now I am using #BBM is to highlight a particular wine and region versus just open something up.  It is both an alert and reminder as well as consider this wine and variety.

This week I featured: Michael Shaps Monticello Petit Manseng and saying “how about a Petit Manseng from Virginia”

Last week I highlighted Austrian Reds and pictured is Muhr-van der Niepoort Samt & Seide Blaufränkisch

It is important for to give a better meaning to #BBM and what better way than to give ideas for trying new wines and that I am sharing via many social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

So far there seems to be a very positive response.  Maybe this will spur more people to give reminders and callouts for specific wines, regions and varieties.

Stay tuned for more!

**

¡Salud!

James

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

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Terre del Principe Pallagrello Nero Casavecchia ’12 93 Pts – James Melendez

Full name of wine: Full name of wine:  Terre del Principe Castello del Femmine Pallagrello Nero Casavecchia

Producer: Terre del PrincipeJust when I don’t think I can no longer get excited about wine I know that I am about to be surprised.

I have known about the Pallagrello Nero and Casavecchia grapes I had never found an opportunity to taste wines made from these grapes.  This is an IGT wine which in my opinion is the way to find a great quality wine that is not a DOC or DOCG and recognizes regions and variety.

This is a point of difference wine–a unique signature of varieties that express Campania. This wine can be enjoyed alone or with food but in my opinion this wine is optimized if served with food.

Scent characterization: red plum, pepper, black cherry and cinnamon

Flavour characteristics: black plum, game, cherry, pepper, graphite and Thyme.

I was glad to find this wine in San Francisco and under 20 USD.  I wonder when I will try my next Pallagrello Nero and Casavecchia wine–I hope soon.

**

¡Salud!

James

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

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Tre Bicchieri San Francisco 2016 Taste – James Melendez

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I wish I could have tasted all of the wines at this year’s edition of Tre Bicchieri San Francisco.   I arrived towards the beginning but it is hard to taste everything–sometimes getting time to taste even a few I count myself lucky.   Tre Biccheri is important for me to seek out all Italian wine regions and often I get to taste from regions I rarely taste from.   I was able to taste a Syrah from Valle d’Aosta by Rosset which was so unexpectedly dynamic and I will seek this wine out.  When I look at Italy often I don’t want an international variety but if I overlooked this wine I would have missed a spectacular wine.  I also looked at Italian whites I rarely taste Vernacchia and Pecorino and it is a reminder to me to seek them.

I did taste the following wines where I have listed vintage and point score that I assigned to all that I tasted:

  1. Leonildo Pieropan Soave Classico Calvarino 2013 – 92 Pts (9.1)
  2. Re Manfriedi Terri Gegli Svevi Aglianico del Vulture Serpara 2010 – 92 Pts (9.2)
  3. Cavicchioli U & Figli Lambrusco di Sorbara V. del Cristo 2015 – 91 Pts (9.1)
  4. Nino Negri Valetelilina Sfursat 5 Stelle 2011 – 92 Pts (9.2)
  5. Felline Primitivo di Manduria 2013 – 90 Pts (9.1)
  6. La Marchesine Franciacorta Dosage Zero Secolo Novo Ris 2008 – 94 Pts (9.4)
  7. La Marchesine Franciacorta Brut Rose – 2010 – 93 Pts (9.3)
  8. La Marchesine Franciacorta Saten – 2011 – 92 Pts) (9.2)
  9. Cantina Mesa Carignano del Sulcis Bulo Buio Ris 93 Pts (9.3)
  10. Cantina Mesa Vermentino di Sardegna Opale 2010 – 93 Pts (9.3)
  11. Cantina Mesa Carignano del Suli Buio 2014 – 93 Pts (9.3)
  12. Ferrari Treno Extra Bruit Lunelli Ris 2007 – 94 Pts (9.4)
  13. Ferrari Brut Perle 2008 – 93 Pts (9.3)
  14. Rosset Terroir Valle d’Aosta Syrah 2013 – 95 Pts (9.5)
  15. San Michele Appiano Alto Adige Pinot Bianco St. Valentin 2013 – 93 Pts (9.3)
  16. Villa Raiano Fiano di Avellino 22 – 2013 – 93 Pts – 9.3
  17. Casale del Giglio Antium Bellone – 2014 – 92 Pts – 9.2
  18. Lamole di Lamole Chianti Classico Vign. di Campolungo Gran Selezione 2010 – 94 Pts (9.4)
  19. Lamole di Lamole Chianti Classico Riserva 2011 – 92 Pts (9.2)
  20. Castello della Sala Cervaro della Sala 2013 – 93 Pts (9.3)
  21. Castello della Sala Novile di Montepulciano Santa Pia 2010 – 93 Pts (9.3)
  22. Cusumano Sicilia Noa 2013 – 92 Pts (9.2)
  23. Cusamano Bianco Alta Mora 2014 – 91 Pts (9.1)
  24. Bellavista Franciacorta Extra Brut Vittorio Moretti Ris. 2008 – 93 Pts (9.3)
  25. Cantina Convento Muri-Gries Alto Adige Largein Muri Riserva 2012 – 93 Pts (9.3)
  26. Rocca di Frassinello Maremma Toscana Baffo Nero 2013 – 93 Pts (9.3)
  27. Cascina Ca’Rossa Roero Mompisssano Ris. 2012 – 94 Pts (9.4)
  28. Bortolomiol Valdobbiadene Brut Prior 2014 – 91 Pts (9.1)
  29. Bortolomiol Valdobbiadene Brut Ius Naturae 2014 – 92 Pts (9.2)
  30. Bortolomiol Valdobbiadene Extra Dry Banda rossa 2015 – 93 Pts – (9.3)
  31. Libandi Gravello 2012 – 93 Pts (9.3)
  32. Il Colombaio di Santa Chiana Vernacchia di San Gimginano l’Alberta Ris 2012 – 93 Pts (9.3)
  33. Tenuta i Fauri Abruzzo Pecorino 2014 – 93 Pts (9.3)
  34. Noelia Ricci Romagna Sangiovese Sup Il Sangiovese 2014 – 92 Pts (9.2)
  35. Noelia Ricci Sangiovese Sup Godenza 2012 – 93 Pts (9.3)
  36. Primosci Collio Ribolla Gialla di Solavia Ris 2011 – 93 Pts (9.3)
  37. Zorzettig Pinot Bianco 2014 – 93 Pts (9.3)
  38. Zorzettig Pinot Grigio 2014 – 93 Pts (9.3)
  39. Zorzettig Friuliano 2014 93 Pts (9.3)

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Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri World Tour

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¡Salud!

James

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

Read more of my wine reviews:   WORDPRESS

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The Real Thing and Point of Difference for Wine Branding – James Melendez

 

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The McCann Erickson campaign dubbed Hilltop also known as “I’d like to Buy the World a Coke.” Set in an Italian hillside featuring a worldly population of young people each holding a glass bottle of Coca-Cola from their respective Country.

I was reminded of this ad when I saw the last episode of Mad Men (hopefully I am not spoiling anything–I won’t give any comment that lead up to the final scene–don’t continue if you think this might be a spoiler) – how about that disclosure?  We see Don Draper at a spiritual retreat in Big Sur and he utters an “omm” eyes closed and the iconic coke ad appears.  My interpretation and I love this ambiguous ending is that while Don was seeking a spiritual retreat he was a quintessential Madison Avenue ad man and this retreat provided the inspiration for him to in the future create this ad.  Few series endings are not satisfying but the totality of the this final scene felt as satisfying as possible.

I don’t really ever recall the moving image of this ad only the music and the tag line of “The Real Thing”  I went back to see if this coke ad had been re-imagined by Mad Men or it was a re-mastered image.   I was pleasantly surprised to see it was re-mastered.  The old ad from whatever source was grainy but the remastered image seemed new.  Just as Mad Men reimagined the storied past of Madison Avenue and heavy leaning on mid-Century culture and history it was the Real Commercial.  Seeing the Hilltop ad in 2016 eyes is to see an ad that inspires, is relevant and still can deliver goosebumps to be a testament to ads at their finest.

The longer message is this propelled Coca-Cola for a long time–hard to match an ad like this and after billions of dollars spent by Coca-Cola none have truly surpassed the evocation of emotion that this ad still leaves with us today.  Brand and authenticity is a hard thing to convey and cannot always be bought–it has to be nurtured backed by vision and balanced with creativity.

Wine and branding is no different and that today more than ever is a ‘need to have’ a brand position and for very logical and pragmatic reasons.  As of 2014, there are over 10,400 bonded wineries in the United States.  That is a lot of wineries–a lot of labels and that is not including from what is being sourced from abroad.  Wine as I have always said is easily one of the most compelling consumer products and it is also the most complex – large of number of varieties, vintage, vineyard selection, reserve/non-reserve, old vine, cuvee selection etc.  Though label and brand identities have been developed by some producers solidly in the consumer’s mind there is a vast landscape of complexity.  What wine consumers want is selection, excellence and good price points the number of SKUs is still ever increasing.  Wine consumers fall in love with good wine and fall out of love quickly if there is a substantial price increase and lack of availability.  Lack of availability is key — wine unlike beer or spirits is limited at least in the sense of thoughtfully produced wines is both highly unique and limited.  I often go into a wine retailer with a wine I want to buy and out I come with a different brand altogether–why?  Simply the retailer doesn’t have what I am seeking.  With a vast array of complexities and layering more producers I think is a recipe for commoditization.  

I have walked into many wine retailers and grocery stores and have scratched my head at the number of non-branded wine labels–virtual brand–something that doesn’t exist but only for packaging.  These non-brands help to commoditse wine in a way that takes away from the branding position of the wine category.  

Wine brands and advertising in general has not been especially good – there is no wine equivalent for the Coca-Cola hilltop ad.  Some wine ads are depicting people who really don’t exist – Bartles and Jaymes – these are not the people who owned the brand or Carlo Rossi (Charles Rossi) who was a salesman for Gallo Wines married into the Gallo Family but did not start the winery with his somewhat namesake.  Many campaigns are so superficial and shallow such as “Ruinite on Ice/That’s Nice” or the Orson Welles Paul Masson ads were Masson was attributed as saying “We will sell no wine before it’s time.”  Did Paul Masson actually say that?  I cannot point to any broadcast ad where when a brand was presented about wine it was actually the subject not object–most are superficial and endlessly shallow.  The Blue Nun wine ads are cringe worthy call out.

Coca-Cola ventured into the wine world in the mid-70s and exited it as well owning Sterling in Napa Valley.  But ownership doesn’t execute to brand identification let alone great brand positioning or advertising.

Wine branding is vital and important and for consumers to grasp those brands who have a raison d’etre than a raison d’argent.  And to avoid what maybe an overall brand erosion is through thoughtful producers who choose to offer a strong brand identity can help to mark position.  Few brands can do broadcast advertising and I think it is not necessary for most. But there is always an opportunity to create a video on such platforms as Vimeo or YouTube.    Brands need to work towards continuous improvement, thoughtful and methodical about it’s communication and to be on point.  Branding is the only way to not become a commodity.  My comments here are not to say that all wine labels are headed towards commoditization and I do think some brands do an excellent job of holding their brand authority.

There will be plenty of producers who either can’t execute a distinct brand or even care about it will succumb to either a decreased interest or eventual demise of brand and business.

***

¡Salud!

James

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

Read more of my wine reviews:   WORDPRESS

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Wine Bloggers Conference Snub Video Content Again – James Melendez

 

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I saw the published agenda for Wine Bloggers Conference 2016 and video content is snubbed once again.   There is a class on Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, & Periscope; Periscope is the only video component but what I would term the main stay of wine and video.  Periscope is not an easy video media to utilise.  I do think Periscope can be relevant and it is an exciting concept.

Wine and video is certainly present on YouTube, Vimeo and Vine and hence this topic not covered truly doesn’t help to frame information for attendees at WBC.  Vlogging is an important category on YouTube and I do think it again is a natural extension of the traditional blog.

I have had ‘meet ups’ at each of the past several WBCs and I thought there should be a section on wine and video hence I submitted for a class.  Before I was notified my submission wasn’t accepted I saw the agenda and didn’t see any video content workshops.  I don’t think I will do a ‘meet up’ at this year’s WBC – video medium should not be just a lobby workshop–it deserve an official slot on the Wine Bloggers Conference agenda.

Many of the past agenda’s are very text specific and I do think this is right conference to talk about layering text with video.  Video is a natural extension to traditional text ‘blog’ entries.  Wine as I have advocated needs the media that allows for not just informational delivery but for that which only video can give: emotion, colour, voice, and non-verbal cues.

I have completed a lot of Blog entries over 3,000–in the past few years I have often supplemented my writing with video of related subject matter.

I am disappointed that video is once again relegated to no coverage on the agenda of Wine Bloggers Conference.  The dynamic nature of video is not explored here and that is a loss for those who might want to venture in the area and to expand their reach.

My YouTube Channel

***

¡Salud!

James

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

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The Power of Tequila and Video – James Melendez

When I did a search in YouTube for Avión Reposado Tequila I rank on the first page; often but not always in 2nd or 3rd place; not bad.  Interesting this particular video is higher than the brand Tequila Avión itself.  Sounds random or perhaps not a big deal but it some ways it is.

No one who doesn’t work for YouTube truly knows the algorithm and for good reason it constantly changes.  There is something sticky about the return of this entry in the search field.  I am not sure why this ranks highly—I also ranked higher than CNBC Mad Money interview of Ken Austin’s interview.  I was surprised.  I guess fewer people were in Avión founder.

I have both spoken and written in the Spirits category–this category has an active audience and click rates are higher than almost any wine brand or SKU.

Avión Tequila became more highly visible due to it’s appearance on HBO’s Entourage.  I have always been surprised what is in my top ten videos (I have over 2,250 videos).  I only have 4 out of my top 10 videos that are individual wine SKUs.  I have seen often but not always that for my videos to be in my top 10 have been syndicated—it appears in pseudo online publications.

Surprisingly there are relatively fewer reviews of either their Reposed or Blanco Tequilas (my Blanco which I have title Silver has relatively modest hits—a night and day difference between Blanco and Reposdo).

I think the intrigue I have for video is how things will perform; many surprises and some disappointments.  But there is a co-relation when a product producer also promotes the video where their product is featured.

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The Big World of Chianti: A Region to Ponder Once Again – James Melendez

Before naming this article “The Big World of Chianti” I am almost titled this “The Complex and Misunderstood World of Chianti.  Chianti is complex because it is misunderstood and yet easy to know as well.  Many people outside of Italy think of Chianti as a singular region and sometime it is thought of as the grape itself instead of mainly a Sangiovese grape.   Chianti can be 75% to 100% Sangiovese and also Canaiolo, Merlot, Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon can be added if a wine is not a 100% Sangiovese.  Chianti remains complex because it can characterize very differently if Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon is the remaining grape content; I think that Merlot does characterize the Chianti overall (though not everyone would agree).  Canaiolo is a great match to blend with Sangiovese.  

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I attended Vinitaly International Academy’s tasting at the Fancy Food Show West in San Francisco 18-January-2016 conducted by the Academy’s Scientific Director Ian D’Agata.  I liked that this topic was presented because it such a well known topic and yet there are so many nuances that are important to recall and highlight and to talk about.

Chianti is still thought of as being as a lesser desirable Italian wine–odd because you can pay a lot more for a region like Brunello di Montalcino (which is a Sangiovese wine).  I think the challenge has been that the image in many people’s mind is that Chianti is a high production wine presented in straw wine bottles at a cheap Italian restaurant.  Chianti is a very old region first called Chianti in 1716 and the 1966 borders of what Chianti is and the sub-regions has changed (see map below).  There are many common points of subregions which can have generally higher elevation 250 to 600 meters above sea level (800 to 1200 feet above sea level).

I researched availability of Chianti at neighbourhood wine stores in San Francisco — two well stocked wine stores had not a single ChiantI?!  A mass retailer had one Chianti Classico out of 700+ SKUs.  Another mass retailer in San Francisco with at least a 1,000 SKUs had 3 Chianti’s.  

I love Chianti and like many other wine regions I love some producers or more precisely some vintages over others.  I do love Sangiovese–I have tasted Sangiovese from Italy and from New World sources as well.  But no other region than Italy can produce a lovely with high acid, tannic structure along with evocative scent and flavour characteristics – tartness – sour cherry, currants, strawberry, cranberry and pomegranate alone with some not all wines with game or mushroom quality amongst others.  I think from a price point Chianti presents lovely wines at very lovely price points.  

A snapshot of Chianti:

  • Chianti
  • Chianti Classico – the best known which may add to some confusion that all Chianti Classico’s are all Chianti (which is not true)
  • Colli Artini – region closes to Arezzo
  • Colli Fiorentini – region northeast to Florence
  • Colli Senesi – region closest to Siena
  • Colline Pisane – region closest to Pisa
  • Montalbano – region northeast of Pisa
  • Montespertoli – region between Florence and Pisa
  • Rùfina – region northeast of Florence
  • Superiore – signifies stricter requirements; and longer aging requirements and the grapes can be supplied from Arezzo, Florence, Pisa, Pistoia, Prato and Siena.

I would recommend taking a look at Chianti’s once more.  As with wines from any region–these wines do vary–vintage, producer and subregions and also what they might be like if you age them.  I prefer to find wines that are classic for me–either 100% Sangiovese or near 100% with Canaiolo to the wine for a fully Tuscan expression.  For me, I do detect right away a Chianti with an international variety like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Syrah–I want a snapshot of what is truly Chianti.  Chianti’s full offering in the marketplace will only happen if more people like yourself take an interest the expression of the many flavours of this historic region.  Like almost any other wine region on the planet Chianti has been an upward trajectory–quality has been increasing in Chianti and only gets better year over year.

Give it a try–this is no longer the wine that was drunk only a few generations ago.  I have listed a few video reviews that I have completed.   For me seeing that the Ruffino review at 4,000 hits is a sign to me that Chianti is top of mind of many people (this video is in my top 10 videos by number of hits).

Salute!

James

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

Read more of my wine reviews:   WORDPRESS

© 2016 James 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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A Spring Mountain District Gem – Smith-Madrone – James Melendez

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It was my birthday October 2 2015 and it is one of the few days on a calendar year that I take completely off….well sort of.  I had a rush getting to Napa Valley–I planned on a taking a leisurely stroll up to Napa but that was not to be.  A breakneck pace getting there was assured from the moment my head lifted from the pillow to the end.  But it was not bad–it was not bad at all.  Though I had a lot to do on my day.  It was a day to take up as much for myself as possible.

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I have visited hundreds of wineries and tasting rooms and Napa Valley is both well traveled in my logs but one where I haven’t visited every nook and cranny–I find it challenging and satisfying at the same time.  I have repeated visits to many wineries and hence I could have visited over 90%.  But that is still too come.  In my early Napa Valley days visits I would visit at least twice monthly–I am lucky to get there twice every six months.  I know so many people who are jaded about the experience.  I still look upon with fondness — for me my earliest memories of Napa Valley were not that long ago.  Somehow it seems several decades worth of journeys to the same wine region.  I do look north to optimism and to revel in each experience as if it were my first.  In my videos I have said a number of times and have a video on this subject matter as well:

 

I want to highlight my visit to Smith-Madrone in Spring Mountain District; getting off of Highway 29 or Silverado Trail can be both exciting and venturing to produces off the beaten path.  The windy road to Smith-Madrone was an exquisite ride gorgeous evergreen scenery.  Getting to the top of the hill was to navigate where Smith-Madrone was—mobile phone service was not there to help–thanks Siri–hence all numbering conventions can be thrown out the door–they are not as intuitive as you might think.

 

 

I finally found the path and glided down in the beautiful, ethereal mid-autumn season in Napa.  Autumn and winter my absolutely favourite seasons–even though there is a bit of warmth in the air the breeze sends a different signal.

I find a parking spot and I hear people coming up from their tasting “…I just loved the Cabernet.”  I am familiar with all three of their wines: Riesling, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.  When I think of Chardonnay and Riesling I don’t naturally think of Spring Mountain; however, because this is a pioneer producer in Spring Mountain I know don’t think of it as a curiosity but more “of course.”  Elevation and soil content go a long way to help the Chardonnay and Riesling.  Riesling a rare variety for California is hardly produced even though it certainly could produce more.  I had the opportunity to sit meet, sit down and talk a bit with Stu Smith.  Stu and his brother Charles founded Smith-Madrone in 1971.  I remember seeing a bottle of Smith-Madrone when I first moved to California in 1997 at K&L Wine Merchants at their original San Francisco location at Harrison and Second Street and back then I couldn’t afford a nice library of wines.  I would have to wait another half decade before I could taste Smith-Madrone wines.  I was anticipating their wines–I knew of the site, elevation and history.  For me I was going to taste the good labours and fruit of Spring Mountain.  

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I got a driven tour of the site–varies greatly from 1,300 to 2,000 feet above sea level–the steep grade is a great incentive for drainage and strong and forthright root development.  The site has a specific orientation for the three bottled varieties–eastern facing is the Riesling–it’s cooler.  Southern and western facing is for the Cabernet and a northerly orientation for Chardonnay.  Beautiful red soil of clay loam, sandstone and limestones amongst others.

After the site tour Stu and I sit down and tasted the latest vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling and Chardonnay.  I felt immediately comfortable talking with Stu about everything from the then always-top-of-mind drought, current vinicultural trends–namely the concrete egg, his early years of winemaking and no vineyard stone was left un-turned in our conversation–it was a conversation not an interview.  Stu has an authentic view–and his view of both vini and viticulture are not old fashioned but centered–Stu is well educated and has a long time perspective of being a wine producer, a long time resident of Napa Valley.  There is something comforting in knowing that a family like Charlie and Stu are committed to their namesake label and site; where in Napa Valley constants, commitments and being a vanguard are becoming rarer.  I wouldn’t know where to begin when I think of a producer who truly sells out their equity and assuring their consumers that they will remain as a consultant.  But the level of consultancy is not the same as commanding your own venture.  I enjoyed the experience, the conversation and of course the Smith-Madrone wines I tasted.

For a great down-to-earth and genuine experience of tasting fine Spring Mountain wines; find these wines and also find time to visit.  The price points listed below are very reasonable by Napa Valley standards.  A Napa Valley let alone a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon mountain fruit for $48.00 is not just reasonable–it is unheard of the Valley.

I tasted:

  • Smith-Madrone Spring Mountain District Chardonnay – 2013 – $32.00
  • Smith-Madrone Spring Mountain District Riesling – 2013 – $27.00
  • Smith-Madrone Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon -2012 – $48.00

***

¡Salud!

James

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

Read more of my wine reviews:   WORDPRESS

© 2016 James Meléndez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine Guy.

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Finger Lakes Visit – A Journey of Art, Glass, Wine and Food – James Melendez

I feel privileged to have visited every wine country I have ever visited.  I have never been disappointed or though any particular wine country to be anything but delightful, magical and each markedly different with history, trajectory, personalities and the people that make that wine country special.  This can be said for Finger Lakes.  A wine country in the making for sometime.

 

I visited Finger Lakes 13-16-August-2015 for the first time at WineBlogCon (Wine Bloggers Conference).  I have been to North Fork several times and that is because of it’s proximity to New York city.  Finger Lakes a bit more difficult to get to in terms of major airport at it’s base.  I suppose it could be argued that Napa and Sonoma aren’t terribly close to any major airport either.  But since I live in Northern California–they always close for me to visit.

Base camp on this visit was Corning, New York home to Corning Glass Museum, Corning Glass, and the Rockwell Museum.  Corning is a small town on the southern portion nearest Seneca, Keuka, and Cayuga lakes.   I usually attend the pre-excursions because as it is another way to see more of the wine country at hand–unfortunately this year it was sold out.  I did have one excursion during the session that I was able to visit — I wish I had more of a view of one of the lakes.  Unlike Okanagan Valley I was always within easy picture frame of Okanagan Lake.  Every venue is different and there is not a hotel where we could have had that at this WineBlogCon.

Alan Lasko (professor Emeritus of Cornell University) was important to frame the Fingers Lakes and why we have wines coming from this region.  I liked how he talked about the vast soil variation, difficult weather patterns and yet Vitis vinifera has a planted foundation.  Dr. Lasko compared to a more cohesive soil region like Lodi and that FLX does not have that to compare.

Fingers Lakes is old with respect to Hybrid grape cultivation and Vitis vinifera promotion by Dr. Konstantin Frank set the stage for Vv finding a logical home.  Finger Lakes is a place where Vv cultivation would take place–just west of here in Canada is Ontario wine country.  Each regions have some commonalities and differences.  Both wine regions experience cold winters, moderated summers and both have large bodies of water they are next to to both moderate temperature in both summer and winter seasons.  Both wine regions have a long history of cultivation of hybrid grapes but difference is soil type with Finger Lakes having a greater variation.  Variation may not always be a good thing–a certain challenge for any vineyard manager and vineyard owner.  Not all varieties are optimised to all soil conditions let alone in micro climate conditions that are often present in many wine regions.

Corning’s Two Wonderful Museums

Corning is synonymous with glass; both great commercial and artistic glass.  The Corning Museum of Glass is a place I had wanted to visit for quite sometime.  I didn’t realise  how close it was to many Finger Lakes Wineries.  It is hard to get a grasp on relationship of space and place.  Sometimes things are closer than you might expect.  Also, corning has the Rockwell Museum which specialises in American Art–I was awe struck by the beauty and depth of collection–in particular the native American arts and crafts.

Corning Museums certainly help to build the reason to come and the wine and food to stay longer.

Corning Museum of Glass ( 1 Museum Way, Corning, NY 14830, USA) is an easy walk from the small downtown district.  This museum is known for showcasing all aspects of glass from the earliest historical perspective to the most modern and contemporary and cutting edge pieces today.  The 100,000 square foot space is place of inspiration and wonderment.  I am a huge lover of art glass and the historical evolution.  The museum won’t disappoint and the glass blowing demonstration hall–easily the largest and most modern of it’s kind in the U.S. if not abroad–a world class museum.

Rockwell Museum (111 Cedar St, Corning, NY 14830) is housed in Corning’s old city hall constructed in 1893.  This museum is an affiliate of the Smithsonian.  I have a great fondness of Native American arts and in particular Native American arts of New Mexico and Arizona which is featured here prominently.  I loved the rich collection; I was in deep appreciation of the Santa Clara, San Illdefonso, Acoma, Jemez and Hopi pottery.  Each piece was not just a representative piece but pieces of excellence. 

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Finger Lakes Wine

The cultivated region of Finger Lakes is relatively small 11,000 acres / 4,450 Hectares (there are variations on number of acres/hectares of vine’s planted–I selected the mid-number).  Riesling is the most widely planted Vitis vinifera grape, following by Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Gewürztraminer, Merlot and Pinot Gris.  Grüner Veltliner has found a nice home in the Finger Lakes–many examples I tasted of this variety were outstanding.  There are small plantings of Pinot Meunier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Rkatsiteli.

I had one excursion at Hazlitt in Hector, New York to taste food prepared by Chef Dano Hutnick of Dano’s on Seneca.  You can see the menu below with glorious shots of fantastically well prepared food and paired excellently with wine producers that were are present at this event at Hazlitt.

I certainly compare food from my current home base with San Francisco and I am always a bit skeptical of the offering of other places.  Chef Dano’s beautiful dishes were not only highlighting Finger Lakes wines but also highlight the beauty of local foods.  This excursion was intimate and wonderfully done–I like this tasting versus the speed tasting which is always hard to taste the wines in a careful and well timed manner.  Speed tasting, speed dating is about numbers versus a bonafide experience.

Some of my most favourite Finger Lakes wines were the Cabernet Franc, Sparkling wines, Grüner Veltliner and Rieslings.  It was a bit more difficult than I expected to taste beyond these four wines–If I only had more time on ground I would have visited more producers to get a greater experience.

The Grüner Veltliner were all outstanding–not necessarily to be compared with their Austrian cousins but to be equally appreciated.  The Grüner were mineral focused, not citrus intense, balance, and appreciable wines.  I also appreciated each bottle of sparkling wine I tasted both the familiar and less familiar.

I am going to post information on producers, associations, and other helpful information of website you might find helpful if you plan a visit to the Finger Lakes.

Below are videos on Finger Lakes region and wines:

***

A wonderful place to visit–a high recommendation.

¡Salud!

James

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

Read more of my wine reviews:   WORDPRESS

© 2016 James Meléndez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine Guy.

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

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