April 2019 Wine Reviews – James Melendez

April was a very quick month–just like each year January and February are relatively calm and after that we all seem to be on a proverbial banana peel.

I do loving tasting so many wonderful wines during the month.

Jason Stephens Santa Clara Valley Syrah 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

14.9% ABV; Deep garnet colouration; evocative nose of Blackberry, boysenberry, violets, suede and hint of freshly ground clove and cinnamon.  Palate of heirloom blackberries, red pepper, hoisin, Cardamom and dried red rose petals.

Jason Stephens

****

District 7 Monterey County Pinot Noir 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nose: Bayberry strawberry freshly cut flowers, fennel cardamom

Palate: Graphite, cherry, ,pist stones, pepper

****

District 7 Monterey County Chardonnay 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nose: Heirloom apple, dried fig dried pear and flowers

Palate: Dried apple rings, Comice pear, hint of fennel and oyster shells

****

Bila-Haut L’esquerda Cotes du Roussillon Village Lesquerde 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

14.5% ABV; Nose: Marionberry, lavender juniper forest spice rack. Palate: Black cherry, clove, pepper and cinnamon

****

Santé,

James

James the Wine Guy

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

All products in this review are courtesy of producer.

© 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.

Berryessa Gap photo courtesy of producer and is owned by producer.

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Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Côtes du Roussillon, Chardonnay, Chianti, Cote du Roussillon, Monterey, Napa Valley, Paso Robles, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Port, Portugal, Portuguese Wine, Sangiovese, Santa Clara County, Santa Lucia Highlands, Syrah / Shiraz, Tempranillo | Leave a comment

James the Wine Guy Interview Series: Martin Sheehan-Stross, Foot of The Bed Cellars

Luc Bergevin (L) and Martin Sheehan-Stross (R)

I was so fortunate to meet and  attend a lovely event with Foot of the Bed founders:  Martin Sheehan-Stross, Chief Wine Officer and Co-Founder and Luc Bergevin, Founder and CEO.

The founding of the Foot of the Bed started by a chance gift of a barrel of Sonoma Zinfandel that Luc received as a graduation gift.  Luc was a recent college graduate and what to do with a barrel of Zinfandel when space is of the essence?  Well you do the smart thing and place in your bedroom at the foot of the bed hence became the name of Luc and Martin’s curated wine business.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I very much like what Martin and Luc are doing.  They are curating very nice wines from across California and presenting them on their label.  It is not just finding great wines–it is finding great wines at a great price point.  Martin and Luc put together a monthly subscription of 3 wines for $15 a bottle.  Finding a high quality bottle of wine at $15 is as rare a rubies.  I did a search on line for wines like this and I couldn’t find them for this price point.  These are wines that are not just passable but easily and joyously shared with those closest to you.

The tasting I attending and enjoyed with food at Cultivar was the following three wines:

  1. Cole Valley Riesling
  2. Lodi Rosé of Syrah
  3. California Barbera

I thought all of the wines to be nice polished and such a great value price point.  I like that you can pick your monthly pack i.e. all reds or all white or a mix pack.  The cost is $45 per month plus $12 shipping.  And if you are local in the Bay Area there is a monthly release party.

One of the most often questions is about wine pricing and the main concern is getting great wine and a fantastic price point.   This is one solution provider and with a very good ability of finding some very nice wines that are easy on the wallet.  So put your wallet in a relaxed state and rev up your palate!

They ship to 30+ plus states and here is a map where they ship to.

Please see my interview with Martin below:

****

Q1 – What do you like about your business model? (delivering exceptional
value and wines to your customer, finding a new customer, introducing a
variety or region to your customer, etc..)

A1 – I get a kick out of bring new regions and grape varieties to our customers but in a very approachable way. Our model allows our members to try new things without too much of a commitment in terms of price. Perhaps event more important however, is that our members get access to easy-to-read educational materials, parties where they can meet other members, and the ability to change their subscription mix or pause any month. We try to bring a fun, hospitable vibe to the wine club.

Q2 – How long have you been finding wines for your customers?  When did you start operating Foot of the Bed?

A2 – We launched Foot of the Bed in October of 2016 so this March was actually our 30th monthly release. Each month, we’ve introduced two new wines, and have also thrown in some additional offerings over the past couple of years as well. To date we’ve released over sixty-five different wines from over forty-five different winemakers!

Q3 – How do you find the wines in your collection? Do you have a master plan or do wines find you or both?

A3 – I worked on the restaurant side of the wine trade for about ten years prior to starting Foot of the Bed which gave us an idea of some producers to work with. The wine community is very generous and people who have had fun working with us often put us in touch with their friends who may also have delicious wine available. As we’ve grown, some great people have reached out to us as well with some really interesting wines for the program. I try numerous wines before deciding on each month’s selection. I’m looking for wines that have wide appeal, a great story, but are really just delicious above all else.

Q4 – Do you have any past Foot of the Bed wines that are still top of
mind today? (e.g. they taste better today then when bottled, a
phenomenal wine, etc).

A4 – That’s a tough one. We’ve done three different, totally dry Rieslings since launching. They are definitely some of our better, most ageable whites. Thankfully we’ve stashed a few bottles away.

Q5 – Do you have varieties or regions that you would like to have for
your wine line up?

QA – We are definitely on the lookout for some tasty Gamay or Trousseau! Overall, we’ve been thrilled with the wide range of grape varieties and regions we’ve been able to explore…from Counoise to Colombard, Merritt Island to Potter Valley. The West Coast is so diverse, we are really lucky.

Q6 – Any sparkling wines for future shipments of Foot of the Bed wines?

A6 – It’s such and important category of wine. We haven’t done it yet, but it is definitely something we are looking forward to doing.

Q7 – Have you found wines from Washington, Oregon or even other places in the US that will become Foot of the Bed in the near future or perhaps later?

A7 – We’ve had some surprising finds in both Oregon and Washington. I really think that Washington continues to fly under the radar, especially amongst California wine drinkers. We’re extremely passionate about telling the stories of West Coast farmers and winemakers, so sticking to these states makes sense for us and our members.

Q8 – Your price point is sterling.  Is it hard to find great wines at
this value price point?

A8 – It definitely takes a little leg work, but finding great wines and developing relationships is one of the most gratifying parts of our job. We’ve made some great friends along the way.

Q9 – What is your favorite wine country experience?  When/where/what?

A9 – It really depends on the occasion. I love showing Napa Valley off to people in from out of town who have never been. If I’m just relaxing with friends, I think a weekend in Sonoma with no plans at all is always a great way to go.

Q10 – When you cook what is your signature dish and what wine would you pair with it?

A10 – I would say seared salmon with lemon butter and a nice full glass of our 2014 Russian River Valley Chardonnay. The wine is rich and full-bodied to match the natural texture of the fish, but still has a clean, bright finish to go with the citrus in the sauce.

*******

I love what Luc and Martin are doing and I think their focus is rare and they prove the point that good wines don’t need to be expensive.  They have great finds and I trust they will continue to do so in the future.

More information on Food of the Bed and their subscription service can be found here.

Santé,

James

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, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine Guy.

Wine courtesy of Foot of the Bed.  Photo of Foot of the Bed distribution belongs to FOTB.

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Posted in James the Wine Guy Interview Series, Value Price Point, Wine Curation | Leave a comment

March 2019 Wine Reviews – James Melendez

While a longer month than last–it seemed to go so much more quickly.  One comforting constant is wine!  Here are my reviews both written and video reviews for the month of March.

I am in full spring mode and keep thinking Rosé and sparkling wines.  I look forward to tasting more in April and hopefully better weather to come.

I’d like to know your thoughts on these wines if you have tasted any of them.

Ferraton Côtes du Rhône Samorëns Rosé 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

This wine is 50% Grenache, 30% Syrah & 20% Cinsault.  Nicely dry and yet appreciable rosé with the right amount of fruit to savory tones.  Nose: appreciable wild strawberry, lime zest, delicate floral notation, and fennel; palate of mountain strawberry, hint of pepper and Thyme, and flowers.  A stellar value at $14 SRP

****

Berryessa Gap Yolo County Zinfandel 2016

2016 Zinfandel Image

600 cases produced, 14.6% ABV; 100% Zinfandel.  Nose of mountain strawberry, fennel, violets and simmering spices; palate of strawberry, pomegranate, hint of white pepper, Tarragon and Bay leaf.

****

 

 

 

 

 

 

Herdade do Rocim Vinho Regional Alentejano Alicante Bouschet 2016

This wine is 14.5% ABV; nose of Boysenberry, tart red cherry, forest floor, violets and Cardamom.  Palate of red-black cherry, hint of tangerine skin, white pepper, clove and Thyme.

****

 

 

 

 

 

 

Herdade dos Grous Alentejano Moon Harvested Red Wine 2016

100% Alicante Bouschet, 12 months in French barrels.  Moon Harvested versus non-Moon harvested grapes.  Nose of blackberry, boysenberry, fennel, moist earth and stacked wood.  Palate of boysenberry, cardamom, white pepper and violets.

****

 

Santé,

James

James the Wine Guy

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

All products in this review are courtesy of producer.

© 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.

Berryessa Gap photo courtesy of producer and is owned by producer.

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Posted in 9.1, Alentejo, Alicante Bouschet, Côtes du Rhône, Cochise County, Merlot, Napa Valley, Nerello Mascalese, San Benito County, Sauvignon Blanc, Sicilia, Sicily, Syrah / Shiraz, Tempranillo, Yolo County, Zinfandel | Leave a comment

Book Review: Ancient Wine: The Search for The Origins of Viticulture – Patrick McGoven

This is not a new book published originally in 2003.  Patrick McGovern is Scientific Director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health at the University of Pennsylvania Museum.

This is short review because there have been many reviews completed of this book when it was published.

First this is a great book to read if you want to peek behind the curtains to understand the antiquity of wine–it’s evidence that McGovern so masterly brings alive through his biomolecular archaeological approach.

So when we talk about wine grape cultivation being around for many millennia we may take those dates for granted or worse suspicious of those dates.  But the two methods are to look at the archaeologic evidence of pottery shards (where wine might have been stored) but also looking at art work showing wine and wine grapes being depicted.

Then there is the molecular archaeology–residual material that can be scientifically reviewed to see what that material is and to confirm the presence of wine aided by the aging of the material and/or the vessels where the residue comes from.

The book looks at the entire subject matter and looks at specific regions like the Holy Land, Greece, Egypt, Rome and Anatolia.  The book looks at artifacts–clay pots and vessels with wine identified markings–subscribing meaning.  Wine in Rome might be for a Bacchanalian delight but they also added Myrrh to the beverage.  The book also highlights in some detail about resin in wine and that additives were for perceived beneficial use.  Think of myrrh is both sacred and medicinal.  Resin wines–and most people would think of Retsina as the wine of historical provenance.

The book talked about how Vitis vinifera L. subsp sylvestris would not have grown in the Middle East and hence it would be the cultivated variety that would: Vitis vinifera subsp. vinifera.  Vinifera would have to have been transported to the Middle East for it to develop.  Sylvestris would have only been in Eurasian–generally on the boundary of forest hence the desserts of the Middle East could not have supported sylvestris.  This all means that Vinifera is about trade and through this it spread the middle east and, of course, does significantly well.

I wish there was a method to track and understand how a variety would be transported historically from one region to the next.   This would also explain how varieties evolved as well.

When we think of wine grape cultivation and the evidence of wine being made is at least eight millennia from China to Armenia to Georgia and to Iraq the cradle of cultivation is in the documentation.  This book while a great read has some difficult moments in terms of the technical side of it.  I think it could have had more diagrams for ease of knowledge on-boarding.  It is a good read and you can walk away with the full confidence of our historical heritage of fermentation of wine grapes and that being wine.  I am glad I invested the time to read this important subject matter.

If you are interested in history and to get to the ‘heart of the matter’ of how this documentation was assembled and the methodologies utilised – I would certainly recommend this book.

Santé,

James

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.

The book is a courtesy of me.

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This Week in Wine March 3, 2019 – James Melendez

This week in wine for me was an always anticipated annual event Tre Bicchieri I know each producer can only highlight so many bottles–rare to see any more than 3 wines per producer (the winning plus two more).

It is the only time I can expect from top to bottom and left and right of Italian wines in one place.  I may taste from a fewer wines but a representative tasting of the entire nation of Italy.

I found a lot of exciting wines. And some that I have tasted recently, others I have never tasted and still another set I haven’t tasted in a while.

I very much enjoy Elena Walch’s Beyond the Clouds Alto Adige/Südtirol Chardonnay 2016 – It has been almost a decade since I tasted this producer wine.  Pleasantly lingering and a definitive  Südtirol Chardonnay.  I love tasting varieties that I rarely get to taste: Gaglioppo, Ruché, Sagrantino, Pallagrello Bianco, Nuragus, Nero di Troia, Moscato di Chambave, and Semidano to name a few.  Also great to find wines from regions that are not plentiful in my market place: Molise, Valle d’Aosta, and Calabria.

A very lovely tasting that I appreciate makes it regular to San Francisco.  I didn’t get to taste Schioppettino or Tazzelenghe wines which I was hoping to find it being poured but it weren’t–hopefully I’ll taste at some point this year.  I like that focus tasting because I was able to taste almost all producers.  Che fantastica esperienza!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

James

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 Italian Wine, Italy | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

When Was Your Last Tasting Menu Experience? James Melendez

When was your last tasting menu experience?

Well that was far too long ago!

I said to a friend once “I wish I could go to a tasting menu once a week” she said that she didn’t have the same wish.  She has experienced a good number in her time but for her it was not the same as it was for me.  I do have a devoted love for the tasting menu and chef prepared food.

What inspired to me write this was that I was recently at a tasting menu and it struck me solidly the fineness not just of the food but the ambience, service, comfort, wine and total touch was very meaningful to me.  The waiter was a quintessential professional–it was a party of ten and he worked to make the meal the resounding success and it was.  I am not sure if all diners appreciate the hard work to making a meal a success–I am fully aware because I notice detail and I love detail.

I think that ‘at the heart of matter’ of culinary excellence is to showcase the chef’s vision and aptness.  I think to be a chef is to love food and by that extension hospitality.  Hospitality is a word that we may know immediately but the many nuances are both fascinating and elusive.  Hospitality and the tasting menu are synonymous with having each guest feel special and have the heart touched.  I am not sure all chefs would agree but the chef who views their work as a vocation is the chef who conveys that excellence to the meal participant.

I have been to both tasting menu-only restaurants and those who have a mix of regular menu and tasting menu – singular selection and those with several per course.  I always order tasting menu if offered at a restaurant offering both.  It can be hard when you are with a group or even just two people often 99% of the time all people need to order the tasting menu.  I get it.  It is hard to time the meal and the experience can leave one diner feeling left out.

I remember one tasting menu experience that almost wasn’t–it was with wine writers and one person wanted to order off the menu but the requirement was all or nothing for the tasting menu.  Each member of the table lobbied and eventually convinced that one person.  I cannot imagine having to be convinced!

Now when I am asked about food allergies or those food items I don’t prefer–eggs by themselves for me.  I am one of a dozen people on the planet that doesn’t like eggs.  But I forget to mention eggs…now my standard line is eggs by themselves or lamb are something I prefer not to eat.  I am not allergic they just are too intense for me.  Eggs are too intensely scented as well as texture issue.  And lamb is a texture issue and the gameness.  Do I use eggs to bake yes absolutely.  For years, I had not eaten cheese–but just in the past decade have been eating some cheeses, some of the time–still the strong cheese I cannot eat.  So perhaps I can eat an egg or lamb in the future?  Who knows stranger things have happened.

Food is the total senses experience and when thoughtful and expertly executed–it is a spiritual journey.  One of my favourite programmes is Netflix’s Chef Table and like chef prepared food the programme highlights beautiful photography, editing, narration, story, direction, lighting and music and much more.  The intent is getting into the head of each chef to talk about their vision, their drives.  Their connection to ingredient and their love to share that with each person who goes to their restaurant.

The food documentary is the heart of the matter.  Season 3 Chef’s Table highlight Virgilio Martinez’s Central in Lima and his quest for the excelsior tasting menu is truly unique.  Martinez core vigil is to raise Peru’s most obvious as well as unique ingredients in his seemingly coterie of dishes on his tasting menu.  The programme didn’t necessarily talk about spirituality but that was the net result of watching it–that for Virgilio Martinez–it is a spiritual quest to find and create food that feds body and soul.

The food documentary called ‘For Grace’ about Chef Curtis Duffy explored his brutal upbringing that might have stuttered someone’s life but his core being is not about just surviving but fermented ideas, aspirations in food and in life.  Fermenting ideas to become lyrical food that is graceful—he left the restaurant Grace in 2016.  And as I understand it he and business partner are looking to create a new restaurant.

****

I do appreciate the well-known chef as well as a chef that is not known.  I am quizzical about what a great chef does (again known and not) and their choices, aspirations, visions and the beauty of their art on the plate.  I think of one chef here in San Francisco who for years is more known for his bars and lunch counters–which is one of the best, high quality, casual meals you will have at the sandwich-salad level in the City.  I was inspired by Chef Dennis Leary’s Canteen restaurant (now closed) on Sutter Street–seating no more than a dozen people–was an intimate, accessible and wondrous space.  And even a personal side of Leary was on display–his favourite books within easy reach of most diners who were seated in the booths in his teeny, tiny intimate restaurant.   I think Dashiell Hammett would have dined here–it just had the vibe.  I would love Chef Leary to have a tasting menu restaurant–I think he is under-rated.

****

Some beautiful plates at a various restaurants as evidence of some great tasting menu experiences from Reims, Paris, and San Francisco:

Frenchie – Paris

Duck – Frenchie, Paris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cucumber rings, fennel, sauce – Porte 12, Paris

Rabbit tenderloin and white beans – Porte 12, Paris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful Cheese Plate – Porte 12 – Paris

Langoustine – Porte 12 – Paris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rich, granular chocolate dessert – Porte 12

Lobster – Michael Minna, San Francisco

A5 Wagyu – Michael Minna, San Francisco

Just the starter – Michael Minna, San Francisco

 

Lemon Macron, Pâte de Fruit and lemon cookie – Michael Minna, San Francisco

Tuna and marrow – Racine, Reims

Restaurant Racine – Racine meaning root proves a great fundamental name to this wondrous presentation and food

Racine, Reims

****

So what are you waiting for?

When I know I am going to a tasting menu either if I book the reservation I immediately let them for tasting menu preferences/allergies.  I often order the wine supplement–I want a variation but you could conceivably order by the bottle as well.  In general, I find tasting menu pricing and especially with wine much more expensive in the US than say in Paris.

Enjoy your time–ask questions of server and ask of things you want to increase your enjoyment.

These are my future bucket list tasting menus:

Alinea – Chicago

Central – Lima

Osteria Francescana – Modena

****

Santé,

James

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 Food, Food and Wine, Tasting Menu | 1 Comment

February 2019 Wine Reviews – James Melendez

Another fun tasting month of wines from Arizona to La Mancha to Ribera del Duero and back to Santa Clara Valley south of San Francisco.  I am always amazed on such variation that hits my tasting table.

Please seek out these wines.

****

El Vínculo La Mancha Alejairén White Wine 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13.5% ABV, 100% Airén, $30 SRP

This grape was once the third most planted on planet earth and a lot of hectares of it planted in La Mancha–often used for making spirits and sometimes as a white wine.  This wine is expresses notes of dried stone fruit, honeycomb, tea, and flowers; Palate of dried apple rings, apricot, beeswax and flowers.  A very nice wine and express great possibilities of the Airén.

****

El Vínculo La Mancha Crianza 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

100% Tempranillo; aged 18 months in American Oak; $19 SRP

Expressing notes of Boysenberry, cherry, crushed pepper and red rose petal.  Palate of Boysenberry-Blackberry, black pepper, cinnamon and sage.

****

Aridus Arizona Field Blend White Wine 2017 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a wine of Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Malvasia. 11.% ABV.

Notes of Lemon peel, stone fruit, seashells and palate of white peach, dried citrus peel, and flowers.

****

Lucas & Lewellen Estate Vineyards Valley View Vineyard Santa Ynez Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 

 

 

 

 

 

 

14.5% ABV; 21 Months in Oak 40% new.

Nose of blackberry, dense forest, dried Bay leaf, and spice rack.  Palate of raspberry-blackberry, white pepper, fresh herbs and violets.  SRP $27

****

Leitz Rheingau Pinot Noir Rosé Brut 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

11.5% ABV – 100% Pinot Noir.

A nicely handsome German sparkling Pinot Noir–rare to taste Pinot Noir from Germany and much rare in the sparkling form.  Pale salmon colour; Nose: strawberry, sea shell, flowers and almond.  Palate: mountain strawberry, almond, hibiscus, and oyster shell.

****

 

****

And more wine reviews to come in March – stayed tuned!

Santé,

James

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, Germany, Graciano, La Mancha, Lake County, Rheingau, Ribera del Duero, Santa Ynez Valley, Spain | Leave a comment