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Month January 2013

The Great Wine List Revolution To Come – James Meléndez / James the Wine Guy

A revolution in the wine list is coming–ready or not!  Visit a restaurant in New York or London or San Francisco and see a high tilt of wine lists with all of the usual suspects (wine regions) in overwhelming ratios compared to the non-usual suspects (lesser known wine regions).

French wines have had a predominance in what has been a sommelier or wine director created wine list—there is no doubt that there are many excellent and dazzling wines coming from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and The Rhône and these are often what are listed first and take bulk of real estate on many lists.  International wines / varieties are in many ways have been treated as the basis of all wines or only those wines good enough for a wine list.  And that basis is what are international wines have been promoted to in creating the highest perceived pedigree.  In many ways, the common parlance for certain French wine regions is ‘international wines’  as opposed to all varieties as being thought of as international.

Look at Cabernet Sauvignon and Napa Valley and you will often find prominent placements on many a wine list especially in the US.  Look at El Dorado County and Zinfandel on a wine list in Boston and it is much more difficult to find–findable? yes, common–no.

The wines of regions widely known trade (sell) because of a familiarity by people seeking buzz candy or what I call ‘social pizza’: As opposed to wines that are coming from lesser-known regions take a long time to gain traction and a consistent listing in a restaurant or a wine merchants shelf.  And this is perpetuating–because the lesser-known regions are hard to find many people go back to what is plentiful and easy-to-find.  And this cycle is hard for a lesser known variety or region to get a foothold.

But today’s consumer is asking for Croatian wine with their pizza, Chianti Classico with Portuguese food, Indian food with Australian Grenache.  I am not suggesting that, for example, Italian restaurants are going to give up Italian wines on their lists.  But I do think there is going to be a greater supplementing of either nearby wine regions or varieties that are perfectly in step with their restaurant’s chief mission.  Today’s wine consumer does not view buying wine like buying toilet paper as a certain wine buyer in Washington State would like everyone to believe.  Consumers are seeking to know more about wine and creating their definitive interests and tastes.

There are a few bold restaurant wine lists that provide a great portfolio of diverse varieties, regions, producers and have a trained staff that are knowledgeable about lesser known wines and can speak to them.  While not common today this will be increasing common tomorrow.

New wines lovers and wine enthusiasts seeking variety are going to challenge the convention and even seek out their current discovers and make the ask at their favourite restaurant or wine merchant.  I think over time such wine trends in wine will lessen–that is consumers will either seek what they enjoy the most and the more adventurous wine consumers will continue to seek discovery.

Lesser known wine regions that will benefit from increased consumer focus and demand–as example: France: Alsace, Spain: Rias Baixas or Italy: Puglia.  And these lesser known regions are increasingly organized and presenting their wines to potentially new customers consistently.  The treasure trove of great wines is here and now.  We live in the best of wine times, no other time has there been greater quality, diversity in style and availability.  Wine list diversity is coming whether anyone is prepared or not.  Diversity is the spice of life and a great focus on balance and representing lesser-known wine producing nations and regions will continue over time.  The consumer is already demanding this.

¡Salud!

http://www.jamesthewineguy.com

***

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

Read more of my wine reviews:

© 2013 James Meléndez / Jaime Patricio Meléndez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved. James the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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Washington County, Oregon – a Great Center for the Beverage Arts – James Meléndez / James the Wine Guy

Washington County, Oregon might be better known as a home base or headquarters for larger business campuses like Nike and Intel but this County is a gem for the beverage and culinary arts.  Washington County, Oregon – just a tunnel ride from Portland west bound is superbly easy to get to.  I am based in San Francisco and a frequent visitor to nearby wine countries in Northern California–and I never compare Napa, Mendocino, Sonoma or the Santa Cruz Mountains to each other let alone wine countries further away.  Each wine country is different and should be different.  After all if all wine countries were identical to Napa then no one would visit another wine country.  Oregon was the departure and familiarity that I wanted all at once–and it was a delightful journey of head and soul.

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I like knowing that in Oregon there is both an at-ease with the culinary and beverage arts and yet there is also a very hot passion about it as well.

Q. Where else would you go in the US to find the highest per capita consumption of Saké?

A. Oregon–and Washington County is home to Saké One–the US’s only premium Saké brewery.

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This was one of my first stops on my mere 24-hour journey to Washington County.  I had completed a tasting of Saké One late Spring 2012 and was delighted with the quality, commitment and artistry of their Saké line.  Saké is a great beverage to mix things up differently in terms of your food pairings.  Saké is not wine, beer or a spirit–it is a fermented rice beverage–served best cold and as fresh as possible.  Saké One produces several styles:

  • MomoKawa Diamond
  • MomoKawa Silver
  • MomoKawa Ruby
  • MomoKawa Pearl Junmai Ginjo Nigori Genshu – a pearl colored Saké – not only beautiful to look at a refreshing and captivating Saké
  • MomoKawa Organic Junmai Ginjo
  • MomoKawa Organic Nigori
  • G-Joy – a premium Saké
  • Moonstone Asian Pear, Plum, Coconut Lemongrass, and Raspberry – a delightful light experience of infused flavours ever so gently with Saké

Saké can be a cocktail mixer and is versatile like a spirit and can be enjoyed on it’s own as well.  The brewery tour is eye opening and one that I recommend.  I have never toured a Saké brewing facility before and enjoyed the intricacies of the brewing process.  Saké One is also home to the only American Saké Master – Greg Lorenz.

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My next stop was Montinore Estate and I had featured this producer in a couple of videos prior to my visit.  I realized my pronunciation was not correct.  It is Montinor – no “E” sound on end.  It is a combination of Montana and Oregon.  This combination is a reverence to what made Willamette Valley today–a pre-historic flood coming from Montana and carving geological features into this region.

Montinore Estate is a large vineyard – approximately 230 acres of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, and Gewürztraminer and all Demeter certified (organic certification).  It is also one of Oregon’s largest wineries.  I did get an opportunity to meet their white winemaker Stephen Webber, a Brit coming to Oregon via Australia.  The red and white wine programs reflect what are key to Oregon and the surprises of Müller-Thurgau (just the right climate I might add) and Gewürztraminer are a great way to showcase these varieties.  Montinore is a proving ground for Müller-Thurgau showing how this Swiss variety can flourish in this area.  This is an off-dry style–so bring out the vanilla butter cream cupcakes to pair with this wine.  A down to earth experience here and you might also get to sample house made cheese with their beautiful line-up of wines.

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I live in a great culinary center and I sometimes take for granted the fine food that I eat often.  And then I travel and realize attention to detail to food is not universal and in many quarters I travel it can be an eye opening experience.  I enjoyed a multi-course meal at 1910 Main in Forest Grove highlighting Washington County’s freshest farm to table selections.

  • Coho Salmon Tartar – gorgeously fresh and a sterling choice, the Salmon was Gin-cured–they had me at Gin.
  • Fresh Corn Spoonbread with Crab – an astonishing dish of sweet and briny flavours
  • Buffalo Bolognaise with Gnocchi–a plate that I was at first concerned with — I was thinking there would be strong-gamey flavours instead they were nuanced and you could taste each component.

Another big treat for me was to pair each course with wines from Washington County producers:

Not only did I get to enjoy wonderful food selections-the selection of wine from Washington County was comforting and fitting.  I was delighted to sit next to and met several of the representing wineries principals and winemaking staff.  Each winery presented their wines with the utmost commitment to quality, caring for the land and artistry of this precious county’s Vitis Vinifera.  

I was excited to stay at McMenamins Grand Lodge built in the 1912 and has the full accoutrement of what can only be found at a McMenamins–each property is a historical site.  Each site, each hallway and within each hallway every view is unique and each room is different.  There were no televisions–instead there was a theatre to see a movie for free–so citizens of Forest Grove could go to this theatre in addition to hotel guests and just somehow it felt quite right.  It was nice to feel local.  I always imagine–what would it be like if I was local and no matter where I am — Rioja, Spain, Lecce, Italy or Forest Grove, Oregon-I like to be local for the time that I am staying there.

Having a simple lunch South Store Cafe I was intrigued by the berry store across the street.  Smith Berry Barn  specializes in what I call northerly fruit: Tayberry, Blackberry, Boysenberry, Strawberry, Gooseberry and Currants.  I was so excited to see Tayberries–fresh and absolutely convincing in flavor.  I did take some preserves home of Tayberry and Marion Berry jams.  I was also delighted to see five different types of blackberries, three types of strawberries, Raspberries and Fall Raspberries.  To me this was a very important stop and signifies–”you are in Oregon.” Loved this place–wish they would sell their products online.  And, for me, I often compare many wines and use the term “Northerly Fruit” characteristics–and this farm encapsulates my ideals so well.  I reveled in being here.

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I toured Hawk’s View Cellars in Sherwood, Oregon.  This producer on a pristine site–hilly setting and the facility itself was a delight–superbly clean and neat.  Hawk’s View specializes in Chehalem Pinot Noir, White Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Washington Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington Merlot, and Santa Lucia Highlands Syrah from Gary’s Vineyard.  I tasted the red wines with a gorgeous chocolate mousse and all I wanted to do was stay and not leave.

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My next journey was Two Kilts Brewing Company in Sherwood Oregon was a great journey into not only what happens in Oregon but what is part of a greater national expression of small production beers.  Beer making has taken a new art form and this epoch of time we find ourselves in and is the best of beer times ever.  Small producers like Two Kilts can formulate and express their Pale Ale, IPA or Scotch Sale as they see fit.  The result is gorgeous qualities, textures, and a weight and mouth feel that makes for their beers to be served alone or with food–luckily there was Vietnamese food truck parked at their entrance to compliment their wondrous beers.  I was glad that it was a hot day to enjoy their handsomely crafted brews.

I had a choice of touring options but this option seemed to feel so right.   Washington County is superbly easy to get to and into.  I was sad to leave on this short journey where I did not have commanding or great expectations but leaving for me is the promise to return to this beautiful part of Oregon to re-experience Washington County’s food, wine and more.

More Travel Information to Washington County:

Washington County Visitors Association

¡Salud!

http://www.jamesthewineguy.com

***

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

Read more of my wine reviews:

© 2013 James Meléndez / Jaime Patricio Meléndez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved. James the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

Follow, subscribe, like, browse:             

Charles Heidsieck Brut Rosé Réserve – NV – 9.5 – James Meléndez / James the Wine Guy

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A lyrical wine, gorgeous; bold, confident and highly nuanced; just hint of light rose coloration-simply beautiful. Expressive notes of wild strawberry, Oregon Tayberry, hint of fennel, flaky biscuit, and just roasted pine nuts.  Could have enjoyed alone but best shared.

¡Salud!

http://www.jamesthewineguy.com

***

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

Read more of my wine reviews:

© 2013 James Meléndez / Jaime Patricio Meléndez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved. James the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

Follow, subscribe, like, browse:             

 

Wine and Video and What is To Come – James Meléndez / James the Wine Guy

I don’t consider myself a wine blogger as by definition that would mean I only write online in a very narrow space called a blog as opposed to a person who write about wine.  But how about someone who speaks on wine and creates videos about wine–the term blogger no longer fits.

But the wine interested community has a full array of colour as it relates to expression and expressing wine.  And it does seem to be divisive in the “blogging” and “non-blogging” community.  I think wine blogging is a narrow expression of what is by now a natural extension of simply writing online.  Some people have thought of anyone writing online as “blogging” but paper is slowly fading away and hence “blogging” is a less necessary word.  I know some people who prefer to call themselves a blogger–and each person should feel free to call themselves what they find to be most appropriate.  I personally have never felt that was my central to what I am labelled.

More importantly and the central point to this article is about wine and video.  The video revolution has provided immediacy, colour, solution and even inspiration to those things we are most interested in.  I have studied my metrics on all my media frontiers and have found overall that video has a great response rate than does solely the written word.  Not all of my video content is immediately successful and sometime it takes time for that success to show through.   I have also been experimental and have test driven many subjects–because I am interested in knowing what interests people.

The activation of interested people is very revealing.  I have compared written work with that of the view rates for video and video consistently outpaces written work.  And this is for several reasons–immediacy means finding emotion and registration than can only be given on the visual and audio fronts.  Is the person in video excited, interested, knowledgeable or has a way to convey the meaning of the product in hand hence this becomes a trustmark.

Wine in 2013 is as large as this category has ever been–the best of wine times I say–we live in no greater times–the best quality wines, wines from around the planet at a well stocked retailer or perhaps I have access to receipt in my very home directly from producer or retailer.  50 year….25 years even just a generation ago we couldn’t have found the depth, quality and artistry we find today.  If the online revolution would have happened 50 years ago our wine world and our connection to it would have been very different.  We can talk about wines today as single varietal…. the “V” word–variety–we talk about variety.  We can taste dominate characteristics today more than ever–we can also taste an abundance of blends–things that only wine making–wine artistry bring together.

Wine is complex but that means plenty of opportunity to talk about wine–demystify wine as I say.  Wine is still mired in mystery and misconception and yet there is plenty of room to talk about wine–the written word on wine will always remain but I do think wine interested people are seeking video channels they find extremely relevant.  YouTube and other portals can bring this to quench thirsts and to ignite experience, and enliven interests.  Wine is the only product that has vintage, variety, producer and place that make for not just thousands of stories but literally hundred of thousands if not even more.  I do think there are too few videos to cover this immense subject.  And I do think that discovery will happen on the video frontier for wine–while wine videos may not have Gaga or Gangnam numbers in their future–there is still a reason to do it.  Quantity only says so much–it’s quality that counts.

Wine video interest has only begun and those people who seek solution for other items while seek out wine in the same way.  YouTube ‘How To’ videos have solved many a technological or other problem–so too does the wine video help to arch those needs as well.  If there is not enough wine content and someone completes a search and doesn’t find what they are seeking that person might assume that either wine content lags or is not created.  But I do think the current online surfer does come back for more–wine and video is a future that still has not been realised.

¡Salud!

http://www.jamesthewineguy.com

***

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

Read more of my wine reviews:

© 2013 James Meléndez / Jaime Patricio Meléndez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved. James the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

Follow, subscribe, like, browse: