March 2015
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Month March 2015

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

IMG_5239 - Version 2


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.

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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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