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Month May 2016

Time to Check in – Czech Wines – James Melendez


Czech wines unfortunately take a back seat not because they are not good—beer is a monolith—Czech Republic is known as being a very large producer of beer and of course the largest per capita consumption of beer anywhere.

Wine is not top of mind than say if you were in the epicentre of Napa, Bordeaux or Barossa Valley. And a dominant wine region spirits and beer may not be top of mind either.  Fortunately we do not live in an either or world—we can have all three categories and don’t need to compete against.  I do think of beer, wine and spirits as complimentary or at least in harmony with each other.

Czech wine producers have a lot of explaining to do–I mean this in a positive way—my intention is that Czech producers have to talk to their customers and create audience about the lineage of Czech wines.

Czech wines have remained elusive—I cannot find one in North America right now and my many travels to Europe I have never seen a bottle of Czech wine (though I knew that Czech wines are being produced).  The only way I was going to taste Czech wines is to put my foot on the ground. I don’t buy that if it is not widely distributed or available there is a reason. Wine is held hostage because of a plethora of reasons—some include regulation, trade disputes or that wine is in the cross hairs of heavy taxation and protectionism.  I believe and promote that we should be tasting wines from all regions and in doing so does the full story of wine become real.  I am an optimist and that with all of the obstacles wine finds a way to get to the distribution channel and to the consumer.

Europe has had a long lineage for producing wines. The western culture and in particular the Judeo-Christian heritage requires wine for the respective religious experience. True not all Christian churches will allow for alcohol consumption but the heritage for many churches and wine is there. And of course for some wine traditions in Europe pre-dates the church.

Wine grapes have been cultivated since the second century before the common era—hence two millennia’s worth of experience.  Despite this long lineage Czech Republic is not known as wine producing country.

There is an outdated notion of what wines can only pair with either particular foods or cuisine styles. I am a big believer and promoter that you can eat food from one region and drink from another and in doing so we can liberate how we drink and eat.  I say this because you don’t need central European cuisine to pair with central European wine–it should seem obvious but I thought it important to mention it.

The Czech Republic’s top four white wines (and in parenthesis I place the Czech name for each variety and some varieties go by their international name) are 1) Müller-Thurgau, 2) Grüner Veltliner (Veltlínské zelené) , 3) Welschriesling (Ryzlink vlašský), and 4) Riesling (Ryzlink rýnský) and additionally produces Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc (Rulandské bile), Chardonnay, Pinot Gris (Rulandské šedé), Gewürztraminer (Tramín červený), Moravian Muscat (Muškát moravský), Frühroter Veltliner (Veltlínské červené ranéand) and Irsai Oliver and the top red wines are 1) Saint Laurent (Svatovavřinecké) 2) Blaufränkisch (Frankovka) 3) Zweigelt (Zweigeltrebe) 4) Pinot Noir and additionally produces Blauer Portigieser (Modrý Portugal) and Cabernet Sauvignon and there are other white and red varieties produced.

The largest wine region is Moravia and it has four subregions 1) Znojmo 2) Mikulov 3) Velké Pavlovice and 4) Slovácko and Bohemia has two subregions 1) Mělník and 2) Litoměřice. I cannot find a reliable source to give number of wine producers and how many hectares are currently planted – I understand that Moravia produces 95% versus the 5% in Bohemia. I found it surprising to find such little information on Czech wine production.   But I hope to locate the information and update that here in this article.

My entrée for tasting Czech wines began at Vinograf – Senovážné nám. 23, Praha 1 (there are three locations) and I had several Czech wines by the glass and I also bought a bottle of wine.  Vinograf cooks up delightful food and all within reasonable price points. I like the well edited wine list and how each wine selection was perfect. I found the wine professional here to be passionate and gave me great insights. I needed that!

Ševčík Riesling 2013



Scent: Green apple, slight touch of green citrus, flowers and honeycomb

Flavour Characteristics: Heirloom apple, white flowers, tea, awash in wet stones and gentle hint of almond

* * * * * * * 

Jaroslav Osička Milerka Cuvée 2014



IMG_2653 (1)

This wine is Müller-Thurgau 80%; Neuberger 15% and Sauvingon 5%; nicely dry–what I hoped for and it is what I got.

Scent: Heirloom apple, green fig, pine nut, beeswax and hibiscus

Flavour Characteristics: Green apple, gold citrus, hint of almond, white tea and nuanced mineral touch


Krásná hora Moravia Pinot Noir 2014


A wine that I simply didn’t know what to expect.  I was thinking it might be acceptable, passable and I hope it is more than that.  From the moment of smelling this wine to the taste–the wine unfolded and delighted nearly immediately.  In a blind tasting it would be easy to say this is not French, German or any California region–it is decidedly Czech.  Elegant and lean and yet expressive

Scent: Cherry orchard, rustic notes, cinnamon, moist forest floor and cedar.

Flavour characteristics: red cherry, Tayberry, freshly ground spices, pepper and rose petal.


Gala Farm Moravia Svatovavrinecke 2012



Scent:  cherry orchard, leather-suede, cedar wood pile, and under brush

Flavour Characteristics: Tayberry, blackberry, black cherry, hint of black pepper, tea, cedar and violet notes


Each time I taste a wine from a region I haven’t tasted I try to stop and compare this with another region.  Simply some varieties will pick up the terroir and express differently and that some regions may use an entirely different set of clones.  I also want to think that climate my produce a slightly different wine.  I also want to taste the technically the wine is made under quality conditions and then I take the wine for what it is and really think hard about the wine I am tasting.  I don’t want to be overly critical and bottom line I want truly taste and acknowledge the wines at hand.  I was delighting in the Czech wines I had tasted and wish I brought back some bottles.

I love the experience at Vinograf and it may be a great place to start your tasting adventure.  The knowledgable staff was so welcoming and wanting to impart their thoughts.   I ate well in Prague and the food offering at Vinograf is very nicely done.


A very wonderful dish – Sea Bream



Vinograf Senovážné (this is the location I visited – there are three Vinografs in total)
Address: Senovážné nám. 23, Praha 1

I can pontificate about these wines but ultimately I hope you get a chance to taste the virtues of these wines.  I look forward to and will seek out as many Czech wines I can taste.  I have found a wonderful wine country.

Na zdraví,


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

Wines courtesy of Côtes du Roussillon.

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.   If you have any questions or comments please let me know.

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

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Polish Wines Ready to be Tasted – James Melendez



I came to Poland with no expectation for wine or more precisely Polish wine. There is a belief that wine grapes (Vitis vinifera) do not exist in northerly climates like Poland. The belief or misperception is that Poland is both not warm enough and does not have enough sunlight hours to help Vitis vinifera to properly ripen.

While there are very basic needs of the Vitis (grape vine and I am using Vitis versus Vitis vinifera) in terms of sunlight, wind speed, moisture, humidity, angle of sun, etc. (sounds like I am speaking of Terroir only, instead I am referring to a whole host of requirements that are not Terroir specific but a general or minimum requirement). Vitis vinifera (I will use the term ‘Vv’ as an abbreviation) are not all the same if examining genetic code almost all varieties would look quite similar. Instead the variation in varities that exists dictates what can grow where. Pinot Noir often thought of as a very old variety is particularly finicky–it’s delicateness is so pervasive and profound and yet at the same time very compelling. Pinot Noir is descending from the wild grape just like all other Vv’s (Vitis sylvestris) but cannot grow in every climate zone and unlike Syrah is not adaptable to hot or cool climates.

The question is global warming contributing to Poland’s ability to grow Vitis vinifera or hybrid grapes—probably not. Poland probably has been able to do this for sometime and it is through wine pioneers testing and trying what varieties do the best. I look at Quebec as a model for northerly wine grape growing. There are both hybrids and Vv—and you can find producers using both in a cuvee. Poland’s wineries are increasing and have doubled in about 3 years. Today there are at least 87 commercial wineries and some of the hurdles they have had to face are the usual regulatory hurdles.


I was at Warsaw Chopin Airport and I expected to see a lot of Polish beer and Vodka—what I didn’t expect to see was Polish wine. I went Premium Food Gate—you’ll fine everything Polish here—if I had more room I would have purchased more Polish wines and foods. There was a most helpful associate at the store talking to me about Polish wines and he was quite knowledgeable and passionate about Polish wines. He mentioned that most Polish vineyards are small about 1-1.5 Hectares (2.45 to nearly 4 acres). I get the sense like many regions around the world and it reminds me of my visits to Canadian wine countries that Polish producers are still in discovery and confirmation mode of what works best in Poland.   I picked up a 2015 Zweigelt from the producer Winnica Miłosz. I took the bottle with me to Kraków and tasted there. The Zweigelt was beautiful—an identifiable Zweigelt and could be mistaken for no other variety. Beautiful tones of tart cherry, pepper, cinnamon, fruit orchard, cedar notes as well as pomegranate, strawberry. This was not just a passable wine but a wine of excellence. I could have imagined this with the cuisine of the region and with any cuisine styles would pair easily with this wine. I was not expecting a nicely developed wine and true to it’s variety’s characteristics.

I looked for Polish wines on the menus of the restaurant I visited and none of them had any Polish wines. Polish wines are new at least on premise and it will take training and some convincing of the virtues of Polish wines. I do think there are many people willing to taste and try Polish wines. First the opportunity to taste.; second the personnel to support you purchase. Why wouldn’t you want to have a wine from the region you are visiting? I think wine cultures today are built much more quickly than they have in the past. There is a demanding market place for dry wines and I think that is the majority of Polish wines.


I did find more Polish wines as I was leaving Kraków and picked up from the well known Polish producer Adoria. Adoria was founded by Mike Whitney who comes from California and landed in Poland in 1995. I picked up a bottle of his Riesling and Pinot Noir. Very skeptical about the Pinot Noir at first—knowing how finicky this variety is and not sure if Poland could produce a Pinot Noir?  First from what I understand that Mike produces: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling and Bacchus and it took over a year and half to find the right site –he looked at over 300 sites before settling on his site in Zachowice. I tasted both the Riesling and Pinot Noir in Europe and wish I could have taken a bottle to my San Francisco home. The Riesling was nicely dry and filled with evocative notes of wet stones, green apple and mild hint of citrus tones, tea, and delicate nuanced notes of flowers.

When I first poured the Pinot Noir it reminded of a German Pinot Noir—nicely vitreous and no mistaking this wine for anything other than Pinot Noir. I loved the wild strawberry, rose petal, clove, graphite and violet notes. Completely won over by this wine. Don’t let the vitreous colour dissuade you. Don’t compare this Pinot Noir to France, Oregon or California—Pinot Noir is certainly reflecting it’s region and it would be a mistake to not take this wine seriously.


Keep an open mind for Polish wines—you might be positively surprised by what is in your glass and how this can be paired with a vast array of cuisines. It’s a big wine world out there and I am so delighted to have tasted Polish wines. Give them a taste when you get an opportunity.

Dziękuję Ci,


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.   If you have any questions or comments please let me know.

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

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James the Wine Guy’s Value Proposition

Value and social media is a rare topic and I cannot recall seeing such an article before (though it probably exists somewhere).  Being a wine writer, journalist, videographer, and judge it makes me wonder why this isn’t a bigger topic.  When I look at the traditional wine “bloggers” and other personalities I don’t see any of material on what each brand offers both reader and producer.  What do I give in response to my exposure to wine.  I do receipt samples and in the same breath I will also say I have purchased a fair number myself.

I do think producers who sample their product with writers/bloggers may expect a best return on their marketing dollar (or other currency).  I don’t think when I receipt a sample that it is to kick back, open up and pour away.  I do think there is an expectation of a review or at least a very minimum of a comment.  I like many wine writers or publications don’t always agree that every bottle receipted will culminate in a wine review either and I post in my sample policy.  But I do believe that not all wine samples distributed are treated in the same manner and this gets back to value.  Does wine reviewer optimize the samples given?

First, I’ll begin why I may not review every single wine I get.  Some reasons: I have receipted a wine where the wine closure failed (rare but it does happen) and I of course notify sender.  Another reason is that I have a wine that is a mass market wine which I may review but most likely will not–the reason–simply there are plenty of reviews of well known brands.  I also might receipt a low quality wine that is not in my brand’s scope and I will not review.  And I will not accept a private label brand for a wine retailer or supermarket.  I do hope a wine can be much more available than at one retailer.

I hear from other wine writers where they are constantly asked by producers or PR people where are the reviews.  I do get this occasionally and often I have complete review and refer those individuals back to the media where the review is posted.  So this is my marker if I am behind in my reviews or not.

Here is my value proposition:

  • Either a written or video review (possibly both – hard time find time to do both)
  • Post videos on my JamesTheWineGuy channel
    1. Classify in the specific categories (example for an Chianti Classico wine – place in Playlist: a) Italian wines b) Chianti c) Sangiovese
  • Utilise best practices for my YouTube channel
    1. These can and often change due to emphasis or de-emphasis of alogorithim
  • Post videos on my Facebook like page
  • Share on Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn
  • Asking my community to give a like and share the videos they see
  • Also engaging community about their thoughts on the wines I have reviewed
  • I also give fair and balanced reviews of all wines
  • Also, try to point consumer when they ask about the wine or point back to producer or retailer

I think it is important to give a “At a Glance” view of my value proposition as it is about demonstrating what my brand contributes. The thought I would like to leave you is that I offer a rich value proposition.   Any comments and questions, please post them or share on social media.

Thank you,


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

Wines courtesy of Côtes du Roussillon.

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.   If you have any questions or comments please let me know.

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

Follow, subscribe, like, browse: