Amazon and Wine – More of a Future Together Again? James Melendez

Amazon and wine together?  Well yes to a certain extent that exists already.   Amazon has had some stops and starts and regrouping on wine.

There were stories last week that eluded to Amazon creating it’s own wine.  Then other stories came out like CNBC – “Actually, Amazon now says it’s not developing its own wines”  It was a wine featured on Amazon and the producer’s press release confused the matter.

I was searching for wines on Amazon this year and found none of the random entries I completed came up with any wines.  An acquaintance had his wines on Amazon for a period of time and asked if I could send Amazon the video that was on my YouTube channel of his wine.  In one sense, I hated to do this because I wouldn’t get clicks on my channel but the taller purpose was to help a smaller producer sell his wines.  My video was featured while his SKU was on their site until it sold out.  I have not seen his wines on Amazon again.

The wine question came up because of the Whole Foods (WFMI) purchase by Amazon (AMZN).  It was a good play and I wish I had owned WFMI stock prior to offer but I didn’t.  In many senses the writing was on the wall.  Could have Amazon developed their own private label programme – yes, of course, they could have and I am surprised they did not do so.  I like many people am an Amazon customer–I have never used Amazon Fresh–I was curious at first but the cost ($299 yearly fee) and lack of food stuffs that I need were not available.  Why pay a premium when I cannot get what I need?

I think the interesting question was why wasn’t WFMI more active in DTC?  With GrubHub, Safeway Grocery Delivery and many small online sites sending pre-prepared foods shows a need and a market for Direct-to-Consumer.  But like any organization WFMI choose to not look at their business model as it seems to have been happy in the “Come and Get It” business model.  The private label programme at WFMI is outstanding and there was little capitalisation of their own line in marketing.  I had a friend involved in the development of 365 brand and it is a well designed, great value orientation and covers nearly all of WFMI’s categories.

The win for AMZN is a brand that is standing up and apart from other food retailers.  Has a wide presence in the US with branches in Canada and the United Kingdom.  What AMZN does next is not immediately clear but placing dots on a paper it will be easy to line them up soon.  AMZN will supplement its food offerings with WFMI brands.  It will also have an option to have order online and pick up in person if you want.

Because of this careful and strategic purchase of Whole Foods I think Amazon will take the quality time to integrate Whole Foods: there was speculation about pre-made food delivery providers immediately after AMZN’s announcement.  Likewise there is a need for someone to line up AMZN’s strategy on wine.  But I put a cautionary brake out there.

Wine is the ultimate category–more difficult than say even pharmaceuticals which Amazon has expressed an interest.  The question remains is there profitability in retailing wine, is there value for AMZN to be a full-fledged, full-offering wine retailer?  I think the answer is MAYBE (that is strongest assessment I can give).  I have mentioned countless times why wine is a unique and is the only product category that has a myriad of complexities:

  • Limited quantities produced
  • Many, many ABC (alcohol beverage control) laws, regulations, requirements and licensing
  • Vintage
  • Cuvées
  • Distribution
  • Variety
  • Storage
  • Transportation
  • Bottle formats
  • Website update of SKUs
  • Pricing
  • Competition with it’s own brands that it would retail

Perhaps the best model would be to look at Wine.com – they have worked to mapping out all of the peculiarities of ABC requirements and also the delicateness of wine retailing DTC.  The question is price if Wine.com were to be on the market and the intrinsic value to AMZN core mission – do they intersect enough for a potential purchase?  And it gets me back to MAYBE.  Also keep in mind AMZN may keep doing what they are doing with wine today–is to have it available DTC style from each respective producer and no significant changes.   And there may never be a “Grand Announcement.”  I am skeptical there will be that re-entry or re-interest in wine for AMZN but we’ll have to see.

Until then enjoy a glass of wine.

Salute,

James

James the Wine Guy

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

© 2017 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, drawings, art work, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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Posted in Amazon, Business of Wine, DTC | 1 Comment

A Love for Sicilia – Wine, Food, People and The Land – Part I – Palermo

Sicila – A Drawing I Created Simply Because I couldn’t find a Map that was Showing All of the Wine Regions

I had the privilege of stepping onto the beautiful island of Sicilia this past April (2017). I have been fortunate to have been through almost all of Italia: North to South, East to West.  I have been to all larger Italian cities and many numerous small ones.  I never tire of the adventures and experience of this amazing country.

Sicily loomed large in my mind and represents a land where it is not just a crossroad but more than that—it is a rich culture that would be Sicily with or without being a crossroad.  I am student of history: actually I am passionate about history.  While many people have come and influenced Sicily …. Sicily has persevered and has and is a culture that has included it’s historical experience but something that is all it’s own.

The Normans, the Spanish, the Arabs, Greeks, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and so fourth have left their mark.  Sicily is now appreciated in a way that it should always been viewed—it is an expansive Mediterranean land of expansive vistas, mountains, hills, volcanoes, and many smaller islands surrounding the larger land.  I think I came to visit Sicily late not because I didn’t think it was not important … I thought how will I get around?  I didn’t think it would be easy to get from all points on the island.  I have never thought of Sicily as small and getting there it was much larger than what I had imagined.

I have tasted all Sicilian varieties many times prior to arriving and have always found these varieties compelling, alluring and something I cannot stay away from for too long. Nero d’Avola was the first Sicilian red wine and Grillo the first Sicilian white wine.  And I was finally able to taste the lovely red wine grape that I cannot find in the US – the Perricone grape.  I was very excited to taste a few Perricone wines.

I was delighted to attend Sicilia in Primeur this year at Radicipura.  I was delighted to see the diversity of the tour list and was lucky to get on my first choice which was western Sicily.  I picked a tour of visiting Cantine’s that I wasn’t aware of or had not tasted wines from.

I landed in Palermo to begin my tour of wine producers Baglio di Pianetto, Alessandro di Camporeale, Dei Principi Spadafora, Tenuta Rapitalà, Fuedo di Sisa and Cantine Rallo but before I started on my trek with fellow wine journalists, sommeliers and garden journalists I had a tour of Palermo.  I visited the Centro Storico and I was delighted to get a guided tour.  I like to take a break and listen to someone and glean their knowledge about this large and very accessible city (I am usually my own tour guide).  The Centro Storico was very walkable and I took in as much as one can in this short visit.  While I have read about the many cultures who have visited and some have stayed is both the complexity and depth of it’s beauty and mystery of Palermo.

I am outside the Palazzo dei Normanni

In courtyard of the Palazzo dei Normanni

Exterior wall to the Capella Paletina

Main altar of the Capella – the very beautiful Christ Pantocrator

The ceiling with it’s Muqarnas – an Arabic architectural detail that makes this chapel so unique with a blend of several styles

Beautiful Dome: No Space without Any Mosaic Detail

Glorious mosaic–a very intriguing icon with Christ and God.

My first stop was the Palazzo dei Normanni started in the 9th century by the Emir of Palermo.  The Cappella Paletina was built by Roger II in 1132 which was built on an older Chapel incorporating Byzantine mosaics, Arabic elements of Muqarnas (ceiling) and arches and housed in a Norman structure.  The design of the Cappella is not the result of an accident but purpose built.  I know and often forget the many Byzantine influences in many churches and chapels in Sicily – it is at one level unexpected but in another comforting and awe inspiring. The Christ Pantocrator unifies all of the iconography as is the expected element that brings the entire mosaic art work together.  I would love to experience a mass here–the smell of incense, the sounds of the assembled, the music: a truly engaged and special sense of spirituality must happen here.

Teatro Massimo in Palermo: the largest opera house in Italy; final scenes of Godfather II were filmed here

All Italian cities have their charms and absolute uniqueness.  I did have preconceived notions about Palermo–what would I find?  What would it be like?  We all do this to not make a pre-judgement but to both look forward to a visit and to level set expectations.  Rarely have ever visited a city and especially in Europe where I was disappointed.  Palermo is a city of endless charm–both distant from the Peninsula of Italy but close because of language and hospitality.  Even though Palermo is both an Italian and Sicilian city it feels exactly the way I expected.  I thought the city was absolutely clean…. immaculate.   I wish my home base of San Francisco was as clean.

Love the complexity of this Cathedral exterior and I like how visitors can go to roof top.

Gothic arches uniting the Bell Towers – Intriguing and I cannot think of Another Cathedral’s Exterior that has a similar design

I then went to the Cattedrale Metropolitana della Santa Vergine Maria Assunta (Palermo Cathedral).  The exterior doesn’t match the interior.  The exterior is ornate–a beautiful deep sandstone colour and the eye wonders it’s many architectural elements and designs.  It almost looks more castle-like than cathedral.   The impressive and famous main portico a Catalan-Gothic expression (by Domenico and Antonello Gagini) and is on the southeast corner versus entry from west.  The cathedral exterior ornateness gives an homage to Palermo’s past and it certainly doesn’t feel like many of the Duomo’s in the rest of Italy.

The interior is a marked contrast from interior to exterior.  The nearly ecstatic exterior gives way to a white Baroque interior.  I was hoping for the exterior to match the interior as an ultimate testament to Sicilian design.  I was not disappointed and found intrigue in the altar with it’s many candelabra, the long aisle, side chapels, treasury and the solar meridian (which I would not have expected).

A Hole in the Dome to Let the Sun come Through to Align to the Meridian on the Cathedral’s floor

The Meridian with the Astrological Markings

After visiting Palermo Cathedral, I walked down the Via Vittorio Emanuele you can stroll this main Via to see other sites.  An impressive corner is the heart of where Palermo is split in quarters: The Quattro Canti.  Each quarter has a lot of representation and meaning.  The Quattro represent the four seasons; each have a patron saint as well as one of the better known Spanish Kings of Sicilia.  The Southerly one represents the neighbourhood Albergheria is attached to the Palazzo Reale and is in honour of Charles V and the patron saint is Christina of Bolsena.  The west corner is in the Seralcadio/Capo neighbourhood and is in honour of Philip II and the patron saint is Santa Ninfa.  The north corner is in La Loggia neighbourhood and in honour of Philip IV and the patron saint is Oliva di Palermo.  The east corner is in Kalsa and in honour of Philip III and the patron saint of this corner and patron saint of Siclia is Sant’Agata.  It was a very small intersection and is busy but not overwhelmingly so.

Turn the corner from Quattro Canti and you’ll see the Pretoria Fountai; elevated above the street level.

The Pretoria Fountain

The Pretoria Fountain – Looking East; Santa Caterina is the church in back; on the left is the Comune di Palermo

Go towards church Santa Caterina and take a right to get a splendid view of Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio and San Cataldo.  Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio holds status of co-Cathedral and is a treasury of Byzantine mosaics and dates back to the 1,100s–smaller than the Capella but an outstanding structure of this era.   Santa Maria dell’Ammirgaglio is part of the Italo-Albanian Greek Catholic Church which is in communion with Rome.  The Arab traveler Ibn Jubayr said of this cathedral: “the most beautiful monument in the world.”

To the west of this cathedral is the Church of San Cataldo with 3 pink domes–it is apparent without knowing the history that this was once a mosque now converted to a church.  San Cataldo holds a special place in terms of Arabic and Norman architecture–the outside is clearly and Arabic style and the interior is completely Norman.  San Cataldo is a church of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre which reports directly to the Holy See.

In the background is San Cataldo

I then was able to visit a church that I wanted to see–at least in terms of ornateness.  The Church of the Gesù.  The Gesù is a Jesuit church and constructed in 1590 and completed in 1636–every surface of the church is in bas relief.  Look up at the ceiling and you’ll notice the mural is very striking.  The church was damaged considerably during WWII and the new ceiling fresco was completed and dedicated in 2009.

Beautiful and striking fresco dedicated in 2009

And finally, I head to the outdoor market.  Outdoor markets for me represent my desire to not only have authentic regional cuisine but what I would cook if I was there.  The historic market is known as Ballarò and is on Via Ballarò–the market is a stones throw from the Gesù.

And lastly, I noticed beautiful murals and outdoor wall art.  This shows a certain character of history, artistic side and playfulness of Palermo.

This is part one and more to come about my trek to Siclia.  Don’t wait to see Sicily–it is a wondrous place to visit and I cannot wait to return. Please stay with me on this journey.

Salute,

James

James the Wine Guy

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

Wines courtesy of producer.

© 2017 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, map of Sicilia/Sicily, drawings, art work, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine GuyJames the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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Posted in Italy, Sicilia, Sicilia en Primeur, Sicily, Travel | Leave a comment

Napa Valley and the State of M & A – James Melendez

There has been a lot M&A activity in Napa Valley in the past few years probably more than usual and probably more on the corporate side than a property or label passing say to another wine producer or family.

I recently past along on Twitter a Tweet about Constellation purchasing Schrader and I think there was a chord of response.  I know, for example, when Goosecross was acquired by Golden Equity I was well.. disappointed.  Not just myself but many people like that family connection with wineries.  I think there is desire that a brand remain in family hands and after all that does happen more often in Europe than say California.

Napa Valley more than any other wine region in North America has seen more M&A activity and high end producers will certainly encourage more turn over.

But what we see today is just an continuous change over.  Coca Cola owned Sterling, then it was purchased by Seagrams then Diageo and now Treasury.   Heublein, a former American holding company that owned A1 Steak Sauce, food service companies like KFC and wineries owning at one time Beaulieu and Inglenook.

I think people mourn the loss of a family owned business that becomes corporatized.  Corporations will not have the same feel and touch as a family owned business.  For example, I visited a large wine holding company operation in Napa and the visit was well… not compelling or interesting.  It was a dry and an un-emotional experience–I will not go back because simply there is no reason to go back.

As long as valuations are sky high the urge and temptation to sell to highest bidder will not just be a phase but a continuous activity.  I do understand why people are surprised…even dismayed.

It isn’t just Napa Valley or Sonoma but through all wine growing regions in North America.  There is not the same value of a family holding on to a wine business for many generations like in Europe.  And maybe just maybe the value of holding onto a family business for many generations will develop in North America not now but at some point in the distant future.

****

Santé,

James

James the Wine Guy

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

Wines courtesy of producer.

© 2017 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 GuyJames the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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The Most Misunderstood and Often Vilified Grape: Chardonnay

Why is Chardonnay Still Misunderstood?  And well vilified wine grape variety?

I recently read a Tweet that said something to the affect: “I am not a classic Chardonnay drinker” I was intrigued….what does that mean?

Well Chardonnay is still mis-understood—or at least the myth of Chardonnay in a certain style is still perpetuated.  I actually don’t know what “classic Chardonnay” means – is it highly oaked?  Buttery?  Or does it mean stainless or neutral barrique?  I don’t think heavy oak or heavy malolactic fermentation as “classic.”

I prefer to stand away because I do think at least with North American Chardonnay drinkers are not worrying about too much oak or even MLF.  I think most high quality producers have pulled away from considerable oak or MLF for at least a half a generation.  Using a phrase like “classic” is confusing because what is the basis for “classic.”?  Also perhaps this person mean Chablis as classic?  Too hard to tell and yet Chardonnay is still vilified needlessly.

Then there are those who think of Chardonnay as only an inert wine grape variety.  Chardonnay is still the most widely planted of white wine grape varieties – 400,000 acres / 160,000 hectares.  Chardonnay is a work horse wine grape with a touch of elegance.  Chardonnay does matter in terms of a still or sparkling state.  There are no two Chardonnays that are exactly the same.  Chardonnay presents an opportunity to pair with a wide variety of foods.   Chardonnay adds weight and texture and is a necessary and needed wine grape variety in the library of all white wine grapes.  It is a needed white wine variety with no necessary classic interpretation–it would be a mistake to interpret California Chardonnay of a generation ago as classic–that experience will not land itself in terms of positive distinction but a blimp on the radar–once there and now gone.

I have grown so tired of ABC “Anything But Chardonnay” which induces an immediate ennui–so it not just tires me –it is a less commonly used phrase. If Chardonnay were suddenly not available I do think we would have a large hole in our wine canon.

****

Santé,

James

James the Wine Guy

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

Wines courtesy of producer.

© 2017 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 GuyJames the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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Keeping Your Brand Up to Date on YouTube – James Melendez

I was looking at my YouTube channel and I am trying to ready for video 2,500.  I took a thoughtful review in terms of titles.  I think that on YouTube a title is certainly the proverbial books cover.  The right title is important to get a potential viewer to click.  Also, I am one of the few individuals who have as many videos–it is not just a challenge to keep uniformity…it is a must.

My YouTube channel I can say has been not just about specific bottle reviews but I have been adventurous because in someways YouTube makes you be adventurous.  YouTube per se doesn’t do it but by merely being on YouTube and if you take your art seriously you automatically challenge yourself.  I have challenged myself in terms of video types: what works / what doesn’t work.  I have also had to take a look at metrics–and simple things such as determine best video length.

For me, what has been successful is interviews, specific wine reviews and general wine and beverage subject matter.  What has not been successful are events and too short videos.

I have seen an evolution of my own video presence, delivery and honing in on a conversational tone.  I have seen my cameras improve hence the output much easier on the eyes–I started in 2009 and in video terms that was several generations ago.

As I mentioned earlier I focused in on titles.  I could just leave things the way they are but I also tried to imagine what my brands looks like in total from my viewers point of view and I thought it was too much of a mishmash.

Example of My Point Score Graphic

I had gone from my 10 point scale to the 100 point scale.  I was determined to get my 10 point scale to stick.  But the 100 point scale is so engrained in many wine buyers expectation of wine scoring: I had to update and match that expectation by updating my scoring.  I still show my 10 point scale and 100 point scale (such as above) unified when I publish a wine review.  So here is what I did in wine reviews is a standard titling convention:

Wine Brand / Appellation / Variety / Vintage / Score / Episode Number and my Name

By aligning the titling convention is now uniform.  It did take a while to do it all but I believe it makes for a crisper brand.

Some things I removed was “James the Wine Guy” my video entry clearly displays who I am…. also my last name – I can use an accent mark on the second “e” in my last name or without.  I thought the easiest thing for uniformity sake is to remove the accent mark.

I am glad I made update–I also reminisced on small things… glasses, clothing, background and even subject matter.  I also thought about what I was doing in my life at that time and I can look back and look forward on things I have done since.

Take aways for your YouTube channel

  • Review your channel for consistency in titling
  • Review your playlists:  my belief is that they are too few playlists out there.  The value is to have your playlist being indexed and found and to play more of your videos
  • Promote the videos not just once but several times
  • Do you have enough information for your viewer to take action in the comments section?
  • Review your metrics
    • Look at average views duration
      • Are people tuning out early?
      • Where are your viewers
      • How are they watching them
  • Review your content for:
    • Intro
    • Outro
    • Music

If you have decided on video–I can guess that you have invested time and money—why not maximize your investment and message?  Video tells a lot and it offers a touch of brand enlivenment more than any other media.

****

Santé,

James

James the Wine Guy

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

Wines courtesy of producer.

© 2017 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 GuyJames the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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Troon Whole Grape Fermented Riesling 2016 93 Points – James Melendez

Full name: Troon Whole Grape Fermented Applegate Valley Riesling

A delightful orange wine and I love it is Riesling as an orange wine versus Pinot Gris.  A wine that is fully appreciable, fun and a very reasonable price point – $20 from producer.  It is a great wine to pair with seafood, Asian cuisine and to also enjoy on it’s own.

Scent: Dried fig, green apple, cinnamon, nutmeg, carnation, moist stones

Palate: Dried fruit, ground nutmeg, pepper, hint of flowers, oyster shell, and flowers

Troon Vineyard: http://troonvineyard.orderport.net/product-details/0434/2016-Red-Label-Whole-Grape-Ferment-Riesling

****

Santé,

James

James the Wine Guy

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

Wines courtesy of producer.

© 2017 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 GuyJames the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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Bila Haut Pays d’Oc Rosé – 2016 – 90 Points – James Melendez

Scent: Mountain strawberry, early season cherry, hint of fennel, moist stones and flowers

Palate: fresh strawberry, oyster shell, red tea and hint of white pepper.

****

Santé,

James

James the Wine Guy

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

Wines courtesy of producer.

© 2017 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 GuyJames the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment