The Seven Bridges of Königsberg and My European Travels – James Melendez

konigsberg_bridges

I had a great journey through Europe last year—spending over a couple of months and visiting 11 countries. I knew I had time to travel; it was how to see and do as much as possible. I had an opportunity and problem in how to travel—complexity builds in quickly. How do I get to each place efficiently? I thought of Leonhard Euler’s Seven Bridges of Königsberg problem – the problem statement is how to cross these bridges once without having to go over one a second time. This “problem” helped to lay foundation for Graph Theory in the discipline of Topology.  Basically through the aide of Graph Theory there is no way to not cross a bridge twice in Königsberg (city is now named Kaliningrad).

Yes, you guessed it a math and science nerd here.

I looked at my travel wish list and it was chock full of places I had never been to or had never spent enough time in. I will describe the problem that I came across…. It was more of a mathematical problem than a difficult or hard problem to overcome. I did well but I could have done better.

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The problem came from a crossroads issue. While in Bologna I thought and stood with my decision to go north to Venezia (Venice) and Padova (Padua) because they were closer. It was just not a closeness decision point—it came from an airport one. I thought from Italy my journey would take me next to Vienna. I thought taking a flight would make the most sense—while taking a train would have worked I would have most likely been on an overnight.

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I looked at flight from Venezia and there were fewer options and much more expensive. I thought that even though the last Italian city I would see is Torino I could still take a train to one of Milano’s airports for maximum possibilities. The problem kept compounding on this option because I would have to go to the Milano Centrale and then a train to either Linate or Malpensa the time lag was getting longer and fewer options (this option would have meant waking up extra early too). Timing was too long and surprising the options were not as numerous as I would have liked. So my choice was to fly out of Torino. While I was looking at Torino the options started to decrease. Originally there was a Turkish air option—rather inexpensive via Istanbul. As I was ready to buy my ticket the flight day I selected this was no longer an option. I decided to try Air France and when I was ready to make purchase—I could not select seat even if I paid for a seat assignment as this was not an option. Oddly, I then went to Air France partner KLM Royal Dutch and found a similar flight where I could select seat. I finally went with this flight from Torino to Vienna.

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What I wish I would have done with take a train from Bologna to my furthest westward point in Italy to Torino and then went east to Milano, Verona, Trento and then Padova and Venezia.

I then could have gone eastward to Ljubljana, Slovenia and the to Zagreb, Croatia and then to Budapest and finally to Vienna. I could have saved a bit more time and taken the train but my calculations showed I would have to shave a day off for my Vienna adventure but would have see two more countries.

You can never always predict as well is how you will like or love a place. I thought I would love Torino. Capital of Italian chocolate, beautiful backdrop of Italian mountains and the Mole Antonelliana would make for an outstanding experience. I should have taken warning when a friend from Southern Italy who said to me “Why… are you going to Torino?” Though he didn’t “warn” me not to go he was just questioning if I should go to Torino.  While the alps were scenic it was not as compelling of a city to visit than I had hoped for.

Travel tips—you might get especially with familiar and larger cities:.

“I love Paris”

“You have to go once…”

“Amazing…”

“Vibrant…”

“So much to do….”

You get the idea….  Smaller cities don’t always have a register in our social circle. Sometimes you are a pioneer when it comes to travel. Sometimes you will never get an absolute from people around and sometimes people won’t give their opinions or at least the opinions that you need. Reading and researching online only gets you so far. Rick Steves is not someone I hang my hat on… I think people fall in love with his rhetoric but his highlights I find limiting and not always insightful. I think he became popular in the US because American’s fear travel (they want to travel but fear going as well). He makes it comfortable. I would say for me what was a turn off about Rick Steves in general is that I feel he has a negative feel even though he may not say it on his well edited featured travels. In an on line lecture I saw I thought he was negative… I remember he was talking about what you might experience in Europe and he mentioned that you will probably be around people who will smell bad…… I immediately stopped watching because I was turned off by his tone—it was this and it was just his general tone seemed so negative. I didn’t need to watch and listen anymore.   I have not experienced this myself and I have traveled to Europe often from top to bottom and side to side (meaning eastern, western, northern and southern Europe).

While I do know people who travel to wide and far and all continents and yet I know that if I want challenge I don’t need to go necessarily remote. I find my love of history and adventure is still Europe and yes I will travel to other places. On my 2016 journey to Europe, I found people who didn’t speak English and I had to find my way around perhaps they were speaking Slovak or Hungarian I would lean on perhaps another language such as German, French or Italian—which was not always successful. But there was the challenge and even excitement with how to I get around or find out information.  This is the only time in my life that I spoke so little English.

My mobile phone worked most everywhere and thank goodness for an outstanding data plan I used it everywhere I went.

Here is what I downloaded prior to visiting each city:

  • map of the area I was going to be (especially train station area in great detail)
  • the city
  • the areas you will be visiting
  • the metro or tram lines
  • a phrase sheet on basics of the country you are visiting

I download this prior to my visit just in case my network is operating slowly.

I think it is my responsibility to fit in terms of being as local as possible. I don’t want to be conspicuous traveler. I try to be sensitive to my surrounding and make it a great journey for myself. I was so fascinating in how people perceive me. Here in San Francisco I am asked “what am I”? And that happens to me in Europe as well. In Poland, I was mistaken for being Italian and in Berlin I was mistaken for being Polish. I am fascinating in how perception of affiliation or background is what guides ourselves and people around. I think when I was in Italy speaking Italian as much as possible and I know that I work on using the accent of the language I am speaking. I have wondered if I am speaking in Italian does someone wonder whether I am Italian or even make that something they think about.  Treading lightly is the utmost of importance.

I think what I learned about this long trek is to fear less, embrace more often the uncertainty that travel will always holds out for you. I have been rewarded more than punished. I love travel and I love adventure.

I think the Seven Bridges of Königsberg problem is more likely to be a feature of your travel if you are visiting a lot of cities on your journey. Also, when you combine several cities and trying to either map out a potential trajectory the issue of not just if it is possible comes into play but how many options do you truly have (train, car, bus, plane)? Europe is a place that tempts you with always pushing forward to go to “one more city.”   It is also to look at travel in terms of how to reduce your hotel / air BNB check-ins but that some feature of movement requires the necessary step of going to where you will be staying.

I had never gone through so many inter-country train journey’s as I did on this trip. I was not certain what that would be like. I know that I would lean on finding a place you are going to visit and perhaps there is a Deutsche Bahn option. I was surprised to take an in county trip from Verona to Trento on DB. I suggest that you look seat map options on how to get you and your luggage to your desire location. I have looked at business or first class options to make my journey more comfortable and less stressful. For me it was worth the extra money to not worry where I would sit or where I would place my luggage.

When you think of your many stops in Europe—think about your ground transport options. I would also share your journey with one of your friends for their comments and suggestions. I would also look not just at air options but keep a train option in mind—look at your routing and question it if you can be more efficient.

I would redo travel for 2016 if I have the knowledge that I have today.  I know that I might have missed a city but it was through the experience of visiting that city that I new I would not want to visit again.

May your travel be amazing and filled with great experiences, food and may you connect with good people.

Wishing you a great new year!

Santé,

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

I will also post this on my James the Travel Guy blog site–the reason I do this is that I have two different audience’s per blog site.

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Top 100 Wines for 2016 – James Melendez / James the Wine Guy

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As in my top 100 yearly wines it is never easy–always a hard thing to do but also a highlight of stunningly gorgeous wines.  I complete a yearly top 100 because I taste several thousands per year and not all of them are the same of course.  I was privileged to have traveled as much as I did this year.  I looked at past 100s over time and I do say they vary in terms of where the wines are coming from.  This year I have had the best year of tasting French and Italian wines.

I stepped foot on ground in the following countries this year: Italy, Vatican City, The Netherlands, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, and the UK.  I was able to taste for the first time wines from Slovakia, Czech Republic and Poland.   The wine scene, of course, is alive and lively in all of Europe.  I knew when I was in Puglia for example that I would be tasting a lot of wines that unfortunately will never hit US shores.  I was delighted to taste sparkling wines and rosé wines from Puglia.  I did get considerable experience tasting Champagne.  A delight to taste so many wines–and with ease to find Brut Nature or Extra Brut unlike in my home base of San Francisco.  I found so many grower Champagnes and I was able to taste Drappier Quattor IV – which is a rarity unto itself–incorporating the four official white wine grapes of Chardonnay, Vrai Blanc (Pinot Blanc), Petit Meslier, and Arbanne.  The wine is memorable and I listed on my top 100 for 2016.  I loved that I was actually able to taste Petit Meslier and Arbanne from the vine and that Michel Drappier is committed to growing these wine grapes.  I also very much liked walking his vineyards and having him give the tour.

I never list number one has the highest ranking wine of the year–so please read this as a set of wines. Some publications have that hierarchy but I don’t believe in doing that.  You might just look at point scores as a guide as to what is “number 1” but I caution against that as so many wines/varieties and regions cannot be compared to other wines/varieties and regions. It makes no sense to do so–it is a bit like comparing apples to oranges.  This list is in Alphabetical order.

I hope you get to taste some of these wines!

Wishing you a great 2017!

  1. A Vita Cirò 2013 – 93 Points
  2. Acquiesce Lodi Belle Blanc 2015 – 92 Points

3. Almaviva Puente Alto Red Wine 2013 95 Points

4. André Clouet Brut Nature NV 93 Points

5. Balleto Sexton Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2012 92 Points

6. Benati Nerello Mascalese 2012 93 Points

7. Benoit Lahaye Champagne Blanc de Noirs NV 93 Points

8. Biondelli Franciacrota Brut NV 92 Points

9. Bonny Doon Le Cigar Volant Central Coast Red Wine 2012 93 Points

10. CARO Mendoza Red Wine 2013 94 Points

11. Casa Caterina Cremont Blanc de Blanc 2007 Brut 93 Points

12. Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut Réserve NV 94 Points

13. Champagne Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru NV 94 Points

14. Champagne Bruno Paillard NPU 2003 95 Points

15. Champagne Chartogne-Taillet Les Couarres Extra Brut NV 94 Points

16. Champagne Drappier Grande Sendrée Cuvée 2008 94 Points

17. Champagne Drappier Quattuor Blanc de Quatre Blancs Brut NV 94 Points

18. Champagne Dumagin La Cuvée 17 93 Points

19. Champagne Etienne Calsac L’Echappée Belle Extra Brut NV 94 points

20. Champagne Gaillimard Pere et Fils Cuvée de Reserve 94 Points

21. Champagne Gaillimard Pere et Fils Cuvée Prestige Millesime 2011 95 Points

22.Champagne Gaillimard Pere et Fils Cuvée Quintessence – 94 Points

23. Champagne Gaillmard Pere et Fils Cuvée Grande Reserve Chardonnay Brut NV 94 Points

24. Champagne J. de Telmont OR 1735 94 Points

25. Champagne J. de Telmont Sans Soufre NV 93 Points

26. Champagne Jean Vesselle Demi-Sec Rosé Cuvée Friandise 93 Points

27. Champagne José Michel & Fils Brut Pinot Meunier 93 Points

28. Champagne Larmandeier-Bernier Longitude Premier Cru Extra-Brut – 94 Points

29. Champagne Larmandeier-Bernier Rosé de Saignée Premier Cru Extra-Brut 94 Points

30. Champagne Larmandeier-Bernier Terre de Vertus Premier Cru Non-Dosé 95 Points

31. Champagne Larmandeier-Bernier Vieille Vigne du Levant Grand Cru Extra-Brut 2007 94 Points

32. Champagne Lepreux-Penet Bulles Grand Cru Blanc de Noirs NV 93 Points

33. Champagne Maillet Exception Blanche Millésimé Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs NV 93 Points

34. Champagne Mailly Grand Cru Millésimé 2008 94 Points

35. Champagne Mailly L’intemporelle Grand Cru Cuvée Millésimé 2009 – 94 Points

36. Champagne Mailly Les Enchansons Grand Cru Cuvée Millésimé 2000 – 95 Points

37. Champagne Marc Hebrart Premier Cru Brut Rosé – 94 Points

38. Champagne Pascal Doquet Diapassion Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs NV 93 Points

39. Champagne Philippe Gonet Extra Brut 3210 Blanc de Blancs NV 94 Points

40. Champagne Tarlant Zero Brut Nature NV 94 Points

41. Champagne Vilmart & Co. Premier Cru Grand Cellier d’Or 2010 93 Points

42. Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf de Pape 2012- 94 Points

43. Chenowith Green Valley of RRV Pinot Noir 2012 93 Points

44. Concha y Toro Don Melchor Puente Alto Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 94 Points

45. Contadi Castaldi Franciacorta Brut Rosé NV 92 Points

46. Coolshangh Vineyard Okanagan Valley Chardonnay 93 Points

47. COS Pithos Bianco Siliica 2013 92 Points

48. Daniel Dampt et fils Chablis Premier Cru Les Vaillons 2015 93 Points

49. Domaine Carneros La Terre Promise Carneros Estate Pinot Noir- 2013  93 Points

50. Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine 2014 93 Points

51. Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru “Valmur” 2014 95 Points

52. Domaine William Fèvre Premier Cru Fourchaume Chablis 2014 – 94 Points

53. Emeritus Pinot Hill Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2013 94 Points

54. Emile Beranger Pouilly-Fuissé 2015 94 Points

55. Franciscan Estate Cuvée Sauvage Carneros Chardonnay 2013 – 93 Points

56. Fumanelli Valpoliclla Classico Superiore 2013 – 93 Points

57. Galafarm Moravia Svatovavřinecké 2012 93 Points

58. Garfano Simpotica Rosso Salento IGP – 2013 93 Points

59. Georges Duboeuf Pouilly-Fuissé 2015 94 Points

60. Gotsa Babaneuri Valley Mtsvane ’13 94 Points

61. H&H Malvasia Madeira 20 YO – 94 Points

62. Vaglio Massa I Fratelli Negroamaro IGP Salento 2014 94 Points

63. Jean Claude Bessie Chablis Grand Cru 2014 94 Points

64. William Fevre Chablis Premier Cru Fouchaume 2014 94 Points

65. Vinařství Krásná Hora Pinot Noir, Moravia 2014 93 Points

66. Kindzmarauli Kakhetian Royal 2013 93 Points

67. La Chablisienne Les Preseuses Chablis Grand Cru 2010 94 Points

68. Louis Roederer Brut Millésimé 1980 95 Points

69. Louis Roederer Brut Nature – 2009 9.5 Points

70. Louis Roederer Cristal 2002 96 Points

71. Marchesi Fumanelli Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2013 93 Points

72. Marchesi Fumanelli Terso Veneto White Wine – 2014 92 Points

73. Maruli Tenuta Pardiga Rosato Copertino DOP – 2015 93 Points

74. Mattina Fiore Edna Valley Albarino 2015 92 Points

75. McCay Lodi Abba Yyd Grenache 2012 94 Points

76.Michael Shaps Monticello Honah Lee Vineyard Petit Manseng 2014 – 93 Points

77. Mila Vuolo Colli di Salerno Aglianico 2007 93 Points

78, Muhr-van der Niepoort Samt & Seide 2012 – 94 Points

79. Negroamaro Bianco Puglia IGT “Rocci” 2014 93 Points

80. Nottingham Cellars Livermore Valley Casa de Vinas Micro-Lot Reserve Cabernet Franc ’13 93 Points

81. Patricia Green Freedom Hill Vineyard – 2014 93 Points

82. Piero Mancini Vermentino di Gallura 2015 92 Points

83. Pierre Moncuit Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru NV 93 Points

84. Plenus Pecorino Colline Pescaresi IGT 2014 93 Points

85. Rare Wine Co.Historic Wine Series Baltimore Rainwater Medium Dry 93 Points

86. Samuel Tinon Birtok Dry Tokay Furmint 2014 94 Points

87. Samuel Tinon Szent Tamás Dry Tokaj Furmit 2015  93 Points

88. Sea Smoke Sea Spray SRH LD Blanc de Noirs 2012 92 Points

89. Bojt Egri Csillag 2015 93 Points

90. Shumi Tsinandali Georgia Dry White Wine 2014 – 94 points

91. Terre del Principe Pallagrello Nero Casavecchia Terre del Volturno ’12 93 Points

92. Tommasi della Valpolicella Amarone Classico – 2001 – 94 Points

93. Tre Tomoli Rosa Susmaniello IGT 2015 93 Points

94. Troon Applegate Valley Black Label Vermentino 2014 93 Points

95. Valenta Nitrianska Slovakia Rizling Vlasšky 2015 92 Points

96. Vasco Urbano Livermore Valley The Sherif GSM 2013 93 Points

97. Vega-Sicilia Unico Ribera del Duero 2008 – 95 Points

98. Vega-Sicilia Valbuena 2011 Ribera del Duero 2011 94 Points

99.. Vine Cliff Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 92 points

100. Waits-Mast Pinot Noir Blanc 2014 94 Points

Santé,

James

James the Wine Guy

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

© 2016 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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More Written Reviews; Reducing Videos Reviews – James Melendez

I am going to start writing more wine reviews than video wine reviews.  I am going to do so as I have given a lot of my time for my YouTube wine channel I don’t get a lot of credit or support.  I was looking for a recipe and accidentally clicked upon a guy doing a mediocre production with 50k hits on a pot roast.  A pot roast video at 50l hits?!?!  I do have one tech video over 40k clicks which feels great and oh by the way–it was accidental–I though it was a sleeper video-as it turns out people need a solution for a tech problem they were having.

Wine on YouTube is a sleeper and has always been so–never mind that beer and spirits do quite well–depends on video producer but in general there is much more interest.

I think my head on the nail is that smaller production wines are going to get fewer clicks… also, there are so many more wines produced on a yearly based as compared with beer or spirits.  There is a wine video consumer–they just don’t know where to look with this monolith of a subject matter.  When they know of a producer and they don’t find a video–guess what happens—they stop looking. They stop being curious on line because their searched have yielded nothing they are seeking.  I get it why consumers give up on wine videos.

I am NOT giving up on wine videos.  I am going to be more strategic.  I think anytime someone sends me a sample the expectation is not just a review but a video review.  Well a video review takes much more time to do than a written review.  My fellow reviewers spend much less time per wine than I do and they are expected to do anything else.

I don’t get paid to do a wine video and the time expended has been great.  While I have never promised a review of every wine I get I certainly have not promised I’ll make a wine video.  I am having to be more strategic with increasingly less time that I have and especially a full table of wine all the time.  I am both back logged in terms of what I have on my tasting table as well as what videos I have already filmed.  At this rate I cannot never catch up or even have time to producer general or education subject matter videos on wine.

I do think my written wine review counter parts get much more equity than I get.  I will expect producers to do their part when I do a video and after all it is with respect to the time I give for free.  I expect producers to do what they should be doing in their own interest–promote the videos they do receive–via a like, a retweet, share the posting after all it is in their sole economic benefit not mine.  I have notice some producers don’t even follow me on Twitter or other social media.

Just like a wine producer, PR or marketing group,  I just need to be more strategic and I have started to communicate to PR, marketing groups or wine producers themselves when I see both an opportunity to not just promote but also to support me trying to promote their product.

I have always been responsive to producers, PR and marketing agencies.  When I have been asked if I have reviewed their wines more often than night I send them the link.  I have given value to producers and will continue to do so.

I remember I was on a conference call and one person I meet said hew as putting enormous hours into one wine video.  I gave some experience points and stayed away from being preachy but there can be a rude awakening to the world of wine video content and expectation for clicks.

I love wine videos and videos in general and perhaps some day I can make a living at it.  I just need to click on any food, beer or spirits producer to continually inform and be inspired. And someday and it is not a new years resolution I will bring content back into check.

Santé,

James

James the Wine Guy

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

© 2016 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.

Photo is courtesy of Tina Caputo

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The Art of Wine and The Art of Fragrance – James Melendez

img_8862 img_8863 Sometime loving the finest things in life are in conflict or at least in perception but not in reality.  I am a huge lover of fragrance and wine.  I have never worn fragrance at a technical tasting or a consumer or trade/media tasting.  I want to make sure I am not the cause of someone not perceiving the wine they are tasting fully.  But when I am not at a tasting I love fragrance and love to wear it.

Here is a relationship that has been bound to me in terms of looking and observing the world through the senses experience of smell.  Smell or scent can be a fully loaded word.  The word “smell” denotes a negative image immediately in some people.  

The relationship is that with wine the perception and enjoyment is through scent.  The physiology of perceiving wine is delivered via the sense of smell hence the overload with wearing a fragrance at a technical tasting can affect some people.

The gift of loving scent is a good and a challenging thing.  Scent is an imprint on many people’s perception of things past but also evocation of the future and of emotion.  It is a simple pleasure and it is a complex one.  Based on smell and even texture issues I am not an egg eater.  The smell of a frying egg turns my stomach–I cannot get past the smell let alone eat one.  I know few people who don’t eat eggs–when I say that I don’t like eggs… I get the quizzical “really!?!”  Yes, really I have not changed that in the decades of my life.  I don’t feel like I have missed anything except sharing in the morning ritual of many breakfasts.  In childhood, there were things I couldn’t or didn’t want to eat but I grew to love them–seafood being one of them.  Only the past few years I have started to enjoy some cheeses not all.  Being a wine writer it is assumed that I have always loved cheese… I still cannot eat the very pungent kind.  

Dental work has been a challenge for me and that is because of the smell… of that periodic experience of the drill…. whenever that happens I plead with my dentists to evacuate often.  The smell of decayed organic matter is something I cannot tolerate.  It also reminds me when I was young and when I had dental work–I remember that smell then and of course remember now.   Luckily my dentists have been amazing at avoiding that smell which has made me no longer dreading a visit.  I can handle the inorganic smells at the dental chair–they are momentary and truly do not bother me in the least–I don’t love it but I don’t hate it either.

My love for things wine and those things that are fragrances stem from goodness.  I know that sounds too idealistic but it stems from my boyhood imagination.  One of my aunts has a plum orchard on her property.  One autumn I was in the orchard (I was 8 years old) helping pick plums and there was a smell of already fallen plums that have rejoined the earth and created a simple and haunting scent.  The Scent I can still smell today …. I wish I could create this in a fragrance… it is rustic tones of moist earth, fallen leaves, stone fruit drying, leather, suede, cardamom, and mild hint of cinnamon…. And all of this is just a shorthand for a compound that is probably vastly more complex and yet beautiful. I told my aunt of this gift of her orchard and how meaningful it is to me today.  I think many of us fall back to something memorable or evocative to think of a past experience or something with a positive attribute.

A positive scent for me brings confidence or longing.  It reminds me of lovely people and gestures, amazing journeys and good times.  And good things in the past and goodness to come.  Think of the Three Kings in the Gospel of Matthew–they bring three objects to the baby Jesus–gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  There is scholarly debate on what the three gifts mean–and yet it is something most people can recite.  Two of three gifts were of a scent nature.   Positive scent have had both a kingly attribute as well as a medicinal one–one of healing and one of assurance in love.

I think of Dior’s Diorissimo that my mother loves and I hold dear.  I remember when it was difficult to find in the US I found some in Germany and brought back this back for my mother.  Because she is fond of it I am too.  I remember working in a department store in college and I placed of the fragrances at that time on to my cognitive map.  There were fragrances that I detested – Magi Noire to me has left an imprint of and the only word I can think of is as an oppressive smell–yes, I know it is a dramatic word.  It was a long and annoying fragrance that had not top, heart or base notes–it was loud, sweaty-powdery and utterly unpleasant and annoyingly lingering.  YSL’s Paris–smelled rich–over the top red rose petal characteristics.  

I have been fortunate to get as gift some amazing fragrances.  A bottle of Penhaligon’s Blenheim Bouquet is something I treasure today and it gives me a specific of all things English–it is after all made in England and is a Royal Warrant fragrance.  It smells gorgeously of citrus tones, gin and tonic, and subtle spice notation.  Their warm note fragrance Endymion is an evocation of wood, oud, cedar, cardamom, sandalwood and leather tones.  One of my all time favourites–beyond memorable–it is exhilarating.

I love the notes that I speak of in my favourable wine reviews – here are some words I use in fragrance and wine notations.  This is just a small portion of what I utilize in my descriptors.

  • Oud
  • Cardamom
  • Clove
  • Allspice
  • Cinnamon
  • Stone fruit ochard
  • Plum orchard during autumn
  • Underbrush
  • Bay leafs
  • Dark red rose petal
  • Leather
  • Suede
  • Moss
  • Oak
  • Toast
  • Anise
  • Beeswax
  • Saffron
  • Sandelwood
  • Myer Lemon
  • Limes
  • Quince
  • Buddhahand
  • Blood orange
  • Clementine
  • Dried fruit
  • Passion fruit
  • Pear
  • Green apple
  • Blackberry
  • Tayberry
  • Pomegranate
  • Lavender
  • Sage
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Marjoram
  • Mineral
  • Stone
  • Seashell
  • Flint
  • Vetiver
  • Rain

It is absolute fun to look at the many descriptors that I love and more importantly are accurate in my opinion to getting to what the accuracy of smell and taste as it relates to wine.    I attribute freshly opened tennis ball can to Ian Cauble as he talks about Germany Riesling.  Boot polish as a reference to Shiraz by James Halliday.  My view of wine, beer, spirits and coffee is richer because of my love of positive scents and fragrances.   I feel I have been better in honing on characterization of wine, beer, spirits and coffee.  I love the allure and all at once simplicity and complexity of fragrance and wine..  

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In my neighbourhood, I just recently discovered Tigerlilly Perfumery–It is so close I do not know how I have never stopped in or noticed?!?  I blame it on being in my gilded cage–I love my house but I am always working.  I was running a quick errand and I saw some fragrances… and I stopped and saw a great ensemble of independent fragrance producers.  I started talking with the shops professionals and met Antonia–the stores owner and she is a master of fragrances.  I loved talking with her about her experience and her love of fragrance.  I was guided from one amazing fragrance to another.  I was so glad this thoughtful shop exists.  My current obsession is saffron– to trying a whole host of independent fragrance artists and trying a dizzyingly large number and thought I knew what was out there in the independent scent artists world–it turns out I feel woefully not aware of many of these artists.  

Today’s scent trends are headed to unisex fragrances–okayness for men to wear softer, sweeter fragrances.   And I am dazzled by the beauty of what is being created today.  I love the simple and complex world of creative forces.  I wonder and I do look forward to meeting these artists–what propels them –why do they make what they make?

This subject matter of fragrance gets very little coverage and yet I felt I should talk about because I love the fine art of fragrance and evocative scents.

I’d like to know your thoughts on fragrance—your fragrances, your thoughts in general and your thoughts on wine and scent.

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Santé,

James

James the Wine Guy

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

© 2016 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.

Photo is courtesy of Tina Caputo

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James the Wine Guy Interview Series: Tina Caputo

I had the privilege of being on a press trip with some very fine and insightful wine writers.  I was so glad to have been on the same trip with Tina for the Champagne Harvest tour this past September (2016).  I knew we would be friends when we both appreciate the love of a fine wine like Champagne and the irresistible power of potato chips in the same sitting.

Tina is a superbly friendly person and is a very talented wine, food and lifestyle writer and a great depth and breadth of experience in this wonderful world of wine, food and lifestyle.

Here are the questions I asked in a recently interview with this Northern Californian now based in Washington, D.C.

I enjoy this series because I too learn more about the people I am interviewing.  I hope you enjoy this interview as much I do.

Q. How did you choose your subject matter (lifestyle, food and wine writer)?

A. I grew up in an Italian family (my dad came to the U.S. from Calabria in the 1950s), so good food and wine have always been a big part of my life. To my dad, wine was like water—something you drink every day—and we kids were welcome to taste it if we wanted to. I didn’t start really enjoying it until I was in college, though, when I worked in restaurants. That’s when I began learning about wine.

Q. On your move from West Coast to East Coast—what is the difference in wine culture?

A. The move has been really interesting. With easier access to Europe from the East Coast, there are a lot more imported wines in D.C. than on the West Coast. Living in Sonoma and the Bay Area, I was surrounded by North Coast wines. They’re less common out here. That’s fun for me, because I’m getting to know new wines from other parts of the world. It’s also fun to taste the wines from Virginia—some of them are really good, especially the Viognier and Cab Franc.

Q. Do you find a greater assortment of import wines versus domestic wines in your home base of DC?

A. Yes! There’s a wine shop called Cleveland Park Wine & Spirits that has an incredible selection of wines from all over the world—including places like Brazil, Bulgaria and even lesser-known U.S. regions like Arizona and Michigan. There’s a lot to explore.

Q. DC is proximate to Virginia wine country and there is quite a number there—will there be more Virginia wines that are sent beyond VA, MD and DC?

A. I hope so. There are some very good producers in Virginia (Linden, RdV, Boxwood and Barboursville, to name a few), and they deserve a wider audience. Unfortunately, I think people outside the region (and even within the region) still need convincing that wines from Virginia can be just as good as wines from California, and other major U.S. regions.
Q. What was your first bottle of life changing wine?

A. My first wine industry job was at Wine Institute in San Francisco, in the early `90s. At Christmas time, all the employees received an assortment of wines left over from events held during the year, and in my stash one year was a bottle of Chateau Woltner (now Ladera) Chardonnay. It was so different from the fat, buttery Chards I was used to, it really opened my eyes to what great Chardonnay could be.

Q. What is your favourite restaurant town in the world?

A. There are so many, it’s hard to choose! Some of my favorites are Barcelona, Lisbon and Rome. Anywhere I can have fresh-from-the-sea fish and shellfish with great wine is my happy place.

Q. What do you miss about the West Coast?

A. Two things: I miss the easy access to great wineries and producers, and the local grocery stores. In D.C., I have yet to find a great independent grocery store that sells the kind of fresh produce, seafood and local meats that, say, Oliver’s or Petaluma Market have. I’m sorry to say I took them for granted!

Q. What is your favourite destination for food and wine? I can’t list just one, so I’ll give you two: Sonoma County and Spain.

A. What wine region is the most under realized? I recently visited the Snake River area of Idaho and was really impressed with the wines—especially Syrah and Tempranillo. This is a region to watch.

Q. What is the most under appreciated wine variety?

A. It’s not exactly under the radar, but I’d like to see Sauvignon Blanc get more love. It’s such a beautiful variety and has so many different expressions, depending on the region, it’s a shame that it sometimes gets overshadowed by Chardonnay.

Q. How has wine writing changed especially during the digital age?

A. There are so many more voices in wine writing today than when I started out—and that’s a good thing. Before widespread Internet access, you were limited to handful of publications if you wanted to learn about wine. If you couldn’t relate to their writers’ tastes, or found the publications to be stuffy… well, too bad! Today there are so many alternatives to the traditional media outlets, people can have a bit more fun with the topic and cover it from all sorts of angles and perspectives. A lot of very good writers, who are both passionate and knowledgeable about wine, now have a platform. The downside is that it’s harder to get paid. (:

Q. What is one wine region that you have not visited but it is top on your list?

A. I’d love to visit New Zealand. Two of my favorite wine varieties are Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, and the scenery looks absolutely gorgeous.

Tina Caputo Biography:

Tina is a Washington, D.C.-based wine, food and lifestyle writer, and the producer and host of the podcast “Winemakers Drinking Beer.” Most recently, she was editor-in-chief of Vineyard & Winery Management magazine, and was previously the managing editor of Wines & Vines magazine. Her articles have appeared in dozens of publications, including Sonoma magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, Zester Daily, Wine Review Online and many others. Websites: tinacaputo.com and winemakersdrinkingbeer.com.

******

Santé,

James

James the Wine Guy

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

© 2016 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.

Photo is courtesy of Tina Caputo

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Reims – A Gateway to Champagne – James Melendez

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Reims looms large in my mind.  I have always been a fan of history and in awe of the historical record.  Reims for me is important in terms of French history and for the history of Champagne.  My pulse quicken when I was on the TGV en route from Charles de Gaulle in September of this year (2016).  As all transatlantic journey’s are long the tiredness of the physical does not affect the soul.  I kept thinking of seeing the historic Reims Cathedral and putting foot on ground to visit Domaines that I have never visited before.

Reims is where Clovis I united the Franks fifteen hundred years ago.  He was baptized near a small church where the present Abbey of Saint Remi is located.  Subsequent kings of France have been crowned in the Cathedral of Reims or more accurately Notre-Dame de Reims which was completed in 1275.  A magnificent cathedral that is impressive in it’s silhouette as it is it’s endurance.  I looked in awe and in reverence to this cathedral that was bombed severally by the Germans in World War I.  When you visit the cathedral the stained glass windows are unique–one showing the wine trade and another special set by Marc Chagall.

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Reims is a crossroads of France to Germany and The Netherlands both an historical blessing and curse. It is a great trade route and yet the crossroad has hit the heart of this historic city.  And the endurance is the story that I can only feel admiration for Champagne and the proud people who too have kept endurance as a tradition.  WWI was particularly devastating to the region and certainly the wine region was not spared from this war.  WWII end was signed here in the Musée de la Reddition.

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Champagne is something that shouldn’t exist at least in it’s current form.  The endurance of the Champenoise is impressive.  Why did Champenoise continue to seek a way to develop it’s region’s wines from something as non-impressive to a world class wine.  Other wine regions have great climates and the struggle to create great wines is always there because viticulture is utterly dependent on weather.  Most wine regions are not as challenged as is Champagne.  Even with the auspicious privilege of crowning all the kings of France what the spirit that kept the movement to development this region’s wine?  Unparalleled spirit?  Quixotic dreams?

While I can mythologize and only be in awe—I think there are logical steps that made Champagne what it is today.  The answer lies in incremental improvement–blending wines, bottle design improvements (capability of holding several atmosphere’s worth of pressure is essential in bottle’s not breaking) as once a near majority of all Champagne bottles never saw the light of day literary.  And there are many other innovations that made Champagne a wine of evocation and a wine of endurance.  Champagne and Reims success certainly lies in it’s human capital–creating wines that were not only passable but of elegance, grace and prestige is through endurance and belief and it is also through good old fashion rolling up of many sleeves.  Champagne not only had to create great wines through many innovations but also marketing and promotion which has been happened for longer than many regions on the planet.  No matter how you look at it –it is something that is absolutely worth visiting and experiencing yourself.

Reims is a city that is easy to visit and to walk through.  There are a good number of Domaines to visit when you visit (you can of course visit Domaines further afield in addition to Reims).  Be sure to look at websites as they may require an appointment prior to arrival.

The Domaines in Reims

G.H. Mumm

34 rue du Champ de Mars
51100 Reims, France
Phone: 03 26 49 59 70
http://www.mumm.com

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Champagne Charles de Cazanove

8 place de la République
51100 Reims, France
Phone: 03 26 88 53 86
http://www.champagnedecazanove.com

Champagne Lanson

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66 rue de Courlancy
51100 Reims, France
Phone: 03 26 78 50 50
http://www.lanson.fr

Champagne G.H. Martel

17 rue des Créneaux
51100 Reims, France
Phone: 03 26 82 70 67
http://www.champagnemartel.com

Champagne Pommery

5 place Général Gouraud
51100 Reims, France
Phone: 03 26 61 62 55
http://www.vrankenpommery.fr

Champagne Ruinart

4 rue des Crayères
51100 Reims, France
http://www.ruinart.com

Champagne Veuve Clicquot

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1 place des Droits de l’Homme
51100 Reims, France
Phone: 03 26 89 53 90
http://www.veuve-clicquot.com

Historial Sites to Visit

Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Reims

Place du Cardinal Lucon
51000 Reims, France
http://www.veuve-clicquot.com

If you can wait to visit in September when the Cathedral is a show case for Rêve de Couleurs each September the light and music show is magical.  The Cathedral feels like it is moving and each story harkens to some aspect of this sacred place.  I was in awe and I hope to return to see this stunning show.

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Basilique du Saint Remi

53 rue Simon
51100 Reims, France
Musée de la Reddition (Museum of Surrender)

12 rue du Pdt Franklin Roosevelt
51100 Reims, France

Cheers, happy and safe travels to you!

James

 ***

Also, published in James the Travel Guy

Thank you and Santé,

James

James the Wine Guy

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

© 2016 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.

I do not own the image from the movie Pretty Women – Touchstone Pictures Silver Screen Partners IV.

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Wine Vlogging is A Tough Job – James Melendez

Vlogging is a tough job.  Not complaining because I choose to do it. I think sometimes I am made more human about taking on the back end of what I do. I did a video in response to a recent comment I had on my wine YouTube Channel – ‘You Don’t Seem To Dislike Any Wines You Taste’ – Episode #2419 James Melendez 

The comment was as I take it a positive one overall.  Some ideas for future videos and a large part of the comment was that all of my reviews are positive.  I did explain and I will talk a bit here.  Creating video content is not my only job.  Though it is another job that is one where I don’t get paid–I have only monetized a few video–especially those that I have paid for the wines out of my own pocket.

Not only do I have limited time–I just don’t have time to drink or review mediocre or even bad wines.  I guess I could as a one-timer.  In general, my tasting table is bursting with so many amazing wines — I would rather take my time to review good to great wines.  I also have limitation on what I won’t review.  And like any other wine reviewer I do not promise to review every bottle I get.

I have tried different approaches to reviewing wine since I have such limited time such as on occasion do a single bottle review for a special wine.  I do think a weekly round up might help–a longer show but something that I can do in a weekly format.  I am still toying with this ideas.  Ultimately when I have done a toe deep instead of optimizing my time I end up spending more time.  Editing is essential especially for today’s modern audience.  I had a comment that I edit too much.  In the old days I would often edit during the take – i.e. keep re-recording until it was without flaw—so so very time consuming.  I decided to take a practice that many YouTube producers do today and that is to edit.  I have to edit–it would be unwatchable if I did not.

I wish writing about wine and being a reviewer was my full time job–I think even if I had the opportunity I would still struggle for time but less so than today.

I love the video media and unlike Casey Neistat giving up on his highly successful daily vlog as well as Gary Vee’s wine show to me is a dis-satisfaction with YouTube and video.  I think Casey’s daily vlog and this was his living can be exhausting but I think the normal cadence is a weekly one.  Gary, I speculate gave up on wine and video on YouTube because the click rate is modest at best.  I think it is important for a producer like myself to promote videos that I publish.  I also think it is the fine art of cultivating an audience.  “Build it and they might come promote it and you are better offer than my doing nothing.”  Doing nothing for video’s on YouTube is a great way to collect dust.  I think that the wine category is special and it requires diligence and nurturing.  I also think that wine producers, public relations groups and others should also be there to promote what is published about their wines on YouTube and elsewhere.

I have been dissatisfied if a producer doesn’t given an acknowledgement.  A like a retweet even a follow.  I do think that many producers are no always engaged in their social media backyard.  This is a backyard like any other that requires cultivation and the investment of time and beyond that there is no additional cost.

I have been trying to pair down the number I produce.  I have to in order to get to many other content demands I have to fulfill.

I would like your comments and questions.

Thank you and Santé,

James

James the Wine Guy

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

© 2016 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.

I do not own the image from the movie Pretty Women – Touchstone Pictures Silver Screen Partners IV.

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James the Wine Guy Interview Series: Jameson Fink

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I was delighted this year to not only see Jameson not just once but twice this year.  We both attended the Wine Bloggers Conference 2016 in Lodi.  I appreciate the panel that Jameson was on and his responses.  His responses were candid and honest and something I could relate to.

I was on a press tour of the Champagne Harvest Tour this year.  Jameson had a lot of wit and it was actually the best press trip I had ever been on–my fellow journalists are exceptional.

I had been interviewed before by Jameson and my intent here is to not repay that interview with one of my own but to capture his great experience.  I too came from an off-premise background and loved his experience and of course enjoy reading the wit and knowledge from his articles on his blog and Wine Enthusiast.

I love doing these interviews because I can focus on people that I know and those that I don’t.  Even if I ‘know’ someone well I always learn more about them and of course I love sharing the great people I have meet.

*****

Q: You have had a great set of experiences with wine—how did you get involved in the wine trade?

A: Taking classes with the International Sommelier Guild while I was living in Chicago. (Early 2000s.) A fellow student was the manager at a wine shop, Randolph Wine Cellars. She was looking for weekend help and, even though I had a full-time job, I decided to jump at the chance.

Q. Why did you start writing about wine?

A. Right around the same time I started working at Randolph Wine Cellars, in 2004. Someone, and I wish I could remember who it was so I could thank them, was listening to me talk about wine and segueing back-and-forth between multiple random subjects. S/he said, “You should start a wine blog.”

Naturally, my first question was, “What’s a blog?”

Q. What was your first wine region you fell in love with?

A. The Loire Valley. My first love was Vouvray. The second iteration of my blog’s name was “Sparkling Vouvray.” In the mid 2000s you could probably access every online account I had by guessing “Vouvray” was the password. (I have since moved on to more secure passwords.)

The region is such an embarrassment of wine riches, from Muscadet to Sancerre and everything in between. Loire Cab Franc is my favorite red. Oh, and legendary sweet wines. Going there in 2011 was definitely like someone took a page/pages out of my wish book.

Q. Do you have favourite varieties that you keep going back to?

A. For whites I would say Sauvignon Blanc because it’s so available and reliable. Every time I drink a great Sancerre or a zesty Chilean Sauv Blanc I’m reminded of the grape’s memorable and lively pleasures.

For reds the aforementioned Cab Franc. And Frappato, which makes my favorite still red wine for pizza.

Q. What are you favourite wine regions?

A. Besides the Loire Valley, my love of Frappato is a great segway into mentioning Sicily. There’s a perfectly titled book by Bill Nesto and Frances Di Savino, The World of Sicilian Wine. Perfect because the variety of indigenous grapes, the climate, geography, food, history (and more) make Sicily seem like a world unto its own.

Q. What is a wine grape variety that deserves more recognition?

A. Gamay, particularly grown in Beaujolais. The wines can be everything from a bistro delight served cool out of an earthenware pitcher to serious Cru Beaujolais that scratches a Burgundy-esque itch for a lot less money.

Q. You have travelled extensively—any particular highlights?  Favourite regions to travel to?

A. In addition to Sicily and the Loire Valley, a couple of islands: Santorini and Tasmania.

Santorini, it’s just so damn blue contrasted with the bright white buildings. Looking out at the caldera and thinking about all kinds of volcanic and Atlantis shit while drinking Assyrtiko is a distinctly mystical pleasure.

And Tasmania, just look at its Instagram account and try not to book a flight ASAP. Unmatched beaches plus mountains and so much more. Also great sparkling wine, Pinot Noir, and aromatic whites. I was only there a few days but I’m excited to be going back for a week in March.

Q. What are your next travel destinations?

A. Well I went to Provincetown, Lodi, and Champagne over the summer and fall. Right now things are a little on the quiet side travel-wise. But work is really ramping up and with the upcoming holidays there are like a billon wine events in New York City.

The biggest trip is my aforementioned Tasmanian adventure where I’ll be spending a week with my mom. (She lives in Reno, not Tasmania. I would not, however, be opposed to her buying a second home in Tassie. Mom, are you reading this?)

Q. What is your favourite restaurant town?

A. Wildair lays claim to best food I’ve eaten (so far) in the city. I want everything on the menu. Even though I’m very old man about restaurants (noise, crowds, boo!) its cramped, raucous atmosphere is entirely appropriate and encouraged.

I don’t think I’ve gone to a restaurant in the city more than Marta. I mean, Champagne and pizza, ok?

For quick eats, I’m obsessed with two places in a couple neighborhoods I did a stint in: Four Tacos (East Village) and Schaller’s Stube Sausage Bar (Yorkville). Important: both have beer.

Q. You have moved from West Coast to East Coast US – what is the most positive aspects of being based in New York?

A. I’ve been vagabonding between Manhattan and White Plains (I work up in the boonies in Westchester) while I figure out where in NYC I want to settle more long-term. Here are two of the most positive things I’ve noticed:

The vast majority of people I encounter are open, friendly, and inquisitive. It has been a delight to go into random places where you don’t know anyone and striking up a conversation.

People are very no-nonsense. One thing I’ve learned navigating the streets and the subway: Always. Keep. Moving. You have to be decisive and fast-paced or you’ll get trampled and/or receive a few choice words. Don’t stop and gawk or dilly-dally.

Q. What do you miss about West Coast?

A. Particular to Seattle: Lack of soul-crushing heat and humidity. Especially the latter. Roasting on subway platforms is one of the circles of hell. The coffee scene. Certain familiar spots in Capitol Hill. Many people.

Q. How is the wine assortment varied east to west coast?  More import wines East Coast? Etc.

A. New York is the center of the wine world, period. There is no better city in which to be an enthusiastic drinker of wine. Cult wines, classics, back vintages, weird esoteric shit? It’s all here. Not to mention a constant stream of winemakers coming through town, crazy dinners, loads of atmospheric wine bars, and funky wine shops. (The latter are especially choice since grocery stores cannot sell wine.)

One thing that strikes me as funny is I’ve drank way more California wine since moving clear across the country. (Lieu-Dit Melon would be a good example of this, tip of the iceberg.)

Q. How is online wine writing changing?

A. This isn’t about writing per se, but most of my online wine discoveries come through Instagram. Things are very scroll-driven when it comes to finding new things.

As a reader rather than a scroller, I am more drawn to personality-driven, narrative, longer-form wine writing. And, in general, the pendulum now seems to be swinging back towards featuring content like that online. It’s important to look at the time people spend on a post and if they stick around to explore.

In the realm of food writing, what Eater is doing with “Life in Chains” is something I really admire and is a good example of how food writing can be a platform for all kinds of expression.

Along those lines, I was really thrilled with an online piece in Wine Enthusiast written by Ashley Rodriguez about sommeliers who compete in marathons. It’s really a work/life balance, health and fitness story. (Sidebar: reading this piece makes my excuses for not working out extremely lame.) The more recent post by Lauren Mowery comparing her personal journey to become a lawyer versus a Master of Wine was excellent and really resonated with people.

Q. What in addition to writing is important with respect to wine?  Podcast? Video? Instantaneous video – Periscope, etc?

A. I was on a panel at the Wine Bloggers Conference and one of the things I mentioned regretting was not jumping on video earlier. I mean I can still do it.. There’s polished, produced, and professional content to more DIY stuff via Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, Snapchat. I enjoy the informal reviews, the in-the-moment content you can do on your phone. But to have someone operating the camera and providing direction would be sweet.

Podcasting is great because you can digest information anywhere: gym, car, airplane, etc.

Really, I need to take my own advice more on this stuff. You are causing me to look in the mirror, James.

Q. What is the most difficult thing about writing about wine today?  (more labels, more to write about-less time to write?)

A. Keeping it fresh and not repeating yourself. Even with the mind-blowing number of grapes, bottles, and labels available at your fingertips, it’s sometimes a challenge not to feel a bit robotic. But, then again, I’d never get tired reading about pizza and tacos, so if it’s something people feel really passionate about (food, cars, wine) you have to accept the challenge as a writer to constantly reinvent the wheel.

It really depends on what your goal is. I’ve actually morphed into more of an editor than a writer, specifically over the last year. (Though I’ve written a bunch of pieces for the magazine and online, and will continue to do so.) It’s given me perspective, from the nitty-gritty of copy editing to framing and expanding pitch ideas. That makes me a better writer. Sometimes it’s good to step back from your own words and absorb, critique, and contemplate what other folks are doing. Though, at some point, you do have to pick up your pen and get cracking.

*****

Biography: Jameson Fink is Senior Digital Editor at Wine Enthusiast. A two-time SAVEUR Blog Award finalist, Fink launched his wine blog and began a retail wine career in 2004. Fink has been a wine editor at Foodista, Grape Collective, and msn.com. He relocated from Seattle to New York in 2015 and is passionate about enjoying Champagne with popcorn.

******

Santé,

James

James the Wine Guy

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

© 2016 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.

Photo is courtesy of Jameson Fink

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

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‘You’re Obviously in the Wrong Place’ – One of My Experiences – James Melendez

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I have seen the Gere/Roberts movie several times and I could never forget the line ‘You’re Obviously in the Wrong Place’ and I also think of the commentary of Romy and Michele as they watch this scene in Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion.

I have had an amazing 2016 and 2015 – not all years are like these great pairing of years – I cannot even count on one hand let alone another finger where I have had such a superb year as this year.   Was it a perfect couple of years?  No absolutely not and I am okay with that.  When I look at this year 90% was amazing and 10% was not.  I can’t argue with an “A” average as it relates to life and living I have never had that before.

I always want to point out the positive not just in others but in me as well.  I am writing this piece because I have been to over 10 countries this year and visiting both amazing wine places and also places where wine was not the reason I was visiting

I found a picture of this scene from Pretty Women and had to both laugh and also hark back to an experience this year in Napa Valley.  I was in many a Chateau, Palazzo and Palast and was treated so well every where I went except for Napa Valley experience I had.  I was in Napa with a friend we had some extra time on our tour and I thought I would call a winery and see if they had an appointment.  The only thing was that I had no cell reception I said let’s just pass by and see if they have an opening.  If not there are many other places to visit.

I am not going to list the name of the winery here.  I have been to hundreds of wineries that are both open to the public and many that are not open to the public.  I had never had a wine tasting room personnel come out to my friends car and before we could step foot on ground we were asked “do you have an appointment”  I said we just wanted to see if you had availability……   “No we don’t…we are all booked.”  This was my Pretty Women moment of being cleared away from the “store.”  I felt l had to apologize for being there and I had to say several times “we were just checking….” I felt we were going to get a “please leave.”

I think by my many visits I am not on any black lists that I know.  I am actually low maintenance and appreciative.  I have been turned away before and I was okay with that.  I was not chased away, treated rudely or worse “greeted” at the car.  I write about this because being half way around the world I have only been welcomes wherever I was visiting.  In my “neighbourhood” of Napa Valley at this producer I felt shunned and ashamed for even being physically present.

I have also had one media event in Sonoma County where I felt I was inconvenience to have.  Everyone was invited to bring their partners and I asked if I could bring a friend since I do not have a partner.  It was a big deal and in my usual style was “no problem” I can forgo coming.  I think incidences like this are rare and I too would never review or visit this producer again.  I think of a media event is to show what you do well and to be inclusive.

I think that I may not be the only one who has received this royal treatment.  I think that this is a watch out not just for Napa Valley other regions as well.  I think there is a right way and a wrong way to handle one’s visiting customers.  I think that Napa Valley and other wine regions have a lot riding on a path of hospitality, inclusion and good old fashion grace and style.  I am not berating all producers–overall I have been treated well.  For me, this specific producer is a wine I will not review or taste and will certainly not visit under any circumstance.  It is hard to have such an experience and not knowing what you might encounter next time you arrive. There is so classical condition responses and frankly I don’t need to worry about a repeat of this experience.

I hope you do not experience and certainly register your complaints with the producer if you encounter that.  I did but I certainly didn’t know it was a canned response or if it was genuine.  I don’t loss sleep over these things — I stay away and for people who ask for my recommendations this producer will never be on my list.

Wishing you only a good experience and hope you never have my experiences–you deserve only the best.

Santé

James

James the Wine Guy

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

© 2016 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.

I do not own the image from the movie Pretty Women – Touchstone Pictures Silver Screen Partners IV.

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The Great Cornucopia of Thanksgiving Food and Wine for Your Holiday – James Melendez

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I love Thanksgiving – I love it obviously for the food and feast and I love it for sharing a wide variety of wines with those closest to me.  Thanksgiving as I see it is an opportunity to have the cornucopia of white, red and sparkling wines and to do so with people who want and hope for superb wines.  I know have been to Thanksgiving dinners where there was Pinot Noir, Zinfandel or Beaujolais.  I like these varieties and and I also the unexpected–on my Thanksgiving table I have a lot of pressure to have outstanding wines but you know what it isn’t that difficult to do.

I always serve a roasted turkey and I also serve something in addition a pork loin, tamales (yes, tamales) or roast beef.  Given that I serve a variety of dishes that means there is a great possibility of choices with respect to wines.

I have guests ask what they should bring–I make a few suggestions and I let them know when I will be serving to give ideas.  I want to start by serving Champagne–it must be Champagne and I like to serve with a large variety of dishes: charcuteries, crab cakes, smoked salmon or trout dip.  Given a nice appetizer spread I want several styles of Champagne – Rose, Blanc de Blanc, Extra Brut, and Brut Nature styles–I taste a bit of every Champagne but always settle for Extra Brut or Brut Nature–so apt for food and I might add by themselves too.

And after having the starters and begin with salads and soup. I serve Chablis and Vermentino—Chablis with salad is a must on my table.  I vary another white wine depending on the soup — a cream based soup is an excellent opportunity to have a Sauvignon Blanc, Vermentino, Arneis, and/or Pinot Blanc.

For the Thanksgiving meal I will serve wines that are somewhat traditional and somewhat not traditional wines: Gamay Noir, Grenache, Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, and Plavac Mali.  I know some people like to serve Zinfandel, Beaujolais Nouveau, Pinot Noir and Bordeaux Varieties.  I look at my list and I want a great sense of diversity and wines that match a patchwork quilt of dishes.  I also know that there is such a great diversity of food that I am going to serve.  Most of which I make myself and that I insist I making.  I will serve a roasted turkey, French bread stuffing, Madeira gravy, velvety mashed potatoes, cranberries, sweet potatoes, Tamales and green beans.  I think that one wine is not enough and I want a bit of several wines to bring harmony to the table, delight to the feast and excellence in wines to bind the my souls at one table.  I have always served a diversity and I think in many ways people walk and way and learn something new—it is a wine that perhaps someone might not have heard about like Plavacs Mali or perhaps the producer of a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.

I may wait a little while between eating the main courses and dessert.  I always make a pumpkin pie and either an apple or pecan pie.  I like to have a dollop of heavy whipped cream and something ethereal like a vintage Port or Madeira–to imbibe slowly.

Be adventurous and serve a whole host of wines and ask your friends or family members that are coming to your house for Thanksgiving to bring a specific variety or region.  If you are invited and going to someone else house be sure to bring an interesting wine that someone might not consider bringing.  Below are some suggestions for wines for your Thanksgiving celebration – I tried giving a larger selection in case you couldn’t find some of these wines in your marketplace.

Appetizer wines:

  • Champagne Drappier Grande Sendrée Cuvée
  • Champagne Devaux Grande Réserve NV
  • Champagne Louis Roederer, Brut Nature ”Phillipe Starck Design” 2006
  • Champagne Jacques Selosse Brut Blanc De Blancs Initiale Disgorgement 2014
  • Champagne J. de Telmont OR 1735 Brut 2002
  • Champagn Larmandier-Bernier Brut Rosé de Saignée

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First and second course wines:

  • Domaine Samuel Billaud Petit Chablis
  • Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis 1er Cru Vaulignot
  • Cooper Mountain Reserve Oregon Chardonnay
  • Bethel Heights Willamette Valley Chardonnay
  • Calera Central Coast Chadonnay
  • Mancini Vermentino di Gallura Vermentino
  • Vietti Arneis Roero
  • Ponzi Willamette Valley Arneis
  • Domaine Cherrier Père & Fils Sancerre
  • Groth Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc
  • Troon Vermentino Sauvignon Blanc
  • Trimbach Alsace Pinot Blanc
  • Gustave Lorenz Alsace Pinot Blanc
  • Domaine Chignard Juliénas Beauvernay
  • Maison B. Perraud Fleurie
  • Villa Poggio Salvi Brunello di Montalcino
  • Baricci Brunello di Montalcino
  • Il Molino di Grace Chianti Classico
  • Fratelli Barale Barolo Chinato
  • Flavio Roddolo Nebbiolo d’Alba
  • Domaine Drouhin Laurène Dundee Hills Pinot Noir
  • Domaine Borgeot Santenay 1er Cru
  • Gramercy The Third Man Columbia Valley Grenache
  • Borsao Tres Picos Campo de Borja Garnacha
  • Dingač Vinarija Plavac Mali

Dessert Wines

  • Rare Wine Company Historic Series New York Malmsey Madeira
  • Churchill Quinta da Agua Alta Vintage Port 1992
  • Quinta do Vesuvio Vintage Port 1994

Santé

James

James the Wine Guy

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

© 2016 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.

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