Yelp and TripAdvisor Reviews – James Melendez

I use to be a heavy contributor to both Yelp and TripAdvisor. I was a Yelp Elite for 10 years in a row. I was disappointed when I was not approved and was told that could change through the year that I was not immediately accepted but that did not happen. I did go to the Yelp Elite events and I enjoyed them. I was disappointed that after my years of heavy contributions it didn’t matter much.

I get reminders from TripAdvisor that I am in the top “X” percent. Yeah good for them. I am not sure why I need to contribute more…. There is not benefit or incentive. After all both Yelp and TripAdvisor are publicly held companies and their business model is dependent on a lot of free work.

I have left my accounts open but will I contribute –I do reserve for myself the right to contribute on my terms and not theirs. I find TripAdvisor to be an overly perfectionist model of crowd sourced reviews. If I want to make a correction I have to erase, resubmit and wait till it is “approved.”

I would rather contribute to my own blog sites than to another site where the credit I get is marginal at best and that I think is truly not valued.

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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Southern Italian Wines in Lock Step of Continuous Discovery – James Melendez

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I love southern Italian wines–they are just as varied and complex and beautiful as anything in Northern Italy.  Italy is a country that has a marvelous history and where each region is distinct and memorable–food, wine, history and art.

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In Locorotondo

I remember when I was at the Fancy Food Show in New York over a decade ago.  As always I have appointments or just running round to see each aspect of the show–this show was not exception.  This show I slowed down when it came to the Italian Pavillion and there was a seminar put on by Radici del Sud–from that point forward I was in love with the mission of showcasing southern Italian wines.  I tasted Negroamaro and octopus–and who knew this could be so sublime.   Negroamaro– a wine meaning black from bitter is more earthy and tart than bitter.   I had tasted Primitivo many times before but it is always wonderful to taste the Italian expression simply because both region and style come through in ways that it is not Zinfandel.  What I mean by this is that many producers in California are using Petite Sirah-nothing wrong with that but it is highly influential and I say there is a point of departure where these wines can no longer compared against to each other for many reasons.  

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Southern Italian wines have been shining through more now than ever.  There are certainly a ‘country to be discovered” Southern Italy is discovered but discovery is still happening.  I am happy to have been a judge at Radici del Sud 2016.  I remember getting the invitation and I had to re-read again and again–it was a dream to be in Puglia once again.

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Gallipoli

Radici is essential to tell the story of the southern Italian wines.  I loved tasting the treasury of Aglianico–there is so many Aglianico in Italy and much fewer in North America.  Aglianico is certainly a noble red wine of the south.

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Bari Duomo

I am eager to taste more Fiano, Nerello Mascalese, Cataratto, Gagiliopo, Nero d’Avola, Nero di Troia, Malvasia Bianca, Verdeca, Greco di Tuffo, Grillo, Falanghina, Vermentino, Susumaniello, Pallagrello Nero and Pallagrello Bianco.  I do think that we will be tasting more wines from Southern Italy in North America–I do think it is about having vino veritas come to the forefront of dazzling wines to pair with food.

I was so delighted to participate in Radici and I am so glad to go back to participate in Sicilia en Primeur 2017.

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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Wine and Basel B Chocolates – James Melendez

I love beautiful things and especially if they have a dynamic flavour.  I know that I am not unusual in being an appreciator of the finer things in life.  But it is hard to find fine art and food united together.

Wine, great food, art, clothes, furniture and travel goes hand in hand.  Sometimes things intersect; Basel B Chocolates certainly intersect exquisite art and fine food.  The intersection is a passion of culinary artist Basel Bazalmit has developed a brand that encompasses the physical beauty with the compelling flavour characteristics.  I love that when I eat a chocolate with wine – it is a great experience of the truffle–a compelling 85% Columbian dark chocolate with the wonderful crunch and dynamics of the chocolate.  I eat a truffle to compliment my wine journey.  I eat a truffle to match and marry with wine and give the proverbial hand shake… no proverbial hug.  There are few unique truffles on the market place and having had a grand tour of year last year (2016) I was tasting many chocolate truffles.  While many had beauty on the inside it lacked an appreciable appearance or vice versa.

Basel B. Chocolate Truffles

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I eat chocolate the way I drink my wine–with great appreciation and not doing so in terms of consuming a massive quantity of one or the other but to enjoy in moderation to gain insight into my wine and chocolate journey.

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Basel B Truffle Flavours

 

I love the vividness of each flavour – the Holiday Spice is an evocative and sweetly spiced truffle, the Blueberry is a definitively rich flavour and handsome snapshot of the fruit, the Caramel and Hazelnut is a thrilling combination of flavours of rich caramel and further elevated by the earthly sweetness of the hazelnut.

My luxury is to enjoy one or two with a glass of wine.  I am fully satiated when I just a few to be my after meal experience (i.e. dessert) with either a full bodied red or a Madeira, Port or Sherry.

I do plan on a doing a video and compare the chocolates with the wines I will be pairing with his truffle flavours.  A par excellence experience that I recommend to everyone.

Basel at the 2017 Winter Fancy Food Show - San Francisco

Basel at the 2017 Winter Fancy Food Show – San Francisco

 

Here is information on his chocolates – currently available online:

Basel B Chocolates

And he will be exhibiting at the San Francisco Chocolate Salon on March 18, 2017.

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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Locations I and P 4 Wines – James Melendez

I recently tasted these two locations wines:

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Locations I Wine 4 NV 

9.0

This is a composition of Negroamaro, Nero d’Avola and Barbera from Italy.

Scent characteristics: blackberry, cassis, leather, fruit orchard during autumn, and dates.

Flavor characteristics: Black cherry, earth, red pepper, Tamarind, and Thyme.

 

Locations P Wine 4 NV

9.0This wine is a composition of Touriga Naçional, Trincadeira and Touriga Franca

Scent characteristics: Red cherry, under brush, bay leaf, violets and cinnamon

Flavor characteristics: Black cherry, red plum, pepper, cardamom and clove

Wine courtesy of producer.

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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Kaizen and Champagne – James Melendez

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Gallimard Père & Fils Vineyard in Les Richey

Kaizen loosely transliterated means ‘improvement’ or the literal transliteration is ‘change for better’ from the Japanese.

I have been in the business world for quite some time and have found a fondness for Kaizen…. Who has ever said Kaizen and fondness in one breath?  Champagne of course—Kaizen well…maybe just me.  I have never seen an article about Kaizen and Champagne.  And I can think of no more ideal wine region where the subject of Kaizen hand-in-hand.  Actually no other product demonstrates Kaizen so well.

I need to pair together the concept of Kaizen and Champagne.  Kaizen has always been exercised in Champagne even if the term had not been invented; proof of concept it it’s most tangible form is the history of Champagne.

We can look at Venetian shipmakers who have been 5S* methodology producing ships five century ago.  If I look at the Operational Excellence or Business Process Excellence (BPE) I think of terms like Lean, Lean Six Sigma, Six Sigma, 5S, and Kaizen to name a few concepts and methodologies.  The 20th Century was not just about scientific management but management by objective and quality.  Toyota, Motorola and General Electric have been big promoters of some variant of Business Process Excellence and I should add many other companies have looked to BPE to define, innovate, maintain and improve business processes and operations.

Champagne is certainly a great example of Kaizen.   And while Kaizen is one of Champagne’s secret sauce there is a pure, core and unadulterated vision and belief in making Champagne not just a marginal wine region but one of world-class wines.

Kaizen is about incremental improvement; small steps that in the long run demonstrate a remarkable difference.  Now the word innovation can be talked about when bring up the subject of Kaizen.  Innovation is a movement that is both remarkable and very disruptive—innovation is a singular act, product, process or idea that has a significant impact and is seen as a positive contribution.  Some things in Champagne can be covered by a blanket statement of innovation but innovation is a rare event—more common and realistic is to hone in on improvements bit-by-bit hence Kaizen.

I am not going to belabor (because it has been told many times before) the long history of incremental improvements in Champagne but I’ll start with Reims.  A city that is known as the place where France’s kings were always crowned did not have a wine fitting for a regent.  The Champagnoise were longing for the wine excellence for the kings of France—looking to it’s neighbour is Burgundy.  Burgundy has been producing wines of excellence for a very long time—the path of incremental improvements was fewer for Burgundy then Champagne.  The climate is Burgundy friends and Champagne’s foe.

The story begins with the pesky bubbles—the process of double fermentation was not known and, of course, not known how to stop it.  Alas the climate and storage of wines created the double fermentation state.  The bubbles were not what the Champagnoise envisioned because this was to create a comparable wine and after all the grapes were similar sans Pinot Meunier.

Lets start with Dom Pérignon and I’ll make it simple with some foundational bookends of the Dom and Madame Clicquot.  Pérignon did not invent Champagne just helped to start developing this regions wines.  His goal was to stop the bubbles alas he could not stop but he made some important foundational contributions.

I am capturing the incremental improvements and in no particular order and this is a contribution made by Dom Perignon and Madame Clicquot and others:

• Pruning

• Wine grapes utilized – his preference was for Pinot Noir above other grapes

• Improved clarification of wines

• Blending wines

• Corks that could withstand 3 atmospheres of pressure

• Bottle design and strength (which has been further refined today to reduce carbon footprint)

• Riddling

• Secondary fermentation

• Dosage

• Classifiying sugar levels

o Brut Nature

o Extra Brut

o Brut

o Extra Dry

o Demi-Sec

o Doux

• Styles:

o Blanc de Blancs

o Brut Rose

o Brut

o Blanc de Noirs

• Organizing body: The Comité Champagne

• The allowed grapes

o Most common: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Meunier (also known as Pinot Meunier)

o Less common: Arbane, Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc (Vrai Blanc) and Pinot Gris

We needed multiple of improvements and we could not have had one singular innovator—even Dom Perignon would have tried to eliminate bubbles… Imagine Champagne as a still wine? The desire to remove the bubbles was to remove what was thought of to be a flaw instead of an asset. …. A good thing that he failed at that and a good thing Kaizen helped to progress this wine to the bubbly state we know today. Input of many people and, of course, Dom Perignon and Madame Cliquot is evidence of Kaizen in action and that time which Kaizen requires can make an ideal state.

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*5S is a a workplace methodology in Japanese: Seiri – Sort, Seiton – Set in Order, Seiso – Shine, Seiketsu – standardize, and Shitsuke – sustain.

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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San Francisco’s Quick Sand of Retail and Restaurant Landscape Space

San Francisco is a town that has a gotten it’s food game on more than ever. I worked with someone who always said to me that San Francisco has the country’s best restaurants which I would chime in and say “except New York.” Food has been good but it the scene has been getting better over time.

The exception to this compliment is that San Franciscans are not loyal to restaurants—not the way New Yorkers are ….. New York has 21 and Le Grenouille San Francisco has …. Let me stretch… Tadich and Swan Oyster Depot and they are good restaurant but they are no 21. New York like other cities does cycle out of restaurants like anywhere but I think they give it a longer run. Look at Lutece, Four Seasons (breaks my heart that it is not with us) to name a few.

And I am aware that New Yorkers are surprised and feel there are many more resturant closures than usual. I feel, at least, for San Francisco is that the restaurant lifespan is decreasing and not for organic reason but for purely speculative ones. San Francisco on a per capita basis has one of the largest percentages of millionaires than even New York. Even with great wealth doesn’t mean that restaurants can afford to stick around for things to improve (and absurd thought as things are robust economically now). It is a simple equation of how many plates do you have to serve to pay the rent let alone the food costs and other business supporting costs. San Francisco commercial landlords do not have a skin in the game for the long term and think the highest price per square foot is appealing.

Even with great wealth —not everyone can afford an everyday lunch salad of $20…. And just because there is great wealth doesn’t mean there are great tastes behind it. Also because there is a large of upwardly mobile doesn’t mean they are always here in San Francisco to eat in a restaurant; after all people travel for business often.

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A favourite restaurant of mine just ceased operation – Range. Range took the space of a Tapas restaurant called Timo’s and closed after 12 years of operation. It was my neighbourhood restaurant. We both arrived in the neighbourhood around the same time (thought I have been here slightly longer). I was delighted that a sit down restaurant had opened up in such a tiny space. A great place for a romantic dinner and a rare place even by San Francisco standards where you could hear your dinner mate—no yelling was required. The neighbourhood still needs a sit down restaurant. Also the closure of Bar Tartine was another heartbreak. The loss of Bar Tartine is of note. I loved the point of difference was the Eastern European cuisine. San Francisco is a desert for almost any Eastern European cuisine. The closure of Old Krakow in West Portal ended any Polish cuisine in San Francisco.

I was surprised to hear that AQ, even Show Dogs had closed (amazing curry fried chicken sandwich), Volta, Umami, Kuletos, Ame, Bourbon Steak, Bon Marche, and Lulu. When Dennis Leary’s Canteen closed (a few years ago) I was so saddened. So charming and fitting for the neighbourhood. Intimate with just a few tables of chef prepared food. Books on the wall to reflect the personality of Chef Leary. I felt like it certainly San Francisco most under-rated restaurant. I also felt like this is a restaurant Dashiel Hammet would have frequented if he had lived her while Canteen was open. Dennis Leary doesn’t have a sit down restaurant in his mainly lunch and drinks establishments. I think we are missing out on his amazing culinary style.

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I look at Valencia Street area it has a rough year. It is a vibrant street with lots of foot traffic. But it showed me renamed speculation alley.   Just recently, Fine Arts Optical relocated to Berkeley, Ruby store on 20th near Valencia Street (closing after more than a decade and half) a cute gift store with jewelry and women’s clothing—when I first moved to the area Ruby had been an organizer of helping to bring together 20th Street with a few years of organizing and sponsoring of a block party for the street.

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Gingko Furniture on Valencia is closing and the gallery Campfire just recently closed on 24th Street between Valencia and Mission Streets.

This is what one might expect to see during a recession not during a 3.4% employment rate.

Even the luxury retailer have thrown in the towel—Prada, DeBeers and Giorgio Armani which I thought would always be here have given up.

San Francisco aggressive store front real estate needs to come back down to earth and think of the long haul versus the short term circus we are currently in.

San Francisco in general has lost it’s soul during this economic cycle. The only concern of Mayor Lee is for two things only 1) condos 2) office space and has shown little interest in open space, exhibition space (the Exhibition Center on 9th Street could have been rebuilt with exhibition space on the bottom and condominium on top). San Francisco artist community has been decimated and it take leadership of a visionary in City Hall that can advocate for quality of life and a richer offering of venues for activities.

Wine events have decreased in San Francisco over time not because there is a lessened interest but because event space is decreasing rapidly.

I look forward to a new leader in City Hall and I hope the city’s retail space and restaurant real estate can come back to earth to help sustain the reason people want to live and visit here.

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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Two 2015 Rias Baixas Albariño – James Melendez

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9.2

La Val Rias Baixas Albariño 2015

Scent characterisation:  mineral, white stone fruit, and orange blossom and flavour characterisation white peach, apricot, almond and white tea.

9.2

Maior de Mendoza Rias Baixas Fulgent Albariño 2015

Scent characterisation: green citrus, white tea, sesame, and white flowers and flavour characterisation  verbena, golden citrus, pine nut, and tea

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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My Fourth Quarter France Food Adventure – A Renewed Love for French Food – James Melendez

I always look longingly to go back to France.  I was in France for the Champagne Harvest tour in September.  I miss France and the food never disappoints.  I am both excited by the farmers markets which always encompass beautiful displays of cheese and fish.  I was glad that I was staying at an AirBNB to enjoy charcuterie, cheese and wine.

I can compare and contrast fine food in the Bay Area and in many ways it is rarefied in most parts of the American experience.  I think the abundance of food is not just evident it is easily experienced on a casual walk in central Paris.  I was there with a friend and he was there to experience the chocolate since he is a professional chocolatier.  I was there on a mission to see the grape harvest in Champagne and enjoy a few days in Paris.

The food hall at Galleries Lafayatte has it’s own building–the old food hall was in the upper floors of the boulevard Haussmann store.  The food hall (diagonal of it’s original location) is glorious and has been further refined.  I arrive just in time to have food at the Spanish food bar.  I thought should I be eating Spanish food in France?  The food was superbly fresh and loved each morsel and it was a great homage to Spanish cuisine.  I loved the Octopus.

San Francisco doesn’t really have a food hall.  The closest might be the Ferry building but that is not a cohesive setting–it is a group of vendors.  The cohesiveness of a Grand Magasin like Lafayette is a goal of completeness — not exhaustiveness but to have a wide range of foods available.

I think French food culture is just as alive and is a world heritage country to preserve the fineness of food culture.  Traditional French cuisine has often been thought of as too heavy—too high in fat–too something.  But the French cookery is too ingrained into not just the French but a world dependent on tradition.  The French cookery has been under many influences such as Haute cuisine or Nouvelle–but ultimately what is important is the general heading of French cuisine.

I was delighted with the recent opening of Restaurant Racine in Reims the cuisine style is French with a Japanese accent.  Freshness and delicateness headline this experience–especially on my long journey to Paris then Reims –this meal could not have been more special and perfect for the recent long sprint.

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Restaurant Racine - Racine meaning root proves a great fundamental name to this wondrous presentation and food.

Restaurant Racine

8 Rue Colbert,

51100 Reims, France

*****

Another great and such a perfect place to eat especially during the relative warmth of a Champagne autumn is Les Avisés.  Les Avisés is a very small hotel and restaurant at the Domaine of Jacques Selesse.

Eating outdoors and enjoying the freshest produce along not just beautiful plated food but food that is a shining example of food excellence in Champagne.

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While this is at the Domaine of Jacques Selosse which I recommend ordering his wines here as such a special touch to your food experience.  If you don’t order Selosse wines the wine list is fantastic of both RM and NM wines.   I got to walk Jacques cellar–small and storied–I wish I could have chatted with Jacques a bit but it was harvest time after all.

Les Avisés

Hôtel Restaurant Les Avisés –

59, rue de Cramant – 51190 Avize

*****

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Frenchie

5 Rue du Nil,

75002 Paris, France

I loved my tasting menu at Frenchie.  Frenchie is something I thought for certain we wouldn’t get into.  I approached the restaurant and made an inquiry and of course they had no reservation.  The next idea was to line up at their wine bar and eat there.  Not a bad alternative.  Then a few minutes later Maître d’ finds me and my friend Basel in line and says “good news, there is a cancellation…would you like to come over.” So welcoming and warm and very casual.

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Duck

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Sorbet

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Heirloom Tomato

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Chocolate

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*****

Porte 12 is another tasting menu experience–a very beautiful and simplified approach.  What I loved about this tasting menu is the minimalism and the experience was harmonious notes accented with fresh and focused notes.  And I had the best chocolate dessert of all time–like a Pot de Creme with dark chocolate dust.

Porte 12

12 Rue des Messageries

75010 Paris, France

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Country Egg

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Smoked Beans

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Langostino

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Rabbit Loin – one of the most delightful dishes I have ever tasted.

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Cheese Plate

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The Most Amazing Chocolate Dessert of All Time – Like a Chocolate Powder–pure delight.

 

These were just a few of the spectacular meals I had in France.  I will write up more of Champagne visits and the foods I had along the way.

I find food in San Francisco to have changed and upgraded over time.  And yet I still miss the food in France.  Always spectacular and even with Euro to Dollar exchange rate to be completely reasonable.  Every meal was memorable and I loved everything I ate.  And this is why I take pictures of food–never ashamed to take food photos at the dining table.

I hope to go back to France this 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 GuyJames the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

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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

white

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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