This is part of a series introducing you to interesting people in the wine industry. For many, the journey into wine is not only intriguing but often quite an adventure. These talented individuals are what make the wine industry what it is today so follow this series to meet this group of passionate people who have dedicated their lives to wine.
An Interview with James Melendez of James the Wine Guy
Michele Francisco: Was there a specific wine, moment or place that unlocked your passion?
James Melendez: It was a series of events or non-events— depending on how you look at it. In college I worked at a wine retailer where I was told “go sell wine” but had no tools to sell this precious beverage. After graduate school I moved to San Francisco and the quest and desire to learn about wine seemed elusive. I worked at a venture capital firm where one of the managing directors had a fondness for wine but couldn’t provide a direction. So I decided the only way I was going to learn about wine was to teach myself… and through the teaching oneself unfolded a great excitement that continues to this day.
MF: What did you study in school and what were you doing before you started in the wine industry?
JM: I studied International Relations/Political science – undergraduate at The University of New Mexico; in graduate school I studied Philanthropy and Development. I worked as a technical editor; and at several well-known consumer branded products companies.
MF: How has being in the wine industry changed you?
JM: To be more precise; yet flexible; to take a deeper look at wine and other subject matters. Understanding what makes for a successful label/brand; how the simple subject of wine is complex but knowable and to be in a continuous learning mode.
The quest to understand wine has led me to carefully and methodically learn about other subject matters: organic food, technology, network science.
MF: What’s your favorite part of being in the wine industry?
JM: Continuously meeting so many people; I am constantly tasting something new and exciting. To be part of a fun, highly engaging and active community. There is no wine country I don’t like—wine countries for the most part are in highly desirable areas in the world. I have been privileged to have had a great experience; though I did seek the subject matter of wine; it is as if this subject matter sought me to or at least met me half way.
MF: Looking back, was there something in your past that led you to wine?
JM: Wine is a great subject to keep you on your toes; I think the complexity of wine and to understanding it has been as paramount part of my life. I think there are many ways to learn about.
In some ways I wish I had a particular wine that was my ah ha moment but in other ways I am glad it wasn’t one particular bottle.