JAMES BARLOW’S ‘TOP PICKS’ OF 2022

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am continually amazed at how quickly this year has passed. Due to Covid, I hadn’t traveled in a couple of years, but I quickly made up for a good bit of that this year as the world slowly reopened. I was able to travel to Bourgogne for Grand Jours de Bourgogne and En Premeur in Bordeaux. I visited Napa Valley twice seeing some iconic wineries such as Cakebread, Far Niente, and Sullivan. Sonoma also came calling, mostly in Alexander Valley, as I spent several days with Blue Rock, Goldschmidt, Stuhlmuller, and Trione. I also marked off a bucket list trip as I traveled to Japan last month to tour the south island of Kyushu visiting distilleries and tasting through some spectacular Shochus. It has been a blessed year and I have tasted many wines, so it’s hard to narrow it down to thirteen, but here goes!!!! My Top Picks are Domestic heavy as that is my main portfolio to taste throughout the year, but I have a couple of other selections sprinkled in that were near and dear to my palate. Thank you as always for being part of my blog and trusting me to guide you through your wine selections! Enjoy!

#2. Ashes & Diamonds ‘No.2 Red Hen Vineyard’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Oak Knoll, California

Cash Price $84.99

I was offered these wines early in the year and didn’t really give the line much thought until I randomly picked up a bottle and read on the label that the winemaker was Diana Snowden Seysses (of Domaine Dujac and Snowden Winery fame). This immediately piqued my interest as she is easily one of my favorite winemakers in the world. This wine comes from Red Hen Vineyard which is owned by Bart and Daphne Araujo in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley. The wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grown on well drained gravelly loam requiring little to no irrigation. The wine comes from 4 different blocks with distinct characteristics and fermented together with native yeast. Ashes & Diamonds Cabernet shows medium plus ruby color with dark blue fruit on the nose. The palate shows nice intensity with dark blueberry and black currant laying on a bed of lavender. The mid palate is deliciously plush showing more dark fruit and blue bonnets. The finish is beautifully integrated with notes of dark chocolate, graphite, and whiffs of white pepper that weave through lush hints of blueberry muffins. Barlow Score: 98 Points

#3. Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge 2017

Pessac Leognan, France

Cash Price $121.99

I visited the organically farmed vineyards of Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte this past April for the 4th time. It is always one of my favorite places to visit in Pessac Leognan. This classic Chateau has 55 hectares on superb gravelly vineyards. They have become world famous with their white wines, but I am continually blown away at the quality of their red wines for the price. The 2017 vintage has been largely overlooked due to the abundance of fantastic vintages over the past decade, but don’t sleep on this gem of a vintage. One can find excellent value in 2017’s and the Grand Cru Classe Chateaux made exceptional wines in this vintage. The cepage is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit Verdot and was aged for 16 months in 60% new French oak. The wine has a bright freshness that pops in the glass. Dynamic flavors of black cherry, pomegranate, and wild berries burst into medium plus intensity. The mid palate offers a medley of rose petals and juicy dark fruits with freshly picked herbs wafting through the core. The finish is long and quite pleasing with hints of tea leaf, sandalwood, and vanilla bean. Barlow Score: 98 Points

#4. Reynvaan Family Vineyards ‘Stoneessence’ Syrah 2019

Walla Walla Valley, Rocks District, Washington State

Cash Price $109.99

I tried the Reynvaan portfolio about a decade ago and was immediately smitten. They produce some of the most interesting, quality driven Syrah in the United States and have been farming organically since their inception. I have become increasingly interested in building our Washington State portfolio as the wines continually show some of the highest quality in America. The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater has baseball sized rocks throughout the AVA and is specifically designated because of the rocky soils. This wine is 100% Syrah and has the feel of Hermitage with a splash of New World panache. Stoneessence exudes brawny dark raspberry and pomegranate with medium plus intensity on the palate. The mid palate continues with thick blue fruit and dark chocolate that becomes quickly ensconced in cracked black pepper, smoked ham, and tampenade. The finish offers true minerality of crushed, freshly rained on rocks, salinity, and whiffs of tobacco leaf. Textured, Layered, Complex. Barlow Score: 98 Points

#5. Mount Eden Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Santa Cruz Mnt, California

Cash Price $99.74

I must admit that I had not tried these wines in some years. I was recently re-acquainted with this winery an was quickly reminded why they are considered such a classic in California. This historic estate is perched at 2000 feet overlooking Silicon Valley in the Santa Cruz Mountain Appellation. The winery was founded in 1945 and is located on Franciscan shale on a cool, exposed mountaintop with low yielding vineyards. Jeffrey Patterson has guided the wine making and grape growing here since 1981. The wine shows dark ruby color with dark fruit on the nose. The palate offers dark currant melded with red raspberries and dried herbs. The mid palate shows dark cherry with tinges of salty ham, and dusty tobacco. The wine has a lightness on the palate that belies it’s true brawny core. The finish shows dark chocolate, earthy minerals, and whiffs of sandalwood that sit on the palate for a good long time. This wine has excellent aging capacity. Lovely! Barlow Score: 97 Points

#6. Sullivan Estate ‘James O’Neil’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

Rutherford, California

Cash Price $299.99

I visited Sullivan Winery in September to try through their 2019 wines. As always, the wines were great to outstanding. The James O’Neil Cabernet immediately showed impressively. Jeff Cole continues to show his adeptness for producing extremely high quality Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The wine is 91% Cabernet Sauvignon with 9% Petit Verdot that was aged in 79% new French oak for 22 months. This classic winery is located in the heart of Rutherford AVA. The wine shows medium plus intensity with dark fruit on the nose. The palate offers dark flavors of blackberry and blueberry that sinew deftly on the palate with impressive structure. The mid palate continues with dark currant, tobacco leaf, and graphite leading into gripping tannins. The finish is integrated and captivating with whiffs of vanilla, cedar, and blackberry compote. This brilliant wine is young, but quite inviting right now. It will age gracefully for many years. Barlow Score: 97 Points

#7. Domaine Marguerite Carillon Pinot Noir Premier Cru Volnay Santenots 2020

Volnay, France

Cash Price $84.99

I had the pleasure of attending Grand Jours de Bourgogne this year and was able to try some stellar new properties. I’ve always had a fondness of Volnay Santenots, as my travel companion quickly found out when I ordered one most every time there was a producer that I had not tried on the menu. This Domaine is a small producer showing excellent quality. Volnay is nestled high on the Cote de Beaune between the villages of Meursault and Pommard. Les Santenots is in southwest Volnay at the feet of the hill of Chaignot. The soils are clay and limestone. The wine is 100% Pinot Noir and has been aged for 18 months in 50% new French oak. Carillon exudes elegance and grace from start to finish. Flavors of black cherry and pomegranate flow through the velvet palate with notes of violets and wild flowers. The mid palate is pure and exuberant showing medium intensity with hints of forest floor, fresh meadow flowers and just a whiff of anise. The finish is refined and vibrant with tinges of wild berries, sandalwood, and fresh herbs. Wonderful! Barlow Score: 96 Points

#8. Dolce Late Harvest Sweet White 2014

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $66.49

I had the pleasure of visiting Far Niente for the first time earlier this year. My team and I were able to relax on the vineyard gazebo and taste through a medley of their wines on a beautiful day in Napa Valley. I was particularly happy to taste through several vintages of Dolce, a sister winery of Far Niente that produces a late harvest botrytized wine. This is probably one of the best kept secrets in Napa Valley. You don’t see much ‘sticky’ wine produced in Napa and to see such insane quality from vintage to vintage is astounding. Dolce is the only winery in North America devoted to producing a single, late harvest wine with their own winemaker and vineyards. The wine is inspired from the great wines of Sauternes, which many consider ‘Nectar of the Gods’. The wine is 90% Semillon and 10% Sauvignon Blanc and is aged for 32 months in 100% new French oak. The vineyards are located in the cooler AVA of Coombsville at the base of the Vaca Mountains where the grapes receive damp cool morning fog that promotes the growth of Botrytis Cinerea, a mold that allows for the concentration of sugars and flavors that is key to producing this deliciously, complex sweet wine. Dolce shows impressive depth in flavor while staying away from the cloying notes that many syrupy sweet wines gravitate towards. Lithe and buoyant flavors of poached apricot and candied nectarines pop into the palate with pin point precision. The mid palate shows just a touch of viscosity while allowing the vibrant acids to play through the core of the wine dutifully. Notes of butterscotch, honeycomb, and citrus blossom pirouette melodically on the palate with choreographed dance. The finish is wonderfully exotic with sweet granary toast, vanilla bean, and dulce de leche flowing directly into dried fig and papaya. Barlow Score: 97 Points

#9. Snowden ‘Melchior Kemper Vineyard’ Cabernet Franc 2018

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $69.99

Diana Snowden Seysses continues to impress me with her offerings from Snowden Winery. I had pleasure of visiting her at her home, Domaine Dujac, in Morey St. Denis earlier this year to taste through a dazzling array of Bourgogne wines from this sought out winery. We did talk a bit about Snowden winery while we were there and her passion for the vineyards in Napa Valley gushed from her. Melchior Kemper Vineyard is located at 800 feet in elevation and is sustainably farmed on volcanic sand. The wine is fermented with natural yeast, aged for 18 months in 50% new French oak, and is bottled unfined, unfiltered. This boutique wine has set a new bar for quality Cabernet Franc in California with this first release. The wine is 100% Cabernet Franc and absolutely brilliant. It shows medium intensity with a beautifully aromatic nose of lavender and violets. The palate offers a robustly energetic wine with flavors of wild red berries and raspberry that seamlessly encompass notes of camphor, exotic spice and just a whiff of white pepper. The mid palate shows bursting red plum and rose petals with just a kiss of mint. The finish is integrated and balanced with notes of cedar and tobacco leaf. TLC! Barlow Score: 97 Points

#10. Keever Vineyards ‘Inspirado’ Red Blend 2018

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $79.79

I was quite pleased to be able to bring in this property from Yountville last year to our portfolio. This family operated winery is just that. Family run. One can easily find several Keever’s at anytime working at the winery. Their winemaker is none other than Celia Welch (Scarecrow fame). I’ve always been a big fan of her wines (fell in love with Rocca Syrah) and was not surprised when I found out that she was behind this brilliant wine. The wine is composed of 87% Cabernet Sauvginon, 10% Merlot, and 3% Petit Verdot and was aged in 20% new French oak for 18 months . Richly textured flavors of currant, fresh raspberry, and just a hint of blueberry pour on the palate with medium plus intensity. The mid palate offers racy cherries and violets with beautiful balance throughout the core. The finish is supple and inviting with notes of dark mocha, vanilla, and pipe tobacco with tinges of clove spice. Barlow Score: 95 Points

#11. Lagier Meredith Vineyards Tribidrag (Zinfandel) 2017

Mt. Veeder, California

Cash Price $42.99

I was quite excited to add this winery to our portfolio although it was recently sold for a shocking $0 dollars to Aaron Pott. Carole and Steve have decided to retire and will continue to live on the property, but Aaron will now tend the vines and produce wines from the vineyard. The Lagier Meredith label will cease to exist after the 2021 vintage and will be folded into Pott Wines. The winery is located high up on Mt. Veeder. Carole Meredith is the famed grape geneticist that discovered the origins of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Chardonnay and others. Her Zinfandel uses the ancient name of the variety,Tribidrag, from the Dalmation Coast in Croatia. Steve Lagier worked for Mondavi for 14 years before he left to start Lagier-Meredith with Carole. The don’t produce a lot of wine, but what they do produce is absolutely stunning. This Zinfandel is deliciously perfumed from start to finish. Flavors of lavender and blackberries sink easily into the palate with medium intensity. Hints of potpourri and baking spices waft throughout the mid palate. The finish is balanced and spicy with hints of licorice and blueberry compote. I really enjoyed this Tribidrag aka Zinfandel! Only 118 cases produced. Get it while you still can! Barlow Score: 93 Points

#12. Les Fillottes Rouge 2016

Pomerol, France

Cash Price $88.79

I tasted this little known gem while in Bordeaux this year. I had not heard of the property, but I was driving around with Francois Thienpont (of Thienpont Le Pin & Certan fame) and he mentioned he wanted to show me a property that was going to become the next L’if. We originally carried L’if for $30 when it was first released, it now retails for over $200 per bottle. Guillaume Thienpont, who now is the wine maker for Vieux Chateau Certan in Pomerol with his father Alexandre, has branched out and is making the wine for this 2 hectare gem in Pomerol called Les Fillottes. The grapes are grown on the famous Pomerol soils of clay and gravel with red dirt on the northwest side of the Pomerol plateau. The wine is 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc and has been aged for 18 months in new French oak. Les Fillottes is an unbelievable value in a vintage that may go into the history books as one of the best of all time. The wine shows medium intensity with bright, juicy red cherries and raspberries that sink into a beautifully plush palate. The mid palate becomes gorgeously creamy while continuing to show red fruit but also adding notes of violets and rose petals with hints of mocha. The finish is long and tantalizing with whiffs of white herbs, sage, and dusty minerality. Fillottes is a wine that will continue to grow in price and quality as the vintages pass. You should find some while it’s still affordable! Barlow Score: 97 Points

#13. Girasole Vineyards ‘Charlie’s Blend’ Red 2019

Mendocino County, California

Cash Price $13.99

I always look for one GREAT VALUE wine to put on this list and this one definitely fits the bill this year. The estate is family owned dating back to the 1950’s and have been farming organically since its inception. Girasole (pronounced jeer-uh-so-lay) has become one of our more popular Organic wineries and this rocking little red just received 92 Points from Wine & Spirits with a nod as one of the best 100 wines for under $20! The wine is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet, Zinfandel, and Petite Sirah grown on the three Certified Organic vineyard sites. Ripe, juicy flavors of boysenberry and dark plum burst into the palate with medium intensity. Hints of caramel and vanilla show on the mid palate with darker fruit. The finish is plush and easy with notes of toasted marshmallow and black pepper. Barlow Score: 90 Points

JAMES BARLOW’S ‘TOP PICK’ OF 2022

Heitz Cellars ‘Trailside Vineyard’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Rutherford, California

Cash Price $122.89

Heitz Cellars has become an Icon in Napa Valley for continually providing the standard of excellence for wines in the region. Founded in 1961 by Joe Heitz, they have become world renowned for producing several single vineyard wines that can compete with the best the world can offer, namely Martha’s Vineyard which was Napa Valley’s first designated single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Trailside Vineyard has been part of the Heitz Estate since 1984. It’s nestled between Silverado Trail and Conn Creek on eastern side of Rutherford appellation. The vineyard is organically farmed and only the best lots are used in this wine. Brittany Sherwood is the winemaker for this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. The Trailside blocks are fermented and aged separately for one year in large neutral oak. After that, each block is moved into 100% new French oak for two years. The most superior lots after three years become Heitz Trailside. The wine is aged for one more year in barrel for a total of four years in oak, then bottled and rested for another year, for a total of five years aging before release. The wine is deliciously textured and dense with flavors of blackberry and cassis that show medium plus intensity. The mid palate offers a medley of lavender and black tea conjoining with dark chocolate mocha in a plush, silky core. The finish is layered and complex with a mix of button mushroom, cedar, and coffee bean that lingers on the palate for a long, exquisite amount of time. A Show Stopper! Barlow Score: 99 Points

Thank you,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

Spec’s Fine Wine Buyer

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CHAMPAGNE TASTING AT SPEC’S OAK RIDGE TOMORROW, NOVEMBER 16TH FROM 6-7:30pm

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

I know it’s last second, but I was just made aware of a CHAMPAGNE tasting tomorrow at the Spec’s Oak Ridge from 6-7:30PM

RSVP TO KYLIEB@SPECSONLINE.COM OR JAMESBARLOW@SPECSONLINE.COM

What: Pernod Champagne Portfolio Tasting

Who: Elise Cordell, National Champagnes Trade Engagement & Event Manager for Pernod Ricard

When: TOMORROW, Wednesday November 16th from 6-7:30PM

Where: 27490 Interstate 45 N, Oak Ridge North, Tx 77385

Bubbles to be Poured:

  1. Mumm Napa Brut
  2. GH Mumm Brut
  3. Perrier Jouet Grand Reserve Brut

Thank You,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

Spec’s Fine Wine Buyer

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THE 12 UNDER $12 FOR NOVEMBER 2022

Louis Jadot Macon Villages Chardonnay

France

Cash Price $11.97

  • Aromas of floral and citrus fruit
  • Flavors of green apple and fresh citrus
  • Pairs with turkey breast sandwiches

Ca’Momi Heartcraft Sparkling Rosé NV

California

Cash Price $10.99 (Usually $12.99 but with a $2.00 Spec’s Key Savings this month)

  • Aromas of red fruit
  • Flavors of ripe strawberry and cherry cobbler
  • Pairs as a great aperitif for Turkey Day

V Saint Pierre Rosé

France

Cash Price $11.99 (Usually $12.99 but with a $1.00 Spec’s Key Savings this month)

  • Aromas citrus and red fruit
  • Dry flavors of white cherry, peach, and candied apricot
  • Pairs with turkey smothered in cranberry sauce.

Noble House Dornfelder

Germany

Cash Price $9.99

  • Aroma sweet red fruit
  • Flavors of red cherry and red roses
  • Pairs with honey baked ham

Beppe Sweet Rosso

Italy

Cash Price $9.99

  • Aromas sweet candied red fruit
  • Flavors of candied cherry, raspberry, and exotic spice
  • Pairs with family on Turkey Day

Adorn Chardonnay

California

Cash Price $7.99

  • Aromas of creamy white flowers
  • Flavors of pineapple and buttered crescent rolls
  • Pairs with Butterball Turkey!

Chevalier Alexis Lichine Sparkling NV

France

Cash Price $9.49

  • Aromas tree fruit
  • Flavors of apricot and fresh applesauce
  • Pairs with friends at Friendsgiving

Michel Schlumberger Sauvignon Blanc

California

Cash Price $10.99

  • Aroma citrus and lemongrass
  • Flavors of grapefruit and cactus juice
  • Pairs with dry white meats

Chateau Galochet Red Bordeaux Blend

France

Cash Price $11.99

  • Aroma vibrant red fruit
  • Flavors of red currant, plum and vanilla
  • Pairs with darker meats on the table

Domaine de Cabasse Cuvee Marguerite Red Rhone Blend

France

Cash Price $11.99

  • Aroma dark fruits
  • Flavors of black raspberry, pepper, and herbs
  • Pairs with everything on your Turkey table

Versant Chardonnay

France

Cash Price $10.99

  • Aroma tropical fruit
  • Flavors of pineapple, papaya and creamy butter
  • Pairs with thirsty family members!

Perelada Brut Reserve Sparkling NV

Spain

Cash Price $10.99

  • Aromas of citrus and white flower
  • Flavors of apple, bread pudding, and almonds
  • Pairs with a toast to family

Thank You,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

Spec’s Fine Wine Buyer

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JAMES BARLOW’S ‘THE THIRTEEN’ PICKS OF NOVEMBER 2022

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

This year seems to have flown by! The year 2022 has had it’s own set of challenges even with Covid dying down a bit. I have been super busy this year with travel (just returned from Japan) so I haven’t been able to post every month. I apologize for that and will try to rectify that in 2023. I am extremely excited about the holidays and as you all know, Thanksgiving is my favorite! I love to be able to cook food all day with friends and family while pairing well thought out wines for the big feast. Here are some GREAT wines to put on your table this Turkey day. The Amycas white blend may just be the best New World white wine that you could possibly open to pair with most everything on the table, so I highly recommend putting some in your cart soon! HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Domaine du Pegau Chateauneuf-du-Pape Reserve Red Blend 2019

Rhone Valley, France

Cash Price $72.99

Pegau is one of my favorite all time wineries and their wines never fail to over deliver.  I have always loved the wine at $90, but at $73 this wine is an unbelievable steal!  The wine is 80% Grenache, 6% Syrah, 4% Mourvedre, 4% Cinsault, and 5% Counoise and 1% Vaccarese produced on vines that range from 40-100 years old.  The wine is aged in neutral oak for two years without fining or filtering before release. The Feraud’s of Domaine du Pegau have been tending vines in Chateauneuf du Pape since the year 1670.  They are considered on of the premier ‘Elite’ producers in all of the Rhone Valley.  Robust flavors of steeped red cherries and plum march brawnily into the palate with medium plus tannins and acids.  The mid palate shows cured and roasted meats, bacon fat, and tapenade that round into touches of leather and currant.  The finish is full and crucially long with hints of chestnuts, morello cherries and garrigue. Laurence has outdone herself with this wine! Pegau is the perfect bottle to impress the family for Thanksgiving.  Barlow Score: 97 Points

Lagier Meredith Syrah 2017

Mt. Veeder, California

Cash Price $44.99

I was quite happy to add this winery to Spec’s portfolio a couple of years ago and we have sold them with pleasure. Steve and Carole decided this year to retire and are giving their vineyards to Aaron Pott to continue to steward their land. So the Lagier Meredith label will cease to exist after 2021 and will be folded into the Pott Wines label. Ya’ll should pick up these wines early and often while they are still available! As most of you know, I’ve been a Syrah nut for years and this one really shows why I love this variety. Refined flavors of blackberry and lavender show deliciously on the palate with whiffs of red roses. The mid palate gives tinges of black pepper with polished tannins and hints of dark plum. The finish offers touches of black cherry compote with licorice and exotic spice. A beautifully balanced wine that would pair excellently with Turducken! Barlow Score: 94 Points

Lavinea Tualatin Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cash Price $39.89

This winery has shown the ability to quickly become a rising star in the world of Willamette Valley wines. Tualatin Vineyard was planted with the originals like Ponzi and Eyrie.  The vineyard has varied elevation up to 900 feet and produce Pinot Noirs of great vibrancy and length.  The wine was produced with native yeast with twice a day pump overs and then aged in 30% new French oak.  This sleek and sexy wine shows velvet texture from the pop of the cork.  Plush red cherries pop into freshly picked strawberries with whiffs of rose petals and white flowers.  The mid palate offers medium intensity with electric acidity that travels seamlessly into tinges of crushed rocks, cherry cobbler and exotic spice. Tualatin is beautiful now, but will age gracefully for years to come.  Barlow Score: 93 Points

Brooks ‘Concho’ Pinot Noir 2018

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cash Price $44.99 BUT A $10.00 SPEC’S KEY FOR A LIMITED TIME

ONLY $34.99

This wine was produced for Country rock star singer Clay Walker. He’s a Cabernet Sauvignon fan, but fell in love with Brooks winery so they decided to collaborate on a red and white wine. This 100% Pinot Noir is made in a ‘beefier’ style to mold to Clay’s palate. The wine has medium intensity with bright cherry compote and exotic spice on the nose. The palate offers fresh pomegranate, lavender and dark cherries with whiffs of dark chocolate and cola. The finish is deliciously appealing with hints of minerality, rose petals and just a kiss of oak. Pairs with Fried Turkey! Barlow Score: 93 Points

Stuhlmuller Vineyards Chardonnay 2020

Alexander Valley, California

Cash Price $24.99

I visited Fritz Stuhlmuller at Stuhlmuller vineyards in April and was quite impressed with his style of wine making and consistency across the board with the wines that they produce. The wines were consistently restrained, while showing ample amount of fruit and texture. This deliciously flavorful Estate Chardonnay shows ample flavors of green apple, lemon blossom, and pear. The mid palate offers touches of creamy texture while keeping a vibrant backbone of acidity. The finish is supple and inviting with hints of nectarine, creamy cashews and butterscotch. This will be a delightful pairing for a butter slathered turkey. Barlow Score: 92 Points

Dusty Nabor Dry Rosé of Grenache 2021

Sta. Rita Hills, California

Cash Price $24.99

I was originally surprised at how much quality was in the bottle with all the Dusty Nabor wines (also his NSO label), but the shock has worn off and now I’m realizing that he is just producing extremely high quality wines on a regular basis. This Rose shows off the versatility of Grenache. Focused and brightly structured flavors of crunchy raspberry and white peach flow melodically into the palate with wafting notes of white flowers dancing through the core. The mid palate is light and cleansing with tinges of lychee blossom and Bosc Pear. The finish is tight and bright with medium acidity bouncing on the palate while showing just a hint of wet stone minerality. Barlow Score: 91 Points

Escape Artist Red Blend 2020

Alexander Valley, California

Cash Price $22.99

I was quite excited when the opportunity arose to work with Nick Goldschmidt. He is one of the best wine makers in the world with an amazing list of wineries that he has dealt with. He lives right near Alexander Valley and farms several vineyards in the area. I am pleased to offer this new project from him called ‘Escape Artist’ Red Blend. It is a blend of 71% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petit Verdot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec that has been aged in French oak. This vibrantly intense wine offers red fruit on the palate with hints of black cherry and blueberry. The mid palate is well balanced with a supple roundness. The finish is smooth and enticing with hints of tobacco leaf, vanilla, and exotic spice. Barlow Score: 91 Points

Paul Dolan ‘Organic’ Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Mendocino, California

Cash Price $19.94

I have championed ‘Organic’ wine and better farming since I took over as Fine Wine Buyer for Spec’s several years ago. This brand is a no-brainer to support as Mendocino Wine Co. has been on the forefront of good farming for generations. The wine is delightfully zesty and will slice right through any dry white meat that may be on your table for the holidays. Flavors of grapefruit and lemon zest pop into the palate with medium intensity. The mid palate shows tree fruits of white peach and orange blossoms. The finish is clean and refreshing with a linear minerality that is precisely focused. Yum. Barlow Score: 90 Points

Hospices de Beaujeu Gamay Beaujolais 2020

Brouilly, France

Cash Price $19.94

Beaujolais is always a classic pairing for Thanksgiving due to it’s softer flavor profile and excellent acidity. I have seen sales of Beaujolais Nouveau drop steadily over the last several years, but it seems that customers have tired of its ‘bubble gummy’ flavor profile and instead are purchasing higher quality Beaujolais such as Hospices de Beaujeu. This wine hails from Brouilly which is one of the Cru regions in Beaujolais known for producing higher quality Gamay. Bright flavors of red cherry and pomegranate jump into the palate with excellent acidity. Light and flavorful notes of raspberry and red roses show easily into the mid palate. The finish is fresh and vibrant with hints of violets, lavender and crushed rocks. Beaujeu Brouilly is a no-brainer to put on the table for your feast this year. Barlow Score: 90 Points

Renwood Ranch Estate Zinfandel 2019

Amador County, California

Cash Price $20.89

Renwood winery has completely revitalized their image over the past several years deciding to focus on fewer wines, but all high quality from the estate. The winery has produced Zinfandel (famously) for many years. This Estate Zinfandel is ripe and juicy from the start with flavors of red berries and bramble. The mid palate is lusciously enticing with blueberry popping into whiffs of smoked meat and black pepper. The finish is richly textured with hints of vanilla and cedar. Barlow Score: 90 Points

Brooks ‘Amycas’ White Blend 2021

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cash Price $17.99

Amycas is an Alsatian style white blend with 30% Pinot Gris/24% Pinot Blanc/16% Muscat/15% Riesling/15% Gewurztraminer as the components of the wine. This wine absolutely explodes with flavor on the palate. Ripe, textured flavors of white peach, papaya, and Honeycrisp apple pop into the palate with medium intensity. The mid palate shows licks of white flowers and more tropical fruit. The finish is clean and refreshing with whiffs of lychee, mandarin, apricot, and exotic spice. What a perfect Thanksgiving feast white wine! Barlow Score: 92 Points

Etesian Blanc de Noir Brut Rosé Sparkling NV

Carneros, California

Cash Price $17.99

Etesian is a new sparkling wine for us from an extremely reputable winery (It’s a secret!) that we’ve been able to procure at a great price point. Coming from a bubble head, I’ll tell you that these sparklers are absolutely delicious! This sparkler comes from Carneros on the Sonoma side. The wine is 58% Pinot Noir/42% Chardonnay produced Method Champenoise (Champagne!) and aged on the lees for 2 years before release. Flavors of white cherry and citrus flow into tight, clean bubbles. The mid palate shows notes of lemon and orange peel that sink into tingles of raspberry cream. The finish is light and refreshing with whiffs of lemon meringue and chocolate truffles. Barlow Score: 91 Points

Dr. Frank Salmon Run Semi Sweet Riesling 2021

Finger Lakes, New York

Cash Price $12.99

Dr, Konstantin Frank winery has been quietly making some of the best value Riesling in the United States for years. This daily gem hails from the Finger Lakes as Dr. Frank was the first winery to make vitis vinifera work in the soils of New York. Salmon Run offers freshly picked fruit flavors of crisp Granny smith apples, lemon sorbet, and pineapple. The mid palate is bursting with flavor and energy while showing a balanced backbone of acidity. The finish is soft with a light sweetness of honeycomb and lilacs. This wine has just enough sweetness to enjoy by itself with family or also has enough acidity to pair with pork or ham on the table. Barlow Score: 90 Points

Thank You,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

Spec’s Fine Wine Buyer

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RIEDEL GLASSWARE EXPERT TASTING ON TUESDAY, OCTOBER 18TH FROM 6:30-8:00PM LAST CHANCE TO SIGN UP!

WE STILL HAVE A FEW SEATS AVAILABLE FOR THIS EVENT COMING UP ON TUESDAY IF YOU’D LIKE TO JOIN!!!!

WHAT: RIEDEL WINE WINGS GLASSWARE EVENT

WHEN: OCTOBER 18TH FROM 6:30-8pm (TUESDAY)

RSVP TO: RSVP_WOODLANDS@SPECSONLINE.COM OR JAMESBARLOW@SPECSONLINE.COM

WHO: RIEDEL EXPERT AMBASSADOR DOUG REED

WHERE: Spec’s – Oak Ridge North

27490 I-45 N, Oak Ridge North, TX 7738

COST: $75 PER PERSON, BUT YOU WILL RECEIVE A 4 GLASS WINE WINGS TASTING KIT VALUED AT $170.99 (WE MAY HAVE EXTRA KITS TO SELL AT THE EVENT!)

WINES TO BE POURED:

  1. Blue Rock Sauvignon Blanc 2021
  2. Cru Montage Chardonnay 2020
  3. Brooks ‘Renewal’ Pinot Noir 2021
  4. Barlow Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2020

RIEDEL WINEWINGS

A STRIKING COLLECTION BY GEORG J. RIEDEL

Georg Riedel, in his long career, has shaped many functional glasses, all specifically designed to enhance the enjoyment of the liquid for which it is created. Georg, as the creator of varietal-specific wine glasses, strongly believes that a finely tuned glass shape enhances the perception of all aromatic beverages.

In the Summer of 2018, Georg was asked by a customer to create “the ultimate glass” for Cabernet Sauvignon, a project which was to provide the inspiration behind RIEDEL Winewings.

Slowly, a new shape emerged: A flat-bottomed glass, wide and reminiscent of the wing of an aircraft, complete with winglets. Over the course of a year, through many tastings and by making changes to shape, size and rim diameter, what began as one glass for one grape varietal developed into seven different glasses to represent the most popular grape varietals.

RIEDEL Winewings was born and was about to take flight!

Georg Riedel’s Vision – Modern Glassware reimagined

To explain the concept of RIEDEL Winewings: We chose a flat and stretched bottom, with a wing-like shape to increase the surface area between wine and air, which increases the levels of evaporation and develops a greater intensity of aroma. When positioning one’s head to the glass, the nose is closer and is exposed to the wider surface of the wine. However, this alone would not fully deliver the optimal aroma of each grape variety and so, to capture the delicate layered aromas, it was necessary to curve the glass walls and to correctly calibrate the opening of each glass with its ideal rim diameter.

Feel Free to contact me with any questions: jamesbarlow@specsonline.com

Thank you,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

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THE 12 UNDER $12 FOR OCTOBER 2022

Castellblanc Extra Brut NV

Spain

Cash Price $8.99

  • Aromas of citrus
  • Flavors of melon, peach, and baking bread
  • Pairs with Sunday brunch

Adorn Cabernet Sauvignon

California

Cash Price $8.99

  • Aromas dark fruits
  • Flavors of dark cherry, blueberry, and oak
  • Pairs with pulled pork sliders

Michel Schlumberger Chardonnay

California

Cash Price $10.99

  • Aromas of tropical fruits
  • Flavors of pineapple and cream
  • Pairs with ladies’ night

Introvert Cabernet Sauvignon

California

Cash Price $8.99

  • Aromas of dark fruit
  • Flavors of blackberry, currant, and chocolate
  • Pairs with days that end with ‘Y’

Perimeter Black Red Blend

California

Cash Price $10.99

  • Aromas of juicy red fruit
  • Flavors of cherry, blueberry pie, and toffee
  • Pairs with Halloween candy!

Wish Sauvignon Blanc

California

Cash Price $10.99

  • Aromas of tropical citrus fruit
  • Flavors of melon and lemon curd
  • Pairs with lemon pepper chicken

Pas de Rauzan Bordeaux Red Blend

France

Cash Price $10.99

  • Aromas of red fruit
  • Flavors of cherry, currant, and vanilla
  • Pairs with a bacon cheeseburger

Perimeter Sweet Riesling

Washington State

Cash Price $9.99

  • Aromas of candied tree fruit
  • Flavors of apricot, apple, and honeysuckle
  • Pairs with spicy Thai food

San Felipe Malbec

Argentina

Cash Price $11.99

  • Aromas of dark fruit
  • Flavors of plum, dark berry, and mocha
  • Pairs with Taco Tuesday

Liberation de Paris Pinot Noir

France

Cash Price $10.99

  • Aromas of dark fruit and petals
  • Flavors of black cherry, plum, and cola
  • Pairs with smoked chicken

Pratuccio Montepulciano

Italy

Cash Price $8.99

  • Aromas of dark, fleshy fruit
  • Flavors of dark plum and pepper
  • Pairs with a T-Bone with all the fixings

Peninsula Moscato

Portugal

Cash Price $9.99

  • Aromas sweet tropical fruit
  • Flavors of candied peach and oranges
  • Pairs with party time!

Thank you,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

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RIEDEL GLASSWARE EXPERT TASTING ON TUESDAY, OCTOBER 18TH FROM 6:30-8:00PM

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

YOU HAVE ASKED, SO I AM PLEASED TO ANNOUNCE ANOTHER RIEDEL GLASSWARE EVENT!!!!

45 SEATS ARE AVAILABLE FOR THIS EVENT.

WHAT: RIEDEL WINE WINGS GLASSWARE EVENT

WHEN: OCTOBER 18TH FROM 6:30-8pm (TUESDAY)

RSVP TO: RSVP_WOODLANDS@SPECSONLINE.COM

WHO: RIEDEL EXPERT AMBASSADOR DOUG REED

WHERE: Spec’s – Oak Ridge North

27490 I-45 N, Oak Ridge North, TX 7738

COST: $75 PER PERSON, BUT YOU WILL RECEIVE A 4 GLASS WINE WINGS TASTING KIT VALUED AT $170.99 (WE MAY HAVE EXTRA KITS TO SELL AT THE EVENT!)

WINES TO BE POURED:

  1. Blue Rock Sauvignon Blanc 2021
  2. Cru Montage Chardonnay 2020
  3. Brooks ‘Renewal’ Pinot Noir 2021
  4. Barlow Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2020

RIEDEL WINEWINGS

A STRIKING COLLECTION BY GEORG J. RIEDEL

Georg Riedel, in his long career, has shaped many functional glasses, all specifically designed to enhance the enjoyment of the liquid for which it is created. Georg, as the creator of varietal-specific wine glasses, strongly believes that a finely tuned glass shape enhances the perception of all aromatic beverages.

In the Summer of 2018, Georg was asked by a customer to create “the ultimate glass” for Cabernet Sauvignon, a project which was to provide the inspiration behind RIEDEL Winewings.

Slowly, a new shape emerged: A flat-bottomed glass, wide and reminiscent of the wing of an aircraft, complete with winglets. Over the course of a year, through many tastings and by making changes to shape, size and rim diameter, what began as one glass for one grape varietal developed into seven different glasses to represent the most popular grape varietals.

RIEDEL Winewings was born and was about to take flight!

Georg Riedel’s Vision – Modern Glassware reimagined

To explain the concept of RIEDEL Winewings: We chose a flat and stretched bottom, with a wing-like shape to increase the surface area between wine and air, which increases the levels of evaporation and develops a greater intensity of aroma. When positioning one’s head to the glass, the nose is closer and is exposed to the wider surface of the wine. However, this alone would not fully deliver the optimal aroma of each grape variety and so, to capture the delicate layered aromas, it was necessary to curve the glass walls and to correctly calibrate the opening of each glass with its ideal rim diameter.

Feel Free to contact me with any questions: jamesbarlow@specsonline.com

Thank you,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The 12 under $12 for September 2022

Imus Red Blend

Spain

Cash Price $9.99

  • Intense aromas of red fruit
  • Flavors of wild strawberries, red cherry and pastries
  • Pairs with Honey Baked Ham

Radio Boka Rose

Spain

Cash Price $9.99

  • Aroma citrus and red fruit
  • Flavors of red raspberry and cherry
  • Pairs with the dog days of summer

El Portillo Pinot Noir

Argentina

Cash Price $9.99

  • Aromas of light red fruit
  • Flavors of bright red cherry and spice
  • Pairs with a roast beef au jus

Gryphus Sauvignon Blanc

Chile

Cash Price $8.99

  • Aromas of zesty citrus
  • Flavors of grapefruit and meadow flower
  • Pairs with spicy crawfish by the pound

Sonalto Vinho Verde White

Portugal

Cash Price $7.59

  • Aroma of citrus
  • Flavors of salty citrus, lime zest and lemon spritz
  • Pairs with briny oysters on the half shell

Casa Ceccato Pinot Grigio

Italy

Cash Price $7.59

  • Aromas light citrus
  • Flavors of tropical fruit and flowers
  • Pairs with friends and festivities

Carrione Chianti

Italy

Cash Price $8.54

  • Aromas of red fruit
  • Flavors of light red cherry and cranberry
  • Pairs with menudo

KWV Chenin Blanc

South Africa

Cash Price $9.99

  • Aromas of tropical fruit
  • Flavors of melon and guava
  • Pairs with a chicken BLT

Liberation de Paris Cabernet Sauvignon

France

Cash Price $10.99

  • Aromas of dark fruit
  • Flavors of blackberry and cassis
  • Pairs with sloppy joe sliders

Fog Bank Cabernet Sauvignon

California

Cash Price $9.99

  • Aromas of dark fruit
  • Flavors of plum, cassis, and caramel
  • Pairs with herb crusted lamb shanks

Simply Cabernet Sauvignon

Washington State

Cash Price $10.99

  • Aromas of dark fruit
  • Flavors of blackberry, currant, and cream
  • Pairs with pulled pork sliders

Dado Red Blend

California

Cash Price $8.99 but with a $3.00 Spec’s Key ONLY $5.99

  • Aromas of jammy red fruit
  • Flavors of brambly boysenberry and spice
  • Pairs with spicy chorizo shrimp stacks
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JAMES BARLOW’S ‘THE THIRTEEN’ PICKS OF SEPTEMBER 2022

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

Now that school is back in session and most of you are trying to rebound from summer trips, I have decided to offer you all some value wines in this set of reviews. I am also focusing on some Organic wineries as I know we are all trying to be a bit more healthy in 2022 after the last two years of craziness. Have fun with these selections and make sure you take advantage of our Pick 6 special pricing! Enjoy!

Baer ‘Arctos’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Columbia Valley, Washington State

Cash Price $39.89

Baer Winery is producing some absolute rocking Red wines. Erica Orr is the winemaker for these single vineyard wines. She worked her first harvest with Cathy Corison! The wines are all single vineyard from Stillwater Creek Vineyard on the Royal Slope of the Frenchman hills. The vineyard has quickly earned a reputation as one of Columbia Valley’s Top Vineyards. This wine is 91% Cabernet Sauvignon/9% Petit Verdot and was aged for 21 months in 50% new French oak. Flavors of blackberry and currant show on the palate with medium intensity. The mid palate gives hints of minerality with crushed rocks and graphite. Touches of red fruit sink into sleek dark notes of blueberry. The finish is long and gratifying with tobacco, cigar box and cedar dust encompassing a plush core of fruit. Barlow Score: 94 Points

Riglos Gran Corte Red Blend 2017

Mendoza, Argentina

Cash Price $39.89

Riglos is a wine that has made it to the United States because famed winemaker Paul Hobbs (who consults there) has taken this winery under his wings to show America what an amazing winery this is.  The wine is a Malbec/Cabernet/Franc blend that is lush and layered from start to finish.  Delicious flavors of blackberry and plum flow easily into a medium plus intensity.  Notes of lavender and cinnamon show with hints of toasted nuts, vanilla and graham crackers on the finish. Fall in love with this wine tonight!  Barlow score: 93 Points

Auctioneer Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $29.99

The Auctioneer is affectionately named after Michael Broadbent, the 24th Master of Wine, whose career is steeped in tradition and history. He partnered with Robert Mondavi in 1981 to start the Napa Valley wine auction. It is becoming increasingly hard to find $30 Napa Cabernet on the shelves, so it’s a pleasure to be able to offer this one with such history behind it. The wine offers medium intensity with flavors of cassis and blackberry flowing from the start. Notes of juicy plum and black cherry show in the mid palate with easy tannins. The finish is gracious with whiffs of graham cracker, vanillin, and toasted cedar that becomes long and alluring. Auctioneer was aged in 60% new French oak for 15 months. Barlow Score: 91 Points

Casa Gran del Siurana ‘Cruor’ Red Blend 2017

Priorat, Spain

Cash Price $25.99

The wine is a 31% Samso (Carignan)/60% Garnatxa (Garnacha)/9% Syrah blend and aged for 14 months in new and used French oak.  Cruor is a power bomb from start to finish.  Intense flavors of black berry and currant smash into medium plus tannins and medium acids.  The mid palate shows black cherry and plum with a smoky aroma that leads to hints of roasted meat and black pepper.  The finish is thick and robust with notes of dark chocolate, tea leaf, and coffee grounds.  Always a favorite!   Barlow Score: 92 Points

Brooks Rosé of Pinot Noir 2021

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cash Price $22.99

I’m quite excited to have this gem Dry Rosé back in stock. Brooks did not produce a 2020 vintage due to smoke taint issues in the Willamette Valley. This 100% Pinot Noir Rosé is wonderfully alluring from the start with medium intensity and vibrant acidity. Flavors of white raspberry and strawberries pop into the palate with an undertone of juicy watermelon. The mid palate shows hints of citrus with bing cherry flowing throughout. The finish is clean and refreshing with tinges of rhubarb, white flowers, and fresh herbs. Barlow Score: 92 Points

Paul Dolan Organic Zinfandel 2020

Mendocino County, California

Cash Price $19.94

Paul Dolan is a pioneer in the rise of organic farming. As you all know, I try to give wineries that have good farming practices a little more attention. The winery is Certified Organic and Vegan. This Zinandel has a delicious richness that runs throughout the core with a purity of fruit. Flavors of ripe red berries and plum show on the palate with medium intensity. The finish is soft and alluring with hints of tobacco and exotic spice. Barlow Score: 91 Points

Milbrandt Family Merlot 2019

Columbia Valley, Washington State

Cash Price $16.99

I’ve become an advocate of Washington State wines and have decided that Texas should start enjoying some of the best crafted wines made in the United States. They have a penchant for producing high quality Merlot and this is a great one to hedge your bets on. The grapes come from King Fuji and Katherine Leon vineyards in the Columbia Valley. The wine offers bright flavors of bing cherry and pomegranate on the palate with medium intensity. The mid palate shows a juicy vibrancy with more red fruit and silky tannins. The finish is balanced with hints of dark chocolate, cedar and plum. Barlow Score: 90 Points

Alexander Valley Vineyards ‘Homestead’ Red Blend 2018

Alexander Valley, California

Cash Price $17.99

We have had a great relationship with Alexander Valley Vineyards for many years as it was cultivated by Bear and the Wetzel family. Their Cyrus Red Blend has won the Houston Rodeo Uncorked Wine Competition a record 4 times! This is their daily drinker called ‘Homestead’. The wine is mainly a blend of Merlot, Zinfandel and Cabernet but does have a dash of Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah to add spiciness and aromatics. The wine was aged in French and American oak for 12 months. Flavors of black cherry and bramble sink into the palate with a whiff of pipe tobacco and gamey bacon fat. The wine has medium intensity with soft, chewy phenolics. The finish offers dark plum and blueberry pie with hints of vanilla spice and oak. Barlow Score: 89 Points

Borgo Magredo Prosecco Extra Dry NV

Prosecco DOC, Italy

Cash Price $18.99

I visited Borgo Magredo many years ago in Friuli. I was quite impressed with their attention to detail and the quality of their white wines. This Prosecco is Extra Dry (meaning more grams of sugar than a Brut) but the sugar in this wine does not equate to sweetness, but instead softens the acidity of the sparkling wine. Flavors of ripe lemon citrus pop into the palate with notes of green apple and grapefruit. The finish is light and refreshing with plenty of bubbles to cleanse the palate and leave you wanting more. Barlow Score: 89 Points

Freelander Pinot Noir 2019

California

Cash Price $16.99

I was pleasantly surprised when I tried this Pinot Noir. The grape can often taste ‘artificial’ or ‘grapey’ in less expensive versions, but this one was quite exuberant and lively from start to finish. Ripe flavors of red and black fruit turn into loads of red raspberry. Cherry compote flows into the mid palate with whiffs of blueberry cream pie. There is no noticeable oak on the finish, but notes of raspberry tea and cola tickle the palate. Super Fresh. Barlow Score: 90 Points

Chateau Bonette Merlot Bordeaux Rouge 2016

Bordeaux, France

Cash Price $14.99

The 2016 vintage will go down in the books as one of the greatest vintages of our lifetime in Bordeaux.  Snatch up all you can get your hands on, especially the value wines that are of extremely high quality for the price. Bonette is behind the Liberation de Paris wines and has produced an exceptional wine in this banner vintage.  Flavors of fleshy currant and black cherry pop into the palate with medium intensity.  There is a juicy core to this wine that gives it a gulp-able appeal, but has the structure to pair easily with food.  The finish offers touches of cinnamon, potpourri, and oak.  James Score: 89 Points

Pam’s Unoaked Chardonnay 2020

California

Cash Price $13.99

The wine is 100% Chardonnay and completely un-oaked. Pam’s Chardonnay was aged in stainless steel and drinks deliciously refreshing from start to finish. It’s a delightfully fruit forward wine with flavors of creamy pineapple and mango bursting at the seams. The mid palate has medium intensity with balanced acidity while showing notes of melon and green apple. The finish offers whiffs of cream and banana. Barlow Score: 88 Points

Girasole Charlie’s Blend Red 2019

Mendocino County, California

Cash Price $13.99

Girasole has become one of our more popular Organic wineries and this rocking little red just received 92 Points from Wine & Spirits with a nod as one of the best 100 wines for under $20! The wine is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet, Zinfandel, and Petite Sirah grown on the three Certified Organic vineyard sites. Ripe, juicy flavors of boysenberry and dark plum burst into the palate with medium intensity. Hints of caramel and vanilla show on the mid palate with darker fruit. The finish is plush and easy with notes of toasted marshmallow and black pepper. Barlow Score: 90 Points

Thank you,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

Spec’s Fine Wine Buyer

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BARLOW IN BORDEAUX: THE 2021 VINTAGE

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

I traveled to Bordeaux to attend En Primeur Union des Grand Crus in April of this year to taste through the 2021 vintage. It’s the first time Spec’s has attended without Bear Dalton in over 25 years. I went with our new Bordeaux buyer, Alan Dennis, and our Central Texas Trainer, Evan Davis. I must admit, it was a little weird tasting through a Bordeaux vintage without the expertise of Bear Dalton to lean on but I think we came out with a very good understanding of the vintage and quality level. Here are my notes on the vintage. Enjoy!

THE VINTAGE

If I were to sum up this vintage in a word, it would be: Vintage.

Yes. Vintage, but not as in the 2021 vintage. I mean ‘Vintage’ as in this harvest is a return to the Vintage style of wine making that Bordeaux has been known for with less alcohol and fresh, restrained fruits. It was the epitomy of a wine maker’s vintage where the vigneron had lots of variable weather and issues. One common theme that I noticed is this: Chateaux that decided to take what the vintage gave them, typically made good or very good wine, while the Chateaux that decided to continue to make their ‘style’ of wine had issues with quality and consistency. FOR ME, This was a vintage that was a RETURN to the CLASSIC style of Bordeaux with less alcohol and more finesse rather than the sumptuous vintages of late in the region. In short, I LOVE this vintage, but you must not go into these wines thinking of vintages like 2016, 2018, 2019, or 2020. I personally prefer the ‘Classic’ style of wines that are more elegant, lower alcohol, and show more structure so this vintage is an easy ‘Yes’ for me, but customers need to be aware that it is definitely a vintage that you will have to pay more attention to purchases and prices. The vintage is quite ‘FRESH’ and drinkable now, but will definitely age VERY WELL. Also, don’t skip out on the white wines of 2021. They are absolutely PHENOMENAL!

Issues with Merlot caused most of the tough decision making this vintage with a late storm giving vignerons headaches as to whether to pick a little early or wait and have possible rot on their grapes. Most Chateaux (all that I talked to except one which was Lafite Rothschild) decided to wait and hope for better phenolic ripeness. Those that did wait, were rewarded as the rainfalls did not come to fruition as forecasted. Lafite Rothschild picked early, but it was of no consequence as the grapes were at the perfect condition that the Chateau wanted anyways.

WEATHER

The winter of 2020 was relatively mild, although quite wet. March brought warmer and drier weather with flowering typically between March 15th – March 30th on both the Right and Left Bank. Spring was marked by frequent frost that hit especially hard on April 6-8th which devastated much of the Sauternes vineyards. May and June recorded quite a bit of rainfall, so vignerons had to be quite mindful of disease and mildew. Mildew from all the rains wreaked havoc in the vineyards, Especially with Merlot. The Right Bank growers had to heavily rely on Cabernet Franc (Angelus used more Cabernet Franc than ever in their history) to balance their cepages. Budbreak occurred typically the last week of May into the first week of June. Fruit set was good throughout for the most part. July was also rainy, but then the weather dried up through most of August and September. Veraison was normal and occurred in mid July. Harvest for white grapes occurred in mostly in September with reds being picked mid September through early October. A massive storm was predicted to hit Bordeaux on October 2nd and 3rd, which made the vigneron quite anxious deciding whether to harvest early (many without fully mature Cabernet Sauvignon grapes) or wait through the storm and hope for perfect phenolic ripeness. Most Chateau did, in fact, wait and were rewarded as the predicted storms never materialized. This gave the vignerons a couple more weeks of sun to get the grapes into the ‘comfort zone’ that most wanted to pick in. Overall, Merlot took the biggest hit of the vintage with most leaving it in small percentages or none at all in the cepage. The grape is more susceptible to mildew and frost, which happens a lot in wetter/cooler vintages. Ducru Beaucaillou’s 2021 wine is 98% Cabernet Sauvignon (the highest percentage in their history). One would think that the Right Bank probably would not produce high quality in a decidedly UN-Merlot vintage, but that is not true at all. Vignerons typically added more Cabernet Franc to the Cepage or only picked the highest quality bunches which led to extremely low yield, but HIGH QUALITY Merlot. St. Emilion and Pomerol both made some fabulous wines (This was the BEST Clinet that I have ever tasted).

THE REMODELING OF BORDEAUX

Many Chateaux took the two years where no one was traveling to Bordeaux during Covid to revamp or build brand new state of the art cellars. I must admit that I was definitely ‘WOW’ed by Haut Bailly’s new facilities and blown away by what Troplong Mondot has done in a short amount of time. I’m excited to try the new Michelin Star restaurant that they’ve opened. Chateau Figeac also completed their new cellars which had a very natural feel to it, maybe they opened just in time to be elevated in the ranking system? Others like Chateau Lynch Bages created an almost warehouse feel in village de Bages although we did have an excellent lunch at Cafe Lavinal right beside the facility. Overall, Bordeaux has seen quite the face lift since I had traveled there three years prior. I hear that others are in the works already (Branaire Ducru), so Bordeaux is planning for the long haul at some of it’s most prestigious Chateaux!

PRICING CONCERNS

One of the biggest issues of the vintage will inevitably be that it is priced similar to the previous three vintages, yet it couldn’t be more different of a vintage. That said, pricing that has been released is not sticker shocking as it seems the Chateaux are understanding of the vintage at hand, but also cognizant (as are we all) of the very real issue of inflation that has been caused by the pandemic. I think that those who decide to buy futures will be getting some great wines that will age well. If you are planning to flip the wines, then this may not be the vintage for you, but if you are a true Francophile and lover of Bordeaux then this vintage will be truly rewarding as it’s a return to the classic style of Bordeaux.

VARIATION PER REGION

I found that there seemed to be a lot of variation per region in this vintage with Pauillac being the most variable from Chateau to Chateau. Margaux was the most consistent with St. Julien being a close second. The wines of St. Estephe were some of the best I’ve ever tasted out of the region, so I’d seek out Chateau like Calon Segur for great value. The right bank had better consistency from region to region with Pomerol leading the pack.

BRILLIANT WHITE WINES FROM PESSAC LEOGNAN

The white wines from Pessac across the board were stunning with Haut Brion Blanc being the wine of the vintage for me. Find the whites early and often as I didn’t taste a bad one in the entire area.

BARLOW’S TOP WINES OF THE VINTAGE

  1. Chateau Haut Brion Blanc 2021 55% Semillon/45% Sauvignon Blanc

Pessac Leognan

The wine is light pale straw in color. On the nose there is a beautiful concentration of cream, citrus, orange Popsicle. On the palate there is a wonderful array of white flowers and gardenia with med ium plus acidity that is integrated into a soft mid palate. The wine has an absolute blindingly delicious acid core wrapped into dense layers of flavor. Notes of Lemon grass, cream, citrus, guava apple blossom, pear blossom, lemon zest, orange blossom all burst through the seams of the layered glove. So much going on here. The finish offers touches of minerals, wet stone, pistachio pudding. Long finish. Barlow Score 100 Points. THIS IS THE ONLY PERFECTLY RATED WINE FOR ME IN THIS VINTAGE.

2. Chateau Latour 2021 96% Cabernet Sauvignon/4% Merlot

Pauillac

Almost opaque color with medium plus intensity. Chalky limestone on the nose. Dark cherry, berry on the palate with currant throughout the mid palate with thick, chewy tannins that are beautifully integrated. Notes of tobacco, tea leaf, violets, and rose underbrush. The finish is tightly wound with hints of coffee beans and graphite. This is a wine that will age a century. Barlow Score: 98-99

3. Chateau Le Pin 2021 100% Merlot

Pomerol

The wine has medium plus ruby color with medium plus intensity. Violets and rose petals on the nose. The palate shows silky red fruit with plush raspberry, strawberry, and bramble that creams out on the mid palate. The wine has an absolutely seamless palate with beautifully integrated tannins. The finish gives long lingering notes of exotic spice, vanilla, plum, hazelnuts, and tea leaf. TLC. Barlow Score: 98-99

4. Chateau Lafite Rotschild 2021 96% Cabernet Sauvignon/ 3% Merlot/ 1% Petit Verdot

Pauillac

The wine has medium plus ruby color with medium plus intensity. Violets and minerals on the nose. The palate offers more framboise, white stones, potpourri turns into darker fruits on the mid palate. The tannins are quite fine and integrated. This wine is absolutely seamless. Currant flows into a fresh and vibrant core with a super energetic, bouncy backbone to this wine. The finish offers hints of lavender, salinity, and creamy red fruit with just a whiff of coffee beans. Barlow Score: 97-98

5. Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou 2021 98% Cabernet Sauvignon/2% Merlot

Saint Julien

This wine is dark, dense and powerful. Medium plus ruby color with full intensity. Gleaming neon black cherry flows into the palate with full, brooding tannins. The mid palate is nervy and full of dark fruit. The finish offers tea leaf, tobacco, pencil shavings, and savory herbs. Not the typical Ducru Beaucaillou style, but extremely well made. This wine has a very long life ahead of it. Barlow Score: 97-98

6. Chateau Figeac 2021 40% Cabernet Sauvignon/31% Cabernet Franc/29% Merlot

Saint Emilion

Medium ruby core with medium intensity. Dark, plummy nose. Crunchy dark fruit on the plush palate that is sleek and silky throughout. Notes of plum, bramble, and raspberry tea flow into silky suede. Softer style with spicy aromatics, tobacco, and new oak. Long finish that shows white rocks and graphite. Barlow Score: 97-98

7. Chateau Branaire Ducru 2021 66% Cabernet Sauvignon/22% Merlot/5.5% Petit Verdot/6.5% Cabernet Franc

Saint Julien

The wine has medium plus color and medium plus intensity. Rose petals and red fruit on the nose. The palate has a silky mouthfeel that is plush and round. Flavors of red currant, black cherry, and plum flow through the mid palate with rich dark chocolate. Framboise kisses through the undercurrents of the wine with dark mocha, sweet tobacco, chalky minerality, and graphite on the finish. TLC! YUM! Barlow Score: 97-98

8. Vieux Chateau Certan 2021 77% Merlot/20% Cabernet Franc/3% Cabernet Sauvignon

Pomerol

The wine has a medium ruby color with medium intensity. The nose offers hints of blood orange and minerals. The palate has crunchy red fruit, iron, red plum, and apple skins. The mid palate shows plenty of minerality, layered complexity with red roses, violets, and neon red fruit that is beautifully enveloping. The finish offers hazelnuts, cream and a touch of gravelly minerals. Barlow Score: 97-98

9. Chateau Margaux 2021 87% Cabernet Sauvignon/8% Merlot/3% Cabernet Franc/2% Petit Verdot

Margaux

The wine has medium plus ruby color with medium plus intensity. Ripe red fruits pop on the nose. The palate offers black cherry, berry and crunchy dark fruit. The mid palate shows vanilla and violets with extremely fine tannins. The finish has exotic spice and sweet tobacco that accentuates the neon fruit. Barlow Score: 96-98

10. Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc 2021 90% Sauvignon Blanc/5% Sauvignon Gris/5% Semillon

Pessac Leognan

Easily the 2nd best white wine tasted En Primeur. Pale Straw color with medium intensity. Nose offers white flowers, citrus, and exotic fruit. Flavors of Poached pear, grapefruit, and honeysuckle. Hints of pineapple and quince give zesty notes with white pepper and salinity. The finish shows bits of cream, oak and orchard fruit. Barlow Score: 96-97

Thank You,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

Spec’s Fine Wine Buyer

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