THE 12 UNDER $12 FOR JUNE 2022

Raywood Sauvignon Blanc

California

Cash Price $10.99

  • Aromas of lime citrus
  • Flavors of zingy grass and spring flowers
  • Pairs with hot summer days!

Martenot Red Blend

France

Cash Price $11.99

  • Aromas of juicy red fruit
  • Flavors of bright red cherry and berries
  • Pairs with a light chill and friends!

Dr. Pauly Noble House Rose

Germany

Cash Price $9.99

  • Aromas of red and white fruit
  • Flavors of grapefruit, red berries, and slate
  • Pairs with shrimp ceviche

Ch. Les Confreries Red Blend

France

Cash Price $9.99

  • Aromas of ripe dark fruit
  • Flavors of cherry and black currant with spices
  • Pairs with greasy street tacos

Rifugio Del Vescovo Chianti

Italy

Cash Price $11.99

  • Aromas of dark red fruit
  • Flavors of cherry, plum and herbs
  • Pairs with veal ravioli

Perelada Dulce Sweet Sparkling

Spain

Cash Price $9.99

  • Aromas of honeyed sweetness
  • Flavors of elderflower and honeycombs
  • Pairs with ice and a glass

Encore Cabernet

California

Cash Price $11.99

  • Aromas of dark fruit
  • Flavors of blackberry cobbler and spice
  • Pairs with brisket slathered in BBQ sauce

Girasole Dry Rose

California

Cash Price $11.99

  • Aromas of red fruits
  • Flavors of strawberries and rose petals
  • Pairs with cedar plank salmon

Encore Chardonnay

California

Cash Price $7.99

  • Aromas of tropical fruit
  • Flavors of pineapple, melon, and cream
  • Pairs with a ladies night in

Lockwood Unoaked Chardonnay

California

Cash Price $11.99

  • Aromas of tree fruit
  • Flavors of green apple and lilacs
  • Pairs with baked chicken and saffron rice

Perimeter Red Blend

Washington State

Cash Price $9.99

  • Aromas of red fruit
  • Flavors of baked red berries and cherry
  • Pairs with spicy pulled pork sandwiches

Ryan Patrick Pinot Grigio

Washington State

Cash Price $10.44

  • Aromas of key lime citrus
  • Flavors of mango, nectarine, and white flowers
  • Pairs with oyster shooters

Thank You,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

Spec’s Fine Wine Buyer

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Unions des Grands Crus de Bordeaux 2019 vintage Houston event on June 23rd

Howdy!

It’s been far too long since we have been able to host our annual Bordeaux preview tasting – an event conceived long before my time by our friend and my mentor, the incomparable Bear Dalton.

After a prolonged hiatus, however, I am thrilled to announce that we are once again hosting a preview of the newly released 2019 vintage!

The 2019 vintage was easily the most challenging of my nascent career. One week I was planning to travel to Bordeaux with my associate, James; the next, a set of indefinite travel restrictions threw not only our plans into flux, but the entire En Primeur campaign for 2020. Producers scrambled to find solutions that would allow members of the trade access to their wines. I was fortunate to have the relationships Bear built over the years with so many great partners who shipped me as many samples as they could. Unfortunately, although many showed up in decent shape, just as many got held up in warehouses long enough to arrive spoiled.

For that reason, I am chomping at the bit to finally taste these wines. This 2019 vintage preview will be just as much of a learning experience for me as it will be to you all. Attached is a list of producers who will be represented at the event. This is a larger group than has been here for previous shows – close to 100 producers will be represented. From Pavie Macquin (referred to by Vinous as “one of the most exotic Saint Emilions of the year”) to Leoville Barton (which Wine Enthusiast said had “all the hallmarks of one of the stars of this vintage”) to Pichon Baron (rated 97-100 in barrel by Wine Advocate!), this lineup has tremendous pedigree.

If you are interested in attending, please email me (adennis@specsonline.com) with your contact info as well as the number of attendees in your group, and I will arrange for payment.

Let me know if you have any questions. Otherwise, I look forward to seeing you there!

CHATEAUX TO BE POURED:

Property Appellation
Château de Chantegrive Graves
Château Bouscaut Pessac – Léognan
Château Carbonnieux Pessac – Léognan
Château Les Carmes Haut – Brion Pessac – Léognan
Domaine de Chevalier Pessac – Léognan
Château de Fieuzal Pessac – Léognan
Château de France Pessac – Léognan
Château Haut – Bailly Pessac – Léognan
Château Haut – Bergey Pessac – Léognan
Château Larrivet Haut – Brion Pessac – Léognan
Château Latour – Martillac Pessac – Léognan
Château La Louvière Pessac – Léognan
Château Malartic – Lagravière Pessac – Léognan
Château Olivier Pessac – Léognan
Château Pape Clément Pessac – Léognan
Château Smith Haut Lafitte Pessac – Léognan
Château Beau – Séjour Bécot Saint – Emilion Grand Cru
Château Canon Saint – Emilion Grand Cru
Château Canon – La – Gaffelière Saint – Emilion Grand Cru
Château La Dominique Saint – Emilion Grand Cru
Clos Fourtet Saint – Emilion Grand Cru
Château Franc Mayne Saint – Emilion Grand Cru
Château La Gaffelière Saint – Emilion Grand Cru
Château La Couspaude Saint – Emilion Grand Cru
Château Larcis Ducasse Saint – Emilion Grand Cru
Château Pavie Macquin Saint – Emilion Grand Cru
Château La Tour Figeac Saint – Emilion Grand Cru
Château Troplong Mondot Saint – Emilion Grand Cru
Château Valandraud Saint – Emilion Grand Cru
Château Villemaurine Saint – Emilion Grand Cru
Château Beauregard Pomerol
Château Le Bon Pasteur Pomerol
Château La Cabanne Pomerol
Château Clinet Pomerol
Château Gazin Pomerol
Château La Pointe Pomerol
Château Clarke Listrac – Médoc
Château Fonréaud Listrac – Médoc
Château Fourcas Dupré Listrac – Médoc
Château Fourcas Hosten Listrac – Médoc
Château Chasse – Spleen Moulis – en – Médoc
Château Maucaillou Moulis – en – Médoc
Château Poujeaux Moulis – en – Médoc
Château Beaumont Haut – Médoc
Château Belgrave Haut – Médoc
Château de Camensac Haut – Médoc
Château Citran Haut – Médoc
Château Coufran Haut – Médoc
Château La Tour Carnet Haut – Médoc
Château Cantenac Brown Margaux
Château Dauzac Margaux
Château Giscours Margaux
Château Kirwan Margaux
Château Lascombes Margaux
Château Malescot Saint – Exupéry Margaux
Château Prieuré – Lichine Margaux
Château Rauzan – Gassies Margaux
Château Rauzan – Ségla Margaux
Château Siran Margaux
Château du Tertre Margaux
Château Beychevelle Saint – Julien
Château Branaire – Ducru Saint – Julien
Château Gloria Saint – Julien
Château Gruaud Larose Saint – Julien
Château Lagrange Saint – Julien
Château Langoa Barton Saint – Julien
Château Léoville Barton Saint – Julien
Château Léoville Poyferré Saint – Julien
Château Saint – Pierre Saint – Julien
Château Talbot Saint – Julien
Château d’ Armailhac Pauillac
Château Batailley Pauillac
Château Clerc Milon Pauillac
Château Croizet – Bages Pauillac
Château Duhart – Milon Pauillac
Château Grand – Puy Ducasse Pauillac
Château Grand – Puy – Lacoste Pauillac
Château Lynch – Bages Pauillac
Château Lynch – Moussas Pauillac
Château Pichon Baron Pauillac
Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande Pauillac
Château Cos Labory Saint – Estèphe
Château Lafon – Rochet Saint – Estèphe
Château Ormes De Pez Saint – Estèphe
Château de Pez Saint – Estèphe
Château Phélan Ségur Saint – Estèphe
Château Bastor – Lamontagne Sauternes
Château Doisy Daëne Barsac
Clos Haut – Peyraguey Sauternes
Château Suduiraut Sauternes
Château La Tour Blanche Sauternes

Thank You,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

Spec’s Fine Wine Buyer

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

Brooks ‘Concho’ Pinot Noir 2018

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cash Price $44.99 but ONLY

$34.99 with a $10.00 Spec’s Key for a limited time!

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. Barlow Score: 93 Points

Baer Cabernet Franc 2016

Columbia Valley, Washington State

Cash Price $34.99

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. Their Cabernet Franc is easily one of the best that they make in my opinion as that variety is one of absolute favorites produced in Washington State. The wine is 92% Cabernet Franc with 8% Merlot and 21 months aging in French Oak. It has medium plus intensity with flavors of black cherry, plum, and mulberry on the palate. The mid palate is plush and inviting with hints of roasted herbs and cracked pepper. The finish is long and integrated with whiffs of cream, gravel and tea leaf. Barlow Score: 93 Points

Snowden ‘Lost Vineyard’ Merlot 2018

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $37.99

Lost Vineyard is a 2 acre block located on perlite and sand soils. The wine was hand harvested and fermented with native wild yeast and aged in 50% New French oak barrels for 14 months while being bottled unfined and unfiltered. The wine is 95% Merlot with 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. It has beautiful structure and intensity while offering loads of fruit and velvet texture. Bright flavors of red cherry and currant pop into the palate with silky finesse and elegant balance. The mid palate is balanced with ripe red fruit while offering touches of spice and whiffs of earthy underbrush. Notes of plum, vanilla and cedar are prevalent with hints of tea leaf on the long, lingering finish. Barlow Score: 94 Points

Altruria Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

Alexander Valley, California

Cash Price $25.99

This is a new addition our portfolio and should be a smashing success! The wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley. The 2019 vintage was gorgeous for Alexander Valley and the ensuing wine really shows it. This small production Cabernet was aged for 18 months in new and used French oak. Ripe flavors of dark cherries, cassis, and blackberry pop into the palate with medium plus intensity. Notes of soft cocoa, smoked game, and violets sink through the mid palate. The finish is long and enticing with whiffs of black tea, tobacco and cedar. Barlow Score: 91 Points

Slate Pinot Noir 2019

Russian River Valley, California

Cash Price $24.99

The Slate wines are a newer addition to our portfolio. This 100% Pinot Noir is unfined, unfiltered and was aged in 40% new French oak for 12 months. The wine has medium intensity with poised structure. Flavors of juicy pomegranate, bursting red cherries and raspberry tea round into vibrant acidity. Hints of tea leaf and cola waft through notes of lavender on the finish with tinges of minerarlity. Barlow Score: 90 Points

Peachy Canyon ‘Westside’ Zinfandel 2019

Paso Robles, California

Cash Price $24.99

We are extremely excited to have Peachy Canyon back in the fold of our portfolio. This winery has been producing high quality Zinfandel since 1988. Paso Robles is offering exciting wines for good value and Zinfandel has been a staple variety in the region since its infancy.  This is Peachy Canyon’s flagship Zinfandel. The wine is 77% Zinfandel with a smattering of Primitivo, Alicante Bouschet and Petite Sirah making up the difference. It was aged for 18 months in 30% new French, Hungarian and American oak. Powerful notes of strawberry rhubarb and boysenberry pop in the palate with medium structure. Notes of white pepper, leather and tobacco hit the mid palate with whiffs of licorice and cassis.  The finish is integrated with notes of raspberry pie, vanilla and red currant. Barlow Score: 91 Points

Chateau Pontac Phenix Red Blend 2014

Haut Medoc, France

Cash Price $19.94

Phenix is the 2nd wine of Pontac Lynch and the vineyards used are in the Haut Medoc and Margaux, not far from 1st Growth Chateau Margaux. The 2014 vintage is a great value vintage where one can find awesomely delicious and affordable wines. This vintage is drinking perfectly right now! Flavors of red cherry and kirsch lay on a medley of sweet spices and medium intensity.  This wine is deliciously ripe and ready to drink.  The acids are tantalizing with dense notes of toasted oak  and roasted coffee bean.  The finish is persistent and well rounded.  Yum! A true gem!  Barlow Score: 90 Points

Red Phoenix Red Blend 2018

Lodi, California

Cash Price $19.94

This Red Blend is a new addition to our portfolio. I decided to buy this wine due to it’s inherent approach ability and easy drinking nature. The wine is 57% Zinfandel with smidgeons of Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon making up the rest of the blend. Red Phoenix has medium intensity with plush notes of blackberry and cherry flowing into a silky mid palate. Hints of subtle spice waft enticingly throughout the mid palate. The finish is creamy with whiffs of milk chocolate and toasted oak. Joseph Smith is the wine maker and he also makes Experience Cabernet which has become quite a sensation in our portfolio. 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 Summer white wine! Barlow Score: 92 Points

Cru Montage Chardonnay 2018

Monterey, California

Cash Price $18.99

I recently tasted through this winery’s white portfolio.  I am a fan of Monterey because there are so many micro climates that one can find a large variance in styles of wines produced.  This wine has beautiful restraint while keeping true to the expression of ‘traditional’ California Chardonnay.  Flavors of pineapple and pear flow seamlessly through hints of fresh flowers and ripe green apples.  The mid palate shows focus with tropical flavors and medium acidity.  The finish offers notes of hazelnuts, vanilla custard and smidgeons of oaky complexity.  James Score: 88 Points

Triennes Dry Rose 2021

Mediterranee, France

Cash Price $17.99

Triennes is consistently one of my favorite Rose’s year in and year out.  As the heat starts to rise, I quickly begin to gravitate towards higher acid, lower tannin wines.  Rose wines are a perfect medium to combat the Hot Houston Heat.  Deliciously dry, this Cinsault based Rose has expressive and compelling aromatics.  Flavors of bright red cherries and red roses zing into medium plus acidity that quenches the palate.  Notes of wild meadow flowers play into the mid palate with touches of cranberry and red berries.  The finish is clean and pure with touches of salinity and wet rocks.  Fall in Love with Dry Rose this summer!  James Score: 92 Points

Etesian Brut Sparkling NV

Sonoma County, California

Cash Price $15.89

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 cepage is 57% Pinot Noir and 43% Chardonnay produced Methode Champenoise and aged for 2 years on the lees. The ensuing bubbly has clean, tight bubbles with lively flavors of tangerine, lemon and Asian pear. The finish is clean and enticing with hints of biscuity brioche and white flowers. Barlow Score: 91 Points

Lockwood Cabernet Sauvignon 2020

Paso Robles, California

Cash Price $13.99

Lockwood has been a staple in the Spec’s portfolio for many years, however it was purchased by the Boisset family a couple of years ago and they have changed the flavor profile of the wines a bit.  The wines are still all estate grown on calcareous soil and spends time in French oak.  Flavors of cherry and cassis flow into hints of chocolate and tobacco. Framboise is prevalenton the mid palate with soft, lush tannins and accessible acids.  The finish give hints of oak and cocoa.  Barlow Score: 89 Points

Thank You,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

Spec’s Fine Wine Buyer

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

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

I apologize for missing last month’s reviews, but I have been quite busy. I recently visited Alexander Valley (several picks in this blog) and Burgundy. I haven’t traveled in two years due to Covid, so I am making the rounds with Spec’s now that we are able to travel again. I am leaving for Bordeaux next week and have another California trip on the books as soon as I return, so hopefully I will have some time to sit down and pen my reviews of the wines and regions that I have visited once I settle down a bit. Always feel free to reach out if you have any questions and I would love if ya’ll would share this blog to help build it’s footprint. Cheers!

Bougetz ‘Jovana’ Red Blend 2015

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $49.99

This wine is in a REALLY beautiful spot right now! I’m surprised this wine hasn’t jumped into more baskets to enjoy. A blended wine can really show what a wine maker is made of as it is their chance to express passion and versatility with a number of grapes in one wine.  This blend has (and needs) only two grapes.  The wine is 59% Merlot/ 41% Cabernet Franc and I couldn’t be happier with the final result. The Merlot comes from Andy Beckstoffer’s Orchard Vineyard in Oak Knoll and the Cabernet Franc comes from the Yates Vineyard on top of Mt. Veeder.  The wine was whole berry crushed then aged in 67% new French oak for 22 months.  Jovana shows excellent structure and depth from beginning to the delicious end. Flavors of black cherry and currant flow into medium intensity.  The mid palate offers blueberries with an underlying current of black pepper and spice. The finish is pure and elegant with touches of cinnamon and vanilla bean. Balanced and layered. Get this on your Table! Barlow Score: 93 Points

Keever Sauvignon Blanc 2020

Yountville, California

Cash Price $32.99

I brought in Keever last year as their winemaker is one of my favorites, Celia Welch of Scarecrow fame. This is a serious Sauvignon Blanc with excellent layers and complexity. The wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc and was aged in 55% French oak to give the wine a soft, layered mouthfeel. Bright tropical fruits of pineapple, mango, and papaya pop into the palate with medium intensity. Keever has a softer than expected palate with a beautiful roundness throughout. The finish offers whiffs of vanilla custard and exotic spices with hints of hazelnuts. TLC. Textured, Layered, Complex. Only 260 cases produced. Barlow Score: 94 Points

Calcareous ‘ZSM’ Red Blend 2018

Paso Robles, California

Cash Price $35.99

Dana Brown is quietly producing some of the better wines coming out of Paso Robles. Her wines got rave reviews (2 Double Gold and Class Champion) at the Houston Uncorked! Wine Competition. This is one of her newer wines and I couldn’t be happier to offer it. The wine is mostly Zinfandel with a hint of Syrah and Merlot.  The grapes are all estate fruit and aged for 17 months in French oak and American oak.  Rich, ripe flavors of blackberry and cocoa flow easily into the palate with tinges of bramble. The mid palate gives medium structure with ample tannins and easy acids. Notes of black pepper and cocoa butter linger on the finish with whiffs of vanilla and cedar. Barlow Score: 91 Points

Blue Rock ‘Baby Blue’ Red Blend 2019

Alexander Valley, California

Cash Price $29.99

I recently visited this winery. I was excited to see the passion and hard work Kenny Kahn and Co. put into their winery and vineyards. For Kenny it truly is a labor of love and a life passion to grow grapes in the picturesque Alexander Valley. Blue Rock winery has gained a reputation for producing silky smooth reds from their 100 acre estate in the famed AVA of Alexander Valley.  The 2019 vintage was a spectacular vintage, which turned out to be fortuitous due to the next couple of vintages.   This wine is a 44% Cabernet Sauvignon/32% Merlot/10% Syrah/4% Malbec/9% Petit Verdot/1% Cabernet Franc blend that is aged for 12 months in French oak and dangerously approachable from the pop of the cork.  Sleek flavors of blackberry and currant run into the silky smooth palate that offers a core of milk chocolate.  The tannins are elegant and integrated with easy acids that play into the gracious amount of fruit.  Notes of toasted oak and vanilla sink into hints of violet and granola.  The finish is soft and plush with a plethora of fruit and oak. This wine is built to be delicious from start to finish!  James Score: 91 Points

Parched Chardonnay 2018

Sonoma Coast, California

Cash Price $24.99

Parched Chardonnay is a single vineyard Chardonnay originating from the Gold Coast Vineyard in the Sonoma Coast AVA.  The wine has seen full malolactic fermentation in barrel, yet has a delicate, lively acidity that belies this fact.  It was aged in 50% new French oak for 10 months on the lees. Plush and gushing, Parched offers flavors of bright green apple, apricot and melon that flow through medium intensity. Whiffs of creamy brioche and butter sail into tingles of vanilla creme, marshmallow and toasted oak on the finish. Yum! Barlow Score: 91 Points

Vine and Supply Pinot Noir 2017

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cash Price $19.94

This newer edition to our portfolio has been selling like wildfire. Quality Pinot Noir under $20 isn’t always easy to find, but this one hit the bullseye! The wine is 100% Pinot Noir and was aged in 30% new French oak for 12 months. Ripe red berries pop into the palate with flavors of bing cherry and plum. The mid palate shows medium intensity with a plushness that pleases the palate. The finish is long lasting showing hints of cedar, anise and rose petals that lay on a bed of spice and underbrush. I found your daily Pinot! Barlow Score: 90 Points

Trig Point ‘The Railyard’ Zinfandel 2020

Alexander Valley, California

Cash Price $19.94

Nick Goldschmidt is the master mind behind some of the best wines produced in Alexander Valley.  He is from New Zealand, but has a penchant for finding the best vineyards in Sonoma and making wines of outstanding value, typically without breaking bank. I recently was able to visit Yolyn (Nick’s Wife) while visiting Alexander Valley a few weeks ago and tasted through their entire portfolio. Every wine was extremely well made.  Railyard Vineyard sits just north of Geyserville (Ridge Winery fame) and is planted on pre Phylloxera vines in sandy loam soils that are organically farmed.  The wine is 88% Zinfandel with 12% Petite Sirah and aged in 15% New French oak for 16 months.  Decadent fruit flavors of bright blueberry and bramble leap into palate with exotic spices playing throughout the core.  Black cherry and raspberry sink into the mid palate with notes of toasted nuts and vanilla.  The finish is silky with soft tannins and lightly sweet blackberry cobbler pie.  I love this wine every vintage! Barlow Score: 91 Points

Twisted Paso Cabernet Sauvignon 2020

Paso Robles, California

Cash Price $17.99

This ‘Can’t Miss’ Cabernet has always been a great value for under $20.  Calcareous produces a rock solid wine with silky smooth approach ability that is heaven on the palate from Paso Robles which has become a hotbed for great Cabernet lately.  Lush flavors of blackberry and currant flow seamlessly through the palate with licks of milk chocolate and cedar.  The mid palate give medium tannins and acids that are soft and integrated.  The core offers creamy blueberry with notes of leather and cigar box.  The finish offers hints of graham cracker and toasted oak with smidgeons of vanilla and cinnamon.  Barlow Score: 90 Points

Republic of Pink Dry Rosé 2020

Central Coast, California

Cash Price $17.99

This delicious Dry Rosé has become my ‘Go To’ pink wine for food pairing. The winery only makes 1 wine. The wine is not done Saignee. These grapes were specifically chosen to be made into a Rosé. This Rhone style (Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah) blend hails from the several single vineyards in the Central Coast. The color of this wine is pale salmon, much like the Rose’s of Provence. Ripe cherries and strawberries burst into the palate with a light creamy core on the mid palate. Taut acidity makes this a great food wine as the finish shows touches of candied watermelon and citrus zest. This wine is downright gulpable! Barlow Score: 90 Points

Momo Sauvignon Blanc 2020

Marlborough, New Zealand

Cash Price $15.99

Momo (meaning ‘offspring’ in Maori) has sprung from the Seresin Estate.  Momo wines are meant to be fun, enjoyable and a party wine.  All of the grapes from these wines are sustainably grown and Vegan friendly.  The wine is completely un oaked and tantalizingly tasty, Momo expresses flavors of lemon citrus and grapefruit that are encompassed by guava and pineapples.  The mid palate offers medium plus acidity with plush passion fruit quaffing throughout.  The finish is clean and thirst quenching with hints of lemon meringue and apricot. This is a perfect warm weather white wine.  Barlow Score: 89 Points

Klinker Brick ‘Brickmason’ Zinfandel Red Blend 2017

Lodi, California

Cash Price $16.99

Klinker Brick is an oldie, but goodie that has come back to our portfolio.  It received a GOLD Medal at the Houston Rodeo Uncorked! Wine Competition. The winery was founded in 1883 and has been family owned by the Fulton’s now for 5 generations.  The winery is sustainably farmed.  This wine is a blend of 80% Zinfandel, 10% Syrah, 5% Cabernet, and 5% Petite Sirah that has been hand harvested with estate fruit then aged for 16 months in once used French oak.  The wine has a lighter ruby core with long legs. The palate offers flavors of rich red fruit leading into darker cherries and bramble with medium intensity.  Hints of raspberry compote and blackberry pie flow into whiffs of dusted cedar, creamy berry sauce and graham crackers.  Barlow Score: 89 Points

Brooks ‘Terue’ Dry Muscat 2019

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cash Price $16.99

I tried this wine a couple of months ago when searching for more dry white wines to add to our portfolio. We are starting to run short on Brooks Winery white wines as they did not produce a 2020 vintage due to smoke taint issues. This 100% Dry Muscat is bursting with flavor from Brooks Estate Vineyard and Muska Vineyard in Eola-Amity. The wine is expressive and elegant with flavors of citrus blossom and peach nectar. The mid palate has medium intensity with notes of cactus, kumquat, and lychee. The finish is pure and vibrant with hints of saline and melon. This Dry Muscat is a perfect compliment for Spring weather! Barlow Score: 90 Points

The Diver Sparkling Brut Rose N/V

California

Cash Price $17.99

I’ve been looking to grow our American sparkling portfolio and this was an easy ‘Yes’. The wine is 80%/20% Pinot Noir/Chardonnay traditional blend made in the Charmat method (Think Prosecco) with 1.1% Residual Sugar which is not really perceptible on the palate, but does soften the mouth feel. This delightful bubbly offers a beautiful salmon color and zips into the palate with flavors of bing cherry, strawberry and whiffs of citrus. Diver plunges into deliciously ripe, crunchy red fruit from start to finish. This would be a great apertif for your family festivities. Barlow Score: 89 Points

Thank You,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

Spec’s Fine Wine Buyer

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12 UNDER $12 FOR APRIL 2022

McGuigan ‘The Plan’ Shiraz

Australia

Cash Price $9.99

  • Aromas of dark fruit
  • Flavors of plum, blackberry, and spice
  • Pairs with Momma’s everyday cooking

Fairhall Sauvignon Blanc

New Zealand

Cash Price $8.99

  • Aromas of citrus
  • Flavors of grapefruit, lemon, and prickly pear
  • Pairs with warmer weather

Perelada Brut Rose N/V

Spain

Cash Price $10.99

  • Aromas of red fruit
  • Flavors of citrus peel and cherry lollipops
  • Pairs with spring parties

Projection Cabernet Sauvignon

California

Cash Price $10.99

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

Raywood Chardonnay

California

Cash Price $10.99

  • Aromas of creamy tropical fruit
  • Flavors of pineapple, peach, and melon
  • Pairs with creamy chicken pesto pasta

Perimeter Merlot

Washington State

Cash Price $9.99

  • Aromas of red fruit
  • Flavors of cherry, plum, and vanilla
  • Pairs with Tuesday night dinner

Ryan Patrick Redhead Red

Washington State

Cash Price $10.44

  • Aromas of dark fruit
  • Flavors of black cherry, raspberry, and chocolate
  • Pairs with herb crusted lamb shanks

Michel Schlumberger Pinot Noir

California

Cash Price $10.99

  • Aromas of red fruit
  • Flavors of black cherry, cola, and spice
  • Pairs with a Caribbean Jerk chicken sandwich

LULU Dry Rose

Washington State

Cash Price $9.99

  • Aromas of bright red fruit
  • Flavors of raspberry, pomegranate, and savory herbs
  • Pairs with lunch on the patio

Ca’Momi Sauvignon Blanc

California

Cash Price $9.99

  • Aromas of tropical fruit
  • Flavors of mango,lychee, and honeysuckle
  • Pairs with fresh spring air

Hayes Valley Zinfandel

California

Cash Price $11.99

Aromas spicy red fruit
Flavors of cherry, bramble, and molasses
Pairs with Rodeo BBQ

Chateau Nicot Rouge

Bordeaux, France

Cash Price $10.99

  • Aromas of red fruit
  • Flavors of currant, cherry, and cinnamon
  • Pairs with beef stew

Thank you,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

Spec’s Fine Wine Buyer

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THE 12 UNDER $12 FOR FEBRUARY 2022

Heartcraft Sparkling N/V

California

Cash Price $12.99 but with a $11.99 with your Spec’s Key

  • Aromas of Citrus and pear
  • Citrus, brioche and caramel
  • Pairs with Your Valentine!

Muscador Sweet Sparkling Rose

France

Cash Price $10.99

  • Aromas of red fruit
  • Light, bouncy bubbles with flavors of red cherry and sweet candied raspberries
  • Serve with chocolates for your Valentine

Quady Flore de Moscato Sweet Wine

California

Cash Price $10.47

  • Citrus and peaches
  • Light body with notes peach, mango, white flower, and honeycomb with a light spritz
  • Serve chilled with a ladies night out

Cuvee des 3 Messes Basses Rouge

France

Cash Price $9.99

  • Grenache dominant with red fruits
  • Medium bodied with notes of red pomegranate, stewed fruit, cinnamon and black pepper
  • Pairs with bacon wrapped and cream cheese filled peppers

Chateau Lavagnac Bordeaux Rouge

France

Cash Price $11.99

  • Merlot dominant with red fruit
  • Medium bodied notes of red plum, cherry, and vanilla
  • Pairs with sausage and brisket

Roblar Merlot

California

Cash Price $9.99

  • Aromas of red fruit
  • Flavors of red raspberry with vanilla
  • Pairs with a honey baked ham sandwich

Long Barn Pinot Noir

California

Cash Price $9.99

  • Aromas of dark red fruit
  • Flavors of black cherry and framboise with hints of plum
  • Pairs with chocolate

Hayes Valley Red Blend

California

Cash Price $11.99

  • Aromas of dark fruits
  • Flavors of plum and cherry with baking spices
  • Pairs grilled meats

Nica Chardonnay

California

Cash Price $8.99

  • Aromas of apple and peach
  • Flavors of ripe tropical fruits
  • Pairs with shrimp scampi

Liberation de Paris Malbec

France

Cash Price $10.99

  • Aromas of dark fruit
  • Flavors of blackberry, plum, pepper
  • Pairs with steak and truffles

Wish Cabernet Sauvignon

California

Cash Price $10.99

  • Aromas of dark fruit
  • Flavors of black cherry with oak
  • Pairs with steak kabobs

Ca’Momi Rosso Red Blend

California

Cash Price $9.99

  • Aromas dark fruit
  • Flavors of blueberry, blackberry, pepper
  • Pairs with BBQ

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

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

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am back in the saddle after taking some time off in January (Disney World!). With cooler weather upon, I will be reviewing wines that will help warm the soul with maybe a speckling of white and bubbles for Valentine’s Day. Most of these wines will be more value oriented as well since most of our wallets are still recovering from the holidays. I hope you all are having a wonderful start to 2022! Get these wines at your local Spec’s!

Baer Winery Star Merlot 2016

Columbia Valley, Washington State

Cash Price $34.99

Baer Winery is producing some absolute rocking Red wines. I’ve had the Ursa blend over the years and jumped at the opportunity to bring these wines back into our portfolio. 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. Thankfully, Merlot is making a comeback with the American palate. This wine is 100% Merlot and was aged in 40% New French barrique for 21 months. The wine has a plush nose. Flavors of plum, dark cherry and lavender enter the palate with medium intensity. The mid palate is soft and inviting with hints of crushed rocks. The finish is smooth and easy with hints of vanilla, cedar, and red roses. You’d be remiss if you didn’t get this beauty in your basket! Barlow Score: 92 Points

Cru Winery ‘Monarch’ Red Blend 2015

Paso Robles, California

Cash Price $27.99

I have been tasting through a fair amount of Paso Robles wine lately.  As Napa prices continue to rise, buyers are looking into more value driven areas such as Paso Robles.  Cru winery consistently offers exceedingly good value wine and this red blend is knocking it out of the park.  The wine is a mix of Bordeaux and Rhone varieties with the bulk being Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Monarch offers a balanced richness with flavors of currant and cassis with a silky medium intensity. The finish shows a balance of oak and spice that sits on the palate for a nice, long time. Barlow Score: 90 Points

Rizzi Nebbiolo 2019

Langhe, Italy

Cash Price $24.99

I recently visited a long time customer of mine to help them get out of their wine rut. I brought an eclectic mix of wines, this being one. I was absolutely enthralled with the beauty of this wine for the price. The winery is sustainable and the vineyard was planted in 1967 on marl clay and sand. Flavors of strawberry and violets flow easily into the palate with medium plus acidity. The wine is fresh and clean with a plush mid palate that is somewhat surprising considering the wine is 100% Nebbiolo.  Notes of tea leaf are prevalent throughout the finish with touches of spice. The wine is elegant, complex, and thoroughly enjoyable! Barlow Score: 91 Points

Block 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

Oakville, California

Cash Price $24.99

The Block Series has always been right on the money when it comes to quality in the bottle. The newest release is from Oakville. It’s rare to find Oakville wine under $50, so this is an absolute steal! The most esteemed Cabernet vineyards in America are located in Oakville.  This beauty offers bright black cherry and currant with medium intensity that mold into an abundance of dark chocolate and cigar box. The finish shows dark cassis wrapped in toasted vanilla and cedar. Barlow Score: 92 Points

Cooper Mountain Chardonnay 2018

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cash Price $24.99

Cooper Mountain winery is purely biodynamic with a focus of farming in way that future generations will enjoy the land. The wine has pale straw color and medium intensity. The wine is super clean with an almost Chablis-eque profile.  Flavors of lemon citrus and green  combine with the ample acidity that makes for a perfect summer Chardonnay.  Hints of wet rocks and minerality play into the finish.  Oak is not really a factor in this wine as it was aged in neutral oak and stainless steel.  Whiffs of orange tickle the finish of this expressively clean wine. Barlow Score: 89

Luigi Bosca Single Vineyard DOC Malbec 2019

Luyan de Cuyo, Argentina

Cash Price $25.64

I have always been impressed with the Luigi Bosca Malbecs.  The DOC Single Vineyard offers a true expression of extremely high quality for under $30.  Luyan de Cuyo is the only DOC currently in Argentina.  This means that the Malbec produced under this DOC must attain higher quality standards and stricter requirements to be bottled under the DOC label.  This wine comes from vines with an average age of 70 years grown at an elevation of 3,150 feet above sea level.  The wine is aged for 14 months in new French oak barrels.  Robust flavors of black cherries and ripe plums burst onto the palate with touches of fig that give way to medium plus intensity.  The mid palate offers chewy notes of blackberry and tar with hints of leather and black tea.  The finish is long and purposeful with touches almonds and milk chocolate that lay into creamy vanilla and toasted oak.  Barlow Score: 92 Points

Dusty Nabor NSO Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Paso Robles, California

Cash Price $19.94

Dusty Nabor (pronounced NAY Boar) is an emerging wine maker from the Central Coast who is making some of the best ‘under the radar’ wines you can buy. The wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon is from a single vineyard in the El Pomar District in Paso Robles. It was aged for 18 months in French oak. NSO stands for ‘No Special Occasion’ and the price offers just that, but the quality inside the bottle makes it not quite so, as the wines are extremely well made. The wines offers a medium ruby core. Flavors of black cherry and currant sink into a medium intensity with licks of blackberry on the outer core. The mid palate offers more black fruit with hints of dark cocoa. The finish is alluring with soft tannins, notes of pencil shavings and tobacco yet with lively acidity bouncing throughout the mouth feel. Solid! He doesn’t make a lot of wine, so I recommend you get this in your basket early and often. Barlow Score: 89 Points

Twisted Paso Zinfandel

Paso Robles, California

Cash Price $16.99

The Calcareous ‘Twisted Paso’ line has become one of the better selling wine selections in Spec’s entire portfolio. They produce seamless wines with silky finesse. I’m happy to see Zinfandel making a gradual impression on the American palate as it continues blaze through Texas. Bright flavors of plum and dark berries sink into medium intensity. The mid palate shows hints of hickory wood and smoked meat. The finish is jammy and intense with more dark fruit and whiffs of cracked black pepper. Barlow Score: 89 Points

Etesian Sparking Brut Blanc de Noir Rose N/V

Sonoma County, California

Cash Price $15.89

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

Freelander Cabernet Sauvignon 2020

California

Cash Price $15.99

This Value daily drinking Cabernet has been growing by leaps and bounds due to it’s extreme deliciousness.  Freelander Cabernet checks all the boxes in flavor profile.  Racy and deep flavors of blackberry and cassis flow easily into medium intensity.  Notes of black raspberry and vanilla offer a creamy core with hints of blueberry cobbler.  The finish is soft and plush with hints of toasted oak and graham crackers.  Barlow Score: 90 Points

Chateau Bourbon La Chapelle red blend 2016

Medoc, France

Cash Price $14.99

The 2016 vintage is a no-brainer for value red wine as it was almost impossible to produce bad wine. I really love to buy lesser wines in great vintages because one will almost always come out on the winning end. The wine is 60% Cabernet/40% Merlot and is the 2nd label for the quality Chateau Castera in the Medoc. This winery has some of the oldest vineyards in the Medoc. Flavors of black currant and black cherry flow into medium plus intensity. The mid palate shows licks of red fruit and lavender with touches of spice. The finish is integrated and balanced with notes of cedar, leather, and tobacco. Great Value wine in an Amazing Vintage. Barlow Score: 89 Points

Billhook Red Blend 2016

Santa Barbera County, California

Cash Price $14.99

This new edition to our portfolio is an absolute gem for the price. The wine is 45% Grenache/33% Syrah/22% Petite Sirah from the cool, coastal hills of Santa Barbera. Billhook was aged in seasoned French and American oak. This Rhone style red blend exudes flavors of black raspberry and cassis on the palate with medium intensity. The mid palate shows dark plum and a vibrant intensity that sinks into hints of garrigue and red flowers. The finish is clean and lip smacking with whiffs of spice and bramble. Get this in your basket today! Barlow Score: 90 Points

Lockwood Chardonnay 2020

Central Coast, California

Cash Price $12.99

Lockwood was taken over by Boisset Family several years ago and was re-released as an un-oaked Chardonnay (Largely French in style). I quite enjoy the new style that this wine has become with its light, fresh, and appealing profile. The wine is 100% Chardonnay aged in stainless steel on the lees for 9 months. Flavors of green apple and citrus pop into the palate with medium intensity. Whiffs of lilacs, melon, and hazelnut flow through the mid palate. The finish is clean and pure with licks of toasted nuts and custard. Barlow Score: 88 Points

Thank you,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

Spec’s Fine Wine Buyer

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BARLOW’S NEW YEAR’S BUBBLES FOR 2021

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honored and delighted to have spent another year being your wine guide. I’m looking forward to being an even better steward for you in 2022! That said, Let’s Celebrate the exit of 2021 and the high hopes for 2022. I am hopeful that life will continue to get closer to some sort of normalcy in the coming new year. Thank you all and have a Happy and Safe New Year’s Eve with my bubbly selections!

Waris Hubert ‘Albescent’ Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru N/V

Champagne, France

Cash Price $51.29

The wine is 100% first press Chardonnay (Blanc de Blancs) from the Grand Cru villages of Cramant and Avize.  It was aged for 3 years on the lees and bottled with a dosage of 7 g/l (.7).   The term Albescent come from the ‘Albe’ in Latin meaning white. The vineyards are an average age of 25 years and farmed sustainably.  Tight, clean bubbles weave through flavors of Granny Smith apples and freshly squeezed lemon with a vivacious backbone of minerality.  Hints of brioche and granary toast sneak into whiffs of white flowers, wet stone and tickles of honey.  Stunningly Clean and complex. What a treat!  Barlow Score: 94+

Piper Sonoma Brut Rose N/V

Sonoma County, California

Cash Price $19.94 but only $18.94 with a $1.00 Key Savings

I recently brought in this sparkling Rosé to our portfolio. I was quite impressed with the quality in the bottle. The winery is Piper Heidseck’s American branch that was founded in 1980 in Sonoma. The wine is 53% Chardonnay/39% Pinot Noir/6% Pinot Blanc/2% Aged Reserve (for complexity) and has .7% Residual sugar. It was produced Methode Champenoise with the grapes being hand picked and pressed in separate lots. Piper has a beautiful salmon color with vibrant bubbles. It offers flavors of ripe red berries and cherries with a nice citrus component that latches to the zesty acidity on the backbone of the wine. Whiffs of tangerine and white peach pop into notes of creamy mousse and hints of hazelnuts. Barlow Score: 90 Points

Heartcraft Brut Sparkling N/V

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $12.99 but only $11.99 with a $1.00 Key Savings

Bubbly season is upon us, so kick off your New Year’s Eve party right with this tasty VALUE California sparkler. The wine is mostly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir based and produced in the Charmat method (think Prosecco). Flavors of lemon citrus and pear pop into the palate with zesty little bubbles. The mid palate softens out and shows toasted brioche and caramel. The finish offers just a smidge of white peach and flowers wrapped in a blanket of effervescence. Barlow Score: 88 Points

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

Spec’s Fine Wine Buyer

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JAMES BARLOW’S TOP PICKS OF 2021

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

It’s that time of the year again! I having been pouring over my tasting notes to find the best wines that I’ve had the pleasure to partake of in 2021. You’ll notice that this list is heavily American skewed, but that is for obvious reasons as I am now the Fine Wine America buyer for Spec’s Wine Spirits and Finer Foods. I’ve had some amazing wines this year and I hope you’ll taste some of these as well for the holiday season! Go get them at your local Spec’s! Have a Great Holiday!

#2. Smith-Madrone Estate Riesling 2017

Spring Mountain, California

Cash Price $29.99

I brought Smith Madrone Winery into Texas earlier this year because I was absolutely stunned by the quality of their wines, especially the Riesling. Their Riesling is the best produced in the United States (in my humble opinion). The grapes come from the steep hillsides of Spring Mountain. This classic 100% Riesling is produced from the same vineyards, in the same way every year, yet the wines continually offer new characteristics every vintage. This Riesling has a light straw core with light legs. The nose offers wet rocks, white flowers, cream and whiffs of petrol. The palate has medium intensity with flavors of Granny Smith apples, orange blossoms, and Bosc pear that jump into medium plus acidity and tinges of grapefruit and honeysuckle.  The finish is balanced and lip smacking with touches of lime custard, minerals, and petrol. A classically beautiful Riesling. WOW! Barlow Score: 95 Points

#3. Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou Red Blend 2018

St. Julien, France

Cash Price $238.99

Bear Dalton (RIP) was the Fine Wine Buyer for Spec’s for over 20 years. He visited Bordeaux for 23 straight years. He noted before his passing that the 2018’s were the finest vintage that he had ever tasted. This iconic 2nd Growth is located in Saint Julien (one of my favorite areas for wine on Earth) and has a storied history of excellent pedigree. This wine is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon with 15% Merlot and was aged in 100% new French barrique for 18 months. This wine is extremely complex with waves of flavor showing through the entire palate. Baked black cherries begin the tidal wave with blackberry and cassis showing through medium plus intensity. Notes of dried herbs hit the next wave with a medley of graphite, exotic spice and tobacco leaf easing throughout the palate. The finish is classic with earthy minerality, violets, leather, and cedar. Sleek and integrated, this wine is drinking beautifully now, but will age for many years to come. Barlow Score: 99 Points

#4. Janzen Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Oakville, California

Cash Price $199.99

This wine comes from one of the most hallowed vineyards in the world. If Napa Valley had ‘Grand Cru’ vineyards, this would surely be at the top of the list. The site is well drained and has evening shadows that allow the grapes to retain acidity. Only a tiny amount of this wine (4 barrels) is made every year. The wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the famous site in the heart of Oakville and was aged for 28 months in Taransaud French oak. Kirk Venge is the consulting winemaker to this stunning gem. Unabashedly brazen dark fruit explodes on the palate with a velvety thickness. The mid palate is luscious and giving while still offering medium plus intensity. Flavors of dark cherry, cassis and blackberry envelope the palate, caressing tannins lift the wine into layers of complexity. Notes of tobacco leaf and graphite tickle into whiffs of exotic spice, sandalwood and vanilla bean. The finish is nuanced with smidgeons of crushed rock and clove. This wine will aged for a good long time if you choose to cellar it. Barlow Score: 97 Points

#5. Caterwaul Regusci Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Stags Leap District, California

Cash Price $94.99

I’ve always had a fondness for Regusci Vineyard located in Stags Leap District. I’d never heard of this winery, but was open to trying since they were sourcing from this renowned vineyard. I was extremely pleased with the result. Famed winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown (Schrader, Rivers Marie) makes this wine for 6th generation Napa resident Matt Hardin. Brown has produced more than twenty 100 Point wines. This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and was aged for 20 months in 85% new French oak. Opaque color leads into silky flavors of currant and cassis that combine with darker fruit. The mid palate shows blackberry with a hint of blueberry compote. Raspberry tea and candied violets waft into the finish with dark chocolate, coffee grinds, dusty earth and tobacco leaf laying on the palate for a good long time. Textured, Layered, Complex (TLC). Barlow Score: 96 Points

#6. Maritana La Riviere Chardonnay 2017

Russian River Valley, California

Cash Price $49.99 ON SALE FOR $44.99 FOR A LIMITED TIME!

Donald Patz (Yes, that Donald Patz of Patz & Hall) has a new project called Maritana Vineyards. He has become renowned for producing highly rated Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Sonoma. He has deep relationships with some of the best grape growers in California and has used them to get his hands of top notch fruit for his Maritana Vineyards. La Riviere is French for ‘The River’ and his Pinot Noir is called ‘Le Russe’ or Russian as these wines come from the Russian River AVA. The wine is 100% Chardonnay from Dutton Ranch, Ritchie, Martinelli and Sussana vineyards that are all sustainably farmed. The ensuing wine was 100% barrel fermented (10% New French oak) with 100% malolactic fermentation occurring in barrel with native yeasts. It was then aged for 9 months on sur lie. Ripe, yet refined flavors of yellow peach and apple are prevalent on the bouquet. The palate shows green apple and pear with a nice round mid palate that offers hints of lemon drop and citrus. The finish is pure and gives whiffs of salinity (which I look for in quality Chardonnay) that softens into hints of butterscotch and just a touch of oak. Beautiful. Barlow Score: 94 Points

#7. Domaine Jerome Castagnier Les Cazetiers Premier Cru Pinot Noir 2017

Gevrey Chambertin, France

Cash Price $149.99

I tasted with Jerome at his home a couple of years ago while in Morey St. Denis. It was the last appointment on the trip and I was quite pleased to end it on such a high note. The wines were incredibly sexy and balanced. I’ve bought numerous bottles of his wines for my personal cellar (especially in magnum!). The wines of Gevrey Chambertin are typically a more masculine style of Pinot Noir. The wine is 100% Pinot Noir with a minimum 60% destemmed and was aged for 16 months in 40% new French oak. Bright, plush flavors of red cherry and raspberry dance delicately with violets and rose petals. The mid palate has a creamy core and a surprising ripeness. The finish is integrated and inviting with whiffs of graham cracker, baking spice and a dark minerality. Barlow Score: 97 Points

#8. Patrimony Cabernet Sauvignon by Daou Vineyards 2017

Paso Robles, California

Cash Price $266.69

Daou is committed to producing the highest quality wines that Paso Robles can offer. It’s rare that I would consider a wine of this price outside of Napa Valley, but Daou has hit a bullseye with this wine. It’s worth every penny. Located in Adelaida District, this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon was aged for 30 months in new French oak. The wine is extremely concentrated with medium plus intensity. Almost opaque color leads into blackberry, currant and blueberry that sink deftly into the palate with licks of leather and tobacco showing on the mid palate. Hints of vanilla extract and dark mocha flow seamlessly into the creamy finish with just a whiff of savory and smoked oak. Barlow Score: 97 Points

#9. Patz and Hall Hyde Vineyard Pinot Noir 2018

Los Carneros, California

Cash Price $59.84

I’ve always had a fondness for Patz and Hall wines (as you probably noticed the Donald Patz new project, see wine #6). Hyde Vineyard is a special site in Carneros that can produce some of the best Pinot Noir in the United States. This gem was crafted by James Hall. Larry Hyde planted this vineyard in 1981 with a veritable who’s who of Pinot Noir clones. This wine was produced with new and older plantings of Hyde-Calera selection. The 2018 vintage was a spectacular year with many exceptional wines being produced. This wine is 100% Pinot Noir and was aged in 45% new French oak and bottled without filtration to preserve the wine’s aromas and aging potential. The wine is beautifully aromatic with whiffs of red roses and lavender on the nose. Flavors of bright cherry and raspberry flow into medium intensity and bright acidity. The mid palate offers notes of cola, dried rose petals and cardamom. The finish delivers a nice hint of earthiness with button mushroom and dusty cocoa. Barlow Score: 95 Points

#10. Calcareous Devil’s Canyon Syrah 2018

Paso Robles, California

Cash Price $35.99

Paso Robles has hit new heights of quality and it’s showing in the wines. I’ve been an ardent fan of Calcareous wines for many years. I think they produce one of the higher quality Syrahs in California. Most of you know (See last year’s Top Pick) that I am a sucker for delicious Syrah. I’ve always wondered why the variety hasn’t caught on with the American palate. The grapes for this wine come from the warmest, steepest and driest part of Calcareous Estate. The wine is 90% Syrah with 10% Grenache added to lift aromatics. The wine was aged in 45% new French oak for 18 months. Rich and ripe flavors of blueberry and crushed blackberry jam into the palate with medium plus intensity. The mid palate is filled with herbs, cracked pepper and smoked meat. Notes of raspberry compote and violets are strewn throughout the finish with toasted hazelnuts and coffee beans. Barlow Score: 95 Points

#11. Snowden ‘Lost Vineyard’ Merlot 2018

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $37.99

Merlot has had to overcome quite a stigma over the past decade, but the wineries that continued to produce quality Merlot are making some of the best in the world. I absolutely love Merlot as it can offer a supple freshness and velvet texture that Cabernet Sauvignon often cannot offer with its abundant tannin structure. Randy and Scott Snowden have been making stunning wines for decades that have flown under the radar. They had been selling their grapes until 1993 to the likes of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Silver Oak, Caymus, Frank Family, Viader and Ramey. They decided to start making wine in 1993 and allowed Diana Snowden (Scott’s daughter) to take the helm of winemaking in 2005. She offers amazing pedigree (one of my favorite winemakers!) as she makes Napa Valley wines for Snowden, while living and helping produce Grand Cru Bourgogne wines at Domaine Dujac, and also consults in Provence at Domaine de Triennes (my favorite Rosé!). Lost Vineyard is a 2 acre block located on perlite and sand soils. The wine was hand harvested and fermented with native wild yeast and aged in 50% New French oak barrels for 14 months while being bottled unfined and unfiltered. The wine is 95% Merlot with 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. She knocked this Merlot out of the park! It has beautiful structure and intensity while offering loads of fruit and velvet texture. Bright flavors of red cherry and currant pop into the palate with silky finesse and elegant balance. The mid palate is balanced with ripe red fruit while offering touches of spice and whiffs of earthy underbrush. Notes of plum, vanilla and cedar are prevalent with hints of tea leaf on the long, lingering finish. Barlow Score: 94 Points

#12. Baer Callisto Red Blend 2016

Columbia Valley, Washington State

Cash Price $34.99

Baer Winery is producing some absolute rocking Red Blends. I’ve had the Ursa blend over the years and jumped at the opportunity to bring these wines into our portfolio. 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 was my favorite of their portfolio and officially one of my Top Picks of the Year.. The wine is 42% Cabernet Sauvignon/42% Syrah/16% Petit Verdot from Stillwater Creek Vineyard and was aged for 22 months in 50% New French Oak. The wine has a dark ruby core with medium plus intensity. Sleek flavors of blackberry, raspberry and salty ham sink deftly into the palate with licks of blueberry. The mid palate is silky and plush with hedonistic notes of currant, briar bushes and blueberry pie. The finish is richly textured with luscious notes of cedar and vanilla cream. Yum! Barlow Score: 94 Points

#13. Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant Red Blend 2019

Monterey, California

Cash Price $14.99

I was pleasantly surprised when I tried this wine a couple of months ago. I didn’t have much expectation since Randall Grahm sold his winery to WarRoom Ventures last year. I did take note that Randall stayed on as the head winemaker and one can really tell as this wine smacks of being made by a Rhone Ranger Master! The wine is 56% Grenache/30% Cinsault/13% Syrah/1% Petite Sirah. In cooler years, Grenache shows wonderfully vibrant and aromatic. Randall dropped Mourvedre from the cepage and increased the Cinsault in the blend and the flavor profile is quite dramatic. The wine has medium intensity with flavors of raspberry and pomegranate on the front palate. The mid palate shows crushed rocks and rose petals wrapped up in juicy red cherries. The finish is long and perfumed with notes of bacon fat, tobacco and black pepper. Tasty! Barlow Score: 93 Points

JAMES BARLOW’S TOP PICK OF 2021

Sullivan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Rutherford, California

Cash Price $79.79

I tasted this wine for the 1st time in over a decade earlier this year and immediately knew that this would be one of the best wines I tasted this year. It has the brilliance of Rutherford terroir exemplified. The wine was an instant classic for me. We brought them back into our portfolio soon after. I recently had breakfast with Jeff Cole, winemaker for Sullivan, and we talked about his wines and the winery’s history. Sullivan was founded by James O’Neil in 1972, but the land has been farmed since the early 1900’s. Jeff actually cut his wine making teeth producing wine for the famed sparkling estate, Schramsberg. This wine is 93% Cabernet Sauvignon with 7% Petit Verdot making up the rest of the cepage. The wine was aged in 70% new French oak for 20 months. The 2016 vintage saw ideal weather conditions to produce top notch Cabernet Sauvignon. Sullivan Cabernet has a medium ruby core with thick legs. The nose shows dark fruit and milk chocolate. The palate offers exquisite flavors of blackberry and dried black cherry that flow seamlessly throughout with hints of salinity and dusty cedar. The wine is richly textured with soft, chewy tannins that act as a velvet glove encompassing the palate. Notes of vanilla bean and exotic spice mingle into hints of graphite, milk chocolate, and lavender. The finish gives whiffs of blue fruit, dusty minerality, and crushed rocks. Tinges of blackberry linger lovingly on the palate with tobacco leaf and cigar box for a good long time. TLC (Textured, Layered, Complex) Barlow Score: 98 Points

Thank you,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

Spec’s Fine Wine Buyer

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THE 12 UNDER $12 FOR NOVEMBER 2021

Fernlands Sauvignon Blanc

New Zealand

Cash Price $9.99

  • Aromas of Grapefruit and citrus
  • Zesty, crisp acids with flavors of grapefruit, lemon grass, and jalapeno jelly
  • Pairs with white turkey breast

Muscador Sweet Sparkling Rose

France

Cash Price $10.99

  • Aromas of red fruit
  • Light, bouncy bubbles with flavors of red cherry and sweet candied raspberries
  • Serve as an aperitif with the relatives

P Secco Brut Prosecco

Italy

Cash Price $11.99

  • Aromas of citrus and white flowers
  • Crisp, clean bubbles with flavors of lemon, melon and white flowers
  • Pairs with family gossip

Imus Red Blend

Spain

Cash Price $9.99

  • Intense aromas of red fruit
  • Medium intensity with flavors of wild strawberries, red cherry and pastires
  • Pairs with Honey Baked Ham

Blume Verdejo

Spain

Cash Price $9.99

  • Aromas of tropical fruit
  • Flavors of tangerines, pineapple, and grapefruit
  • Pairs with Mom’s Turkey Day cooking

El Circo Cabernet Sauvignon

Spain

Cash Price $9.99

  • Aromas of dark fruit
  • Medium intensity with flavors of blackberry, violets, and olive
  • Pairs with any darker meat on the table

El Portillo Rose

Argentina

Cash Price $9.99

  • Aromas of red fruit and roses
  • Flavors of strawberries, cherries, and jam
  • Pairs with Turkey and cranberry sauce

The Goose Chenin Blanc

South Africa

Cash Price $11.49

  • Aromas of white fruit
  • Flavors of quince, melon, and pear.
  • Pairs with White meat and mashed potatoes

Liberation de Paris Pinot Noir

France

Cash Price $10.99

  • Aromas of dark fruit and petals
  • Flavors of black cherry, plum and cola
  • Pair with the main course on Thanksgiving

LuLu Dry Rose

Washington State

Cash Price $9.99

  • Aromas of red fruit
  • Flavors of raspberry, pomegranate, and savory herbs
  • Serve as an aperitif

Perimeter Chardonnay

California

Cash Price $9.99

  • Aromas of tropical fruits
  • Flavors of pineapple, apricot and cream
  • Pairs with any lover of Chardonnay

Ca’Momi Napa Rosso Red Blend

California

Cash Price $9.99

  • Aromas of dark fruit
  • Jammy blackberry, blueberry, and spice
  • Pairs with deep fried turkey

Thank You,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

Spec’s Fine Wine Buyer

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment