Vintage 2015 (mostly) Cru Classe Bordeaux Tasting on March 6th

Tuesday March 6, 2018 from 5:00pm to 9:00pm at the Crystal Ballroom at the Rice

This event was originally scheduled for Tuesday January 16, 2018 but we had to cancel due to extreme winter weather conditions (the “Ice-Pocolypse” that virtually closed the city of Houston). The original plan was to host over 30 Bordeaux chateau owners, directors, and/or winemakers (aka “the Bordelaise”) presenting 62 mostly Cru Classé Bordeaux wines all from the superb 2015 vintage in a standup-and-walk-around tasting format. The wines are here and will be served. The Bordelaise are working-it-out to come back in March. Many will make it but some won’t. In any case, there will be someone informed about the wine pouring each wine. In the end, we will have the 2015 tasting and you will get to taste …

Pomerol: Chx. Clinet, Gazin, Croix St. Georges, and La Pointe (along with 2nd vin Ballade de La Pointe)

St. Emilion: Chx. Canon la Gaffeliere, Clos l’Oratoire, Daugay, Grand Corbin Despagne, La Confession, Larcis Ducasse, and Pavie Macquin

St. Georges St. Emilion: Ch. Cap St. George

Castillon and Francs: Chx. d’Aiguilhe and Ampelia, Ch. Puygueraud

Bordeaux: Chx. Croix Mouton and le Conseiller

St. Estephe: Chx. Phelan Segur, Lafon Rochet, and les Ormes de Pez

Pauillac: Chx. Pichon Lalande (with 2nd vin Reserve de la Comtesse), Pichon Baron (with 2nd vin Les Griffons), Pibran, Lynch Bages (with 2nd vin Echo de Lynch Bages), Grand Puy Lacoste (with 2nd vin Lacoste Borie), Clerc Milon, d’Armailhac, and Haut Bages Liberal

St. Julien: Chx. Branaire Ducru, Leoville Barton and Langoa Barton, Leoville Poyferrre, and Talbot

Margaux: Chx. Giscours, Cantenac Brown, Ferriere, du Tertre and Brane Cantenac (along with 2nd vin Baron de Brane)

Haut Medoc, Moulis, Listrac: Chx. Cantemerle, Chasse Spleen, Camensac, Mauvesin Barton, and Senejac

Pessac Leognan Reds: Chx. Carmes Haut Brion, Carbonnieux, Domaine de Chevalier, Smith Haut Lafitte, Clos Marsalette, and Haut Bailly with 2nd vin La Parde de Haut Bailly

Dry Whites: Domaine de Chevalier, Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte, Ch. Carbonnieux, and Blanc de Lynch Bages (2014)

Sweet Whites: Chx. Suduiraut (along with 2nd vin Lions de Suduiraut) and Coutet

We’ll be tasting great wines from every major appellation in Bordeaux. After re-tasting all these wines on January 17 in Dallas, I can tell you that they are showing very well.
The tasting will open at 5pm and run until 9pm, giving you ample time to taste the wines and visit with our guests from Bordeaux. The tasting will include a spread of artisanal cheeses and breads chosen to help absorb the wines and refresh the palate. We will taste from Riedel Degustazione (tasting) glasses. The Vintage 2015 Mostly Cru Classé Bordeaux Tasting will cost $100.00 per person (including a 5% discount for cash or check, regular price is $105.26). To purchase your ticket, please contact Susan at 713-854-7855 or coburnsusan2@gmail.com.

The Crystal Ballroom at the Rice is located in downtown Houston at 909 Texas Avenue between Travis and Main. Valet Parking will be available.

If you buy a ticket and will not be able to attend, please cancel at least 24 hours before the event. No shows and later cancellations will be charged.

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JAMES BARLOW’S ‘STEALS OF THE MONTH’ FOR FEBRUARY 2018

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

The weather is starting to warm up!  That said, it’s still a red wine centric time of year.  I have picked out three fun, high quality, low cost wines that are sure to tide you over until the tax refund hits the bank account!  Enjoy!

Pierre Rougon Red Blend 2014

Cotes du Rhone, France

Cash Price $8.99

‘Wine is made in the vines’ stated Pierre Rougon.  This wine is a 60% Grenache/40% Syrah blend that really exceeds its price point.  Flavors of wild red berries and raspberry are encompassed notes of garrigue and spice.  Fresh, vibrant and extremely approachable!  James Score: 89 Points

Playtime Red Blend 2015

Lake County, California

Cash Price $9.99

Coming from Shannon Ridge winery, this delightful red blend is a perfect companion to BBQ or any zesty dish on your table.  The wine is 60% Zinfandel/23% Syrah with a smidgeon of Petite Verdot and Viognier.  Flavors of fresh dark cherries and blackberry flow into a touch of sweet oak, vanilla and a hint of pie spices.  Soft and silky! James Score: 89 Points

Wine Roads Chardonnay 2015

California

Cash Price $9.99

This wine comes from the famed Michael Sebastiani collection.  It is a fun, pleasant, user friendly Chardonnay that is meant for days that end in ‘Y’.  Tropical flavors of pineapple and melon show through touches of ripe green apples and medium acidity.  The finish shows touches of creamy butter, nuts and butterscotch.  James Score: 87 Points

Thank you,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

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JAMES BARLOW’S ‘THE THIRTEEN’ PICKS OF FEBRUARY 2018

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

Happy New Year!  I apologize, but the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018 have been an extremely busy time for me.  I have put this blog on the backburner for a month, but time’s up!  I am back in the saddle with some amazing picks and values.  Some of the selections are geared towards Valentine’s Day and others are just Spectacular wines that should grace your table in the near future!  Cheers to a prosperous and blessed 2018!

Expression 39 Anderson Creek Pinot Noir 2013

Anderson Valley, California

Cash Price $40.84

Anderson Valley is one of the true ‘Grand Cru’ regions for growing Pinot Noir in California.  Located in Medocino, north of Napa Valley, this region is becoming a premier region for stunning expressions of Pinot Noir and Bill Hill is intent on offering some of the finest selections.  The Valley is rather small and thus there are only a handful of wineries that produce small quantities of high quality wines, mostly from Pinot Noir.  Wine maker Patrick Mahaney is crafting brilliant Pinot’s from all over the west coast, but this is truly one of my favorites that he produces. Supple flavors of black cherries and pomegranate envelope the palate with licks of wild red flowers dancing melodically in the background.  The wine has medium plus acidity and medium tannins.  Although this wine is an elegant Pinot Noir, it does seem to have some brutish intensity that smacks the palate with deliciousness.  Touches of rhubarb, cola and jam play into the finish with hints of walnuts, singed vanilla, and milk chocolate.  James Score: 93 Points

Monticello ‘Jefferson’s Cuvee’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $29.99

“Good wine is necessity of life” were the words from one of our Forefathers, Thomas Jefferson. The Corley family pays homage to the great man with their Jefferson’s Cuvee selections.  The winery has been producing Napa Valley wines since 1969.  The vineyards are sustainably farmed and the fruit used in this wine is all estate and fermented in French Oak.  This winery is often lost in our portfolio, yet they produce wine of excellent balance and structure.  Monticello exudes flavors of lush blackberry and black cherry that weave easily throughout medium plus tannins and medium acids.  The mid palate shows touches of plum and anise flow into a textured mouth feel.  The finish is long and entertaining with notes of lightly toasted oak, dark mocha and smidgeons of vanilla.  Touches of spice linger delightfully on the palate.  James Score: 91 Points

Rowland Cellar’s Cenay ‘Bald Mountain’ Chardonnay 2013

Santa Cruz Mountains, California

Cash Price $24.99 BUT ONLY $19.99 FOR A LIMITED TIME WITH YOUR SPEC’S KEY

I have always been impressed with the way Gerald Rowland handles his wines.  He is light handed with his wines, allowing for the pure expression of the grape to come forward.  His Chardonnay is definitely Burgundy-esque with terroir shining from Santa Cruz.  Bald Mountain is situated on the coastal side of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The vineyard sits at 1000 feet elevation, protected from the wind by the large redwood trees that surround its border.  The proximity of the vineyard to the Pacific Ocean exposes the fruit to the cool, briney fog and ocean breezes that preserve the natural brightness of fruit aromas and acidity.  Flavors of Granny Smith apples and key lime pie explode in the palate with hints of tropical fruit.  The mid palate has an underlying current of acidity and minerality that melds easily into notes of pineapple and guava.  The finish is chalked full of wet rocks, vanilla and mousse. James Score: 92 Points

Chateau Le Conseiller Red Blend 2011

Bordeaux, France

Cash Price $18.99

I recently brought Jean-Philippe Janoueix and Francois Despagne (Grand Corbin Despagne) around Houston before the Vintage Grand Cru Classe tasting that was unfortunately cancelled due to inclement weather.  At the time we tasted their 2014 offerings, but I was able to talk at length with him about the 2011 vintage.  This vintage is an exceedingly good VALUE vintage!  This offering from famed Wine maker Jean Philippe Janoueix is brilliant.  Conseiller is one of Bordeaux’s best offerings for the price point and in one of the best value vintages in recent history.  The wine is 90% Merlot and aged in new French and American oak with 50% in smaller cigar barrels.  Flavors of blackberry and cassis layer into graphite and dense minerality.  The wines has medium plus tannins and acid which make it age worthy, but Janoueix makes his wines quite accessible in their youth.  The mid palate softens into touches of cream and currant with touches of iron.  The finish is complex and well balanced with notes of cedar, leather, and tobacco. If you are seeking Bordeaux Superior wines, none due it better than Jean-Philippe Janoueix!   James Score: 91 Points

Domaine du Courteillac 2009

Bordeaux, France

Cash Price $17.99

Right Now is the perfect time to start diving into the brilliance of Bordeaux’s Value Red Blends .  I am tickled every time I come across an inexpensive 2009 & 2010 because I just know they are going to be OUTSTANDING!  This vintage has gone down as one of the best of the century.  Prices exploded, so it became hard to find value.  That said, you had to be a really bad grower to produce bad wine.  Anything under $20 is drinking exceedingly well….like this wine for instance!  Courteillac is a blend of 70% Merlot/25% Cabernet Sauvignon and a smidgeon of Cabernet Franc.  Flavors of silky red currant and plum sink into eloquent acids and tannins.  Kisses of French oak weave melodically through the mid palate with smidgeons of hazelnuts and vanilla.  The finish is soft, yet firm with hints of spice.  Get this STEAL while it is still available!  James Score: 90 Points

Domaine Mejan-Taulier ‘Canto Perdrix’ Red Blend 2014

Laudun (Cotes du Rhone Villages), France

Cash Price $14.99

Located in the Rose capital of the world, Tavel, Domaine Mejan-Taulier is producing some lights out red blends from Laudun.  The wine is 50% Grenache, 25% Cinsault, 25% Mourvedre and aged completely in stainless steel tanks (no oak).  The wine is intensely fresh with flavors of fleshy cassis and raspberry.  Hints of sweet tart red berries are surrounded by medium acids and tannins.  The mid palate offers darker fruits of blackberry and black cherry.  The finish is zesty and fun with touches of black pepper, freshly turned earth and garrigue.  I REALLY like this wine!  James Score: 90 Points

Aya Malbec 2014

San Juan, Argentina

Cash Price $16.99

Argentina produces some of the best Malbec in the world due to the climactic conditions.  The region is arid with bountiful  sunlight which allows the grape to reach excellent phenolic ripeness.  The Zonda winds give the cooling effect and keeps the grapes safe from disease.  Aya is a beautifully textured Malbec with tons of richness.  Flavors of ripe plum and blackberry follow into medium tannins and acids.  Notes of tobacco leaf and toasted oak are prevalent on the mid palate that softens out nicely in the mouth.  The finish is plentiful with hints of coffee beans and cream.  Yum!  James Score: 89 Points

Twisted Paso ‘Main Squeeze’ Red Blend 2015

Paso Robles, California

Cash Price $15.99

The Calcareous Vineyard’s ‘Twisted Paso’ line has become one of the best sellers in all of Spec’s portfolio.  The Main Squeeze is a silky red blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.  Dark fruits of ripe blackberry and boysenberry are prevalent from the start.  The mid palate turns into creamy blackberry pie with velvet tannins and lush acids.  The finish offers hints of toasted oak and caramel that sink into a gracious amounts of dark chocolate and mild spices.  The wine is aged in 15% New American Oak and 75% Neutral French Oak for eighteen months.  This is a Valentine’s Day wine that Your ‘main squeeze’ will love!  James Score: 88 Points

Pietra Santa Sangiovese 2013

Central Coast, California

Cash Price $12.89

Unfortunately, this winery has changed hands and decided to go in a different direction with the wines.  So if you like Pietra Santa wines…..GET THEM NOW while you can!  Located in Cienega Valley about 25 miles from Monterey Bay, Pietra Santa is Italian for ‘Sacred Stone’ in honor of the rich terrain and terroir on which the winery is located.  Italian Wine Maker Alessio Carli has produced a pure and focused wine with this offering.  Sangiovese is extremely close to the heart of Alessio and he produces some of the best in all the Central Coast.  Flavors of bing cherry and cranberry meld easily into medium tannins and acids.  The wine has a juicy approachability with notes of wild red fruits and hints of ripe tomato on the mid palate.  The finish offers whiffs of nuts, cedar and smoke.  Great Meal Wine!  James Score: 89 Points

Ca’Momi ‘Heartcraft’ Sparkling Rose N/V

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $11.99

This fun bubbly will be perfect for your Valentine this holiday!  The wine has a beautiful Rose color and is produced from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with only 12 grams of residual sugar.  Deliciously soft on the palate, flavors of ripe strawberries and sweet red cherries burst into millions of bubbles.  The mid palate offers a creamy core with hints of cherry cobbler crust and licks of citrus.  The finish is clean and enveloping with a subtle hints of bread crumbs and confection.  Celebrate your Valentine with this sparkler!  James Score: 88 Points

Sheldrake Point ‘Lucky Stone’ Red Blend 2011

Finger Lakes, New York

Cash Price $12.69

The Finger Lakes AVA is quietly becoming a ‘hip’ place to produce wine.  Master Sommeliers and wine makers alike are taking note of wines coming from this region.  The area is typically known for white wines, mainly Riesling, but Dry Reds are beginning to take flight. This wine is an Estate blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Gamay Noir that is a great way to dip your toes into the reds of the Finger Lakes.  Lucky stone offers flavors of light black cherries and pomegranate bounce softly through the palate in an almost Pinot Noir-esque profile.  The mid palate is round and plush with notes of maple and plum that integrate into medium acids and tannins.  The finish is light and flavorful with whiffs of cinnamon, clove and vanilla.  James Score: 86 Points

Capriccio Espumante Dulce Natural

Mendoza, Argentina

Cash Price $11.99

This fully sparkling, 100% Torrontes is naturally sweet and highly aromatic with fruit packed flavors of peach, pear and guava.  The bubbles tickle the palate while flavors tantalize the taste buds with hints of honeycomb and lush stone fruits.  While the wine may taste like moscato ‘light’, it does have 9.5% alcohol contentto add with the flavors of fresh meadow flowers.  James Score: 86 Points

Enseduna Red Blend 2008

Languedoc, France

Cash Price $13.19

I visited the Languedoc a number years ago and was lucky enough to have dinner with the head vineyard manager of this winery.  He is a big fan of the indigenous grape Marselan and made his case to me that this varietal would become the signature grape of the region.  He may be onto something!  Enseduna is a blend of  45% Marselan,  35% Syrah, and  20% Merlot.  Juicy flavors of plum and black cherries are prevalent from the start with a soft, round mouth feel.  Notes of stewed red fruits sink into the mid palate with soft, elegant tannins and still zesty acids.  The finish offers hints of spice and earth.  The wine does have a bit of age on it, so it is very soft and approachable right now.  Pair with Texas BBQ or Fajitas!  James Score: 86 Points

Thank You,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

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VINTAGE 2015 (MOSTLY) CRU CLASSE BORDEAUX TASTING

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Join me for this SPECtacular event!

Vintage 2015 (Mostly) Cru Classé Bordeaux Tasting

Tuesday, January 16, 2018 at the Crystal Ballroom at the Rice

Spec’s will host over 30 Bordeaux chateau owners, directors, and/or winemakers presenting 62

mostly Cru Classé Bordeaux wines all from the suberb 2015 vintage in a standup- and-walkaround

tasting format. This is our seventh time to host such a delegation from Bordeaux and each

of the previous events have been smashing successes. The list of well-known and highly

regarded Bordeaux wineries includes …

Pomerol: Chx. Clinet, Gazin, Croix St. Georges, and La Pointe (along with 2nd vin Ballade de

La Pointe)

St. Emilion: Chx. Canon la Gaffeliere, Clos l’Oratoire, Daugay, Grand Corbin Despagne, La

Confession, Larcis Ducasse, and Pavie Macquin

St. Georges St. Emilion: Ch. Cap St. George

Castillon: Chx. d’Aiguilhe and Ampelia

Francs: Ch. Puygueraud

Bordeaux: Chx. Croix Mouton and le Conseiller

St. Estephe: Chx. Phelan Segur, Lafon Rochet, and les Ormes de Pez

Pauillac: Chx. Pichon Lalande (with 2nd vin Reserve de la Comtesse), Pichon Baron (with 2nd

vin Les Griffons), Pibran, Lynch Bages (with 2nd vin Echo de Lynch Bages), Grand Puy

Lacoste (with 2nd vin Lacoste Borie), Clerc Milon, d’Armailhac, and Haut Bages Liberal

St. Julien: Chx. Branaire Ducru, Leoville Barton and Langoa Barton, Leoville Poyferrre, and

Talbot

Margaux: Chx. Giscours, Cantenac Brown, Ferriere, du Tertre and Brane Cantenac (along

with 2nd vin Baron de Brane)

Haut Medoc, Moulis, Listrac: Chx. Cantemerle, Chasse Spleen, Camensac, Mauvesin Barton,

and Senejac

Pessac Leognan Reds: Chx. Carmes Haut Brion, Carbonnieux, Domaine de Chevalier, Smith

Haut Lafitte, Clos Marsalette, and Haut Bailly with 2nd vin La Parde de Haut Bailly

Dry Whites: Domaine de Chevalier, Smith Haut Lafitte, and Blanc de Lynch Bages (2014)

Sweet Whites: Chx. Suduiraut (along with 2nd vin Lions de Suduiraut) and Coutet

As you can see, We’ll be tasting great wines from every Major appellation in Bordeaux.

The tasting will open at 4:30pm and run until 8:30pm, giving you ample time to taste the wines

and visit with our guests from Bordeaux. The tasting will include a spread of artisanal cheeses

and breads chosen to help absorb the wines and refresh the palate. We will taste from Riedel

Degustazione (tasting) glasses. The Vintage 2015 Mostly Cru Classé Bordeaux Tasting will

cost $100.00 per person (including a 5% discount for cash or check, regular price is $105.26). To

purchase your ticket, please contact Susan at 713-854-7855 or coburnsusan2@gmail.com.

The Crystal Ballroom at the Rice is located in downtown Houston at 909 Texas Avenue

between Travis and Main. Valet Parking will be available.

If you buy a ticket and will not be able to attend, please cancel at least 24 hours before the event.

No shows and later cancellations will be charged.

Thank you,

James C. Barlow,CWE,CSS

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JAMES BARLOW’S ‘NO BRAINER’ BUBBLES FOR NEW YEAR’S EVE 2017

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

Party Time!  It’s the time of the year to celebrate to the best of 2017 and the coming of 2018.  Here are some party sparklers that are sure to put some real ‘POP’ in your festivities!  HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Andre Clouet Rose N/V

Champagne, France

Cash Price $47.49

Clouet’s Grand Cru Rose is made from 100% Pinot Noir and has become the darling of my cellar.  Located in the Montagne de Reims, this wine trumps even the likes of Moet & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot because the grapes are from actual Grand Cru vineyards.  This brilliant Bouzy bubbles is my New Year’s Eve Tradition.  Rich, textured flavors of strawberry and raspberry sink into deliciously tight bubbles.  Notes of brioche and hazelnut show wonderfully through hints of red flowers, honey and confection.  The finish is refreshing and cleansing while keeping the palate begging for another sup.  Clouet drinks like satin on the palate and is amazingly memorable from start to finish!  JAMES SCORE: 95 Points

Jean Baptiste Adam Cremant Sparkling Brut Reserve N/V

Alsace, France

Cash Price $19.94

I am always on the lookout for quality sparkling wines.  I have often found the best value outside of the region of Champagne, yet still in the confines of France.  Methode Champenoise sparkling wines made outside Champagne, France are called ‘Cremant’ (pronounced (Cray-mawn).  The term originally indicated that the sparkling wine was less bubbly, but it is generally used as a catch all for sparkling wine outside of Champagne now.  In May 2014, Jean-Baptiste Adam and his family celebrated the 400th anniversary of their family being grape growers and winemakers in Ammerschwihr.  The winery is one the leaders in biodynamic farming.  This light and refreshing bubbly is 90% Pinot Blanc and 10% Pinot Noir that is aged in stainless steel for 6 months then another 12 months in bottle.  The Cremant only has 6 grams of residual sugar which is on the drier side of brut.  Deliciously fresh flavors of lemon zest, green apples and white peach pop on the palate with tight, clean bubbles.  There is very little cream, brioche or yeast here.  The palate is all about being a zesty, tantalizing refresher and palate cleanser.  Exquisitely bright and tasty.  JAMES SCORE: 91 Points

Perelada Reserva Especial Sparkling Brut N/V

Cava, Spain

Cash Price $11.99

Want bubbles that drinks like $40, but at a fraction of the price?  Look no further!  Citrus, melon and pear flavors are whipped on top of 27 months of lees aging (9 months is the law) that shows toasty brioche, creamy confection with hints of almonds and buttered bread. WOW!  JAMES SCORE: 90 Points

Thank you,

James C. Barlow,CWE,CSS

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FREE CUSTOMER APPRECIATION JAPANESE WHISKY CLASS TONIGHT!

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

I apologize for the short notice of this event (I was just made aware of it myself).  But if you can, tonight at the Spec’s Oak Ridge North, we will have a specialty Japanese whisky tasting with Gary Clark.  It is sure to be an amazing event!

Send reservation to RSVP_Woodlands@Specsonline.com or jamesbarlow25@hotmail.com

Event: Japanese Whisky Seminar

Host: Author of “Japanese Whisky Handbook”, Gary Clark

Date: 12/20/17

Time: 6:30 – 8PM

Location: 27490 IH 45 N – Spec’s Oak Ridge North

Details: Please join us for a FREE curated tasting and seminar of 6 Japanese Whiskies. All whiskies will be available for purchase as well as autographed copies of Gary’s book.

Tasting:

Sensei

Kurayoshi Malt

Kurayoshi 12 yr

Ohishi Brandy cask

Fukano Sherry cask

Kaiyo 43%

 Thank you!

James C. Barlow, CWE,CSS

 

 

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JAMES BARLOW’S ‘TOP PICKS’ OF 2017

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are quickly coming to a close with 2017!  It is that time of the year where I pore over my tasting notes throughout the year and pick MY TOP PICKS OF 2017.  This year’s list is a SPECtacular array of wines.  I did notice that my tasting notes have leaned more towards California than in years past.  That said, It is the best time in our history to be drinking wines from Europe.  The weather is warmer which has allowed for much riper wines with more fruit and alcohol than ever before.  Take the time this holiday season to dive into new wines from Europe!  I have been blessed this year and quite Thankful that I survived the tumultuous year that was 2017 relatively unscathed (knock on wood!).  Enjoy these selections and always feel free to reach out to me if you need help choosing your selections this holiday season.  Thank You for being part of this blog and allowing me to guide you through the beautiful world of wine! My Top Pick of 2017 is at the bottom of the blog.

Stout Family Cabernet 2013

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $74.99

I have found your ‘Boss’ wine for the holidays.  Inevitably, I have numerous customers come to me and say verbatim ‘I need to spend around $100 bucks on a bottle of red wine for my boss,  HELP!’  Stout Family Cabernet 2013 is that wine!  This wine is the loving conception of Houston’s own Master Sommelier, Guy Stout.  When I first became a wine ‘geek’, it was Guy’s classes who nurtured my passion and allowed the avenues for the growth into what I am today.  I was extremely pleased to try his wine and even more ecstatic when the juice in the bottle was off the charts!  The wine maker for this gem is none other than the legendary Tom Rinaldi.  Tom has spearheaded wine making at several iconic wineries such as Duckhorn, Provenance, and Hewitt Estate.  He produces wines of elegance, depth and complexity.  The Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from Rutherford AVA and the ‘Rutherford Dust’ is present throughout the core of the wine.  Silky flavors of black currant and black cherry are deftly integrated through medium plus tannins and medium acids.  The mid palate offers blackberry and blueberry with dried tobacco and dark mocha.  The finish is beautifully integrated and lingering with Asian spices, toasted oak, and vanilla.  Impressively built wine!  Only 38 Barrels Produced.  James Score: 96 Points

Andre Clouet Cuvee 1911 Brut Sparkling N/V

Champagne, France

Cash Price $75.99

Only 1,911 bottles are made of this Grand Cru wine every year.  The bottles are numbered by hand and loving brought to this market in VERY limited quantities.  50% of the grapes were harvested from the famed 1996 vintage with 25% coming from the 1995 and 1997 vintages, prospectively.  The wine is 100% Pinot Noir from the Grand Cru village of Bouzy and disgorged on March 7th of 2017.  Cuvee 1911 commemorates the year riots broke out in the Champagne region as the local farmers rebelled against the larger houses.  The wine is aged sur lie for about seven years and receives a minimal dosage of 6 grams (typically can be upwards of 15 grams per liter).  The wine is absolutely stunning from start to finish.  Tropical and tree fruits explode on the palate with melon, peach and apricot racing through seamlessly integrated acids.  The mid palate offers a soft creamy core of salted caramel and white flowers and candied apples.  The finish is tantalizingly delicious with loads of toasted brioche, cake batter and creamy mousse.  This wine is a SHOWSTOPPER!  James Score: 97 Points

Kenefick Ranch ‘Caitlin’s Select’ Cabernet Franc 2013

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $44.99

I am an avid fan of Cabernet Franc and this is one of its best producers in the New World.  At Kenefick Ranch, the wine-making begins in the vineyard and is completed in the cellar.  They use native yeast and new French oak to produce world class wines in Calistoga.  Wine Maker Kent Jarmin produces wines with structure and balance with the thought of aging his wines for ten to twenty years.  This wine spent eighteen months in New French Oak and was bottled unfined and unfiltered.  The wine was blended with 14% Petit Verdot for structure and vivacity.  The palate offers generously ripe flavors of blackberry and black cherry that are surrounded by medium tannins and acids.  The mid palate shows briary fruit pie and cassis with hints of cured meat and tobacco.  Kenefick knocked the landing out of the park with notes of creamy milk chocolate, crème brulee, sweet spices that are folded into a velvet texture with just a kiss of oak and vanilla bean.  YUM!  James Score: 94 Points

Bernard Moreau Pinot Noir Premier Cru ‘Santenots’ 2014

Volnay, France

Cash Price $74.99

It is impossible to mention the famed region of Chassagne-Montrachet in the Cote de Beaune without speaking of Bernard Moreau.  This small chateau produces organic, biodynamic, and sustainable wines with a pure hands off approach to allow the grapes to offer their true expressions of flavor and terroir.  The Pinot Noir they produce is unfined and unfiltered to make sure zero flavor is leached out of the final product.  The Santenots vineyard is actually located in Meursault, but is more likened to Volnay so the vineyard may append its name.  The soil structure is more clay than typical Volnay, so the ensuing wines are fuller wines without the tannin of its neighbors.  Santenots is 100% planted to Pinot Noir.  Plush and velvety flavors of freshly picked wild berries and raspberry sing into racy medium plus acids and minimal tannins.  The mid palate offers a touch of creamy vanilla with rhubarb and pomegranate.  There is a core of minerality that makes this wine exquisite.  The finish offers whiffs of toasted nuts and vanilla wrapped in kisses of spice.  This is a VERY serious example of quality Burgundy.  The wine is aged for fifteen months in 30% new French Oak.  Only 5 barrels produced!  James Score: 96 Points

Domaine Pernot-Belicard Chardonnay 2014

Puligny-Montrachet, France

Cash Price $57.59

Philippe Pernot’s father still manages their 17 hectare estate, but most of their grapes were sold off until Phillipe decided to start producing estate Chardonnay.  The wines were instantaneously a hit throughout Burgundy as the grapes are of extremely high quality.  The vines are forty-five years old and the ensuing grapes show that concentration of older vines.  Naturally low yields and a very high quality vintage have made this Chardonnay something to behold.  Supple, elegant flavors of Granny Smith apples and pear sing melodiously into silky yet vibrant medium acidity.  The mid palate offers a soft creamy core with notes of almonds and citrus that meld into wet rocks.  The finish gives white flowers and touches of toasted oak (20-35% New French Oak for 12 months).  This is a seriously amazing Chardonnay in a vintage that will show well for years to come!  James Score: 94 Points

Domaine du Pegau Cuvee Reserve Red Blend 2014

Chateauneuf du Pape, France

Cash Price $55.99

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 $55 this wine is an unbelievable steal!  The wine is 80% Grenache, 8% Syrah, 4% Mourvedre, 3% Cinsault, and 5% Counoise and 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.  Delightfully Old School in style, this wine offers a rusticity that will allow it to age for many years to come.  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!  James Score: 97 Points

Terre Del Palio Brunello di Montalcino 2011

Tuscany, Italy

Cash Price $46.89

I was fortunate to show the wine maker, Andrea Lonardi, of this amazing winery around the Houston market earlier this year.  We broke bread and drank this extravagantly delicious wine while talking history and Tuscany.  Terre del Palio is located in Siena and exclusively produces wines from their 160 hectares of estate vineyards. The estate is named after ‘El Palio’, a Medieval pageant and a horse race held twice each year in the city. The 100% Sangiovese wine undergoes slow maceration and fermentation for three years in Slavonian Oak and used French Oak barriques then aged for twelve months in bottle prior to release.  Vibrant and bright flavors of red cherries and raspberry envelope the palate with medium plus tannins and acids.  The mid palate is rich and firm with notes of roasted walnuts and tinges of cranberry and lavender.  The finish is beautifully long and lingering on the palate with smidgeons of vanilla bean, toasted oak and exotic spices.  James Score: 95 Points

Neal Family Vineyards ‘Rutherford Dust’ Petite Syrah 2011

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $34.99

Mark Neal produced a stunning wine in the rather ‘tough’ 2011 vintage in the picturesque Rutherford AVA.  I prefer darker, brooding Petite Syrah and this wine fits that sentiment perfectly.  Petite Syrah is a thicker, tannic grape that when farmed properly can produce excellent, age worthy wine.  Mark farms his grapes very proudly with a focus on an Organic philosophy.  Healthy, natural vineyards typically offer much higher quality fruit.  Neal Family vineyards are California Certified Organic and he is meticulous with the care of his vines.  This thick mouthful of a wine begs for a big hearty hunk of meat.  Rich and viscous flavors of blackberry and blueberry rumble through medium plus tannins and medium acids.  The tannins are textured, yet still show elegance of a cooler vintage.  The wine was aged for 21 months in 50% New Hungarian Oak and the final alcohol is restrained at 13.9%.  Notes of fig and boysenberry are prevalent on the mid palate.  The finish offers licks of toffee, vanilla, and smoked bacon with tinges of black pepper.  Quite a Mouthful!  James Score: 93 Points

O. Fournier ‘Alpha Crux’ Malbec 2011

Mendoza, Argentina

Cash Price $44.99

O. Fournier makes wines around the world, but have really found a niche in South America.  The Alpha Crux name and label is based on the stars of the Southern Cross, which is a constellation only visible in the Southern hemisphere.  The Mocovi Indians from Argentina captured the symbol of the ostrich, which symbolizes the joining of the earth and the sky, through paintings in the caves they inhabited and tales spun through the sands of time.  This unfiltered 100% Malbec is pure and plush from the first sup.  Flavors of intense dark plum lift off into the palate with red cherry and mulberry following through the mid mouth feel.  Medium tannins and acids give this wine backbone and balance with 80% French and 20% American oak aging for eighteen months.  Notes of roasted meat, roasted hazelnuts and a touch of black pepper are encompassed by a plush richness that gives the wine an intensity of flavor while seducing the palate with its velvet complexity.  The finish offers creamy vanilla, graham crackers, and just a touch of violets.  Only 20,000 bottles produced.  James Score: 94 Points

Indomita ‘Zardoz’ Ultra Premium Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Maipo Valley, Chile

Cash Price $29.99

I recently held a Chile vs. Argentina tasting for consumers.  The two countries were neck and neck the entire tasting till the final flight where ‘Zardoz’ was premiered.  This wine tipped the scale into an almost unanimous vote for Chile to win the competition.  The wine is named after the wild and untamable spirit that embodied the winery’s famous horse.  Extremely focused flavors blackberry and black cherry sink into rich, concentrated tannins that fill the mouth with hedonistic abandon.  Smidgeons of red fruit flow into the mid palate with a generous dollop of cedar and vanilla.  The finish is chalked full of hazelnuts and almonds with hints of graphite and cocoa dust.   The wine sits on the palate for a gorgeously long time.  James Score: 95 Points

Chateau Daugay Red Blend 2014

St. Emilion, France

Cash Price $28.39

I visited the quaint little Chateau named Daugay last year while touring through Bordeaux.  We had just passed the famed Chateau Angelus, some of the most prized vineyards in all of Bordeaux, and stopped on a hill overlooking the vines of Angelus.  Lo and behold, we were in the vineyards of Daugay.  It turns out that Angelus is a part owner of this old 14 acre estate that is dedicated to producing exemplary Merlot based wines.  This wine is 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Flavors of ripe wild red berries and cherry envelope the palate with integrated licks of vanilla bean, cream, and currant.  The mid palate shows off polished tannins and elegant acids that give this wine a great age ability. The finish offers hints of cedar, cinnamon, and blooming roses.  Beautiful wine.  James Score: 93 Points

Pagos Del Moncayo Prados ‘Fusion’ Red Blend 2015

Campo de Borja, Spain

Cash Price $14.99

I have long expected Spanish Garnacha to begin to make a big splash in the American market.  The wines are dangerously delicious and typically dirt cheap.  The quality from Campo de Borja is at an all-time high and wineries are making very clean and food friendly wines.  Pagos del Moncayo is an artisanal & sustainable winery located at the foothills of the Sierra del Moncayo, in the heart of the Iberian mountain range as it passes through Aragon. They only hand-pick their grapes and tread the grapes in house to produce at Prados. The vineyards are dedicated to Garnacha and Syrah, grown on 7 hectares that belong to the Aibar family.  The wine is 65% Garnacha and 35% Syrah with some oak aging.  Thick and voluptuous, Fusion races into the palate with reckless abandon.  Flavors of stewed red berries and plum are enveloped with medium tannins and light acids.  Notes of licorice and black spices linger through the mid palate with hints of game and blackberry.  The finish is long and ripe with tinges of smoked mesquite and black slate.  Yum!  James Score: 90 Points

JAMES BARLOW’S TOP PICK OF 2017

Collazzi Super Tuscan Red Blend 2013

Tuscany, Italy

Cash Price $38.29

Villa Collazzi is one of the most impressive estates in all of Tuscany. Set atop a hill located a few miles south of Florence on the old road to Volterra, it offers commanding views of the surrounding countryside. This architectural landmark was originally designed by Michelangelo in 1560 for his friend, Agostino Dini. The building remained incomplete for centuries until it was purchased by the Marchi family in 1933. Of the estate’s 960 acres just under 50 are currently planted to vines and treated organic, biodynamic and sustainable. The soils are composed of clay, sand and rock. Well draining and low in organic matter, they offer the perfect habitat for grapes. The property is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Fiano and Petit Verdot. The wines are aged primarily in new French oak barrels. Villa Collazzi is currently run by three siblings from the Marchi family – Carlo Marchi, Grazia Marchi Gazzoni, Frascara and Bona Marchi Frescobaldi (Yes, THAT Frescobaldi!) and the first vintage under the Collazzi label was 1999.  The wine is comprised of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Petit Verdot from an average 20 year old vines.  Collazzi Super Tuscan was aged for eighteen months in 60% New French Oak and 40% one year used oak.  This wine has always been one of my ‘hidden’ jewels in our portfolio.  As you all know, I am on a constant search for good value.  Collazzi is under $40 and drinks like it’s $100, if that’s not value….I don’t know what is!  Super Tuscan red blends typically are based on non-indigenous varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon.  This Bordeaux based red blend is silky smooth and velvety from the first sup with flavors of blackberry and cassis that flow easily through ultra fine medium plus tannins and acids.  The mid palate is purely structured with notes of blueberry and fleshy plums that weave through tertiary notes of sweet spice, vanilla bean and cinnamon sticks.  The finish lingers on the palate for a full minute while offerings tones of cedar, licorice and a whiff of savory spice.  Get it while you can!  James Score: 96 Points

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