JAMES BARLOW’S ‘TOP PICKS’ OF 2018

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

It’s that time of year again when I scavenge through my notes and find the best wines that I tried over the past year.  I’ve been blessed to travel to France three times (Bordeaux once and Burgundy twice…with a side bar to Champagne) this year.  I tasted several thousand wines this year, but my Top Pick of the Year was one that I tasted a couple of years ago and re-tasted this year with similar notes.  It is a wonderful time to be drinking European wine as the warmer climate has allowed for riper vintages in the past several years. California is having many issues with wildfires, but they continue to churn out amazing wines year after year and you will find several on this list.  Above all, Drink what you enjoy, but here are some great wines to put on your table and share with family and friends this Holiday season.  Thank you as always for being part of this blog!  My Top Pick of the Year will be at the bottom.

Del Dotto Caves Cabernet Sauvignon Estate 2016

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $ 74.99

David Del Dotto’s family name has roots in wine that can be traced back to the 1400’s.  It’s in his DNA.  In 1988, he found a beautiful 17 acre property in Rutherford and the rest is history.  Del Dotto’s wines have quickly become cult classics that sell early…and often.  We are lucky to have them as partners.  The 2016 vintage offered the 5th exceptional vintage in a row for Napa Valley with high quality but, unfortunately, low yield.  This hedonistic gem is 92% Cabernet Sauvignon/4% Merlot/4% Cabernet Franc and aged in mostly New French oak.  The wine is richly textured with a thickly extracted core.  Rich flavors of black cherry and raspberry ooze onto the palate with blackberry jam and tobacco showing throughout.  The wine has medium plus to full intensity with velvet tannins and a creamy mouth feel.  Notes of roasted espresso, vanilla bean, and soft milk chocolate flows through the palate with wreck less abandon.  The finish is long and flavorful with hints of toasted cedar, cigar box, graham crackers and red velvet cake.  James Score: 94+

Fontaine-Gagnard ‘Clos St. Jean’ Premier Cru Chardonnay 2013

Chassagne-Montrachet, France

Cash Price $71.99

I had the joy of recently tasting the 2017’s of this winery from barrel in their cellar.  The wines were some of the best Chardonnay that I had tasted in recent history.  This led me to re-taste some of their older vintages and voila, I found this extraordinary wine.  Premier Cru wines are just a step under the Grand Cru status, but often give amazing quality without garnering the Grand Cru prices.  Clos St. Jean is a Premier Cru vineyard located on the hillside above the streets and houses of Chassagne-Montrachet village. It is planted to both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, making high-quality examples of both.  This 100% Chardonnay is aged in 30% new French oak for twelve months.  Flavors of crisp green apples and white flowers pop from the palate with hints of lemon citrus and a kiss of stone fruit.  The mid palate offers medium intensity with nice acidity on the backbone but also shows some flair with creamy bananas, pear and melon.  The finish is beautifully arranged with touches of hazelnut, custard and a dollop of vanilla bean.  James Score: 95

Volker Eisele ‘Terzetto’ Red Blend 2013

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $69.99 BUT FOR A LIMITED TIME

SPEC’S KEY SAVINGS OF $20.00

ONLY $49.99

Volker Eisele is located in the quaint district of Chiles Valley on the south eastern side of Napa Valley.  The AVA is one of the coolest in Napa and thus has one of the longest growing seasons.  The 60 acre estate has been organically farmed since 1974 and lies in elevations of 900-1,100 ft. Terzetto is a Bordeaux blend composed of equal parts of 1/3rd Cabernet Sauvignon, 1/3rd Cabernet Franc, and 1/3rd Merlot that is co-fermented then aged for 22 months in 60% new French oak.  The grapes are organically grown and hand harvested.   The wine is elegantly textured with medium intensity.  Eloquent flavors of blackberry and cassis with soft, encompassing tannins show through the core.  Notes of leather, cigar box and tinges of exotic spice play easily into hints of toffee, roasted coffee and mocha.  The finish lingers nicely on the palate with smidgeons of cedar, tea leaf and vanilla.  James Score: 93

Michel Mailliard ‘Cuvee Alexia’ Premier Cru Rose N/V

Champagne, France

Cash Price $49.99

Located in the famous sparkling town of Vertus in the Cote de Blancs, Michel Mailliard is a fourth generation Premier Cru producer.  ‘Cuvee Alexia’ is lovingly named after his daughter.  This Bubbly is a veritable fruit cocktail with clean, delicious sparkles from 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir that is quite dry on the palate.  Flavors of strawberry, raspberry and bing cherries explode in the palate.  The mid palate shows fleshy citrus fruits that are encompassed by a rich, creamy complexity that mellows into touches of dark chocolate and rose petals.  The finish sings with gracefully tight bubbles that dance melodically  with hints of chocolate mousse, cherry pie and all things delicious!  This Premier Cru Champagne is a must for the WOW! factor at table this Holiday Season.  James Score 94+ Points

Edu Pulenta Gran Cabernet Franc XI 2013

Mendoza, Argentina

Cash Price $39.89

The vineyard of Finca La Zulema Block 11 is located 1,000 feet above sea level in the region of Luyan de Cuyo in the picturesque region of Mendoza.  It is here that they grow this sensational Cabernet Franc.  Pulenta is a brand that world renowned wine maker Paul Hobbs has put his personal stamp on, as he is a consultant for the winery.  The wine is 100% Cabernet Franc that is aged for 18 months in New French Oak.  Pulenta is a fuller bodied Cabernet Franc that still possesses the finesse that the varietal typically offers.  Plush flavors of sweet red cherries, currant, and rose petals fill the palate with medium intensity.  Touches of sweet red berries enter the mid palate with hints of roasted pepper and eucalyptus.  The finish is deliciously flavorful with notes of cedar, vanilla bean and potpourri.  The wine is amazingly balanced and one of the better new world styles of Cabernet Franc that I have encountered.  James Score: 95 Points

Bernard Moreau Chardonnay 2014

Chassagne-Montrachet, France

Cash Price $64.99

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 wine is aged in 30% new French oak for 15 months, fermented with natural yeast and bottled un-fined and unfiltered.  It is brilliantly layered with flavors of lemon citrus that is cradled by tropical fruits and a beautiful floral bouquet.  Notes of white flowers and peach sink into the mid palate with tension based acidity.  The finish offers a plethora of flavor with butterscotch, hazelnuts, crushed rocks and whipped cream pie.  This wine is amazingly structured for the long haul and will only get better with some age.  James Score: 96 Points

Paolo Scavino Nebbiolo 2013

Barolo, Italy

Cash Price $59.84

Barolo DOCG is the king of Piemonte which offers some of the best expressions of Nebbiolo in the world. Paolo Scavino owns 30 hectares entirely in the Barolo area and works on 20 Barolo historical crus located in Castiglione Falletto, Barolo, La Morra, Novello, Serralunga d’Alba, Verduno and Roddi.  The Scavino family distinguishes itself from the beginning by their scrupulous care of the vineyards and passion for terroir. Their core beliefs is the supremacy of the viticulture above the oenology therefore the focus is the care of the vines in order to grow ripe and healthy grapes. In winemaking minimal and equal intervention are sought, to preserve natural diversities, terroir.  This Paolo Scavino Barolo comes from the best plots of seven cru. The diversity of soils, exposure and altitude characterizes each of these small but very important terroir. Unifying these diversities, the Barolo offers harmony and complexity with an overall character of the zone. The wine is 100% Nebbiolo and aged for 22 months in aged French oak and large casks.  Flavors of violets and rose petals quaff into the palate with notes of fresh red plums and cherries.  The wine has a full intensity that is extremely aromatic.  Chewy tannins and firm acidity will give this wine a nice long life.  The finish is pleasurable with hints of potpourri and baking spices.  James Score: 96 Points

Chateau Real D’Or ‘Monaco la Riviera’ Blanc 2015

Cotes de Provence, France

Cash Price $49.99

This fabulous white is made by Chateau Réal D’Or, which is in the village of Gonfaron, Côte de Provence.  The Chateau is nestled at the foot of the Massif des Maures, surrounded by oak forests and majestic centuries-old pine trees.  The vineyard is protected from the infamous Mistral winds..  The wine is 100% Rolle (Vermentino) and fermented in new French oak and then left on the lees for 4 months.  I had reservations about this wine as I wondered how a white from Provence could command such a price, but then I tried it.  The quality in the bottle is undeniable.  It is worth every penny of its price point.  Flavors of citrus lemon, pear and white peach show easily with medium intensity.  The mid palate has a surprised weightiness that gives the wine extra depth.  Hints of wild flowers, jasmine and almond are integrated nicely with touches of cream and vanilla.  The finish is balanced and refreshing with smidgeons of orange blossom, custard and toasted oak.  Only 5,000 bottles produced. James Score: 94 Points

Chateau D’Aiguilhe Red Blend 2015

Bordeaux, France

Cash Price $30.89

Chateau D’Aiguilhe located in the Cotes de Castillon on the right bank of Bordeaux.  The estate is owned by the legendary icon Stephan Von Neipperg, who also happens to own Chateau Canon La Gaffeliere (Wine Spectator’s #2 wine this year) and Premier Grand Cru Classe Chateau La Mondotte.  This is his value estate that completely over delivers for the price point.   The wine is 85% Merlot/15% Cabernet Franc that is aged in 30% new oak.  Massive color with a WOW body.  The wine is full and vibrant with dark red fruits, currant and chalky cream.  The wine has medium intensity with violets and raspberries that sink into a soft roundness that becomes poignant towards the finish.  Notes of baking spices and vanilla tingle throughout the quite inviting finish.  Very well balanced with a quiet opulence.  Yum!  James Score: 93-94 Points

Ulrich Langguth ‘GG’ Dry Riesling 2016

Mosel, Germany

Cash Price $28.29

Dry Riesling done well can be absolutely haunting. The Langguth family is steeped in wine tradition with over 200 years of history in wine making.  ‘GG’ is a shortening of ‘Grosse Gewachs’ which is the Grand Cru system for the VDP, a community of 200 growers that are considered the finest in Germany. These grapes were grown on the very slate strewn, deep soils of Goldtropfchen, which is considered some of the finest vineyard sites in all of Germany.  Most wines from this area are slightly sweet, but this wine is deliciously dry.  Amazing flavors of crisp green apple, pear and apricot sinew into honeydew and hints of petrol.  The mid palate offers medium intensity and notes of beeswax and a stony minerality that sinks into the core.  The finish is flush with white flowers that waft sensuously throughout the palate.  The ‘GG’ wines of the region are considered of the utmost quality and some of the finest in all the land.  It is rare to get this quality at such a great price point.  James Score: 94 Points

Bindi Sergardi ‘Calidonia’ Sangiovese Reserva 2014

Chianti Classico, Italy

Cash Price $25.64

Bindi Sergardi is producing some of the freshest Sangiovese in all of Tuscany.  I tasted through the entire line and was quite impressed throughout.  This wine was one of my favorites.  It is a DOCG wine, which is the highest quality tier for wine in Italy, and exudes luxury and finesse from start to finish.  The wine is 97% Sangiovese/3% Merlot and aged in oak for fifteen months.  Flavors of crunchy red cherries and wild red berries flow into taught tannins and fresh acids.  The mid palate offers touches of savory meat and herbs of sage and white pepper.  The finish is restrained with a concentration of red fruits, rose petals, and freshly cut cedar.  Hints of spice and graphite layer throughout the entire mouth feel.  The wine is a touch closed, so a good decant is recommended.  That said, this wine is an over achiever at $25.  James Score: 92 Points

Frederico Paternina Banda Tempranillo Reserva 2010

Rioja, Spain

Cash Price $14.99

Founded in 1896 in Ollauri, Rioja Alta by Don Federico Paternina, this historic bodega is one of the classics of Rioja. Bodegas Federico Paternina joined the premium Marques de la Concordia Family of Wines in 2014, owner of Spain’s finest estates since 1812. 2014 also saw the return to Paternina of the renowned Rioja winemaker Carmelo Angulo. Carmelo began his career at Paternina where he worked for 14 years, before gaining experience in the other great wine growing regions of Spain and today crafts the much-loved Federico Paternina ranges.  I opened this delight at a ‘Taste of Europe’ tasting and it absolutely floored everyone for the price point.  This Tempranillo based wine is aged in American oak for 24 months.  Flavors of dark currant and plum are held in check by a medium intensity.  Flavors of vanilla and dill are encompassed by earthy tinges of spice and dusted mocha with touches of freshly ground coffee.  The finish is long and complex with hints of toasted oak and subtle hints of tobacco leaf.  James Score: 91 Points

JAMES BARLOW’S TOP PICK OF 2018

BRANAIRE-DUCRU RED BLEND 2015

Bordeaux, France

Cash Price $71.99

Chateau Branaire-Ducru is a family-owned 4th Growth Grand Cru Classe in the commune of Saint Julien.  I have been an avid fan of these wines for the past several years as I think the quality in the bottle is much higher than the price point.  This estate has a history that dates back to 1680.  Patrick Maroteaux purchased the property in 1988 and poured this soul and being into making this property a leader in the Medoc.  He was one of the 1st in the Medoc to implement gravity flow at his winery.  He preferred wines of elegance, with a quiet voice that sings harmoniously from start to finish.  Sadly, Patrick Maroteaux passed away last November, but his son Francois-Xavier has stepped admirably into his father’s large shoes and taken the reigns of the Chateau.  The terroir of the estate is deep gravel with clay soils, which is perfectly suited for Cabernet Sauvignon.  Jean Dominique Videau is the master wine maker behind this stunning wine with Eric Boissenot consulting.  The 2015 vintage offers some of the purest, ready to drink Bordeaux that I have ever tasted.  It is a wonderfully fruit forward vintage that is drinking gorgeously now.  Branaire-Ducru is a 65% Cabernet Sauvignon/26% Merlot/4% Cabernet Franc/5% Petit Verdot blend that is aged in 65% new French oak for 18 months.  This wine is the reason I have fallen in love with this Chateau.  Flavors of red cherry, framboise and violets flow into crunchy fresh notes of red berries and currant.  The wine has medium intensity with a soft, elegant creamy core and velvet tannins.  This stunner is unbelievably seamless with notes of clove, cinnamon and toasted oak that weave through hints of tobacco and exotic spices.  The finish lingers for a beautifully long time.  An Absolute Show Stopper Wine!  James Score: 99 Points

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BURGUNDY ‘IN FOCUS’ MASTER CLASS: FOCUS ON THE COTE CHALONNAISE

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

**WE STILL HAVE SOME SEATS OPEN FOR THIS EVENT**

Don’t miss out on this rare opportunity to learn about one of the finest wine regions in the world!

Please join me, James C. Barlow, Bourgogne Wine Ambassador and Certified Wine Educator, for the 2nd installation of my Burgundy ‘In Focus’ Master Classes.  This class will focus on the Cote Chalonnaise.  Often overlooked, this quaint region just south of the Cote D’Or is quietly building a great reputation for quality wines that are still quite affordable.  The grapes will, for the most part, stay the same with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as the main varieties of the region.  I will introduce a grape that is taking the American market by storm called Aligote.  This variety has exploded on the market showing massive sales with even our own Houston Sommelier from Pappa’s Steakhouse, Steven McDonald, getting in on the action by creating a rap song about Aligote (YouTube it!) that has become a hit in America and France!  So Come One, Come all! We have 32 seats available for this class.  I have a new venue for this event Thanks to Effie Stees, owner of Envy Wine Room in Old Town Spring, who has been gracious enough to offer to host this event at her New Whiskey Bar, Prohibition Texas.

RSVP to: Jamesbarlow25@hotmail.com

Cost: $45 per person

What: Burgundy ‘In Focus’ Master class: Cote Chalonnaise

When: Tuesday, December 4th from 6:30-8pm

Where: Prohibition Texas Bar in Old Town Spring: 26420 Preston Ave, Spring, TX 77373

Wines:

  1. Louis Jadot Aligote 2015, Bouzeron
  2. Vincent Girardin Premier Cru ‘Les Cloux’ Chardonnay 2015, Rully
  3. Albert Bichot Premier Cru Chardonnay 2015, Montagny
  4. Domaine Thenard Premier Cru ‘Les Bois Chevaux’ Pinot Noir 2011, Givry
  5. Famille Masse ‘Vieilles Vignes’  Pinot Noir 2015, Givry
  6. Albert Bichot Pinot Noir 2015, Mercurey

*Minimum 15 people for event to be held*

Thank You,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

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BURGUNDY ‘IN FOCUS’ MASTER CLASS: FOCUS ON THE COTE CHALONNAISE

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

Please join me, James C. Barlow, Bourgogne Wine Ambassador and Certified Wine Educator, for the 2nd installation of my Burgundy ‘In Focus’ Master Classes.  This class will focus on the Cote Chalonnaise.  Often overlooked, this quaint region just south of the Cote D’Or is quietly building a great reputation for quality wines that are still quite affordable.  The grapes will, for the most part, stay the same with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as the main varieties of the region.  I will introduce a grape that is taking the American market by storm called Aligote.  This variety has exploded on the market showing massive sales with even our own Houston Sommelier from Pappa’s Steakhouse, Steven McDonald, getting in on the action by creating a rap song about Aligote (YouTube it!) that has become a hit in America and France!  So Come One, Come all! We have 32 seats available for this class.  I have a new venue for this event Thanks to Effie Stees, owner of Envy Wine Room in Old Town Spring, who has been gracious enough to offer to host this event at her New Whiskey Bar, Prohibition Texas.

RSVP to: Jamesbarlow25@hotmail.com

Cost: $45 per person

What: Burgundy ‘In Focus’ Master class: Cote Chalonnaise

When: Tuesday, December 4th from 6:30-8pm

Where: Prohibition Texas Bar in Old Town Spring: 26420 Preston Ave, Spring, TX 77373

Wines:

  1. Louis Jadot Aligote 2015, Bouzeron
  2. Vincent Girardin Premier Cru ‘Les Cloux’ Chardonnay 2015, Rully
  3. Albert Bichot Premier Cru Chardonnay 2015, Montagny
  4. Domaine Thenard Premier Cru ‘Les Bois Chevaux’ Pinot Noir 2011, Givry
  5. Famille Masse ‘Vieilles Vignes’  Pinot Noir 2015, Givry
  6. Albert Bichot Pinot Noir 2015, Mercurey

*Minimum 15 people for event to be held*

Thank You,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

Bourgogne Wine Ambassador

 

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FREE CUSTOMER APPRECIATION ‘COOKING WITH PUERTO RICAN RUMS’ THIS FRIDAY!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Sorry for the late notice, but I’d love for you to attend the delightful event coming up this Friday from 6-8pm at Spec’s Oak Ridge North.

Please RSVP to rsvp_woodlands@specsonline.com

Friday, November 9th from 6-8PM at Store 26

 

Join us Friday night for a Don Q Rum Cocktail and Epicurious Experience

with New Orleans Celebrity Chef and Spirits Expert, John Meisler presenting

“Cooking with Puerto Rican Rums — My Favorite Spice Rack!”

Learn all of John’s secrets about using Don Q Puerto Rican Rum as a key

ingredient to create Holiday specialties including:

 

  • Cornbread, Andouille Sausage and Pecan Stuffing made with Don Q Anejo
  • Don Q Limon Cranberry Sauce
  • Don Q Spiced rum Praline Glazed Ham

 He will even pair the food with Don Q Cocktails!

 To attend this FREE event, please email RSVP_Woodlands@Specsonline.com.

 He cooks the food live in store (on sternos and its pre batched but ready to finish off in front of the customers).

A Little info on the guest speaker

Rums of the Caribbean – the History and Evolution of The Spirit of the Americas

John Meisler was raised in the sights, sounds and smells of the culinary world in New Orleans. He is part of an old  New Orleans family deeply rooted in the world of authentic Creole Cuisine, with names like Zatarain’s and Delmonico’s Restaurant in the Family tree! He is an acclaimed worldwide speaker, educator and tasting facilitator and has done extensive work on food pairings with wines, spirits and cocktails. He is also a leader in using the wonderful flavors in spirits, wines and beers as base ingredients and accent spices in preparing wonderful epicurean delights, with focus on Puerto Rican Rums adding a wonderful Caribbean twist to some old family New Orleans’ recipes. 

He serves as Central Division Sales Manager, Director, Corporate Training and Spirits Education, Executive Chef and  Global Brand Ambassador for Serralles USA – a portfolio of premium rums and other premium sprits, including Don Q Puerto Rican Rum, Barrow;s Intense Ginger Liqueur, Caliche Rum and Death’s Door Spirits.

John has been featured at the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival, Kohler Food and Wine Show, the Midwest Culinary institute, Rum Rennaisance, Culinary Schools and Cooking shows around the world. Meisler was inducted as a “Keeper of the Quaich”, an industry based Scottish Royal Society, for his lifelong achievements in the advocacy of Whiskey as well as serving as a founding Executive Board member of the United States Bartenders Guild Master Accreditation Program.

 Thank you,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

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A WEEK IN BURGUNDY…. PART 1

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

I recently visited Burgundy for the 2nd time in six months.  It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it!  The 1st visit (my first time in Burgundy) came at the behest of the President of the Bourgogne Wine Board, Francois Labet, to take the challenging Bourgogne Wine Ambassador Program.  That whirlwind week had 10 people from around the world, including 2 Master of Wines and 1 Master Sommelier, traveling and tasting through many small AOC’s in Bourgogne.  The trip focused more on the lesser known regions such as the Cote Chalonnaise, Maconnais and the northern stretches such as Auxerre and Vezelay.  The trip was unbelievable and unforgettable as we tried through multiple vintages such as the rich and vibrant 2015’s and the structured 2014’s.  We discussed the major issue of Premox (premature oxidation) that has plagued the royal white wines of Burgundy for the past couple of decades. Fortunately, I passed the rigorous exam and became a Bourgogne Wine Ambassador for the next 3 years.  The only hole in the experience was that we only spent one day in the Cote D’Or.  As most of you may know, the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay come from this stretch of land in Burgundy.

My 2nd trip was more focused on the ‘big guns’ of Burgundy as we spent most of the time in the Cote D’Or whether it be the Cotes de Nuits or Cotes de Beaune.  I was able to taste many of the 2017’s in barrel and get a real feel for the quality of the vintage while also peppering the vignerons about the potential quality of the 2018 vintage that had just been harvested.

A tough decade for yield in Burgundy but Nature smiled in 2017 and 2018

It has been a rough decade for the vignerons of Burgundy with issues of hailstorms, frost, rot, etc.. that led to low yield in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.  The low yield does not attest to quality though, as the 2015 vintage is of extremely high quality.  The 2017’s and 2018’s vintages smiled on the Burgundy as both yield and quality are quite high.  The vignerons truly needed these two vintages as many growers have been struggling to keep the doors open with such little wine to sell over the past several years.

THE 2017 VINTAGE

Overall my impression of the 2017’s are very high.  It is a high quality vintage with plenty of freshness and purity.  Much of France was frost stricken, the Bordelaise had big issues, but Burgundy for the most part was unaffected except for Chablis.  Frost threatened in April and Chablis had substantial loss with 15 nights of cold weather.  Warm weather followed which allowed for ample ripening throughout Burgundy.  Hail affected Morey St. Denis on July 10th, but was mostly confined to that area. Much needed rain came to Burgundy in August helping vines bring their fruit to fuller maturity.  Harvest started in late August/early September.  All through the Cote D’Or, the harvest was plentiful and healthy especially in the Cotes de Beaune with Chardonnay.

FARMING AND SUSTAINABILITY

There is a definitive trend in Burgundy towards sustainability, organic, or biodynamic in the vineyards whether it be one or all three.  Vine tenders are taking a more natural stance and it is showing in the wine with a purity of fruit that seems to have come back into the wines to give an extra charm.

I also noticed many of the ‘younger’ generation wine makers are starting to implement the whole cluster method to some degree which many believe adds an extra layer of complexity and density to the wine.

THE TRIP

Day 1

Had me landing in Charles de Gaulle and taking a train to Champagne then arriving to my destination in Epernay in just enough time to change clothes and head up to a new and quite posh Royal Champagne Hotel and Spa (wow!) to have dinner with Jean-Francois Clouet, who just happens to produce some of my favorite Champagnes.  He is an extremely charming and affable man and while we talked shop for a bit, the core of the evening was spent enjoying company and getting to know the people at the table.  Oddly, we did not have any Clouet bubbles that night, but we did enjoy a masterfully crafted Pierre Peters Reserve Oubliee Grand Cru.

Day 2

Had us starting early and meeting Sophie Couveur of Champagne and Villages, which has a portfolio of small RM producers.  The first appointment was at Camille Saves, a sustainably farmed winery whose first vintage was 1959.  The wines were elegant and precise with very little added dosage (usually 6-7 g/l).

The gem was the 2012 Millesime.

It is 80% Pinot Noir/20% Chardonnay solely from Grand Cru vineyards in Bouzy with 7 g/l dosage with an average age of 35 years for the vines.  Red berries, strawberry, raspberry mousse, brioche, nuts, citrus, lemon with mostly red fruit on the palate.  Very Fine.  Touches of cake batter on the finish. Linear backbone.  James Score: 93 Points

The next appointment led us to the quaint Grand Cru village of Chouilly and into the tasting room of Vazart-Coquart.  This 3rd generation wine maker offers amazing Grand Cru and Special Club bubbles.  Every wine I tried here rated 90+ in my notes.  The best was:

Vazart-Coquart Special Club Cuvee Blanc de Blanc 2010 with a dosage of 3.5 g/l.  Light, pale straw, toasty, rich, nuts, more complexity coming with some oxygenation.  Round, creamy, mushroom with a dusty mocha, citrus, wild flowers, and vanilla.  Disgorged July 18th of 2018.  James Score: 94 Points

We then had lunch with Sophie and opened Jacques Picard, Serveaux, and Didier Ducos.

Serveaux was showing a 100% Pinot Meunier that was quite yummy with red roses, fresh flowers and cream brioche.  James Score: 92 Points

We finished the day at the office of DIVA NORD tasting through 20+ wines all from (oddly enough) the Loire Valley and Jura.  Weird that I have to go to Champagne to taste Loire!

Dinner offered Jean Charton 1er Murgers des Dents de Chien 2015 St. Aubin and Pascal Prunier-Bonheur Auxey-Duresses 2016 with escargot!

DAY 3

We started the sunny morning at Pierre Morey with daughter Anne showing us their wines in a cellar that was under construction.   Pierre Morey was the wine maker for Domaine Leflaive for twenty years.  He is somewhat of a rock star in the Cotes de Beaune.  The tasting was adjoined with a jack hammering from the construction, but not even the deafening sounds could stifle the quality that was in the glass.  We tasted through wines from Monthelie, Meursault, Pommard, Aloxe-Corton, and Batard-Montrachet. The Gem:

Meursault 1er ‘Perrieres’ 2017 showed quite well: Melon, tropical touches, cream and nuts with a balanced mouth feel.  Good acidity with hazel and lime on the finish.  Very nice.  James Score: 92-93

Next up was Benjamin Leroux located in the heart of the city of Beaune.  Ben is a younger gentlemen that has an undeniable fire and passion for his craft that exuded from his pores with every breath about his wines.

We tasted through a large amount of wine from barrel and tank.  We tried 2017’s of Aligote, Bourgogne Blanc, St. Romain, Auxey-Duresses, Meursault, Batard Montrachet, Volnay, Gevrey-Chambertin, Vosne-Romanee, Chambolle-Musigny, Nuit-St.-Georges, Mazoyeres-Chambertin, Chambertin, Clos de la Roche, and Bonnes-Mares…..LOTS OF WINE!

FavoritesMeursault 1er Les Genevrieres 2017– A hedonistic wine with lemon, green apple, butterscotch, cream, nuts, melon.  Supple and balanced with excellent structured acidity.  James Score: 93-94 Points

Chambolle-Musigny 1er Les Amoureuses 2017– Lavender, red fruit, spice, violets, potpourri, creamy oak, nuts and graham crackers.  Elegant and silky perfection. James Score: 96-97 points

Chambertin Grand Cru 2017- Beautiful.  Red fruit, candied red apple and cherry, spice, cream, new oak. Finish shows currant and raspberry cream.  Silky, yet quite structured with a richer texture.  Well Balanced.  James Score: 96-97 Points

STAY TUNED FOR THE REST OF THE STORY….

Thank you,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

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JAMES BARLOW’S ‘TWELVE UNDER $12’ FOR NOVEMBER 2018

THE TWELVE UNDER TWELVE FOR NOVEMBER 2018       

Spinsanti Reserva Malbec 2014

Cash Price $9.99

Malbec is perfect for cooler weather. Flavors of plum and blackberry seep into the palate with medium intensity. The finish is smooth with easy hints of dark chocolate.  Pair this beauty with a slab of meat and sautéed veggies.

Indomita Gran Reserva Pinot Noir 2016

Cash Price $11.99

Chile is offering some of the best value Pinot Noir anywhere. Dark cherry and blueberry flow into a soft intensity.  Delightfully oaky notes of cedar and clove show on finish.  Pair with a pork roast and sausage with dried fruits.

Leopard’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Cash Price $10.99

South African Cabernet is hot! This wine offers black currant and cassis with medium intensity.  A fleshy and fruity finish offers touches of spice.  A beef stir fry with Udon noodles would pair magically.

Lafite Aussieres Red Blend 2016

Cash Price $9.99

Put this gem in your basket! This Cabernet/Syrah blend offers flavors of red cherries, raspberry and a medley of spice. Smooth and integrated, pair this with your home-made Chili recipe!

Felix Solis Vina Albali Gran Seleccion 2015

Cash Price $9.99

This 100% Tempranillo shows medium intensity of red berries and fruit jam with hints of leather and tobacco. The finish is packed full of spice and hints of cedar.  Pair this with beef fajita burritos.

Yalumba ‘Y’ Riesling 2017

Cash Price $9.99

This Riesling is bursting with energy. Flavors of citrus lemon and wild white flowers are ensconced in a medium intensity.  Hints of petrol, wet rocks and pineapple pop in the finish.  Pair with a snapper, lime, and jalapeno jam dish.

Liberation de Paris Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Cash Price $9.99

 

Liberation is extremely balanced. Flavors of black raspberry and currant flow into medium intensity. The finish a fruit forward with hints of leather, tobacco and vanilla.  Pair with a beef tenderloin and blackberry dressing.

Le Versant Rose 2017

Cash Price $8.99

This 100% Grenache is dry and bursting with supple red fruits.  Red Cherries, raspberries, and red roses flow into a light intensity.  Fresh and inviting, pair grilled chicken and asparagus.

Reserve St. Marc Chardonnay 2017

Cash Price $6.59

This is a sure-fire party Chardonnay with flavors of fresh green apples and pear that touch through easy acids.  Hints of nuts and cream tickle the finish.  Fun, Fresh, Fruity and un-oaked…. Yum!

Perimeter Red blend 2015

Cash Price $9.99

Perimeter is a friendly red with notes of baked red berries and cherry that play into medium intensity. Touches of nuts and vanilla flow into a nice, dry finish.  Pair with a bacon cheese burger.

Roblar Merlot 2016

Cash Price $9.99

This is not your parents’ Merlot. Roblar is fresh and inviting with flavors of red cherry and plum that sinks into a silky smooth complexity.  Pair with a Friday night, a blanket and a holiday movie.

Nica Pinot Grigio 2015

Cash Price $8.99

Nica is apologetically fresh and easy. Flavors of white peach and lemon citrus follow light intensity.  Whiffs of jasmine and pear ease into the finish. Light and fun, pair with a glass and corkscrew.

Thank you,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

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JAMES BARLOW’S THANKSGIVING DAY PICKS FOR 2018

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are fast approaching my FAVORITE holiday of the year, where I can unabashedly keep my belt in the closet and glutton to my heart’s delight.  I have picked an excellent medley of wines for you to peruse and pick from this holiday season.  I am not intending to break the wheel with these picks, as I am a man who enjoys classical pairings, but please try to pick something new for YOU this year.  Find a wine here that perks your interest that you may not think of typically putting in your basket.  This holiday is made for wines like that!  Try something new, yet classical and feast!  Enjoy!

Nuiton Beaunoy Gevrey-Chambertin Pinot Noir 2015

Burgundy, France

Cash Price $46.99

Pinot Noir is one of the most classic expressions of wine to pair with all things Thanksgiving.  The 2015 vintage showed a warm streak in Burgundy that led to ripe, juicy wines that are ready to drink now.  Gevrey-Chambertin is one of the most hallowed places on earth to grow Pinot Noir and one of the original regions for Grand Cru wines.  Bourgogne vignerons have made a united decision to farm in more natural ways whether it be sustainable, organic, biodynamic or all three.  The ensuing wines have a depth and purity of flavors that are unbeatable in comparison to any other place in the world that is producing Pinot Noir.  This wine offers vibrant red cherries that sing from the palate that carries into a delightful candied framboise.  The body offers medium intensity with a purity on the palate that screams for turkey.  The finish is pure and expressive with hints of tea leaf, cola, and dark fruit with just a whiff of cedar and vanilla.  James Score: 93 Points

Andre Clouet Grand Cru Reserve Champagne N/V

Champagne, France

Cash Price $37.99

Andre Clouet is a Grand Cru Champagne producer from the region of Bouzy.  Grand Cru Champagne is produced from only the finest vineyards in the region.  Most of the BIG name producers that you buy from Champagne are NOT Grand Cru wines, but from many different sites throughout Champagne.  They may be of good quality, but only Grand Cru vineyards give you the best expressions of bubbles.  This Champagne exudes royalty from the first sup.  Flavors of green apple and citrus explode on the palate with deliciously tight bubbles.  Delightfully soft notes of bake apple pie and toasted Crème brulee flicker throughout the mid palate with a medley of fresh white flowers that sinew eloquently from start to finish.  The backbone of this exquisite bubbly has a chalky Belemnite minerality racing through the core that finishes with smashingly clean and lip smacking acidity.  This wine is impeccably made and one of my favorite sparklers in the world!  Bubbles for Thanksgiving is ALWAYS a great idea!

Chateau Cordet Margaux Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Bordeaux, France

Cash Price $39.89

The region of Margaux on the left bank of Bordeaux offers some of the silkiest Cabernet Sauvignon based wines in the world.  This property is owned by Chateau Monbrison and drinks well above its price point.  The wine is a 60% Cabernet Sauvignon/20%Merlot/20% Cabernet Franc Red that is aged for 15 months in French oak.  The wine shows succulent freshness with medium-full intensity.  The 2014 is a nicely structured vintage that will age gracefully, but also drinks well from the glass right now.  The wine is polished and reveals fresh red fruit and black fruit with an easy spice, mocha and hints of minerality.  The finish is long and integrated with hints of cedar, graham cracker, leather and just of whiff of tobacco leaf.  Perfect Cabernet for the feast!  James Score: 92 Points

Pari Passu Pinot Noir 2015

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cash Price $39.89

Pari Passu is a small production Pinot Noir that Lindsay Woodard, owner of Retour crafted with her brother and wine veteran, Jeff Woodard.  The trailblazing sibling duo are sixth-generation Oregonians who are deeply rooted in the Willamette Valley wine industry.  This is their first collaborative effort of making a wine together and the inaugural release of Pari Passu.  They created a seamless Pinot Noir of extremely high quality, crafted from old vines.  The 2015 vintage is a classic vintage that shows the vibrancy of fruit that Willamette can offer while still retaining a beautiful acid backbone that makes for a complex and delicious wine.  The wine is 100% Pinot Noir fermented with native yeasts and aged for 12 months in 100% French oak/50% new oak.   The wine displays flavors of black cherry and rhubarb sinks into a creamy core of medium intensity.  This wine really shows off how silky and beautiful Willamette Valley wines can be.  The finish shows hints of potpourri, cinnamon, vanilla with just a whiff of candied raspberry pie.  Yum!  James Score: 92

Blue Rock ‘Baby Blue’ Red Blend 2016

Alexander Valley, California

Cash Price $27.54

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 2016 vintage was a dream come true for vintners in California.   This wine is a 46% Cabernet Sauvignon/35% Merlot/6% Syrah/6% Malbec/5% Petit Verdot blend that is aged for 12 months in French oak and dangerously approachable from the pop of the cork.  Flavors of blueberry, boysenberry and red currant explode on the palate with 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.  By the way, this winery is next door to Silver Oak! This wine is sure to impress the family!  James Score: 90 Points

Domaine de Tourade Gigondas Red Blend 2016

Rhone Valley, France

Cash Price $24.99

Domaine de Tourade is a 4th generation family that produces wine throughout the southern Rhone Valley.  This under the radar gem is perfectly paired with all the gobble day fixings and will be sure to astound your guests.  The wine offers sweet blackberry and black cherry on the palate with medium intensity.  The spice in the mid palate gives cured meats, bacon and tar with hints of basil and thyme.   The finish offers touches of white pepper, blueberry and smidgeons of jammy cream.  Incredibly impressive for under $25.  James Score: 93 points

Chablisienne ‘La Pierrelee’ Chardonnay 2015

Chablis, France

Cash Price $18.99

I love Chablis!  It is some of the most exquisite Chardonnay produced in my opinion.  Granted, I do enjoy higher acid wines so keep that in mind.  Chablis expresses true terroir in their wines.  You can actually taste the chalk and limestone.  This is a great introductory example of a Classic wine from this region.  Flavors of ripe green apples and citrus zing through the palate with medium plus acidity.  Touches of stone fruit show in the mid palate with linear complexity and hints of crushed rock and chalk.  The finish is clean with touches of cream and wild flowers.  This wine will cut through dry turkey like a hot butter knife.  James Score: 90 points

Rizzi Moscato d’Asti 2017

Asti, Italy

Cash Price $18.69

Rizzi winery is a newer addition to our portfolio that over delivers at a delicious price point.  Moscato is a delightfully refreshing and quaffable wine that can be a great precursor to the festivities.  This sweet wine has light intensity with a fresh flavors of peaches and pineapple with hints of papaya and melon. The wine has a natural spritz (frizzante) to it which helps soften the sweetness and envelope the mouth feel.  It is low alcohol (Only 5%), so you can drink it all day with friends and family!  James Score: 89 Points

Jean Baptiste Adam Reserve Riesling 2016

Alsace, France

Cash Price $16.99

Dry Riesling is one of my absolute favorite wines to recommend with Thanksgiving.  It is such a versatile grape that it can pair with darn near everything on the table.   Alsace produces some of the best DRY white wines in the world and this vintage is one of the best I have ever tasted!  I am stoked to be able to offer this winery at such a spectacular price.  This family has a history of over 400 years of being grape growers and winemakers in Alsace.  Flavors of zesty citrus and orange blossoms flow into medium plus acidity without any encumbering oak.  Touches of apricot and grapefruit sinew cleanly through hints of wet rocks.  The finish is amazingly complex with apple blossoms, wild white flowers and lychee.  This is a WOW wine.  James Score: 91 Points

Domaine Triennes Dry Rose 2017

Mediterranee, France

Cash Price $14.99

I plan to have a bottle of this wine on my table this Thanksgiving.  Triennes is consistently one of my favorite Dry Rose’s year in and year out.  This Domaine is owned by two of the best in world, Domaine Romanee Conti and Domaine Dujac. 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.  Get this on your table!  James Score: 92 Points

Domaine de Fournaches Pinot Noir 2015

Hautes Cotes de Nuit, France

Cash Price $14.99

I am consistently looking for value Pinot Noir, especially this time of the year because I want to show great wine to the family without spending an entire paycheck!  This Pinot from Burgundy checks all the boxes.  It is light and fresh with medium intensity and an extremely quaffable mentality.  Bright flavors of red cherry and wild red berries flow into hints of strawberry with just a kiss of rose petals.  The mid palate is sleek and appealing while still offering complexity.  The finish is clean and pure with touches of wild flower and game.  James Score: 89 Points

Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) Blanc 2017

Bordeaux, France

Cash Price $12.99

Most everyone has a ‘go-to’ wine in their home for days that end with ‘Y’ or the one that you just know is going to be terrific every time you pop the cork.  This is ‘that’ white wine in my home.  It just so happens to be perfect for Gobble day as well!  The wine is a 55%/45% Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend that is completely unoaked. Flavors of citrus lemon lime zing through the palate with medium plus acidity.  The mid palate offers a soft creamy complexity with whiffs of white flowers and orange blossoms.  The finish is chalked full of minerality with tinges of crushed rocks.  I have found myself gravitating towards French Sauvignon Blanc for quite sometime now and this is a classic example of why it has occurred.  James Score: 90 Points

Francois Labet Gamay 2016

Beaujolais Villages, France

Cash Price $10.99

Many of you have become tired of Beaujolais Nouveau.  I completely understand, but please don’t run away from Gamay (Beaujolais) as a whole.  There are many beautifully delicious wines from this region that offer complexity and elegance.  This wine is light and refined without all the bubble gummy flavors that Nouveau offers.  Fresh Fruit flavors of bright red cherry and cranberry leap into medium acids.  Touches of fleshy raspberry and tinges of white pepper dance throughout the palate with light intensity.  Fun, fresh and fruity!  James Score: 88 Points

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

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