JAMES BARLOW’S ‘THE THIRTEEN’ PICKS OF APRIL 2021

Blue Rock Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Alexander Valley, California

Cash Price $42.99

Blue Rock is an all estate produced winery that is located right next to Silver Oak’s Alexander Valley property.  The 2017 vintage was absolutely stunning with excellent depth and concentration.  The winery  is focused on showing the quality of terroir and offering balanced wines that  reflect the soil.  Blue Rock shows dark purple color with medium intensity. The palate offers voluptuous flavors of blueberry and black cherry that sink into a plush core of currant .  The wine is silky smooth and bright with complex notes of cedar, vanilla and baking spices on the mid palate.  The finish is rocking with blackberry cobbler and cigar box wrapped into a velvet finish.  Layered and lively.  James Score: 94 Points

Castelnau Brut Reserve N/V

Champagne, France

Cash Price $38.94

I recently re-tasted their non vintage sparkler and was very happy with the ensuing results. Castelnau offers a higher percentage of Pinot Meunier (42%) than most Champagne producers.  Pinot Meunier adds a youthful exuberance to the wines with lively structure and fruit.  This Cooperative Manipulant exudes flavors of crispy green and red apples fly into medium plus acidity that is wrapped around a core of red cherry and rose petals.  The mid palate is spectacular with notes of brioche, almonds and licks of vanilla cream.  The finish is silky with tinges of toasted cocoa beans, confection and delicious goodness!  Barlow Score: 94 Points

Smith-Madrone Chardonnay 2017

Spring Mountain, California

Cash Price $39.89

This artisanal 100% Chardonnay come from all dry farmed Estate mountain vineyards high on top of Spring Mountain. The wine was 100% Barrel fermented for 9 months in 80% new French oak. It has a pale-yellow core with medium legs. The nose lifts into hazelnuts, cedar and Meyer lemon. The palate has beautiful weight to it with flavors of melon, apricot, and lemon zest. The mid palate offers a certain viscosity that lets you know that this is a serious wine while retaining the nice acidity. Notes of pistachio, vanilla custard and almonds waft through hints of butterscotch and cream. The finish is rich and aromatic with notes of white peach and fig that finish into toasted oak and citrus. Big without being heady. Barlow Score: 93 Points

Chateau Beau-Site Cabernet Based Red Blend 2016

Saint Estephe (Bordeaux), France

Cash Price $39.89

Chateau Beau-Site (Beautiful Site) is located in St. Estephe, right up the hill from famed 3rd Growth Calon Segur. I’ve always loved these wines as St. Estephe stony terroir gives Cabernet Sauvignon a certain grip and texture that you don’t find as you travel south through the others Appellations. The 2016 vintage is considered one of the top of the century by any vigneron you ask. A plentiful harvest and nearly perfect growing season led to spectacular wines that have lots of structure, but will drink beautifully early and often. This Cabernet based red is full of black currant with medium plus intensity on the palate. The mid palate offers savory texture with hints of sage and tobacco that meld into a dark cherry profile. The finish is long and integrated with hints of pipe smoke, cedar and crush rocks. It’s always a pleasure pairing this wine with a dinner. Barlow Score: 92 Points

Block 718 Red Blend 2018

Stag’s Leap District, California

Cash Price $24.99

This newest Block edition hails from the famed Stag’s Leap District in Napa Valley. The wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Petite Verdot that was aged in French oak for 12 months. Sumptuous and ready to drink from the pop of the cork, this wine offers flavors of hedonistic black raspberry and cherries that heap into medium intensity. Notes of blackberry fill the mid palate with plush tannins that waft into hints of baking spices, milk chocolate and anise on the finish. Sleek and inviting, get this in your basket! Barlow Score: 90 Points

Donati Paicines Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Central Coast, California

Cash Price $19.94

I must admit, I didn’t have much of a gauge on these wines before I tried them. I had no idea where Paicines was or much background with Donati wines. I left my meeting with them shaking my head in approval at the wines they are producing. There aren’t many wineries in Paicines, formerly known as ‘Tres Pinos’ and is located around 700 ft in San Benito County. The wines is 80% Cabernet Sauvignon with other Bordeaux varietals to finish the cepage and was aged for 18 months in 15% new American oak, along with a tinge of new French and Russian oak. The wine was bright and plentiful with flavors of black cherry and blackberry on the palate with medium intensity. The oak showed more than expected (although I am sensitive to American oak) with notes of cedar, dark chocolate and a vanilla core on the finish. Solid $20 Cabernet! Barlow Score: 90 Points

Cru Montage Pinot Noir 2018

Central Coast, California

Cash Price $18.99

Santa Lucia Highlands is nestled in the Central Coast of California with a perfect micro climate for growing very high quality Pinot Noir.  Winemaker Ken Post has hit gold with this wine.  The 2018 vintage was picture perfect for California with abundant harvests and perfectly ripe fruit.  Flavors of pomegranate and wild strawberries sinew effortlessly into a core of cherry cola.  This 100% Pinot Noir shows an elegance while really driving the delicious fruit flavors through the palate.  Notes of rhubarb and brown sugar play softly into the 9 months of French oak aging.  Hints of blueberry pie and crust play into the finish with bits of vanilla bean and herbs.  Barlow Score: 90 Points

Brooks ‘Concho’ White Blend 2018 (Clay Walker)

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cash Price $16.99

Houston Native and famous country singer, Clay Walker visited this winery a couple of years ago and instantly fell in love. So much so, that he decided he wanted to make some wines with Brooks. They came up with the Concho label for him and the rest is history. This is his white blend produced in an Alsatian field style with Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer making up the blend. It is completely un-oaked and produced in a dry fashion. This wine is the perfect porch pounder for the hot hot Texas heat. It is refreshingly dry with a medley of white flowers flowing from the palate with flavors of white peach blossom, Meyer lemon and passion fruit. The mid palate has a medium intensity with lively acidity and notes of freshly squeezed nectarines and apricot. The finish is lip smackingly delicious with zippy tinges of dripping wet pineapple and peach nectar. Get this in your cart! Barlow Score: 91 Points

Republic of Pink Dry Rose 2019

Central Coast, California

Cash Price $16.99

Rosé season has officially arrived! Republic of Pink has been my ‘go-to’ Dry Rosé lately. 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

Perelada Stars Brut Nature NV

Cava, Spain

Cash Price $13.99

I love Good inexpensive bubbles. That is why I go to Cava early and often as my daily bubbles of choice. I knew this wine would be a regular in my glass when I visited them several years ago and found this Stars bursting in my glass. The bubbly is made of up 45% Xarel-Lo, 30% Parellada, and 25% Macabeu and aged for 9 months before disgorging in the traditional method. Racy, dry flavors of bright lemon citrus and white flowers pop into brilliantly small bubbles. The mid palate offers whiffs of confection and macadamia that are encompassed. The finish is clean and fresh with hints of brioche and nuts. Barlow Score: 90 Points

Ca’Momi Chardonnay 2018

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $12.99

Ca’Momi is rooted in Italian heritage, but with Napa panache.  Ca (Pronounced ‘ka’) Momi roughly translates to ‘The House of Momi’ after Momi dea Bionda, who was notoriously obsessive and protective of his property and vineyards in Veneto, Italy.  This winery puts its heart and soul into the vineyards with meticulous care.  This Chardonnay exudes ripe flavors of pineapple and pear with medium acidity.  The mid palate offers mandarin orange that turns slowly into a cream vanilla core.  The finish gives licks of almond and hazelnuts on lightly toasted oak.  Barlow Score: 90 Points

One Flock Red Blend 2017

California

Cash Price $14.99

I recently tasted the new vintage of this everyday slurper and came up with quite similar notes for you value shoppers!  The wine is a kitchen sink blend with Zinfandel and Cabernet making up the lion’s share. The wine was aged in both French and American oak.  Flock is deliciously supple with flavors of red plum and wild berries that sinks into soft tannins.  Whiffs of blackberry pie, cinnamon and nutmeg flow through the finish with tinges of pipe tobacco and sweet clove.  Barlow Score: 89 Points

Girasole Organic Zinfandel 2018

Mendocino, California

Cash Price $12.99

Girasole continues it’s march toward the top of our ‘Organic’ sales category. This Italian roots winery has been farming the right way every since planting roots in Mendocino county. Zinfandel has a lot of opportunity for growth and I believe this dynamic Zin can really get your palate thinking of Zinfandel more often. Bright and juicy, the wine offers quick popping bursts of blackberry and plum into medium intensity on the palate. The mid palate flows seamlessly into hints of black pepper and touches of exotic spice with a continued darker flavor profile. The finish is easy and punchy with ripe notes of boysenberry and fig. Barlow Score: 88 Points

Thank you,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

Spec’s Fine Wine Buyer

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THE 12 UNDER $12 FOR MARCH 2021

Girasole Organic Chardonnay

California

Cash Price $12.99 ($1.00 Key) Only $11.99 for this month

Organically fresh flavors of lemon lime citrus, green apples and honeyed almonds. The finish shows a creamy note with whiffs of oak and vanilla. Pair with a freshly chopped fruit and kale salad.

Hayes Meritage

California

Cash Price $11.99

This new addition to our portfolio is a Merlot driven blend that offers flavors of black cherry and plum with hints of baking spice and vanilla on the finish. Pair with grilled meats as you start to fire up the grill.

Muscador Sweet White Moscato

France

Cash Price $9.99

This sweet white sparkling wine will be a perfect pair with Sunday brunch.  The sweet bubbles offer flavors of citrus and peach that flow into white flowers and drizzling honey.

McGuigan ‘The Plan’ Shiraz

Australia

Cash Price $9.99

This delightful red is filled to the brim with flavors of plum, blackberry and cherry while showing hints of spice on the finish. Pair with Momma’s everyday cooking.

Encore Cabernet Sauvignon

California

Cash Price $11.99

Looking for deliciously ripe and opulent Cabernet? Try this plush wine that offers plum, stewed fruits and blackberry pie with supple and inviting tannins. The finish is jammy with hints of cobbler and spice.  Pair with brisket slathered in BBQ sauce.

Perimeter Riesling

Washington State

Cash Price $9.99

Riesling continues to be one of the most versatile white grapes in the world.  Perimeter offer flavors of apricot and nectarines with hints of honeyed wax and wildflowers.  Pair with sweet and sour grilled shrimp.

Ca’Momi Sauvignon Blanc

California

Cash Price $8.99

This crisp Sauvignon Blanc offers fruity flavors of mango and lychee with zesty acids and hints of honeysuckle on the finish. Pair with the fresh spring air on a sunny day.

Roblar Merlot

California

Cash Price $9.99

Merlot is making a comeback!  Bright flavors of red raspberry, currant and rhubarb flow into a dollop of creamy vanilla that lingers on the finish.  Pair with a honey baked ham sandwich and baked beans.

Dado Red Blend

California

Cash Price $8.99

Dado is becoming wildly popular as this Zinfandel blend zings into the palate with bramble, boysenberry and hints of spice. A fruit explosion!  Pair with spicy chorizo shrimp stacks.

Long Barn Pinot Noir

California

Cash Price $9.99

Long Barn is a refreshingly light 100% Pinot Noir at a great price.  Flavors of black cherry and touches of framboise and hints of plum combine with medium acids and low tannins.

Liberation de Paris Sauvignon Blanc

France

Cash Price $10.99

Sauvignon Blanc is perfect as the heat starts to return. This wine offers notes of fresh apple, pear, and orange blossoms with a fresh, easy acidity.

Ken Forrester Petite Chenin Blanc

South Africa

Cash Price $9.99

This wine is one of my favorite white wines under $10 period.  Un-oaked and deliciously refreshing with notes of pear, melon drop, and honey dew that sinks into lychee and whiffs of grapefruit.  Pair with a chair on the back porch!

Thank You,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

Spec’s Fine Wine Buyer

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JAMES BARLOW’S ‘THE THIRTEEN’ PICKS OF MARCH 2021

Hello all,

I hope everyone survived the last couple of weeks without too many issues. I have been tasting a fair amount of solid wines (mostly from California) lately. As the weather begins to (thankfully!) warm up, I’ve put together a mix of wines that will be sure to help you enjoy the springtime festivities! Cheers!

Barlow ‘Barrouge’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Calistoga, California

Cash Price $44.99

Located in a sweet spot in Southeastern Calistoga, Barlow’s Estate Vineyard is at the base of Dutch Henry Canyon and near Duckhorn’s Iconic 3 Palms Vineyard. Over thousands of years, the sediment has washed down from the hillsides of the Vaca Mountains, creating notoriously complex soils, ideally suited for Bordeaux varietals. This wine is drinking delightfully well right now. It is 81% Cabernet balanced with a blend of Merlot, and Petit Verdot and aged for 21 months in French oak. Silky flavors of blackberry, currant and black cherry flow into a velvet mid palate. Notes of blueberry gives way to a medium intensity and creamy French vanilla. The finish is refined and lasting with notes of salty ham, tobacco, and whiffs of graphite. Well Balanced and Tasty! Barlow Score: 93 Points

Daou Chardonnay Reserve 2017

Paso Robles, California

Cash Price $49.99

Daou has become a winery that is making Paso Robles a destination location and a mainstay on the tables of Texans. They may be best known for their Cabernet Sauvignons, but don’t miss out on their stellar selection of white wines! Daou Reserve Chardonnay comes from the Willow Creek District in Paso Robles. This powerfully rich wine is a white wine for red wine drinkers. Toasted oak and citrus offer layers of aromas. Flavors of succulent pineapple, ripe apple and melon flow gracefully into the palate with medium intensity. The mid palate is warm and enticing with notes of pear, honey and almonds. The finish is easy, yet thoughtful with hints of nutmeg, vanilla custard and exotic spice. Barlow Score: 93 Points

Chateau D’Aiguilhe Bordeaux Blanc 2016

Cotes de Castillon, France

Cash Price $42.99

The 2016 vintage will go down in records as one of the finest vintages of the century. Chateau D’Aiguilhe is owned by Stephan Von Neipperg of La Mondotte St. Emilion fame. This project has turned into an absolute gem for him. The wines coming from the value Bordeaux region of Castillon are stunning! This 100% Sauvignon Blanc is made in a Loire style and produced without oak. The ensuing wines offers delicioius flavors of gooseberry and lemon citrus with medium intensity. Notes of nectarine and orange blossoms flow through the mid palate. The finish is pure and fresh with hints of crushed rocks, lilacs and energetic acidity. Barlow Score: 91 Points

Macauley Old Vine Zinfandel 2016

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $44.99

The vines for this wine primary hail from old vineyards in St. Helena and Calistoga. Kirk Venge is the wine maker and produces extremely expressive Zinfandel. Racy flavors of blackberry jam and strawberry compote jump into the palate with medium intensity. Notes of cherry cobbler enhance the exotic spices and dark fruit on the palate. The finish is bright and juicy with hints of black pepper, maple and licorice. This is a Zinfandel that will surely impress. Barlow Score: 92 Points

Calcareous ZSM Red Blend 2017

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

Experience Winemaker’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $24.99

This new addition to our portfolio has exploded in sales from the start. It’s quality Napa Valley wine at a Killer price! Catherine and Travis Vale own an 8 acre estate in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley and have recently used their ‘experience’ to start this Experience. This softer style Cabernet is incredibly open and inviting from start to finish. Flavors of dark cassis and blackberry flow from the palate into a medium intensity. The richly textured mid palate offers black cherry and currant which sinks into hints of dark chocolate and black tea. The finish shows soft oaky flavors of cedar and vanilla with twinges of tobacco and allspice. Barlow Score: 90 Points

Dusty Nabor ‘NSO’ Pinot Noir 2019

Sta. Rita Hills, California

Cash Price $19.94

Dusty Nabor (pronounced NAY-Boar) is an up and comer in the Central Coast who is producing quite exciting wines. This 100% Pinot Noir is from 50% Pommard/ 50% 667 clones and aged for 9 months in 50% new French oak. The grapes are hand harvested from Sta. Rita Hills and bottled unfined/unfiltered. The wine offers super juicy aromas of red fruit and flowers. Vibrant flavors of candied raspberry and pomegranate flow into medium intensity. The mid palate offers bright cherry and cola. The finish is soft and sexy with hints of rhubarb, lavender and exotic spice. Barlow Score: 91 Points

Prados Garnacha 2018

Calatayud, Spain

Cash Price $22.99

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 and 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. This Garnacha (Grenache) exudes fleshy red fruits and spice on the nose. The palate offers juicy red cherries and plum that lead into a medium intensity. Notes of garrigue and tampenade show through brambly fruit that seep into hints of black pepper and freshly picked raspberries. Yum! Barlow Score: 90 Points

Brooks Oak Ridge Vineyard Dry Gewurztraminer 2019

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cash Price $16.99

I’m quite excited to offer this low production (only 170 cases produced), single vineyard Gewurztraminer. This wine offers delightful aromas of fresh meadow flowers and stone fruits. The palate shows medium intensity with flavors of candied apricot, melon and citrus without being encumbered by oak nuances. The mid palate shows notes of honeysuckle and beeswax with hints of ginger and lychee. There is an underlying tone of minerality and salinity that finishes with crushed wet rocks and beautifully balanced acidity. Barlow Score: 91 Points

Dr. Frank Semi Dry Riesling 2019

Finger Lakes, New York

Cash Price $14.99

Konstantin Frank is producing some of the best wines in New York and were, in fact, the first to successfully implement vitis vinifera into New York.  Riesling is a specialty for this winery and their semi dry version is absolutely stunning!  This lightly off dry wine offers flavors orange blossom, green apples with tinges of ripe pear that balance effortlessly through the palate.  The wine is un-oaked and has medium plus acidity that is tamed by the licks of sweetness.  The finish offers notes of honeysuckle and wild meadow flowers combined with hints of wet rock minerality.  Riesling is one of the more versatile wines to pair with food and the hint of sweetness will make it a favorite at the table! Barlow Score: 91 Points

Cross Springs Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Lake County, California

Cash Price $14.39

Located in the Red Hills AVA of Lake County, Clay Shannon is producing extremely high quality wines at an unbelievably affordable price.  His vineyards are located some 1,400 feet above sea level and are naturally sustainable due to the elevation being well above the fog line.  The wine is full bodied and textured with flavors of black cherry and currant seeping through its core. The mid palate offers blackberry and wild berry with hints of sage and tobacco wafting throughout integrated tannins and acids. The finish is plush and long with tinges of smoke and lavender.  James Score: 90 Points

Aria Brut Sparkling NV

Penedes, Spain

Cash Price $14.99

Segura Viudas is the producer for this great sparkling brand.  This house is considered one of the finest in Cava and was given the high accolade of ‘Value Brand of the Year’ in 2013 by Wine & Spirits magazine.  I have figured out what the best time to have bubbles. Any time, anywhere is the answer.  Cava offers great value as it is produced the same way as Champagne, but at a margin of the price.  Crisp and clean, this sparkler exudes flavors of citrus and green apple with tight, refreshing bubbles.  The mid palate gives hints of jasmine and white flowers with touches of pear and almond.  The finish is vibrant and inviting with tinges of fresh dough and confection.  Bubbles are for all occasions! James Score: 88 Points

Girasole ORGANIC Hybrid Red Blend 2018

Mendocino, California

Cash Price $12.99

We are extremely pleased to add this ORGANIC value winery to our portfolio.  It is rare to get organic wine at such a great price point.  This every day red blend is a blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Zinfandel from a little Italian family that has been farming in Mendocino forever. Ripe, crunchy red fruits pop into the palate offering flavors of dark cherry and plum with medium intensity. Notes of blackberry lift into black pepper, cinnamon and coffee beans.  The finish is easy and lingering.  Barlow Score: 88 Points

Thank You,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

Spec’s Fine Wine Buyer

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The 12 under $12 for February 2021

Heartcraft sparkling Rose

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $12.99 but $1.00 Key Only $11.99

Deliciously soft on the palate, flavors of ripe strawberries and sweet red cherries burst into millions of bubbles with creamy cherry cobbler crust and confection on the finish. 

Hayes Valley Cabernet

California

Cash Price $11.99

This flavorful daily Cabernet offers red cherry and cassis that envelope the palate with smooth tannins and cream vanilla. Pair with dark chocolate, a blanket, and your favorite movie.

Encore Heritage Chardonnay

California

Cash Price $9.99 but $2.00 Key only $7.99

A staple Chardonnay that over delivers for the price. Flavors of ripe pineapple and melon plunk into smooth hints of cream and hazelnuts. This after work delight is sure to please.

Michel Schlumberger Maison Rouge Red

California

Cash Price $10.99

This red blend offers tantalizing flavors of cherry and raspberry, with tinges of spice and pepper on the finish. Pair with grilled or smoked meat as the weather starts to warm up.

Nica Pinot Grigio

California

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.

Roblar Pinot Noir

California

Cash Price $9.99

Rich and fruity, this pleasure offers flavors of crushed strawberries and pomegranate with tinges of vanilla, cola and cream. Pair with a seafood salad from your favorite take out seafood joint.

Chateau Des Romains Rouge

Bordeaux, France

Cash Price $10.99

Romains is a gem that is deliciously fruit forward.  Flavors of red cherry and currant flow into hints of toasted oak and just a tease of tobacco leaf. Pair this with fatty spiced brisket and fried okra.

Cave La Comtadine Rouge

Cotes du Rhone, France

Cash Price $7.99

Cotes du Rhone offers great value, daily drinking wines. This red blend is soft and plush with wild berries and blackberry racing into hints of spice. Pair with steak fajitas and corn tortillas.

Liberation de Paris Chardonnay

Vin de Pays, France

Cash Price $10.99

A good wine for a good cause, as a portion of the proceeds for this wine’s sales goes straight to a Houston Veterans Hospital.  Flavor of apple, melon and honeysuckle offer supple acidity and brightness.  Pair with lemon-buttered shrimp.

Solo Amore Lambrusco

Italy

Cash Price $7.59

A perfect Valentine’s treat, this lightly spritzy red wine offers fresh red cherry and strawberry with a delicious fizz to cleanse your palate. Chill it down and serve with your main squeeze.

Sweet Bitch Moscato

Italy

Cash Price $9.99

This lightly sparkling sweet wine offers flavors of fresh white peach, melon, and sweet apples that will dance melodically on your palate. A perfectly sweet tongue in cheek wine for your sweet.

Rico Suave Moscato

Argentina

Cash Price $9.99

Moscato is a wonderful wine to share with your ‘honey’. Flavors of candied lemon, guava and mango pop into honeyed sweetness. Pair with a box of chocolate and a teddy bear for your Valentine.

Thank you,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

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JAMES BARLOW’S ‘THE THIRTEEN’ PICKS FOR FEBRUARY 2021

Barlow Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Calistoga (Napa Valley), California

Cash Price $49.99

Yep. You read that right. Barlow Vineyards. Now mind you, this winery does have my last name, but I have no affiliation or lineage to this winery (Wish I did!). The winery has been on my radar for years, when I first tried it side by side with Diamond Creek and thought that the wine held up well against one of the more iconic wineries in the United States. They are located in Calistoga (northern most AVA in Napa) and I have actually driven by their vineyards, but never stopped into the winery. This age worthy Cabernet Sauvignon boasts incredibly smooth, yet refined tannins and a well rounded structure. Flavors of Cassis and black cherry flow into the palate with medium intensity and a nice dollop of vanilla seeping into the mid palate. Notes of currant, cigar box and tobacco leaf tickle into the finish with smidgeons of nutmeg and cedar. This wine really sticks the landing with a long lasting flavor profile that continually lingers on for a minute or so. Barlow Score: 93 Points

Nuiton Beaunoy Pinot Noir 2015

Gevrey Chambertin (Burgundy), France

Cash Price $46.99

Finding Gevrey-Chambertin under $50 is always a goal of mine. I’ve found a gem for ya’ll with this one. 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 food pairings.  The finish is pure and expressive with hints of tea leaf, cola, and dark fruit with just a whiff of cedar and vanilla.  Barlow Score: 93 Points

Wonderful Wine Co. Organic Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

California

Cash Price $19.94

Are you searching for a clean and healthy wine for the New Year? Then this Organic, Vegan friendly, sustainably farmed, low sulfite wine is right up your alley! The wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and organically farmed in the Ukiah Valley without addition of pesticides or added sugars. The wine is bright and fresh with flavors of blackberry and black cherry that sink to a medium intensity. Hints of pomegranate seep into the finish that doesn’t show a hint of oak. Clean, Fresh and Lively! Barlow Score: 88 Points

Cougar Crest Viognier 2016

Walla Walla Valley, Washington

Cash Price $19.94

I am continually surprised that Texans don’t buy wines from Washington State. They are producing top quality wine, yet the wines seem to sit on shelf.  Viognier (Pronounced Vee Oh N’Yay) is a grape that is exuberantly fruit forward and perfect for the hot Texas heat.  Popping flavors of melon, peach and citrus lay across a medium intensity that offers quite a rich mouthfeel. Tropical notes of pineapple and guava sift through light acids and hints of citrus.  The backbone of this wine has a delicious floral note that wafts haunting through the palate.  Yum!  Barlow Score: 90 Points

Trig Point Zinfandel 2017

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.  Railyard Vineyard sits just north of Geyserville (Ridge Winery fame) and is planted on pre Phylloxera vines 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.  Barlow Score: 91 Points

Cru Winery ‘Monarch’ Red Blend 2015

Paso Robles, California

Cash Price $27.99 but only $24.99 with your Spec’s Key for a limited time

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

Klinker Brick ‘Brickmason’ Zinfandel Red Blend 2016

Lodi, California

Cash Price $16.99

Klinker Brick is an oldie, but goodie that has come back to our portfolio.  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

Freelander District One Chardonnay 2017

California

Cash Price $15.99

I recently expanded the Freelander line after the Cabernet Sauvignon was such a hit. I was pleasantly surprised with this 100% Chardonnay. It wasn’t overly oaked or hedonistic. It showed wonderful restraint with flavors of pineapple and pear meddling into medium intensity. The mid palate flowed freely with tinges of green apples and melon. The finish was soft and appealing with whiffs of vanilla spice and just a kiss of oak. Really pleasant for the price. Barlow Score: 90 Points

Ca’Momi Pinot Noir 2018

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $18.99

It’s hard to find good Napa Valley Pinot Noir for under $20. I think Ca’Momi has always been one of our better ‘Value’ Brands out of Napa Valley. This 100% Pinot Noir is light and vibrant. Flavors of wild blueberry and dark cherries explode on the palate with medium intensity and easy acids. Notes of cedar and vanillin show on the finish with tinges of raspberry that lay into a silky smooth finish. Barlow Score: 89 Points

The Diver Brut Sparkling Rose N/V

California

Cash Price $17.99

This is a newer addition to our portfolio that will be a wonderful bubbly to pop for your Valentine. 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 bubbly for your Valentine! Barlow Score: 90 Points

K Vintners PopUp Brut Sparkling NV

Washington State

Cash Price $14.99

I have been scouring the US for delicious bubbles to add to our portfolio that really over deliver for the price. I have found it in this bubbling beauty! This sparkler is 100% Chardonnay and 100% single vineyard (Evergreen) at a killer price. Light and clean bubbles pop into zesty lemon citrus and honeysuckle. The mid palate is lip smacking and offers notes of orange blossom, peach and pie crust. The finish is easy and quaffable with tinges of white flowers and lemon tart. Barlow Score: 89 Points

Rivera Red Blend 2016

Salice Salento, Italy

Cash Price $13.99

I visited this estate many years ago and was impressed with their attention to detail and the delicious wines and olive oil that were poured at the table.  The flatlands of Salice Salentino have quietly made a cult following of their inexpensive Negroamaro blends. The wines are deliciously ripe and inviting with plenty of dark fruit.  This wine is 90% Negroamaro with 10% Malvasia Nero and aged for 3-4 months in small, aged oak casks.  Flavors of stewed blackberry and dates jump into surprisingly vibrant acidity.  The mid palate shows ripe fruits of plum and morello cherry with a dense finish.  This wine will definitely surprise you for the price!  Get it in your basket.  Barlow Score: 89 Points

Girasole Organic Sangiovese

Mendocino, California

Cash Price $12.99

Girasole has been an absolute hit in our portfolio. I have been slowly expanding our organic wine footprint and this winery has been a feather in our cap when it comes to deliciously approachable organic wine. The winery has roots from Italy, so it makes complete sense that they would produce Sangiovese, which is the work horse grape in Chianti and most of Tuscany. This 100% Sangiovese offers ripe flavors of cherry and plum with just a hint of violets. The mid palate offers medium intensity with licks of spice and huckleberry. The finish is clean and pure with whiffs of black pepper and sage. 100% Organic and ready to drink. Barlow Score: 88 Points

Thank you,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

Spec’s Fine Wine Buyer

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Barlow’s Bubbles for New Year’s Eve

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

I cannot believe we are already past Christmas! I hope everyone enjoyed the festivities this year. I say we send 2020 off with a pop (and fizz) and thank the good Lord above that 2021 is coming! This year has been quite a year. Many people had to change their lives quite dramatically, whether it be work (I’ve been working from home since March), child care (Jay’s finally back to live schooling!), or social distancing. This is been a year of learning, growing, and hopefully becoming closer to loved ones. Let’s try to take to positives of 2020 and implement them into a stellar 2021! So Let’s Celebrate with some awesome Bubbles!!!!!!!! See you in the New Year!

Caraccioli Brut Cuvée Vintage 2013

Santa Lucia Highlands, California

Cash Price $33.69 but only $31.99 for a limited time with your Spec’s Key

I heard through the grapevine that this winery was producing some of the finest bubbles in America, so I searched them out to see if all the hype was true. Well folks, It is. Their sparkling wines are legit. The Brut Cuvée is from their Santa Lucia Highlands Escolle Estate Vineyard and is composed of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir. The wine is produced in the traditional method (Methode Champenoise) and aged for 4 years on the lees, then was disgorged in March of 2018. Michel Salgues, former head winemaker at Roederer Estate, is the winemaker for this brilliant bubbly and has shown the excellent opportunity for sparkling wines in the micro climate of the Santa Lucia Highlands. The wine has a light pale core with millions of bubbles cascading throughout the glass. Aromatics of brioche, lemon cream, and crisp honey apples waft into the nose. The palate has pinpoint precision with exceptional notes of white flowers, lychee, and lemon slices bursting into the scene with rounded notes of confection and donut dough. The finish has a deliciously racy minerality with excellent acidity to keep focus and twinges of hazelnut and cream. Barlow Score: 95 Points

Louis de Sacy Grand Cru Champagne N/V

Champagne, France

Cash Price $38.29

I recently had the pleasure of tasting this wine with the French/American Chamber of Commerce. It was drinking wonderfully!  He is a 12th generation grape grower and 4th generation wine maker.  In other words….Its in his blood.  He grew up in the vineyards forgoing school to focus his attention on his true love, grapes.  His son and daughter have decided to become the 13th generation and the legacy of this boutique Champagne house continues.  Alain is a minimalist in producing his sparkling wine, allowing the grapes to speak from his Grand Cru vineyards in the quaint town of Verzy.  Grand Cru vineyards are considered the finest in all Champagne.  It is rare to find Grand Cru at such an affordable price!  Pure, zesty flavors of citrus lemon lay on the edgy backbone of deliciously refreshing acidity.  He adds minimal dosage (6 grams) and allows fruits of bright red cherry and rose petals to flow seamlessly through the palate.  The finish offers hints of brioche and wild flowers with an undertone of wet rock minerality.  Yum!  Barlow Score: 92 Points

Ca’Momi ‘Heartcraft’ Brut Rose N/V

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $12.99 but only $9.99 for a limited time with your Spec’s Key!

Deliciously soft on the palate, flavors of ripe strawberries and sweet red cherries burst into millions of bubbles.  A creamy core offers hints of cherry cobbler crust and citrus.  The finish gives hints of bread crumbs and confection. Make this your starter for all the New Year’s Eve festivities!  Barlow Score: 88 Points

Thank you,

James C. Barlow CWE, CSS

Spec’s Fine Wine Buyer

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THE 12 UNDER $12 TOP PICKS OF 2020

CA’MOMI Heartcraft Sparkling N/V

California

Cash Price $12.99

but only $10.99 with a $2.00 Spec’s Key discount thru the end of the year

Sparkling wine crafted from the heart, this bubbly pops on the palate with tart green apple and citrus that are persistent with hints of melon, pear and white flowers. Pair with ANY Celebration!

Tiziano Pinot Grigio

Italy

Cash Price $10.99

Pinot Grigio weather is here! This refreshing white offers lively acidity and tropical fruits with a perfectly crisp, clean finish. Pair with warm weather and an ice-cold glass.

Marques Concordia Tempranillo

Spain

Cash Price $10.99

This Tempranillo is gushing with flavor.  The wine offers flavors of red cherry and currant with good balance and just a whiff of new oak on the finish. Pair with food truck enchiladas and empanadas.

Shannon Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon

California

Cash Price $12.99

But only $11.99 with a $1.00 Spec’s Key discount through the end of the year

This is my daily Cabernet at the house. Supple and inviting flavors of blackberry and dried cherries flow into a lengthy finish of toasted oak and juicy fruit.  Pair with every day!

Playtime Red

California

Cash Price $9.99

This playful red blend is sure to be a hit at your dinner table.  It is a Zinfandel heavy wine that offers flavors of blueberry, plum and vanilla with hints of exotic spice.  Pair with a grill and meat while wearing your favorite apron and cooking for the family.

Gouleyant Malbec

France

Cash Price $9.99

Gouleyant is a delicate and seductive Malbec that shies away from Argentina to offer uniquely French flavors of cassis and black cherry with hints of pepper and spice. Pair with baked ziti and sausage.

Maturo Sangiovese

Italy

Cash Price $7.49

Sangiovese is deliciously friendly with flavors of dried strawberries, plum and violets that give the wine a robust, yet smooth profile. Pair with a margherita pizza.

Trumpeter Malbec

Argentina

Cash Price $9.99

Trumpeter is a full-bodied Malbec that offers inky color and flavors of currant and blackberry with touches of exotic spice on the finish. Pair with blue cheese burger and salty fries.

Ca’Momi Rosso

California

Cash Price $8.99

But only $8.24 with a $.75 Spec’s Key discount through the end of the year

This rosso is truly built for BBQ with Zinfandel being a primary varietal of this blend.  Flavors of dark jammy blueberry and blackberry zing through a medley of spices and soft tannins.

Gryphus Sauvignon Blanc

Chile

Cash Price $11.99

This is one of my favorite white wines. Zesty acids are whipped into shape with flavors of citrus and grapefruit with kisses of grass and meadow flowers.  Pound with the spicy crawfish.

Reserve Saint Marc Chardonnay

France

Cash Price $7.29

Fun, Fresh, Fruity and un-oaked….This is perfect porch pounding Chardonnay.  Flavors of fresh green apples and pear touch through easy acids.  Hints of nuts and cream touch the finish.  Great party or every day drinker to indulge without worrying about the price. 

Shannon Ridge Petite Sirah

California

Cash Price $12.99

But only $11.99 with a $1.00 Spec’s Key discount through the end of the year

My ‘go-to’ daily winery offers this juicy Petite Sirah. Ripe flavors of blackberry and black raspberry jump into vanilla, spice and cedar on the finish. Pair with Lasagna and meatballs.

Thank you,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

Spec’s Fine Wine Buyer

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JAMES BARLOW’S TOP PICKS FOR 2020

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to announce my TOP PICKS OF 2020! Who could’ve imagined this year would turn into what it has. That said, this was my 1st full year as the Fine Wine America and Saké buyer for Spec’s Wines, Spirits and Finer Foods. I’ve had the pleasure to dive deeply into wines and regions that I had rarely focused on in the past. I tasted a considerable amount of Pacific Northwest wines and was able to taste through many Iconic California wineries that I had never taken notes on. I tasted through several thousand wines this year and have put together a list of stunners. This list is not always necessarily the priciest (although some are definitely pricey!) but is mostly based on quality vs price in the glass. Granted there were some stunners that I rated quite highly and are decently expensive. I’ve never put too much weight into ratings, but it does help quantify my perspective on a wine for you all to gauge. Without further ado, Happy Holidays and here’s to a MUCH BETTER 2021! As in years past, MY TOP PICK will be at the bottom of this blog.

#2. Brooks Winery ‘Rastaban’ Pinot Noir 2017

Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon

Cash Price $54.99

As you all know, I have been raving about Brooks a lot this year. The winery is fully sustainable with most being organic or biodynamic. The wines offer purity and finesse that make them one of the top producers in the United States. They have an Old World feel with New World panache. They are also one of the first wineries in the United States to partner with 1% for the Earth and become Certified B Corp. This estate wine is 100% biodynamic and comprised of Pommard, 115, and 777 clones farmed in Eola-Amity Hills. Rastaban is the name of a star that is the ‘eye’ of the constellation called Draco (Latin for Dragon). The wine offers gorgeously layered flavors of black raspberry and pomegranate with wisps of rose petals sinking slowly into the palate. The mid palate shows medium intensity with notes of blackberry, bramble and cola that transition into a light creamy core. Hints of sage and earthy spice lick throughout the palate with just a touch of savory mushroom. The finish offers a juicy cherry redness that belies the mid palate with layered tannins and tinges of graphite. The backbone offers salinity that gives it a Bourgogne feel and makes my heart tingle. Barlow Score: 96 Points

#3. Bougetz ‘Amaryllis’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Spring Mountain (Napa), California

Cash Price $59.84

I was in Napa Valley last year with Napa Valley Vintners and had the pleasure of really sinking my teeth into all that Napa Valley has to offer. I tasted this wine amongst probably a hundred other wines and found myself gravitating back to their booth to taste through the rest of the line. This wine showed a purity and concentration that put it head and shoulders above the rest at the tasting. The wine is 92% Cabernet with 4% Merlot and Cabernet Franc from 1,000 ft. above the valley in Spring Mountain. It 100% whole berry crushed and fermented then aged for 22 months in 75% new oak. Bright flavors of thick black fruits of currant and cassis load into the palate with nice viscosity. The mid palate is full with excellent structure that is ensconced by layers of cherry vanilla, cedar and exotic spice.  Get this in your home, It’s a show-stopper! Barlow Score: 95 Points

#4. Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Columbia Valley, Washington

Cash Price $199.99

I tasted this Iconic winery from Washington for the 1st time earlier this year and instantly understood what all the fuss was about. Quilceda Creek was established in 1978 by Alex Golitzin (André Tchelistcheff’s nephew) and has been highly acclaimed for decades. This massive 100% Cabernet Sauvignon is mostly from Champoux vineyard (possibly the finest vineyard in Washington State) in Horse Heaven Hills and aged in 100% new French oak for 20 months. This wine was quite tight from the beginning, but the layers began to unfold rather quickly into the tasting. Robust flavors of dark currant, blackberry and just a kiss of blueberry lift into medium plus intensity. The mid palate softens a touch with tickles of cream that linger into dusted earth and that classic tobacco leaf that I love in Cabernet Sauvignon. The finish is integrated with notes of dark mocha, graphite, vanilla bean, all-spice and graham crackers that linger on the palate for a good long time. Wow. Barlow Score: 97 Points

#5. Lavinea ‘Elton Vineyard’ Chardonnay 2015

Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon

Cash Price $39.89

I recently had the pleasure of bringing in this wine to our portfolio.  Willamette Valley Chardonnay is quickly becoming my ‘go to’ area for Spectacular Chardonnay! This wine is EASILY one of the best Chardonnays that I’ve had in recent memory and quite possibly one of the best I’ve tasted from the New World.  The winemaker is Isabelle Meunier (Evening Land, Domaine Vougeraie and Felton Road) who apprenticed under famed Bourgogne winemaker Dominique Lafon.  In other words, she has excellent pedigree!  The Elton vineyard (named Oregon’s Top Ten Best Vineyards) is located in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA which is a sub appellation in the Willamette Valley with elevation of about 500 feet and the well-known Jory soil that makes the region quite unique in profile. This silky smooth and beautifully textured wine offers harmonious flavors of white peach, granny smith apple, and whiffs of quince that dance melodically through deliciously refreshing acidity. Hints of butterscotch and cotton candy lay into a clean mineral component.  The finish offers a clean zest of key lime pie and just a kiss of vanilla. Absolutely stunning. Barlow Score: 96 Points

#6. Philip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Spring Mountain, California

Cash Price $169.99

I’ve heard about the wines of Philip Togni on Spring Mountain for years, but never had the opportunity to taste until this year. The wine has definitely lived up to its reputation and exceeded it in my opinion. I have found that I ‘ve become an avid fan of Spring Mountain Cabernet and this winery is the peak of excellence for what Spring Mountain can offer. Philip Togni is a former student of Emile Peynaud, so it’s not surprising that his wines have a ‘Bordeaux-esque’ quality to them and long ageing potential. The wine has a medium ruby core, with medium legs and an easy sense of alcohol (13.5%). Flavors of dark cassis and currant meld into red cherry notes. The mid palate is classic and tempered with plenty of tannins that don’t necessarily overpower, but instead enhance the fruits and whiffs of vanilla. The finish is refined and polished with dusted earth, dark chocolate, tobacco, and cigar box. Elegant and Beautiful. Barlow Score: 97 Points

#7. Matthiasson ‘Matthiasson Vineyard’ Cabernet Franc 2017

Oak Knoll, California

Cash Price $54.89

I had the pleasure of hosting Steve Matthiasson earlier this year at a virtual tasting and really enjoyed speaking with one of the brightest stars in Napa Valley. He produces wines of purity, depth and character while implementing organic practices and dry farming. I love Chinon wines in France and have rarely found that herbaceous character in the Cabernet Franc wines in California. This wine is produced at Matthiasson Vineyard in Oak Knoll which has a cooler temperature that allows the grapes to retain a slight herbal note that good Cabernet Franc can offer. If you have not found his wines yet, I implore you to seek them out (at Spec’s)! This 100% Cabernet Franc has a lighter ruby core with light legs. Juicy red fruits burst in the nose with those telltale herbs and rose petals. The wine is only 12% which allows for the wine to really speak volumes without being over-burdened by alcohol. Darker fruit races into the palate with notes of button mushroom, underbrush and a hint of smokey goodness. The mid palate offers cranberry and red berries with tinges of black pepper, dust, and freshly picked mushrooms. Whiffs of green pepper fill the finish with touches of currant and graphite. The wine has an electric energy that vibrates through the backbone of the wine. Classic. Barlow Score: 94 Points

#8. Once & Future Oakley Road Zinfandel 2017

Contra Costa, California

Cash Price $49.99

Joel Peterson of Ravenswood fame is the lightning rod for this project. He found some extremely old vines in Contra Costa and decided to produce some of the finest damn Zinfandel in California with them. Oakley Road Vineyard has extremely sandy soils which is key to the survival of the 100+ year old vines that live there. This 100% Zinfandel was aged in 30% French oak for 12 months. Peterson practices organic farming in this vineyard. The wine has neon color with medium legs. Bright red raspberry and bramble pops into the palate with hints pipe tobacco. The mid palate offers a supple creamy texture with nice acidity to balance the big fruits. The wine is silky and aromatic from start to finish. Notes of black pepper and licorice play into the finish with tinges of black cherry and dried leaves that lingers on the palate for a delightfully long time. Barlow Score: 93 Points

#9. Lingua Franca Estate Chardonnay 2017

Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon

Cash Price $49.99

I have had the pleasure to try numerous wines from Oregon this year. As a Bourgogne Wines Ambassador, I am pretty finicky about my Chardonnay. I have found a fondness in the Chardonnay produced in Oregon. I typically look for good salinity in my Chardonnay along with balance and complexity. Oregon is really showing some impressive Chardonnay now! Lingua Franca, under the watchful guidance of Master Sommelier Larry Stone, is producing some of the finest expressions in the state. Their 66-acre estate offers a massale selection but with the main Chardonnay clones hailing from Montrachet in Bourgogne. The wine is finished in 600 liter French oak barrels, then put in stainless steel on the lees for the last five months prior to bottling. Lively flavors of fleshy Granny Smith apples elegantly flow into dollops of lemon drop with medium intensity on the palate. The mid palate offers citrus lemon custard on a weighty, yet weightless mouthfeel. Notes of salinity and wet rocks are weaved into hints of butterscotch, hazelnuts, pecans and praline that are deliciously balanced into the finish. The wine has laser focus and an amazing amount of pop in the glass. Barlow Score: 96 Points

#10. Chateau Branaire-Ducru ‘Duluc’ Red Blend 2014

Saint Julien, France

Cash Price $37.99

I recently re-tasted this wine for the 1st time in several years at the French/American Chamber of Commerce Virtual Wine Tasting. Branaire-Ducru has quickly evolved into one of my absolute favorite Chateau on Earth. This is their 2nd wine called ‘Duluc’ named after Pierre Du Luc, the 2nd owner of the property. Duluc has consistently over-achieved for the price in my opinion. The wine is 55% Cabernet Sauvignon/40% Merlot/3% Petit Verdot/2% Cabernet Franc and aged for 12 months in 20% new French oak. The 2014’s of Bordeaux are drinking beautifully right now. The wine has intense red cherries and currant that lead into an elegantly complex medium intensity. The backbone of this wine has a minerality with notes of tea herbs, dusty tannins and cedar. Hints of truffle play into the finish with licks of exotic spice and smoke. This wine will age wonderfully but tastes amazing in the glass right now! Barlow Score: 93 Points

#11. Lucie Bacigalupi Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016

Russian River Valley, California

Cash Price $54.99

I have found that I’m a sucker for Bacigalupi fruit in the Russian River Valley. This wine is from that estate vineyard. I love Pinot Noir and this easily one of the best I’ve tasted this year from the New World. The vines are planted on alluvial soils close to the river to keep excellent temperature throughout the growing season. The wine is 100% Pinot Noir from the Wente Clone and aged for 17 months in new French oak. Kirk Venge is the consulting winemaker for this wine that is owned by the Janzen family. Lucie explodes into the palate with a decadent texture that gives a toe-curling effect. Flavors of rich black cherry and currant flow effortlessly into the palate with medium intensity. The mid palate offers lavender, cola and sweet fruits that encompass the palate with a silky plushness. The finish offers hints of exotic spice, graham crackers and just a touch of minerality. Velvet, seamless and decadently intriguing. Barlow Score: 95 Points

#12. Michel Mailliard ‘Cuvee Gregory’ Premier Cru Brut Sparkling 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 although the family wine tradition dates back to 1894. Michel and Gregory (Michel’s son) take care of their 55-acre estate on some of the more hallowed ground in Champagne. Gregory manages the vineyards and harvest while his father crafts the wines. He is an RC (Recoltant-Manipulant) farmer/grower meaning that all of his fruit comes from their vineyards. This Champagne is 95% Chardonnay and 5% Pinot Noir and aged for 5 years on the lees prior to disgorgement with .05% residual sugars. I had this wine sitting in my cellar for several years and decided to pop it about a month ago with friends and was completely astounded at how well it was aging. Crisp notes of citrus and white flowers danced melodically into the palate with medium intensity. The mid palate fills with yeasty complexity of buttered popcorn, candied nuts, and fresh dough. The finish is surprisingly soft and mellow with hints of butterscotch, lilacs and lavender that are focused with pin-point precision by the underlying minerality and acidity. Barlow Score: 94

#13. La Jota Vineyard Co. Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Howell Mountain, California

Cash Price $154.84

La Jota has been a dark horse favorite of mine for many years. That said, its been several years since I had tasted their wines. Based high up on Howell Mountain (1,700-1,820 Ft), La Jota has winemaker Chris Carpenter at the helm making premium quality Cabernet Sauvignon. This dangerously sleek Cabernet Sauvignon is unfined, unfiltered and fermented with native yeast then aged for 19 months in 90% new French oak. The wine has a dark ruby core with thick legs. Flavors of black currant and cherry are instantly humming with sweet tobacco encompassing the thick palate. This wine has more elegance than expected with the mid palate being beautifully plush and alluring. Medium plus intensity flows into notes of cigar smoke, tobacco leaf, and dark mocha. The finish is quite inviting with tickles of vanilla bean, cinnamon and oak textures that give way to the underlying licorice note. Almost Saint Julien in style, which is high praise for me. Barlow Score: 96 Points

JAMES BARLOW’S ‘TOP PICK’ FOR 2020

K Vintners ‘Powerline Vineyard’ Syrah 2017

Walla Walla, Washington State

Cash Price $40.84

I have been an avid fan of Washington State Syrah for quite a while, but this one knocked my socks off with its uniqueness and tip of the hat to the Old World while still staying true to its home. Many call Charles Smith a mad scientist with his wines, but I think quite the opposite. He allows the wine to express itself the way it was intended. This wine is 100% Syrah, 100% whole cluster fermented with native yeasts and spent 40 days macerating then aged in 66% new French Puncheons for 28 months on the lees. 2017 was a fantastic year with moderate temperatures during the summer and a consistent ripening season that allowed the fruit to hang for perfect structure without gaining too much alcohol. Powerline Vineyard is a 30-acre estate located over 1,200 feet elevation in the Walla Walla Valley AVA. It was planted on the foothills of the Blue Mountains just south of Walla Walla in 2012. The soils are well drained with cobblestone river rocks, underlying layers of sand and gravel deposits which allows the vines to dig deep for their nutrients. The elevation allows for the acidity to hold strong while the grapes optimally ripen. The wine has a neon blue/purple core with medium plus legs. Aromas of lavender, blueberry, and black raspberry smack into the palate with medium plus intensity. The mid palate offers secondary notes of olive tapenade, salty ham and beef jerky that is lifted into a plush, balanced mouthfeel. The finish offers a medley of spice with hints of potpourri, coffee grounds, and black pepper. The backbone of this wine offers plenty of smoked meat, cracked pepper and dried flowers. Very Northern Rhone-esque. A Powerhouse wine with layers and texture. WOW. Barlow Score: 98 Points

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Rombauer Live Virtual Tasting with Reagan Rombauer this Thursday Dec. 3rd at 7pm

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

Please join us for this rare opportunity to taste with the Iconic Rombauer Vineyards. Learn about their history and wines this Thursday! Please stop by your local Spec’s and support this winery by purchasing some wines and joining us for this tasting! Looking forward to seeing you virtually!

What: Rombauer Virtual Tasting

Where: Your Home

When: Thursday, Dec. 3rd at 7pm

Zoom ID: 607 703 7280

Zoom Password: 838185

Thank you,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

Spec’s Fine Wine Buyer

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Twelve under $12 for November 2020

Girasole ORGANIC Zinfandel

California

Cash Price $11.99 with Your Spec’s Key

This focused and enjoyable Zin offers flavors of ripe blackberry and plum on the palate with hints of black pepper and exotic spice. 100% Organic. Pair with turducken!

Tomich ‘Grace and Glory’ Shiraz

Australia

Cash Price $4.97 (#00 Smith Street Only)

Racy flavors of black currant and dark cherry integrate into a plush palate.  Blackberry, black pepper, and spice flow into the finish with hints of dark mocha. Pair with smoky honey baked ham.

El Portillo Rosé

Argentina

Cash Price $9.99

This 100% Malbec Rose is fresh and flavorful from start to finish.  Flavors of strawberries, cherry, and fresh jam tickle into zesty acidity. The finish is lip smacking. Pair with All the Turkey Day Fixings!

Pigmentum Blanc

France

Cash Price $9.99

This charming dry white is deliciously aromatic with flavors of exotic fruits, grapefruit and citrus. Hints of pear and melon sit on the clean finish. Pair with celery and turkey stuffing or as an aperitif.

Duc de Paris Brut Sparkling N/V

France

Cash Price $5.99

This party sparkler has seductive notes of tree fruit and floral wisps. The wine is elegant and fresh with white flowers, apples, and light bubbles.  This is a ‘go to’ party sparkler!

Introvert Cabernet

California

Cash Price $8.99

A new addition to our portfolio. Rich flavors of blackberry and currant zip into balanced hints of mocha and dark chocolate.  It’s a great everyday pleaser that is sure to make the family happy!

Adorn Chardonnay

California

Cash Price $7.99

This is a wine that is built for the everyday Chardonnay drinker that is sure fire pleaser. Flavors of lemon citrus and cream flow into white flowers, butter and just a kiss of honey.  Pair with a butterball Turkey.

Labet Rhone Red Blend

France

Cash Price $10.99

Rhone is one of the better Thanksgiving Day pairing wines. Its extremely versatile. This yummy Grenache based red blend that offers flavors of strawberry and bramble with just a whiff of pepper and spice.

Le Versant Pinot Noir

France

Cash Price $10.99

Versant should be a staple for your Thanksgiving Day feast. The wine offers aromatic red raspberry and violets with a soft, creamy core and touches of oak.

Liberation de Paris Sauvignon Blanc

France

Cash Price

Sauvignon Blanc is a great pairing for Turkey as the acidity can cut right through the white meat on your plate. This wine offers notes of fresh apple, pear, and orange blossoms with a fresh, easy acidity.

Sant’Anna Pinot Grigio

Italy

Cash Price $11.99

A Classic style of Pinot Grigio with light flavors of citrus, lemon peel and pear. Un-oaked and fleshy, notes of green apple roll into easy acids.  Pair with all the ladies and gossip.

Indomita Pinot Noir

Chile

Cash Price $9.99

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 friends, family and fun!

Thank you,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

Spec’s Fine Wine Buyer

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