James Barlow’s ‘The Thirteen’ Picks of August 2020

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

I apologize for missing The Thirteen last month.  Sometimes life gets in the way of your best intentions. This month I have put together a list of delicious wines that are sure to be a hit for the dog days of summer. Think bright fruits and zesty acids throughout to help quench your palate.  Enjoy!

Castelnau Reserve Brut Sparkling 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

Alexana ‘Terroir Series’ Pinot Noir 2017

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cash Price $39.89

This winery is owned by Houston’s own Dr. Madaiah Revana.  Most know of his spectacular Napa Valley Cabernet, but his project up in Oregon is every bit as high quality as his California winery.  This wine exudes bright red fruits of cherry and strawberry with a core of violets and cola. Whiffs of rhubarb enhance the palate with hints of sweet tart and neon fruit. The finish offers black tea and spice that lingers for a wonderfully long time. Barlow Score: 93 Points

Block 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Oakville, California

Cash Price $24.99

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

Mark Herold ‘Flux’ Red Blend

California

Cash Price $29.99

This GSM (58% Grenache, 25% Mourvedre, 17% Syrah) is bursting with energy and fruit. Flavors of ripe strawberries and candied black raspberries flow into medium intensity. The mid palate shows tickles of currant with mocha and cherry compote. The finish is silky and long lasting with hints of roasted nuts, vanilla and cedar from 18 months aging in 30% new French oak. Barlow Score: 91 Points

Expression 38 Russian Camp 2017

Russian River, California

Cash Price $22.99

Iconic wine trailblazer Bill Hill is behind this line.  He has long standing relationships with farmers in some of the best vineyards in the United States. This wine is from the Russian Camp Vineyard that is nestled in heart of the Russian River Valley.  The wine is beautifully layered with flavors of baked apples, melon and ripe pear.  The mid palate offers a core of acidity that is rounded out by a creamy plushness of pineapple, vanilla and butterscotch.  The finish is light and persistent with hints of roasted nuts, cedar and graham crackers.  Barlow Score: 90 Points

Pazzo Red Blend 2018

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $26.99

Pazzo Red blend is one of the more unique blends on the market because it is one of the very few that use Sangiovese as its primary variety.  Granted, the rest of the blend does have Merlot, Cabernet, and Syrah that make its body and structure quite exquisite.  The juicy red fruits of cherry and raspberry burst into the palate with a richly textured balance that shows off the brilliance of the 2018 vintage in California.  The mid palate is fresh and delicious without all the encumbering oak.  Kirk Venge is the consulting wine maker here and its evident with its plush nature and vibrant flavors.  Touches spice and mocha tickle into a long, palate refreshing finish. Barlow Score: 90 Points

Brooks Riesling 2017

Willamette Valley

Cash Price $18.99

Dry Riesling is a perfect pairing for the dog days of summer.  This Riesling offers fresh fruit flavors of melon and cantaloupe that seep into exemplary acidity which softly lays on a bed of gardenia and honeysuckle.  Hints of orange blossom and lemon pie waft hauntingly into a long finish that shows whiffs of petrol, wet rocks and mouth watering spice. Get Riesling in your glass Today!  Barlow Score: 92 Points

Summer Water Dry Rosé 2019

Central Coast, California

Cash Price $17.99

This Dry Rosé has become the blockbuster hit Pink of the summer. Sales have been like a wild fire. The wine is a Grenache and Syrah blend that offers vibrant flavors of citrus grapefruit, melon and white peach.  The mid palate offers mouthwatering acidity and absolutely no oak.  The finish gives zesty white flowers and crunchy watermelon. Yum! Barlow Score: 90 Points

Tangent Sauvignon Blanc 2019

Edna Valley, California

Cash Price $14.99

I love this Sauvignon Blnac from one of the coolest climates in California, Edna Valley.  This single vineyard wine is a perfect example of the quality that Sauvignon Blanc can offer in the cooler AVA’s of California.  Prickly cactus juice and citrus lemon pop into the palate. Notes of guava and grapefruit zing into medium intensity.  The finish is clean and packed full of passion fruit. Barlow Score: 91 Points

Schild GMS Red Blend 2015

Barossa Valley, Australia

Cash Price $14.99

Schild winery’s fame has grown in the last several years because of the high scores (Top 10 in Wine Spectator) they have garnered with their entry level Shiraz.  This winery makes high quality wines at all price points in the hills of the esteemed Barossa Valley with vines up to 160 years old.  The wine is a blend of 45% Grenache/28% Mourvedre/27% Shiraz and produced in a southern Rhone style.  Juicy flavors of black cherry and blackberry scream into the palate with medium intensity  Notes of plum  are prevalent on a plush, integrated mid palate.  The finish is fleshy, offering notes of rhubarb and spice.  James Score: 89 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

Tohu Sauvignon Blanc 2019

Marlborough, New Zealand

Cash Price $15.99

Tohu (pronounced Tor-who) means signature and is produced by the first Maori owned wine company.  The Maori are the indigenous people of Aoteroa (New Zealand).  They produce expressive wines from a single vineyard in one of the finest regions in Marlborough, called Awatere Valley.  Fresh and zesty acids reach through the tropical flavors of gooseberries and key lime.  The wine is completely un-oaked and offers a mid palate of freshly picked herbs surrounded by a medley of guava and grapefruit.  The finish is pure and intense with a classic New Zealand profile.  James Score: 90 Points

Domaine de Cabasse Red Blend 2017

Rhone Villages, France

Cash Price $14.99

My favorite daily reds inevitably come from the Rhone Valley.  The wine is Grenache based and a true representation of the high quality coming from this region.  The Cabasse name has Italian roots that goes back to the time when the Pope resided in Avignon in the 14th century.  Avignon is the center for the famed wines of Chateauneuf du Pape.  Flavors of ripe boysenberry and black currant are rounded out with medium acids and tannins that are silky throughout the core.  Notes of fig and touches of bacon fat sink into rich vanilla beans and garrigue.   The finish offers hints of sage, thyme, and peppercorn which lays on the palate for quite awhile.  Cabasse is a perfect BBQ wine!  Barlow score: 89 Points

Thank you,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

Spec’s Fine Wine Buyer

 

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The 12 Under $12 for August 2020

Verraco Cabernet Sauvignon

California

Cash Price $11.99

There is something to be said for finding Value Cabernet Sauvignon when prices seem to be soaring. This everyday Cab exudes flavors of blackberry and currant with hints of vanilla and cedar. Pair with take-out steak Fajitas.

Tosca Prosecco Brut N/V

Italy

Cash Price $11.99

The Prosecco craze is still strong as people love light, fun, easy drinking bubbly. Flavors of lemon citrus, peach and white flowers dazzle the palate. Pair with Sunday morning and the morning paper.

Chemin de Provence Rose

France

Cash Price $10.99

Rosé is my absolute favorite wine this time of year. Flavors of raspberry and strawberry burst into the palate with hints of guava and rose petals. Refreshing and clean, pair with 90+ degree weather.

Labet ‘Ile de Beaute’ Pinot Noir

France

Cash Price $11.49

Labet offers a daily Pinot Lovers Dream.  Flavors of red cherries and wild red berries flow through hints of cream and vanilla with a plush finish. Pair this summer red with friends at the lake.

Perelada Rose Pescador

Spain

Cash Price $7.99

Sparkling Dry Rose is exceptional.  A natural spritz gives this wine a refreshing quality with flavors of red cherries and red berries flowing into a crisp, clean finish.  Pair with a wink and a loved one.

Trumpeter Red Blend

Argentina

Cash Price $11.99

Rich and full bodied, this red will be a surprise hit at your table.  Flavors of raspberry and cherry fill into notes of cola and cedar.  Pair this with days that end with ‘Y’!

El Circo ‘Acrobata’ Garnacha

Spain

Cash Price $9.99

Acrobata offers intensely juicy flavors of strawberries and plum that race into the palate with plush tannins.  Hints of spice move easily in the fruit salad finish. Pair with brown sugar smoked salmon.

El Portillo Malbec

Argentina

Cash Price $9.99

The Malbec craze is still strong.  Unoaked flavors of blackberries and plum flow into sweet tannins and hints of clove and cinnamon.  Pair this with taco steak pasta.

Versant Rose

France

Cash Price $9.99

This 100% Grenache Rosé is dry and bursting with supple red fruits.  Red Cherries, raspberries, and red roses flow into a light intensity.  An ultimate thirst quencher, pair with watermelon and a sprinkler.

Michel Schlumberger Sauvignon Blanc

California

Cash Price $10.99

This zingy and fresh wine pops into the palate with flavors of green grass, lemon citrus and whiffs of tropical fruit surrounded by an easy acidity and no oak. Pair with a chilled chicken salad sandwich.

Radio Boka Tempranillo

Spain

Cash Price $9.99

This line has caught fire this year with their tempranillo offering flavors of red cherries and plum topped off with sweet spices of cinnamon and vanilla. Plush and gulpable. Pair with homemade empenadas.

Indomita Cabernet

Chile

Cash Price $9.99

Chilean Cabernet offers some of the best value on Earth.  Bold flavors of dark cherry and raspberry muscle into dark savory notes and whiffs of oak. Pair with a big fat T-Bone and fries.

Thank you,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

Spec’s Fine Wine Buyer

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Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

I hope everyone is staying safe and enjoying the summer.  I personally love summer reds with a little chill such as Beaujolais or Barbera and I especially love Dry Rosé this time of the year!  I have put together a medley of awesome reds, whites, and pink that will keep your thirst quenched this summer. Enjoy!

Lavinea ‘Temperance Hill’ Pinot Noir 2015

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cash Price $44.99

This winery has shown the ability to quickly become a rising star in the world of Willamette Valley wines.  This vineyard is located in the Eola-Amity AVA of Willamette Valley. Isabelle Meunier is crafting some of the best wines in all of Oregon in Lavinea.  Bursting flavors of black cherry and baked blueberries are lifted into aromatic herbs and Asian spices. Cherry compote and candied flowers fill the mid palate with hints of cola and pomegranate.  The finish shows suave finesse, yet delightful structure with whiffs of spicecake, blueberry and lavender. The backbone of minerality really brings this wine to another level. Gorgeous! Barlow Score: 95 Points

Louis de Sacy Demi-Sec N/V

Champagne, France

Cash Price $32.99

Alain Sacy is a 12th generation grape grower and 4th generation wine maker. In other words….It’s 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, but he understands that the American palate tends to have a touch of a sweet tooth so he has produced this wine specifically for Spec’s to carry.  Demi-Sec Champagne can have from 32-50 grams of residual sugar (Coca-Cola has 40+ grams per can) which adds sweetness without it being dessert sweet.  Alain stayed on the drier side of the demi-sec category, so this wine has just a hint of perceptible sweetness.  The wine is richly aromatic with wild flowers and honeycombs with tight, clean bubbles. Hints of wild berry and citrus play on the palate with a whiff of mousse on the finish.  Barlow Score: 90 Points

Brooks Pinot Noir 2017

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cash Price $29.99

I have been on quite the Willamette Valley kick lately, which brings this wine back into focus as one of my favorite quality for price. The winery is fully sustainable with most being organic or biodynamic.  The wines offers purity and finesse that make this winery one of the top producers in the United States. They are also one of the first wineries in the United States to partner with 1% for the Earth.  One Percent of all their sales goes straight back into making our Earth a better place.  This smashingly vibrant Pinot offers bright flavors of strawberry and pomegranate on the nose with a rich cherry texture and pie crust filling the mid palate.  The finish is amazingly complex with notes of dried rose petals, hints of forest floor and crunchy red fruit that lingers on the palate for a delightfully long time. Enjoy! Barlow Score: 92+

Cooper Mountain Chardonnay 2018

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cash Price $24.99

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

Chehalem Dry Rose of Pinot Noir 2019

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cash Price $21.84

I absolutely love Rosé produced from Pinot Noir.  This one hails from high up in the Chehalem Mountain AVA exclusively from Corral Creek Vineyard. The color is pale Salmon with a pretty pink glimmer that pops in the glass.  The wine is light and fragrant with medium intensity offering flavors of tart red cherry and grapefruit that zings into hints of white peach and lemon zest.  This wine is beautifully linear with precise focus. Yum! Barlow Score: 90

Domaine Seguinot-Bordet Chardonnay 2018

Chablis, France

Cash Price $22.99

The 2018 vintage was one to behold in Chablis. It yielded extremely high volume and quality.  In fact, many Chablis producers are hailing it as the best vintage EVER!  This wine offers aromas of fresh meadow flowers of dandelion and gardenias. The palate shows flavors of Granny Smith apples and citrus lemon/lime with medium plus acidity and no perceptible notes of oak.  Fresh and zingy, the mid palate becomes a touch tropical with hints of orange blossom and white peach.  The finish is clean, pure and refreshing.  Barlow Score: 90 Points

Nuiton Beaunoy Pinot Noir 2014

Beaune, France

Cash Price $25.99

Nuiton-Beaunoy is, above all, the history of the pioneer winegrowers of the Hautes-Cotes de Nuits and Hautes-Cotes de Beaune. They worked unceasingly and side by side to develop the art of vine cultivation and wine production in the valleys that sustained human activity and that connect with the slopes of the Cote d’Or.  They lovingly craft wines to reveal the expression of the extraordinary patchwork of vineyard parcels found in the Cote d’Or.  This classic expression of Burgundy Pinot Noir offers supple flavors of red cherries and red berries that weave throughout medium plus acids and medium tannins.  The mid palate shows touches of cream and red currant that are well rounded.  The finish is pure and clean with hints of minerality and just a whiff of toasted oak and vanilla. Barlow Score: 91 Points

Monasterio De Las Vinas Old Vine Garnacha 2016

Carinena, Spain

Cash Price $19.94

This unique collaboration by oenologist Marcelo Morales and famed California winemaker Joey Tensley has produced some deliciously pleasing wines from 40+ year old vines. Garnacha (Grenache) is a nice summer time red that doesn’t mind a little chill. The grape offers fleshy, ripe fruit flavors that burst in palate. Rich, jammy flavors of strawberry and red plum that sink into silky texture with a candied cherry mid palate. The finish is oaky and warm with plenty of plush red fruit to surround it. Barlow Score: 90 Points

Ca’Momi Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $19.89

Ca’Momi is one Spec’s gem Cabernet’s for under $20.  This American winery with Italian roots produces excellent value wines across the board.  This 100% Napa Valley Cabernet is wonderfully complex with flavors of ripe cassis and black cherry.  The wine has been aged for 18 months in oak and it shows on the palate.  Notes of spice integrate through the balanced tannins and acids.  The finish offers plush hints of currant, cream and toasted oak.  Chocolate mocha sits on the palate for a good long time.  This is a great value Cabernet Sauvignon.  Barlow Score: 89 Points

Blue Rock ‘Baby Blue’ Sauvignon Blanc 2018

Sonoma Coast, California

Cash Price $20.89

Blue Rock produces luxury wines on their 100 acres nestled in the hillsides of Alexander Valley.  Baby Blue Sauvignon Blanc has a smidge of Semillon and Viognier to add aromatic ‘pop’ and texture to the body of the wine. I was pleasantly pleased at the complexity in the glass.  This wine layers itself beautifully.  Flavors of crisp lemon citrus leap into the palate with medium acidity that is layered into a soft, round viscosity that coats the palate. Notes of apricot and mango seep into the mid palate with touches of Meyer lemon and hay.  The finish is deliciously refreshing with that pop of Viognier which adds hints of wild flowers and bees wax.  Pour early and often this summer! Barlow Score: 91 Points

Chateau Falfas Red Blend 2016

Cotes de Bourg (Bordeaux), France

Cash Price $23.99

The Castle Falfas is a 20 hectare vineyard located in the Cotes de Bourg on the right bank of the Gironde.  This Chateau is one of the pioneers of biodynamic practices in Bordeaux.  The vineyards have been farmed biodynamically since 1989.  The wine is Merlot dominant with Cabernet Sauvignon added to give some backbone. Soft and supple, this wine exudes fleshy plum and wild berries on the palate with medium intensity. The wine is aged for 11 months in oak, but that is barely perceptible as the wine is all about offering textured and plush fruit from start to finish. Barlow Score: 89 Points

Dominique Piron ‘la Chanaise’ Gamay 2017

Morgon (Beaujolais), France

Cash Price $20.49

Cru Beaujolais is offering some of the best summer Red wine in the world. Gamay is light and refreshing with excellent acidity sans all the tannins. This producer is new to our portfolio and I was pleasantly pleased when tasting it. Flavors of dark berries and candied violets lay on a bed of delicious floral tones and acidity. Put a slight chill on this ripe and fleshy summer red. Enjoy! Barlow Score: 90 Points

Moccagatto Barbera D’Alba 2016

Piedmont, Italy

Cash Price $19.94

Barbera season is now as the temperature begins to rise and the Houston heat becomes the norm. Barbera is a perfect summer red with fresh fruit, good acidity and a pleasant sensibility.  Put a chill on this red and it pairs beautifully with many dishes.  Moccagatto is a newer to our portfolio and I was quite impressed with their 100% Barbera that was aged for 6 months in new barrique.  Deliciously fresh flavors of strawberry and bright red cherries zing into medium intensity.  The mid palate is fleshy and offers notes of wild flowers and rose petals with just a hint of spiced vanilla and white pepper.  Structured and lively.  James Score: 89 Points

Thank you,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

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SHANNON RIDGE ZOOM TASTING ON JUNE 19TH AT 7PM

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

Please join me for my favorite ‘Daily Drinking’ winery from Lake County! Winemaker Joy Merriless will walk us through the history and wines as well as talking about sustainable/organic farming in Lake County.  Find your local Spec’s, buy these wines, and join us for a personal tasting experience with Shannon Ridge Winery!

 

SR Zoom TAsting

Thank you,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

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The 12 under $12 for June 2020

Shannon Ridge Zinfandel

Lake County, California

Cash Price $11.99 with Spec’s Key

Zesty and ripe, this wine shows blackberry and plum that explode into spices and dark fruit. The finish is integrated with soft vanilla and oak. Pair with smoked brisket ends.

The Ned Rose 

Marlborough, New Zealand

Cash Price $11.99

Bright flavors of wild red berries and watermelon sink into hints of jammy strawberry and cream.  The finish shows raspberry and red flowers that would pair wonderfully with cedar plank salmon.

Shannon Ridge Sauvignon Blanc

Lake County, California

Cash Price $11.99 with Spec’s key

My daily favorite winery offers this zesty blanc that shows flavors of lemon citrus and gooseberry with whiffs of tangerine on the finish. Pair with this beautifully hot weather!

Liberation de Paris Pinot Noir

Vin de Pays, France

Cash Price $10.99

Pinot Noir offers some of the most versatile food pairings.  The wine is delightfully pure and fresh.  Black cherry and framboise flow through minimal tannins and easy acids with a soft finish of cola and spice.

McGuigan ‘The Plan’ Chardonnay

Australia

$9.99

Vibrant and fruity, this wine offers rich stone fruit, lychee and citrus with just a whiff of vanilla and coconut. Pair with chicken marsala.

Perelada Sparkling Brut Rose N/V

Cava, Spain

Cash Price $10.99

People are figuring out the Rose season is year-round here in Texas. This Grenache based Dry Rose offers citrus peel with hints of cherry lollipops and rose petals. Pair with today, early and often.

Encore Cabernet Sauvignon

Lodi, California

Cash Price $11.99

Looking for excessively 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.

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 on these increasingly hot summer days.

Moscato Rubino

California

Cash Price $11.99

Dark and sweet, this red Moscato offers intense strawberry and cherry with a light spritz that flows into sweet deliciousness on the finish. Chill, pour, drink, repeat.

Chateau de Romains Bordeaux Rouge

Bordeaux, France

Cash Price $10.99

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

Dr. Pauly ‘Noble House’ Riesling

Mosel, Germany

Cash Price $9.99

Riesling is a versatile grape with the ability to offer wide range of flavors. This lightly sweet wine is a veritable fruit cocktail of white peach, apple and mango with a beautifully floral finish.

Tiziano Pinot Grigio

Delle Venezia, 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.

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

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Daou Virtual Tasting with Master Sommelier Fred Dame next Tuesday, 5-26.

SpecsVirtualTasting

Join me for this awesome and rare event! It’s the first one done in Texas with Master Sommelier Fred Dame!

Please click on the link above for information about this rare event to speak and taste with one of the best Sommeliers in the world, Fred Dame.

Purchase wines for the tasting at Spec’s and taste virtually with one of the best in the world or just join us for free and soak in the knowledge!

See you there!

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

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The 12 under $12 for May 2020 AND Blue Rock Virtual Tasting is Today!

Hello all,

Please make sure to join me tonight at 7pm CST for a Virtual tasting with Blue Rock Vineyards owner Kenny Kahn!  Stop by your local Spec’s and purchase some of his wines to taste with him tonight!  See you there!

Please click on this link to register for the event. Zoom Registration link

The 12 under $12 for May 2020

Shannon Ridge Chardonnay

Lake County, California

Cash Price $11.99 (on Sale for a limited time!)

Great daily Chardonnay starts here. Flavors of pineapple and creamy lemon sink into melon and butterscotch on the finish.  Lush and fun, pair this with lunch!

The Ned Sauvignon Blanc

Marlborough, New Zealand

Cash Price $11.99

Warm weather is here! This wine has flavors of kiwi and lemon grass that zing into pineapple and jalapeno cream.  Refreshing and crisp, pair with your back porch after a nice bike ride.

Shannon Ridge Petite Sirah

Lake County, California

Cash Price $11.99 (on Sale for a limited time!)

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.

Muscador Sparkling Rose

Vin de France

Cash Price $9.99

Nothing is better to refresh your palate in the heat than a nice, lightly sweet sparkling Rose. Flavors of candied cherries and raspberries meld into dancing bubbles. Pair with a sweet treat.

Perimeter Cabernet

California

Cash Price $9.99

This Cabernet offers flavors of plum and black cherries with full bodied texture and toasted oak on the finish.  Pair with your favorite arm-chair and pizza!

Ca’Momi Rosso

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $8.99

This rosso is truly built for a backyard 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.

Roblar Syrah

California

Cash Price $9.99

Syrah can often pair better than most wines but is often over-looked on the shelf. Flavors of dark plum and red cherry pop into the palate with hints of pepper and spice. Make sure this gets in your basket!

Fog Bank Pinot Grigio

California

Cash Price $9.99

This delightfully floral wine gives jasmine and lilacs on the nose with citrus and zesty acids on the palate. This refreshingly clean wine would pair well with shrimp scampi.

Francois Thienpont Sauvignon Blanc

Bordeaux, France

Cash Price $10.99

Refreshing citrus and green grass zing into the palate with pinpoint precision. The finish has bits of lemon lime and touches of cactus juice. Pair with a beach towel and sunglasses in your back yard.

Liberation de Paris Rose

Vin de Pays, France

Cash Price $10.99

This Liberatingly Dry Rose gives flavors of wild red berries and strawberries. Fresh, pure acids give way to rose petals and citrus. Pair with HOT days that end with Y!

Gryphus Sauvignon Blanc

Rapel Valley, Chile

Cash Price $11.99

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

Abrazo Tempranillo

Carinena, Spain

Cash Price $8.99

Abrazo is light with flavors of red cherries and raspberry that make it an inexpensive MUST HAVE at your home. The finish is long with a soft creaminess that begs to be paired with a Gyro sandwich.

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BLUE ROCK VIRTUAL TASTING WITH OWNER KENNY KAHN ON TUESDAY, MAY 19TH AT 7PM

Hello all,

Please join us for this FREE FUN event with the Owner and Vintner Kenny Kahn of Blue Rock Vineyards.  He would love if you tasted the wines with him, so please feel free to purchase them at any Spec’s location, curbside, or Instacart.

Blue Rock

Please click on this link to register for the event. Zoom Registration link

Blue Rock will be hosting a virtual tasting on May 19th at 7pm CST featuring the owner Kenny Kahn where he will be speaking about the history of the winery while pouring Baby Blue Red and White and the Estate Cabernet.

As you all know the Baby Blue wines are absolute gems for the price and his all estate wines are dynamic!

Let me know if you need more information.

Thank you,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

 

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JAMES BARLOW’S ‘THE THIRTEEN’ PICKS OF MAY 2020

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

I hope everyone is dealing with our new temporary lifestyle with a decent outlook. I’ve taken the opportunity to bond closer with my son (if that’s possible!) and get back into an exercise routine.  That said, I’m a little stir crazy to get back to normal as I’m sure you all are too.  Well my friends, take solace and enjoyment in the wines that I have picked for review this month. The weather is warming up and so you’ll see many selections will typically have some chill to them. Stay safe friends and always feel free to offer this blog to your friends and family! Have them sign up at thewineepicure.com!  Enjoy!

Bougetz ‘Jovana’ Red Blend 2015

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $49.99

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

Lavinea ‘Tualatin Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2015

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cash Price $39.89

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

Parched Chardonnay 2018

Sonoma Coast, California

Cash Price $24.99

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

Adelsheim Dry Rose of Pinot Noir 2018

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cash Price $19.94

I am super stoked that Rose season is back!  I recently tasted this Dry Rose and immediately checked to see how much I could get. The wine is LIVE certified (minimal footprint) and is deliciously thirst quenching.  This wine has a beautiful pale salmon color.  Flavors of white peach and juicy watermelon gush into the palate with whiffs of rose petals and cranberry.  The mid palate offers zesty acids that cleanse the palate for even more juicy red fruits on the finish. Barlow Score: 90 Points

Eberle ‘Steinbeck Vineyard’ Syrah 2017

Paso Robles, California

Cash Price $24.99

Gary Eberle was a pioneer of Paso Robles and is noted as  planting the 1st Syrah in the region. This OG Syrah has consistently been a standard for good Syrah in the Central Coast. The wine is wonderfully expressive with flavors of blueberry and blackberry that crunch into a medium intensity.  The mid palate continues with dark fruit but transitions into an earthy crushed rock texture that is finished with whiffs of chocolate covered espresso beans and dark spice. This staple Syrah is a mush have in your basket and a perfect pair with BBQ.  Barlow Score: 92 Points

Portlandia Pinot Gris 2018

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cash Price $14.99

I am gravitating more and more toward Oregon wines when it comes to the Pinot varieties.  Portlandia is 100% stainless steel from select vineyards throughout Willamette Valley.  This Pinot Gris (Grigio) offers instant floral notes of honeysuckle and gardenias that flow into a plethora of fruits like apricot, melon, and peach.  The wine has medium intensity with citrus zest and lemon merigue through the mid palate.  The finish shows a clean tartness that begs for another sip. Barlow Score: 88 Points

Freelander ‘District One’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

California

Cash Price $15.99

This new addition to our portfolio is built to be a user friendly, daily drinking Cabernet that doesn’t break the bank.  Freelander Cabernet checks all the boxes in flavor profile.  Racy and deep flavors of blackberry and cassis flow easily into medium intensity.  Notes of black raspberry and vanilla offer a creamy core with hints of blueberry cobbler.  The finish is soft and plush with hints of toasted oak and graham crackers.  Barlow Score: 90 Points

Cru Winery Unoaked Chardonnay 2017

Arroyo Seco, California

Cash Price $17.99

Cru Winery has produced a pure expression of Chardonnay with this wine.  It is completely unoaked, being aged in 100% stainless steel while blocking malolactic fermentation to give this blank slate a nicely balanced and pure shape.  Flavors of bright green apples and mango flow into medium intensity.  The mid palate is refreshing with honeysuckle and melon gushing into whiffs of white peach and lychee. The finish is clean and soft with a natural zing of citrus. Day Drinking Chardonnay right here!  Barlow Score: 89 Points

The Ned Rose of Pinot Noir 2018

Marlborough, New Zealand

Cash Price $11.99

This wine is a 2nd label of Marisco and has quickly become one of my favorite ‘inexpensive’ Roses.  You all know that I love Pinot Noir, so it just makes sense that I would love a Pinot Noir Rose.  New Zealand offers fresh and appealing wines that are very consistent in quality.  Bright flavors of wild red berries and watermelon sink into medium acidity with hints of jammed strawberry and cream.  The finish shows raspberry and red flowers with a gentle cream that lingers on the palate.  James Score: 90 Points

Twisted Paso ‘Main Squeeze’ Red Blend 2017

Paso Robles, California

Cash Price $16.99

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

Las Margas Garnacha 2017

Carinena, Spain

Cash Price $15.99

I love affordable Garnacha this time of year. Garnacha is a red grape that offers plenty of alcohol, but without all the tannins that can dry out your palate. This red wine would love a slight chill. Ripe and juicy flavors of cassis and pomegranate burst into the palate with medium intensity. Freshly crushed blueberries leak into the mid palate with hints of plum and cherry.  The finish is refreshing and offers hints of black spice.  Barlow Score: 91

Girasole ORGANIC Pinot Blanc 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. Pinot Blanc is a white variety in the Pinot family.  It is arguably one of the purest expressions of the variety.  The wine is pale straw in color and offers flavors of freshly squeezed lemons and fresh cut melon with medium intensity.  The mid palate shows nectarines and honeysuckle with just a whiff of wet rocks.  The finish is lovely with tinges of white flowers and tree fruit.  Perfect summer white!  Barlow Score: 88 Points

Shannon Ridge ‘High Elevation’ Sauvignon Blanc 2018

Lake County, California

Cash Price $12.99 but $1.00 Savings with Spec’s Key for a limited time

Only $11.99

As you all have read in past blogs, this winery has become my ‘go-to’ for easy drinking daily wines. Lake County is making some of the best priced Sauvignon Blancs in the entire United States. This Sauvignon Blanc is jam packed full of citrus fruits.  Perky and fresh flavors of lemongrass and gooseberry tingle into medium intensity and tickles of exotic fruits.  The mid palate is mouth watering with tangerine and orange blossom flowing into a crispy finish of papaya and grass.  Delightfully refreshing. Barlow Score: 90 Points

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

 

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JAMES BARLOW’S ‘THE THIRTEEN’ PICKS OF APRIL 2020

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

Wow. What a March! I believe that we are now in a new month…April? I hope everyone is staying healthy and safe. I have been working from home and still Covid-19 free as far as I know. Family is healthy too.  Please stay home as much as possible for everyone’s safety as we continue to flatten the curve. Spec’s offers Curbside pick up or we have just launched a new Spec’s App that helps you pick out selections from the comfort of your own home. We are using Instacart and Drizly for methods of transportation, so please download the app or get on our website (specsonline.com) to order from home.  We can get it delivered to you! Package stores (Alcohol) have been deemed ‘essential’ so don’t worry about your friendly neighborhood liquor store not being open, but please if you do venture out, be cautious and smart. We will all get through this together….with a little help from the wine! Enjoy!

Lavinea ‘Elton Vineyard’ Chardonnay 2015

Willamette Valley, 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) whom 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 Sub AVA of Willamette Valley with elevation of about 500 feet and the well known Jory soil that makes Willamette Valley 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

Parched (Bougetz) Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $39.89

Want a $70 Cabernet for $40? This is your choice!  2017 was an amazing vintage for Napa Valley. The fruit for this wine was sourced from carefully selected vineyards in the mountains and valley floor to give it excellent structure, balance and complexity.  The wine was aged for 20 months in 50% New French oak and 50% once used French oak.  Firm and Structured, this wine offers thick flavors of blackberry and black cherry with a silky core of tannins and acids that keep the fruit taught and fresh.  Notes of cassis and tobacco tingle into the mid palate with whiffs of pipe smoke.  The finish is layered and textured with hints of toasted vanilla bean, cedar and cigar box. Yum! Only 385 cases produced.  Barlow Score: 91 Points

Anthill Farms Pinot Noir 2017

Sonoma Coast, California

Cash Price $39.89

I have the opportunity in my job to seek out little geeky wineries that are making fabulous ‘under the radar’ wines and work on giving them their niche in the Texas retail market. This is one such producer.  The winery is known for producing minimal ecological impact (biodynamic) wines made by Anthony Filiberti.  This stunning Pinot Noir is picked from 40 year old vines with 30% whole cluster implemented then aged in 30% New French oak for 12 months.  Silky and plush, this mighty ant marches up the hill with flavors of candied raspberry and strawberry with medium intensity.  Notes of rhubarb and cola are prevalent on the mid palate with whiffs of vanilla, toast and a delightfully rich whipping cream on the finish.  Barlow Score: 92 Points

Cru Winery ‘Monarch’ Red Blend 2015

Paso Robles, California

Cash Price $27.99

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

Jean Baptiste Adam Reserve Riesling 2017

Alsace, France

Cash Price $17.99

Dry Riesling is one of my absolute favorite wines.  It is such a versatile grape that it can pair with darn near everything or be perfectly fine by itself.   Alsace produces some of the best DRY white wines in the world and this vintage is one of the best I have ever tasted!  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

Chateau Callac Prestige Red Blend 2015

Bordeaux, France

Cash Price $21.84

The 2015 vintage was an absolute stunner throughout Bordeaux.  It is easy to find excellent quality in lower priced wines as one really didn’t have to work hard to produce spectacular wine.  This wine is from Graves and may be the best priced wine in our Bordeaux portfolio.  It is a blend of 60% Merlot/25% Cabernet Sauvignon/15% Cabernet Franc and aged for twelve months in French oak.  Flavors of ripe plums and currant flow easily through medium plus tannins and medium acids.  The mid palate shows touches of earth and minerality with silky black cherry and black olive playing throughout the core.  The finish is fleshy and appealing with tinges of cedar, vanilla and red roses.  James Score: 90 Points

Portlandia Pinot Noir 2017

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cash Price $17.99

This fun and fresh 100% Pinot Noir  from Willamette Valley was aged in 60% French oak for 11 months and is an absolute bargain under $20.  Bright red cherries dance into the palate with bits of crunchy raspberry that meld into medium intensity.  The mid palate offers hints of creamy wild berries and cranberry with just a touch of rhubarb and underbrush on the finish. This is a no brainer value Pinot Noir. Barlow Score 88 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

Calcareous ‘Twisted Paso’ Chardonnay 2016

Paso Robles, California

Cash Price $15.99

Twisted Paso has become one of my favorite ‘Every Day’ wines that over delivers for the price point. Paso Robles continues to produce exciting wines that don’t carry the price burden of its wineries to the North (Napa Valley).  This soft and plush Chard offers flavors of pineapple and melon sinew easily into medium acids that are ensconced by hints of hazelnut, vanilla cream and orchard fruit. The finish is balanced and mellow with smidgeons of caramel and toffee. Barlow Score: 89 Points

Chateau de Haut Serre Grand Vin Seigneur Malbec 2015

Cahors, France

Cash Price $21.84

Chateau Haut Serre is owned by arguably the best producer in Cahors, Georges Vigouroux.  The wine is 90% Malbec with smidgeons of Merlot and Tannat and aged for twelve months in 30% New French oak.  This powerhouse black wine is thick and meaty from start to finish.  Flavors of black currant and blackberry sink into brooding tannins and acids.  The mid palate shows herbs and spice with touches of dark cherry and tar.  The finish is full of clove, cinnamon and vanilla with tinges of leather and mushrooms.  James Score: 90 Points

Shannon Ridge ‘High Valley’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Lake County, California

Cash Price $15.99

Clay Shannon is producing some of the best Cabernet grapes, sustainably farmed, that are still affordable in the region of Lake County at an average elevation of 2,000 ft.  This delicious mountain Cabernet was sourced from one of his favorite blocks, (so much so that he named it after his mother) Betsy’s vineyard. Thick Mountain fruit flavors of blackberry and dark cherry explode into a fruit driven freight train that is kept on the tracks by excellent acids and tannins to hold it in balance. French oak gives this mountain fruit some texture and notes of exotic spice and vanilla.  Barlow Score: 90 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

Domaine de Pegau ‘Pink Pegau’ Dry Rose 2018

Rhone Valley, France

Cash Price $14.99 BUT ON SALE FOR A LIMITED TIME!

ONLY $10.97!

This Dry Rose is consistently one of my favorite wines for the blazingly hot summers of Houston.  It is an 80% Cinsault blend with bits of Grenache and Carignan sourced from the vineyards of Laurence Feraud in Sorgues (4 miles south of Chateauneuf du Pape).  Pegau doesn’t produce any wines short of spectacular. Period. Always know you have quality when you pop a bottle of Pegau.  Pink Pegau offers wild strawberries and watermelon that linger on medium plus acidity.  The mid palate hits with wild red berries and red cherry with just a hint of white pepper and red roses.  The finish shows tinges of minerality with a whiff of red apples and peach.  James Score: 91 Points

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

 

 

 

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