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

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you all know, I was recently in Bordeaux so I did not have time to post a ‘Thirteen’ picks last month.  I will be leaving to Burgundy in a week, so I am making sure to get this month’s list posted! I have the opportunity to become a Burgundy Ambassador and will be visiting the region for 8 days.  At the end, I will take an exam and (fingers crossed) return to Texas as a Certified Burgundy Ambassador!  I know that pocket books are a little light this time of year due to the merciless tax man, so I have tried to keep most of these picks in the ‘affordable’ range.  Enjoy!

Louis de Sacy Grand Cru Champagne N/V

Champagne, France

Cash Price $33.89

I recently had the pleasure of taking Mr. Alain Sacy around to several locations throughout Houston to taste his dynamic products with our staff. 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!  James Score: 92 Points

Chateau Cap St. Georges Red Blend 2014

St. Emilion, France

Cash Price $25.99

From an iconic producer, Jean-Philippe Janouiex, comes this excellent value wine from St. Emilion.  It is mostly Merlot with a smidgeon of Cabernet Franc lending structure and spice.  This wine is all about elegance and balance.  Ripe flavors of fresh plum and wild strawberry flow easily into the palate with licks of vanilla bean and cinnamon.  The mid palate is medium plus bodied with firm tannins and acids.  The finish offers tinges of forest floor, chocolate and hints of cedar.  This is a wonderful wine to pair with meat.  Stellar!  James Score: 93 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.  James Score: 91 Points

Shed Horn ‘Non Typical’ Red Blend 2015

Lake County, California

Cash Price $24.99

This small winery (only 4,000 cases produced annually) won a Gold Medal in the Houston Uncorked! Wine Competition and has made it to Spec’s portfolio with pride.  Located in Lake County, they produce wines from high elevation, volcanic soil vineyards. Michael Wood is the wine maker.  This non typical wine is blended with Syrah, Zinfandel, Barbera, Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot.  Silky and fruit forward, this ‘love me now, love me often’ wine shows flavors of blue berry and black cherry on the front palate with medium tannins and acids.  The mid palate is voluptuous and tantalizing with dark berries and spice with excellent structure and texture.  The finish is creamy and integrated with hints of herbs and black pepper.  James Score: 90 Points

Summers Charbono 2015

Calistoga, California

Cash Price $24.99

I love finding little gems from unknown varieties.  Charbono was mistaken as Barbera for years in California until Dr. Carole Meredith gave the revelation that it is actually the French variety Corbeau.  Summers winery is the king of this obscure variety in California.  In fact, Jim Summers nickname is ‘Mr. Charbono’. Summers Charbono is ‘Boy o Boy’ yummy!  It is a veritable fruit cocktail with inviting flavors of blackberry and blueberry with medium plus tannins and medium acids. This thick skinned variety gives the palate a full bodied experience while still offering dollops of bright and fresh fruit.  The wine is aged in 50% New American and French oak for 18 months which is quite prevalent on the finish showing lively notes of toasted oak, cedar and vanilla bean.  James Score: 90 Points

Chateau Tour Leognan Blanc 2016

Pessac Leognan, France

Cash Price $19.29

Most people think of New Zealand when conjuring up images of Sauvignon Blanc.  I challenge you to fall in love with one of the best regions for Sauvignon Blanc in the world: Bordeaux, France.  Chateau Tour Leognan is the 2nd label of famed Chateau Carbonnieux in Pessac Leognan which happens to be one of my favorite white wine producers on earth.  This winery is owned by the Perrin family and consistently makes my favorite white Bordeaux.  Tour Leognan may be a second label, but has a first label quality.  The wine is 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Semillon with a small amount of French oak aging which I only noticed on the nose.  Vibrant flavors of grapefruit, citrus and cactus are encompassed by medium plus acidity and just a whiff of tannin.  The mid palate offers a distinct minerality of cracked stones that leads into meadow flowers.  The finish offers tinges of vanilla with a clean, refreshing mouth feel.  This wine will be a spectacular match for white meats on your table.  James Score: 90 Points

Ken Forrester ‘Renegade’ Red Blend 2013

Stellenbosch, South Africa

Cash Price $18.99

I have been an ardent supporter of this winery since I visited it several years ago.  I came down with a dry cough on the flight over that afflicted me until I went to his winery in Stellenbosch.  He gave me an Eaux-De-Vie that had some ‘special’ herbs grown by monks on a mountain.  He allowed me to try the bottle and magically the cough went away the next day.  It also just so happens that his wines are amazing!  This GSM (Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvedre) is delightful with plush red fruits of raspberry and cherry.  The mid palate offers medium tannins and acids with plenty of zingy dark fruit of blackberry and cassis.  The finish shows touches of black olive, nutmeg and spices.  James Score: 89 Points

Le Monde Refosco 2014

Friuli, Italy

Cash Price $17.49

If you happen to make the tasting at Spec’s Oak Ridge location tonight (May 3rd) you will have the delight to taste this wine.  I have been quite the fan of this winery and their Ribolla Gialla is one of my favorite white wines.  The winery is located in one of the best places in Italy to produce wine, Friuli Grave DOC, and follow organic, sustainable and biodynamic practices.  Alex Maccan is the owner and wine-maker.  This 100% Refosco del Peduncolo wine pops in the palate.  Tantalizing flavors of blackberry, black cherry and wild berries sink into medium plus tannins and acids.  The mid palate is weightless, yet still shows power.  The finish offers touches of roasted peppers, spice and crushed rocks.  James Score: 88 Points

Domaine Thibert Macon Verze Chardonnay 2015

Macon, France

Cash Price $19.94

I am really falling in love with Chardonnay from the Maconnais.  It has the depth of the Cote D’Or but without the price point.  The 2015 vintage is a ‘seek out’ year for French wine.  This wine comes from the relatively unknown village of Verze and is fully organic.  This 100% Chardonnay screams in your palate and is perfect for the impending summer heat.  Lush flavors of green apples, apricot and white peach sing easily through medium acids.  The mid palate offers notes of pear and white flowers.  The finish is brilliant with a minerality that really shows one the ‘essence’ of Verze.  A Gem of a wine!  James Score: 91 Points

Highway 12 Rose of Pinot Noir 2017

North Coast, California

Cash Price $14.99

The Highway wines are the brainchild of Michael Sebastiani and Paul Giusto.  They have created a brand that has gained amazing traction here in the Texas market.  The Highway 12 and Carneros Highway lines have exploded in all the big Texas cities.  Dry Rose wines have exploded in the market and some of my favorites are produced from Pinot Noir. This Rose has a beautiful salmon hue and offers vibrant flavors of wild strawberries and watermelon.  The wine is gushing fruit from every crevice.  The mid palate shows notes of white peach and wild flowers. The finish is seamless with medium acidity and a whiff of rose petals.  James Score: 89 Points

Pra Vinera Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2016

California

Cash Price $14.99

Pra Vinera translates to ‘Field of Vines’ and conjures images of picturesque vineyards on a beautiful California afternoon.  The wine is silky smooth and inviting.  Flavors of black berry and black cherry are entrenched in medium acids and tannins.  The mid palate shows fleshy plum and black raspberry with tinges of leather and tobacco.  The finish is easy and approachable with whiffs of chocolate, vanilla cream and oak.  Quite user-friendly.  James Score: 88 Points

Dante Robino Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Mendoza, Argentina

Cash Price $12.29

Dante Robino has quickly become one of the best selling wineries in our portfolio.  The wines over achieve for the price and are dangerously easy to drink.  This Cabernet is built for days that end with ‘Y’.  Full bodied and flavorful, Robino offers notes of black cherry and currant with medium tannins and acids.  Hints of blue berry and spice sinew through the full mouth feel.  The finish has hints of mocha, oak, vanilla and cinnamon.  Perfect hearty meat wine.  James Score: 87 Points

Baritone ‘Maxim’ Cabernet/Shiraz Red Blend 2015

South Australia, Australia

Cash Price $12.99

Baritone has been one of Spec’s most consistent red blends in our Australian category throughout the years.  It comes in a 1 liter container (The extra glass of wine is on us) and is a blend of Shiraz and Cabernet.  Bold flavors of currant and plum play through layered tannins and medium acids with notes of toffee and spice.  The finish offers vanilla and cedar with tinges of dark cocoa, licorice and clove.  Baritone is a user friendly Tuesday slurper that is sure to please whether at a party or on the back patio.  James Score: 87 Points

Thank you,

James C. Barlow,CWE,CSS

 

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Free Customer Appreciation Tasting on Thursday, May 3rd from 6:30-8:00pm

Hello all,

I have an exciting Free Customer Appreciation Tasting on Thursday, May 3rd from 6:30-8:00pm at the Spec’s Oak Ridge location.  Sorry for the late notice, but these wines are amazing so come taste and enjoy!!!!

Please RSVP to RSVP_Woodlands@specsonline.com or jamesbarlow25@hotmail.com.

See you there!

LE MONDE WINERY FROM FRIULI, ITALY

Wines to be tasted:

  1. Le Monde Chardonnay
  2. Le Monde Pinot Grigio
  3. Le Monde Friulano
  4. Le Monde Pinot Bianco
  5. Le Monde Ribolla Gialla
  6. Le Monde Cabernet Franc
  7. Le Monde Refosco
Le Monde is located in the Friuli Grave appellation which produces more than 50% of the wine made in the entire Friuli Venezia Giulia region. The high Friuli plain is ideal for agriculture due to the large amount of calcareous-dolomitic material from river deposits over thousands of years, Alpine foothills that protect the valley from northern icy winds, and the Adriatic Sea which offers an important maritime influence. Originally founded in 1970, the Maccan family purchased Le Monde in 2008 believing that by following advice from top wine experts, implementing sustainable farming practices and state-of-the-art winemaking, the winery could produce wines that could reach the highest level of quality.  Alex Maccan’s vision was realized when he became the first winemaker in the region to receive the prestigious “tre bicchieri” from Gambero Rosso.  
Le Monde’s Sales Manager, Massimo Furlan, started his career in the fashion industry. Over a decade ago, he changed his professional path, opting to explore his passion for wine. He was keen to move back to the country and a chance meeting with Alex Maccan presented the perfect opportunity.  Working closely with Alex, Massimo’s responsibilities are focused on the export development of the business,  customer relations and marketing.
“It’s an exciting time at Le Monde.  Customers are now keen to hear our story. They love that we are true farmers, from an area of Italy that has a deep winemaking heritage. This history and knowledge combined with our modern-day production innovations, makes things exciting for us and interesting for them”.  Massimo lives just 15 minutes from the Winery, in a small village, where the values of rural community are still very much alive.  He believes that this traditional ‘understanding of humanity and nature’ is what Cantina Le Monde harnesses, both in terms of its produce and ethics.  “We are true to our Northern Italian rural heritage in every way.  More often than not our most useful critics come from the villages and people around us. They know the land, they know about wine – they’ve been brought up with it. They are true, honest experts, and it’s fair to say, if we pass their scrutiny, we must be doing the right thing!”.
See you there!
Thank you,
James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

 

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

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

I will be heading to Bordeaux in early April and not return till mid month, so I most likely will not post a ‘Thirteen Picks’ of April. I’m sure I’ll have a comprehensive list of Bordeaux wines and ratings though!  That said, I have been tasting quite a bit lately and here are several Steals for daily consumption.  Enjoy!

Panarroz Mourvedre 2015

Jumilla, Spain

Cash Price $9.99

Panarroz is one of those wines that you wish you had stumbled upon years ago because its dirt cheap and so dang good!  This 80% Mourvedre/10% Syrah/10% Garnacha blend is taylor made for BBQ.  Fruit forward and un-oaked, this flashy wine is packed full of flavor from start to finish.  Black cherry, plum, black pepper, and tar bounce through hints of blueberry and cassis.  James Score: 90 Points

Radley and Finch Shiraz 2015

Western Cape, South Africa

Cash Price $9.99

South Africa is producing dynamite wines that are often overlooked, so one can get some excellent value here.  Jammy fruits of blackberry and plum show through notes of briar, leather and subtle spice with just a kiss of oak.  Rodeo wine! James Score: 88 Points

Reserve Saint-Marc Chardonnay 2016

Languedoc, France

Cash Price $6.59

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.  James Score: 87 Points

Thank you,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

 

 

 

 

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

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

March is delightfully upon us.  It seems the rain has subsided a bit, but Mother Nature has yet to throw the brutal heat and humidity our way.  I have recently tasted a good number of Bordeaux and have found the 2014’s to be drinking quite nicely with a full bodied feel that will pair with all things Rodeo!  I am pleased to announce that I will be returning to Bordeaux in April for two weeks to taste through the 2017 vintage.  I will make sure to report back, in detail, my tasting notes.  But for now….Enjoy these selections!

L’esprit de Chevalier Red Blend 2014

Bordeaux, France

Cash Price $29.99

This 65% Cabernet, 30% Merlot blend that is aged for eighteen months in French Barrique really shocked me with how well it was drinking.  From the famed house of Domaine de Chevalier, this 2nd wine is absolutely stunning!  The wine is full, yet supple with plenty of brawn that will pair wonderfully with big slabs of beef.  Flavors of black cherry and currant flow through textured medium plus tannins and acids.  Notes of roses waft through the senses with tinges of red apple.  The mid palate is balanced and a silkiness of cream and bright red raspberry.  The finish is long and integrated with smidgeons of vanilla bean, graphite, leather, tobacco and toasted oak.  Yum!  James Score: 93 Points 

Highwayman Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Sonoma County, California

Cash Price $29.99

The Highway wines are the brainchild of Michael Sebastiani and Paul Giusto.  They have created a brand that has gained amazing traction here in the Texas market.  The Highway 12 and Carneros Highway lines have exploded in all the big Texas cities.  The Highwayman series is the upper echelon reserve wines of these lines.  I became quite a fan of their red blend (Cabernet Franc heavy) and was equally impressed with this Cabernet Sauvignon.  The 2015’s are beautiful wines from a spectacular vintage.  Exuding a quiet confidence, this brand is a powerhouse lineup of luxury wines. Dark in attitude and powerful in style, these wines are produced as a showcase for the Highway 12 winemaking team.  Flavors of blueberry and berry compote sink into the palate with quite a viscous mouth feel.  The mid palate offers blueberry pie and raspberry jam with medium tannins and acids.  The finish is chalked full of vanilla, graham cracker and tinges of exotic spice with an oaky presence.  This is a fruity wine that is jam packed with power and a hefty amount of alcohol.  James Score: 90 Points

Chateau Cap de Faugeres Red Blend 2014

Cotes de Castillon

Cash Price $23.74

The 2014 vintage is a solid vintage that is drinking with more boy of tannins than that of 2015. Château Cap de Faugères is located in the Côtes de Castillon with its vineyards directly on the St. Emilion border. One can find some of the best value Merlot based red blends here.  The property is owned by Corinne and Peby Guissez.  The estate consists of 26 hectares of vineyards planted with Merlot (50%), Cabernet Franc (38%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (12%). Recently there has been extensive investment in cellar equipment and the wines are vinified using state of the art technology. The wines are then matured in small oak barriques (50% new) for 12-15 months.  This Merlot dominant wine offers flavors of beefy red currant and red cherries with medium plus tannins and medium acids.  The wine is deliciously pure and focused with tinges of smoked meat and spice playing throughout the core.  The finish is long and endearing with notes of cedar, vanilla and whiffs of tobacco.  James Score: 92 Points

Cult Cabernet Sauvignon N/V

North Coast, California

Cash Price $22.99

I am always on the search for a Cabernet that over delivers in the $20 price range.  This non vintage gem is right up that alley.  Boutique winery, Salvestrin, is the brains behind this wine that blends vintages for consistency much like the Champagne region in France.  Abundant flavors of black currant, black berry and raspberry flow silkily through the palate with velvet tannins and eloquent acids.  The mid palate offers hints of spice with tinges of wild berry and red cherry mingled with milk chocolate.  The finish is long with smidgeons of mocha, hazelnut and toasted cedar.  This is a very soft and approachable Cabernet for daily drinking.  James Score: 89 Points

Albert Bichot Pinot Noir 2014

Burgundy, France

Cash Price $24.99

Savigny Les Beaune is located north of Mercurey in the famed Cote D’Or region of Burgundy.  Beaune is famous for producing some of the finest Chardonnay on earth, but I have consistently found screamingly delicious Pinot Noir that often fly under the radar.  This 100% Pinot Noir offers freshly picked red cherries and pomegranate that lace into medium plus acidity and medium minus tannins.  The mid palate gives way to black raspberries and touches of cream.  The finish is light and flavorful with touches of subtle spice and wild berries.  James Score: 89 Points

Poggio Bello Friulano 2015

Friuli, Italy

Cash Price $21.84

Pinot Grigio is the darling of white wine palates in the American market.  Italy’s most expressive white wines can be hauntingly good, yet are often overlooked in the market due to Pinot Grigio’s success.  Friulano is one such grape that is starting to blaze a trail and garner rock star status because its expressive appeal and delicious flavors.  Friulano was mistaken as Sauvignon Blanc in Chile for many years.  The soil in Colli Orientali de Friuli is unique: Eocene marl and sand are extremely meager and provide excellent draining. The weather is also distinctive and very well suited for viticulture and grape ripening, especially for the white varietals that benefit from the warm Adriatic Sea breezes (the Adriatic Sea is only 30 km or 18 miles away) and from the Julian Alps that protect the area from the cold winds from Northern Europe.  This allows for unique wines with intensity.  Poggio Bello offers a citrus front with hints of lemon, pear and papaya.  The mid palate offers a zingy acidity that is encompassed by white flowers, almonds and just a kiss of white peach.  The finish is pure and focused with hints of hazelnut and wet rock minerality.  Yum!  James Score: 90 Points

Goldbelly Syrah 2016

Sierra Foothills, California

Cash Price $24.99

but only $19.99 with your Spec’s Key for a limited time

I love California Syrah, unfortunately it often takes a backburner to Cabernet Sauvignon.  I have spent years tasting as much Syrah as possible and I must say that I am infatuated with American Syrah.  This Syrah is sourced primarily from a single vineyard located 2,200 ft. above sea level in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range.  There is a purity of fruit in good Syrah that is hard to duplicate. Racy, textured flavors of boysenberry and blackberry fling sensuously into medium tannins and acids. The mid palate shows a touch of sweetly jammed black cherry and plum that flows into touches of smoked meat, tar and mocha.  The finish is chalked full of spices with flashes of sweet tobacco that sink into licks of vanilla and toasted oak.  James Score: 91 Points

AIX Rose 2016

Provence, France

Cash Price $16.99

Rose is on fire!  People have finally realized that is deliciously pink wine is not the White Zinfandel of the 1980’s, but instead a perfect expression for excessively hot weather.  It’s not a coincidence that the best Rose produced in the world is in South France licking the waters of the Mediterranean.  Dry Rose is breathtaking and thirst quenching in the sweltering summer heat of Texas.  AIX is a pool slurper that should be purchased by the magnum.  Created using 30% of rosé bleeding and 70% direct pressing, the softest hint of Carignan was added to the classical Provence blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault to give the 2016 vintage an even more profound depth.  Flavors of bright red cherry and cranberry zing through medium plus acidity.  Notes of watermelon and jolly rancher pop through the mid palate with kisses of rose petals.  The finish offers hints of freshly picked strawberries and wild red berries.  Clean, pure and refreshing!  James Score: 90 Points

Diamandes Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Valle de Uco, Argentina

Cash Price $16.99

Located in the heart of the Uco Valley at 3,600 feet, DiamAndes boasts some of the best terroir in the Clos de los Siete.  The wine is made by one of the most famous wine-makers in the world, Michel Rolland.  The wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and aged for 14 months in 50% new French oak.  Thick and densely textured, this wine offers flavors of black currant and plum that sink deftly into medium plus tannins and medium acids.  The mid palate shows a creamy thickness that coats the mouth with notes of cassis, leather and cigar box.  The finish is impressively structured with notes of clove, vanilla bean and textured cedar.  James Score: 91 Points

L’Espigouette Red Blend 2015

Rasteau, France

Cash Price $18.99

The Rhone Valley has long produced some of the best value table wines on Earth, yet people often overlook the $15-$30 price point in Rhone.  The are either buying CDR (Cotes du Rhone) at $10 or CDP (Chateauneuf du Pape) at $40, and the middle price point is often lost.  I implore you to start diving into the insanely complex wine in the mid tier of the Rhone Valley.  This wine hails from the village of Rasteau which is best known for producing VDN (Vin du Naturel is a lightly fortified sweet wine) but can produce distinctly intense red wines. This wine is mostly Grenache (80%) with a little Syrah and Mourvedre sprinkled in.   Flavors of Stewed cherry cobbler races through the palate with raspberry compote.  The wine is thick and brooding with a viscous mouth feel.  Notes of sweet spice and oregano flow deftly into the mid palate with medium tannins and acids.  The 2015’s in France have yet fail me.  Everything I have had from almost every region has been spectacular.  James Score:  90 Points

Cru ‘Montage’ Chardonnay 2015

Monterey, California

Cash Price $15.99

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

Tomich ‘Grace and Glory’ Shiraz 2015

McLaren Vale, Australia

Cash Price $14.99

McLaren Vale is producing some of the highest quality Shiraz/Syrah in the world.  The warm region offers wines of hedonistic proportions with thick flavors and hefty alcohol.  Tomich is committed to sustainable farming and is making some high quality juice at an affordable price point.  Racy flavors of black currant and dark cherry integrate into medium tannins and acids.  The mid palate offers blackberry with notes of black pepper and spice.  The finish is long and pure with notes of black olive and dark mocha chocolate.  James Score: 88 Points

Aria Brut Sparkling N/V

Cava, 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

Thank you!

James C. Barlow, CWE,CSS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bordeaux: Chx. Croix Mouton and le Conseiller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

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

Pierre Rougon Red Blend 2014

Cotes du Rhone, France

Cash Price $8.99

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

Playtime Red Blend 2015

Lake County, California

Cash Price $9.99

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

Wine Roads Chardonnay 2015

California

Cash Price $9.99

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

Thank you,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

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

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

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

Expression 39 Anderson Creek Pinot Noir 2013

Anderson Valley, California

Cash Price $40.84

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

Monticello ‘Jefferson’s Cuvee’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $29.99

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

Rowland Cellar’s Cenay ‘Bald Mountain’ Chardonnay 2013

Santa Cruz Mountains, California

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

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

Chateau Le Conseiller Red Blend 2011

Bordeaux, France

Cash Price $18.99

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

Domaine du Courteillac 2009

Bordeaux, France

Cash Price $17.99

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

Domaine Mejan-Taulier ‘Canto Perdrix’ Red Blend 2014

Laudun (Cotes du Rhone Villages), France

Cash Price $14.99

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

Aya Malbec 2014

San Juan, Argentina

Cash Price $16.99

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

Twisted Paso ‘Main Squeeze’ Red Blend 2015

Paso Robles, California

Cash Price $15.99

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

Pietra Santa Sangiovese 2013

Central Coast, California

Cash Price $12.89

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

Ca’Momi ‘Heartcraft’ Sparkling Rose N/V

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $11.99

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

Sheldrake Point ‘Lucky Stone’ Red Blend 2011

Finger Lakes, New York

Cash Price $12.69

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

Capriccio Espumante Dulce Natural

Mendoza, Argentina

Cash Price $11.99

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

Enseduna Red Blend 2008

Languedoc, France

Cash Price $13.19

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

Thank You,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

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