James Barlow’s ‘The Thirteen’ Picks of September 2013

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,The summer season is thankfully coming to a close.  The heat is still blazing full, so I will give you a medley of wines that will transition us all from the crazy heat into the smooth, blissful fall season.  I have had the pleasure of trying several inexpensive Spanish wines that blew my palate away for the money.  I am pleased to offer you all these wines and highly recommend trying them for your daily treats.  Enjoy!

Phillipe Melka ‘CJ’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Napa Valley, California
Cash Price $46.89

Phillipe Melka is considered one of the best wine makers in the world.  This quiet man has built a huge cult following for his wines that have consistently scored 100 points on many wine panels.  This ridiculously appealing wine offers delicious notes of black currant and black cherry that sinew deftly into notes of tobacco leaves and hints of cigar box.  Voluptuous notes of plum and blackberry sink easily through the silky, mouth-watering tannins that soften into gorgeous hints of ripe red flowers and tinges of smoked coffee beans and milk chocolate.  The finish is wonderfully long and fulfilling with an abundance of French oak and tidbits of toasted toffee and graham cracker.  Robert Parker gave this wine 91 Points, but I would actually rate it closer to the 94 point range!

Chateau Tour Sieujean Red Blend 2009
Bordeaux, France
Cash Price $31.99

This Cabernet Based red is exquisite!  Paulliac is known for producing some of the highest quality Grand Cru Classe wines in all of Bordeaux.  This little gem is a steal that is surrounded by some of the best vineyards in all of Bordeaux.  The winery doesn’t have the name recognition, so it cannot command the crazy high prices, but continues to show amazing quality for what is in the bottle.  The commune of St. Laurent holds some of the best vineyard sites on earth and this winery is staked right in the middle of it all.  Sieujean exudes dark fruits of black berry and currant that fill the mouth with ripe, tasty tannins that reach easily into juicy nuances of bramble and black cherry.  The mid palate is focused with notes of leather and graphite that give way to pin point precise acids.  The finish offers smidgeons of potpourri that dance through powerful flavors of cedar, dusted earth, and tobacco leaf.  This Robust blend is a pleasure on the palate and will only get better with age!  WOW!

Zind Humbrecht Riesling 2011
Alsace, France
Cash Price $24.99

I recently taught a class on Riesling, which is one of my favorite varietals on Earth.  The grape is amazingly versatile and can be bone dry or cloyingly sweet.  I love that Riesling can pair with almost any dish accordingly.  This Riesling is quite dry and deliciously full bodied.  Alsace is one of the warmest regions in all of France and produce Riesling with rich, voluptuous fruits and wonderfully fresh acids.  This wine exudes huge fruits of apricot and tangerine that play into candied red apples and mandarin orange.  Zind is an exotic beauty that offers fresh, zingy acids that race through a delightful minerality of crushed rocks and limestone.  The finish offers notes of fresh wild meadow flowers and a soft roundness that sits on a peach sorbet for a wonderfully long time.  This is an absolute treat that will easily change your mind to the beauty of Riesling.  Wine Spectator gave this wine 90 Points!

Giovanni Rosso Barbera D’Alba 2011
Piedmonte, Italy
Cash Price 21.84

Barbera is the perfect summer red.  It is a grape with minimal tannins and zesty acids that refresh the palate and keep it yearning for another sup.  The wine offers vibrant red cherries and red plum that sink into notes of sage and minerals.  Smidgeons of red flowers and cranberry fall  into fresh acids that sing into a beautifully balanced core.  The finish gives hints of vanilla with soft, velvet tannins that are perfect for a person that enjoys a red wine in this crazy summer heat.  This is a can’t miss summer red!

Sierra Madre Chardonnay 2010
Santa Maria Valley, California
Cash Price $23.99

This luscious white is produced by the famed wine maker Lane Tanner.  The vineyard is considered one of the most prized sites in all of the central coast due to its wonderful terroir and awesome climate. This succulent white gives bright citrus notes on the palate that slowly sings into vanilla and quince.  The mid palate offers flavors of lemon meringue and pear that soften into hints of caramel and candied pineapple.  The finish is eloquent and flavorful that bring all the delicious fruits into focus with a roundness of French oak aging.  Sierra Madre is one of the best Chardonnay’s that California can offer!

Chateau Ampelia Red Blend 2007
Cotes de Castillon, France
Cash Price 17.59

This 95% Merlot based blend is a true gem!  Ampelia is located on a clay-limestone hillside on the Cotes de Castillon, which borders the famed appellation of Saint Emilion.  The wine was given 5% Cabernet Franc to give it more robust body and structure.  This wine is completely organic  and drinking beautifully right now.  Flavors of blackberry and boysenberry play into vibrant acids that sink into softening tannins.  Notes of graphite and leather give wonderful nuances to the finish that is filled with clove and spice with hints of cedar and vanilla.  Ampelia is drinking perfectly right now.  Enjoy!

Fin Del Mundo Viognier 2012
Patagonia, Argentina
Cash Price $17.99

Viognier is an gorgeous white varietal that no one talks about.  It offers delicious tropical stone fruits with smooth easy acids and typically no oak.  This winery is one of best in Argentina that few know about.  Mundo is a 100% Viognier that offer bursting fruits of rich apricot and tangerine that flow into amazingly fresh notes of papaya and guava.  The wine is fermented in stainless steel vats that keeps freshness and allows the varietal to speak soulfully into the palate and finish with cleansing acids and notes of freshly picked oranges and pineapple.  Mundo is the perfect summer pair for any light cuisine that involves seafood or light fowl.

Villamont ‘Prestige’ Chardonnay 2010
Burgundy, France
Cash Price $14.19

Villamont  is a winery based in the heart of Savigny les Beaune in Burgundy.  They produce iconic Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  This entry level white is a great way to ‘get your feet wet’ with Chardonnay from Burgundy.  Many American consumers are still fearful of steering away from the comforts of California Chardonnay, but are becoming bored with the same stylistic wine that is offered.  I submit that you should dip your taste buds into some of the best Chardonnay in the world.  Burgundy offers consummate Chardonnay with class and sophistication and now at an affordable price point.  This wine exudes bursting fruits of apple and meyer lemon that dance easily into tropical stone fruits.  Fruits of pineapple and mango play smoothly into easy, succulent acids and hints of vanilla and toasted oak.  Great Chardonnay for the Money!
Domaine La Suffrene Red Blend 2011
Vin De Pays, France
Cash Price $12.99I have come to really appreciate the Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre blends from the South of France since I visited the region last year.  The growers put their heart and soul into the production of their grapes.  The Suffrene Estate is located in the region of Bandol which prides itself on the ancient Mourvedre.  They use large oak Foudres that have been well used, so the typically oaky flavors are not imparted into the wine. This dynamic red is a blend of predominantly Mourvedre with Grenache and Syrah. Flavors of dark black currant and blackberry smash into robust tannins and acids which give way to notes of smoked leather and game.  Hints of cracked black pepper and roasted meat sinew throughout the smooth, velvety finish.  This is a killer food wine at a great Bargain price!

Zingari Rosso blend 2009
Tuscany, Italy
Cash Price $14.99

I Love a good Tuscan Blend.  I find that the Italians can produce some of the best blends in the world from this region.  This blend of equal parts Sangiovese, Merlot, Syrah, and Petit Verdot is wonderfully crafted.  The wine was aged in large neutral oak barrels, so it does not impart oak on the palate which allows the fruits to take center stage.  Zingari offers robust fruits of blackberry and black cherry with tinges of sage and truffle.  The mid palate give way to plum and currant with just a tinge of black pepper and mocha.  The finish is beautifully long and leaves the palate begging for another sip.  Pair this delish wine with any red pasta based dish.

Marques De La Concordia Crianza 2009
Rioja, Spain
Cash Price $10.99Concordia is a ridiculously great quality wine for the price, so I feel compelled to let you all know about the new vintage that arrived this year. As most of you know, I love New World fruit infusion combined with Old World terrior mentality, and this wine hits the nail on the head. Marques is 100% Tempranillo and aged in French and American oak for 18 months. Flavors of ripe strawberry and red cherries sink into the palate with easy flavors of rich blackberry and vanilla. Soft spices zing throughout the light oak with undertones of dark truffles on the finish. This wine is made for big hearty meat dishes.  This wine is the steal of the year!

Cune Blance White 2011
Rioja, Spain
Cash Price $9.99

I opened Cune Blanco’s new vintage this past weekend and was pleasantly surprised by the quality that I found in my glass.  I really enjoy Spanish whites, but usually find myself opening Albarino from the Basque region.  Viura is the main White varietal of Rioja.  It is an unctuous grape that has a similar flavor profile to Sauvignon Blanc, but without the overpowering acids.  This wine offers tropical fruits of melon and baked green apples that play into soft, eloquent acids that are unencumbered by the headiness of oak aging.  Tinges of peach tickle the outer taste buds and finish with a slew of white flowers.  This wine will be a great way to end the final dog days of summer!

Muga Rosado 2011
Rioja, Spain
Cash Price $9.99Muga is considered one of the finest wineries in all of Rioja.  The region isn’t necessarily known for Rose, but as you all know, I am constantly seeking out fun, geeky wines from all over the world at great prices.  This deliciously dry Rose is a blend of Garnacha, Viura, and just a smidgeon of Tempranillo.  Fresh fruits of red cherries and red apple tingle through clean acids and minimal tannins.  Notes of baked pastry round into a nicely textured finish that has just a hint of tartness to give the wine a cherry strudel-esque feel.  Quite a yummy Rose!

Thank You,

James C. Barlow
Certified Sommelier
Certified Specialist of Wine

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