JAMES BARLOW’S ‘TOP PICKS OF THE YEAR’ FOR 2013

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,  

 

Thank you all for joining me this year on our journey through the wonderful world of wine.  I have tasted over a thousand wines this year and have narrowed my favorites down to thirteen.  This blog will display the Top Wines I have tried this year.  Most I have written up throughout the year, but some, like my #1 pick is in such limited quantity that I typically would not blog about it.  These wines are sure fire hits for your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners.  They would also make for perfect gifts!  All are in limited quantity, so don’t miss out on your chance to try my favorite wines of 2013!  My ‘Top Pick of the Year’ will be at the bottom of this blog.  

 

 

Kapcsandy ‘Endre’ Red Blend 2009

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $74.99  

 

I recently tasted through a vertical of this wine and was completely ‘wowed’ by the complexity of this Bordeaux style blend.  Every vintage has beautiful integrity with subtle, intricate differences that showed the stylistic growing seasons of the wines.  Endre is a Cabernet, Merlot blend that is built to please, but will become even more gorgeous with cellar aging.  This wine exudes brilliance of meticulous wine making by Lou Kapcsandy with the help of Denis Malbec of 1st Growth Chateau Latour fame.  Flavors of black currant and black cherry lay in a bed of red flowers that slowly melds into dark mocha and milk chocolate.  Divine notes of rustic earth and terrior slither gracefully through dried leather and tobacco with a core of toasted vanilla and spices that place perfectly on the palate for an immensely long time.  The acids are booming with amazingly integrated tannins that lick the outer palate and give a focused precision to the wine.  This wine is an absolutely stellar wine which shows that California is capable of producing age-worthy Bordeaux style wines.  Robert Parker gave this wine 91 points.   

 

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! 

 

Volker Eisele Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $42.74  

 

The 2008 vintage was a richly concentrated year that gave supple ripeness like that of the famed 2004 vintage.  This winery is one of the few in the Chiles Mountain AVA and is considered the gem of the region.  The Eisele vineyards is one of the best vineyards in all of Napa Valley and Certified Organic to boot.  Volker Eisele is famed for making wines of unmistakable elegance and impeccable balance.  This gorgeously rich and balanced wine drinks amazingly from the first pop of the cork!  Flavors of Black currant and cassis lay into a bed of tobacco leaves and mocha.  The mid palate continues with dark fruits with blackberry that sink into definitive vanilla bean and French oak infusions.  The finish is long and balanced with silky texture and voluptuous tannins.  Volker is a wine that was obviously well taken care of from start to finish!  Wine Enthusiast gave this wine 93 Points.   

 

Andre Clouet Rose N/V

Champagne, France

Cash Price $49.99  

 

Clouet’s Grand Cru Rose is made from 100% Pinot Noir and has become the darling of my cellar.  Located in the Montagne de Reims, this wine trumps even the likes of Moet & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot because the grapes are from actual Grand Cru vineyards.  This brilliant Bouzy bubbles will be the champagne that I pop for my ‘special occasions’.  Rich, textured flavors of strawberry and raspberry sink into deliciously tight bubbles.  Notes of brioche and hazelnut show wonderfully through hints of red flowers, honey and confection.  The finish is refreshing and cleansing while keeping the palate begging for another sup.  Clouet drinks like satin on the palate and is amazingly memorable from start to finish!  

 

Saint Cosme Red Blend 2009

Gigondas, France

Cash Price $32.99  

 

Saint Cosme has been consistently one of my favorite wineries in the world.  They produce ridiculously great wine from top to bottom.  I have found their Gigondas selection to be a particular gem.  Gigondas is considered the ‘poor man’s Chateauneuf Du Pape’.  This Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre blend shows perfection from the beginning. It is aged for twelve months in new and used oak barrels.  Robust flavors of baked fig and plum race into brawny tannins and zesty acids.  Notes of black pepper and potpourri are enveloped by blackberries and crushed rocks.  The finish is long and offers bits of charred oak, tobacco and garrigue.  Cosme Gigondas will age gracefully for the next decade.  Wine Spectator gave this wine 93 points.  I would put it in the 95-96 point range.  Only 2 cases available!  

 

Beacon Hill Chardonnay 2009

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cash Price $32.99  

 

This is the best American Chardonnay that I have tasted this year.  This winery uses the Dijon clone version of Chardonnay, which produces some of the most complex versions of the grape in the world.  Oregon has nailed it when it comes to Chardonnay.  This Beacon of flavor offers fruits of green apple and lime that play into zesty acids that clean the palate through the core of this wine.  Notes of apple blossom and pear round into hints of confection and soft cream with roasted hazelnuts.  The amount of bursting flavors that encompass the palate on this wine make it truly a gem to behold.  Beacon Hill is committed to being a ‘green’ winery and is completely biodynamic.  Don’t miss out on the best American Chardonnay that I have tried this year!

 

Chateau Lanessan Red Blend 2000

Bordeaux, France

Cash Price $31.29  

 

The 2000 Vintage was slated as the best vintage of the 21st century in Bordeaux.  The region had a picture perfect growing season which led to amazing quality and abundant harvests.  This Haut Medoc wine is drinking perfectly right now.  Lanessan is adjacent to the 4th growth of Chateau Beychevelle but at a fraction of the cost.  This Cabernet forward wine is drinking gorgeously right now!  Flavors of soft roasted plum and black currant fall into silky notes of chocolate mocha and sandalwood.  The tannins and acids have softened out perfectly to give this wine a classic Bordeaux feel but with a voluptuous amount of fruits and flavors. Buy this diamond now and impress all of your friends.  Very Limited Quantity available.  

 

Gaia ‘Thalassatis’ Assyrtiko 2012

Santorini, Greece

Cash Price $26.89  

 

Assyrtiko is quickly becoming my favorite white grape.  It has piercing acidity that is surrounded by the distinct tones of terroir which make my palate giddy with delight.  The white wines of Santorini are typically un oaked.  The wines exude the soils of volcanic ash from the deep rooted 80 year old vineyards.  Flavors of citrus lemon and crisp green apple lead into precise acids that are enveloped by nuances of smoke and limestone.  The finish offers hints of plush dew and melon while still showing precise and mouth watering acids.  Gaia Assyrtiko is brilliant and a must try!  Robert Parker gave this wine 92 Points.  

 

99 West Pinot Noir 2010

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cash Price $15.79  

 

This Spec’s exclusive is a home run!  The Willamette Valley offer wines with the panache of California, but the complexity of Burgundy.  The region has longer amount of daylight that allow the grapes to reach full maturity, but still has the cooler temperatures which let the grapes retain the proper acidity to make the perfect Pinot Noir.  It is hard to find great Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley for under $20.  When I do, I feel compelled to let you all in on the secret!  Flavors of eloquent red cherry tickle into raspberry and just a smidgeon of pomegranate.  Notes of wild flowers play into hints of black pepper and potpourri with easy acids that sink into a smooth, playful finish.  An Awesome Value Pinot!

 
Castillo Perelada GR-174 2010 Red Blend
 
Priorat, Spain
 
Cash Price $14.99
 
Priorat wines are almost always extravagantly good, but are pricey enough to put themselves in a niche market. Just as great Brunello Di Montalcino can cost upwards of $50+ per bottle, so too can great Priorat.  Perelada is an amazing value for under $20 and easily the best value that I have tried from Priorat this year. It is a region that has a soil unique to almost anywhere in the world called Licorella. Priorat has attained DOCa status, Spain’s highest level of notation, behind only Rioja. Old vine Garnacha/Grenache grows particularly well in this region. This decadent red is blend of Garnacha, Cabernet, and Carignan. Flavors of blackberry and plum explode on the palate with ripe tannins situated throughout the core. Notes of roasted coffee bean and chocolate sinew into a silky finish of toasted oak and spice. GR-174 is fresh and vibrant with an elegant grace that really drinks much higher than its price point. A Can’t Miss!
 
Marques De La Concordia Crianza 2009
 
Rioja, Spain
 
Cash Price $10.99  
 
 
Concordia 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!

 

Michel Cazevieille Red Blend 2009

St. Chinian, France

Cash Price $9.49

 
I had the joy of helping this very small family of four harvest their old vine, biodynamic crops last year.  This winery was easily the most impressive wine that I tried in the Languedoc.  I found St. Chinian to have the most expressive terroir with layers of chalky red dirt on top of a bedrock of limestone.  The Tre Montagne wind, loud and constant, keeps the bacteria and bugs away and allows for ample growth. The Blend is primarily Grenache and Syrah. Flavors of rich red berries and cherries explode on the palate and sinew smoothly into soft, enriching tannins.  Notes of red clay give the wine a earthy complexity which gives way to just a kiss of oak.  The finish is long and supple.  This wine is an absolute steal and the best under $10 that you will try all year!
 
 
 
JAMES BARLOW’S TOP PICK OF 2013
 
 
VIEUX CERTAN ‘LA GRAVETTE’ RED 2010
POMEROL, FRANCE
CASH PRICE $74.99
 
From the first sup of this wine, I knew it would be the best that I would put on my lips this year.  Vieux Certan makes some of the best Merlot/Cabernet Franc blends in the world.  The past several vintages have become lighting in a bottle for the owners of this dynamic winery.  Alexandre Thienpont is producing the best wines of his career and the 2010 vintage was the crème de la crème.  La Gravette is the second label of Vieux Certan and is considered probably the best value, price wise, that came out of the 2010’s.  This complex, voluptuous gem is intense from the first taste.  Flavors of black cherries and raspberry jump off the palate with smoothly integrated acids and thick, sexy tannins.  Notes of graphite and licorice sing into the core with hints of tea leaf and mocha.  The finish is deliciously long with hints of black fruit, sweet cinnamon, and toasted oak.  Gravette is perfectly rounded and gorgeously opulent for a Bordeaux blend.  Robert Parker gave this wine 93 points.  Only 2 cases available!

Thank You,  

James C. Barlow

Certified Sommelier

Certified Specialist of Wine

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