James Barlow’s ‘The Thirteen’ Wines of Christmas

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,   Happy Holidays to all of my wonderful readers and customers!  This month’s blog will focus on several uber geeky wines that will be perfect presents and stocking stuffers for Christmas. I will also give you some great value selections that will be a definite hit at your table or party this holiday season.  Thank You all immensely for being a part of my blog and I am excited to lead you all into my new chapter of this blog called thewineepicure.com. If you have not switched over, please do so NOW because I will no longer be posting blogs on the YahooGroups format starting the new year.   All you have to do is reply to this email with the word ‘SWITCH’ and I will send you an e-vite to join the new blog. Thank You and Merry Christmas from My Family to Yours!  Several of these reviews are not MY critiques, but from reputable sources.  
Domaine Pegau Red Blend 2010
Chateauneuf du Pape, France
Cash Price $95.94  
This wine was the #7 wine in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 wines for 2013.  I will let Wine Spectator do the talking for this wine.  The wine received 97 Points!   Intense, with the tarry, bittersweet cocoa-fueled grip of the vintage running through a well-endowed core of crushed plum, blackberry paste and braised fig. The muscular finish picks up notes of brick dust, pepper, warm chestnut leaf and smoldering charcoal. A throwback profile, with a hyperripe core of fruit—and it works. Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and others. Best from 2015 through 2035. 6,580 cases made. –JM
Valdicava Brunello di Montacino
Tuscany, Italy
Cash Price $136.39
Robert Parker 95 Points, Wine Spectator 95 Points, James Suckling 97 Points from the vintage of the decade in Tuscany.
95                     points                 Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate                                  The 2006 Brunello di Montalcino flows with gorgeous layers of dark red fruit. This is one of the more muscular, virile wines of the vintage. Slow to reveal its character, the Valdicava Brunello will require significant patience, but I have seen the wine blossom beautifully, even in the smallest of vintages. A blast of iron, smoke, tar, licorice and new leather inform the deep, intense finish. This is a hugely promising, brilliant Brunello from proprietor Vincenzo Abbruzzese, but it needs to be buried in the cellar for at least a few years…Anticipated maturity: 2016-2031.                                                             (5/ 2011)  
Fourteen Appellations Red Blend 2008
Napa Valley, California
Cash Price $75.99  
93 Points & Gold Medal from Tastings.com   The 2008 vintage of FOURTEEN is a blend of 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot from all fourteen sub-appellations within the Napa Valley.  This wine combines elegant aromas of ripe bing cherries and blackberries with the richness of roasted vanilla and mocha.  This is a complex and layered wine, firm tannin structure, moderately dry but plenty of darker fruit and a lasting finish.  Enjoy with a nice filet mignon.  This wine is reflective of the vintage and is age worthy.  Only 800 cases produced.   Winemaker Steve Reynolds states, “2008 is a great vintage and many winemakers prefer it to 2007 because of the softness and beauty of the fruit balance, and I agree.  This wine should rate well and be rock star for our last release of the number ’14’.”     Oakville Eastern Exposure Cabernet 2008 Napa Valley, California Cash Price $70.99   91 Points Wine Enthusiast!   A ripe, elaborate Cabernet, offering a blast of fruit in the flashiest way. Wows with tiers of blackberries, black cherries, cassis, cocoa, cool mint, spice and smoked meat that are almost sweet, but the finish is dry. The powerful oak overlay is perfectly in keeping with the wine’s volume. Some sharpness throughout is a minor fault. – Steve Heimhoff
Kesselstatt ‘Josephshofer’ GG Riesling 2010
Mosel, Germany
Cash Price $51.99
The  ‘GG’ or Grosse Gewaches wines are considered the best quality wines that are made in all of Germany.  Kesselstatt is one of the oldest producers in Germany and most certainly the Mosel.  The ‘GG’ wines are typically on the drier side, but may have just a hint of sweetness.
92 Points Wine Spectator
A ripe, broad-textured Riesling, offering flavors of baked peach, apple tart and glazed citrus. Interesting notes of anise emerge as well. Finishes with allspice and hints of vanilla. Best from 2012 through 2020.   –KM
La Sirene de Giscours 2005
Margaux, France
Cash Price $45.69
La Sirene de Giscours is the ‘second  label’ wine from this iconic winery.  Chateaux Giscours is the famed 3rd Growth  winery in Margaux.  Margaux is known for producing a sexier style of Cabernet,  Merlot blends on the Left Bank in Bordeaux.  I have always found that this  winery over-produces for the price tag.  Second label wines are becoming quite  the hot commodity due to the exorbitant prices of the wines coming out of  Bordeaux in the past several vintages.  This offering from the 2005 vintage is absolutely stunning!  The wine was slightly closed off in its youth, but is just now starting to find its course as the delicious fruits are starting to focus.  Flavors of red berry and red cherry which sink into thick, full tannins and eloquent acids.  Hints of  toasted oak and smidgeons of plum sinew deftly throughout this intensely focused wine.  Notes of french vanilla and potpourri lay on a bed  of gravel terrior with bits of cedar and tonneau.   The 2005 vintage was gorgeous in Bordeaux and this is a great expression without breaking the bank.  
Rupert ‘Nemesia’ White Blend 2006
Franschoek, South Africa
Cash Price $50.38
This Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Viognier blend is absolutely decadent!  Nemesia is hand-crafted from specific sites to assure complete complexity and blended with absolute care with 6 months of oak aging to produce an amazingly dynamic wine.  Rupert may be the perfect wine to pair with all the holiday fixings.  Decadently rich flavors of lemon and lychee sing into round notes of vanilla oak and stony minerals which play into a medley of delicious spices.  The flavors continue with complex notes of violet, lilac, and ripe white fruits.  Nemesia is intensely aromatic and power packed full of flavor.  The finish is soft and tantalizing with just a kiss of spice.  Ageing has rounded this wine out and given it more baked characteristics, but it is peaking and drinking beautifully right now!  Open this at your Christmas feast!
Andre Clouet N/V
Champagne, France
Cash Price $37.99
Andre Clouet is a Grand Cru Champagne producer from the region of Bouzy.  Grand Cru Champagne is produced from only the finest vineyards in the region.  Most of the BIG name producers that you buy from Champagne are NOT Grand Cru wines, but from many different vineyard sites throughout the region.  They may be of good quality, but most are not Grand Cru status.  This Champagne exudes royalty from the first sup.  Flavors of green apple and citrus explode on the palate with deliciously tight bubbles.  Delightfully soft notes of baked apple pie and toasted crème brulee flicker throughout the mid palate with a medley of fresh white flowers sinewing eloquently from start to finish.  The backbone of this exquisite bubbly has a chalky Belemnite minerality racing through the core that finishes with a smashingly clean and lip smacking acidity.  This wine is impeccably made and one of my favorite sparklers in the world!  Wine Advocate gave this wine 90 Points!
Marriamero ‘Inferi’ Montepulciano 2009
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Italy
Cash Price $29.99
The 2007 vintage of this wine was my TOP PICK of the year a couple of years ago.  This winery is one of the best small producing wineries in the entire region.  The Montepulciano grape is sort of like Cabernet in flavor and body profile.  Inferi is powerfully expressive with thick, dark fruits of black currand and black cherries that explode on the palate and sing into flavors of toasted fig leaves and tobacco which slowly sinks beautifully into notes of creamy vanilla cedar.  The oak is prevalent throughout this beefy wine with notes of toasted hazelnut and pecan that sink into hints of savory meats.  Bits of sweet spices play throughout the finish with brooding tannins and licks of ripe plum.  This wine is deliciously sleek with thickly concentreated fruits that will keep the palate craving more!  This wine drinks closer to the $100 price point than its actual price!    
Arcadian ‘Fiddlestix Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2007
Sta Rita Hills, California
Cash Price $48.99
93    – Wine Advocate, Antonio Galloni   – 2012
The more exotic side of Pinot comes through in the 2007 Pinot Noir Fiddlestix. Ash, smoke, incense, savory herbs and dark red cherries form part of a rich tapestry of aromas and flavors in this utterly beguiling and intriguing wine.  There is a level of aromatics and flavor complexity this is unusual for Santa Rita Hills Pinot, except for in a few spots.  Fiddlestix is one of those.  I also tasted the 2002, which captures the pedigree of these volcanic soils in a dark, brooding style that at  times recalls Aglianico.  Both vintages show the complexity and pedigree this site is capable of expressing.  Anticipated maturity: 2012-2017
Block 303 Cabernet 2010
Rutherford, California
Cash Price $19.94
Most of you know the amazing quality that the Block Series has produced over the years.  These wines have become iconic for offering great quality wines under $20.  The Rutherford Valley has become renowned for growing terrior-driven Cabernet that has a distinct ‘Rutherford Dust’ flavor in the wines produced from this region.  Block 303 is brilliantly concentrated with divine flavors of blackberry, cassis and black raspberry that reach into voluptuous tannins which envelope the palate with hints of dusty, alluvial soil.  Notes of rich mocha chocolate and vanillin fall into ripe acids that give depth and complexity to the mouth feel.  The finish is long and tantalizing with smooth notes of clove and cedar that linger on the palate for a wonderfully long time.  This is the perfect gift wine!
Expression 38 Chardonnay 2010
Sonoma Coast, California
Cash Price $19.94
The Expression line is known for making excellent Pinot Noir and Chardonnay throughout California and Oregon.  This delicious treat was formed in the Petaluma Gap area of the Sonoma Coast.  The wine maker takes full liberty in using full malolactic fermentation, rich lees aging, and new French oak which leads to a thick and richly textured wine.  Flavors of ripe tropical fruits burst on the palate, but quickly sink into notes of creamy butter, toasted hazelnut, and salted caramel. Light acids play through the core of the wine, but never take charge.  This wine is about the opulent and complex mouth feel. The finish is soft and plush with a roundness that envelops the palate.  Hedonistic California Chardonnay!
Yalumba Viognier 2012
Eden Valley, Australia
Cash Price $17.99
 I Love Viognier that is done well.  Yalumba is a quality winery out of South Australia and this is my favorite white wine they produce.  The nose is packed full of white flowers.  The palate offers flavors of ripe, tropical fruits of melon, guava and apricot sinew easily through soft, yet focused acids.  The wine is unencumbered by oak, but does has some lees aging that gives notes of hazel and cream.  The finish gives delicious tasty stone fruits with hints of nectarine and  mango.  Delicious treat that will be a great pairing with most fowl or ham dishes!    
Thank You,
James C. Barlow
Certified Sommelier
Certified Specialist of Wine
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