Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

My favorite time of the year is fast approaching.  Thanksgiving is a special time when family and friends come together to break bread and be Thankful for the blessings that have been bestowed upon us.  As a Wine Professional, I get giddy this time of the year because it allows me to pick out excellent wines to pair with your feast.  You put your faith in my abilities to pair the perfect balance of fruit, acid, and tannin with the foods that took you all day to cook.  I do not take this task lightly.  Thank you all for choosing me to guide you through the wonderful world of wine this year.  I hope you all have blessed and bountiful holiday.  HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Schramsberg Cremant Sparkling Demi Sec 2009

North Coast, California

Cash Price $35.99

Schramsberg is often referred to as ‘America’s House of Sparkling Wine’.  They use Methode Champenoise (traditional style of Champagne) to produced their vividly deliciously sparkling wines.  The wine is uniquely American in style.  The cepage is 80% Flora, which is a cross of Semillon and Gewurztraminer that was developed at UC Davis in California, with the more traditional varietals of 17% Chardonnay and 3% Pinot Noir.  Flora shows the fruitiness of Gewruztraminer combined with the structure, roundness and depth of Semillon.  It is aged on its lees for two and a half years prior to disgorgement which adds complexity.  The wine is off-dry with three and a half grams of residual sugar which gives it a subtle sweetness.  Supple flavors of lemon meringue pie move softly through delicate bubbles that weave through notes of pineapple and nectarine with slight hints of candied raspberries encompassed by an easy acidity.  The finish is creamy with smidgeons of gingerbread, confection and crème brulee.  This is an absolutely stunning sparkler that will be a perfect start for the Turkey day Festivities!

Usseglio ‘Cuvee Girano’ Red Blend 2011

Chateauneuf Du Pape, France

Cash Price $44.99

The 2011 vintage was a tough one for Grenache, but this Grenache based blend is the ridiculously good.  I love pairing Chateauneuf Du Pape with Thanksgiving Day foods.  The wines are approachable and truly enhance everything on your table.  Flavors of ripe red cherry and red currant sinew into integrated, yet firm tannins and acids.  The mid palate is what performs for this wine.  Notes of roasted stones and bacon fat lead into smoke and black pepper.  The finish offers a medley of red berries, vanilla cream and just a touch of licorice.  Usseglio is built to impress the family and have the in-laws begging for more!  Stephen Tanzer and Robert Parker scored this wine 91 points.

Edu Pulenta Gran Pinot Noir 2011

Uco Valley, Argentina

Cash Price $39.89

The Uco Valley is nestled at the feet of the Andes Mountains in the picturesque region of Mendoza.  Pulenta is a brand that world renowned wine maker Paul Hobbs has put his personal stamp on, as he is a consultant for the winery.  Pinot Noir is a classic pairing for Turkey as it is lighter with minimal tannins and higher acidity, so it can cut through the dryness of white meat.  Flavors of strawberry and wild red berries burst off the palate with a creamy velvet core.  Notes of cola and all spice seep through the mid palate and slowly integrate into hints of cigar box and milk chocolate. The finish shows off the 12 months in 50% new French oak with silky tones of toasted oak and vanilla bean that lingers on the palate nicely.  Spectacular Pinot Noir!

Janzen Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $46.29

Janzen is a Cabernet that you open when you really want to impress your guest.  Rock star wine maker Kirk Venge molded this wine and knocked it out of the park.  I recently tasted through a vertical of Janzen with Kyle Janzen and was blown away by the purity and richness of the 2011.  He let me in on a secret as well.  This wine has a portion of the hallowed To Kalon vineyard fruit in it.  Thick flavors of blackberry and black cherry sink deftly into jammed framboise and plum.  The mid palate offers loads of dark chocolate with medium plus tannins and medium acids.  The finish is silky smooth with toasted oak and vanilla from new and used French barrels and a long, lingering mouth feel.  James Suckling gave this wine 93 points.  I would tend to agree with that rating.  A ‘WOW’ Cabernet!

Rupert & Rothschild ‘Baroness Nadine’ Chardonnay 2010

Western Cape, South Africa

Cash Price $24.89

Forged by two wine dynasties, the Rupert’s of Huguenot ancestry and the Rothschild’s of 1st Growth Bordeaux acclaim, this Chardonnay has all the characteristics of aristocracy and history.  World-renowned wine maker Michel Roland helps give this 100% Chardonnay its Old World complexity combined with New World fruit to make a complete Chardonnay that rivals Burgundy.  Slow and meticulous harvesting gives ultra rich flavors of citrus blossom, green apple and melon that combine with a succulent honeycomb and nougat flavor that melds into a decadent vanilla oak core with 11 months of French oak aging.  The profile is divine with curves that are built to pair with any white meat dish.  I was quite impressed at the expressiveness of this Chardonnay. 

Ampelos Pinot Noir 2013

Sta. Rita Hills, California

Cash Price $23.99

Ampelos has been one of my favorite California producers for many years.  Their philosophy of being organic, biodynamic, and sustainable make them one of the ‘greenest’ wineries in America.  The grapes were hand harvested and allowed to start a natural fermentation.  The wine is un-fined, unfiltered, and 100%  Pinot Noir.  Flavors of dark cherries and raspberry sing into a rich cola and brown molasses core.  Notes of wild red berries meld  with medium acids and minimal tannins.  The finish offers hints of Asian spice and Moreno cherries with a touch of butterscotch and vanilla from French oak aging.  Ampelos will be open on my table at Thanksgiving!

Chateau Tour Leognan Blanc 2012

Pessac Leognan, France

Cash Price $23.99

Chateau Tour Leognan is the 2nd label of famed Chateau Carbonnieux in Pessac Leognan.  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.

Schild Estate Shiraz 2011

Barossa Valley, Australia

Cash Price $19.94

Shiraz is a great pairing wine because it can be quite versatile in its flavor profile.  I often pass on Australian wine, but have been impressed with the quality from top to bottom with this winery.  It has become the darling of wine critics abroad and with good reason.  Voluptuous flavors of dark plum and currant are built on medium tannins and acids.  Notes of licorice, black pepper and toasted oak from 18 months of French oak aging are prevalent with an inky, dense core.  The finish offers leather, tobacco and dark cocoa with smidgeons of gamey complexity and a creamy, polished mouth feel.  This wine has a lot going on for a little price!

Castellargo ‘Albus’ White Blend 2011

Friuli, Italy

Cash Price $14.99

Albus is a refreshingly fun white blend of Friulano, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc.  Whites coming out of Friuli tend to be Pinot Grigio, so it is nice to see what the region has to offer other than its acclaimed varietal.  This plush, aromatic white exudes tasty flavors of white peach, nectarines, and lemon peel.  Hints of almond mingle easily with notes of apricot and freshly picked meadow flowers.  The wine does not see any oak, but does have a surprising roundness on the palate that gives it just a touch of richness.  Albus gives moderate acidity and exudes bits of lychee on the finish.  Castellargo is a great value white that will pair with any fowl on your plate! 

Jax Y3 ‘Taureau’ Red Blend 2011

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $19.94

Kirk Venge is the master mind behind this decadent red wine.  It is a blend of mainly Merlot and  Syrah with smidgeons of Cabernet and Zinfandel.  The wine was named after the tenacious family bull which reminds them of this wine.  2011 was a difficult vintage for Napa Valley, but Kirk was undaunted and produced this gem.  Flavors of ripe red raspberry and cherry roll into sleek, well integrated tannins and acids.  The core offers a soft creamy texture with round fruits of currant and plum.  The finish is rich and long with notes of vanilla, cedar and cinnamon.  Taureau is a crowd pleaser!

Predator Old Vine Zinfandel 2013

Lodi, California

Cash Price $15.99

The grapes in this wine were grown on 50+ year old vines and it really shows in the intensity of Predator.  Dense flavors of black cherry and blackberry are encompassed by medium tannins and acids.  The core of the wine shows bacon fat and smoky mesquite that is wrapped in black pepper and plum. Predator will pair with well with fried chicken and green bean casserole.  This is an Old Vine Zin worth seeking out!

Oregon 99 West 2012

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cash Price $15.99

The Willamette Valley offer wines with the panache of California, but the complexity of Burgundy.  The region has longer amounts 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.  Flavors of eloquent red cherry and cranberry play into medium plus acidity.  The mid palate offers notes of pomegranate and red roses with minimal tannins.  The finish shows hints of potpourri and vanilla bean with just a kiss of oak aging.  Great value Pinot Noir! 

Morgues du Gres ‘Les Galets’ Rose 2013

Costieres de Nimes, France

Cash Price $12.99

Inevitably, I always have a Rose open for Thanksgiving.  Probably because they are amazingly versatile to pair with food.  Morgues is a blend of 50% Syrah, 40% Grenache, and 10% Mourvedre. The region is on the southern end of the Rhone Valley, not far from the famed Rose AOC of Tavel.  Flavors of wild raspberry and cranberry flow seamlessly through vibrant acids and minimal tannins.  The mid palate offers a hint of roundness with rose petals and wild flowers with fresh bing cherries.  The finish is supple a refreshing with hints of spice.  This is a serious Rose that will pair quite nicely with cranberry sauce and stuffing. 

Thank You,
James C. Barlow

Certified Wine Educator

Certified Sommelier

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  1. Crystal says:

    James!!!! This is your best wine list by far and am so excited to try all of them!! Have you thought of doing a package deal through Specs with all of these selected wines? I would buy it!!!

  2. randycz says:

    James: I will be by to pick these up Saturday. Randy

  3. Ashby, Frank H. says:

    Good evening, James and thanks for your monthly email. I don’t know if you remember Gail and I but you arranged for our friends to join us back in February for our 30th anniversary dinner at The Crescent Moon. As you may or may not remember we were literally headed out the door for a three year assignment in Stavanger. Well we are now “Off The Rock “ for our annual home leave and need you advice once again. We are entertaining some very special folks during our four weeks home and will be having a wide variety foods which require both reds and whites. I can come by the store in The Woodlands if you will there there tomorrow ( Monday ) to discuss if you can spare 15-20 mins. My cell is listed below or you can send an SMS.

    Kindest Regards,

    Frank Ashby. Jr. Drilling Engineering Advisor Hess Norges AS (O) +47 5021 4778 (C) +1 281-723-4443

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