Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

Tax season is upon us and many are penny pinching to get through this trying time of the year.  Nothing pairs better with writing your friendly government representative a check than a nice glass of wine to ease the pain.  This month I have chosen a medley of wines under $20 that are of outstanding quality and great value for your perusal. Enjoy!

Block 955 Proprietary Red Blend 2012

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $19.94

The Block series has always produced excellent value for what is in the bottle.  This red is a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc that has been aged in French and American oak for 23 months.  The 2012 vintage is turning out to be a stellar year for Napa Valley with plush, hedonistic fruit and balanced structure.  Block exudes flavors of plum, currant and cassis, that are encompassed by notes of creamy mocha, tobacco and roasted nuts.  The tannins and acids are medium and well integrated.  The finish offers hints of vanilla, caramel and cedar with just a touch of graham cracker.  The wine is an Absolute steal and worthy of buying by the case while it is available!

Jean Baptiste Adam Cremant Rose N/V

Alsace, France

Cash Price $19.94

I am always on the lookout for quality sparkling wines.  I have often found the best value outside of the region of Champagne, yet still in the confines of France.  Methode Champenoise sparkling wines made outside Champagne, France are called ‘Cremant’ (pronounced (Cray-mawn).  The term originally indicated that the sparkling wine was less bubbly, but it is generally used as a catch all for sparkling wine outside of Champagne now.  In 2014, Jean-Baptiste Adam anniversary of their family being grape growers and winemakers in Alsace.  The winery is one the leaders in biodynamic farming.  This 100% Pinot Noir is spectacular!  Vibrant pink hues flow into the glass with a bouquet of rose petals and wild strawberries.  The palate offers red fruits of cherry and currant with touches of fleshy wild berries.  The finish offers hints of raspberry and cream which flows seamlessly into a crisp, yet elegant finish.  Perfect Summer Sparkler!

Chateau Castera Red Blend 2009

Bordeaux, France

Cash Price 18.99

Castera is a Cru Bourgeois winery that is held to higher standards than the regular AOP wines of the area.  The 2009 vintage was one to behold in Bordeaux.  Bright, sunny days and cool nights helped the grapes reach full potential ripeness while retaining acidity and structure.  The wine is Merlot based with a heavy dollop of Cabernet and touches of Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot.  Ripe flavors of blackberry and black cherry sing through medium plus tannins and medium acids.  Notes of black currant are displayed through hints of cinnamon and clove.  The finish offers sweet spices with licks of vanilla and a smidgeon of roasted meat and freshly brewed coffee.  Awesome wine from a vintage that is sure to dazzle!

Tobias Chardonnay 2012

North Coast, California

Cash Price $17.99

The grapes from this wine come from the cooler climate of Mendocino county.  When searching for a Chardonnay, I try to find one that has balance which is not overly oaked or ‘malo-ed’.  Tobias only goes through 30% malolactic fermentation which gives the wine touches of butter and cream that do not over power the fruit or acidity.  This wine has medium acids with tropical fruits of pineapple and melon with citrus notes of green apples and lemon blossoms.  The finish shows touches of melted butter and almonds with just a kiss of oak.  Tobias is beautifully balanced and the new wave in California Chardonnay!

Garrison McBride Cabernet 2011

Sonoma County, California

Cash Price $15.59

This wine is brand new to the Spec’s portfolio and I couldn’t be happier with the juice in the bottle at this price point.  Powerful and richly concentrated, McBride offers medium plus tannins and medium acids.  The wine is a classic Bordeaux style, yet with sleek, ripe fruits.  Flavors of dark plum and black cherry sink into a jammy black raspberry.  The fruits turn into  blueberry on the mid palate and notes of milk chocolate and coffee beans start to come forward.  The finish is chalked full of vanilla, cedar and tobacco which lingers on the palate for a delightfully long time.  Awesome Value Cabernet!

Aya Malbec 2012

San Juan, Argentina

Cash Price $16.99

The new vintage of Aya is even better than the last.  Argentina is a beacon for value reds in the wine world.  Aya honors the land that saw its birth with generous sun, scarce rains and cool nights.  All of these conditions make it possible to grow well balanced grapes, which in turn, make awesome wines.  This wine offers flavors of thick, jammy plum with red cherries and pomegranate.  Notes of toasted cedar and hazelnuts sink into the core with medium plus tannins and medium acids.  The finish offers a medley of cigar box, leather and roasted mocha.  Argentina strikes again!

Waterford Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Elgin, South Africa

Cash Price $14.99

Waterford is one of the best quality producers in all of South Africa.  The way they balance fruit and terrior is second to none.  This wine is different than your New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc because of the lees aging.  Letting a wine age on its lees gives the wine more weight and texture which shows a nuttier complexity.  Waterford exudes succulent fruits of melon, fresh lemons, and guava.  The mouth feel is rounder and fuller than your typical Sauvignon Blanc while still retaining excellent acidity through the core of the wine.  The lees aging gives the wine a softer feel with hints of hazelnut and butterscotch.  The finish is clean and pure without any trace of oak. This is a wine that a Chardonnay drinker will love, but will also please the Sauvignon Blanc/Pinot Grigio lover in your household.  Waterford wines are a no brainer!

La Flor Rose of Malbec 2013

Mendoza, Argentina

Cash Price $13.99

Rose season is coming quickly! I am always excited to see the new vintages of Dry Rose that are released around this time every year.  La Flor is the 2nd label of famed Pulenta Estates which are imported by legendary wine maker Paul Hobbs.  The Malbec grapes are specifically grown for producing stellar Rose wine.  Carbonic maceration is implemented to retain freshness and vibrant color.  Flavors of ripe strawberry and watermelon seep through clean, refreshing acids.   Hints of red apple, raspberries and rose petals dance through the core with tantalizing appeal.  Thank God its Rose season!

Butera Nero D’Avola 2012

Sicily, Italy

Cash Price $12.99

I have consistently found this wine to be of outstanding value in every vintage.  Nero D’Avola is an indigenous varietal of Sicily that has fleshy fruits and medium body, which makes it perfect for summer.  Ripe flavors of black cherry and blackberry play through sleek medium acids and tannins.  The fruit turns slightly stewed on the mid palate with hints of brown sugar and scorched plum.  The finish shows cinnamon, mocha and tinges of coffee grinds. Butera is a very versatile wine that will pair well with numerous dishes.

Smythe and Renfield Chardonnay 2013

Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

Cash Price $11.89

Hawkes Bay is located on the North Island and is considered one of the finest regions for growing Chardonnay in all of New Zealand.   This Chardonnay displays flavors of citrus  and lemon lime that begins to turn more tropical in the mid palate.  Notes of peach and apricot sink through medium acids and just a kiss of oak.  The finish is clean and expressive with notes of vanilla,fig and apple blossom.  True Value Chardonnay with excellent balance!


Anselme Rose 2013

Provence, France

Cash Price $9.49

Deliciously dry with fruits of cranberry, wild red berries and strawberry.  Sweet tart on the finish.

Domiane de Gournier Grenache 2010

Vin de Pays, France

Cash Price $8.99

Fresh and fruity with flavors of red cherry, plum and raspberry followed by a touch of garrigue.  Well balanced and un oaked.

Arrumaco Verdejo 2014


Cash Price $6.99

100% Verdejo with fresh fruit flavors of mango, nectarine and melon.  Zingy acids with a touch of almond on the finish.  Perfect porch sipper!

Thank You,

James C. Barlow

Certified Wine Educator

Certified Sommelier

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  1. Ron Saikowski says:

    Can SPEC’s pre-package your 13 for marketing in stores and also deliver to Texas consumers throughout the State of Texas? I would like your 13. I think I can come by on Saturday. When will you start your wine dinners at the Black Sheep?

    Ronald A. Saikowski WINE WALK Columnist

    304 North Main Street, suite #1

    Conroe, Texas 77301

    Cell (713) 252-3729

    rsaikowski@comcast.net (Home)

    rsaikowski@consolidated.net (Office)

    • I’m sure if you contacted the owners, they would take it under consideration. I think you can leave comments and queries on specsonline.com. It’s a great idea. I will put a box of the thirteen aside for you if you would like. FYI, if you buy all thirteen then you get case price on the entire selections. Black Sheep owners have had a hard time opening their new restaurant, The Italian Joint, which was where I was supposed to hold the wine dinners. I think it officially opened this week, so maybe sometime this summer. I will keep you up to date on any events that become scheduled. Thank you for your input!

  2. randycz says:


    We are out of town the next two weekends. Can you save this case and we’ll pick it up with the May selections?


  3. absolutely. See you in May.

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