Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,
I hope everyone was able to brave the torrential rain that has pounded Texas this past month. On the bright side, most of our lakes are finally back to normal after the long drought that Texas has endured the past several years. The bright and shiny sunlight has returned and brought the scorching heat with it. This months picks highlight the lighter style of wines with refreshing acids and softer tannins. Sit back, relax, and enjoy one (or several!) of my picks this month!
Scholium Project ‘Gardens of Babylon’ Red Blend 2012
Suisun Valley, California
Cash Price $44.64
I am extremely pleased to offer this cult wine from famed wine maker Abe Schoener. Scholium, Greek for school or scholarship, is a project meant to highlight wines off the beaten path with Abe, student of John Kongsgaard, at the helm. He has blazed a reputation throughout California as a rebel wine maker that produces pure, terroir driven wines with the intent to highlight the natural side of wine making. This wine is a blend do 60% Petite Sirah, 30% Cabernet, with a touch of Cinsault and Syrah. 90% of the fruit comes from the Babylon and Wolfskill vineyards tended by Steve Tenbrinks. This wine is pure and complexly driven from the start. Flavors of blackberry and black cherry are lead into medium plus acidity and medium plus tannins. Notes of all spice and black pepper sink through richly textured flavors of blueberry pie, confection and vanilla. The finish offers tinges of wild flowers and rose petals with touches of bramble and herbs. This is definitely a thinking man’s wine. Very limited quantity available!
Leadbelly Pinot Noir 2013
Russian River Valley, California
Cash Price $29.99
I love when Pinot Noir season is upon us! It is easily one of my favorite varietals because of its complexity and versatility. This 100% Pinot Noir is a classic example from a glorious vintage. The 2012 and 2013 vintages are shaping up to be very high quality with a possibility of being considered the best of the decade. Time will tell, but the wines that I have tasted are fabulous!. This wine exudes flavors of wild red cherries and raspberry that become entangled with touches of cola and anise. The wine has medium plus acids and medium minus tannins. Notes of wild red flowers and silky strawberry give way to hints of forest floor, button mushroom, and kitchen spices. The finish is plush and giving with a velvety texture that lingers on the palate beautifully. Classic Pinot from a classic vintage!
Contadi Castaldi Brut Sparkling N/V
Cash Price $23.99
I think the sparkling wines from Franciacorta are some of the best value bubblies in the world. They use the Methode Champenoise (traditional method) of Champagne and implement specific aging requirements that give the ensuing sparklers added complexity and at a better price point than that of Champagne. Contadi Castaldi is my ‘go to’ sparkler when showing people the deliciousness of the wines from this area because of its intense quality and great price point. This wine is primarily Chardonnay with touches of Pinot Noir and Pinot Bianco and aged for seven months in stainless steel and barrique, then spends 20-26 months aging on its lees for complexity. Flavors of citrus, green apples and white peach sing through the palate with small tight bubbles. The wine has a thirst quenching mentality with medium plus acids that play through hints of meadow flowers and honey with licks of confection and cream. Wine Enthusiast 91 Points!
Chateau Pontac Lynch Red Blend 2011
Cash Price $29.99
How can I review a Bordeaux in June you ask? Well, Margaux is considered the lighter, more elegant red wine of the left bank. I have been extremely impressed with the 2011 vintage in Bordeaux. As most of you know, the 2009 & 2010 vintages were some of the finest that Bordeaux has produced back to back in quite awhile, so I think that this vintage will end up become the Great Value vintage of this era. Pontac Lynch is consistently high quality at a great price point as their property is adjacent to the Grand Cru Classe vineyard of Rauzan Segla and D’Issan. This sustainably farmed wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with touches of Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot. This wine is young but quite approachable right now. Flavors of black currant and black cherry dance into nuanced acids and lively tannins. Notes of cigar box and leather play through the mid palate with tinges of cedar and sandalwood. The finish offers hints of mocha and vanilla bean that lead into a long, lingering finish. Fall in love with Bordeaux this summer!
Castello Di Ama Rosato 2013
Cash Price $18.99
Nestled in the heart of Chianti Classico, this winery is one of the highest quality in all of Tuscany and easily my favorite Rose producer in all of Italy. The wine is Sangiovese/Merlot based and the saignee (bleeding off) method is used to produce this wine. This Rose is deliciously dry with bright bing cherries and wild strawberries that sinew gracefully through medium plus acids. Notes of freshly picked rose petals and lilacs quaff nicely on the mouth. The mid palate offers a touch of roundness and hints a creamy texture with 40% malolactic fermentation. The finish is all red with hints of cranberry and red apples. Stunning Rose and a must have in your shopping basket this month!
Edu Pulenta Malbec 2011
Cash Price $24.99
Recently I hosted a class at Spec’s Oak Ridge North on quality and terroir in Argentina, specifically Mendoza Valley. We had a PHD in terroir showing us how he was looking for the best dirt that the region had to offer. Well, Paul Hobbs is of that same mentality. He is a Sonoma guy that has found some of the best vineyard sites in all of Argentina and he now imports the wines from these areas to the United States for our tasting pleasure. I am pleased to see the market starting to focus on quality Malbec over quantity Malbec. This 100% Malbec by wine maker Javier Lo Forte is truly outstanding. The wine has a balance and finesse that belies the typically rugged texture of Malbec. Silky flavors of blueberry and plum seep through the dark purple neon color. Medium plus acids and tannins are noticeable but play second fiddle to the beautiful fruit flavors. Notes of black cherry and fig touch through the mid palate with jammed raspberry. The finish is wonderfully balanced with hints of cedar, almond, milk chocolate and just a touch of vanillin. Perfect Rodeo wine!
Dr. Frank Dry Rieling 2014
Finger Lakes, New York
Cash Price $14.39
I am an ardent supporter of Riesling, especially the Dry style. Riesling is the most versatile white grape on earth with an amazing range of flavor profiles and styles. The dry version of this variety has become a darling of the Sommelier community and is quickly gaining traction as the next trend of popularity in the wine world. I am truly excited to see this movement and hope you will join me in the next revolution of the American wine palate. Dr. Frank is producing some of the best wines in the United States and easily some of the best Riesling on the market. Farmed on the shores of Keuka Lake, this wine has a crispness and minerality that give it old world characteristics with low alcohol and medium plus acidity. Lively flavors of under ripe green apples and citrus lemon zing through the palate. Notes of pear and melon seep into the mid palate with hints of white peach. The finish is pure and clean with smidgeons of wet stones and white flowers. Join the revolution!
Giovanni Rosso Nebbiolo 2012
Cash Price $23.74
This iconic winery has been producing wines from the famed Serralunga d’Alba region for over 100 years. They are known to produce spectacular Barolo. The grape of Barolo is Nebbiolo. Barolo is delicious, but pricey! A great way to see if this noble varietal is suitable for your palate is to try the introductory version out of the hills of Langhe. Refeshing flavors of bright red cherries and pomegranate are encompassed by medium plus/high acids and medium plus tannins. Notes of rose petals and violets quaff through hints of forest floor and portobello mushroom. Touches of vanilla and white pepper slide into the finish with tinges of cranberry tart. This wine is a perfect backyard BBQ wine for the stifling summer heat!
Kono Sauvignon Blanc 2014
Marlborough, New Zealand
Cash Price $12.19
Kono is one of the more consistent selling Sauvignon Blanc’s in Spec’s portfolio. It is the 2nd label of Tohu winery and has absolutely caught fire in the market the past couple of years. It recently received 89 points from Wine Spectator, which is quite impressive for the nominal price point. Completely unoaked, this Sauvignon is juicy and vivacious from start to finish. Flavors of granny smith apple and citrus lemon-lime zest zing through medium plus acids. Notes of ripe and dripping grapefruit are prevalent on the with palate with smidgeons of jalapeño jam and finely chopped herbs. Perfect summer party wine that would pair insanely with oysters on the half shell!
Yalumba ‘Patchwork’ Shiraz 2013
Barossa Valley, Australia
Cash price $17.99
Yalumba (Aboriginee for ‘all the land around’) is the oldest family owned winery in Australia with roots going back 160 years and 5 generations. They also produce some of the finest wines under $20 in Australia. This classic Barossa Shiraz is loaded with fruit. Flavors of dark cherry and rhubarb lay on a bed of herbs and cocoa with medium acids and tannins. Ripe and juicy, this wine’s mid palate offers touches of smoke and tar with stewed plum and licorice. The finish is supple and inviting with hints of cream and truffle. It’s a Rock Solid Shiraz that has Australia showing the quality that the consumer is looking for!
Shelby Grant Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Napa Valley, California
Cash Price $16.99
Shelby Grant is a new addition to Spec’s portfolio and I couldn’t be happier. I am always on the hunt for great Cabs under $20 and they hit the nail on the head with this wine. Vibrant flavors of cassis and blackberry rumble through med tannins and acids with hints of cigar box and leather. Notes of sweet black cherry play on the mid palate with tobacco and a creamy core. The finish is chalked full of vanilla and toasted oak that lingers nicely on the palate. Great Value Cab!
Villa Chiopris Sauvignon Blanc 2013
Cash Price $11.89
This wine comes from a region that is famous for Pinot Grigio and yet it is the other white varietals that are gaining recognition from this high mineral soiled area. Chiopris is 100% Sauvignon Blanc and displays a purity of terrior that I don’t always find in the whites of Italy. Flavors of citrus lemon-lime sinew through medium plus acids. Notes of gravelly wet stone seep into chalk and hints of green herbs. The finish is clean with touches of green pepper, sage and green apples. I love this Italian Sav. Blanc!
San Felice Chianti Classico 2011
Cash Price $14.99
This has been my ‘go to’ value Chianti for years. It seems to get better every vintage and this is the best I have tasted. The wine is Sangiovese based and produced in the hills of Chianti Classico. I have always found Chianti to be an awesome summer red because of its zesty acid profile and light tannins. Felice offers flavors of bright bing cherries and raspberry with medium plus acids and medium tannins. Nuances of white pepper and tomato play through the core with hints of sage. The mid palate is smooth and deliciously well rounded with notes of cranberry and wild violets. The finish is savory with hints of leather and red flowers. Staple Summer Red! Wine Spectator 90 Points!
James C. Barlow
Certified Wine Educator