JAMES BARLOW’S ‘THE THIRTEEN’ PICKS OF AUGUST 2015

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

I hope everyone is braving the dog days of summer with high spirits.  As you all know, I have been splitting time between the new Oak Ridge and the Rayford/Sawdust location so it has been harder to pin me down.  I have set up the new store with an excellent array of wine selections that are sure to make even the wine geeks of The Woodlands quite happy.  I will continue have the ‘Thirteen’ picks available at that location and will work there intermittently but not as often.  That being said, I will now begin to focus my time on a new project at the Rayford/Sawdust location that will make everyone extremely happy.  An official announcement will be made soon.  Also, I was astounded at the crazy turnout for our consumer appreciation tastings and will be announcing another spectacular tasting in the near future.  I look forward to seeing you all soon with a delicious bottle of wine in hand!

Contaldi Castaldi Saten  Sparkling 2008

Franciacorta, Italy

Cash Price $38.39

Franciacorta produces the highest quality sparkling wines in all of Italy.  The wines are made with the Methode Champenoise technique (style used in Champagne) in the northern Lombardy region.  The key to this wines beautiful array of complexity and silky texture is the implementation of ‘Saten’ style which tones down the atmospheres (pressure of bubbles) which gives the ensuing wine extra finesse and elegance.  In short, it is the perfect sparkling wine for the scorching hot summers of Houston.  A beautiful bouquet of aromatics lift from the glass with nuances of wild meadow flowers and freshly baked bread.  Flavors of freshly picked green apples and apricots flow easily through soft, but tight bubbles.  Notes of exotic fruits and fig touch into zesty acids and hints of brioche.  The wine sees partial malolactic fermentation and is aged for 30 months on its lees.  This 100% sparkling Chardonnay is divine!  91 Points Wine Enthusiast.

Ampelos ‘Lambda’ Pinot Noir 2011

Sta. Rita Hills, California

Cash Price $29.99

As most of you know,  Ampelos is one of my favorite producers of Pinot Noir in the United States.  The 2011 vintage as a whole was a challenging vintage, but as you know good winemakers make good wine no matter the vintage.  This winery was the first in the United States to become certified Organic, Biodynamic, and Sustainable in Practice which makes them one of the purest wineries in the New World.  The wine is un-fined and unfiltered while aging gracefully for 18 months in partial new French Oak barrels.  Intense flavors of wild cherries and framboise sink into velvety tannins and sleek acids.  The mid palate is encompassing with a rich mouth feel and notes of graham cracker, cardamom and cola.  The finish is quite sexy with rich vanilla, exotic spices and smidgeons of smoked cedar.  Don’t miss out on this gem while it lasts!

Pierre Labet Chardonnay 2013

Burgundy, France

Cash Price $27.99

Pierre Labet is one our more consistent French producers for quality Chardonnay with great pricing.  The grapes come from vieilles vignes (old vines) and are produced with a focus on organic and sustainable practices.  The winery is located in Clos de Vougeot with Francois Labet at the helm.  The wine is exquisite with flavors of ripe green apples, melon and pear with medium acids and just a touch of tannin.  The mid palate is voluptuous with notes of cream, citrus and crushed rocks.  The finish is pure and refreshing with touches of vanilla, hazelnuts and smidgeons of smoky oak.  This is a Burgundy to fall in love with at a great price!

Michel Schlumberger Cabernet 2012

Dry Creek Valley, California

Cash Price $19.94

This winery was founded by Jean-Jacques Michel in 1979.  In 1991, Jacques Pierre Schlumberger joined the team bringing with him a more than 400 year old family legacy of winemaking in Alsace.  Thus, the Michel-Schlumberger brand was born.  The winery brings an old world feel to the new world wines that they produce.  The Cabernet from the 2012 vintage is quite possibly the best in Spec’s portfolio for under $20.  La Cime, French for the top or pinnacle, is a stunning wine made from the finest estate mountain top and benchland fruit and aged in barrel for 22 months.  This Cabernet is all about balance and finesse while keeping the hedonistic fruits in check while being 100% organically farmed.  Flavors of blackberry and black currant fill the palate with dark fruits and just a touch of blueberry.  The mid palate shows medium plus tannins and medium acids with a full and textured mouth feel.  The finish gives loads of ripe black raspberry that fall into notes of cinnamon, roasted nuts and vanillin.  Rock Solid Cabernet under $20!

Castillo Perelada Malaveina Red Blend 2008

Emporda, Spain

Cash Price $23.99

Wine has been made at Perelada since the Middle Ages.  The winery is located in the Northeast corner of Spain close to the Pyrenees Mountains and the Mediterranean.  The soil structure is a kaleidoscope of slate, sand, alluvial sediment, clay and gravel.  This leads to a lot of different terroir notes in the wines produced.  This particular wine is special because of the 19 hectares of heterogeneous red clay soil.  Red clay is a perfect match for Merlot.  This wine is a Merlot, Cabernet blend with a dollop of Syrah and Garnacha and aged for 16 months in French oak.  Malaveina is drinking wonderfully right now.  Flavors of red cherries and red currant rush into earthy notes of tea leaf and graphite.  Touches of copper, blood oranges and garrigue sink into the mid palate with full tannins and medium acids.  The finish offers dark chocolate, roasted vanilla beans and cedar with a hearty, yet silky finish that lingers beautifully.  Malaveina is ready to drink and begging to be paired with a big slab of beef!

Castellargo Albus White Blend 2014

Friuli, Italy

Cash Price $14.99

In an area best known for Pinot Grigio, Castellargo is producing one of the best quality white blends in the region without the use of its most popular grape.  Albus is a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Friulano that is not aged in oak to preserve the freshness and acidity.  This wine is refreshingly juicy from the first sup.  Exotic flavors of elderflower, guava and lychee zing into medium plus acidity.  Notes of honeysuckle and jasmine quaff through the mid palate with a backbone of minerality.  The finish is clean and lip smacking with hints of citrus.  We showed this wine at our last Italian consumer appreciation tasting and it became an instant classic!

Domain de la Guilloterie Cabernet Franc 2012

Saumur Champigny, France

Cash Price $19.94

Saumur Champigny is one of the geekier regions in the world for Cabernet Franc lovers.  Located just south of the Loire River in the Loire Valley, The Duveau family has been producing wines in this picturesque region for six generations.  The region is chalked full of ‘tuffeau’ which is a chalky limestone soil that is perfectly suited for Cabernet Franc.  This delicate wine is truly special for the price.  Ripe red berries and raspberry flow seamlessly into medium plus acids and medium tannins.  The mid palate shows the rustic terroir and true flavor profile of the grape with notes of cracked black pepper, roasted green peppers and graphite.  The finish is ripe with touches of dusted coco shavings, blackberry and just a whiff of cream.  This is one of my favorite red wines for the Houston summers!

Domaine De La Garenne Rose 2014

Vin de Pays, France

Cash Price $14.99

We are in the throws of Dry Rose season and this is a must try by one of the more dynamic producers in the southern France region of Bandol.  It is a blend of Cinsault, Carignan, and Grenache that is delicious and bone dry.  Flavors of wild strawberries and bing cherries flow freely through medium plus acids.  Notes of red roses and cranberry play through the mid palate with just a touch of garrigue.  The finish is cleansing and leaves the palate begging for more.  Garenne is a serious Rose at a phenomenal price!

Jean Baptiste Adam Reserve Dry Riesling 2013

Alsace, France

Cash Price $14.99

I wrote an article for the Society of Wine Educators a couple of years ago titled: Alsace, The Unheralded King of White Wines.  I am still a firm believer and, in fact, have become as staunch as ever on the subject.  This region makes some of the best DRY white wines in the world!  I am stoked to be able to offer this winery at such a spectacular price.  This family just celebrated the 400th anniversary of their family being grape growers and winemakers in Alsace.  Riesling is the king of white grapes in Alsace making wines that are deliciously dry and hauntingly hedonistic.  Flavors of zesty citrus and orange blossoms flow into medium plus acidity without any encumbering oak.  Touches of apricot and grapefruit sinew cleanly through hints of wet rocks.  The finish is amazingly complex with apple blossoms, wild white flowers and lychee.  This is a Stunning wine that will have you hooked immediately!

Les Tuiles Pinot Noir 2013

Burgundy, France

Cash Price $17.99

Red Burgundy can become pricey very quickly, so (as a bargain hunter) I often find myself in the southern reaches of Burgundy outside the Cote D’Or in search of scintillating Pinot Noir.  The Maconnais has some of the best value Pinot Noir in France.  Light and appealing flavors of bright red cherries and pomegranate are encompassed by medium plus acids and minimal tannins.  Smidgeons of cola and tea leaf play through the core with touches of cream.  The finish is pleasant with hints of rose petals and wild red berries.  Tuiles is a tasty Pinot from one of the best value regions in France.

Domaine Cabasse ‘Cuvee Garnacho’ Red 2011

Seguret Cotes du Rhone Villages, France

Cash Price $14.99

My favorite daily reds inevitably come from the Rhone Valley.  It is really hard to find a bad $15 bottle from the Southern Rhone Valley.  Cabasse is a true representation of the high quality coming from this region.  The Cabasse name has Italian roots that goes back to the time when the Pope resided in Avignon in the 14th century.  Avignon is the center for the famed wines of Chateauneuf du Pape.  Flavors of ripe boysenberry and black currant are rounded out with medium acids and tannins that are silky throughout the core.  Notes of fig and touches of bacon fat sink into rich vanilla beans and garrigue.   The finish offers hints of sage, thyme, and peppercorn which lays on the palate for quite awhile.  Cabasse is a perfect BBQ wine!

Domaine David Richards Chardonnay 2011

Russian River Valley, California

Cash Price $12.99

It is nearly impossible to find a Russian River Chardonnay at this price point, much less a deliciously tasty one. This is a classic example of  California Chardonnay.  Notes of green apples, pear, and apricot are balanced with medium acidity and a nice dollop of hazelnut.  The finish is soft and round with notes of toasted oak and touches of buttered pecans.  A Must Try!

Vina Cumbrero Tempranillo Crianza 2010

Rioja, Spain

Cash Price $10.99

This steal was #62 on The Wine Spectator’s ‘Top 100’ list of 2014 with a rating of 90 points!  Delightfully crisp with fleshy flavors of tart cherry and red currant that  are delivered through medium plus acids and tannins.  Notes of vanilla and cinnamon are prevalent on the finish with smidgeions of rose petal and cranberry.  Female winemaker Maria Martinez has produced a gem form the Rioja Alta with this 100% Tempranillo.  I’m excited to see what future offerings will show!  This one is a no brainer!

Thank You,

James C. Barlow

Certified Wine Educator

Certified Sommelier

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