JAMES BARLOW’S ‘THE THIRTEEN’ PICKS OF JANUARY 2016

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

Happy New Year!  This will be an exciting year for Spec’s in The Woodlands.  As most of you know, we will be expanding by moving into the old Academy building next door.  The remodeling is starting and we hope to be offering you a 55,500 square foot Spec’s Liquors and Fine Wines in the very near future!  I will be traveling to Argentina and Chile in the coming month, so I am sure I’ll come back with some exciting wines for you all to sink your palate into in this new year.  This month’s list is a medley of wines that are great value and perfect for the slight chill in January.

Gosset Brut Excellence N/V

Champagne, France

Cash Price $39.69

Gosset is the oldest wine producing house in Champagne.  Located in the region of Ay, this winery only producers around 50,000 cases which is quite small in contrast to production levels of Moet & Chandon (around 2 million).  Gosset does not initiate malolactic fermentation which retains a higher acidity in the bubbles for maximum freshness.  The blend is higher with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but does have a fair amount of Pinot Meunier.  This champagne is truly impressive from the start.  Ripe flavors of Meyer lemon and pear dance and bounce about through zesty acids and tight bubbles.  Notes of brioche and jasmine flow through a layered core of complexity with hints of citrus and almond.  The finish is chalked full of minerality with a firm elegance and touches of confection and smoke that lingers into a beautifully balanced bouquet.  James Score: 92 Points

Result of the Crush Red Blend 2012

Walla Walla, Washington

Cash Price $39.29

This wine is one of those geeky wines of limited production that I highly recommend scooping up as quickly as possible.  The wine is produced by the sisters of legendary cult winemaker Matt Reynvaan (who is the consulting winemaker for this wine).  He produces some of the more iconic Reds in all of Washington state.  Result of the Crush is their limited release ‘Fun’ wine that they produce at a great price (usually his wines exceed $100).  The wine is a blend of mostly Syrah (Reynvaan’s claim to fame) with a dollop of this and a smidgeon of that.  I immediately fell in love with this wine.  It has a richness of fruit and texture but with a core of minerality and complexity that Syrah can often show.  Flavors of dark cherries and pomegranate burst on the palate with a hedonistic richness.  The mid palate offers a creamy vanilla bean core with touches of plum and briar.  The wine has medium tannins and acids.  The finish continues giving with notes of black pepper, smoked meat and just a kiss of candied maple.  James Score: 93 Points

Smith Woodhouse Late Bottle Vintage Port 2002

Duoro, Portugal

Cash Price $27.99

Smith Woodhouse is run by the Symington family, who have been present in the Duoro since 1882.  The family owns a little of 2,000 hectare and produces some of most prized wines in the Duoro.  They produce wine for houses such as Dow, Grahams, Cockburn and Warres.  This approachable Port is 20% alcohol and a perfect match for this weather.  Smoothly textured, this fortified wine shows flavors of dried plums and raisin that flow easily into roasted nuts and candied apple skins.  The finish offers a slew of baking spices with a touch of burnt molasses.  Great after dinner drink or something to sip on the back patio with a cigar.  James Score: 88 points

Chablisienne ‘La Pierrelee’ Chardonnay 2013

Chablis, France

Cash Price $21.69

I love Chablis.  It is some of the most exquisite Chardonnay produced in my opinion.  Granted, I do enjoy higher acid wines so keep that in mind.  Chablis expresses true terroir in their wines.  You can actually taste the chalk and limestone.  This is a great introductory example of a Classic wine from this region.  Flavors of ripe green apples and citrus zing through the palate with medium plus acidity.  Touches of stone fruit show in the mid palate with linear complexity and hints of crushed rock and chalk.  The finish is clean with touches of cream and wild flowers.  This is not your California Chardonnay!  James Score: 88 points

Bench Cabernet 2013

Alexander Valley, California

Cash Price $23.74

As the cooler weather arrives, I inevitably gravitate towards big, chewy Cabernet Sauvignon.  This wine is produced by The Brack Mountain Wine Company based along the western bench of the Mayacamas Mountain range.  Alexander Valley is garnering high praise throughout the wine industry for Cabernet.  I recently tasted the new vintage and was quite impressed.  The 2013 vintage in California is one to watch.  There are some really stunning wines coming from this vintage.  Bench offers flavors of racy, almost sweet fruits of black currant and blackberry. The mid palate has medium plus tannins and medium acids that are encompassed by hints of freshly picked tobacco and cedar.  Notes of black tar and dark mocha give way to smidgeons of spice with integrated oak and vanilla that sinks into the palate beautifully.  James Score: 89 Points

Vina Lauria Frappato 2013

Alcamo, Sicily

Cash Price $21.69

Frappato is an indigenous grape of Sicily that is just now starting to gain traction in the American market.  Known for its appealing approachability and easy going nature, this grape is sure to make a big splash in the near future.  Vito Lauria has worked very hard to bring his winery into the modern age of wine making and it shows in his clean and focused wines.  This 100% Frappato is organically grown and completely un-oaked.  Flavors of freshly picked strawberries and red cherries bounce into the palate with medium plus acidity and medium tannins.  The mid palate shows a softness with hints of wild red berries and red flower blossoms.  The finish has touches of wild herbs with hints of white pepper and clay.  Expand your palate with Frappato today!  James Score: 89 Points

Frey Sohler Gewurztraminer 2013

Alsace, France

Cash Price $19.94

I have a deep fondness in my heart for Alsatian whites.  I believe they are some of the best produced in the entire world.  Gewurztraminer is one of the oddball grapes that falls into the category of love/hate.  It has amazing floral complexity, but it does show a descent amount of residual sugars.  This wine is bursting with delicious flavors of peach and nectarines with hints of orange blossom.  Licks of honeysuckle and honeydew play through medium acidity.  The finish offers touches of wet rock and fresh meadow flowers.  It is a perfect pair with spicy foods.  James Score: 90 Points

Chateau Brondeau Red Blend 2009

Bordeaux Superior, France

Cash Price $14.99

The 2009 vintage is peaking for the daily drinking reds of Bordeaux.  They are plush with soft tannins and refined tannins with the fruit really shining in the glass.  Flavors of black currant and blackberry play into medium plus tannins and acids.  The mid palate is beautiful with sleek notes of plum and boysenberry with a round, supple cream texture.  The finish is silky with smidgeons of cigar box and tobacco that interweave with whiffs of vanilla bean.  This is a spectacular Bordeaux for the price!  James Score: 91

Shannon Ridge ‘Wrangler Red’ Red Blend 2013

Lake County, California

Cash Price $12.99

Lake County is starting to garner praise for rock solid reds in the region north of Napa Valley.  Shannon Ridge was awarded the ‘Top Winery’ at Houston’s Uncorked Wine Competition in 2015.  This winery is releasing stellar red based on Zinfandel and Rhone Varietals.  Wrangler Red is a silky smooth Zindandel, Syrah blend that screams fruit from the onset.  The wine has been aged in French and American oak for 18 months.  Intense flavors of black cherry and black raspberry seep through the full blackberry with medium tannins and acids.  Notes of graham cracker and cinnamon are prevalent on the mid palate with touches of sweet tobacco and milk chocolate.  The finish is creamy and velvety with smooth lingering tones of rich fruit and spice.  Best Daily drinker that money can buy!  James Score: 89 Points

Villa San-Juliette Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Paso Robles, California

Cash Price $15.99

Some of the best value Cabernets in the United States come from the up and coming region of Paso Robles in the Central Coast.  Villa San-Juliette is sustainable in its practices and produce spectacular wines under $20.  The 2012 vintage is go down in the record books as one of the finest in the decade and Paso fruit is showing wonderfully.  Rich flavors of Red cherry and red raspberry move swiftly into medium tannins and acids.  The mid palate offers touches of cinnamon and clove.  The finish gives currant, cedar and smoky vanilla mocha.  San-Juliette is perfectly tailored for your next BBQ party.  James Score: 90 Points

Ca’Momi Chardonnay 2014

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $11.99

Ca’Momi is rooted in Italian heritage, but with Napa panache.  Ca (Pronounced ‘ka’) Momi roughly translates to The House of Momi after Momi dea Bionda, who was notoriously obsessive and protective of his property and vineyards in Veneto, Italy.  This winery puts its heart and soul into the vineyards with meticulous care.  This Chardonnay exudes ripe flavors of pineapple and pear with medium acidity.  The mid palate offers mandarin orange that turns slowly into a cream vanilla core.  The finish gives licks of almond and hazelnuts on lightly toasted oak.  James Score: 88 Points

Mourgues du Gres Red Blend 2012

Costieres de Nimes, France

Cash Price $13.99

I have struck gold again in Southern Rhone!  This Syrah/Grenache red blend is rock solid at a killer price point.  Located on the galet soils deposited by the Rhone River this wine shows excellent fruit, structure and minerality.  The wine is un-oaked and aged in concrete tanks for a year to offer maximum fruit and approachability.  Flavors of blackberry and bramble lead into sweet red berries.  The mid palate offers touches of garrigue and black pepper with medium tannins and acids.  The finish is lush and flavorful with silky fruit and hints of spice that lingers quite nicely.  Fall in love with the Rhone Valley!  James Score: 87 Points

El Portillo Malbec 2014

Mendoza, Argentina

Cash Price $9.99

El Portillo is the sister brand of the famed Salentein winery.  The wines they produce are built to be consumed early and often.  Fruit forward flavors of plum and red berries touch into medium tannins and acids.  The finish offers hints of clove and cinnamon with the robust Malbec mouth feel.  The wine is un-oaked.  James Score: 86 Points

Thank You,

James C. Barlow

Certified Wine Educator

Certified Sommelier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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