James Barlow’s ‘The Thirteen’ Picks of February 2016

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

I apologize for the tardiness of this blog. If you all have been following, I recently travelled to Argentina and Chile.  I had not been to that part of the world in a decade, so it was quite interesting to see how things have changed and/or progressed.  I am currently writing a blog about my travels and the wines I tasted.  That blog should be posted in the next several weeks.  The wines in this month’s blog have two themes: Valentine’s Day and Value wines.  Enjoy!

Schramsberg Brut Rose 2012

North Coast, California

Cash Price $38.94

Schramsberg is one of the finest sparkling houses in the United States.  This dry Rose is spectacular!  The wine is made in the traditional Champagne Method with extended lees aging, barrel fermentation and aged for almost two years.  The grapes were picked from select quality areas in Anderson, Sonoma, Carneros and Marin.  The composition is mainly focused on Pinot Noir with a dollop of Chardonnay for acid and vivacity.  The grapes were hand picked and gently pressed for the utmost quality in the bottle.  Delicate flavors of raspberry sorbet and wild red roses sing melodiously into the palate with medium plus acidity.  The mid palate offers a creamy toast with touches of short cake and vanilla icing.  The finish lingers with notes of orange blossom, nectarine and apricot that flow silkily through the hints of brioche and freshly baked bread.  Your Valentine will instantly fall in love with this sparkling gem!  James Score: 93 Points

Amiral De Beychevelle 2012

St. Julien, France

Cash Price $39.89

I am always on the hunt for value Bordeaux.  I have a true love for the Cabernet produced in the commune of St. Julien.  Chateau Beychevelle is a 4th growth on the left side of the Gironde known for producing sleek, yet full bodied Cabernet based blends.  Amiral de Beychevelle is the 2nd wine from this Chateau.  I have always found very high quality in the 2nd labels of Bordeaux’s Grand Cru Classe Chateaus.  The 2012 vintage was hit and miss in Bordeaux, but this wine is an absolute hit!  Dense flavors of black currant and black cherries sinew through medium plus tannins and medium acids.  The mid palate has a raw depth that really engulfs the palate with notes of cigar box, graphite, and charred oak that are wrapped around a thick richness of dark fruits.  The finish offers cinnamon, leather and touches of vanilla bean that linger on the palate for a graciously long time.  James Score: 91 Points

Goldbelly Syrah 2012

Russian River, California

Cash Price $24.99 But only

$19.99 with your Spec’s key ($5.00 Savings)

I love California Syrah and I think the 2012’s may be some of the best that I have ever tasted.  The 2012 vintage in California was one to behold.  Perfect conditions led to ample harvests and fruit of extremely high quality.  There is a purity of fruit that one can only find in the finest vintages and this is one of them.  Racy, textured flavors of boysenberry and blackberry fling sensuously into medium tannins and acids. The mid palate shows a touch of sweetly jammed black cherry and plum that flows into touches of smoked meat and tar.  The finish is chalked full of spices with flashes of blueberry pie that sink into licks of vanilla and toasted oak.  James Score: 91 Points

Kopke 20 Year Old Tawny Port

Oporto, Portugal

Cash Price $29.99

Kopke is the original port house founded by Christian Kopke of German descent.  This year they celebrated 375 years of continuous production.  That is what I call History!  I have always been a fan of Kopke Ports, but rarely drink them due to the excessively hot weather that Houston gives us on a regular basis.  So, when the weather FINALLY cools down a smidgeon I quickly take the opportunity to enjoy som deliciously high quality port.  Twenty Year old Tawnys are softer and more refined in flavor profile that its robust counterpart, ruby.  Complex flavors of dried raisins and dates move softly into hints of brown sugar and molasses.  The mid palate offers touches of cinnamon and crème brulee that tickle the palate with smidgeons of fig and toffee.  The finish is mellow with a hint of hotness that is hidden with intricate flavors of spiced caramel and hazelnuts.  James Score: 92 Points

Luigi Bosca Single Vineyard DOC Malbec 2012

Luyan de Cuyo, Argentina

Cash Price $18.99

I have always been impressed with the Luigi Bosca Malbecs.  The DOC Single Vineyard offers a true expression of extremely high quality for under $20.  Luyan de Cuyo is the only DOC currently in Argentina.  This means that the Malbec produced under this DOC must attain higher quality standards and stricter requirements to be bottled under the DOC label.  This wine comes from vines with an average age of 70 years grown at an elevation of 3,150 feet above sea level.  The wine is aged for 14 months in new French oak barrels.  Robust flavors of black cherries and ripe plums burst onto the palate with touches of fig that give way to medium plus tannins and medium acids.  The mid palate offers chewy notes of blackberry and tar with hints of leather and black tea.  The finish is long and purposeful with touches almonds and milk chocolate that lay into creamy vanilla and toasted oak.  James Score: 92 Points

Chateau Bibian Red Blend 2010

Haut Medoc, France

Cash Price $19.94

Chateau Bibian is one of the oldest and most renowned wineries in the commune of Listrac, located in the heart of the left bank of Bordeaux.  This Cru Bourgeois is surrounded by Classified Growths with vines with 40-70 years of age.  This all means that you can get a Growth quality wine for under $2o!  The 2010 vintage will go into the record books as one of the finest of our lifetime.  Winemakers let mother nature do all the work and the results are some of the best Bordeaux that I have ever tasted.  This Cabernet based blend was constructed by famed winemaker Michel Rolland.  Thick flavors of red cherries and raspberry flow seamlessly through the palate with hints of wild red roses wafting through medium plus tannins and medium acids.  The mid palate offers a creamy complexity of vanilla and sweet spices with licks of dark chocolate.  The finish shows 12 months of French oak aging with notes of cinnamon, vanilla and toasted oak.  James Score: 90 Points

Triennes ‘St. Fleur’ Viognier 2014

Provence, France

Cash Price $14.99

Viognier from the south of France is some of the best produced in the whole world.  When you combine excellent terroir and the amazing pedigree of Jacques Seysses, founder of Domaine Dujac, and Aubert de Villaine, co-owner of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, magic happens.  This 46 hectare site has been turned into one of the highest quality estates in Southern France in the last 20 years.  The wines are produced organically with meticulous care.  This un-oaked 100% Viognier is divine from the first sup.  Flavors of wild apricot and fresh meadow flowers explode on the palate with quaffs of honeysuckle flowing melodiously in the background through medium acidity.  There is a richness of viscosity that coats the mid palate and envelopes the acidity with a purity of stone fruits.  The finish is quite aromatic with perfume and lavender wafting through hints of stony minerals and wet rocks.  James Score: 91 Points

Block 045 Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Alexander Valley, California

Cash Price $19.94

The Block Series has gained a reputation over the years for always delivering high quality for under $20.  I have gained a fondness for Alexander Valley Cabernet because of its softer, more approachable mouth feel that Napa Valley sometimes lacks.  This Cabernet is ready to drink from the pop of the cork.  Dark flavors of blackberry and cassis show a deep thickness on the palate with medium tannins and acids.  The mid palate has a rich core with touches of candied cherries and boysenberry that weave into smidgeons of sweet spice.  The finish is pure and lingering with notes of creamy dark chocolate, tobacco and hints of cedar.  James Score: 89 Points

Cru ‘Montage’ Pinot Noir 2012

Santa Lucia Highlands, California

Cash Price $18.99

Santa Lucia Highlands is nestled in the Central Coast of California with a perfect micro climate for growing very high quality Pinot Noir.  Winemaker Ken Post has hit gold with this wine.  The 2012 vintage was picture perfect for California with abundant harvests and perfectly ripe fruit.  Flavors of pomegranate and wild strawberries sinew effortlessly into a core of cherry cola.  This 100% Pinot Noir shows an elegance while really driving the delicious fruit flavors through the palate.  Notes of rhubarb and brown sugar play softly into the 9 months of French oak aging.  Hints of blueberry pie and crust play into the finish with bits of vanilla bean and herbs.  James Score: 90 Points

Twisted Paso Cabernet 2013

Paso Robles, California

Cash Price $15.99

The Calcareous ‘Twisted Paso’ (formerly Twisted Sister) line has become one of the best selling wine selections in Spec’s entire portfolio.  They produce a wine with silky smooth approachability that is heaven on the palate.  Lush flavors of blackberry and currant flow seamlessly through the palate with licks of milk chocolate and cedar.  The mid palate give medium tannins and acids that are soft and integrated.  The core offers creamy blueberry with notes of leather and cigar box.  The finish offers hints of graham cracker and toasted oak with smidgeons of vanilla and cinnamon.  James Score: 89 Points

Arrowflite Chardonnay 2014

Sonoma County, California

Cash Price $12.99

The American palate loves full bodied Chardonnay.  This little gem is a sure fire win for days that end with Y for the Chardonnay lover in your home.  Rich and creamy, this wine offers flavors of pineapple and melon that quickly turns into a hedonistic creamy texture.  Notes of brioche and buttered popcorn seep into medium minus acids.  The finish is soft, offering butter and caramel with just a touch of citrus.  James Score: 88 Points

Baritone ‘Maxim’ Red Blend 2013

South Eastern Australia

Cash Price $12.99

Baritone has been one of Spec’s most consistent red blends in our Australian category throughout the years.  It comes in a 1 liter container (The extra glass of wine is on us) and is a blend of Shiraz and Cabernet.  Bold flavors of currant and plum play through layered tannins and medium acids with notes of toffee and spice.  The finish offers vanilla and cedar with tinges of dark cocoa, licorice and clove.  Baritone is a user friendly Tuesday slurper that is sure to please whether at a party or on the back patio.  James Score: 87 Points

Cecchi Sangiovese 2012

Chianti Classico, Italy

Cash Price $11.89

Luigi Cecchi gained notoriety and garnered fame for his excellent sangiovese wines.  This is a classical interpretation of the quality Chianti Classico can produce without the high price tag.  Ripe flavors of bing cherry and wild red flowers sing easily thorugh medium plus acids and medium tannins.  The finish is chalked full of tomato leaf and wild herbs.  Awesome Spaghetti wine!  James Score: 88 Points

Thank You,

James C. Barlow

Certified Wine Educator

Certified Sommelier









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