Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

The next couple of months will be a very exciting time for me!  I am taking a trip to Bordeaux for ‘En Primeur’ at the end of the month and April will most likely see the opening of our Mega store in The Woodlands.  If you have not seen me lately, I apologize, it’s because I have been tasked with educating for my company.  This task has kept me quite busy.  Always feel free to ask for me if you don’t see me and if all else fails…..I am just a couple of keyboard strokes away!  I know tax season is upon us, so I typically find great VALUE wines to review for the next couple of months.  Enjoy!

Del Dotto ‘Ca’Nani’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $44.99

Ca’Nani, meaning House of Dwarves,  is the newest adventure by the Cult Classic Del Dotto winery.  This will be the only vintage of this label as it was quickly renamed in the next vintage as Piazza Del Dotto.  The 2012 vintage is pure gold for Cabernet Sauvignon lovers in Napa Valley.  Perfect weather led to a bountiful harvest and spectacular fruit which led to brilliance in the bottle.  I have found Del Dotto to be one of the finest producers of Cabernet Sauvignon in all of California.  This 2nd label offering is absolutely stunning.  Thick and dense flavors of jet black currant and black cherry flow into a wall of brawny tannins and medium acidity.  The mid palate offers notes of herbs with cigar box and leather.  The finish is pure and hedonistic with integrated alcohol and kisses of hazelnuts, vanilla bean and smoked cedar.  James Score: 94 Points

Chateau Fourcas Borie Red Blend 2008

Haut Medoc, France

Cash Price $19.94

Chateau Fourcas Borie originated from the union of the estates of Clos du Fourcas and Moulin du Bourg which are amongst the oldest vineyards of the village. It is located on the north of Listrac-Médoc.  They strive to produce elegant, long lived Bordeaux without a jaw dropping price point.  The average age of their Merlot, Cabernet and Petite Verdot vineyards is 30 years.  Bruno Borie, owner of famed Ducru Beaucaillou, is the wine maker of this little gem.  Deliciously smooth flavors of red cherries and raspberry flow seamlessly through mellowed tannins and medium acids.  Notes of currant sink into the mid palate with touches of ripe red berries.  The finish is integrated with licks of sweet tobacco and new French oak.  This wine is drinking perfectly right now!  James Score: 91 Points

Block 012 Red Blend 2012

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $19.94

The newest release from the Block Vineyard Estates is a dynamite red blend that is a Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon based wine from the Oak Knoll district in Napa Valley. The climate is cooler in Oak Knoll and the valley floor produces wines with intense dark fruits.  Flavors of blackberry and currant race through medium plus tannins and medium acids.  Secondary notes of plum and fig play smoothly through the rich mouth feel.  The finish offers touches of vanilla and oak with hints of kitchen spices.  James Score: 90 Points

Blue Rock ‘Baby Blue’ Blanc 2014

Sonoma Coast, California

Cash Price $18.99

Blue Rock produces luxury wines on their 100 acres nestled in the hillsides of Alexander Valley.  Baby Blue Blanc is the first non estate wine that Blue Rock has produced.  The grapes come from the Fort Ross-Seaview and Russian River Valley AVA’s respectively.  This is their 1st adventure into producing white wine as they are well known for Cabernet Sauvignon.  They have absolutely knocked this wine out of the ball park with their first swing!  I was stunned at the complexity in the glass with this Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion, Viognier blend.  This wine layers itself beautifully.  Flavors of crisp lemon citrus leap into the palate with medium acidity that is layered into a soft, round viscosity that coats the palate. Notes of apricot and peach seep inot the mid palate with touches of meyer lemon and hay.  The finish is stunning with a pop of Viognier that adds hints of wild flowers and bees wax. Wow! James Score: 93 Points

Trig Point ‘Diamond Dust’  Merlot 2013

Alexander Valley, California

Cash Price $15.99

Nick Goldschmidt is one of my favorite wine makers.  He consistently crafts wines of high quality in different climates and even hemispheres.  His father was a land surveyor and a ‘Trig’ is used to establish boundary lines.  Goldschmidt’s Trig Point wines show the unique soils of the area he gets the grapes from, namely Alexander Valley.  The vineyard is located on the southern (and cooler) end of Alexander Valley which makes it prime territory for producing low yield, high quality Merlot.  Flavors of intense black cherry and blackberry jump into zesty acids and well rounded tannins.  Notes of raspberry and freshly picked plum meld into the core of the wine with touches of graphite and dusty minerality.  The finish is dangerously long with 12 months of French oak aging in 20% new barrels and just a touch of new American oak which gives hints of creamy vanilla bean, cinnamon, and cedar.  The finish smacks of blueberry pie!  James Score: 91 Points

Osso Anna Chardonnay 2013

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $19.94

Osso Anna is a label created by the Buoncristiani Family Winery. Jay Buoncristiani, winemaker of the critically acclaimed wines that bear his name, makes the Osso Anna wines with fruit from Napa Valley.  I have long been a fan of the wines produced by Buoncristiani and am ecstatic that they are making wine for an every day price point.  This 100% Chardonnay is a sleeper in the wine department. Silky flavors of ripe pear and green apples sinew softly through medium acids.  Notes of caramel and hazelnuts lay easily on the mid palate.  The finish is deliciously smooth with touches of creamy vanilla and butterscotch. James Score: 89 Points

Marchesi Fumanelli Valpolicella Classico Red Blend 2012

Veneto, Italy

Cash Price $17.29

Marchesi Fumanelli is located in the heart of Valpolicella in the northern stretches of Italy near Lake Garda.  The grapes are all picked exclusively from the Squarano Estate and wines aged in their 17th century wine cellars.  This Corvina blend is quite a mouthful.  Flavors of stewed currant and blue berry are surrounded by medium tannins and acids.  The mid palate offers a medley of spices with cinnamon and clove with ripe red fruits that sing melodically to the core.  The finish is layered with touches of French Barrique, tar, and hints of molasses. James Score: 89 Points

Jean Baptiste Adam Pinot Gris Reserve 2014

Alsace, France

Cash Price $16.19

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 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.  Pinot Gris from Alsace could not be more different than its Italian counterparts.  Alsatian Pinot Gris is much rounder, softer and typically has just a kiss of sweetness.  Adam has produced a classic style of Pinot Gris with this wine.  Voluptuous flavors of fresh meadow flowers and jasmine waft hauntingly through medium acids.  The mid palate shows exotic stone fruits of peach and nectarine with tinges of orange blossom.  The finish is tickling with hints of stony minerality and licks of honeyed beeswax.  James Score: 92 Points

Marramiero ‘Dama’ Montepulciano 2013

Abruzzo, Italy

Cash Price $14.99

Marramiero is a darling winery that produces extremely high quality Montepulciano at value prices. Located between the Adriatic Sea and The Gran Sasso Mountains on the hills around Pescara, the Marramiero family has grown vines since the beginning of last century.  Dama is the daily drinker release that really exceeds expectations.  I akin the Montepulciano as somewhat similar to Cabernet Sauvignon.  This wine offers flavors of ripe red cherries and framboise with medium tannins and acids.  The mid palate offers hints of roasted tomato and iron that burst into red berries and red roses.  The finish is long and lingering with scant oak but plenty of fruit.  James Score: 88 Points

Longboard Sauvignon Blanc 2014

Russian River, California

Cash Price $15.99

Longboard was born from the passion of Oded Shakked, surfer first, winemaker later, who brings a unique perspective to winemaking, or rather winegrowing as he prefers to call it.  A key Oded insight: Surfing and winemaking are essentially solo activities that can reach across gender, social, economic and age boundaries, creating communities of passionate apostles who know a good wave — and a good wine — when they experience one.  This 100% Sauvignon Blanc is bursting with energy.  Flavors of sticky pear and lemon lime citrus sing through medium acidity.  The core of this wine has a soft roundness that is enveloped by notes of white flowers and lychee.  The finish is clean with touches of green apple and crushed wet rocks. James Score: 89 Points 

Bliss Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Mendocino, California

Cash Price $11.49

The Bliss Family Vineyards has quickly become one of Spec’s fastest selling brands in a very short amount of time. Why? Quality vs. price point.  They produce wonderfully balanced wine at a very wallet friendly prices.  They are a 4th generation of farmers that make estate wines with care.  Smooth flavors of blackberry and currant flow easily into medium tannins and acids.  The mid palate shows notes of roasted nuts and mocha.  The finish is easy and accessible with hints of cedar, vanilla and graham crackers.  James Score: 90 Points

Fog Bank Pinot Noir 2013


Cash Price $10.69

Fog Bank Vineyards selects quality grapes from the premier coastal regions to produce this user friendly Pinot Noir.  It is almost impossible to find quality Pinot Noir for under $20 from California, but I have struck gold with this tasty Pinot.  Flavors of lush red cherries and strawberry lean into round, light tannins and medium acidity.  The mid palate shows touches of raspberry jam and cola.  The finish offers touches of cinnamon and rhubarb that sink into the palate playfully.  James Score: 89 Points

Francois Labet Red Blend 2014

Cotes du Rhone, France

Cash Price $9.99

The Grenache/Syrah based wines of the Rhone Valley represent some of the best value that the world of wine has to offer.  Francois Labet is a negociant that Spec’s has had the unique pleasure of doing business with for many years.  The quality has always been particularly high from Labet.  This CDR is ridiculously easy drinking.  Flavors of wild strawberry and bramble flow into medium tannins and acids with no oak.  The mid palate and finish offers touches of garrigue and black pepper with plenty of juicy red fruits.  James Score: 90 Points 

Thank You,

James C. Barlow

Certified Wine Educator

Certified Sommelier





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  1. Robert Kramek says:

    James, I am interest in buying some of your picks….do you have any left?

  2. Frank Ashby says:

    You working at the old store today?

    Frank Ashby


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