Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

Can you believe that summer is already winding to a close?  I know we are definitely in the dog days of the hottest time of the year, so I have chosen to feature wines accordingly.

The Bordeaux 101 class went exceedingly well! I have decided on the next class.  40 Seats available!

RSVP to: jamesbarlow25@hotmail.com

What: Tuscany 101 Educational Tasting where I will walk you through the ins and outs of one of the finest regions in the world.  We will discuss grapes, vintages, classification and quality tiers while tasting classic examples from the region with light foods paired accordingly.  It will be a tasting you won’t want to miss!

When: Tuesday, August 30th from 6-8pm

Where: Pallotta’s Italian Grille

Woodridge Shopping Center

27606 I-45 North

Conroe, TX 77385 (right by the New Spec’s Oak Ridge North location)

Price: $60 per person

Wines: To be Determined, most likely 3-4 reds and 1 white


Del Dotto Cave Blend 2013

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $52.99

Del  Dotto’s reputation as being one of the highest quality wineries in Napa Valley means that their wines sell out every vintage….quickly.  Spec’s is very lucky to have partnered with them to receive a nice allocation of their wines. This family owned winery has spent the last 20 years purchasing some of the best acreage in Napa and Sonoma to plant high quality vines and make exceedingly spectacular wines.  The 2013 vintage is quite hedonistic and jam packed full of deliciously ripe fruits.  The Cave blend is half Merlot with Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc filling in the rest.  The wine is extremely rich on the palate with bursting fruits of black cherry, blackberry and hints of blueberry.  The mid palate offers medium plus tannins and medium acids with touches of heat.  Notes of cracked hazelnuts and blackberry jam being to soften into a creamy yet full mouthful.  The finish is impressively rich with vanilla bean, cedar, and hints of spice.  James Score: 96 Points

Castelnau N/V Brut Reserve Sparkling Wine

Champagne, France

Cash Price $36.99

Castelnau 1998 Vintage Magnums were poured at one of my wine dinners last year and it reminded just how amazing this sparkling wine shows.  I recently re-tasted the n/v and was very happy with the ensuing results. Castelnau offers a higher percentage of Pinot Meunier (42%) than most Champagne producers.  Pinot Meunier adds a youthful exuberance to the wines with lively structure and fruit.  This Cooperative Manipulant exudes flavors of crispy green and red apples fly into medium plus acidity that is wrapped around a core of red cherry and rose petals.  The mid palate is spectacular with notes of brioche, almonds and licks of vanilla cream.  The finish is silky with tinges of toasted cocoa beans, confection and delicious goodness!  James Score: 94 Points

Chateau Laplagnotte-Bellevue Red Blend 2012

St. Emilion Grand Cru, France

Cash Price $24.99

I was in with this property immediately after meeting their family, which had a little bit of Von Trapp family vibes with their properly dressed and amazingly well behaved children.  I will forever have the snapshot of their two boys riding bikes through the vines as we toured the vineyards.  It was quite surreal.  I became entrenched in thought of selling this wine when I later tasted through a vertical with the father/wine maker.  Every Single wine I tried was spectacular….and at this price!?!?!?!  The wine is 70% Merlot/ 30% Cabernet Franc with 30% new French oak aging and an average 30 year old vines.  These wines are all about elegance.   Vibrant flavors of red cherries and framboise sing through medium plus acids and medium tannins.  Soft notes of red currant begins to offers smidgeons of cream and whiffs of cedar.  The finish shows cinnamon and spice with a plush, integrated amount of fruit and texture.  James Score: 94 Points

Expression 38 Chardonnay 2015

Russian River, California

Cash Price $19.94

Russian Camp is the newest addition to the Expression line produced by Bill Hill, who also founded William Hill and Van Duzer wineries.  He is considered one of the best vineyard developers in the United States.  The Russian River produces some of the most iconic Chardonnay in the United States and a darling region to Sommeliers world wide.   The wine is 100% Chardonnay that goes through full malolactic fermentation and aged for twelve months on the lees in all French Oak barrels.   Tropical flavors of pineapple and guava sink through the palate with a rich, creamy core that is encompassed with hazelnuts and brioche.   Notes of freshly picked pear and green apple flow seamlessly throughout.  This Chardonnay is able to keep nice acidity throughout due to the cool fog that flows through the Russian River daily making it perfect for this varietal.  The finish is fresh and lush with hints of toasted oak and butter.  James Score: 90 Points

Domaine du Pre Semele Rose 2015

Sancerre, France

Cash Price $23.99

This third generation family is producing some of the finest wines in all of Sancerre.  I have used their Sauvignon Blanc many days during the sweltering heat of Houston summers.  Now, I can add this lovely Dry Rose to my repertoire to keep from melting in this heat.  The vineyards are located on Terres Blanches (limestone) soils have give the wines from this domain expressive terroir.  They use no insecticides or pesticides in their vineyards!  This Rose of Pinot Noir is truly delightful.  Flavors of red berries and bright red cherries burst on the palate with refreshing medium plus acidity.  Notes of wild flowers and rose petals envelope the mid palate with tinges of lemon lime citrus.  The finish is clean and palate cleansing with hints of candied raspberry.  James Score: 92 Points

Caymus Conundrum 25th Anniversary Red Blend 2013


Cash Price $22.99

The Conundrum project was a bold project started by innovator Chuck and Charlie Wagner when they wanted to produce a daily table wine for their households.  Twenty-five years later, this label has built a reputation for producing some of the best blends on the market.  This Zinfandel blend is tailor made for BBQ in the hot Texas weather.  Flavors of ripe red berries and jammy plums fill the palate quickly with touches of smoked meat and spice.  The mid palate offers medium acidity and tannins with a silky texture that beings to cream with hints of strawberry jam.  The finish is lush with smidgens of dark chocolate and nuts.  James Score: 88 Points

Seresin Sauvignon Blanc 2014

Marlborough, New Zealand

Cash Price $24.99

These wines are unique for New Zealand in that they are completely organic and biodynamic.  This wine has a touch of Semillon to soften the often zingy flavor profile of Sauvignon Blanc.  I have shied away from New Zealand in the past several years in lieu of Bordeaux Blanc, but this wine should be highlighted as one of best being produced in all of New Zealand.  Deliciously flavorful, this wine exudes flavors of gooseberry and citrus with medium plus acidity.  The wine was 20% fermented in used French oak which gives the mid palate some weight and complexity as the fruit begin to turn more tropical with notes of mango, papaya and yellow stone fruits.  The finish is clean and lip smacking.  James Score: 91 Points

San Felice Rosso di Montalcino Campogiovanni 2012

Tuscany, Italy

Cash Price $21.84

San Felice is consistently one of my favorite wineries in all of Tuscany.  The quality from top to bottom is astounding.  Most of us are insanely in love with Brunello di Montalcino, but not all of us can splurge for a $50 bottle for every day that begins with ‘Y’.  So, I often turn to the value version of Brunello which is Rosso di Montalcino.  The wines are not aged as long and typically come from younger vines, but I find the $20 price point perfect for these little gems.  Ripe and  youthful flavors of red cherries and currant sink into the palate with medium plus acidity and tannins.  Touches of dusty earth and clay are noted on the outer palate with tinges of herbs throughout the core.  Delightfully elegant and approachable, this wine is user friendly for food or a back yard sipper.  James Score: 90 Points

Ulrich Langguth Piesporter Goldtropfchen Kabinett 2014

Mosel Valley, Germany

Cash Price $17.99

The best off dry Rieslings in the world come from the Mosel Valley in Germany.  Riesling is the PERFECT grape for the extreme August heat in Houston.  I am often confounded that it is not more prevalent at the table in Texas.  The wines are light, bright, and refreshing.  What’s not to love?!?!  This delightful jewel offers flavors of luscious honey, but not sweet honey, with a beautiful citrus backbone and medium plus acidity that off sets the whiffs of sweetness.  The mid palate shows freshly picked granny smith apples and pear with licks of lemon.  The finish is clean and tinged with a slate minerality that lingers deliciously.  Perfectly Balanced!  James Score: 92 Points

Del Fin Del Mundo Pinot Noir Reserva 2014

Patagonia, Argentina

Cash Price $17.99

This time of the year I am always looking for value Pinot Noir, since it is tough for me to drink Cabernet in triple digit heat!  Argentina is a hidden gem, specifically Patagonia, for under $20 Pinot Noir that over deliver.  Ripe, yet elegant flavors of black cherry and red apples sinew deftly into medium plus acidity and medium minus tannins.  The mid palate offers subtle hints of cola and cinnamon with touches of French oak aging.  The finish has some weight to it, yet the youthful exuberance sings though with wild red berries and raspberry.  James Score: 89 Points

Les Tuiles Chardonnay 2015

Macon Villages, France

Cash Price $13.99

I am quite happy that Chardonnay lovers are starting to embrace the un-oaked styles of this versatile varietal.  I enjoy the ripe, deliciously fresh fruit that this wine offers.  Vibrant flavors of fresh yellow apples and meyer lemon citrus zing through clean medium acids.  Fleshy pear and pineapple lead the mid palate with touches of crushed wet rocks.  The finish offers a soft, creamy texture that is a perfect ending for this wine.  James Score: 88 Points

Crios Rose of Malbec 2015

Mendoza, Argentina

Cash Price $12.99

The baby wines of Susana Balbo are consistently great value and the Rose they produce is one of my favorites using Malbec.  The wine is fresh and offers flavors of wild strawberries and raspberry with medium plus acidity.  The mid palate offers touches of citrus and rose petals.  The finish is light an delicious with notes of wild flowers and hints of candied cranberry.  James Score: 89 Points

Michel Cazavieille Red Blend 2014

Saint-Chinian, France

Cash Price $8.59

I visited this winery 5 or 6 years ago when I was harvesting throughout the South of France.  I traveled through the Rhone Valley and the Languedoc-Roussillon.  One of the absolute steals of the entire trip was found in the vineyards of Michel Cazavieille.  He only had 3 people helping him tend his vineyards and offered them at rock bottom prices.  I tasted them and was immediately in love.  The Grenache, Syrah blend is a perfect daily drinker that is sure to impress even the geekier wine drinkers in the room.  Flavors of red berries and plum flow easily into medium plus acidity and medium tannins.  Notes of black pepper and garrigue move softly into a gentle creaminess that encompasses the palate.  The finish is pure and balanced with darker fruits of currant and black cherry.  James Score: 90 Points


Thank You,

James C. Barlow

Certified Wine Educator

Certified Sommelier


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