Free Consumer Catena Wine Tasting and The Thirteen Picks of September 2016

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have a treat for you coming up on Wednesday, September 14th from 6-8pm at Spec’s Oak Ridge North.  Bodega Catena (one of the finest wineries in all of Argentina) will be in house pouring some of their spectacular wines.  This is a free event and seating will be capped at 40 people.  RSVP to

Wines to be poured

  1. La Consulta Malbec
  2. Agrelo Cabernet
  3. Alta Malbec
  4. Alta Chardonnay
  5. Alta Cabernet
  6. NCZ


These 1st several picks were chosen to pique your interest into Old World vs. New World with a Bordeaux vs. Napa Valley review (Tourelles & Janzen) as well as a Burgundy vs. Sta. Rita hills (Champy & Sandhi).  All wines are extremely high quality, so I want you to pick up both and see if your palate gravitates towards the Old or New World wines.  Enjoy and let me know where your palate lands!

Tourelles de Longueville Red Blend 2012

Pauillac, France

Cash Price $47.49

I tasted this wine several months ago while in Bordeaux.  This label is owned by Pichon Longueville Baron, a 2nd Growth in the Grand Cru Classe system on the Left Bank of Bordeaux.  I have always been amazed at the gorgeous depth of these wines and this vintage is no different.  The grapes are from the Sainte Anne plot which is planted mostly to Merlot.  This Merlot/ Cabernet blend is thick and full bodied from the start.  Flavors of dense red and black fruit envelope the palate with medium plus tannins and acids.  Notes of graphite and smoke waft sensuously throughout the back palate with smidgeons of cream and silky vanilla flowing easily on the mid palate.  The finish has hints of toasted oak with graham cracker and potpourri that linger on a long, accentuated finish.  James Score: 92 Points

Janzen Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $49.99

Janzen is a Cabernet that you open when you really want to impress your guest.  Rock star wine maker Kirk Venge molded this wine and really showed his handprint throughout.  The 2013 vintage is deliciously hedonistic that is absolutely jam packed full of sweet fruits. He let me in on a secret as well. This wine has a portion of the hallowed To Kalon vineyard fruit in it.  Thick flavors of blackberry and black cherry sink deftly into jammy blueberry pie.  The mid palate offers loads of dark chocolate, black pepper and hazelnut with medium plus tannins and medium acids.  The finish is silky smooth with toasted cedar and vanilla from new and used French barrels and a long, lingering mouth feel.  James Score: 92 Points

Maison Champy Old Vine Pinot Noir 2011

Gevrey Chambertain, France

Cash Price $37.99

I recently tasted this wine and was stunned at the purity and elegance that this wine offered from start to finish.  This is definitely a ‘pretty’ wine.  It is rare to be able to get a gem from Gevrey Chambertain, one of the finest regions in Burgundy, at such a low price point (usually wines of this region start at $50+).  I thought there had to be a catch, but no this wine is just plain amazing at a SPECTACULAR price point.  This old vine 100% Pinot Noir exudes flavors of black cherry and black raspberry flow effortlessly into medium plus acidity.  The wine is aged for 14 months in 30% New French Oak to offer whiffs of oak while still allowing the vibrancy of Pinot Noir shine into the glass.  The finish shows tinges of minerality and tickles of fleshy red plum and spice.  James Score: 93+ Points

Sandhi Pinot Noir 2013

Sta. Rita Hills, California

Cash Price $37.99

Rajat Parr is a rock star in the Sommelier world and is becoming famous in the wine world for his association with mind blowing Pinot Noir.  Sashi Moorman is the wine maker for this allocated wine that dangerously flavorful without being over extracted.  Ripe and zippy flavors of wild strawberries, red cherries and raspberry pop on the palate with medium acidity that lays down ever so silkily on the mid palate.  Touches of tea leaf and cola tantalize the finish with hints of anise on the soft, plush fruits.  This is a small production Pinot Noir that will be the star of your cellar.  James Score: 93 Points

Studert Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese Riesling 2012

Mosel, Germany

Cash Price $24.99

The vineyards of Wehlener Sonnenuhr are considered some of the finest in all the Mosel.  Studert Prum is a winery steeped in history and fine wine making.  Quality Auslese is always lightly sweet on the palate but acidity is the great equalizer on the palate so the wine does not actually taste cloyingly sweet.  Eloquent flavors of white peach and apricot roam freely through medium plus acidity that is surrounded by a field of fresh white flowers.  The mid palate is rounder with notes of candle wax and bees wax.  The finish is chalked full of delicious minerality, citrus and lemon blossoms. Great age ability.  Only 1 case available.  James Score: 94 Points


Gran Viu Red Blend 2007
Carinena, Spain
Cash Price $19.94

I will be traveling to Spain later this month, so I have made it a mission to taste more Spanish wine this month.  I have written up this jewel in past vintages and recently tasted the new release.  I was astounded at the quality that encompassed my palate.  This Garnacha, Tempranillo, Cabernet Blend exudes flavors of stewed red fruits and ripe cherry that lead into a charred mocha and toasted oak.  The tannins are well integrated with easy, supple acids that quench the palate.  The finish gives notes of black pepper, sage, and black slate.  Gran Viu would pair perfectly with a hearty pork loin smothered in brown gravy and mushrooms.  James Score: 92 Points

Contadi Castaldi Brut Sparkling N/V

Franciacorta, Italy

Cash Price $24.49

I think the sparkling wines from Franciacorta are some of the best value bubblies in the world.  They use the Methode Champenoise (traditional method) of Champagne and implement specific aging requirements that give the ensuing sparklers added complexity and at a better price point than that of Champagne.  Contadi Castaldi is my ‘go to’ sparkler when showing people the deliciousness of the wines from this area because of its intense quality and great price point.  This wine is primarily Chardonnay with touches of Pinot Noir and Pinot Bianco and aged for seven months in stainless steel and barrique, then spends 20-26 months aging on its lees for complexity.  Flavors of citrus, green apples and white peach sing through the palate with small tight bubbles.  The wine has a thirst quenching mentality with medium plus acids that play through hints of meadow flowers and honey with licks of confection and cream.  James Score: 91 Points

Ca’Momi Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $18.99

Ca’Momi is one Spec’s gem Cabernet’s for under $20.  This American winery with Italian roots produces excellent value wines across the board.  This 100% Cabernet is wonderfully complex with flavors of ripe cassis and black cherry.  The wine has been aged for 18 months in oak and it shows on the palate.  Notes of spice integrate through the balanced tannins and acids.  The finish offers plush hints of currant, cream and toasted oak.  Chocolate mocha sits on the palate for a good long time.  This is a Cabernet for days that end with Y.  James Score: 89 Points

Paul Croses Chardonnay 2012

Burgundy, France

Cash Price 12.99

Chardonnay from France is often overlooked in this world of American Chardonnay lovers.  I implore you, try Chardonnay from Burgundy.  It is some of the best Chardonnay on Earth!  Beautifully integrated flavors of green apple sinew through touches of orange blossom and pineapple with medium acidity.  There is a whiff of creamy complexity on the finish with tinges of buttery pecans.  James Score: 90 Points

Vassal de Mercues Malbec 2013

Cahors, France

Cash Price $11.99

Vassal is the 2nd label of Chateau de Mercues and is owned by highly touted producer Georges Vigouroux in the birth place of Malbec, which is Cahors, France. This wine is meant to be drunk early and often!  Almost neon in color, Vassal offers flavors of dense plum and currant that seep through the palate with medium tannins and acids.  The mid palate is well structured and offers notes of red cherry and hints of cranberry with a creamy texture.  The finish is filled with spices of black pepper, cinnamon and cardamom.  I think this wine has more character than most of the Argentinian offerings.  Fall in love with French Malbec today.  James Score: 90 Points

Hillgate Chardonnay 2012

Lake County, California

Cash Price $19.29 but $5.00 savings with

your Spec’s key: Only $14.29 FOR A LIMITED TIME!

This wine is a classic example of Spec’s giving our customers a great deal at a Spectacular price.  Hillgate still drinks like a $20 Chardonnay, but we are marking it down to get through this vintage so we can bring in the new one.  Lake County is becoming the newest hotbed in wine making due to the  relatively inexpensive grapes grown there (as opposed to the ridiculous pricing of Napa Valley grapes).  Flavors of green apple, melon and pineapple fling effortlessly into medium acids and minimal tannins.  Tinges of oak waft easily throughout the mid palate with notes of butterscotch and buttered nuts.  The finish is clean and quaffable with hints of peach and mango.  James Score: 89 Points

Bocelli Sangiovese 2014

Tuscany, Italy

Cash Price $14.59

Bocelli family was making wine long before Andrea Bocelli became an iconic opera singer.  The passion of wine was instilled to him at a young age, so it was a natural progression that he decided to make wine at his estate in Morellino, Tuscany.  This 100% Sangiovese implements the olden traditional wine making method of governo all Toscana.  The wine is produced to be a perfect food wine.  Bocelli is tailor made for hearty dishes such as spaghetti or pizza.  Flavors of red cherries and cranberry are met with medium plus acidity and medium tannins.  The wine is fresh, fruit and appealing with smidgeons of herbs on the finish.  James Score: 88 Points

Ken Forrester ‘Petit’ Rose 2015

Stellenbosch, South Africa

Cash Price $9.99

 I have been an ardent supporter of Ken Forrester wines ever since I visited the estate several years ago.  I particularly enjoy his entry level wines of the ‘Petit’ label.  This wine s that veritable ‘porch pounder’ style of wine.  100% Grenache and un-oaked, this wine is bursting with flavor!  Vibrant red cherries and raspberry zing into zesty medium plus acidity.  Notes of red apples and just a smidge of creamy texture touch the mid palate.  The finish is crisp, clean and refreshing with notes of wild strawberries and red roses.  Perfect 100 degree weather wine.  James Score: 90 Points

Thank You,

James C. Barlow

Certified Wine Educator

Certified Sommelier



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1 Response to Free Consumer Catena Wine Tasting and The Thirteen Picks of September 2016

  1. Tom Simms says:

    James, Please sign me up for the Catena tasting.

    Tom Simms
    Chief Financial Officer

    Tom Simms |
    10880 Alcott Dr. | Houston, TX | 77043
    713-487-4765 | Direct
    281-705-1037 | Mobile

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