Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

Can you believe the holiday season is already upon us!  Halloween is right around the corner and before you blink, we will be sitting at the table feasting on fowl for Thanksgiving.  I am recently back from Spain after visiting Barcelona and the wine country around that area.  I am featuring a wine from one of the regions, Priorat, that I traveled to and tasted the grapes in the vineyard that would soon become this wine.  I think that’s pretty darn cool!  Enjoy!

Prime Solum ‘Brokenrock’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $60.79

Prime Solum translates in English to ‘an ideal place to grow something’.  The 2010 vintage was absolutely stunning and this wine is readily unleashing the power and fruit that the growing season gave California.  The wine is starting its evolution of peaking right now and will gracefully drink for another five years.  Bill Hill’s home ranch is a 48 acre estate called Brokenrock at the foot of Atlas Peak near Soda Canyon.  The vineyard is perfectly suited to produce immense and intense Cabernet Sauvignon.  This wine is bursting with energy.  Flavors of black currant and cassis slow easily into the palate with licks of exotic spices on the mid palate.  The wine has medium plus tannins and medium acids that are well integrated into the fruit core.  The finish is long and powerful with notes of milk chocolate, cedar and vanilla.  James Score: 96 Points

Chateau Beau-Site Red Blend 2011

Bordeaux, France

Cash Price $34.99

I am in love with the 2011 vintage.  Why? I can afford it over the 09 & 10’s and still get spectacular quality.  This Chateau is located in St. Estephe and is next door to 3rd Growth Chateau Calon Segur and is half the price.  The 2011’s are starting to drink beautifully as five years has started to mellow the tannins and acids.  This Cabernet/Merlot blend exudes flavors of Red berries and red currant with medium tannins and acids.  Notes of cigar box, leather and spice sinew through a velvet mid palate of vanilla, strawberries and cedar.  The finish  offers tinges of hazelnut and mocha with just a whiff of coffee bean.  James Score: 93 Points

Hans Lang Dry Riesling 2013

Rheingau, Germany

Cash Price $25.64

I am extremely excited to be able to offer this high quality dry Riesling!  This wine comes from the Hattenheimer Schutzenhaus vineyards.  These vineyards are Erste Lage (considered 1st Growth) by the VDP, which is a group of producers that have banded together to produce higher quality wine that even the government mandates.  The Rheingau is considered one of the finest regions in the world to grow Riesling and many of their wines are dry.  Lang is a powerhouse of a wine.  Bursting flavors of lemon citrus and pineapple flow freely through medium plus acids.  The mid palate is mouth watering with notes of honey, wet rocks and touches of white pepper.  The finish is clean and offers tinges of bees wax and orange blossoms.  Spectacular!  James Score: 94 Points

Expression 44 Pinot Noir 2013

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cash Price $29.99

Pinot Noir season is upon us!  I have consistently found that the best Pinot Noir is the United States is coming from the Willamette Valley.  Eola-Amity Hills is a sub-AVA inside of Willamette Valley due east of the Van Duzer corridor.  The Pinot’s from this region typically will be the ‘biggest’ style of Pinot coming out of Willamette Valley with more tannin structure than most of the other sub-AVA’s in the area.  The 2013 vintage was cooler towards harvest, so the grapes offered lighter fruits and vibrant acidity (both of which I love!) to form a elegant vintage.  This wine offers exuberant flavors of freshly picked raspberry and red cherries that lead into medium plus acidity and medium tannins.  The mid palate shows hints of rhubard and cola with kisses of exotic spice.  The finish is well integrated with smidgeons of toasted oak, vanilla and just a whiff of graham crackers.  James Score: 90 Points

Domaine Herve Seguin Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Pouilly Fume, France

Cash Price $19.94

The villages of Pouilly Fume quietly produce some of the most striking 100% Sauvignon Blanc on Earth.  The Loire Valley is often overlooked with the popularity of New Zealand, but the best expressions of the varietal are firmly entrenched in France and my favorite come from this area that was once home of many kings and monarchs.  Seguin offers intense minerality from the start with notes of wet limestone and gun flint.  Citrus flavors of grapefruit and lemon lime zing through the palate with medium plus acidity.  There are some tropical notes of pineapple and candied green apples play into the light notes of pyrazine and minerals.  The finish is clean and pure with hints of nectarine and orange blossoms.  James Score: 92 Points

Edu Pulenta Malbec 2013

Mendoza, Argentina

Cash Price $24.99

I traveled to Argentina this February and, as always, was quite pleased with the wines that I tasted.  Paul Hobbs is the driving force to bring these wines to our market.  He is a Sonoma guy that has found some of the best vineyard sites in all of Argentina and he now imports the wines from these areas to the United States for our tasting pleasure.  I am pleased to see the market starting to focus on quality Malbec over quantity Malbec.  This 100% Malbec by wine maker Javier Lo Forte is truly outstanding.  The wine has a balance and finesse that belies the typically rugged texture of Malbec.  Silky flavors of blueberry and plum seep through the dark purple neon color.  Medium plus acids and tannins are noticeable but play second fiddle to the beautiful fruit flavors.  Notes of black cherry and fig touch through the mid palate with jammed raspberry.  The finish is wonderfully balanced with hints of cedar, almond, milk chocolate and just a touch of vanillin.  James Score: 90 Points

Eberle ‘Vineyard Selection’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Paso Robles, California

Cash Price $19.69

Gary Eberle was one of the Pioneers of Paso Robles.  This region is garnering much recognition for producing moderately priced Cabernet that can rival the quality of Napa Valley.  I am happy every time I purchase a bottle of Paso Cabernet.  Deliciously rich flavors of blackberry jam, plum and black cherry race through this slightly hedonistic wine.  The mid palate offer medium tannins and acids with a healthy dollop of delicious fruit.  Notes of currant and tobacco sleek through the mid palate.  The finish offers tones of black chocolate, toffee, and cedar with smidgeons of vanilla and hazelnuts.  James Score: 90 Points

Snowden Dry Rose of Malbec 2015

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $19.94

I think Rose season is year round in Houston!  Today it’s 90 degrees and it’s mid October!  This Rose of Malbec is dynamite.  Wine maker Diana Snowden Seysses is the wine maker at Snowden and also the enologist at Domaine Dujac in Burgundy, so she knows a thing or two about wine.  She is also the spear head behind one of my favorite Roses called Domaine Triennes, so she also knows a thing or two about making Provencal style Dry Rose.  This 100% Malbec Rose only produced 199 cases.   Flavors of wild strawberries bounce gracefully into the palate with medium acidity.  Notes of watermelon and apple blossom sink into the mid palate that offers a slight creamy core of complexity.  The finish is lip smacking and inviting with whiffs of rose petals.  James Score: 90 Points

Champy Bourgogne Signature Pinot Noir 2014

Burgundy, France

Cash Price $18.99

We recently added Champy to our portfolio and I couldn’t be happier!  Champy produces stunning Burgundy at rock bottom prices!  This is their entry level Pinot Noir.  This wine offers inviting flavors of red cherries and wild berries sleek through medium plus acidity and minimal tannins.  The mid palate offers hints of exotic spice and bits of vanilla cream.  The wine absolutely sticks the landing with just a kiss of oaky cedar, red roses and dusty cocoa.  This wine is a excellent way to try classic Burgundy without breaking the bank.  James Score: 89 Points

Poggio Bello Pinot Grigio 2015

Friuli, Italy

Cash Price $17.79

The area of Colli Orientali inside of the region of Friuli is widely known to produce the best Pinot Grigio in the world.  There is a purity of flavor and terroir that is often missed in other regions that produce this varietal.  Poggio Bello shows a sleek complexity of balance, elegance and fragrance.  Flavors of citrus lemon-lime flow into the palate with smidgeons of melon and acacia.  Notes of lemon curd continue through the mid palate without any nuances of oak.  The finish is clean with continuing aromatics and hints of white flowers.  Utterly delicious for the price point.  James Score: 91 Points 

Chateau Ampelia Red Blend 2007

Cotes de Castillon, France

Cash Price $17.49

Castillon borders St. Emilion on the right bank of the Garonne River.  The region is primarily devoted to Merlot and is considered the value version of the right bank.  This wine is 95% Merlot with the remainder being Cabernet Franc.  Ampelia is medium bodied and peaking right now.   Flavors of blueberry and black currant flow seamlessly through medium tannins and acids.  Notes of cedar and vanilla play through the finish with tinges of plum.   Ampelia is tailor made for a thick steak and always give a Bordeaux wine its proper due by decanting it for awhile.  This wine is peaking now!  James Score: 89 Points

Castillo Perelada GR-174 2014 Red Blend
Priorat, Spain
Cash Price $14.99
I recently visited this winery in the hills of Priorat.  The vines are planted on a steep incline that is impossible to machine harvest.  We were there at harvest time, so I was able to taste the grapes that will eventually be in the 2016 wine.  Pretty cool!  The wines of Priorat are almost always extravagantly good, but are pricey enough to put themselves in a niche market. Just as great Brunello Di Montalcino can cost upwards of $50+ per bottle, so too can great Priorat.  Perelada is an amazing value for under $15 and easily the best value that I have tried from Priorat this year. It is a region that has a soil unique to almost anywhere in the world called Licorella. Priorat has attained DOCa status, Spain’s highest level of notation, behind only Rioja. Old vine Garnacha/Grenache grows particularly well in this region. This decadent red is blend of Garnacha, Cabernet, and Carignan. Flavors of blackberry and plum explode on the palate with ripe tannins situated throughout the core. Notes of roasted coffee bean and chocolate sinew into a silky finish of toasted oak and spice. GR-174 is fresh and vibrant with an elegant grace that really drinks much higher than its price point. James Score: 90 Points


Highway 12 Red Blend 2014

Sonoma Valley, California

Cash Price $14.99

This winery comes from the passion of Michael Sebastiani (Yes, THAT Sebastiani), Adam Ivor and Paul Giusto.  They source wines from high quality vineyards that they have helped cultivate throughout the decades.  The wines are all from Sonoma and really give a blueprint to the consumer of how Sonoma wines should taste.  This Merlot bases blend is very accessible from the  first sup.  Flavors of black cherry and plum flow into medium tannins and acids.  The mid palate offers a creamy core of red fruits with tinges of spice.  The finish is silky smooth with hints of cedar, vanilla and a hint of smoked meat.  Great wine for days that end with ‘Y’.  James Score: 88 Points

Thank You,

James C. Barlow

Certified Wine Educator

Certified Sommelier




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  1. Robert Kramek says:

    James I would like to order 6 btls each of the Castilo Perilada and Chateau Beau site red blend….Pat and I toured wine country in Priorat and were very happy with what we purchased…regards, Bob Kramek

  2. Renee Hamilton says:

    Hi James:
    It was good to see you the other day—it always is.

    Thank you for your ongoing “TST” love—you’re so very good to me ☺. I feel like such a idiot for not mentioning to Kevin O’Brien (Expression/Prime Solum) when we met you the other day that you were the one who had included the wines in October’s “Thirteen” picks. The ironic thing was that I had forwarded your post to him earlier that day—I am really losing it! Anyway, thank you again—I hope you know how much I appreciate your support.

    Now that I just finalized the last orders for the year, I should be getting out in the market more and would love to visit with you. We have some new wines/vintages that I’d love you to taste—I really value your feedback.

    Hope you and the family are well and I look forward to seeing you soon!


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