Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

Can you believe it is March already?!?  It seems like 2017 is blowing by.  I have had the pleasure of trying some rather eclectic wines lately that I will offer to you all.  I have had some interesting Chardonnay’s lately, so I thought I would pick three countries to write up and show you the unique differences in flavor profile from the same variety, but different terroir.  So, pick up all three and find which style you love the most.  I have also written up two Bichot Pinot Noir’s in the same price point, but from different regions in Burgundy the last two blogs to show you the unique differences in the wines from the same producer but different area.  Enjoy!

Kane ‘Moonset’ Red Blend 2014

Sonoma, California

Cash Price $29.99

John Kane is the founder and winemaker at JCK Wine Company.  He has spent over twenty years  learning, producing, and making wine with brilliant minds such as Kent Rosenblum and Jeff Cohn.  He has a certain penchant for making extremely flavorful Zinfandel.  He produces three wines, all based on America’s darling variety.  This 80% Zinfandel blend offers booming flavors of blueberry and black currant with medium tannins and acids.  The mid palate is quite lively with notes of black cherry, cola and silky vanilla.  The finish is plush and inviting with whiffs of spice with lavender and cinnamon.  James Score: 93 Points

Anthonij Rupert ‘Protea’ Reserve Red Blend 2009

Coastal Region, South Africa

Cash Price $26.99

I love the age ability of South African wines.  I recently re-tasted this wine and it is peaking right now!  The wine is a 50% Shiraz/46% Mataro/ 4% Viognier red blend that is rocking from start to finish.  Protea offers flavors of plum and fig that sink into integrated tannins and acids that have really given way to the dried fruits.  Notes of brown sugar and nutmeg waft easily through the mid palate with smidgeons of black pepper.  The finish is rich and textured with hints of vanilla bean, licorice, and cedar.  Get this one while it lasts!  James Score: 91 Points

Bellefleur de Haute Serre Sparkling Rose N/V

Vin de France

Cash Price $26.39

Ever had a sparkling Malbec? NO? Me neither till recently.  This fun and approachable bubbly has a fanciful nature, without being to pretentious.  The wine is produced by famed Cahors producer, Georges Vigouroux.  Deliciously clean and tight bubbles offer flavors of ripe bing cherries and wild strawberries with medium acidity.  The mid palate is extremely fresh with touches of red apples and freshly picked roses.  The finish is clean and tantalizing with hints of toasted biscuits and brioche.  James Score: 90 Points

Vincent Latour Chardonnay 2014

Bourgogne, France

Cash Price $19.94

The best expressions of Chardonnay, in my humble opinion, come from the tiny sliver region of Burgundy in eastern France. This is a relatively new producer to this market, but I must say that I am quite pleased with the entire portfolio. Granted, this producer does have Chardonnay that is priced $100 and more. This is their entry level Chardonnay….The gateway drug! Flavors of green apples and citrus blossom sing melodically into kisses of honeysuckle and pear. The mid palate offers whiffs of melon, mango, and roasted nuts with medium acidity. The finish offers touches of oak with a richness that balances the wine throughout. Pair this food with oysters, crawfish, of light fowl.  James Score: 90 Points

Block 227 Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Paso Robles, California

Cash Price $19.94

I usually am pretty darn happy with Paso Robles Cabernets.  The climate gives them plenty of ripe fruit while the cost per ton of grapes hasn’t skyrocketed like it has in Napa Valley.  I think the best $20 and under Cabernet’s being produced in California are usually coming from this area.  The Block Series doesn’t swing and miss with their selections.  This wine is rock solid.  Block 227 is bursting with vibrant energy and fruit.  Flavors of blackberry and black cherry flow seamlessly through medium tannins and acids.  The mid palate is plush and silky with notes of currant and tobacco with whiffs of black pepper.  The finish is deliciously smooth with touches of vanilla, dark chocolate, and cream.  James Score: 90 Points.

Chateau D’Or Rose 2015

Cotes de Provence, France

Cash Price $19.94

In my honest opinion, Rose season is year round in Texas.  That said, I typically refrain from writing them up until March.  Well…its March 1st and I’m chomping at the bit to tell you about this Spectacularly Dry Rose.  The wine is a 50% Grenache/30% Syrah/20% Cinsault blend that is youthful and energetic from start to finish.  Flavors of wild strawberries and cranberry bounce into every crevice of your palate with medium plus acidity and light tannins.  Notes of apple skin and kisses of watermelon sink into the mid palate.  The finish is pure, clean and refreshing with cherry and wild flowers wafting throughout.  James Score: 90 Points

Albert Bichot Pinot Noir 2014

Savigny Les Beaune, France

Cash Price $24.99

Savigny Les Beaune is located north of Mercurey (last month’s write up) in the famed Cote D’Or region of Burgundy.  Beaune is famous for producing some of the finest Chardonnay on earth, but I have consistently found screamingly delicious Pinot Noir that often fly under the radar.  This 100% Pinot Noir offers freshly picked red cherries and pomegranate that lace into medium plus acidity and medium minus tannins.  The mid palate gives way to black raspberries and touches of cream.  The finish is light and flavorful with touches of subtle spice and wild berries.  James Score: 89 Points

Marchesi Biscardo ‘Ripasso’ Red Blend 2013

Valpolicella, Veneto

Cash Price $19.94

Biscardo’s baby Amarone is exquisite.  Biscardo is a 4th generation winemaker with a passion for wines from the Veneto.  The wine is 60% Corvina and passed over the lees of racked Amarone.  The ensuing wine offers flavors of Amarone, but without the high price tag because of its less labor intensive production.  Complex flavors of dark black plums and black cherry sinew through sleek tannins and acids with licks of black licorice, vanilla bean, and roasted figs.  James Score: 91 Points

Le Monde Chardonnay 2015

Friuli, Italy

Cash Price $16.39

Le Monde is located on some of the best soils for growing white varieties in all of Italy in the DOC region of Friuli Grave.  The area is known for the multitude of rocks that take in the heat during the day and slowly release it at night to allow the vines and grapes to continue their pursuit of ripeness.  This 100% Chardonnay is completely un-oaked and produced with the intention of being expressive without the lipstick of oak.  The wine was aged on its lees for six months, but completely done in stainless steel.  The ensuing wine offers ripe flavors of fleshy pears and tropical fruits that weave easily through medium acidity.  The mid palate offers touches of green apple and papaya with licks of lilac and honeydew.  The finish is lip-smacking with just a kiss of vanilla.  James Score: 90 Points

Malmont Red Blend 2015

Cotes du Rhone, France

Cash Price $18.99

Malmont (bad mountain) is a single vineyard located in the highly acclaimed region of Seguret.  Nicolas Haeni is the brain child behind the powerful wines from this label.  I often say that some of the world’s best priced wines come from the encompassing Cotes du Rhone AOC and this wine is exactly why I consistently say that.  Malmont is a 55% Grenache/45% Syrah blend that offers concentrated flavors of blackberries and garrigue flow smoothly into medium tannins and acids.  The mid palate offers a medley of spices with pepper being prevalent.  The finish is silky and long lasting with hints of violets and lavender flowing through tinges of stewed fruits.  James Score: 89 Points

Chateau Tours de Marchesseau Merlot 2013

Lalande de Pomerol, France

Cash Price $15.69

Marchesseau is a 80% Merlot/20% Cabernet Franc wine from one of the finest places on earth for producing quality Merlot.  This wine comes from the famous Jean-Louis Trocard stable.  I  am happy to see Merlot making a resurgence in the American market.  The movie ‘Sideways’ really hurt the sales of this noble variety.  This wine offers flavors plum and red cherries through integrated acids and tannins.  The mid palate shows hints of minerality with whiffs of iron and red clay infused with licks of subtle vanillin and cedar.  The finish is harmoniously balanced with smidgeons of creamy milk chocolate, leather and toasted oak.  James Score: 88 Points

Lockwood Chardonnay 2014

Monterey, California

Cash Price $10.99

I have really been impressed with the changes that the Boisset family made when they purchased Lockwood vineyards a couple of years ago.  They decided to give the wines a terroir driven flavor profile, which is unique in California. This wine is completely un oaked and aged in stainless steel tanks with lees aging.  Flavors of crisp green apple and citrus sinew easily into the palate with touches of pineapple and melon.  The mid palate displays medium acids with notes of hazelnuts.  The finish is clean and flavorful with hints of lemon cream pie and honeysuckle.  James Score: 87 Points

Laya Red Blend 2015

Almansa, Spain

Cash Price $9.49

Spanish Garnacha and red blends are RED HOT in the market right now!  The consumers have figured out that one can typically get astounding quality under $10 from Spain.  This 70% Garnacha/30% Monastrell blend is ready to drink from the first ‘pop’ of the cork.  Dark and inviting from the first sup, Laya offers blackberry and black cherry that lead into medium tannins and acids.  The mid palate offers a nice dollop of alcohol that is encompassed by blueberry, vanilla and cream.    The finish gives hints of licorice and espresso that begins to show jamminess the longer it is opened.  James Score: 91 Points

Thank You,

James C. Barlow, CWE


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  1. Tom Simms says:

    You have a great marketing effort with this blog but it is falling apart at the store. At the Rayford Sawdust store they no longer have a shelf for these wines despite hundreds of square feet of open unused floor space. The wines in your blog are often not stocked at all and are hard to find. The store personnel seem to actively not support this marketing program saying James has not been by to set up his wines as if they have no responsibility to support the effort in their own store. I attended a Hennessey tasting at Oak Ridge and they did not have any of the bottles tasted or any Hennessey at all available to buy in the store. In the past two weeks, I have walked into the store twice and walked out without buying anything. I have not walked into a Specs without finding something to buy in 30 years — until now. There is way too much competition out there for Specs to not execute.


    Tom Simms

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