Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

Summer is upon us.  I tend to stick to lighter wines such as Rose this time of year, but I have tasted some outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon based wines lately so I feel compelled to put you all in the loop.  This month is a medley of wines, but I tried to keep the price point down as I know most of you all are saving money for the big summer vacation.  Let’s call these wines, SUMMER STUNNERS!  Whatever wine you are drinking this summer, make sure you are pouring it into a Riedel glass!

Janzen Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $49.99

I recently re-tasted this wine and was even more impressed than the first time I tried it.  Janzen is a Cabernet that you open when you really want to impress your guest.  Winemaker to the stars wine 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: 93 Points

Chateau Gaudin Red Blend 2012

Pauillac, France

Cash Price $37.69

The region of Pauillac produces the highest quality and priced Cabernet on Earth.  It is hard to find extremely high quality Pauillac under $50.  Gaudin is nestled between several 1st Growth Chateau, but without the huge price point.  This Cabernet based red blend is massive in tannin structure and flavor profile.  Flavors of red currant and black cherry flow through hints of terroir and medium plus tannins and acids.  The mid mouth feel offer a creamy core that soften the brooding tannins and give this wine a surprising elegance.  Notes of vanilla bean, cinnamon and cedar are prevalent on a long, lingering finish.  James Score: 93 Points

La Varenne Cabernet Franc 2014

Chinon, France

Cash Price $19.29

The Gouron Family has been producing wine for five generations at their estate in Chinon.  This wine is classic Cabernet Franc.  Varenne is all about producing minimal wine at maximum quality.  This 100% Cabernet Franc is perfectly suited for a slight chill and ready to enjoy on the back porch with a steak and veggies during these warm summer months.  Wonderfully integrated flavors of plum and red cherries sink into an earthy tone of freshly churned soil and forest floor.  Notes of blackberry and currant meld beautifully into hints of green pepper, mushrooms and pencil shavings.  The wine offers medium plus acidity and medium tannins that are enveloped with a creamy core that layers beautifully on the palate with all the spices tickling the taste buds througout.  James Score: 91 Points

Eberle Chardonnay 2015

Paso Robles, California

Cash Price $19.22 (on sale for a limited time)

Eberle is one of the highest quality wineries in Paso Robles that does not typically break the budget.  They are determined to produce high quality, friendly priced wines that exceed expectation.  Gary Eberle has taken back control of his vineyard and recently put in his son, Chris Eberle, as  wine-maker (taking over for Ben Mayo).  Gary was one of the founders of Paso Robles and continues the pursuit of excellence with price conservative red and white wines.  This estate produced 100% Chardonnay is all about balance.  Ripe flavors of pear, pineapple and Meyer lemon sing into medium acidity and fleshy fruits.  Tinges of buttered complexity lay on the palate tantalizingly.  The finish is pure and a touch hedonistic with notes of  buttered popcorn, toasted caramel, and vanilla bean.  James Score: 90 Points.

Cougar Crest ‘Dedication Ten’ Red Blend 2012

Walla Walla, Washington

Cash Price $19.94

Cougar Crest is a new addition to Spec’s portfolio.  I recently tasted through their entire line of wines and had the thought ‘There ain’t a dead dog in the bunch’.  I was duly impressed with every offering they showed.  This wine is their introductory blend.  Dedication is a blend of 55% Syrah, 20% Cabernet Franc, 17% Merlot, and 8% Petit Verdot.  I am increasing happy with most of the wines coming out of Washington, but am REALLY excited about the Syrah and Cabernet Franc from Walla Walla.  Dedication offers flavors of silky black cherries and blackberries that encompass velvety tannins and soft acids.  The mid palate shows a harmonious display of plum, currant, and creamy texture.  The wine does have a ‘sense of place’ on the palate that makes it distinctly different from California wines.  James Score: 90 Points

Chateau Callac Prestige Blanc 2015

Bordeaux, France

Cash Price $18.99

This is easily one of the best priced Chateau in all of Graves.  The whites from Bordeaux are a beautifully sophisticated blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.  Callac is a 80% Sauvignon Blanc/20% Semillon blend that is wonderfully crisp and clean with flavors of cactus, citrus, and melon.  The wine has medium acidity that cleanses the palate while offering mouth watering notes of lime, creamy vanilla, and mousse.  The finish offers notes of cedar, wet rocks and touches of zippy grapefruit.  James Score: 91 Points

Block 227 Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Paso Robles, California

Cash Price $19.94

The Block Estate wines never fail to impress me, especially their Cabernet Sauvignons.  The estate has been venturing out to other regions as of late and I am extremely pleased that they have decided to offer a Cabernet Sauvignon from the Paso Robles region.  I think that Paso Robles is offering the best priced Cabernet Sauvignon in all of California at the present.  Rich and ripe flavors of dark currant and blackberry race through medium tannins and acids.  The mid palate offers fleshy blueberry pie with tinges of milk chocolate and vanilla.  The finish is delightfully long and structured with notes of cinnamon and cedar.  James Score: 90 Points

Dampt Chardonnay 2015

Chablis, France

Cash Price $19.94

Some of my favorite Chardonnays come from Chablis.  The wines produced here are the antithesis of California Chardonnay.  The region is on the northern stretches of France and the area is quite cold, so the ensuing wines are typically more acid driven and often do not offer the buttery, oaky sensations offered in California.  Dampt wines are a family affair that farms 30 hectare in Chablis.  This is their basic offering.  Dampt is 100% Chardonnay aged on vines with 30 years of average age.  The wine is stainless steel fermented.  Refreshing flavors of green apple and lime citrus combine with a crushed rocks minerality that sleeks into medium plus acidity.  The finish offers tinges of hazelnut and almond that wisps easily through the palate.  James Score: 90 Points

Domaine Sorin Rose 2016

Cotes de Provence, France

Cash Price $15.99

Rose season could not get here fast enough for me!  I am an ardent fan Rose all year long, but specifically crave it when the hot heat comes pounding at the door.  Domaine Sorin is exquisite with a blue wax top which shows the winery’s commitment to excellence.  The wine is a blend of Carignan, Grenache and Cinsault that explodes on the palate from the first sup.  Flavors of strawberry and bright red cherries sing loudly into the palate with medium plus acidity.  This wine is deliciously dry and can pair wonderfully with light fowl or seafood dishes.  Notes of white pepper and garrigue fall easily in line with hints of wild red berries and pomegranate.  The finish is crisp, clean and ready for another sip.  James Score: 90 Points

Novare Ripasso Red Blend 2013

Veneto, Italy

Cash Price $19.94

Ripasso’s or aka baby Amarone are really becoming a hot topic in the wine world.  The wines are wonderfully priced and offer some of the best red blends on the market.  The wines are sumptuous and succulent, often WAY over achieving their price point.  This label is done by the long famed Bertani family and may just be the best Ripasso that I have ever tried.  The wine is a Corvina blend from the famed region of Valpolicella.  Rich and full bodied flavors of stewed blackberry and black currant sinew deftly through ripe morello cherry.  This wine is all about offering large fruits with minimal tannins and acids.  The mid palate shows touches of sweet berries with notes of cream and spice.  The finish is deliciously flavorful with notes of candied raspberry with whiffs of molasses and blueberries.  James Score: 91 Points


Del Fin Del Mundo Reserva Malbec 2014

Patagonia, Argentina

Cash Price $18.39

I find Malbec to be the perfect red wine for this weather.  It’s not as heady as Cabernet Sauvignon, but not as transparent as Pinot Noir.  The variety is a great balance of fruit and structure that is sure to please most palates.  Mundo offers flavors of violets and red fruits with hints of plum and red roses.  The mid palate offers medium tannins and acids that are enveloped by red cherry and currant.  The finish is pure and flavorful with notes of toasted oak, vanilla and butterscotch.  James Score: 89 Points

Domaine Montcy Red Blend 2015

Cheverny, France

Cash Price $16.99

Montcy is MY red wine for this summer season.  I love the clean, refreshing flavors and structured body that keeps my palate craving more.  This Domaine is located in a fairly unknown area in the Loire Valley, Cheverny, and focuses on high quality whites and reds on soils of clay and limestone.  The red wine is a blend of 50% Gamay, 45% Pinot Noir, and 5% Malbec.  I know….not typically grapes you see used in blends, but boy o boy this wine is delicious!  Bursting red fruit flavors of freshly picked bing cherries and raspberries sing into medium plus acidity and minimal tannins.  The wine is completely unoaked, instead choosing to focus on pinpoint red fruits with hints of spice.  The finish is silky and mouth watering with touches of white pepper, cranberry and violets.  James Score: 91 Points

Varichon & Clerc Blanc de Blanc N/V


Cash Price $12.99

Most of you that follow this blog know that I am a bubble head.  I like bubbles on days that end with ‘Y’.  That said, I constantly seeking value bubbles that over deliver for the price.  Varichon SCREAMS Value from start to finish.  The grapes are sourced from Jura and Savoie on the French/Swiss border.  The wine is produced in the Traditional Method (same way as Champagne) and has been since 1901!  The blend is Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Macabeu that shows a brilliantly elegant body is small, fine bubbles.  Flavors of apple, pear and melon combine with kisses of vanilla and toast.  The finish offers brioche and confection with pure, clean aftertaste.  Yummy!  James Score: 90 Points


Thank you,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS




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  1. Renee Hamilton says:

    Thank you! Shelftalkers coming soon ☺

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