JAMES BARLOW’S ‘THE THIRTEEN’ PICKS OF FEBRUARY 2018

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

Happy New Year!  I apologize, but the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018 have been an extremely busy time for me.  I have put this blog on the backburner for a month, but time’s up!  I am back in the saddle with some amazing picks and values.  Some of the selections are geared towards Valentine’s Day and others are just Spectacular wines that should grace your table in the near future!  Cheers to a prosperous and blessed 2018!

Expression 39 Anderson Creek Pinot Noir 2013

Anderson Valley, California

Cash Price $40.84

Anderson Valley is one of the true ‘Grand Cru’ regions for growing Pinot Noir in California.  Located in Medocino, north of Napa Valley, this region is becoming a premier region for stunning expressions of Pinot Noir and Bill Hill is intent on offering some of the finest selections.  The Valley is rather small and thus there are only a handful of wineries that produce small quantities of high quality wines, mostly from Pinot Noir.  Wine maker Patrick Mahaney is crafting brilliant Pinot’s from all over the west coast, but this is truly one of my favorites that he produces. Supple flavors of black cherries and pomegranate envelope the palate with licks of wild red flowers dancing melodically in the background.  The wine has medium plus acidity and medium tannins.  Although this wine is an elegant Pinot Noir, it does seem to have some brutish intensity that smacks the palate with deliciousness.  Touches of rhubarb, cola and jam play into the finish with hints of walnuts, singed vanilla, and milk chocolate.  James Score: 93 Points

Monticello ‘Jefferson’s Cuvee’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $29.99

“Good wine is necessity of life” were the words from one of our Forefathers, Thomas Jefferson. The Corley family pays homage to the great man with their Jefferson’s Cuvee selections.  The winery has been producing Napa Valley wines since 1969.  The vineyards are sustainably farmed and the fruit used in this wine is all estate and fermented in French Oak.  This winery is often lost in our portfolio, yet they produce wine of excellent balance and structure.  Monticello exudes flavors of lush blackberry and black cherry that weave easily throughout medium plus tannins and medium acids.  The mid palate shows touches of plum and anise flow into a textured mouth feel.  The finish is long and entertaining with notes of lightly toasted oak, dark mocha and smidgeons of vanilla.  Touches of spice linger delightfully on the palate.  James Score: 91 Points

Rowland Cellar’s Cenay ‘Bald Mountain’ Chardonnay 2013

Santa Cruz Mountains, California

Cash Price $24.99 BUT ONLY $19.99 FOR A LIMITED TIME WITH YOUR SPEC’S KEY

I have always been impressed with the way Gerald Rowland handles his wines.  He is light handed with his wines, allowing for the pure expression of the grape to come forward.  His Chardonnay is definitely Burgundy-esque with terroir shining from Santa Cruz.  Bald Mountain is situated on the coastal side of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The vineyard sits at 1000 feet elevation, protected from the wind by the large redwood trees that surround its border.  The proximity of the vineyard to the Pacific Ocean exposes the fruit to the cool, briney fog and ocean breezes that preserve the natural brightness of fruit aromas and acidity.  Flavors of Granny Smith apples and key lime pie explode in the palate with hints of tropical fruit.  The mid palate has an underlying current of acidity and minerality that melds easily into notes of pineapple and guava.  The finish is chalked full of wet rocks, vanilla and mousse. James Score: 92 Points

Chateau Le Conseiller Red Blend 2011

Bordeaux, France

Cash Price $18.99

I recently brought Jean-Philippe Janoueix and Francois Despagne (Grand Corbin Despagne) around Houston before the Vintage Grand Cru Classe tasting that was unfortunately cancelled due to inclement weather.  At the time we tasted their 2014 offerings, but I was able to talk at length with him about the 2011 vintage.  This vintage is an exceedingly good VALUE vintage!  This offering from famed Wine maker Jean Philippe Janoueix is brilliant.  Conseiller is one of Bordeaux’s best offerings for the price point and in one of the best value vintages in recent history.  The wine is 90% Merlot and aged in new French and American oak with 50% in smaller cigar barrels.  Flavors of blackberry and cassis layer into graphite and dense minerality.  The wines has medium plus tannins and acid which make it age worthy, but Janoueix makes his wines quite accessible in their youth.  The mid palate softens into touches of cream and currant with touches of iron.  The finish is complex and well balanced with notes of cedar, leather, and tobacco. If you are seeking Bordeaux Superior wines, none due it better than Jean-Philippe Janoueix!   James Score: 91 Points

Domaine du Courteillac 2009

Bordeaux, France

Cash Price $17.99

Right Now is the perfect time to start diving into the brilliance of Bordeaux’s Value Red Blends .  I am tickled every time I come across an inexpensive 2009 & 2010 because I just know they are going to be OUTSTANDING!  This vintage has gone down as one of the best of the century.  Prices exploded, so it became hard to find value.  That said, you had to be a really bad grower to produce bad wine.  Anything under $20 is drinking exceedingly well….like this wine for instance!  Courteillac is a blend of 70% Merlot/25% Cabernet Sauvignon and a smidgeon of Cabernet Franc.  Flavors of silky red currant and plum sink into eloquent acids and tannins.  Kisses of French oak weave melodically through the mid palate with smidgeons of hazelnuts and vanilla.  The finish is soft, yet firm with hints of spice.  Get this STEAL while it is still available!  James Score: 90 Points

Domaine Mejan-Taulier ‘Canto Perdrix’ Red Blend 2014

Laudun (Cotes du Rhone Villages), France

Cash Price $14.99

Located in the Rose capital of the world, Tavel, Domaine Mejan-Taulier is producing some lights out red blends from Laudun.  The wine is 50% Grenache, 25% Cinsault, 25% Mourvedre and aged completely in stainless steel tanks (no oak).  The wine is intensely fresh with flavors of fleshy cassis and raspberry.  Hints of sweet tart red berries are surrounded by medium acids and tannins.  The mid palate offers darker fruits of blackberry and black cherry.  The finish is zesty and fun with touches of black pepper, freshly turned earth and garrigue.  I REALLY like this wine!  James Score: 90 Points

Aya Malbec 2014

San Juan, Argentina

Cash Price $16.99

Argentina produces some of the best Malbec in the world due to the climactic conditions.  The region is arid with bountiful  sunlight which allows the grape to reach excellent phenolic ripeness.  The Zonda winds give the cooling effect and keeps the grapes safe from disease.  Aya is a beautifully textured Malbec with tons of richness.  Flavors of ripe plum and blackberry follow into medium tannins and acids.  Notes of tobacco leaf and toasted oak are prevalent on the mid palate that softens out nicely in the mouth.  The finish is plentiful with hints of coffee beans and cream.  Yum!  James Score: 89 Points

Twisted Paso ‘Main Squeeze’ Red Blend 2015

Paso Robles, California

Cash Price $15.99

The Calcareous Vineyard’s ‘Twisted Paso’ line has become one of the best sellers in all of Spec’s portfolio.  The Main Squeeze is a silky red blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.  Dark fruits of ripe blackberry and boysenberry are prevalent from the start.  The mid palate turns into creamy blackberry pie with velvet tannins and lush acids.  The finish offers hints of toasted oak and caramel that sink into a gracious amounts of dark chocolate and mild spices.  The wine is aged in 15% New American Oak and 75% Neutral French Oak for eighteen months.  This is a Valentine’s Day wine that Your ‘main squeeze’ will love!  James Score: 88 Points

Pietra Santa Sangiovese 2013

Central Coast, California

Cash Price $12.89

Unfortunately, this winery has changed hands and decided to go in a different direction with the wines.  So if you like Pietra Santa wines…..GET THEM NOW while you can!  Located in Cienega Valley about 25 miles from Monterey Bay, Pietra Santa is Italian for ‘Sacred Stone’ in honor of the rich terrain and terroir on which the winery is located.  Italian Wine Maker Alessio Carli has produced a pure and focused wine with this offering.  Sangiovese is extremely close to the heart of Alessio and he produces some of the best in all the Central Coast.  Flavors of bing cherry and cranberry meld easily into medium tannins and acids.  The wine has a juicy approachability with notes of wild red fruits and hints of ripe tomato on the mid palate.  The finish offers whiffs of nuts, cedar and smoke.  Great Meal Wine!  James Score: 89 Points

Ca’Momi ‘Heartcraft’ Sparkling Rose N/V

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $11.99

This fun bubbly will be perfect for your Valentine this holiday!  The wine has a beautiful Rose color and is produced from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with only 12 grams of residual sugar.  Deliciously soft on the palate, flavors of ripe strawberries and sweet red cherries burst into millions of bubbles.  The mid palate offers a creamy core with hints of cherry cobbler crust and licks of citrus.  The finish is clean and enveloping with a subtle hints of bread crumbs and confection.  Celebrate your Valentine with this sparkler!  James Score: 88 Points

Sheldrake Point ‘Lucky Stone’ Red Blend 2011

Finger Lakes, New York

Cash Price $12.69

The Finger Lakes AVA is quietly becoming a ‘hip’ place to produce wine.  Master Sommeliers and wine makers alike are taking note of wines coming from this region.  The area is typically known for white wines, mainly Riesling, but Dry Reds are beginning to take flight. This wine is an Estate blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Gamay Noir that is a great way to dip your toes into the reds of the Finger Lakes.  Lucky stone offers flavors of light black cherries and pomegranate bounce softly through the palate in an almost Pinot Noir-esque profile.  The mid palate is round and plush with notes of maple and plum that integrate into medium acids and tannins.  The finish is light and flavorful with whiffs of cinnamon, clove and vanilla.  James Score: 86 Points

Capriccio Espumante Dulce Natural

Mendoza, Argentina

Cash Price $11.99

This fully sparkling, 100% Torrontes is naturally sweet and highly aromatic with fruit packed flavors of peach, pear and guava.  The bubbles tickle the palate while flavors tantalize the taste buds with hints of honeycomb and lush stone fruits.  While the wine may taste like moscato ‘light’, it does have 9.5% alcohol contentto add with the flavors of fresh meadow flowers.  James Score: 86 Points

Enseduna Red Blend 2008

Languedoc, France

Cash Price $13.19

I visited the Languedoc a number years ago and was lucky enough to have dinner with the head vineyard manager of this winery.  He is a big fan of the indigenous grape Marselan and made his case to me that this varietal would become the signature grape of the region.  He may be onto something!  Enseduna is a blend of  45% Marselan,  35% Syrah, and  20% Merlot.  Juicy flavors of plum and black cherries are prevalent from the start with a soft, round mouth feel.  Notes of stewed red fruits sink into the mid palate with soft, elegant tannins and still zesty acids.  The finish offers hints of spice and earth.  The wine does have a bit of age on it, so it is very soft and approachable right now.  Pair with Texas BBQ or Fajitas!  James Score: 86 Points

Thank You,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

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