Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

March is delightfully upon us.  It seems the rain has subsided a bit, but Mother Nature has yet to throw the brutal heat and humidity our way.  I have recently tasted a good number of Bordeaux and have found the 2014’s to be drinking quite nicely with a full bodied feel that will pair with all things Rodeo!  I am pleased to announce that I will be returning to Bordeaux in April for two weeks to taste through the 2017 vintage.  I will make sure to report back, in detail, my tasting notes.  But for now….Enjoy these selections!

L’esprit de Chevalier Red Blend 2014

Bordeaux, France

Cash Price $29.99

This 65% Cabernet, 30% Merlot blend that is aged for eighteen months in French Barrique really shocked me with how well it was drinking.  From the famed house of Domaine de Chevalier, this 2nd wine is absolutely stunning!  The wine is full, yet supple with plenty of brawn that will pair wonderfully with big slabs of beef.  Flavors of black cherry and currant flow through textured medium plus tannins and acids.  Notes of roses waft through the senses with tinges of red apple.  The mid palate is balanced and a silkiness of cream and bright red raspberry.  The finish is long and integrated with smidgeons of vanilla bean, graphite, leather, tobacco and toasted oak.  Yum!  James Score: 93 Points 

Highwayman Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Sonoma County, California

Cash Price $29.99

The Highway wines are the brainchild of Michael Sebastiani and Paul Giusto.  They have created a brand that has gained amazing traction here in the Texas market.  The Highway 12 and Carneros Highway lines have exploded in all the big Texas cities.  The Highwayman series is the upper echelon reserve wines of these lines.  I became quite a fan of their red blend (Cabernet Franc heavy) and was equally impressed with this Cabernet Sauvignon.  The 2015’s are beautiful wines from a spectacular vintage.  Exuding a quiet confidence, this brand is a powerhouse lineup of luxury wines. Dark in attitude and powerful in style, these wines are produced as a showcase for the Highway 12 winemaking team.  Flavors of blueberry and berry compote sink into the palate with quite a viscous mouth feel.  The mid palate offers blueberry pie and raspberry jam with medium tannins and acids.  The finish is chalked full of vanilla, graham cracker and tinges of exotic spice with an oaky presence.  This is a fruity wine that is jam packed with power and a hefty amount of alcohol.  James Score: 90 Points

Chateau Cap de Faugeres Red Blend 2014

Cotes de Castillon

Cash Price $23.74

The 2014 vintage is a solid vintage that is drinking with more boy of tannins than that of 2015. Château Cap de Faugères is located in the Côtes de Castillon with its vineyards directly on the St. Emilion border. One can find some of the best value Merlot based red blends here.  The property is owned by Corinne and Peby Guissez.  The estate consists of 26 hectares of vineyards planted with Merlot (50%), Cabernet Franc (38%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (12%). Recently there has been extensive investment in cellar equipment and the wines are vinified using state of the art technology. The wines are then matured in small oak barriques (50% new) for 12-15 months.  This Merlot dominant wine offers flavors of beefy red currant and red cherries with medium plus tannins and medium acids.  The wine is deliciously pure and focused with tinges of smoked meat and spice playing throughout the core.  The finish is long and endearing with notes of cedar, vanilla and whiffs of tobacco.  James Score: 92 Points

Cult Cabernet Sauvignon N/V

North Coast, California

Cash Price $22.99

I am always on the search for a Cabernet that over delivers in the $20 price range.  This non vintage gem is right up that alley.  Boutique winery, Salvestrin, is the brains behind this wine that blends vintages for consistency much like the Champagne region in France.  Abundant flavors of black currant, black berry and raspberry flow silkily through the palate with velvet tannins and eloquent acids.  The mid palate offers hints of spice with tinges of wild berry and red cherry mingled with milk chocolate.  The finish is long with smidgeons of mocha, hazelnut and toasted cedar.  This is a very soft and approachable Cabernet for daily drinking.  James Score: 89 Points

Albert Bichot Pinot Noir 2014

Burgundy, France

Cash Price $24.99

Savigny Les Beaune is located north of Mercurey 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

Poggio Bello Friulano 2015

Friuli, Italy

Cash Price $21.84

Pinot Grigio is the darling of white wine palates in the American market.  Italy’s most expressive white wines can be hauntingly good, yet are often overlooked in the market due to Pinot Grigio’s success.  Friulano is one such grape that is starting to blaze a trail and garner rock star status because its expressive appeal and delicious flavors.  Friulano was mistaken as Sauvignon Blanc in Chile for many years.  The soil in Colli Orientali de Friuli is unique: Eocene marl and sand are extremely meager and provide excellent draining. The weather is also distinctive and very well suited for viticulture and grape ripening, especially for the white varietals that benefit from the warm Adriatic Sea breezes (the Adriatic Sea is only 30 km or 18 miles away) and from the Julian Alps that protect the area from the cold winds from Northern Europe.  This allows for unique wines with intensity.  Poggio Bello offers a citrus front with hints of lemon, pear and papaya.  The mid palate offers a zingy acidity that is encompassed by white flowers, almonds and just a kiss of white peach.  The finish is pure and focused with hints of hazelnut and wet rock minerality.  Yum!  James Score: 90 Points

Goldbelly Syrah 2016

Sierra Foothills, California

Cash Price $24.99

but only $19.99 with your Spec’s Key for a limited time

I love California Syrah, unfortunately it often takes a backburner to Cabernet Sauvignon.  I have spent years tasting as much Syrah as possible and I must say that I am infatuated with American Syrah.  This Syrah is sourced primarily from a single vineyard located 2,200 ft. above sea level in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range.  There is a purity of fruit in good Syrah that is hard to duplicate. Racy, textured flavors of boysenberry and blackberry fling sensuously into medium tannins and acids. The mid palate shows a touch of sweetly jammed black cherry and plum that flows into touches of smoked meat, tar and mocha.  The finish is chalked full of spices with flashes of sweet tobacco that sink into licks of vanilla and toasted oak.  James Score: 91 Points

AIX Rose 2016

Provence, France

Cash Price $16.99

Rose is on fire!  People have finally realized that is deliciously pink wine is not the White Zinfandel of the 1980’s, but instead a perfect expression for excessively hot weather.  It’s not a coincidence that the best Rose produced in the world is in South France licking the waters of the Mediterranean.  Dry Rose is breathtaking and thirst quenching in the sweltering summer heat of Texas.  AIX is a pool slurper that should be purchased by the magnum.  Created using 30% of rosé bleeding and 70% direct pressing, the softest hint of Carignan was added to the classical Provence blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault to give the 2016 vintage an even more profound depth.  Flavors of bright red cherry and cranberry zing through medium plus acidity.  Notes of watermelon and jolly rancher pop through the mid palate with kisses of rose petals.  The finish offers hints of freshly picked strawberries and wild red berries.  Clean, pure and refreshing!  James Score: 90 Points

Diamandes Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Valle de Uco, Argentina

Cash Price $16.99

Located in the heart of the Uco Valley at 3,600 feet, DiamAndes boasts some of the best terroir in the Clos de los Siete.  The wine is made by one of the most famous wine-makers in the world, Michel Rolland.  The wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and aged for 14 months in 50% new French oak.  Thick and densely textured, this wine offers flavors of black currant and plum that sink deftly into medium plus tannins and medium acids.  The mid palate shows a creamy thickness that coats the mouth with notes of cassis, leather and cigar box.  The finish is impressively structured with notes of clove, vanilla bean and textured cedar.  James Score: 91 Points

L’Espigouette Red Blend 2015

Rasteau, France

Cash Price $18.99

The Rhone Valley has long produced some of the best value table wines on Earth, yet people often overlook the $15-$30 price point in Rhone.  The are either buying CDR (Cotes du Rhone) at $10 or CDP (Chateauneuf du Pape) at $40, and the middle price point is often lost.  I implore you to start diving into the insanely complex wine in the mid tier of the Rhone Valley.  This wine hails from the village of Rasteau which is best known for producing VDN (Vin du Naturel is a lightly fortified sweet wine) but can produce distinctly intense red wines. This wine is mostly Grenache (80%) with a little Syrah and Mourvedre sprinkled in.   Flavors of Stewed cherry cobbler races through the palate with raspberry compote.  The wine is thick and brooding with a viscous mouth feel.  Notes of sweet spice and oregano flow deftly into the mid palate with medium tannins and acids.  The 2015’s in France have yet fail me.  Everything I have had from almost every region has been spectacular.  James Score:  90 Points

Cru ‘Montage’ Chardonnay 2015

Monterey, California

Cash Price $15.99

I recently tasted through this winery’s white portfolio.  I am a fan of Monterey because there are so many micro climates that one can find a large variance in styles of wines produced.  This wine has beautiful restraint while keeping true to the expression of ‘traditional’ California Chardonnay.  Flavors of pineapple and pear flow seamlessly through hints of fresh flowers and ripe green apples.  The mid palate shows focus with tropical flavors and medium acidity.  The finish offers notes of hazelnuts, vanilla custard and smidgeons of oaky complexity.  James Score: 88 Points

Tomich ‘Grace and Glory’ Shiraz 2015

McLaren Vale, Australia

Cash Price $14.99

McLaren Vale is producing some of the highest quality Shiraz/Syrah in the world.  The warm region offers wines of hedonistic proportions with thick flavors and hefty alcohol.  Tomich is committed to sustainable farming and is making some high quality juice at an affordable price point.  Racy flavors of black currant and dark cherry integrate into medium tannins and acids.  The mid palate offers blackberry with notes of black pepper and spice.  The finish is long and pure with notes of black olive and dark mocha chocolate.  James Score: 88 Points

Aria Brut Sparkling N/V

Cava, Spain

Cash Price $14.99

Segura Viudas is the producer for this great sparkling brand.  This house is considered one of the finest in Cava and was given the high accolade of ‘Value Brand of the Year’ in 2013 by Wine & Spirits magazine.  I have figured out what the best time to have bubbles. Any time, anywhere is the answer.  Cava offers great value as it is produced the same way as Champagne, but at a margin of the price.  Crisp and clean, this sparkler exudes flavors of citrus and green apple with tight, refreshing bubbles.  The mid palate gives hints of jasmine and white flowers with touches of pear and almond.  The finish is vibrant and inviting with tinges of fresh dough and confection.  Bubbles are for all occasions! James Score: 88 Points

Thank you!

James C. Barlow, CWE,CSS

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