Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you all know, I was recently in Bordeaux so I did not have time to post a ‘Thirteen’ picks last month.  I will be leaving to Burgundy in a week, so I am making sure to get this month’s list posted! I have the opportunity to become a Burgundy Ambassador and will be visiting the region for 8 days.  At the end, I will take an exam and (fingers crossed) return to Texas as a Certified Burgundy Ambassador!  I know that pocket books are a little light this time of year due to the merciless tax man, so I have tried to keep most of these picks in the ‘affordable’ range.  Enjoy!

Louis de Sacy Grand Cru Champagne N/V

Champagne, France

Cash Price $33.89

I recently had the pleasure of taking Mr. Alain Sacy around to several locations throughout Houston to taste his dynamic products with our staff. He is a 12th generation grape grower and 4th generation wine maker.  In other words….Its in his blood.  He grew up in the vineyards forgoing school to focus his attention on his true love, grapes.  His son and daughter have decided to become the 13th generation and the legacy of this boutique Champagne house continues.  Alain is a minimalist in producing his sparkling wine, allowing the grapes to speak from his Grand Cru vineyards in the quaint town of Verzy.  Grand Cru vineyards are considered the finest in all Champagne.  It is rare to find Grand Cru at such an affordable price!  Pure, zesty flavors of citrus lemon lay on the edgy backbone of deliciously refreshing acidity.  He adds minimal dosage (6 grams) and allows fruits of bright red cherry and rose petals to flow seamlessly through the palate.  The finish offers hints of brioche and wild flowers with an undertone of wet rock minerality.  Yum!  James Score: 92 Points

Chateau Cap St. Georges Red Blend 2014

St. Emilion, France

Cash Price $25.99

From an iconic producer, Jean-Philippe Janouiex, comes this excellent value wine from St. Emilion.  It is mostly Merlot with a smidgeon of Cabernet Franc lending structure and spice.  This wine is all about elegance and balance.  Ripe flavors of fresh plum and wild strawberry flow easily into the palate with licks of vanilla bean and cinnamon.  The mid palate is medium plus bodied with firm tannins and acids.  The finish offers tinges of forest floor, chocolate and hints of cedar.  This is a wonderful wine to pair with meat.  Stellar!  James Score: 93 points

Nuiton Beaunoy Pinot Noir 2014

Beaune, France

Cash Price $25.99

Nuiton-Beaunoy is, above all, the history of the pioneer winegrowers of the Hautes-Cotes de Nuits and Hautes-Cotes de Beaune. They worked unceasingly and side by side to develop the art of vine cultivation and wine production in the valleys that sustained human activity and that connect with the slopes of the Cote d’Or.  They lovingly craft wines to reveal the expression of the extraordinary patchwork of vineyard parcels found in the Cote d’Or.  This classic expression of Burgundy Pinot Noir offers supple flavors of red cherries and red berries that weave throughout medium plus acids and medium tannins.  The mid palate shows touches of cream and red currant that are well rounded.  The finish is pure and clean with hints of minerality and just a whiff of toasted oak and vanilla.  James Score: 91 Points

Shed Horn ‘Non Typical’ Red Blend 2015

Lake County, California

Cash Price $24.99

This small winery (only 4,000 cases produced annually) won a Gold Medal in the Houston Uncorked! Wine Competition and has made it to Spec’s portfolio with pride.  Located in Lake County, they produce wines from high elevation, volcanic soil vineyards. Michael Wood is the wine maker.  This non typical wine is blended with Syrah, Zinfandel, Barbera, Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot.  Silky and fruit forward, this ‘love me now, love me often’ wine shows flavors of blue berry and black cherry on the front palate with medium tannins and acids.  The mid palate is voluptuous and tantalizing with dark berries and spice with excellent structure and texture.  The finish is creamy and integrated with hints of herbs and black pepper.  James Score: 90 Points

Summers Charbono 2015

Calistoga, California

Cash Price $24.99

I love finding little gems from unknown varieties.  Charbono was mistaken as Barbera for years in California until Dr. Carole Meredith gave the revelation that it is actually the French variety Corbeau.  Summers winery is the king of this obscure variety in California.  In fact, Jim Summers nickname is ‘Mr. Charbono’. Summers Charbono is ‘Boy o Boy’ yummy!  It is a veritable fruit cocktail with inviting flavors of blackberry and blueberry with medium plus tannins and medium acids. This thick skinned variety gives the palate a full bodied experience while still offering dollops of bright and fresh fruit.  The wine is aged in 50% New American and French oak for 18 months which is quite prevalent on the finish showing lively notes of toasted oak, cedar and vanilla bean.  James Score: 90 Points

Chateau Tour Leognan Blanc 2016

Pessac Leognan, France

Cash Price $19.29

Most people think of New Zealand when conjuring up images of Sauvignon Blanc.  I challenge you to fall in love with one of the best regions for Sauvignon Blanc in the world: Bordeaux, France.  Chateau Tour Leognan is the 2nd label of famed Chateau Carbonnieux in Pessac Leognan which happens to be one of my favorite white wine producers on earth.  This winery is owned by the Perrin family and consistently makes my favorite white Bordeaux.  Tour Leognan may be a second label, but has a first label quality.  The wine is 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Semillon with a small amount of French oak aging which I only noticed on the nose.  Vibrant flavors of grapefruit, citrus and cactus are encompassed by medium plus acidity and just a whiff of tannin.  The mid palate offers a distinct minerality of cracked stones that leads into meadow flowers.  The finish offers tinges of vanilla with a clean, refreshing mouth feel.  This wine will be a spectacular match for white meats on your table.  James Score: 90 Points

Ken Forrester ‘Renegade’ Red Blend 2013

Stellenbosch, South Africa

Cash Price $18.99

I have been an ardent supporter of this winery since I visited it several years ago.  I came down with a dry cough on the flight over that afflicted me until I went to his winery in Stellenbosch.  He gave me an Eaux-De-Vie that had some ‘special’ herbs grown by monks on a mountain.  He allowed me to try the bottle and magically the cough went away the next day.  It also just so happens that his wines are amazing!  This GSM (Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvedre) is delightful with plush red fruits of raspberry and cherry.  The mid palate offers medium tannins and acids with plenty of zingy dark fruit of blackberry and cassis.  The finish shows touches of black olive, nutmeg and spices.  James Score: 89 Points

Le Monde Refosco 2014

Friuli, Italy

Cash Price $17.49

If you happen to make the tasting at Spec’s Oak Ridge location tonight (May 3rd) you will have the delight to taste this wine.  I have been quite the fan of this winery and their Ribolla Gialla is one of my favorite white wines.  The winery is located in one of the best places in Italy to produce wine, Friuli Grave DOC, and follow organic, sustainable and biodynamic practices.  Alex Maccan is the owner and wine-maker.  This 100% Refosco del Peduncolo wine pops in the palate.  Tantalizing flavors of blackberry, black cherry and wild berries sink into medium plus tannins and acids.  The mid palate is weightless, yet still shows power.  The finish offers touches of roasted peppers, spice and crushed rocks.  James Score: 88 Points

Domaine Thibert Macon Verze Chardonnay 2015

Macon, France

Cash Price $19.94

I am really falling in love with Chardonnay from the Maconnais.  It has the depth of the Cote D’Or but without the price point.  The 2015 vintage is a ‘seek out’ year for French wine.  This wine comes from the relatively unknown village of Verze and is fully organic.  This 100% Chardonnay screams in your palate and is perfect for the impending summer heat.  Lush flavors of green apples, apricot and white peach sing easily through medium acids.  The mid palate offers notes of pear and white flowers.  The finish is brilliant with a minerality that really shows one the ‘essence’ of Verze.  A Gem of a wine!  James Score: 91 Points

Highway 12 Rose of Pinot Noir 2017

North Coast, California

Cash Price $14.99

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.  Dry Rose wines have exploded in the market and some of my favorites are produced from Pinot Noir. This Rose has a beautiful salmon hue and offers vibrant flavors of wild strawberries and watermelon.  The wine is gushing fruit from every crevice.  The mid palate shows notes of white peach and wild flowers. The finish is seamless with medium acidity and a whiff of rose petals.  James Score: 89 Points

Pra Vinera Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2016


Cash Price $14.99

Pra Vinera translates to ‘Field of Vines’ and conjures images of picturesque vineyards on a beautiful California afternoon.  The wine is silky smooth and inviting.  Flavors of black berry and black cherry are entrenched in medium acids and tannins.  The mid palate shows fleshy plum and black raspberry with tinges of leather and tobacco.  The finish is easy and approachable with whiffs of chocolate, vanilla cream and oak.  Quite user-friendly.  James Score: 88 Points

Dante Robino Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Mendoza, Argentina

Cash Price $12.29

Dante Robino has quickly become one of the best selling wineries in our portfolio.  The wines over achieve for the price and are dangerously easy to drink.  This Cabernet is built for days that end with ‘Y’.  Full bodied and flavorful, Robino offers notes of black cherry and currant with medium tannins and acids.  Hints of blue berry and spice sinew through the full mouth feel.  The finish has hints of mocha, oak, vanilla and cinnamon.  Perfect hearty meat wine.  James Score: 87 Points

Baritone ‘Maxim’ Cabernet/Shiraz Red Blend 2015

South Australia, Australia

Cash Price $12.99

Baritone has been one of Spec’s most consistent red blends in our Australian category throughout the years.  It comes in a 1 liter container (The extra glass of wine is on us) and is a blend of Shiraz and Cabernet.  Bold flavors of currant and plum play through layered tannins and medium acids with notes of toffee and spice.  The finish offers vanilla and cedar with tinges of dark cocoa, licorice and clove.  Baritone is a user friendly Tuesday slurper that is sure to please whether at a party or on the back patio.  James Score: 87 Points

Thank you,

James C. Barlow,CWE,CSS


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