Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

Can you believe the holidays have arrived already?!? I just put up my Halloween decorations this past weekend. It’s time to start anticipating cooler weather and bigger wines.  This month’s medley of wines are a mix of quality and value.  Enjoy!  I will be in Champagne and Burgundy all next week visiting Domaines, so I’ll make sure to give you an update on the wines I am tasting and the vintage as a whole.

Janzen Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $39.89

Winemaker to the stars wine Kirk Venge molded this wine and really showed his handprint throughout.  The 2014 vintage has produced full, meaty wines. He let me in on a secret as well. This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wine has a portion of the hallowed To-Kalon vineyard fruit in it.  He has combined mountain fruit with the finesse of Oakville and Rutherford.  Thick flavors of black cherry and cassis sink deftly into silky tannins and a creamy core.  The mid palate offers loads of dark chocolate, black pepper and hazelnut with smidgeons of graham crackers.  The finish is dangerously smooth with toasted cedar and vanilla from new and used French barrels and a long, lingering mouth feel that offers a whiff of tobacco leaf. Janzen is a Cabernet that you open when you really want to impress your guest.  James Score: 93 Points

Decimus Chardonnay 2014

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $34.99

Decimus is a Napa Valley wine company created by Houstonians Stephen and Allison Lewis. The lead winemaker for the company is the award winning vintner, Steve Reynolds.  He is easily one of the more talented winemakers in all of Napa Valley.  The fruit is sourced from The Corotto Vineyard in the Los Carneros region of Napa Valley. Los Carneros is blessed by the fog and cool breezes of the San Pablo Bay making the climate cooler and more moderate than the wine regions further north in Napa Valley and Sonoma. The wine is delightfully delicate and balanced with flavors of apricot and lemon citrus that are encompassed by a soft, plush core of cream and nutty complexity.  Medium acids are delightfully rounded by the notes of caramel, butterscotch, and whiffs of vanilla bean.  The finish is pure and focused with a more tropical feel of pineapple and ripe green apple.  Yum!  James Score: 93 Points

Chateau Clarke Baron de Rothschild 2015

Bordeaux, France

Cash Price $27.49

The 2015 vintage was absolutely Spectacular in Bordeaux.  The wines are delightfully fresh and approachable in their youth.  I am drinking 2015’s right now.  The wine is a 70% Merlot/30% Cabernet Sauvignon blend and aged 16 months in 30% new oak.  Ripe and accessible, this wine offers blackberry and black cherry off the front with well structured tannins. The mid palate offers touches of bramble and currant that leads into tinges of black pepper and tobacco leaf.  The finish is integrated and long with hints of vanilla and kitchen spices.  James Score: 90 Points

Ampelos Pinot Noir 2015

Sta. Rita Hills, California

Cash Price $23.99

Ampelos quality comes from the amazing care that is given to the vines.  Starting with the proper care of the soil, which leads to strong vines that work hard and struggle beautifully, which leads to amazingly concentrated grapes. The wines are Certified Sustainable In Practice, Certified Biodynamic, and also USDA Organic Certified.  Ampelos is about as ‘GREEN’ as they come!  This puts them on the upper echelon of quality wines….and a quiet gem to be sought out!  Ampelos is situated near the Highly Esteemed Sea Smoke Vineyards at which Peter’s son, Don, is the current wine-maker.  Kris Curran (former Sea Smoke wine-maker) was a consulting wine-maker with Ampelos.  So, these guys have some history with making some of the best Pinot Noir in the world!  Ampelos has been one of my favorite California producers for many years.  The grapes were hand harvested and allowed to start a natural fermentation.  The wine is un-fined, unfiltered, and 100%  Pinot Noir.  Flavors of dark cherries and raspberry sing into a rich cola and brown molasses core.  Notes of wild red berries meld  with medium acids and minimal tannins.  The finish offers hints of Asian spice and Moreno cherries with a touch of butterscotch and vanilla from French oak aging.  James Score: 91 Points

Chateau Breze Sparkling Rose Brut N/V

Loire Valley, France

Cash Price $22.39

My continuing affinity for the Loire Valley grows daily when I have the joy of tasting jewels like this wine.  100% Cabernet Franc from Saumur, this summer stunner knocked my socks off for the price.  Breze is considered one of the best organic and biodynamic vineyards in all Saumur and their sparkling Cremants (pronounced Kray-Mawn) are some of the best that they offer.  Flavors of citrus and rose petals zip into the palate with mouth watering intensity.  Hints of wild flowers and raspberry tickle the mid palate with bits of quince.  The finish offers minerality and a touch of salinity with red currant and crisp acidity.  James Score: 90 Points

Altamira Malbec 2013

Mendoza, Argentina

Cash Price $21.84

This single vineyard selection is located in the Uco Valley.  Altamira has gained complexity and flavor with some bottle aging.  Flavors of blackberry and cassis are followed by full bodied structure of tannins and acids.  The mid palate offers a silkier mouth-feel with plum and fig with secondary notes of molasses and tea leaf.  The finish is creamy and easy with 14 months of French oak aging that gives the wine notes of cedar, vanilla and tinges of mocha.  James Score: 90 Points

Marramiero ‘Incanto’ Montepulciano 2014

Abruzzo, Italy

Cash Price $19.94

Marramiero is a darling winery that produces extremely high quality Montepulciano at value prices. Located between the Adriatic Sea and The Gran Sasso Mountains on the hills around Pescara, the Marramiero family has grown vines since the beginning of last century.  This wine is the un-oaked version of ‘Inferi’.  Montepulciano has the structure of Cabernet Sauvignon but offers softer fruit flavors.  Aromas of wild red berries and plum seep into the palate with hints of sage and red flowers.  The mid palate shows medium intensity with good structure.  The finish is easy and food friendly with notes of fig, pomegranate and black pepper. Great Spaghetti and meatball wine!  James Score: 89 Points

Domaine Pegau ‘Setier’ Red Blend 2015

Rhone Valley, France

Cash Price $17.99

Chateau Pegau has always been one of my favorite Chateauneuf Du Pape producers.  They started making this wine several years ago as an entry level Rhone Village made just a smidge south of CDP but still implements low yield, hand harvesting and strict pruning criteria.  The wine is a blend of 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and 20% Mourvedre.  Setier offers flavors brambly blackberry and currant that flow seamlessly into medium tannins and acids.  Notes of garrigue and black pepper knock into hints of smoked tar and jammy blueberries.  This wine really over delivers!  James Score: 91 Points

Ca’Momi Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $18.99

Ca’Momi is one Spec’s gem Cabernet’s for under $20.  This American winery with Italian roots produces excellent value wines across the board.  This 100% Cabernet is wonderfully complex with flavors of ripe cassis and black cherry.  The wine has been aged for 18 months in oak and it shows on the palate.  Notes of spice integrate through the balanced tannins and acids.  The finish offers plush hints of currant, cream and toasted oak.  Chocolate mocha sits on the palate for a good long time.  This is a great value Cabernet Sauvignon.  James Score: 89 Points

Trig Point Merlot 2015

Alexander Valley, California

Cash Price $16.99

Nick Goldschmidt is one of my favorite wine makers.  He consistently crafts wines of high quality in different climates and even hemispheres.  His father was a land surveyor and a ‘Trig’ is used to establish boundary lines.  Goldschmidt’s Trig Point wines show the unique soils of the area he gets the grapes from, namely Alexander Valley.  The vineyard is located on the southern (and cooler) end of Alexander Valley which makes it prime territory for producing low yield, high quality Merlot.  This 100% Merlot offers flavors of intense black cherry and rhubarb jump into easy acids and well rounded tannins.  Notes of strawberry and freshly picked plum meld into the core of the wine with touches of graphite and dusty minerality.  The finish is deliciously long with 12 months of French oak aging in 20% new barrels and just a touch of new American oak which gives hints of creamy vanilla bean, cinnamon, and cedar.  The finish smacks of blueberry pie!  James Score: 90 Points

Vignerons de Buxy Chardonnay 2015

Burgundy, France

Cash Price $14.99

The Caves des Vignerons in the area of Buxy is located in Cote Chalonnaise, just south of the Cote de Nuits.  There is a collection of 120 growers that pour their heart and soul into producing excellent value wine.  The 2015 vintage offered some delicious wines in France.  This 100% Chardonnay is un-oaked and deliciously refreshing from start to finish.  Flavors of lemon citrus ease into the palate with touches of green apple and white flowers.  The mid palate shows medium acidity with a touch of cream in the core.  The finish is pure and zesty with hints of acacia and lemon meringue.  James Score: 89 Points

Felix Solis Arnegui Rioja Reserva 2012

Rioja, Spain

Cash Price $16.99

The region of Rioja has been making wine for over 2,000 years.  Rioja is one of the finest regions in all of Spain and produces the most classic expressions of Tempranillo.  The wine offers flavors of ripe red fruit of cherry and raspberry.  The mid palate gives medium intensity with structured tannins that are surrounded by leather and tobacco.  Their is a distinct vanilla bean note on the finish with tinges of cedar, mushroom and spice.  James Score: 91 Points

Tenuta Curezza ‘Prine’ Red Blend 2014

Puglia, Italy

Cash Price $12.99

The region of Salento in the southern stretches of Italy offers some excellent value with red blends made with Primitivo and Negroamaro.  Primitivo is Italy’s version of Zinfandel and has the same jammy, fruit forward characterists as its American counterpart.  The wine is completely un-oaked and exceedingly fruit forward with flavors of plum, currant and red cherries.  The mid palate offers hints of cream and spice.  The finish is easy and approachable with notes of wild violets and raspberry.  This is a great Tuesday wine.  James Score: 88 Points

Thank you,

James C. Barlow, CWE,CSS

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  1. Ryan Price says:


    Who do you want me to drop off the olive oil with on Saturday?

    We head over this Sunday for the olive harvest for this years crop.

    Let me know.



    Sent from my iPhone


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