Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

February is upon us and it already feels like Summer is right around the corner.  As always, I took January off from writing this blog so I hope you didn’t miss my selection too badly.  I have a delightful list prepared for my Birthday month that are great wines with great value.  You will see that most picks this month are under $20 as I have been tasting some amazing inexpensive wines lately.  I also have a couple of Valentine’s Day picks for the special ones in your life that love wine and chocolate….Enjoy!

Bodegas La Horra ‘Corimbo’ Tempranillo 2013

Ribera Del Duero, Spain

Cash Price $41.79

I recently tasted through the portfolio of the Iconic Rioja producer, Roda. This winery owns a property in Ribera Del Duero called La Horra which is named after the town in which it presides.  The wines are a definition of the newer style of ripe wine-making that is taking Spain by storm.  The wines were all of very good quality.  The Corimbo is produced in their La Horra estate and is 100% Tinta Del Pais (Tempranillo). The vines are an average of 25 years old on limestone/chalk soils in the towns of La Horra and Roa.  The wine is fermented in large oak and stainless steel then aged for 12 months in 80% French/20% American oak with 20% of that being new oak. The color of the wine is pristine with little to no signs of aging which shows that this wine will have a long life if you so choose.  The wine offers delicious flavors of black cherry and cassis are enveloped with medium plus tannins and acids.  The mid palate offers a soft, approachable plushness that sinks into a long, lingering finish with kisses of vanilla, cedar and spice.  James Score: 93 Points

Domaine Thibert Chardonnay 2015

Pouilly Fuisse, Burgundy

Cash Price $29.99

I have continued to be impressed with the Chardonnay coming from this southern Burgundy producer.  I visited this Domaine last year while touring with the BIVB becoming a Bourgogne Wine Ambassador.  Pouilly Fuisse is offering some of the better Chardonnay in all of Southern Burgundy.  Wonderfully aromatic flavors of lemon citrus flow into medium acidity with just hints hazelnuts.  Notes of creamy vanilla and almonds dance through the mid palate with licks of minerality.  The finish is fresh and offers hints of key lime zest and touches of brioche.  James Score: 91 Points

Domaine de Cabasse ‘Cuvee Jucunditas’ Red Blend 2016

Gigondas, France

Cash Price $23.69

I recently had the pleasure of taking Benoit Baudry, owner of Domaine de Cabasse, around our beautiful city showing his fantastic Rhone Valley wines.  His eyes lit up like birthday candles when he talked about this wine, boasting that it was one of the best wines he has ever produced. The wine is a blend of 70% Grenache/15% Syrah/15% Mourvedre grown at 1,300 feet above sea level.  The wine is supple and inviting from the 1st taste.  Flavors of ripe plum and roasted dates fling effortlessly into the palate with medium intensity followed by candied cherries.  Notes of licorice and black raspberry flow into hints of cracked black pepper with touches of garrigue.  Get this wine while you can!  James Score: 94 Points

Casa de Uco Malbec Single Vineyard 2014

Mendoza, Argentina

Cash Price $19.94

This Uco Valley wine is an expression of everything that is going right with $20 Malbec.  The wine is a classic Malbec with flavors of plum and blackberry with hints of violet throughout a medium intensity. Notes of wild herbs and hints of game are prevalent on the mid palate.  The finish is packed full of cedar, clove and just a whiff of minerality.  James Score: 91 Points

Block 807 Reserve Chardonnay 2017

Chalone, California

Cash Price $19.94

The Block wines are a staple of consistency typically at right under $20.  Chalone AVA is an under rated region that is best known for Chardonnay.  Flavors of tropical pineapple and nectarines flow into a medium intensity.  Notes of ripe lemon and hazelnuts are prevalent with touches of vanilla and cream.  The finish offers hints of wet rock minerality and a citrus zest.  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

Osso Anna Merlot 2014

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $19.94

Osso Anna is a label created by the Buoncristiani Family Winery. Jay Buoncristiani, winemaker of the critically acclaimed wines that bear his name, makes the Osso Anna wines with fruit from Napa Valley.  I have long been a fan of the wines produced by Buoncristiani and am ecstatic that they are making wine for an every day price point. This juicy Merlot offers flavors of plum and black raspberry with notes of milk chocolate and exotic spice. The wine has medium intensity and a easy approachability that begs to become your daily red.  The finish is fleshy and smooth with hints of cedar and vanilla.  James Score: 89 Points  

Taft Street Medallion Red Blend 2016

Lodi, California

Cash Price $18.99

This wine is a Zinfandel/Petite Sirah blend made from grapes sourced from Lodi.  The wine was aged in French and American oak for 18 months.  Medallion explodes on the palate with unctuous flavors of blueberry pie and roasted plums with smidgeons of blackberry and bramble.  The wine has medium plus intensity with a good dollop of alcohol.  The finish offers cinnamon, vanilla and graham crackers.  James Score: 89 Points

Chenin de Mercues Blanc 2014

Cotes du Lot, France

Cash Price $16.99

This wine comes from the famed Cahors producer Georges Vigouroux.  Only red wines based on Malbec are allowed to be labeled Cahors, but he has produced an amazing Chenin Blanc under the Cotes du Lot IGP label.  As most of you know, I LOVE Chenin Blanc!  This wine offers delicious fruits of citrus and pear with whiffs of white flowers and beeswax.  The mid palate shows a pure intensity with medium plus acidity that is encompassed by licks of honeyed jasmine and ripe green apples.  The finish is beautifully integrated with hints of toasted nuts and crushed rocks.  James Score: 89 Points

Francois Labet Cremant Rose N/V

Bourgogne, France

Cash Price $16.99

Francois Labet, owner of Ch. de la Tour, has been producing one of my favorite Cremants for several years now.  Cremant is a term used for sparkling wine produced outside of Champagne like, in this case, Burgundy.  This 100% Pinot Noir is fresh and delightfully bubbly.  Flavors of red cherry, roses and raspberry sing into the palate with nice, tight bubbles.  The wine has medium intensity with a weight in the palate leading to hints of brioche and yeasty complexity.  Perfect Valentine Sparkler! James Score: 89 Points

Scotto Family ‘Old Vine’ Zinfandel 2014

Lodi, California

Cash Price $14.99

The Scotto family is a 5th generation winemaking family based out of Lodi.  They are focused on producing great value wines for consumers.  This jammy Zinfandel offers flavors of dark cherries, plum and stewed blueberry pie.  Silky smooth, this wine offers medium intensity with a softer mouth feel than expected. Great BBQ wine!  James Score: 88 Points

Chateau Camino Salva Red Blend 2015

Bordeaux, France

Cash Price $14.99

You all know that I have been extremely impressed with the 2015 vintage and its early approachability.  I have found excellent value in the mid tier wines, as you don’t have to spend over $20 in this vintage to drink great wine.  Camino Salva offer a medium intensity with crunchy red cherries and currant that show lively acidity.  Smidgeons of licorice and spice show through the long, flavorful finish.  Excellent food wine.

Gemtree ‘Dragon Blood’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

McLaren Vale, Australia

Cash Price $12.29

McLaren Vale is considered one of the finest regions in all of Australia and the area is best known for their red blends.  Gemtree garners very high praise from critics on a regular basis.  They have become famous with their organic and biodynamic vineyard practices.  Truthfully, the wines are quite impressive at excellent price points.  This is truly a Daily Cab drinkers Cabernet.  Fruit forward and approachable, Dragon’s Blood offers flavors of black cherry and cassis with accessible tannins and acids.  The mid palate is rich and enticing with notes of black pepper, plum and currant.  The finish is loaded full of cobbler and exotic spices.  James Score: 89 Points

Thank you,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. really923 says:

    James – went to Total Wine few times as marketing and presentation sucked me in, but much mass production quantity once pull back curtain; and what they don’t have is depth of quality and someone who can guide you to same!

    Feb’s 13 has me heading back to Spec’s with knowledge of quality and deep vineyard relationships.

    Take care, Rush Durkin


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s