Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

May has been welcoming us with some rather damp weather, yet it seems like this summer will be a scorcher. I must say that I cannot believe that it’s almost halfway through the year already.  This month I have chosen a excellent medley of wines that are focused on the mid-tier price point for the most part. I am constantly searching for that $20 bottle that tastes like $40….or that $40 which tastes like $75.  I think you all will enjoy these selections that are quite the over-achievers. I just found out as I was writing this that I will be traveling to Napa Valley in July to visit with the Napa Valley Vintners Association. Woot Woot! Enjoy!

Schild Estate Reserve Shiraz 2011

Barossa Valley, Australia

Cash Price $39.89

Good Shiraz can rival some of the best Syrah in the world.  Ben Schild Estate Reserve is a single vineyard, old vine Shiraz that absolutely stuns from start to finish. This winery makes high quality wines at all price points in the hills of the esteemed Barossa Valley with vines up to 160 years old.  The wine is deep, dark and inky with well formed legs. It shows medium plus intensity with flavors of dark plum and blueberry with tertiary notes of smoked meat, pepper, and dried tobacco leaf. The finish is well structured and enticingly long with hints of sandalwood, mocha and vanilla coffee beans.  James Score: 94 Points

Kenefick ‘Pickett Road’ Red Blend 2015

Calistoga, California

Cash Price $39.89

Kenefick has long been one of my favorite producers in Calistoga producing wines from sustainable farming using 100% estate grown fruit for over three decades. The wine is a blend of 44% Merlot/44% Petit Verdot/12% Cabernet Franc aged for 18 months in French oak and bottled unfined and unfiltered. The wine has a ruby core with medium plus intensity from the Petit Verdot. Flavors of black cherry and plum bounce into hints of juicy black raspberry and milk chocolate. The mid palate is silky smooth, yet firm with underlying notes of blackberry pie and just a kiss of creamy toffee. Yum!  James Score: 93 Points

Louis de Sacy Demi-Sec N/V

Champagne, France

Cash Price $29.99

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….It’s 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, but he understands that the American palate tends to have a touch of a sweet tooth so he has produced this wine specifically for Spec’s to carry.  Demi-Sec Champagne can have from 32-50 grams of residual sugar (Coca-Cola has 40+ grams per can) which adds sweetness without it being dessert sweet.  Alain stayed on the drier side of the demi-sec category, so this wine has just a hint of perceptible sweetness.  The wine is richly aromatic with wild flowers and honeycombs with tight, clean bubbles. Hints of wild berry and citrus play on the palate with a whiff of mousse on the finish.  James Score: 90 Points

Salcis Tempranillo Crianza 2013

Ribera Del Duero, Spain

Cash Price $27.99

I recently traveled to Ribera Del Duero and while I did not visit this winery, I tasted the wine at a gathering and was quite impressed. The region had much beauty and delicious wine to show us. The main grape of this region is Tinta del Pais aka Tempranillo.  Wines from this region typically offer more French oak rather than the traditional American oak and the grape tends towards a more juicy and robust style than the classic Tempranillo of Rioja.  This offering was quite gracious with flavors of red cherries and plum with medium intensity.  The mid palate shows leather and sandalwood with hints of exotic spice. The finish is pure and expressive with notes of vanilla, cedar and toasted hazelnuts.  James Score: 89 Points

Freelander ‘District One’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2017


Cash Price $15.99

This new addition to our portfolio is built to be a user friendly, daily drinking Cabernet that doesn’t break the bank.  This Cabernet checks all the boxes in flavor profile.  Racy and deep flavors of blackberry and cassis flow easily into medium intensity.  Notes of black raspberry and vanilla offer a creamy core with hints of blueberry cobbler.  The finish is soft and plush with hints of toasted oak and graham crackers.  James Score: 90 Points

Manzoni Chardonnay 2014

Santa Lucia Highlands, California

Cash Price $26.99

The Santa Lucia Highlands is one of the hidden gem AVA’s for producing dynamite Chardonnay.  This wine comes from Vigna Monte Nero Vineyard on the cooler northern stretches of SLH. The vintage was exceptional and it followed through in the glass.  Vibrant flavors of pineapple, mango and orange blossoms are quite present on the palate with a rich creamy core on the mid palate.  There is a dense vivacity on the backbone that keeps this wine in focus and balanced.  The finish shows tinges of papaya and nectarines with a bit of exotic spice and vanilla. James Score: 91 Points

Chateau Bonnete Merlot 2016

Bordeaux, France 

Cash Price $14.99

The 2016 vintage will go down in the books as one of the greatest vintages of our lifetime in Bordeaux.  Snatch up all you can get your hands on, especially the value wines that are of extremely high quality for the price. Bonnete is behind the Liberation de Paris wines and has produced an exceptional wine in this banner vintage.  Flavors of fleshy currant and black cherry pop into the palate with medium intensity.  There is a juicy core to this wine that gives it a gulp-able appeal, but has the structure to pair easily with food.  The finish offers touches of cinnamon, potpourri, and oak.  James Score: 89 Points

Pink Pegau Dry Rose 2018

Rhone Valley, France

Cash Price $14.99

This Dry Rose is consistently one of my favorite wines for the blazingly hot summers of Houston.  It is an 80% Cinsault blend with bits of Grenache and Carignan sourced from the vineyards of Laurence Feraud in Sorgues (4 miles south of Chateauneuf du Pape).  Pegau doesn’t produce any wines short of spectacular. Period. Always know you have quality when you pop a bottle of Pegau.  Pink Pegau offers wild strawberries and watermelon that linger on medium plus acidity.  The mid palate hits with wild red berries and red cherry with just a hint of white pepper and red roses.  The finish shows tinges of minerality with a whiff of red apples and peach.  James Score: 91 Points

Malco Icon Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Curico Valley, Chile 

Cash Price $24.99

Chile is offering some of the best $20 Cabernet Sauvignons in the world. They have excellent structure and most have gotten rid of the ‘green’ flavors that hindered the wines of the past.  This 2017 offering is from the middle ranges of Chile where some of the finer Cabs in the area are found. The wine has a dark ruby, almost opaque, color with medium plus intensity.  Flavors of black cherry and currant lay on broad tannins with hints of licorice and dark chocolate.  The finish is layered, offering notes of vanilla, cigar box and toffee.  James Score: 91 Points

Hans Lang Riesling Kabinett 2014

Rheingau, Germany

Cash Price $17.99

Hans Lang is producing some of the best priced Riesling in the Rheingau.  The Domaine owns 18 hectare of Certified Organic property.  They are part of the prestigious Charta Association and the VDP.  The wines continue to shine and seem to get better every time I try them.  This off-dry Riesling offers flavors of crisp green apples and white flowers with a vivacious acidity that balances the soft sweetness of lanolin and beeswax. Hints of minerality show through the core with touches of Meyer lemon and jasmine. Yum!  James Score: 92 points

Rizzi Dolcetto D’Alba 2017

Piedmont, Italy

Cash Price $23.49

Dolcetto is an oft overlooked grape from Piedmont.  It is a very nice food wine with supple tannins and light acids. I tasted through this line up not long ago with the wine maker Enrico Dellapiana. He produces clean and ‘pretty’ wines that are approachable in their youth, but age accordingly. The winery is sustainable and the vineyards were planted starting in 1967 on marl clay and sand.  This 100% Dolcetto is un-oaked and lively from the start with ruby color. Flavors of blackberry and black cherry sinew gracefully through medium intensity.  Hints of wild red berries flow throughout the core with touches of almonds. The finish offers depth with hints of tar and spice.  James Score: 89 Points

Salentein Pinot Noir 2016

Uco Valley, Argentina

Cash Price $18.99

I’ve been fortunate to visit this winery a couple of times over the past several years.  I have always been quite impressed with the quality produced from this winery for the price point.  The winery is completely state of the art with no expense spared and the wines show that quality.  This Pinot Noir has been one of my go-to Pinot’s for many years.  Delicious flavors of ripe strawberries and candied cherries.  Medium plus acids and medium tannins are well integrated with kisses of spice and cola.  The finish is silky and complex with hints of vanilla, cedar and hazelnuts.  James Score: 91 Points

Fontaleoni Sangiovese 2016

Chianti (Colli Senesi), Italy

Cash Price $12.49

Fontaleoni is a new offering from the iconic portfolio of Marc de Grazia. This wine is 100% Sangiovese from the prized region of Colli Senesi within the Chianti DOCG.   The wine is light ruby in color.  It is deliciously refreshing with flavors of red cherry and cranberry that pop into the palate with medium intensity.  Hints of balsamic notes and white pepper play on the clean, easy finish.  James Score 88 Points.

Thank you,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS



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  1. Renee Hamilton says:

    Thank you ☺

  2. Charles Coughlin says:

    JAMES>.. BEST REGARDS….CHARLIE…..WILL THIS CHATEAU BONETTE MERLOT 2016 age well over time and do you have supply in the store….Charlie >

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