JAMES BARLOW’S ‘THE THIRTEEN’ PICKS OF APRIL 2020

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

Wow. What a March! I believe that we are now in a new month…April? I hope everyone is staying healthy and safe. I have been working from home and still Covid-19 free as far as I know. Family is healthy too.  Please stay home as much as possible for everyone’s safety as we continue to flatten the curve. Spec’s offers Curbside pick up or we have just launched a new Spec’s App that helps you pick out selections from the comfort of your own home. We are using Instacart and Drizly for methods of transportation, so please download the app or get on our website (specsonline.com) to order from home.  We can get it delivered to you! Package stores (Alcohol) have been deemed ‘essential’ so don’t worry about your friendly neighborhood liquor store not being open, but please if you do venture out, be cautious and smart. We will all get through this together….with a little help from the wine! Enjoy!

Lavinea ‘Elton Vineyard’ Chardonnay 2015

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cash Price $39.89

I recently had the pleasure of bringing in this wine to our portfolio.  Willamette Valley Chardonnay is quickly becoming my ‘go to’ area for Spectacular Chardonnay! This wine is EASILY one of the best Chardonnays that I’ve had in recent memory and quite possibly one of the best I’ve tasted from the New World.  The winemaker is Isabelle Meunier (Evening Land, Domaine Vougeraie and Felton Road) whom apprenticed under famed Bourgogne winemaker Dominique Lafon.  In other words, she has excellent pedigree!  The Elton vineyard (named Oregon’s Top Ten Best Vineyards) is located in the Eola-Amity Sub AVA of Willamette Valley with elevation of about 500 feet and the well known Jory soil that makes Willamette Valley unique in profile. This silky smooth and beautifully textured wine offers harmonious flavors of white peach, granny smith apple, and whiffs of quince that dance melodically through deliciously refreshing acidity. Hints of butterscotch and cotton candy lay into a clean mineral component.  The finish offers a clean zest of key lime pie and just a kiss of vanilla. Absolutely stunning. Barlow Score: 96 Points

Parched (Bougetz) Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $39.89

Want a $70 Cabernet for $40? This is your choice!  2017 was an amazing vintage for Napa Valley. The fruit for this wine was sourced from carefully selected vineyards in the mountains and valley floor to give it excellent structure, balance and complexity.  The wine was aged for 20 months in 50% New French oak and 50% once used French oak.  Firm and Structured, this wine offers thick flavors of blackberry and black cherry with a silky core of tannins and acids that keep the fruit taught and fresh.  Notes of cassis and tobacco tingle into the mid palate with whiffs of pipe smoke.  The finish is layered and textured with hints of toasted vanilla bean, cedar and cigar box. Yum! Only 385 cases produced.  Barlow Score: 91 Points

Anthill Farms Pinot Noir 2017

Sonoma Coast, California

Cash Price $39.89

I have the opportunity in my job to seek out little geeky wineries that are making fabulous ‘under the radar’ wines and work on giving them their niche in the Texas retail market. This is one such producer.  The winery is known for producing minimal ecological impact (biodynamic) wines made by Anthony Filiberti.  This stunning Pinot Noir is picked from 40 year old vines with 30% whole cluster implemented then aged in 30% New French oak for 12 months.  Silky and plush, this mighty ant marches up the hill with flavors of candied raspberry and strawberry with medium intensity.  Notes of rhubarb and cola are prevalent on the mid palate with whiffs of vanilla, toast and a delightfully rich whipping cream on the finish.  Barlow Score: 92 Points

Cru Winery ‘Monarch’ Red Blend 2015

Paso Robles, California

Cash Price $27.99

I have been tasting through a fair amount of Paso Robles wine lately.  As Napa prices continue to rise, buyers are looking into more value driven areas such as Paso Robles.  Cru winery consistently offers exceedingly good value wine and this red blend is knocking it out of the park.  The wine is a mix of Bordeaux and Rhone varieties with the bulk being Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Monarch offers a balanced richness with flavors of currant and cassis with a silky medium intensity. The finish shows a balance of oak and spice that sits on the palate for a nice, long time. Barlow Score: 90 Points

Jean Baptiste Adam Reserve Riesling 2017

Alsace, France

Cash Price $17.99

Dry Riesling is one of my absolute favorite wines.  It is such a versatile grape that it can pair with darn near everything or be perfectly fine by itself.   Alsace produces some of the best DRY white wines in the world and this vintage is one of the best I have ever tasted!  This family has a history of over 400 years of being grape growers and winemakers in Alsace.  Flavors of zesty citrus and orange blossoms flow into medium plus acidity without any encumbering oak.  Touches of apricot and grapefruit sinew cleanly through hints of wet rocks.  The finish is amazingly complex with apple blossoms, wild white flowers and lychee.  This is a WOW wine.  James Score: 91 Points

Chateau Callac Prestige Red Blend 2015

Bordeaux, France

Cash Price $21.84

The 2015 vintage was an absolute stunner throughout Bordeaux.  It is easy to find excellent quality in lower priced wines as one really didn’t have to work hard to produce spectacular wine.  This wine is from Graves and may be the best priced wine in our Bordeaux portfolio.  It is a blend of 60% Merlot/25% Cabernet Sauvignon/15% Cabernet Franc and aged for twelve months in French oak.  Flavors of ripe plums and currant flow easily through medium plus tannins and medium acids.  The mid palate shows touches of earth and minerality with silky black cherry and black olive playing throughout the core.  The finish is fleshy and appealing with tinges of cedar, vanilla and red roses.  James Score: 90 Points

Portlandia Pinot Noir 2017

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cash Price $17.99

This fun and fresh 100% Pinot Noir  from Willamette Valley was aged in 60% French oak for 11 months and is an absolute bargain under $20.  Bright red cherries dance into the palate with bits of crunchy raspberry that meld into medium intensity.  The mid palate offers hints of creamy wild berries and cranberry with just a touch of rhubarb and underbrush on the finish. This is a no brainer value Pinot Noir. Barlow Score 88 Points

Klinker Brick ‘Brickmason’ (Zinfandel) Red Blend 2016

Lodi, California

Cash Price $16.99

Klinker Brick is an oldie, but goodie that has come back to our portfolio.  The winery was founded in 1883 and has been family owned by the Fulton’s now for 5 generations.  The winery is sustainably farmed.  This wine is a blend of 80% Zinfandel, 10% Syrah, 5% Cabernet, and 5% Petite Sirah that has been hand harvested with estate fruit then aged for 16 months in once used French oak.  The wine has a lighter ruby core with long legs. The palate offers flavors of rich red fruit leading into darker cherries and bramble with medium intensity.  Hints of raspberry compote and blackberry pie flow into whiffs of dusted cedar, creamy berry sauce and graham crackers.  Barlow Score: 89 Points

Calcareous ‘Twisted Paso’ Chardonnay 2016

Paso Robles, California

Cash Price $15.99

Twisted Paso has become one of my favorite ‘Every Day’ wines that over delivers for the price point. Paso Robles continues to produce exciting wines that don’t carry the price burden of its wineries to the North (Napa Valley).  This soft and plush Chard offers flavors of pineapple and melon sinew easily into medium acids that are ensconced by hints of hazelnut, vanilla cream and orchard fruit. The finish is balanced and mellow with smidgeons of caramel and toffee. Barlow Score: 89 Points

Chateau de Haut Serre Grand Vin Seigneur Malbec 2015

Cahors, France

Cash Price $21.84

Chateau Haut Serre is owned by arguably the best producer in Cahors, Georges Vigouroux.  The wine is 90% Malbec with smidgeons of Merlot and Tannat and aged for twelve months in 30% New French oak.  This powerhouse black wine is thick and meaty from start to finish.  Flavors of black currant and blackberry sink into brooding tannins and acids.  The mid palate shows herbs and spice with touches of dark cherry and tar.  The finish is full of clove, cinnamon and vanilla with tinges of leather and mushrooms.  James Score: 90 Points

Shannon Ridge ‘High Valley’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Lake County, California

Cash Price $15.99

Clay Shannon is producing some of the best Cabernet grapes, sustainably farmed, that are still affordable in the region of Lake County at an average elevation of 2,000 ft.  This delicious mountain Cabernet was sourced from one of his favorite blocks, (so much so that he named it after his mother) Betsy’s vineyard. Thick Mountain fruit flavors of blackberry and dark cherry explode into a fruit driven freight train that is kept on the tracks by excellent acids and tannins to hold it in balance. French oak gives this mountain fruit some texture and notes of exotic spice and vanilla.  Barlow Score: 90 Points

Girasole Organic ‘Hybrid’ Red Blend 2018

Mendocino, California

Cash Price $12.99

We are extremely pleased to add this ORGANIC value winery to our portfolio.  It is rare to get organic wine at such a great price point.  This every day red blend is a blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Zinfandel from a little Italian family that has been farming in Mendocino forever. Ripe, crunchy red fruits pop into the palate offering flavors of dark cherry and plum with medium intensity. Notes of blackberry lift into black pepper, cinnamon and coffee beans.  The finish is easy and lingering.  Barlow Score: 88 Points

Domaine de Pegau ‘Pink Pegau’ Dry Rose 2018

Rhone Valley, France

Cash Price $14.99 BUT ON SALE FOR A LIMITED TIME!

ONLY $10.97!

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

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

 

 

 

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