James Barlow’s ‘The Thirteen’ Picks of August 2020

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

I apologize for missing The Thirteen last month.  Sometimes life gets in the way of your best intentions. This month I have put together a list of delicious wines that are sure to be a hit for the dog days of summer. Think bright fruits and zesty acids throughout to help quench your palate.  Enjoy!

Castelnau Reserve Brut Sparkling N/V

Champagne, France

Cash Price $38.94

I recently re-tasted their non vintage sparkler and was very happy with the ensuing results. Castelnau offers a higher percentage of Pinot Meunier (42%) than most Champagne producers.  Pinot Meunier adds a youthful exuberance to the wines with lively structure and fruit.  This Cooperative Manipulant exudes flavors of crispy green and red apples fly into medium plus acidity that is wrapped around a core of red cherry and rose petals.  The mid palate is spectacular with notes of brioche, almonds and licks of vanilla cream.  The finish is silky with tinges of toasted cocoa beans, confection and delicious goodness!  Barlow Score: 94 Points

Alexana ‘Terroir Series’ Pinot Noir 2017

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cash Price $39.89

This winery is owned by Houston’s own Dr. Madaiah Revana.  Most know of his spectacular Napa Valley Cabernet, but his project up in Oregon is every bit as high quality as his California winery.  This wine exudes bright red fruits of cherry and strawberry with a core of violets and cola. Whiffs of rhubarb enhance the palate with hints of sweet tart and neon fruit. The finish offers black tea and spice that lingers for a wonderfully long time. Barlow Score: 93 Points

Block 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Oakville, California

Cash Price $24.99

The Block Series has always been right on the money when it comes to quality in the bottle. The newest release is from Oakville. It’s rare to find Oakville wine under $50, so this is an absolute steal! The most esteemed Cabernet vineyards in America are located in Oakville.  This beauty offers bright black cherry and currant are surrounded by medium tannins that mold into an abundance of dark chocolate and cigar box. The finish shows dark cassis wrapped in toasted vanilla and cedar. Barlow Score: 92 Points

Mark Herold ‘Flux’ Red Blend


Cash Price $29.99

This GSM (58% Grenache, 25% Mourvedre, 17% Syrah) is bursting with energy and fruit. Flavors of ripe strawberries and candied black raspberries flow into medium intensity. The mid palate shows tickles of currant with mocha and cherry compote. The finish is silky and long lasting with hints of roasted nuts, vanilla and cedar from 18 months aging in 30% new French oak. Barlow Score: 91 Points

Expression 38 Russian Camp 2017

Russian River, California

Cash Price $22.99

Iconic wine trailblazer Bill Hill is behind this line.  He has long standing relationships with farmers in some of the best vineyards in the United States. This wine is from the Russian Camp Vineyard that is nestled in heart of the Russian River Valley.  The wine is beautifully layered with flavors of baked apples, melon and ripe pear.  The mid palate offers a core of acidity that is rounded out by a creamy plushness of pineapple, vanilla and butterscotch.  The finish is light and persistent with hints of roasted nuts, cedar and graham crackers.  Barlow Score: 90 Points

Pazzo Red Blend 2018

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $26.99

Pazzo Red blend is one of the more unique blends on the market because it is one of the very few that use Sangiovese as its primary variety.  Granted, the rest of the blend does have Merlot, Cabernet, and Syrah that make its body and structure quite exquisite.  The juicy red fruits of cherry and raspberry burst into the palate with a richly textured balance that shows off the brilliance of the 2018 vintage in California.  The mid palate is fresh and delicious without all the encumbering oak.  Kirk Venge is the consulting wine maker here and its evident with its plush nature and vibrant flavors.  Touches spice and mocha tickle into a long, palate refreshing finish. Barlow Score: 90 Points

Brooks Riesling 2017

Willamette Valley

Cash Price $18.99

Dry Riesling is a perfect pairing for the dog days of summer.  This Riesling offers fresh fruit flavors of melon and cantaloupe that seep into exemplary acidity which softly lays on a bed of gardenia and honeysuckle.  Hints of orange blossom and lemon pie waft hauntingly into a long finish that shows whiffs of petrol, wet rocks and mouth watering spice. Get Riesling in your glass Today!  Barlow Score: 92 Points

Summer Water Dry Rosé 2019

Central Coast, California

Cash Price $17.99

This Dry Rosé has become the blockbuster hit Pink of the summer. Sales have been like a wild fire. The wine is a Grenache and Syrah blend that offers vibrant flavors of citrus grapefruit, melon and white peach.  The mid palate offers mouthwatering acidity and absolutely no oak.  The finish gives zesty white flowers and crunchy watermelon. Yum! Barlow Score: 90 Points

Tangent Sauvignon Blanc 2019

Edna Valley, California

Cash Price $14.99

I love this Sauvignon Blnac from one of the coolest climates in California, Edna Valley.  This single vineyard wine is a perfect example of the quality that Sauvignon Blanc can offer in the cooler AVA’s of California.  Prickly cactus juice and citrus lemon pop into the palate. Notes of guava and grapefruit zing into medium intensity.  The finish is clean and packed full of passion fruit. Barlow Score: 91 Points

Schild GMS Red Blend 2015

Barossa Valley, Australia

Cash Price $14.99

Schild winery’s fame has grown in the last several years because of the high scores (Top 10 in Wine Spectator) they have garnered with their entry level Shiraz.  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 a blend of 45% Grenache/28% Mourvedre/27% Shiraz and produced in a southern Rhone style.  Juicy flavors of black cherry and blackberry scream into the palate with medium intensity  Notes of plum  are prevalent on a plush, integrated mid palate.  The finish is fleshy, offering notes of rhubarb and spice.  James Score: 89 Points

Cross Springs Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Lake County, California

Cash Price $14.39

Located in the Red Hills AVA of Lake County, Clay Shannon is producing extremely high quality wines at an unbelievably affordable price.  His vineyards are located some 1,400 feet above sea level and are naturally sustainable due to the elevation being well above the fog line.  The wine is full bodied and textured with flavors of black cherry and currant seeping through its core. The mid palate offers blackberry and wild berry with hints of sage and tobacco wafting throughout integrated tannins and acids. The finish is plush and long with tinges of smoke and lavender.  James Score: 90 Points

Tohu Sauvignon Blanc 2019

Marlborough, New Zealand

Cash Price $15.99

Tohu (pronounced Tor-who) means signature and is produced by the first Maori owned wine company.  The Maori are the indigenous people of Aoteroa (New Zealand).  They produce expressive wines from a single vineyard in one of the finest regions in Marlborough, called Awatere Valley.  Fresh and zesty acids reach through the tropical flavors of gooseberries and key lime.  The wine is completely un-oaked and offers a mid palate of freshly picked herbs surrounded by a medley of guava and grapefruit.  The finish is pure and intense with a classic New Zealand profile.  James Score: 90 Points

Domaine de Cabasse Red Blend 2017

Rhone Villages, France

Cash Price $14.99

My favorite daily reds inevitably come from the Rhone Valley.  The wine is Grenache based and a true representation of the high quality coming from this region.  The Cabasse name has Italian roots that goes back to the time when the Pope resided in Avignon in the 14th century.  Avignon is the center for the famed wines of Chateauneuf du Pape.  Flavors of ripe boysenberry and black currant are rounded out with medium acids and tannins that are silky throughout the core.  Notes of fig and touches of bacon fat sink into rich vanilla beans and garrigue.   The finish offers hints of sage, thyme, and peppercorn which lays on the palate for quite awhile.  Cabasse is a perfect BBQ wine!  Barlow score: 89 Points

Thank you,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

Spec’s Fine Wine Buyer


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1 Response to James Barlow’s ‘The Thirteen’ Picks of August 2020

  1. Renee Hamilton says:

    Thank you! Love your tasting notes!

    Sent from my iPhone

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