This year is winding down….Finally! Now we get to safely start having some holiday fun! I’m ready for the holidays! Fun, food, and ghouls? Anyway, This month’s selections are a smattering of value priced wines with some stunners sprinkled in. I’d highly recommend you picking up a bottle or case of the Brooks Runaway Red Pinot Noir. It’s Ah-mazing! Enjoy!

Snowden ‘Levi Philander Davis Vineyard’ Petit Verdot 2016

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $44.99

Napa Valley is really needing our support right now. The Glass Fire has raged through and devastated some of the Iconic wineries in Napa such as Cain, Burgess, Hourglass, and Newton. Snowden is located on the eastern slopes of Napa Valley and fortunately has not had issues. Diana Snowden-Seysses is the winemaker (one of my favorite, hands down). She produces wines of balance and structure. Petit Verdot is all about structure. It’s a grape known for adding backbone to other wines and is rarely seen as a single variety expression. This 100% Petit Verdot was aged for 15 months in French oak, then bottled unfined and unfiltered. This particular wine is produced from a single acre adjacent to ‘Brothers Vineyard’ nestled 800ft up in the mountains. Full bodied flavors of black currant and blackberry pop into floral hints of violets. The mid palate shows plenty of inky intensity, yet a silky core that envelopes the palate. Hints of vanilla bean and cedar weave through notes of exotic spice, tobacco and black tea that lingers on the finish for a good long time. Barlow Score: 94 Points

Calcareous Tres Violet 2017

Paso Robles, California

Cash Price $39.89

Owner Dana Brown’s passion for Paso Robles wines showing quality in the bottle embodies the mantra ‘let the soil speak’.  Her portfolio is impressive across the board (Check out her Syrahs!) but I am quite taken with her Rhone style blend called ‘Tres Violet’.  It is a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, and Syrah that sung from start to finish.  Gracious flavors of raspberry, violets and smoked game lifted into the palate with medium tannins and acids. The mid palate screams blueberry through a plush, creamy core. The finish is long and integrated with dancing hints of clove and cinnamon. Barlow Score: 93 Points

Hanzell ‘Sebella’ Chardonnay 2018

Sonoma Valley, California

Cash Price $27.99

Sebella is the entry level wine from one of the more Iconic Chardonnay producers in the United States, Hanzell. The wine is produced from the younger vines on the estate. It is fermented in stainless steel and used French oak, so as not to over burden the wine. They also did not allow malolactic fermentation as to preserve the vibrancy. Granny Smith apple delivers into the palate with tickles of guava and lemon citrus. The mid palate shows medium intensity with bright notes of white peach and pear that gives way to surprising weight. The finish is clean and fresh with hints of white flowers, crushed rocks and tickles of herbs. Barlow Score: 92 Points

Ratio ‘Retina’ Pinot Noir 2016

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cash Price $34.99

Ratio is a new winery to our portfolio. The wine is named Retina due to his wife’s degenerative vision disorder. Anthony King donates 10% of the revenues to a foundation fighting blindness. The grapes come from the Organically Farmed Jesse James Vineyard in Eola-Amity, Vidon Vineyard in Chehalem and Three Carriages vineyard high up in the hills south of Portland. The wine is produced with 15% whole cluster and aged for 16 months in 21% new French oak. This Pinot is harmonious from start to finish. Flavors of red cherry and pomegranate flow into medium intensity. Hints of cranberry and raspberry tea sit on the mid palate with touches of cola and lavender. The finish is soft, yet nervy with hints of under brush and exotic spice. Only 138 cases produced! Barlow Score: 92 Points

Shannon Ridge ‘Home Ranch’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Lake County, California

Cash Price $19.94

Clay Shannon is making some of the best VALUE Cabernet in California. He owns a bunch of acres 2,000+ feet up in the Red Hills of Lake County. Cabernet up here gets plenty of sunshine to allow for optimal ripeness as you’ll see when you look at the alcohol content on the label (usually pushing 15%). This wine was aged for 24 months in 35% new 3/4 French and 1/4 American oak. Powerful and intense flavors of dark cassis and cherry barrel into the palate with medium plus intensity. The mid palate offers juicy blackberry with caramel notes. The finish is balanced showing vanilla, cream and tobacco leaf with just a smidgeon of graham cracker and allspice. Barlow Score: 91

Brooks Winery ‘Runaway Red’ Pinot Noir 2018

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cash Price $19.94

It is pretty rare to get Willamette Valley appellated Pinot Noir under $20, but it’s nearly impossible to get this quality in the bottle for that price. The wine is 100% Pinot Noir and aged for 10 months in used French oak. This wine offers Old World structure, but new World Panache. Juicy flavors of red cherry and raspberry seep into the super sleek palate with an undercurrent of crunchy red pomegranate. The mid palate shows medium intensity and an earthy texture with hints of button mushroom and fresh soil. The finish is delightfully smooth and shows stewed strawberry intermingled with fresh Herbs de Provence. Barlow Score: 90 Points

Gemtree ‘Uncut’ Shiraz 2015

McLaren Vale, Australia

Cash Price $19.94

Gemtree is one of my favorite Aussie producers, so it’s no wonder that they are Certified Organic and Biodynamic as well as Vegan friendly. The wine was aged in 100% French oak for 16 months. Aussie Shiraz can sometimes come across as over ripe, but that’s not the case in this wine. Energentic flavors blackberries and currant flow generously into medium intensity. Smooth notes of blueberry and plum show through tinges of black pepper and cured meat. The finish offers whiffs of smoked beef jerky, clove and vanilla which linger on the palate nicely. Barlow Score: 93 Points

Chateau Crabitey Red Blend 2015

Bordeaux, France

Cash Price $19.94

The region of Graves inside of Bordeaux quietly makes some of the better VALUE red wines on the market. This 50/50 Blend of Cabernet and Merlot really shined in this Spectacular vintage. Flavors of currant and plum sink into an easy medium intensity. The mid palate shows savory herbs with plenty of tannin. The finish gives hints of cedar, black tea and tobacco leaf. This is an excellent food wine that will age but drinks deliciously right now. Barlow Score: 89 Points

Brooks Winery Pinot Blanc 2019

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cash Price $19.94

This winery is fully sustainable with most being organic or biodynamic. The wines offer purity and finesse that make it one of the top producers in the United States. They have an Old World feel with New World panache. They are also one of the first wineries in the United States to partner with 1% for the Earth. One Percent of all their sales goes straight back into making our Earth a better place. Pinot Blanc is making a big comeback in the Texas Market! This is one of the best expressions that I’ve had in the New World. Beautifully bright flavors of lemon citrus and pear pop into the palate with delicious refreshing acidity. The mid palate offers apricot, cantaloupe and white flowers that lay on a clean minerality of wet rocks. The finish is pure and flavorful with whiffs of beeswax and white peach. Barlow Score: 91 Points

Nine Hats (Long Shadows) Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Columbia Valley, Washington State

Cash Price $18.99

This project is declassified Long Shadows wine. Long Shadows employs nine of the world’s best winemakers to produce stunning expressions of wine from Washington State. Randy Dunn produces their Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine was sourced from Horse Heaven Hills and Wahluke Slope and aged for 11 months in French oak. Rambunctious flavors of black cherry and currant flow into a medium intensity. The mid palate offers a creamy, round core with juicy and plump fruit bursting throughout. The finish offers chocolate covered cherries, caramel and vanilla bean with just a whiff of exotic spice. Barlow Score: 90 Points

Cru Winery ‘Montage’ Chardonnay 2018

Monterey, California

Cash Price $18.99

I recently tasted through this winery’s white portfolio.  I am a fan of Monterey because there are so many micro climates that one can find a large variance in styles of wines produced.  This wine has beautiful restraint while keeping true to the expression of ‘traditional’ California Chardonnay.  Flavors of pineapple and pear flow seamlessly through hints of fresh flowers and ripe green apples.  The mid palate shows focus with tropical flavors and medium acidity.  The finish offers notes of hazelnuts, vanilla custard and smidgeons of oaky complexity.  James Score: 88 Points

Girasole ORGANIC Zinfandel 2018

Mendocino, California

Cash Price $12.99

You all know that I am an ardent fan of growers that farm with an eye on Mother Earth and future generations. This Zinfandel is Certified Organic from an Italian family that has been growing grapes that way since the beginning. The wine is 100% Zinfandel grown on a 20 acre hillside called Bella Collina (Beautiful Hill). Bursting and ripe, this wine exudes boysenberry and plum on the palate with medium intensity. Notes of pomegranate pop into the mid palate with tickles of figs. The finish is easy showing hints of raspberry tea and toffee. Barlow Score: 89 Points

Heartcraft Brut Sparkling N/V

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $12.99

Bubbly season is upon us, so kick off this holiday season right with this tasty VALUE California sparkler. The wine is mostly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir based and produced in the Charmat method (think Prosecco). Flavors of lemon citrus and pear pop into the palate with zesty little bubbles. The mid palate softens out and shows toasted brioche and caramel. The finish offers just a smidge of white peach and flowers wrapped in a blanket of effervescence. Barlow Score: 88 Points

Thank you,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

Spec’s Fine Wine America Buyer

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  1. Renee Hamilton says:

    You are such a good man. Not a news flash. And you hit the nail on the head. We had a conference call yesterday and topic number one was Snowden. We’re way behind on our goal (as a company), and they really need to sell some wine.
    Thanks, as always, for your support. Will be sending it along….
    Btw, I don’t know if you’ve looked at the holiday order I sent, but wanted to let yo know we’re moving into the 2015 vintage of Expression 39 Anderson Valley PN. Moving from 2013 to 2014 really helped last year, so hopefully this will continue the trend. It has a screw cap and the new label as well.
    Also, most of the last order on Expression 38 Russian Camp Chard was the 2018 vintage.

    You da best!
    Sent from my iPhone

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