JAMES BARLOW’S ‘THE THIRTEEN’ PICKS OF MAY 2021

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

Can you believe we are already in the month of May!?! Happy Mother’s Day to all the ladies on this blog! The weather is absolutely gorgeous (and we deserve it!) right now, but I can feel that heat index already creeping up. This month will have a few more white wines on the list as we start getting ramped up for summer. I’d highly recommend picking up a bottle (or case!) of the Smith-Madrone Riesling. It’s a stunningly beautiful DRY Riesling that is perfect for the upcoming heat. Enjoy!

Smith-Madrone Estate Riesling 2016

Spring Mountain, California

Cash Price $29.99

The wine is 100% Riesling and produced from the same vineyards, in the same way every year, yet the wines continually offer new characteristics every vintage. This Riesling has a light straw core with light legs. The nose offers wet rocks, white flowers, cream and whiffs of petrol. The palate has medium intensity with flavors of Granny Smith apples, orange blossoms, and Bosc pear that jump into medium plus acidity and tinges of honeysuckle.  The finish is balanced and lip smacking with touches of lime custard, minerals, and petrol. A classically beautiful Riesling. WOW! Barlow Score: 95 Points

Janzen Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $44.99

Winemaker to the stars Kirk Venge molded this wine and really showed his handprint throughout.  The 2018 vintage has produced full, meaty wines with quite an abundance of fruit and flavor. Kyle Janzen let me in on a secret as well. This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wine has a portion of the hallowed To-Kalon vineyard fruit in it.  He has combined mountain fruit with the finesse of Oakville and Rutherford.  Thick hedonistic flavors of blackberry and cassis sink deftly into silky tannins and a creamy core.  The mid palate offers loads of currant, dark chocolate, and hazelnut with smidgeons of sandalwood.  The finish is dangerously smooth with toasted cedar and vanilla from new and used French barrels and a long, lingering mouth feel that offers a whiff of tobacco pipe. Janzen is a Cabernet that you open when you really want to impress your guest.  TLC (Texutured, Layered, Complex). James Score: 94 Points

Snowden ‘Lost Vineyard’ Merlot 2018

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $37.99

Merlot has had to overcome quite a stigma over the past decade, but the wineries that continued to produce quality Merlot are making some of the best in the world. I absolutely love Merlot as it can offer a supple freshness and velvet texture that Cabernet Sauvignon often cannot offer with its abundant tannin structure. Randy and Scott Snowden have been making stunning wines for decades that have flown under the radar. They had been selling their grapes until 1993 to the likes of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Silver Oak, Caymus, Frank Family, Viader and Ramey. They decided to start making wine in 1993 and allowed Diana Snowden (Scott’s daughter) to take the helm of winemaking in 2005. She offers amazing pedigree (one of my favorite winemakers!) as she makes Napa Valley wines for Snowden, while living and helping produce Grand Cru Bourgogne wines at Domaine Dujac, and also consults in Provence at Domaine de Triennes (my favorite Rosé!). Lost Vineyard is a 2 acre block located on perlite and sand soils. The wine was hand harvested and fermented with native wild yeast and aged in 50% New French oak barrels for 14 months while being bottled unfined and unfiltered. The wine is 95% Merlot with 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. She knocked this Merlot out of the park! It has beautiful structure and intensity while offering loads of fruit and velvet texture. Bright flavors of red cherry and currant pop into the palate with silky finesse and elegant balance. The mid palate is balanced with ripe red fruit while offering touches of spice and whiffs of earthy underbrush. Notes of plum, vanilla and cedar are prevalent with hints of tea leaf on the long, lingering finish. Barlow Score: 94 Points

Lavinea ‘Lazy River Vineyard’ Chardonnay 2017

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cash Price $34.99

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! Lavinea is making some of my favorite New World Chardonnays. The winemaker is Isabelle Meunier (Evening Land, Domaine Vougeraie and Felton Road) who apprenticed under famed Bourgogne winemaker Dominique Lafon. In other words, she has excellent pedigree! The wine is 100% Chardonnay from Lazy River Vineyard located in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA perched at the foothills of the Coast Range on a south facing slope with red iron volcanic Jory soils. The wine was aged in 20% new French oak. This Chardonnay is sneaky good. Flavors of ripe apple and lemon citrus hit the palate with medium intensity. The wine is linear, yet plush with hints of dried white flowers wafting throughout the palate with a backbone of minerality. The finish is light and fresh with hints of grilled nuts, crushed wet rocks, and just a whiff of exotic spice. Yum! Barlow Score: 95 Points

Ratio ‘Retina’ Pinot Noir 2016

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cash Price $34.99

Ratio is a newer 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

Blue Rock ‘Baby Blue’ Red Blend 2018

Alexander Valley, California

Cash Price $29.99

Blue Rock winery has gained a reputation for producing silky smooth reds from their 100 acre estate in the famed AVA of Alexander Valley.  The 2018 vintage was a spectacular vintage, which turned out to be fortuitous due to the next couple of vintages.   This wine is a 41% Cabernet Sauvignon/32% Merlot/14% Syrah/3% Malbec/8% Petit Verdot/2% Cabernet Franc blend that is aged for 12 months in French oak and dangerously approachable from the pop of the cork.  Flavors of blackberry and currant run into the silky smooth palate that offers a core of milk chocolate.  The tannins are elegant and integrated with easy acids that play into the gracious amount of fruit.  Notes of toasted oak and vanilla sink into hints of violet and granola.  The finish is soft and plush with a plethora of fruit and oak.  By the way, this winery is next door to Silver Oak! This wine is sure to impress the family!  James Score: 91 Points

Parched Chardonnay 2018

Sonoma Coast, California

Cash Price $24.99

Parched Chardonnay is a single vineyard Chardonnay originating from the Gold Coast Vineyard in the Sonoma Coast AVA.  The wine has seen full malolactic fermentation in barrel, yet has a delicate, lively acidity that belies this fact.  It was aged in 50% new French oak for 10 months on the lees. Plush and gushing, Parched offers flavors of bright green apple, apricot and melon that flow through medium intensity. Whiffs of creamy brioche and butter sail into tingles of vanilla creme, marshmallow and toasted oak on the finish. Yum! Barlow Score: 91 Points

22 Pirates Red Blend 2016

California

Cash Price $22.79

Ready for a fun, accessible red blend for the holidays?  Look no further!  This Syrah/Petite Sirah blend is thick and unctuous with flavors of blackberry and blueberry racing through the palate with a creamy core of cobbler and pie.  Black cherry and currant flow easily through the mid palate with soft, plush tannins and acids.  The finish offers darker notes of jammy blackberry pie with licks of cinnamon, vanilla and cedar.  Barlow Score: 88 Points

Dusty Nabor NSO Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Paso Robles, California

Cash Price $19.94

Dusty Nabor (pronounced NAY Boar) is an emerging wine maker from the Central Coast who is making some of the best ‘under the radar’ wines you can buy. The wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon is from a single vineyard in the El Pomar District in Paso Robles. It was aged for 18 months in French oak. NSO stands for ‘No Special Occasion’ and the price offers just that, but the quality inside the bottle makes it not quite so, as the wines are extremely well made. The wines offers a medium ruby core. Flavors of black cherry and currant sink into a medium intensity with licks of blackberry on the outer core. The mid palate offers more black fruit with hints of dark cocoa. The finish is alluring with soft tannins, notes of pencil shavings and tobacco yet with lively acidity bouncing throughout the mouth feel. Solid! He doesn’t make a lot of wine, so I recommend you get this in your basket early and often. Barlow Score: 89 Points

Brooks ‘Oak Ridge Vineyard’ Dry Gewurztraminer 2019

Columbia Gorge, Oregon

Cash Price $16.99

Gewurztraminer is a very fickle grape for me. If the ensuing wine doesn’t have enough acidity, then the wine becomes too floral and flabby for my taste. This wine DOES NOT have that issue. It hits the mark right on the head. The Gewurztraminer is from a single vineyard site on the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge called Oak Ridge. The wine is not overly floral, offering extremely expressive flavors of white peach, honeysuckle and apricot on the palate with medium acidity that keeps the wine light, tight and bright. Stone fruits tickle through the middle palate with hints of peach teach, candied ginger and pear flowing freely throughout. The finish is clean and lip smacking with tinges of sweet lemon. This is a true delight for the upcoming Texas heat! Barlow Score: 91 Points

Twisted Paso ‘Main Squeeze’ Red Blend 2017

Paso Robles, California

Cash Price $16.99

The Calcareous Vineyard’s ‘Twisted Paso’ line has become one of the best sellers in all of Spec’s portfolio.  The Main Squeeze is a silky red blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.  Dark fruits of ripe blackberry and boysenberry are prevalent from the start.  The mid palate turns into creamy blackberry pie with velvet tannins and lush acids.  The finish offers hints of toasted oak and caramel that sink into a gracious amounts of dark chocolate and mild spices.  The wine is aged in 15% New American Oak and 75% Neutral French Oak for eighteen months.   Barlow Score: 88 Points

Blason de Bourgogne Cremant Sparkling Rose N/V

Burgundy, France

Cash Price $16.99

Some of the best value bubbles in the world are coming from the Bourgogne region. The wines are made Methode Champenoise and can often rival that of its neighbors to the north but without the price tag.  This Pinot Noir based bubbly is vibrant and refreshing from first POP of the cork.  Deliciously fresh notes of strawberry and raspberry tart zing into the palate with hints of biscuity goodness that are wrapped up in rose petals and wild flowers.  The finish is clean and crisp with tinges of cherry pie and melon. Yum! Barlow Score: 90 Points

Girasole Pinot Blanc 2019

Mendocino, California

Cash Price $12.99

This ORGANIC value winery has been a lightning rod in our portfolio. It is rare to get organic wine at such a great price point. Pinot Blanc is a white variety in the Pinot family.  It is arguably one of the purest expressions of the variety.  The wine is pale straw in color and offers flavors of freshly squeezed lemons and fresh cut melon with medium intensity.  The mid palate shows nectarines and honeysuckle with just a whiff of wet rocks.  The finish is lovely with tinges of white flowers and tree fruit.  Perfect summer white!  Barlow Score: 88 Points

Thank you,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

Spec’s Fine Wine Buyer

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