JAMES BARLOW’S ‘THE THIRTEEN’ PICKS OF FEBRUARY 2022

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am back in the saddle after taking some time off in January (Disney World!). With cooler weather upon, I will be reviewing wines that will help warm the soul with maybe a speckling of white and bubbles for Valentine’s Day. Most of these wines will be more value oriented as well since most of our wallets are still recovering from the holidays. I hope you all are having a wonderful start to 2022! Get these wines at your local Spec’s!

Baer Winery Star Merlot 2016

Columbia Valley, Washington State

Cash Price $34.99

Baer Winery is producing some absolute rocking Red wines. I’ve had the Ursa blend over the years and jumped at the opportunity to bring these wines back into our portfolio. Erica Orr is the winemaker for these single vineyard wines. She worked her first harvest with Cathy Corison! The wines are all single vineyard from Stillwater Creek Vineyard on the Royal Slope of the Frenchman hills. The vineyard has quickly earned a reputation as one of Columbia Valley’s Top Vineyards. Thankfully, Merlot is making a comeback with the American palate. This wine is 100% Merlot and was aged in 40% New French barrique for 21 months. The wine has a plush nose. Flavors of plum, dark cherry and lavender enter the palate with medium intensity. The mid palate is soft and inviting with hints of crushed rocks. The finish is smooth and easy with hints of vanilla, cedar, and red roses. You’d be remiss if you didn’t get this beauty in your basket! 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

Rizzi Nebbiolo 2019

Langhe, Italy

Cash Price $24.99

I recently visited a long time customer of mine to help them get out of their wine rut. I brought an eclectic mix of wines, this being one. I was absolutely enthralled with the beauty of this wine for the price. The winery is sustainable and the vineyard was planted in 1967 on marl clay and sand. Flavors of strawberry and violets flow easily into the palate with medium plus acidity. The wine is fresh and clean with a plush mid palate that is somewhat surprising considering the wine is 100% Nebbiolo.  Notes of tea leaf are prevalent throughout the finish with touches of spice. The wine is elegant, complex, and thoroughly enjoyable! Barlow Score: 91 Points

Block 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

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 with medium intensity 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

Cooper Mountain Chardonnay 2018

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Cash Price $24.99

Cooper Mountain winery is purely biodynamic with a focus of farming in way that future generations will enjoy the land. The wine has pale straw color and medium intensity. The wine is super clean with an almost Chablis-eque profile.  Flavors of lemon citrus and green  combine with the ample acidity that makes for a perfect summer Chardonnay.  Hints of wet rocks and minerality play into the finish.  Oak is not really a factor in this wine as it was aged in neutral oak and stainless steel.  Whiffs of orange tickle the finish of this expressively clean wine. Barlow Score: 89

Luigi Bosca Single Vineyard DOC Malbec 2019

Luyan de Cuyo, Argentina

Cash Price $25.64

I have always been impressed with the Luigi Bosca Malbecs.  The DOC Single Vineyard offers a true expression of extremely high quality for under $30.  Luyan de Cuyo is the only DOC currently in Argentina.  This means that the Malbec produced under this DOC must attain higher quality standards and stricter requirements to be bottled under the DOC label.  This wine comes from vines with an average age of 70 years grown at an elevation of 3,150 feet above sea level.  The wine is aged for 14 months in new French oak barrels.  Robust flavors of black cherries and ripe plums burst onto the palate with touches of fig that give way to medium plus intensity.  The mid palate offers chewy notes of blackberry and tar with hints of leather and black tea.  The finish is long and purposeful with touches almonds and milk chocolate that lay into creamy vanilla and toasted oak.  Barlow Score: 92 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

Twisted Paso Zinfandel

Paso Robles, California

Cash Price $16.99

The Calcareous ‘Twisted Paso’ line has become one of the better selling wine selections in Spec’s entire portfolio. They produce seamless wines with silky finesse. I’m happy to see Zinfandel making a gradual impression on the American palate as it continues blaze through Texas. Bright flavors of plum and dark berries sink into medium intensity. The mid palate shows hints of hickory wood and smoked meat. The finish is jammy and intense with more dark fruit and whiffs of cracked black pepper. Barlow Score: 89 Points

Etesian Sparking Brut Blanc de Noir Rose N/V

Sonoma County, California

Cash Price $15.89

Etesian is a new sparkling wine for us from an extremely reputable winery (It’s a secret!) that we’ve been able to procure at a great price point. Coming from a bubble head, I’ll tell you that these sparklers are absolutely delicious! This sparkler comes from Carneros on the Sonoma side. The wine is 58% Pinot Noir/42% Chardonnay produced Method Champenoise (Champagne!) and aged on the lees for 2 years before release. Flavors of white cherry and citrus flow into tight, clean bubbles. The mid palate shows notes of lemon and orange peel that sink into tingles of raspberry cream. The finish is light and refreshing with whiffs of lemon meringue and chocolate truffles. Barlow Score: 91 Points

Freelander Cabernet Sauvignon 2020

California

Cash Price $15.99

This Value daily drinking Cabernet has been growing by leaps and bounds due to it’s extreme deliciousness.  Freelander 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.  Barlow Score: 90 Points

Chateau Bourbon La Chapelle red blend 2016

Medoc, France

Cash Price $14.99

The 2016 vintage is a no-brainer for value red wine as it was almost impossible to produce bad wine. I really love to buy lesser wines in great vintages because one will almost always come out on the winning end. The wine is 60% Cabernet/40% Merlot and is the 2nd label for the quality Chateau Castera in the Medoc. This winery has some of the oldest vineyards in the Medoc. Flavors of black currant and black cherry flow into medium plus intensity. The mid palate shows licks of red fruit and lavender with touches of spice. The finish is integrated and balanced with notes of cedar, leather, and tobacco. Great Value wine in an Amazing Vintage. Barlow Score: 89 Points

Billhook Red Blend 2016

Santa Barbera County, California

Cash Price $14.99

This new edition to our portfolio is an absolute gem for the price. The wine is 45% Grenache/33% Syrah/22% Petite Sirah from the cool, coastal hills of Santa Barbera. Billhook was aged in seasoned French and American oak. This Rhone style red blend exudes flavors of black raspberry and cassis on the palate with medium intensity. The mid palate shows dark plum and a vibrant intensity that sinks into hints of garrigue and red flowers. The finish is clean and lip smacking with whiffs of spice and bramble. Get this in your basket today! Barlow Score: 90 Points

Lockwood Chardonnay 2020

Central Coast, California

Cash Price $12.99

Lockwood was taken over by Boisset Family several years ago and was re-released as an un-oaked Chardonnay (Largely French in style). I quite enjoy the new style that this wine has become with its light, fresh, and appealing profile. The wine is 100% Chardonnay aged in stainless steel on the lees for 9 months. Flavors of green apple and citrus pop into the palate with medium intensity. Whiffs of lilacs, melon, and hazelnut flow through the mid palate. The finish is clean and pure with licks of toasted nuts and custard. Barlow Score: 88 Points

Thank you,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

Spec’s Fine Wine Buyer

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