Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

This may be the hottest summer I can remember in the twenty years that I’ve been here and it’s just now hitting August! I have had the unfortunate onus of catching Covid in both June and July, so I am quite ready for this summer to move right along….and I don’t know about ya’ll, but I’m ready for pumpkin spice in my coffee! This month I’ve put together a good medley of wines, some new, some oldies but goodies. Let me know what you think! As many of you have seen, I am starting up live classes again. I have found a good place downtown as a venue, so you will see me hosting more classes in Houston, but I’ll definitely try to keep some up in our area too! Enjoy!

Maritana ‘Le Russe’ Pinot Noir 2017

Russian River Valley, California

Cash Price $49.99 BUT WITH $5.00 SPEC’S KEY


Donald Patz (Yes, that Donald Patz of Patz & Hall) has a new project called Maritana Vineyards. He has become renowned for producing highly rated Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Sonoma. He has deep relationships with some of the best grape growers in California and has used them to get his hands of top notch fruit for his Maritana Vineyards. ‘Le Russe’ (The Russian) is 100% Pinot Noir from Martealla, Brown and Martinelli River Road vineyards that are all sustainably farmed on Goldridge sandy loam soil. The wine was aged for 9 months in 33% new French oak. Bright and bursting flavors of ripe strawberry, bing cherry and lavender flow into medium intensity with a balanced core of vibrant acidity. The mid palate offers savory herbs that round into whiffs of cola and sassafras root. The finish is soft and intriguing with notes of vanilla, rose petals, and nutmeg. Barlow Score: 93 Points

Recoltant Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Napa Valley, California

Cash Price $39.89

This delicious Napa Valley Cabernet is new to our portfolio. I brought it in because it had amazing depth and balanced for a $40 Cabernet Sauvignon as Napa prices continue to skyrocket. The wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and was made by rising star winemaker Britt Nichols. Flavors of dark raspberry, cassis, and black cherry flow evenly on the palate with medium intensity. The mid palate is beautifully restrained with whiffs of red fruit lingering in tea leaf and tobacco. The finish is long and lingering with lilacs, mocha, and toasted vanilla. Barlow Score: 93 Points

JN Haton Sparkling Brut Reserve NV

Champagne, France

Cash Price $36.99

We’ve found an amazing value Champagne in a time when bubbles are tough to come by! This sparkler is 30% Chardonny/30% Pinot Noir/35% Pinot Meunier with an average age of 50 years for the vines. The grapes are hand harvested and aged for a minimum 3 years on the lees. Haton is delicately delicious with flavors of white peach, citrus and orange blossoms. Whiffs of yeasty complexity, hazelnuts, and exotic spice tingle throughout the palate with tantalizing efficiency. The finish is long and crisp with that lip smacking smile sure to cross your face. Barlow Score: 93 Points

Barlow Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

El Dorado, California

Cash Price $29.99

Barlow Vineyards is making some killer Cabernet Sauvignon and they offered me this little gem that I just couldn’t pass up for the price! El Dorado is located in the Sierra Nevada Foothills towards the center of California. Some of the oldest vines in California are located in this area. One doesn’t see much Cabernet coming from here, so I was slightly skeptical but that changed rather quickly as I tasted it. The wine is soft and supple, more of an elegant Cabernet Sauvignon than the smack you in the mouth style that much of Napa is known for. Bright red fruits flow freely with cherry, currant, and raspberry being the leaders in the soft mid palate. Barlow Cabernet is well rounded and pleasing from the get go. The finish is easy and relaxed with good structure of cedar, violets, and mocha graham crackers. Barlow Score: 91 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

Rizzi Dolcetto D’Alba 2019

Piedmont, Italy

Cash Price $23.49

Dolcetto is an oft overlooked grape from Piedmont.  It is a very nice food wine with supple tannins and light acids. I tasted through this line up not long ago with the wine maker Enrico Dellapiana. He produces clean and ‘pretty’ wines that are approachable in their youth, but age accordingly. The winery is sustainable and the vineyards were planted starting in 1967 on marl clay and sand.  This 100% Dolcetto is un-oaked and lively from the start with ruby color. Flavors of blackberry and black cherry sinew gracefully through medium intensity.  Hints of wild red berries flow throughout the core with touches of almonds. The finish offers depth with hints of tar and spice.  James Score: 89 Points

Expression 38 ‘Russian Camp’ Chardonnay 2018

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

Dusty Nabor ‘NSO’ Syrah 2018

Sta. Rita Hills, California

Cash Price $18.99

I love good value Syrah. Dusty Nabor is rocking this beauty for under $20. The wine is from the cool climate of Sta. Rita Hills and fermented 30% whole cluster in large foudre barrels for two years. The wine is quite energetic and bursting with nervy fruit. Flavors of pomegranate and raspberry pump into the palate with licks of blue fruit enticing the palate. The mid palate offers classic Syrah notes of peppercorn and spice that stick to the bones of the wine while letting the fruit flow freely throughout. The finish tapers a bit while showing whiffs of lavender and wild flowers. He doesn’t make a lot, so make sure to get this in your basket early and often! Barlow Score: 90 Points

Brooks Riesling 2019

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

Chateau Croix Mouton 2019

Bordeaux Superior, France

Cash Price $17.99

Jean Philippe Janoueix, former assistant to Michel Rolland, has become a rock star of Right Bank wines with his production of such gems as La Confession in St. Emilion and La Croix St. Georges in Pomerol.  His every day endeavor is the production of Croix Mouton which seems to get better and better every vintage.  This delicious Merlot Blend is spectacular for under $20.  The 2018 vintage went down as the best Bear Dalton had tasted in his 24 years of visiting Bordeaux En Primeur. This 97% Merlot/2.5% Cabernet/.05% Petit Verdot offers flavors of blackberry and black currant play through dense, refined tannins and eloquent acids.  Notes of tobacco and pencil shavings weave through a core of minerality and earth.  Voluptuous fruits encompass the entire  mouth feel with smidgeons of cedar plank and just a touch of licorice.  Stunning Value! Barlow Score: 91 Points

Domaine de Cabasse Cuvee Garnacho Red Blend 2018

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: 90 Points

Shannon Ridge ‘Wrangler Red’ Red Blend 2018

Lake County, California

Cash Price $12.99

Lake County is continuing to build momentum and garner praise for rock solid reds in the region north of Napa Valley.  Shannon Ridge was awarded the ‘Top Winery’ at Houston’s Uncorked Wine Competition in 2015 and their sales have exploded ever since.  This winery is releasing a stellar red blend based on Zinfandel and Rhone Varietals.  Wrangler Red is a silky smooth Zindandel, Syrah blend that screams fruit from the onset.  The wine has been aged in French and American oak for 18 months.  Intense flavors of black cherry and black raspberry seep through the full blackberry with medium tannins and acids.  Notes of graham cracker and cinnamon are prevalent on the mid palate with touches of sweet tobacco and milk chocolate.  The finish is creamy and velvety with smooth lingering tones of rich fruit and spice.  Best Daily drinker that money can buy!  Barlow Score: 89 Points

The Ned Dry Rose 2021

Marlborough, New Zealand

Cash Price $11.99

This wine is a 2nd label of Marisco and has quickly become one of my favorite ‘inexpensive’ Roses.  You all know that I love Pinot Noir, so it just makes sense that I would love a Pinot Noir Rose.  New Zealand offers fresh and appealing wines that are very consistent in quality.  Bright flavors of wild red berries and watermelon sink into medium acidity with hints of jammed strawberry and cream.  The finish shows raspberry and red flowers with a gentle cream that lingers on the palate.  Barlow Score: 90 Points

Thank you,

James C. Barlow CWE, CSS

Spec’s Fine Wine Buyer

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  1. James, Please consider to add at least ONE Texas wine recommendation to your picks. Texas wines are earning oodles of Double Gold Medals and Gold Medals along with other wine regions. It is time to start sharing these Texas wines!

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