Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to 2023! I must admit that I am glad to put 2022 behind us in hopes of a more consistent 2023. As usual, this time of the year I look for delicious VALUE wines to offer. I found some great wines to share at your Superbowl feast or with your Valentine! Thank you as always for being part of this wine blog. Enjoy and I hope to see you soon!

Block 913 Cabernet Sauvignon 2020

Howell Mountain, California

Cash Price $39.89

Howell Mountain is becoming the darling AVA in Napa Valley for big mountain fruit wines. The Block wines always show excellent value and this wine is right up that alley at a time when good mountain wines will easily range $50 and up. Deliciously bold flavors of dark currant and blackberry shows into medium plus intensity. Dark cherry encompasses the mid palate with excellent structure. The finish shows wonderful richness and depth with hints of dark chocolate, cigar box, and tobacco leaf. Barlow Score: 94 Points

JN Haton Reserve Champagne N/V

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

Red Phoenix Zinfandel based Red Blend 2019

Lodi, California

Cash Price $19.94

This Red Blend is a new addition to our portfolio. I decided to buy this wine due to it’s inherent approach ability and easy drinking nature. The wine is 57% Zinfandel with smidgeons of Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon making up the rest of the blend. Red Phoenix has medium intensity with plush notes of blackberry and cherry flowing into a silky mid palate. Hints of subtle spice waft enticingly throughout the mid palate. The finish is creamy with whiffs of milk chocolate and toasted oak. Joseph Smith is the wine maker and he also makes Experience Cabernet which has become quite a sensation in our portfolio. Barlow Score: 90 Points

Slate Red Blend 2019

Amador, California

Cash Price $19.94

I’m always on the hunt for a good value juicy red blend. This wine is 75% Zinfandel/25% Petite Sirah and was aged for 12 months in 30% new French oak. Slate shows medium intensity with juicy red cherry and pomegranate on the palate. The mid palate is rich and pleasing with a creamy core. The finish shows sweet coconut, vanilla, and hazelnuts that sink easily into touches of mocha. Barlow Score: 90 Points

Freelander Cabernet Sauvignon 2021

North Coast, California

Cash Price $16.99

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

Milbrandt Family Merlot 2019

Columbia Valley, Washington State

Cash Price $16.99

I’ve become an advocate of Washington State wines and have decided that Texas should start enjoying some of the best crafted wines made in the United States. They have a penchant for producing high quality Merlot and this is a great one to hedge your bets on. The grapes come from King Fuji and Katherine Leon vineyards in the Columbia Valley. The wine offers bright flavors of bing cherry and pomegranate on the palate with medium intensity. The mid palate shows a juicy vibrancy with more red fruit and silky tannins. The finish is balanced with hints of dark chocolate, cedar and plum. Barlow Score: 90 Points

Guilbaud Freres Chinon Le Haut Des Vignes 2018

Chinon, France

Cash Price $15.99

I love good value Cabernet Franc. I’ve always had a fondness Chinon and this little gem has been a great wine in our portfolio for a long time. The region of Chinon produces some of my favorite Cabernet Franc in the world and usually at a pretty darn good price. This wine has a bouncy fun sensibility with flavors of dark raspberry and fresh cherry. The mid palate offers a touch of spice with medium intensity. The finish is fresh and fruity with whiffs of peppercorn and graphite adding complexity to the texture of the wine. Barlow Score: 89 Points

Bordeaux Rouge Lafite Rothschild vineyard Reserve DBR 2020

Bordeaux, France

Cash Price $14.99

This value Merlot based Bordeaux blend has been a ‘go-to’ in my home for many years. It has shown consistent quality for under $15 year in and year out. The 2020 vintage was absolutely stellar in Bordeaux, so you can get amazing value throughout. Dark flavors of black cherry and currant flow easily into the palate with tinges of red fruit dancing through medium intensity. Fresh and buoyant notes of black pomegranate meld with nice tannin structure. The finish offers tobacco leaf, cigar box, and just a touch of graphite. Barlow Score: 90 Points

Girasole Sangiovese 2020

Mendocino, California

Cash Price $14.99

Girasole has been an absolute hit in our portfolio. I have been slowly expanding our organic wine footprint and this winery has been a feather in our cap when it comes to deliciously approachable organic wine. The winery has roots from Italy, so it makes complete sense that they would produce Sangiovese, which is the work horse grape in Chianti and most of Tuscany. This 100% Sangiovese offers ripe flavors of cherry and plum with just a hint of violets. The mid palate offers medium intensity with licks of spice and huckleberry. The finish is clean and pure with whiffs of black pepper and sage. 100% Organic and ready to drink. Barlow Score: 88 Points

Zinphomaniac Old Vines Zinfandel 2020

Mendocino, California

Cash Price $14.99

I recently tasted through most of the portfolio for Mendocino Wine Company and thought this wine stood out for an easy drinking daily red produced on Old Vines. The wine offers harmonious flavors of dark cherry and raspberry with medium intensity. The mid palate shows bramble and blueberry compote with a creamy core. The finish offers a zesty medley sweet oak, molasses and clove spice. Barlow Score: 88 Points

Heartcraft Sparkling Rose N/V


Cash Price $12.99

This value brand of bubbles consistently delivers for parties. Deliciously soft on the palate, flavors of ripe strawberries and sweet red cherries burst into millions of bubbles with creamy cherry cobbler crust and confection on the finish. Heartcraft is a great Valentine’s Day bubbly or would be a hit at your Super Bowl party. Barlow Score: 88 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

Encore Cabernet Sauvignon 2020

Lodi, California

Cash Price $11.99

Looking for excessively ripe and opulent Cabernet? Try this plush wine that offers plum, stewed fruits and blackberry pie with supple and inviting tannins. The finish is jammy with hints of cobbler and spice. This wine is built for daily consumption and really delivers for the price! Pair with brisket slathered in BBQ sauce. Barlow Score: 88 Points

Thank You,

James C. Barlow, CWE, CSS

Spec’s Fine Wine Buyer

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