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So why is the 2012 Ladera Cabernet—made from almost entirely from Howell Mountain fruit, from an incredible vintage—sitting pretty at $34.99? I honestly can't tell you. Maybe it's because no one knows how good the Ladera holdings in Howell Mountain are. Or maybe it's the pride that winemaker Jade Barrett takes in making a serious wine for a reasonable price. Or maybe it's because Ladera is an overlooked gem in a sea of Napa alternatives. For whatever the reason, I'm not going to complain. We tasted the 2012 vintage at our staff training yesterday and I was just floored by the quality of this wine. Dark, fleshy fruit cloaked in fine tannins, bits of earth, and in total balance, with enough gusto to go the long haul in your cellar. It's a whole lotta wine for $34.99, and it's made primarily from Howell Mountain grapes, harvested during a great vintage. 

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Saturday
Aug302014

1990 Lanessan: Classic Claret

Claret at its peak, 24 years after it was harvested.

As promised, I have been working my way through all of the vintages of Lanessan in stock from the 1980’s and 1990’s. We received a shipment direct from the Chateau earlier this month full of old vintages from this estate, and I listed them all last week in the piece I did on the 1989 Lanessan here. Additionally, David Driscoll did a great piece on the history of the property here. This week, Cinnamon and I enjoyed the 1990, a great Bordeaux vintage that is now drinking in its prime.

Bordeaux and steak are a Friday tradition at our home, and I usually buy my steak a few days ahead to give it some dry age in the refrigerator. Food lovers debate the efficacy of using the home refrigerator for this, but I have found that a couple or three days uncovered makes for a much better crust on meat, so I am going to keep doing it. In a future article, I will try a real piece of dry aged steak from Allen Brothers and report on the difference.

 

 

A little home dry ageing helps develop a good crust on a steak.

This week we decided to do something different, and do New York strip steak instead of rib-eyes. Another crazy night in the suburbs! As usual, Cinnamon cooked the steak perfectly rare in grandma’s old Lodge cast iron pan and this week served the meat with oven fries. She also prepared a lovely beet, fig and spinach salad with steakhouse blue cheese dressing. We had everything but the martini!

She decanted the 1990 Lanessan, Haut-Médoc ($69.99) about an hour ahead, and because it was such a warm night, threw the decanter in the refrigerator to make sure it was cool enough for dinner. Her instincts from years of sommelier work were right again, and the wine was perfect when we sat down to eat. Never be afraid to decant or start cold- only the bottles that were bad to begin with die, and it is easy to warm wine up with your hands!

 

 

We may be predictable, but steak and Bordeaux are going to work together every time!

Like most of the Bordeaux from the excellent 1990 vintage, the Lanessan was in peak form and drinking perfectly. It had a classic, generous bouquet with plenty of ripe cassis fruit and earthy, gravelly intrigue. On the nose it was the equal to any wine that we have had this year. This vintage was the second quite warm harvest in a row in Bordeaux, and like many other producers the folks at Lanessan adapted perfectly on the 2nd go around. This wine was ripe, but did not go over the top. The claret was medium, or even light bodied, with no seems at all. The tannins were completely integrated, the acid still fresh, and the finish lively, long and moreish.

With the New Yorks, it was hard not to drink it fast. I have a bad reputation with my wife for claret hogging, and I had to control myself, especially on the first glass. Classics get to be classics for a reason, and this combination is unbeatable. I am already looking forward to next Friday!

A toast to you!

Gary Westby

 

 

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