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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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Thursday
Oct132005

Jim C’s View Down Under

2005 Matua Valley Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough New Zealand ($7.99) and the 2004 Vasse Felix “Adams Road” Chardonnay, Margaret River Western Australia ($13.99) These are two screaming deals! The Matua, now with bolder color and in a Bordeaux bottle, serves up a bouquet of lime, cantaloupe and fresh cut red peppers. On the palate there is good acidity to support the more tropical mango-papaya fruit that lead to a refreshing clean finish. The Adams Road chardonnay is 50% tank fermented. The nose offers aromas of light toast, pear, pineapple, honey, hazelnut and cinnamon spice. The wine has superb acidity bringing all these components together. 2004 Boekenhoutskloof Porcupine Ridge Syrah, Coastal Region South Africa ($10.99) The 2004 shows smoky, meaty notes with lovely ripe boysenberry fruit and a hint of lavender in the aromatics. In the mouth, the wine is full bodied and juicy with soft lush tannins and a fine finish. 2004 Hewitson “Miss Harry” GSM, McLaren Vale South Australia ($17.99) Dean Hewitson brings another super edition of Miss Harry with his 2004 blend of 44% grenache, 43% shiraz and 13% mourvèdre sourced from 50 and 80 year old vines. The bouquet sings with notes of black raspberry, cassis, white pepper, smoked meats and a hint of mocha. On the palate there is fine balance and length, with more structure and weight than last years 91-point wine. The 2003 d’Arenberg “Footbolt” Shiraz McLaren Vale South Australia ($13.99) shows how good the vintage was in McLaren Vale. This wine is richer and shows more depth than the fine 2002, with notes of dark plum, blackberry, blueberry, chocolate and earth. Very well balanced with fine length and polish for the money. —Jimmy C

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