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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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« Highlights from the Bordeaux Tour of a Lifetime-Part One | Main | A Brief Note from Clyde Beffa Jr »

Kirk's November Bordeaux Picks!

2003 Etoiles de Mondorion, St-Emilion ($14.99) This is the very limited, 500 cases, second wine of Mondorion. And all of the care and attention that they put into there first wine is also seen here: hand harvesting, complete destemming, fermentation in temperature regulated concrete vats and aging in French oak barrels. A blend of 90% merlot and 10% cabernet franc, the nose is bold and dark with red and black fruits, toast and earth. The palate is moderately rich and balanced. The round dark fruit is bolstered by ripe tannins and accented with a hint of earth on the finish. A terrific deal. 2000 Mondorion, St-Emilion ($19.99) New life has been breathed into this estate since it was purchased in 1999. With a new vision for the future, you couldn’t ask for a better inaugural vintage. It undergoes everything as in the case of the above wine but sees 40% new French oak, and the varietal composition is somewhat different: 76% merlot and 24% cabernet franc. It is really the big brother to the Etoiles. Deeper and darker in color and character, it has more berries and oaky spice. Definitely made in a new world style but still rooted in the old world with its unmistakable terroir shining through on the finish. Drink or hold on to it for another few years. Only 3500 cases made. 2000 Trebiac, Graves ($13.99) An old favorite is back! A wonderful ambassador for the wines of Graves, the Trebiac is about structure and minerality. Its relatively high percentage of merlot (40%) fattens the middle giving it a lushness that keeps the wine from becoming austere. This is a dinner wine and needs 30 to 40 minutes in a decanter to open it up and show off its red fruits and gravelly minerality, both of which are enhanced by its acidity. With good length, the wine opens up and reveals even more of its classic earthiness. 2000 Bellerose Figeac Reserve, St-Emilion ($27.99) This is a full-throttle, modern St-Emilion. The grapes for this cuvee come from near the Pomerol border, with is deep sandy iron-rich subsoil. They green harvest, hand pick, de-stem, cold soak, ferment in temperature controlled concrete vats, then age in French oak barrels. 60% merlot with the remaining a blend of cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon. Dark red fruits and berries on the nose peppered with oaky spice and earthy minerality, the wine has good structure. The ripe round fruit is wrapped around a core of dark chocolate and earthy spice. Drink it tonight with about 45 minutes decanting or hold on to it for another 5 years. —Kirk Walker

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