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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

Life: A Bowl of Cherries!

2003 was a vintage in Burgundy unlike any in memory, thanks to the ferocious heat wave. The wines are often very different than in a typical Burgundy vintage. This left some growers in a dilemma. If their wine did not fit their style, either they had to change their style for the vintage, or they had to take a financial loss and bulk out the wine. I was most interested when Daniel Johnnes, sommelier and importer, approached me in May with an offer for a 2003 Nuits St. George, Premier Cru, at a great price. He told me that one producer in Nuits St. Georges had had several barrels of a single vineyard Premier Cru that just did not fit into their desired style, and that they were interested in selling it in bulk. Of course, it would be labeled as a negociant wine, even though it was all from a single one of their Premier Cru vineyards. When I visited Burgundy in June and tasted the wine, I was delighted to find a beautiful Nuits St. Georges. The 2003 Nuits St. Georges, 1er Cru, La Cerisière ($29.99) is big and rich, with ripe fruit and a brawny charm reminiscent of the old Jules Belin style. A fat and luscious nose is followed by rich blackberry notes on the palate and lots of grip. We grabbed all there was, both for our Signature Red Club and for our retail customers. I felt like a cherry-picker, which is fitting. After all, when you get a chance to be a cherry picker, and get the perfect thing, the next thing you want to be is a Cerisière (a cherry seller). At these prices I do not expect the wine to be around for long. Á Santé. —Keith Wollenberg

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