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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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Loire, Alsace and Beyond: Pilgrims Beware

Please permit me to throw my hat into the already frantic discussion of what to drink with your Thanksgiving meal, the most over thought wine/food pairing in history. Every major wine publication will feature their experts on why an aged Merlot goes best with farm-raised chestnut-fed turkey stuffed with morel mushrooms slowly roasted, covered, uncovered, basted, brined and beaten… or most definitely it is Pinot Noir you want to drink to encompass the entire meal and its myriad flavors. But wait! Not just any Pinot Noir; it must be from Oregon and from a cool vintage to better enhance the subtle earthy flavors the pecans add to the stuffing. My advice as a certifiable wine person is to order Thai food, tell them you want it real hot and open a few bottles of Riesling, then wait till the next day and visit your friends for those turkey sandwiches that always seem to be so much more satisfying. Wait wrong article… So what you want to do is drink wines from the Loire Valley with your holiday meal or Alsace for that matter because these are the perfect wines to match the complexities of your now featherless friend. Listen equally featherless friends, there is no need to stress (funny it is me saying that). The straight deal is this: Turkey is a bland bird, not much flavor, a bit like chardonnay in the sense that it takes well to adornment, hence all the fine recipies to dress it up. Turkey as it is most often cooked—roasted—goes best with white wines with clean flavors and not too much oak. Second best is light to medium bodied juicy reds with low tannin levels and again clean flavors and not too much oak. Now, unless you are me or the three or four other people who actually read this column each month and say “yeah man, that’s it” then you should drink what you like. Since you know what? You have to drink it. If you were like me, or you want to be like me, you would drink these: To start- Jean-Louis Denois Brut Rosé Pinot Noir ($12.99), not from the Loire, but I just love it. 100% pinot noir rosé made by skin contact, bright juicy and darn fine. Then the 2002 Domaine Vincent Ogereau Anjou Blanc ($12.99), 100% hand-harvested chenin blanc from a parcel of schist-laden soil in the commune of Saint Lambert. It is vinified in 500 liter Tonnes on its lees until bottling in May. The wine is saturated with wet stone flavors with hints of stone fruits, ginger and sweet herbs and is possibly the most versatile and friendly chenin blanc I have tasted. For the reds I suggest two: the 2004 Domaine de la Pépière Cuvee Granit Rouge ($10.99), from our friend Marc Ollivier in Muscadet, is his take on cheery red wine, though not without substance. It fits the bill (or beak) with its juicy, supple personality. A blend of côt, gamay and merlot (Oh no). Or if you are flush, the 2003 Château du Hureau Saumur Champigny Cuvée Lisagathe ($24.99), a great cab franc from a hot vintage that is seething with rich luscious fruit and minerals that will satisfy even the “big” wine drinkers. No more room - Gobble, Gobble. —Jeff Vierra

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