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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

More than “Decent” Champagne!

Yesterday, Mr. Jim Barr, one of K&L’s best wine guys, showed me an extraordinary piece of history. A customer had given him a wine list from a restaurant in Bremen Germany, circa 1935. The most interesting thing to me about this lovely old menu was the pricing, particularly the comparative pricing of the wines. While one could enjoy a bottle of 1911 Cheval Blanc (about 25-years old at the time) for 15 marks, and the legendary 1921 d’Yquem for 20 marks, even the least expensive non-vintage Champagne on the list was 25 marks. The contrast to present times is striking. Many of our customers will request a “decent” bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon in the $30 price range while almost all of our most exciting Champagnes are under $30! One of the most striking values we have in Champagne is the De Meric Grande Reserve Sous Bois Brut Champagne ($27.99). Composed of 75% pinot noir, 20% chardonnay and 5% meunier from Grand and Premier Cru vineyards, this wine was aged for four years on the lees before release. It is a combination of the 2000, 1999 and 1998 harvests, and half of the juice was fermented and aged in neutral barrels and foudres without malolactic fermentation. The other half of the juice was fermented and kept in stainless steel and allowed to go through malolactic. This Champagne has a great core of black cherry pinot noir fruit and ample yeasty, toasty flavor. The texture and length of this wine are exceptional as well, and it makes anytime that I am drinking it feel like a special occasion or when shared with just one special person over a great dinner at home. —Gary Westby

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