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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

Southern California Greats!

Last month Martin and I took a trip down south for a quick tour of a few wineries. This was our first day on our two-day trip. Our first stop was at Garretson Wine Company in Paso Robles. Working in a very industrial looking building, winemaker Matt Garretson is focusing on Rhône-inspired blends from Paso Robles. Our favorite pick from this stop was the 2003 Garretson Red Central Coast Red Blend ($19.99). This would be considered their user-friendly red, which is a blend of 70% syrah, 12% grenache, 10% mourvèdre and 8% viognier. Continuing down south, our next stop was at Domaine Alfred. People were friendly, and the wines were well made. Our favorites included the 2003 Domaine Alfred Edna Valley Chardonnay ($18.99) and the 2002 Domaine Alfred “Califa” Edna Valley Pinot Noir ($39.99). The Chardonnay shows great acidity, freshness and pure fruit, and the Pinot Noir is rich, balanced and pure as well. Both are clean and fresh. No heavy-handed winemaking here. Our next visit was with John Alban at Alban Cellars in Arroyo Grande. Great guy and great visit! Unfortunately the wines are next to impossible to get. We then had a quick visit at Talley and then made our way to Laetitia. Our two picks from Laetitia were the 2004 Laetitia Arroyo Grande Chardonnay ($14.99) and the 2003 Laetitia Arroyo Grande Pinot Noir ($17.99). The Chardonnay is rich, ripe and full in the mouth with hints of sweet pear, honey and lime. The Pinot Noir shows a nice balance between fruit and earth with hints of spicy minerals and red strawberry fruit. After Laetitia our next appointment was with John Nivin of Baileyana. Our favorites included the Chardonnay and Pinot releases under their Grand Firepeak Cuvee label. Located just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean, the Firepeak Vineyard is the first to benefit from the cool maritime breezes funneling in from the Morro Bay. The warm days and cool nights are perfect for growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Currently we have the 2002 Baileyana Grand Firepeak Pinot Noir ($29.99) and the 2003 Baileyana Grand Firepeak Chardonnay ($19.99). Both are delicious! —Trey Beffa

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