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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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August Kesseler

First, an update on the January German/Austria tasting with Terry Theise and friends: We are absolutely having it, and it will be great and life changing. At the time of this writing I can tell you it’s on Saturday, January 21 at Coco 500 (near our SF store). Cost yet to be determined. Log onto for details. See you there!! Now on to new business... As you read this there should be a ship called the Carada docking here in the bay carrying some great Rheingau Rieslings from our dear friend August Kesseler in Assmannshausen. Mr. Kesseler runs along with superstar cellar master Max Himstedt one of the top estates in the Rheingau for Riesling and possibly THE top estate in Germany for Pinot Noir. Assmannshausen is located just around the bend from Rüdesheim at the northwestern end of the Rheingau, a village long reputed for its red wines. The estate is about 20 hectares with vines in the Höllenberg in Assmannshausen and in Rüdesheim the Berg Schlossberg, Berg Roseneck, and Bischofsberg totaling about 50% riesling and 45% spätburgunder. Yields are kept low, on average about 45 hl/ha and the style here is in one word sleek. The Rieslings are racy and bright, on the drier side and in 2004 posses a clarity and precision not often found in the Rheingau. We are bringing in a smattering of his ’04s and just a tiny bit of the high end pinots for those of you like me who are in love with them. Here’s the line up: 2004 August Kesseler Estate Riesling ($11.99) my vote for best value German wine this year, you just don’t get this much wine for the price anymore. This comes across as positively Nahe or even Mosel as it is so clean and refreshing with subtle undercurrents of minerals and fresh pears. 2004 Berg Roseneck Spätlese ($19.99) here is the yin to Mr. Leitz’s yang, both great Roseneck Spätlesen but such different expressions, this has laser like focus and firm mineral structure, very compact and revved up compared to the grandness of Leitz’s textural masterwork, this is what makes these wines fun. This next wine was created for the foods August found in his travels around the world though he does hint that it was SF that inspired this wine with our diverse modern cuisine. The 2004 530.3 Spätlese ($25.99), from Schlossberg and Roseneck, is so named for the navigation marker on the Rhine that sits just below this portion of Schlossberg. Made in a slightly drier style to complement more types of cuisine, especially Asian influenced dishes. Firm, powerful and full of minerals. There are also small quantities of a gorgeous 2004 Bischofsberg Spätlese Gold Capsule ($25.99) and the Pinots 2003 Spätburgunder ($22.99), 2002 and 2003 Höllenberg Spätburgunder ($57.99). Live in the Light! —Jeff Vierra

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