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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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Halfway There

Ahhhh, the holiday season, is, without question, the busiest time of the year for so many of us. Family, friends, shopping, cooking, entertaining and, of course, the dreaded wrapping. So, with that in mind I shall stay off my soap box and keep it simple and to the point. Walking through the store the other day and realizing what has suddenly been thrust upon us, I thought I would write about wines that I would either love to receive as a gift (hint, hint family and friends who read this) or wines that would help me get through these hectic times. I think I found a few that will fit the bill. 2002 Weingut Smelz Riesling “Stein am Rain” Federspiel ($17.99) A refreshing little bugger that is structurally packed full of minerality and zippy acidity, racing across your palate. You will be treated to the bright essence of citrus fruits spiked with exotic spices that melt into the back of your palate and a finish that is as crisp and bright as the cold winter air just outside your window. 2002 Emmerich Knoll Riesling Smaragd Loibenberg ($34.99) This is a powerhouse that is surrounded by grace and beauty. A wine that is full of ripe melons dusted with white pepper leading you into a ripe, juicy, forgiving palate of delicate minerality and intensity. This is one of those gems that you can drink tonight or rediscover in ten years’ time and truly understand why this is a wine of legend (plus maybe really understand the power behind the label on this beauty). Yes, I am purposely not describing the label; you have to see it to believe it! 2003 Nigl Riesling “Privat” ($49.99) Don’t let the 2003 vintage fool you; this is something special. While having 2003 characteristics, the wine-making skills and the old vines that help create this wine ensure a quality that shines, and I promise, you will not be disappointed. Ripe fruit, teaming with fleshy white peaches, (I'm not just saying this), Christmas spices, a subtle tinge of minerality and a balance that is focused and pure. —Eric Story

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