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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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Monday
Nov142005

Two Greats from Champagne

I had the great fortune to accompany Gary on his most recent trip to Champagne. Of the all the producers we visited; all our direct imports, two grand marques and some others, with the limited amount of space I have been given, two producers illustrate what I learned about Champagne, De Meric and Leclerc Briant. . Interestingly both are NMs but their scale of production is smaller than some RMs. As a small negociant, De Meric does not own any of their own vines. They get their fruit from growers whom they feel do everything right. In their caves they have barriques, foudres and stainless steel tanks, all of which are used to impart their own particular characteristics. They also use partial malolactic fermentation. What does this give to their wines? Complexity! You get broader wines with texture from the various oaks, more vinous and varied fruit tones, minerality, toastiness and creaminess—great champagne. This just describes the De Meric “Sous Bois” Brut ($27.99). In the Catherine de Medici, take the above description and increase the intensity and length. Leclerc Briant for me is all about vineyards. We stood above the the “Clos de Champion” ($29.99) tasted chardonnay from “Chevres Pierreus” ($29.99) and then visited “la Coisete,” a vineyard located within the city of Epernay, and right behind Pascal Leclerc Briant’s house. Because of its unique chalky soil, it is planted solely to chardonnay. Yes, we will be getting this very unique Blanc de Blanc in! Leclerc Briant farms biodynamically and has been working organically since the late ’60s. It was great to hear his insights to the politics of the CVIC, farming and terroir. As always you can get a great deal of information about these wines from Gary, or stop by the city store, and I will gladly chew the Champagne fat with you! —Kirk Walker

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