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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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Tuesday
Dec202005

Biodynamic Wines for a Dynamic You

Happy New Year Rhône heads! Those of you who have read my article on page 2 already know of my optimistic resolutions to stretch more, read more and eat and drink orangically whenever possible. Fortunately for us, many appellations in the Southern Rhône exhibit a dry micro climate and windy conditions, making it easier for vignerons to produce their wines along organic, nearly organic (or in this case biodynamic) lines, as they do not have to deal with conditions such as rot and mildew nearly as often. Below are two beautiful examples! 2003 Montirius Vacqueyras ($22.99) Montirius is the family estate of Christine and Eric Saurel, fifth generation growers whose vineyards grace the prestigious Plateau des Garrigues above the village of Vacqueyras in the southern Rhône valley. Their vineyards are tended biodynamically, a strict form of sustainable viticulture. This 2003 Vacqueyras is a grenache-based red that is hands down one of the best Vacqueyras I have tasted from the 2003 vintage. Black currant ripeness is matched by rich black olive flavors. Good acidity to boot makes this southern Rhône one long, cool beauty. 2003 Montirius Gigondas ($29.99) The Montirius Gigondas is another grenache-based beauty that displays ample flesh, yet maintains a degree of elegance and restraint not that easy to come by in most 2003 Southern Rhones. In fact, La Revue du Vin de France (July/August 2005) gives the 2003 Gigondas from Montirius four stars out of five, a truly impressive accolade from what I believe is one of the best reference points for rating French wines. Enjoy now with one hour of decanting and over the next six years. —Mulan Chan

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