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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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« Start the New Year with Domaine Barraud | Main | Cult Blanc de Blancs from Mesnil »

Great Estate Champagne for Under $30.00!

2000 Franck Bonville Brut Millesime Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($29.99) This little marvel from the village of Avize has a great richness that still retains the cleanliness of the 1996 vintage. To be honest, I love the 1996 and have it in my cellar. I hold the 2000 in the same esteem but, for different reasons. The Bonville family has been making Champagne for over 100 years and purchased their 15 hectares of land parcel by parcel beginning in the late 19th century... Avize is one of the top 17 villages in Champagne given the highest rating of 100% for producing quality sparkling wines. Like the 1996, the 2000 is very cellar worthy but, it is more drinkable now. Four years of ageing on the lees. An outstanding nose of pears, almonds and flowers. On the palate, lots of richness and complexity with just enough acid to make it extremely balanced. Ripe pear and golden apple flavors greet the palate with just the slightest bit of honeyed apples on the finish. A marvelous Champagne to have with Brie or simply by itself. One- hundred-percent chardonnay and 100% delicious! N/V Ariston Brut Rosé Champagne ($28.99) In contrast to the Franck Bonville, we have the Ariston Rosé. Fans of fine rosé Champagne should stop in their tracks right now and read this. A blend of 50% pinot noir and 50% pinot meunier from estate vineyards in Brouillet. Lovely, pale pink colour in the glass. Bing cherry nose with fragrant rose petal accents. Rich and well-rounded with cherry fruit, tangerines, minerals and vanilla. Marvelously creamy with a small bead and a fine frothiness. One of our greatest rosé Champagnes for under $30.00 that returns to thrill us for the New Year. A perfect foil for anything from white fish to slowly cooked pork roasts or a fruit tart. Or, like the Franck-Bonville, elegant on its own. Champagne time is anytime! —Scott Beckerley

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