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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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Spotlight on New Year’s Resolutions

This year, I resolve to drink more white wine! I’m not kidding. Non-Chard whites are seriously underrated in this country and have been an afterthought for yours truly for essentially most of my wine-drinking life. This is almost like a confession, but in truth, I feel like it’s a revelation. The true virtues of classy whites weren’t obvious to me for a long time and are admittedly hard to believe, yet there’s no denying anymore—white wine is more versatile than red, more refreshing than red, and the right ones can be as complex and age-worthy as most reds. My, oh my, it shocks me, an avowed “Big Cab” drinker for so long that I’m actually writing this now! Perhaps some are thinking, “Nope, not me, I’m still an eat-it-with-a-spoon, rocket fuel-strength red lover.” Fine. But if you’re looking for a unique and rewarding resolution this year, come join me in this one. Let’s look at a couple of special baby steps: 2004 Long Shadows Poet’s Leap Riesling Columbia Valley ($21.99) Riesling in many ways is the anti-Merlot. Everyone jokes how the masses love Merlot, but the connoisseurs turn their nose up, right? Well Riesling is the exact opposite. Ask any wine shop and they’ll tell you. Serious Riesling is a breath-taking experience. It produces some of the most dazzling, poetic and gracefully wines the world has to offer, plus its natural acidity make it a stunning food-pairing machine. But guess how many noses wrinkle when I suggest it for a meal? I know, I know, I was a nose-wrinkler too! Now take a step forward with me and try this one with fresh cracked crab and garlic butter, and see what happens! 2003 Spring Mountain Napa Sauvignon Blanc ($24.99) Don’t let the words “sauvignon blanc” mislead you. There is nothing light, tart or simple about this impressive wine. I don’t usually write a laundry list of fruit descriptors, but this one shot out of the gate and didn’t let up. Guava, fig, pineapple, grapefruit, meyer lemon and peach, all caressed with a touch of embracing yet refined Bordeaux-like creaminess. This is one of the all-around greatest and most glorious Sauvignon Blancs this state has to offer, period. Enjoy! —Martin Reyes

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