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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
Jan242006

Dreaming of a White February

Psst...wanna know about one of the best kept secrets in French wine? Rhone whites! You will absolutely fall in love, LOVE, with the following terrific, overachieving whites. Try one, or try them all! 2004 Domaine Combier Crozes-Hermitage Blanc ORGANIC ($17.99) Fleshy marsanne is in evidence in this honeyed, thick and luscious northern Rhone white that is held together with a long, tight seam of minerals and grippy acidity. The nose is effusive with white flowers and hints of ripe nectarine. Enjoy this elegant white before a traditional Provencal meal or a St. Marcellin cheese. 2004 Costieres de Nimes Chateau Grande Cassagne Blanc ($9.99) Grenache blanc and roussanne are behind this crisp and rich white from the South of France. The very floral nose will set you squarely in the southern Rhone, at a village market, say, where lavender and white flowers mingle with green olives and citrus. A tingle of oak on the finish adds complexity and remains a backnote. Perfect with brandade or a slice of fougasse (flatbread with onion, black olive and anchovy). 2004 Côtes du Rhone Blanc Domaine de la Becassonne ($13.99) Châteauneuf-du-Pape legend Andre Brunel fashions this rich, full-bodied Rhone white from 50% roussanne, 30% clarette and 20% grenache blanc. This offers aromas of sweet honeysuckle and flavors of apricots, peaches and minerals. Pair with virtually any Provencal fare, including roast chicken, fennel roasted pork loin, picholine olives! A truly exceptional wine value from the South of France! —Mulan Chan

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