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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

Jim C’s View Down Under

2004 Highfield Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough New Zealand ($13.99) This is a new offering in our portfolio of Kiwi sauvignon blancs, and a fine one indeed. Meticulous vineyard work and grape selection along with cold fermentation contribute to the perfumed nose of lime blossom, pink grapefruit, red bell pepper and minerals. 2004 Thorn Clarke Terra Barossa “Importers Reserve” Cabernet Sauvignon Barossa Valley South Australia ($10.99) It’s tough to find good cabernet at this price, but once again they deliver. The bouquet shows notes of plum, cherry, black current, earth and a hint of herbs. Aged in French oak, there are hints of spice along with the fruit character framed by supple tannins leading to a fine finish. 2003 d’Arenberg “Laughing Magpie” Shiraz-Viognier McLaren Vale South Australia ($19.99) A blend of shiraz co-fermented with 6% viognier. Showing aromas of honeysuckle, marmalade, blackberry, and a hint of pencil lead, on the palate this is full bodied with wonderful balance, fine dusty tannins and great length. This is a superb price. I’d recommend putting some aside to drink over the next 3-5 years. 2002 Penfolds Bin 389 Shiraz-Cabernet South Australia ($18.99) Know as Baby Grange or Poor Man’s Grange, this wine shows elements of pepper, earth, black cherry, cassis, current and notes of cedar, spice box and mocha. I had the 1986 of this wine not long ago and it was absolutely terrific. A great cellar candidate, too! —Jimmy C

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