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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

Slow Cooked

That is the food I want this time of year. There are plenty of wines that pair wonderfully with these foods. A few of my favorites are: 2004 Vina Y Tia De Lozar, Ribera del Duero ($10.99) A charmer! Dark, ripe fruit immediately jumps out of glass at you. It is backed with more subtle hints of its oak, cedar, smoke and spice. On the palate the wine is similar to the nose; it greets you with dark, pure almost juicy fruits then fleshy soft tannins and behind the fruit and tannins the unmistakable savory earthiness of tempranillo. Think braised short-ribs! 2004 Bodegas Arrocal, Ribera del Duero ($12.99) This is bigger, more complex wine. The fruit is multidimensional; dark juicy berries and crunchy red fruits all tossed together. The palate is round, plush and long, the perfect showcase for all those fruit tones. Almost hidden behind the fruit are hints of oak and spicy earth that linger on the finish. Stylish, clean and modern, this is a heck of a deal. Great with Persian herb stew! 2004 Bodegas Quinta de la Quietud “Corral de Campanas,” Toro $21.99) Dark, vibrant and bold, looking at this wine you would think it was a monster, an opaque violet bruiser. The nose offers dense dark fruits and berries that slowly revealed tarry earth and exotic spices. The big surprise is the palate: structured and long with ripe supple tannins, reminding me of a forward right bank wine. Decant and enjoy this seriously indulgent wine. —Kirk Walker

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