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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

The Best 1996 Vintage Yet!

I am extraordinarily excited to report that my favorite 1996 vintage Champagne yet has arrived at K&L. From Leclerc-Briant, the producer that brought us the (now sold out) single vineyard Champagnes Clos des Champions, Les Crayères and Les Chêvres Pierreuses is finally releasing their tete de cuvee. The Leclerc-Briant Cuvee Divine ($39.99) is being released at ten years old, a properly luxurious time in the family’s 90 foot-deep cellar for a luxury cuvee. This Champagne is the color of straw, with just the right amount of compact, streaming bubbles. It is composed of 50% chardonnay and 50% pinot noir, blended from estate vineyards in the prime valley of the Marne villages Dizy (home of Jacquesson), Cumieres (where their single vineyard offerings are from), Damery (where Mr. Rene Collard has vines) and Hautvillers (home of the monk Dom Perignon). Aromatically, the pinot noir is at the forefront, with plenty of black cherry, a very high quality, pure nose indeed! After spending nine years on the lees it is surprising how little toast is evident, and I think this is a testament to the organic farming of Mr. Pascal Leclerc-Briant. Because of the lower yields and greater concentration, there is just lots of wine in front of the yeast! In the mouth, the wine is rich and full bodied, with all the flavors present that the nose promised. The finish is where the chardonnay takes over, with zippy, subtly citric refreshment and a very persistent minerality. The Divine is dosed at only six grams per liter, making it quite dry. After having the 1988 at dinner with Scott Beckerley, I am convinced that this will provide fantastic drinking until at least 2021—starting today! Please don’t miss this fantastic Champagne; I am sure it won’t last long. We also received a very small amount of the Leclerc-Briant “La Croisette” Brut ($29.99) from a less-than-one-acre vineyard in Epernay directly above the winery! This blanc de blancs shows the cantaloupe style fruit of a valley of the Marne blanc de blancs and finishes very, very dry. Quantity is limited. Feel free to contact me at 1-800-247-5987 ex 2728. A toast to you! —Gary Westby

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