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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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Thursday
Feb162006

A Night in Provence!

This month I would like to get on my soapbox and champion one of the most underrated wine regions in France: Provence. Sure, it’s beautiful. Of course, the food is great. But what about the wine? Provence certainly gets lots of attention in the form of tourism, but because of its good looks does not often see the need to develop quality wines. Fortunately, there is a small but growing group of vignerons producing wines that are delicious and characterful. Château Estoublon, located in Les Baux de Provence, consist of 10 hectares of vines and 35 hectares of olive trees, all organically grown. Winemaker Remy Reboul is after rich and elegant wines that are reflective of the sun-drenched colors and flavors of Provence. The 2004 Les Baux de Provence Château d’Estoublon Blanc (ORGANIC) ($19.99) is a blend of ugni blanc and grenache blanc. This most serious Provencal white is rich and grand, with notes of honey and almonds. On the palate, however, it is pure refreshing fruit showing citrus along with more tropical notes toward the end. A dead ringer for a great white Châteauneuf-du-Pape! The 2003 Les Baux de Provence Château d’Estoublon Rouge (ORGANIC) ($18.99) is composed of grenache, syrah and about 10% cabernet sauvignon. Ripe griotte aromatics and notes of black olive and thyme abound in this supple red. The wine maintains the requisite amount of mineral drive and acidity to keep make this a perfect accompaniment to an eggplant tian or leg of lamb. —Mulan Chan

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