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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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March Gems

It is amazing to me that thirty-five years ago I started in this business, and, come June, I will have been with K&L for nineteen years. I keep telling our young, rookie-type wine specialists to “not blink; you will suddenly realize that you have been employed in this industry for thirty-plus years and it will seem as if you just started yesterday.” It has all been a blur, and not just because of all the wine I have drunk! One of the many things I’ve discovered over the years is that it is incredibly easy to buy and sell high-quality expensive, cult-type wines. Finding inexpensive high quality wine for customers has not only been much more challenging, but one of positive attributes that has kept my interests alive and fresh for all these years. A perfect example of this is with the 2004 Domaine La Tour Saint-Martin Menetou Salon Morogues ($13.99), a sauvignon blanc-based white coming from the Loire Valley. Rivaling some of the great Sancerre sauvignons, this Menetou Salon, which is just southwest of its much more famous neighbor, shows perfumed aromas of lime peel zest and wet stone minerality that carries over onto a clean, crisp, mouthwatering set of flavors. This lovely creature is the perfect wine for shellfish. This will be our house white for the month. Our new 2003 Kalinda El Dorado Cabernet Sauvignon ($12.99) was a major surprise when I first tasted it, due to the fact that it presents itself more in the style of a Stag’s Leap cabernet rather than the Sierra foothills. Medium deep ruby in color, the nose offers cassis to blackberry fruit with a hint of vanilla bean and dust. On its amply complex, broadly fruited palate, it shows superb focus, excellent structure, soft round tannins, and a long, silky finish that refuses to quick. Anderson has informed me that this will be one of our house reds for the month. One of my favorite Rhone Valley producers has returned with the introduction of their new vintage. The 2003 Château du Montfaucon Cotes du Rhone “Cuvee Baron Louis” ($14.99) offers a complete wine with its deeply colored robe, pronounced violet to white pepper spice to plum fruit on the nose and in the mouth, superb depth and richness, and soft, round tannins. This grenache (60%), syrah (20%), mourvedre (10%), and carignan (10%) Châteauneuf-style blend is a classic, elegant wine that will drink wonderfully now and for the next three to six years. Anderson has informed me that this will be our other house red for the month. It amazes me just how the 1997 Bordeaux have evolved; they continue to pick up fleshiness and broadness, yet are immensely enjoyable to consume now. Such is the case with 1997 Château Les Ormes-de-Pez, St-Estèphe ($19.95). This is a delicious drink that is medium deep ruby in color with developed, aged bouquet of blackcurrants, cedar, and tobacco. In the mouth, this is round, soft, and resolved, with well-integrated, sleeky tannins, wonderful fullness, layers of character, and a long, warm, distinctive finish. As Anderson has pointed out to me, “this wine screams drink me!” and you need to put some in your collection for that special occasion or dinner. If you have any questions regarding these wines, you can email me at Enjoy this month’s selection or else! —Jim, Anderson, & Eby

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