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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

Rhone Discovery

This month I would like to share with you one of the most exciting discoveries of my trip through the Rhone Valley last year. Domaine de la Ferme Saint-Martin is a small domaine located in the Cotes du Rhone appellation of Beaumes de Venise. Vigneron Guy Jullien farms approximately 22 hectares of vineyards of several parcels spread across the appellations of Beaumes de Venise and Cote de Ventoux. Guy deeply believes in making wine that is respectful of both the soil and nature. For this reason, yields are kept low, and he tends to his vines organically. In order to preserve the purity of his gorgeous syrah and grenache grapes, Guy vinifies in cement vats, and elevage in old wood is utilized only for syrah. I first met Guy after an incredibly long and very hot day of tasting. Guy’s good friend and neighbor Eric Tabardon thought that it might be a good idea for us to meet, and boy was he right. Each wine, from the entry level “vin de soif” up to the cuvee Saint Martin, exhibited a distinct personality. As I tasted, my mind conjured up the perfect occasion: on the deck with grilled veggies, with roast duck, or on a cold rainy night with great friends and a beef daube. Fantastic! The 2004 Beaumes de Venise Rouge Domaine de la Ferme Saint Martin “Terres Jaunes” (ORGANIC) ($12.99) is comprised of grenache (70%) and syrah (30%) from limestone and clay soils formed some 240 million years ago. This “yellow earth” imparts a brightness to the wine, along with fine tannins and a tight mineral core. Bright cherry, violets and black licorice provide a forwardness and charm that will captivate you. Notes of white pepper and star anise add an element of spicy complexity, coupled with good acidity that will make this red Rhone a lovely companion at the table. I hope you will taste this delicious gem of a wine! —Mulan Chan

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