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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

Spotlight on Monterey Masters!

Monterey County and its sub-appellations hold an increasingly prominent place in California’s wine history. Currently, Monterey is re-affirming itself as a world-class winemaking region for grapes like chardonnay, pinot noir and other warm-climate haters. Santa Lucia, without a doubt, is the premium growing region in Monterey, and one of the best producers there is Morgan Winery. Founded in 1982, Morgan’s quest for shocking Chardonnays and perfect Pinots has produced wines that are heads, shoulders and torso above much of the surrounding wineries. The 2004 Morgan “Metallico” Chardonnay ($16.99) is a laser of a wine, made in stainless steel, no ML, yet clean, bright, crisp fruit with superb minerality and focus. The richly dressed 2004 Morgan “Twelve Clones” Pinot Noir ($24.99) jumps out of the glass with sumptuous aromatics and rounded vanilla and cherry notes. Double L, short for Double Luck, named for the owner’s twin daughters, is an organically grown vineyard that is probably one of the best pinot/chardonnay vineyards in the Central Coast. Each effort, the 2003 Morgan “Double L” Pinot Noir ($46.99) and the 2004 Morgan “Double L” Chardonnay ($27.99), reflects the exquisite purity, power and refinement that come from meticulously cared for, pesticide-free vines planted at the right place with the right grapes. Farther south, we run into Graff Family Vineyards, the family that started it all in Monterey. What, you say? Never heard of them before? The family only co-founded Chalone! Now, the same winemaker whose deft hand makes world-class pinot noir is making wine from the old family estate. The 2003 Graff Family Chalone Pinot Blanc ($15.99) shows the classy, elegant and supple side of this lovely grape while the 2003 Graff Family Chalone Mourvèdre ($15.99) shows the softer, sexier side of this otherwise powerful, husky grape. In fact, it’s one of those rare bottles that appeals to the entire spectrum of wine appreciators, from beginners all the way up to our own store manager! I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Incredible! Take a bow, Monterey. You have superstars in your midst. Enjoy! —Martin Reyes

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