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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
Mar212006

2003 Bordeaux: Perfect for the American Palate!

The yearly unveiling of Bordeaux’s new vintage at the Union des Grand Crus tasting on the West Coast is usually a pretty serious event. Serious concentration on the faces of the American tasters, many tasting the wines for the very first time, and taking serious notes. The Bordelais pouring the wines are also a bit intense as they listen politely to comments about their wines and wonder if people really understand them. This year was completely different with 2003 Bordeaux; it was a lovefest! Smiles abounded from everyone’s faces. The wines showed fabulous ripe fruit, rich textures, and they tasted great, which solidified the fact that this vintage will be legendary in America, without question the best-tasting high-quality young Bordeaux vintage since 1982. With this kind of appeal the assumption of course is that the wines will be very expensive, and this is true for the most famous estates in wine. But the reality is that there are also plenty of great wines and many are fine values. The 2003s are trickling in, and here are some of the early examples of these superb wines. 2003 Ch. Fontenil, Fronsac ($21.99) The estate is owned by the world’s most famous enologist Michel Rolland, so it is no surprise that it has huge amounts of sweet, ripe merlot fruit with nice backbone. Flat out delicious. 2003 Ch. Bernadotte, Haut-Médoc ($20.99, $42.99 1.5L) We call it baby Pichon-Lalande as it is owned and made by the great second growth. It captures the hallmark characteristics of Pichon: freshness, elegance, and in 2003 the ripeness brings the berry flavors to the forefront and raises the wine up to another level of quality. 2003 Ch. Reignac, Bordeaux Superior ($24.99) This estate went from bulk wine producer to being the superstar of all Bordeaux Superiores! Smoky berry fruit dominate, with hints of dark chocolate, not overdone or over extracted as it has been in some vintages, a real winner. 2003 Ch. La Couspaude, St-Emilion ($45.99) From the Aubert family in St-Emilion. If you love flashy, exotic, ripe merlot fruit and heavily scented new french oak, you will love this wine. Its bold character really reflects the need to be cellared for a few years, if you can stay away. Claire Villars brings generations of winemaking knowledge to her craft and could be the hottest winemaker in all of Bordeaux. She makes the wine at the smallest of all the classified growths, the 5,000 case production 3rd growth, Ch. Ferriere. The fruit in her 2003 Ch. Ferriere, Margaux ($28.99) is so attractive it’s almost tropical with hints of raspberry jam, soft and round in the mouth with silky tannins. Wow! Her Pauillac estate, 5th growth 2003 Haut-Bages-Liberal, Pauillac ($26.99), located next to Ch. Latour and Pichon Comtesse de Lalande is more masculine and firm, of course, but has good ripe, bright middle fruit and will drink earlier than most Pauillacs. The time is now to get on board with Claire’s wines before she gets too popular. Please feel free to contact me anytime with questions or advice on the wines of Bordeaux at ex 2723 or Ralph@klwines.com. Cheers and Go Giants! —Ralph Sands

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