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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

A First Look at the 2004 Vintage in Burgundy

As I write this, I am getting ready to depart for Burgundy for my annual trip to evaluate the vintage. As you read it, I have just returned from that trip. Such are the time lags of writing for the newsletter a full month in advance. But, in the last month, I have had the chance to taste about one hundred 2004 red Burgundies, and I want to give you a report on what I have seen. It is not a vintage that is easy to generalize about. The thing I like the most about the 2004s is their sense of place. It is a vintage where the terroir shows through extremely clearly. For those of us who love Burgundy, that is a very good thing to see. The vintage started out a difficult one, and the skill of the grower was critical. A cool damp spring resulted in problems with powdery mildew, so controlling it quickly was critical. One grower lost all of their fruit in the lower portion of Clos Vougeot, where the dampness can be a problem, due to a well-known neighbor, who refused to intervene at all, and had terrible powdery mildew that escaped to affect others’ vines. A cool summer led to many worried growers. But fair weather and the North wind in September performed a miracle, ripened the fruit, and led to a good vintage. Some of the wines are very much like the 2000s, with supple fruit and charming forward character. Others are more like the classic 2001s, with higher acidity and more structure. Even within a single producer’s portfolio, the character of the wines is not uniform, so dealing with a merchant you know, like K&L, is an important thing to do in this vintage. But overall, I like the vintage a great deal, and the recent improvement in the dollar should result in some lower prices than we saw for the 2003 vintage. I’ll have more to report next month, and a complete version of our vintage report will be available online and in the stores by the end of the month. Á Santé. —Keith Wollenberg

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