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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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Jim Barr's April Gems

There has been some new and interesting wine terminology that has evolved the last several years; for instance, the term “Vintnervous: to worry that wine comes from a non-prestigious winery.” With that in mind, I am extremely happy that our group of wine buyers at K&L are not vintnervous when they are scurrying around Europe, South Africa, South America, New Zealand and Australia, finding wonderful wines of incredible quality from some very talented, and, in some cases, obscure producers. I am also extremely happy that our ever-expanding customers have come to respect our buyers’ wine-buying decisions and are not afraid to venture where many vintnervous customers will not, and experience some truly remarkable productions. The first case in point is the fabulous 2004 Maison Champy Bourgogne Chardonnay “Signature” ($14.99) that Keith discovered on one of his buying trips to Burgundy last year. The 2004 whites from Burgundy are breathtaking, wondrous creatures. As one of the oldest houses in Beaune (founded in 1720), this very fine production from Maison Champy is a blend of barrel-fermented (80% new French oak) chardonnay from vineyards from Puligny-Montrachet, Meursault and Rully, and is a pure statement as to the greatness of this vintage. With just a touch of toasty oak, the bouquet erupts with wet-stone minerality intermingled with white peach and hints of honeysuckle. Your tongue will be rewarded with lush, complex, finely honed fruit flavors that offer incredible structure and backbone, and a mouthwatering finish that goes on forever. This is the perfect, everyday chardonnay, and Eby has told me it will be our house white for the month or else (put the claws away, girl; it will be!). The second case in point is the 2004 Château Marjosse Entre-Deux-Mers Bordeaux Blanc ($9.99) that Clyde and Ralph discovered on one of their buying trips to Bordeaux last year. Under the leadership of Pierre Lurton (Cheval Blanc), this new property’s 2004 production is a blend of semillon (85%) and sauvignon blanc. Providing a lovely aroma of lime zest, lanolin and fig, in the mouth, this pretty white offers a nicely framed wine that is clean and crisp, yet with an underlining richness that carries into the finish. The third case in point is the 2003 Château Peyraud Premieres Cotes de Blaye ($9.99), another Clyde and Ralph discovery. This deeply colored wine is vinified to drink now. Aged in tank only with no small barrel aging, it is mostly merlot (90%) with the balance being cabernet. Lush, ripe cassis to currant-like fruit on the nose and in the mouth, this drinking Bordeaux is soft and silky and is perfect to consume for the next three-plus years while you wait for your classified growths to pick up some bottle age in your cellar. Anderson says this will be one of our two house reds for the month. Finally, the fourth case in point is the 2004 Domaine Phillipe Alliet Chinon ($16.99), a Jeff Vierra Loire Valley discovery from one of his buying trips last year. This is one of my favorite red wines in our massive inventory. Deep ruby in color, this exhilarating cabernet franc is flashy and bold on the nose, yet not over-the-top. There is an uncompromising purity on the tongue with this wine showing complete balance, fleshiness, focused dark fruits, terroir, complexity, tons of structure, soft tannins, and a silky, sleek finish. This is a Gem de la Gems, and Anderson and I both agree it will be our house red for however long it is available. If you have any questions, you can email me at Enjoy this month’s selection or else! —Jim, Anderson, & Eby

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