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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

Premier Napa Valley Auction

Last month I spent a few days in the Napa Valley, attending the Premier Napa Valley Auction. Premier Napa Valley is a mid-winter barrel auction for the trade. This is one of the two auctions put together by the Napa Valley Vintners Association. The other auction is the Napa Valley Wine Auction, which is held in the summer. The weather was perfect, the food was great, and the 2004s showed surprisingly well. The auction itself is actually on Saturday, but many of the wineries have open houses, tasting events and parties on the days that lead up to the auction. One nice thing about the events that the wineries have is all the older vintages that they pour. Corison had a vertical tasting of 1989 through 1994. Shafer was pouring Hillside Select from ’86, ’91, ’95 and ’02. Duckhorn poured the oldest wine of the day, an ’83 Three Palms Merlot, which was served from 6 liter. The main event is on Saturday. First there is a barrel tasting. Here you get a chance to taste the lots that will be auctioned off later in the day. Every winery does something special. The lots they auction off are unique and come from a specific barrel that will be bottled separately for the individual who buys it. So when you taste Silver Oak at the tasting, it is not the wine that will be released in a couple of years. It may be a component of or something totally different. It is still a good chance to get an idea of the fruit that 2004 produced. One thing for sure is that it was a small crop, and production will be down on most wines. I have heard mixed things about 2004’s quality but the wines showed pretty well across the board. Everyone we talked to was very excited about 2005s. After the tasting the auction starts. It is held in a packed room, there is very little oxygen, and it is loud. The bidders who are smart get pre-orders from their customers and bid accordingly. However, if you want to get a lot from a big name, Lewis, Shafer or even Rombauer, be prepared to pay for it. These lots can sell from $30k to $80k. For five cases that could be around $1000 per bottle! The good news is it all goes to charity. —Trey Beffa

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