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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

Spanish Food Wines

The Spanish dish that I most closely associate with wine is paella. When we recently tried the 2004 Bodegas Mustiguillo Mestizaje ($13.99), I immediately imagined myself in the countryside enjoying this wine while waiting for and then eating paella. Fifty percent of this wine is bobal, a grape that Bodega Mustiguillo seems to single-handedly put into the category of fine wine grapes (The remaining proportion is cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah and grenache). Dark cherries, and a lot of them, on the nose and the palate. Spiced and accentuated with oak, flowers and minerals. Medium bodied, supple and elegant, it has soft tannins and a fresh long finish. Also try it alongside roast chicken, pork, veal or simply jamon y quesa. The next two wines’ structure and size makes them cry out for meat! Roasted, broiled, braised and grilled. The 2001 Cillar de Silos, Ribera del Duero Crianza ($24.99) has a delicious Graves-like note of minerality to it. This is not a shy wine, with plenty of ripe, dark fruits and toasty oak on the nose. On the palate it is big, with concentrated red and dark fruits, chewy tannins, spicy oak and a considerable finish. Drink tonight with about an hour of decanting or cellar for a few more years. The 2001 Bodegas Balbas, Ribera del Duero Crianza ($21.99) has more of a Crus Bourgeois Exceptionnels character, think Poujeaux with American oak. Dark cherries, berries, earth and sweet oak dominate the nose. On the palate this has more dark fruits that are accented with a pleasant tobacco earthy spice. Medium to full-bodied with good structure, there is a seamless quality to this wine that makes it a pleasure to drink. —Kirk Walker

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