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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

Spotlight on Divine Droplets

Here’s a bit of irony for you: I was reading an article from UC Davis Dept of Ampelography last month and discovered something incredibly interesting. Studies on wine residues in clay pots in Haifa (known as Galilee in Biblical times), shows surprising genetic matches with what’s believed to be none other than our much-maligned merlot grape! Apparently, this seemed to be the wine of choice for those settlements along what is now called the Holy Land. According to the article, there was more than a good chance the wine created from water in that very famous Canaan wedding was merlot (or some form of it)! While this data is not 100% conclusive, the way I see it, if merlot was good enough for heavenly consumption, it’s good enough for me. So, who’s laughing now, Miles? 2003 Cloverdale Ranch Alexander Valley Merlot ($19.99) Consistently one of the more impressive Merlots we carry every year. This year, it’s still stylishly seductive, but adds an extra element of soft, ripe tannins and subtle earthy tones that keep its posture straight and hair combed just right. What a great, full-bodied effort, and the most striking to date. 2003 Burgess Napa Merlot ($14.99) You’ve got to love these guys. Besides being just killer nice people, their wines are remarkable and affordable. You don’t often see serious Merlot this flat-out good at prices that can be considered “everyday.” Yet this Merlot will never fail you in times of either friendly get-togethers or important dinners. Way to go! And why not, let’s throw in Merlot’s friendly rival, Pinot Noir. Though not divinely inspired, the ever-consistent 2004 Olivet Lane Russian River Pinot Noir ($23.99), loads up on the velvety, seductive sensory heaven that is Russian River Pinot Noir. Each new release, just like every new Mardi Gras, reminds you how good life is. It’s foolish not to drink it on the first day of April, too. Oh wait, there’s no Davis Department of Ampelography, you say? Fine, but the joke’s on you. Enjoy anyway! —Martin Reyes

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