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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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Friday
Apr142006

Austria: Stadlmann and Zierfandler

A good friend and local Austrian wine authority has started importing some really exciting wines from Austria that we are proud to offer to our customers. The quality of these wines far exceeds the prices we are asking, a benefit of the wines not having many layers of importation and distribution to work through. And you reap the rewards. We have selected three producers to work with starting out and may expand to a few more after my trip this year to meet them. The first and most eye opening for me is a man named Johann Stadlmann, a champion of Zierfandler (yes, that is the grape) of which there are only 100-200 hectares planted on the planet. I cannot recommend these wines enough. I would even be willing to come to your house and personally open the bottle for you, and, of course, have a glass. We have two wines from Stadlmann, two Zierfandlers, which must be some kind of a record for wine stores on El Camino Real. The first is 2004 Stadlmann Zierfandler Classic ($15.99), a great introduction to the grape and a super wine for the summer. It is sleek and dry with high-toned citrus, herbal and a zesty candied grapefruit/ginger aromatics that are refreshing and lively. Then we have one of the most intriguing wines I have tasted in many years, the 2004 Stadlmann Zierfandler Mandel-Höh ($25.99), which I have no doubt belongs among the top wines in Austria and the world. This vineyard site produces a singular wine that is hauntingly beautiful and absolutely serious. It fills you with questions that cannot be answered. An experience unto itself. Drink up. —Jeff Vierra Lover of Marginal Things

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