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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

Barr's May Gems

Over the many years that I have been in this industry, I have come to realize that the more that I learn, the less I know. Just when I believe that I am aware of every conceivable producer from a certain viticultural location, a whole new batch of those that I have never heard about appear on the scene or in our inventory. To quote The Sundance Kid, “Who are these guys?” And how did our buyers find out about them? So, when the 2003 Château La Gatte Bordeaux Rouge, Saint Andre-de-Cubzac ($10.99) appeared in our warehouse, my immediate question was, Who are these guys? Clyde’s response was to ask me if, for whatever reason, I remembered the luncheon we had at Château Latour in1991 (the same luncheon that made me ill). The couple (Michael Affatato and Hélène Fenouillet) who sat next to us, bought this property in 1994 and immediately turned the quality level up quite a few notches the following vintages. With the 2003, a blend of merlot (65%), cabernet (25%), and the balance malbec, you have a wine that is deeply colored with pronounced aromatics of plum, cassis, and touch of white pepper spiciness. This little beauty has the richness of the ’03 vintage without being overdone. It offers a silky, broad, yet balanced mouthfeel, very fine tannins and a long finish. Drink this for the next five to eight years. Anderson has informed me that this will be one of our house red for the month of May. The 2004 Domaine de Verquiere Cotes du Rhone ($8.99), from a family vineyard specializing in concentrated field blends, is consistently one of the best-selling Rhones in the store. The usual suspects (grenache, cinsault and syrah) are behind this intense charmer, showing concentrated red fruit and pepper notes. Anderson has informed me that our last house red for the month will be the 2003 Purisima Canyon Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($16.99), a blend of three different vineyard ranches that originate from Chiles Valley, St. Helena, and Pope Valley. Deep ruby/inky in color, the nose provides lush, ripe aromas of cassis, blackberry, and tea (Earl Gray) tones that are underscored by a mild cedary, toasty tone. In the mouth, you will be treated to a Cabernet that is lush, with finely focused complex fruit, excellent acid structure, integrated soft tannins, hints of chocolate, superb depth of character and a long, lasting finish. This gem should evolve well and drink nicely over the course of the next five to ten years. Any of the above red wines are worth at least a case in your collection. Our only house white wine for May will be the 2003 Château Reynon Bordeaux Blanc, “Vieilles Vignes” ($11.99). A blend of sauvignon (80%) and semillon, this beautiful old-vine gem offers opulent aromas of lanolin and sweet grapefruit-to-white-peach characteristics. This dry, complex, yet elegant white Bordeaux provides undertones of focused minerality and tons of structure and has a clean, long, mouthwatering finish. This is another extremely successful wine in a vintage that left many producers scratching their heads as to how to handle the heat in August, and will rival such wines as Carbonnieux and Smith-Haut-Lafitte. Eby says to stockpile this gem. If you have any questions, you can email me at jimbarr@klwines.com. Enjoy this month’s selection or else! —Jim, Anderson, & Eby

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