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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

Loire and Beyond

There are some exciting things happening on the Direct Import side. I found out to my delight that the Boulays of Chavignol inherited some vines in the famed Monte Damnés vineyard, one of the best sites in all of Sancerre. The 1.2ha parcel is exposed fully to the south with vines between 25- to 45-years old, of course completely hand harvested, vinification taking place in 300L barrels with natural yeast fermentation. The 2004 Boulay Sancerre Montes Damnés ($26.99) is the first release, and our allocation is only 300 bottles. Compared to the Clos du Beaujeu, this wine is overtly more aromatic with spicy aromas hinting at pepper. Where the Beaujeu is subtle and fine, this wine is powerful and concentrated. This is a steal at the price. Hopefully here by now is another favorite, the 2005 Château Soucherie Rosé de Loire ($10.99). We get only one shot to order this wine each year, and last time our supply didn’t last long. We will get a few more cases this year, but it won’t be around much past mid June. Made from 100% cabernet franc, this is pale in color yet packed with bright fruit, a slight earthiness and loads of minerality. On the Alsace front, I had the pleasure of visiting with Martine Becker of Zellenberg when she was in San Francisco. Her wines are clean and vibrant, precise and mineral. I am very excited about the Becker Cremant d’Alsace ($14.99) a blend of pinot noir and chardonnay made in the traditional method. We should have it by now (fingers crossed), and you will love this for the summer months. This is a sparkler of real depth that is refreshing, lively and invigorating with a fine bead, soft creamy texture and dry mineral finish. --Jeff Vierra

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