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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

Spotlight on More Surprises!

Okay, last month some were surprised by the historic importance of merlot only to be reminded about that April 1st thing. This month I’ll come clean. No misleading here; these surprises are going to be real. What I’ve found this month is an flip-flop of wine regions. Normally we look for bargains from places like Paso Robles, and expect to pay through the nose for anything with the word Napa on it. But this month, we’ve received three new wines that have turned these categories upside down. No foolin’! One of our new releases in the hot $20-Cabernet category is the 2003 Waterstone Napa Cabernet Sauvignon ($19.99). Immensely enjoyable now, no need to decant or cellar, this tasty treat gives you nothing but beautiful, luscious fruit and a long, velvety finish. You can almost see the tears of relief in my eyes. Gas prices may be going up, but all hope is not lost in Cabernet. Somebody out there still likes us. Now, onto a producer that has refocused their efforts over the recent years. Artesa winery, besides being a great place to visit, has consistently produced great Chardonnays and Pinots without much fanfare or hype. Now, they’ve outdone themselves with the 2002 Artesa Napa Cabernet Sauvignon ($24.99). This is a remarkably affordable, high-class Cabernet that might leave you wondering why you have pay more for great Cabs. The mood shifts considerably when you experience the 2003 L’Aventure Paso Robles Optimus ($35.99) for the first time. This effort comes fully loaded with everything you expect from greatness. A blend of mostly syrah and cabernet, this beauty shows persistent acidity, refined tannins, elegant multi-layered fruit, a seamless finish and an overall sense of quality thats unusual to find (yet) in Paso Robles. This gem’s easily as good as some of the pricier names to the north. Do yourself a great favor and diversify your portfolio so to speak, by investing in a few of these for the cellar. You’ll be rewarded nicely. —Martin Reyes

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