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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

Two Champagnes Even Mom Will Love!

As we sequeway into Spring, I have two fantastic Champagne jewels. The first, and one of our most popular, is the NV De Meric, Grande Reserve Brut Sous Bois ($27.99). This is a very small, quality-conscious negotiant begun by the Besserat family in 1843 in Ay. Only Grand Cru and Premier Cru grapes are used in De Meric’s Champagnes. The wines are aged in chalk cellars with rumage still being done by hand. Half oak-aged and half stainless steel-aged, this organic beauty has a big, toasty nose with a roasted hazelnut/almond character and a touch of sea salt. A blend of 80% pinot noir, 15% chardonnay and 5% pinot meunier. On the palate, golden and granny smith apples with an elegant, small bead. Anjou pears and a hint of cocoa at the forefront. A zesty finish with light yeast and toast. Champagne jewel number two is a name that most of you will recognize. The 1996 Laurent Perrier Vintage Brut ($39.99) is one of our top-selling Champagnes from this vintage. Am I selling out, you say? Nay! Although I usually focus on small estate-produced Champagnes, I am crazy for this larger (but, not HUGE) production bubbly. A masterful blend of 55% pinot noir and 45% chardonnay that received an amazing 92 point score from the Wine Spectator. A concentrated nose of citrus fruits, wet stones, lemon and spice. While brisk in the mouth, there is a nuanced texture with lemon cream, honeysuckle and (faint) ginger flavors. Starts out soft and ends with a long, lingering, complex finish. It is also available in half-bottles and magnums. The 1996 will also age well over the next six years. —Scott Beckerley

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