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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
May052006

Get your Fire Extinguisher: Dragy is Back

Once again my good friend, and ex-boss, has created a force to be reckoned with. As he puts it, “being a small farmer from the Rheingau, I not only want to produce wines that represent my region but also the village from I have been born and raised.” Johannes has continued to practice the same philosophy since he began making wine, purity of fruit. He is fanatical about it, trust me on this one! When working for him, he would say, once a day at least, my wines are made 90% in the vineyard and only 10% in the cellar. Nothing but clean, bright, healthy fruit will do for this guy. I swear one day I thought I saw him cry when he came across a cluster of grapes that were not up to his standards. Running along the top of the hill of Rudesheim, just below the forest line, is a vineyard named Drachenstein (Dragonstone), aptly named after the dinosaur print found there. The Drachenstein vineyard is steep and very difficult to work. The soils are filled with all sorts of shapes and sizes of quartzite, which really defines the character of wines that can come out of there. The 2005 vintage was a superb one, and the 2005 Josef Leitz Rüdesheimer Drachenstein “Dragonstone” Riesling ($14.99) is yet another fantastic example. Yes, although considered a QBA, this is no QBA, especially considering this was picked at the high-end spatlese level. This year’s Dragy has a powerful core of fruit, reminding me a bit of ’03, spiked with that quartzite minerality and a truly unbelievable sharp, ripe, citrus acidity, unlike ’03, that leaves a translucent, pure lingering finish. Mr. Leitz has given us another world-class wine at an unbelievable price. This is truly a no brainer for a summertime sipper, or gulper! Thank you Johannes, you are my hero!!! —Eric Story

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