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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

When in Doubt, Go Lebanese

Located at an altitude of 3000 feet above sea level, in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, are the vineyards of Chateau Musar which rest, warm, happy and excited. The Bekaa Valley is surrounded by mountains running parallel with the Mediterranean coast. Here grow vines that rarely see any frost or disease and are bathed in a long, warm sunny growing season. Grape varietals of cabernet sauvignon, cinsault and carignan dominate the vineyard, which consists of a gravelly soil and base of limestone. Founded, as a hobby interest, by Gaston Hochar and now run by his two sons, Serge and Ronald, Musar strives “to translate what nature intended.” The blend is always based on the vintage, hand picked then aged 12 to 15 months in Nevers oak, blended in its third year, bottled and then aged in the cellar for another four years. Known world wide for their complexity and maturity, the wines are ready to drink upon release, seven years after harvest, but will continue to age with style and grace for many, many years. The 1995 Château Musar, Lebanon ($47.99) is a vibrant little beauty. A rich round core, spicy chocolate aromas and a zippy, elegant finish is what this is showing off now, but I can’t wait to try it again in five. The 1997 Château Musar, Lebanon ($43.99) is a bit more austere and rugged with a darker, richer style of old-world flare that needs time to really begin to strut its stuff. This is definitely one for the cellar. Since it is time for those summer time sippers, we are also excited to have the 2004 Château Musar Cuvee Reserve Rosé ($16.99). This is a blend of mostly cinsault and obeideh that is aged in oak for 6 to 9 months, bottled and then finally released two years later. You have to give this a shot with a grilled vegetable cous cous with fresh parsley, cilantro and good extra virgin olive oil!!! —Eric Story

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