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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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Thursday
Aug282008

Hail in Montalcino

On August 15th there was a dramatic hailstorm in Montalcino, accompanied by ferocious winds. The storm followed a path along the Orcia River valley from Sant’Angelo Scalo to Sant’Angelo in Colle through Castelnuovo dell’Abate. The storm hit on Italy’s summer vacation day Ferragosto, when most people head to the beach for a couple of weeks, including many winemakers who rushed back immediately to survey the damage and do the necessary work to clean up their vineyards. K&L direct imports five producers from Montalcino, including Ferrero. Owner Claudia Ferrero has told us that she dropped more than 50% of her crop due to damage. However, she has also reported that the weather is hot and dry so post-storm damage from mold will be at a minimum and the remaining grapes look very healthy. Ettore Spina the owner of Sesta di Sopra said that their Brunello vineyard “Magistra” suffered some damage. They are in the southern portion of Montalcino, but higher up than most along the south face. Their altitude seemed to ameliorate their situation. The storm hit about the time that they normally do a green harvest. They dropped all of the damaged fruit, which ended up reducing the crop by as much as the green harvest would have. The grapes are healthy, but with another month left in the growing season it is too early to give any quality report. The owners of Baricci and Poggiarellino, two other producers we import, both located north of the town of Montalcino, reported no problems at all. We are still awaiting notice from other producers. As I’m sure you’re all aware, hail is a uniquely local phenomenon and one parcel can be devastated and another, 50 meters away, survive with no problems. The initial reaction for many is to think that all of Montalcino is devastated, which is definitely not the case. Quality can’t really be assessed until the grapes are harvested and the wine is actually made. The one thing for sure is that there will be less quantity than in previous vintages for this region. Some of the more well known wineries in this area that have reported damage are Banfi, Col d’Orcia, Il Poggione, Ciacci Piccolomini. —Greg St. Clair

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