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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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'Tis the Season: Holiday & Winter Beers

Ever get the sense that the "Holiday Season" has jumped the shark? This year, the Black Friday lines seemed to start forming before I finished chewing my last forkful of Thanksgiving turkey. Christmas lights flickered on more than a dozen houses by Saturday night. I already got a "Holly Jolly Christmas" stuck in my head once, and with Hanukkah starting on Wednesday, it seems like I'll be spinning like an out-of-control dreidel until the end of the year. 

So what's a girl to do?

My go-to cure for a case of the humbugs is simple: beer. Holiday, winter and Christmas ales, to be specific. From Imperial Reds to Belgian Blonds to Barleywines and Porters, we've got more festive brews than Santa's got reindeer. Here are some of my favorites:

2010 Deschutes Brewery "Jubelale" Winter Warmer: Since my crummy circulation won't let me snowboard anymore, I'll have to resort to the Deschutes Jubelale to give me that just-off-the-mountain flush. Poured alongside a hearty stew, this dark, malty brew has just a hint of bitterness to keep all the egg nog-like spices from becoming cloying. 

Ninkasi, I recently learned, is the Sumerian goddess of beer, and also the namesake of this tiny Eugene, Oregon brewery. The first beer I ever had from them, the Believer Double Red Ale, swept me off my feet. But nothing prepared me for the intense maltiness of the Sleigh'r Dark Double Ale. Leave this out for Santa next to some chocolate chip cookies.

The Mikkeller "From/To" Christmas Porter is one of two versions of this seasonal Danish brew. Smoky and toasty with orange overtones and anise and cinnamon spice, a bottle of this won't make all Christmas music bearable, but most.

If I were only allowed one Christmas beer, though, it would probably have to be the Brouwerij Het Anker Gouden Carolus Christmas Noel, from the same Belgian brewery that makes the Gouden Carolus. At 10.5% alcohol, this beer might keep me warm enough to go for a snowshoe, and it's garnet color and spiced fig flavors would be tasty with latkes. 

Check out all of our Christmas and Winter beers and then mark your calendar for December 9th, when K&L Hollywood's beer buyer, Steve Greer, will be pouring seasonal brews from 5:30-7:00 p.m.

Leah Greenstein

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