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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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Wednesday
Mar172010

Getting to Know: Mari Keilman

What’s your position at K&L and how long have you been with the company?

Wine sales: I’m the Champagne & domestic Cabernet Sauvignon liaison.  I’ve been with K&L since the Hollywood store opened.

What did you do before you started working here?

I was at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena running the Wine Studies program.

What was your “epiphany wine”—the bottle or glass that got you interested in wine?

The ’92 Raymond Burr Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  I was 23 and hadn’t even thought about a career in wine.  I couldn’t stop fixating on the smell of black pepper.  It was the first time that I ever distinguished an individual aroma in a glass of wine.   

 Describe your perfect meal.  What wine(s) would you pair with it?

I love throwing some nice fillets on the grill and enjoying several bottles of wine with my friends.  We’ve paired everything from a Brunello di Montalcino to Rioja to Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel.  Lately, I’m really enjoying big, structured Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs.

How do you think your palate has changed over the years?

California Zins were my first love. Looking for more structure and less fruit, I shifted to California Cabernets.  The natural leap was to Bordeaux and, once in France, Pandora’s Box was opened.  But it was when I tasted the Krug Grand Cuvée that I knew my home was in Champagne.

What do you like to drink?

Bubbles and a balanced Cabernet Sauvignon with a little age on it.  Although a dirty martini can be a great substitute.

What words of advice do you have to offer people just getting into wine?

Whenever possible, taste with others to help develop a consistent wine lexicon and taste wines side by side in comparison to each other to be able gauge the difference in acidity, body and structure.

If you could have dinner with any three people in history, who would you invite? What wine would you serve each of them?

Marilyn Monroe—only to find out if she really did take a bath in 350 bottles of champagne...and what House it was from. 

Dom Perignon—2000 Dom Perignon Brut—to see his reaction to how champagne today is the result of his accidental discovery and what he strived to get rid of.

Myself on the day I turned 21. I’d bring a bottle of Krug Grand Cuvee to show myself what I missed out on earlier.   

 

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