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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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Archives
Thursday
Jul062006

Affordable Champagne to Beat the Heat!

In my opinion, there are two great liquid ways to beat the heat of summer: beer and Champagne. Since I do not do a beer column (not that I wouldn’t want to!), I’ll stick to Champagne. For August, I have two great, underpriced Champagnes that are great on a hot summer evening. Forget air-conditioning; have a nice, cooling glass of bubbly! At the top of the list is the fresh, zippy and delicate Launois “Cuvee Reserve” Brut Blanc de Blancs ($25.99). Like one of my other favorites, Champagne Krug, Launois gets a lot of its fruit from the Mesnil district of Champagne. A great blend of all Grand Cru chardonnay from Mesnil, Oger, Cramant and Avize. A nose of custard, pine nuts and wet stones. In the mouth, a wonderful cleanliness of character that melds with pear fruit, almonds, vanilla crème and lemon/lime nuances. Rich in style with 90% of the fruit from the 2000 vintage and 10% coming from 1998 reserve stock. I poured this for the staff last month, and even some of my more skeptical co-workers, who don’t really, shall we say, appreciate Champagne, loved this one! Like an old friend, the Ariston Carte Blanche Brut ($22.99) never fails to please. A direct contrast to the Launois, the Ariston is true to its terrior in the small village of Brouillet. The steep, sunny slopes of this district yield riper fruit with a great richness. The final blend is 40% chardonnay, 30% pinot noir and 30% pinot meunier. The nose has elements of pistachios, brioche and red fruits. Like the Launois, the chardonnay in the mouth has lemon curd and custard flavors, while the pinot noir and the pinot meunier add red plum and currant fruit. A nice finish of toasted hazelnuts. Head out to that porch with some Champagne, crusty bread, cheese and fruit! Cheers and have a great month! —Scott Beckerley

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Thursday
Jul062006

Jim C’s View Down Under

2005 Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough New Zealand ($8.99) Lifted aromas of lime blossom and grapefruit with a hint of herbs. On the palate the wine is refreshing with good acidity and fine length. This crowd pleaser is a must for any party or wedding this summer. 2005 Highfield Estate Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough New Zealand ($13.99) For those who prefer a richer style, the bouquet offers lovely notes of lime, passion fruit, gooseberry, red bell pepper and minerals. The wine has a wee bit of barrel fermentation and lees contact giving it a creamy texture on the palate framed by juicy acidity. 2001 Penfolds Winemakers Reserve Limited Release Shiraz South Australia ($9.99) Due to a error in the Penfolds warehouse, this wine was found and labeled as the Winemakers Reserve. The juice inside is a wine (no, not Grange!) you would normally have to pay quite a bit more for. Full of ripe mulberry, cedar, spice and earth aromas, on the palate notes of dusty red currant, cherry and mint come into play, with fine tannins, good acidity and very nice length. 2004 Hewitson “Miss Harry” GSM Barossa Valley South Australia ($17.99) Dean Hewitson makes one the great values in a Southern Rhone style Aussie red. A bit more structured than the 2003, the wine offers beautiful aromas of plum, dark berry, meats and pepper spice. On the palate there is seamless balance framed by a hint of mocha and a little mint in the long finish. —Jimmy C

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Thursday
Jul062006

Rhone Threesome

This month I suggest several of my favorite Rhone wines, a delicate sparkling wine, a luscious rosé and a full-throttle red. A wine for my every mood. And yours! NV Clairette de Die Cave Carod ($12.99) This non-vintage sparkler from the northern Rhone is composed of 75% muscat petits grains and 25% clairette, and made using the methode champenoise. This is a sparkling wine with very fine bubbles, light in alcohol (8°), and still containing residual sugar. Clairette brings delicacy to the wine whereas muscat gives its typical sweetness. This zippy and refreshing sparkling wine is the PERFECT accompaniment to all spicy cuisines. 2005 Tavel Rosé Domaine de Segriés ($11.99) This is not your everyday quaffer of a rosé. The average vine age here is 30 years, and the resulting juice (specifically 50% grenache, 30% cinsault, 15% clairette and 5% syrah) is concentrated and deep. Yes, this is a vin de saignee, meaning it is bled off the grapes keeping just a hint of the red color. But bear in mind that no red wine is made in Tavel. Just rosé. And we’re just fine with that! Enjoy with hearty foods like pissaladiere. 2004 Lirac Alain Jaume “Clos de Sixte” ($16.99) The 2004 Clos de Sixte Lirac is composed of 50% grenache, 35% syrah and 15% mourvèdre. A gorgeously intense red garnet color sets off striking aromas of cassis and wild blackberries. And although full-bodied, with notes of licorice, espresso nib and truffle, the tannins are supple, making this a fantastic Rhone to enjoy tonight with say, gigot d’agneau or grilled sausages. —Mulan Chan

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