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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
Friday
Jun022006

Jim C’s View Down Under: Ah... Refreshing!

This month I have a stunning group of value priced wines perfect for summer chilling and grilling. The 2005 Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough New Zealand ($9.99) has a lifted nose of lime, snap pea, light passion fruit, and a powdery talc note. Clean and snappy with a mineral note and a round mid-palate supported by fine acidity leading to a long racy finish, this is Chardonnay without the oak! The 2005 Alpha Domas Unoaked Chardonnay Hawkes Bay New Zealand ($10.99) offers a refreshing version of this omnipresent varietal, which has a bouquet of light peach, pear, apple and melon notes. On the palate there is some minerality and pure clean fruit with lemon zest accents, good acidity and fine length. The Redheads Studio is an old bar and restaurant converted to a “playground” for a group of very talented winemakers. The 2004 Redheads Studio “Yard Dog” Southeast Australia ($10.99) has soft supple tannins with smoky dark plum, spicy red current, cherry, sweet red licorice and notes of milk chocolate. The palate shows fine balance with good acidity purity of fruit and a long finish. Buitenverwachting in Africans translates to “beyond expectation,” and so does this wine from one of the coolest areas in South Africa. The 2005 Buitenverwachting “Beyond” Sauvignon Blanc Constantia South Africa ($10.99) is vibrant and zesty with a nose of wet stone, mineral, light passion fruit and citrus blossom. On the palate there is good purity with great acidity and length. Pair this with grilled shrimp and a spicy chili-lime sauce. Cheer —Jimmy C

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Thursday
Jun012006

Two Men… Wine… The Unspoken… Barr Back Mountain

Jim was a cowboy, rough and tough. He liked to say that he preferred his coffee black and his women blue. The wine he drank was red, and not that fruity stuff, like Beaujolais. He was a Syrah man, a Zin man, a Cabernet man. A real man. Jim roped steer and steered ropes. Jim drove cattle, drove them through valleys, across streams. Jim drove those cattle, drove them crazy. Jim was deaf, and when his incoherent mumblings reached the ears of the beasts they would bleat mournfully as if asking him to stop. But their cries fell on, well, on deaf ears. The deaf ears of a real man. Cowboy Jim was hard at work one sunny day, driving the cattle crazy on his way to deliver them to a dude named Hoss down at the Ponderosa. Jim had met Hoss on previous cattle runs. Hoss was a big man with a barrel chest, and he was slightly dense. Hoss was different, for sure. he was fond of show tunes and interior design. He dressed impeccably, and his diction was flawless. But he was a cowboy, a real man, so Jim could forgive Hoss his quirks. Another thing about Hoss, something that Jim liked a lot: Hoss loved his wine. In the evenings the two cowboys would pull some corks and shoot the bull. Their conversation was easy and relaxed. They were just two manly cowboys drinking hearty red wine. Jim played the accordion and soon learned a number of Ethel Merman tunes so Hoss could sing along. Hoss and Jim became a team, and traveled together across the cinematic countryside. They had everything they needed: A good horse, a blackened coffee pot, wine... and orchestral backround music. It was the good life. But there were whispers from the other cowboys. Whispers that Jim and Hoss were... well, a different breed of cowboy. There were horse whispers too, but that’s another film entirely. Hoss and Jim did not care. They were happy roping, happy riding. Happy singing songs from The Music Man by the campfire. They were a team. After their workout (they had taken up the sport of Rassling) Hoss opened a bottle of 1995 Palmer ($139.99), and a ’96 Palmer ($129.99) as well. To compare and contrast, Hoss explained, and to pair with duck confit. A new world opened up to Jim. These Palmer wines were vibrant and exciting. Hoss explained that Palmer blended the characteristics of every commune: hearty (and manly) like Médoc, soft and supple like Pomerol and St-Emilion, sturdy and straightforward like St-Estèphe. And with the Fragrance of Margaux. Jim found that the ’95 was fleshy and soft, and brimming with a sweet cherry jaminess. The ’96 was firmer, denser. Manlier, yes, than the ’95. One to drink and one to save. But as Hoss explained the wines, how Palmer was made from nearly half merlot, Jim grew agitated and fled. He would no longer partner up with Hoss. Jim and Hoss were finished. Now a lonesome cowpoke, Jim worked alone. And he denied the truth about himself each and every solitary day. “I ain’t no Merlot drinker…” —Joe Zugelder

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Thursday
Jun012006

Wines for the Weber!

I’m happy to present some delightful barbeque style reds. First off, the 2004 Fess Parker Frontier Red ($7.99) is comprised mostly of syrah, but boasts ten other Rhone and Bordeaux varietals. This blueberry and coco duo braids together oodles of juicy spice on the back palate. Dare I say, this wine, (weather permitting) inspires diving board canon balls, jack knives, and swan dives in between each sip. It’s hard to believe we are selling this wine for so little! Snatch up this tender, seductive, and oh-so-nurturing little number that sings like Billy Holiday and kicks it up with a feather-weight punch of frivolous fruit. From a very solid and steady producer, the 2004 Bogle Russian River Pinot Noir ($11.99) is an absolute steal! Wafts of herbal notes and roasted cherries excite the palate. This well-balanced wine slithers its way down, while recalling hints of tobacco and leather on the finish. This little guy is a pleaser; wherever you might bring him, he’s sure to dazzle and adapt to all kinds of summer fare. The 2004 Brown Napa Valley Zinfandel ($32.99) is for folks who like Zinfandels that can rival the flash of a neon light. It’s flush with a sugary nose, but not as weighty as you might first suspect. It boasts a jolt of Fourth of July fruit, however the stewed and jammy essence is well integrated with acid, smoke and spice to give the over-all impression of a well-constructed wine. Enjoy with mango chipolte ribs, or braised duck in a spicy pomegranate sauce. The 2004 Sobon Amador, Rocky Top, Zinfandel ($12.99) is another cheery and efficient wine to enjoy over a fierce game of lawn darts (at your own risk) or perhaps, an old favorite of mine, slip and slide, horse-shoes, or when all else fails, Twister. With a little Rocky Top spreading heat and happiness throughout your veins, you’re sure to make a new, ahem, friend. —Keelyn Healy

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