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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
May052006

Trey’s June Picks

2004 Fess Parker “Frontier Red” ($7.99) This is your BBQ red for the summer! A blend of too many varietals to list, this wine is all about the ripe fruit and soft finish. Serve with almost anything you can put on a grill. 2005 Kalinda Los Carneros Chardonnay ($12.99) Just the right amount of fruit, acidity and oak combined to make this deliciously rich yet fresh wine your perfect poolside sipper. Food friendly! 2003 Kirkham Peak Howell Mountain Zinfandel ($14.99) Lots of bang for you buck here. Big, rich and juicy, the combination of the softer, riper vintage of 2003 and the Howell Mountain firmness helps create a Zinfandel that shows the perfect balance of fruit and structure. 2003 Miner Family Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon ($49.99) A blend of 95% cabernet sauvignon and 5% cabernet Franc, aged for 21 months in 60% new French oak and 8% new American oak. The 2003 vintage shows ripe, vibrant fruit, which is lush and lively in the mouth and hints for fresh black currants and red cherries. This wine can be enjoyed on the younger side, as the fruit is the dominate force. 1999 Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvingon ($79.99) 93 points from the Wine Spectator! This wine is $20 cheaper than the currant release and has the benefit of several extra years in the bottle. We tasted this wine the other day, and it is really starting to develop some complexity in its aromas. Red fruits dominate the flavors with hints of cedar, mint and spice. The wine is at its best with some decanting. —Trey Beffa

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Friday
May052006

Loire & Alsace: Return of the King

Last February I traveled to the Loire Valley to attend a fair held at Angers each year highlighting the wines of the region. There was a big group of us from all over the U.S., retailers, distributors, sommeliers and a couple of die-hard wine nuts. Going to such an event is useful as you can taste a ton of wines and really get a feel for the vintage and how it played out in all the different regions. But the best part is visiting the producers at their estates before and after the fair. One of my favorite visits is always to Marc Olivier at Domaine de la Pépière in Muscadet, this being the third straight vintage I have tasted prior to bottling. For those of you who don’t know this estate, Marc Olivier hand harvests, a rarity in the region, uses natural yeasts, waits for the wine to finish and bottles with a very light filtration. The vineyards are in old vines (40 years and older) with a particularly good exposition on a plateau overlooking the river Sèvre. All the vineyards are from original stock; Olivier is the only grower in the Muscadet who does not have a single clonal selection in his vineyards. This heroic vigneron does in Muscadet with old vines, granitic soils and low yields what others dream of in much more “serious” appellations. Some of you had the pleasure of meeting him at our event last March. He was very impressed with the welcome you all gave him. The 2005 Domaine de la Pépière Classique Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie has now arrived just in time for the summer. It is energetic, juicy and full of life, a cool crisp slice of the Muscadet soil tempered with snappy fruit. Don’t delay. These wines have built up quite the following. —Jeff Vierra, Proud Muscadet Lover

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Friday
May052006

Get your Fire Extinguisher: Dragy is Back

Once again my good friend, and ex-boss, has created a force to be reckoned with. As he puts it, “being a small farmer from the Rheingau, I not only want to produce wines that represent my region but also the village from I have been born and raised.” Johannes has continued to practice the same philosophy since he began making wine, purity of fruit. He is fanatical about it, trust me on this one! When working for him, he would say, once a day at least, my wines are made 90% in the vineyard and only 10% in the cellar. Nothing but clean, bright, healthy fruit will do for this guy. I swear one day I thought I saw him cry when he came across a cluster of grapes that were not up to his standards. Running along the top of the hill of Rudesheim, just below the forest line, is a vineyard named Drachenstein (Dragonstone), aptly named after the dinosaur print found there. The Drachenstein vineyard is steep and very difficult to work. The soils are filled with all sorts of shapes and sizes of quartzite, which really defines the character of wines that can come out of there. The 2005 vintage was a superb one, and the 2005 Josef Leitz Rüdesheimer Drachenstein “Dragonstone” Riesling ($14.99) is yet another fantastic example. Yes, although considered a QBA, this is no QBA, especially considering this was picked at the high-end spatlese level. This year’s Dragy has a powerful core of fruit, reminding me a bit of ’03, spiked with that quartzite minerality and a truly unbelievable sharp, ripe, citrus acidity, unlike ’03, that leaves a translucent, pure lingering finish. Mr. Leitz has given us another world-class wine at an unbelievable price. This is truly a no brainer for a summertime sipper, or gulper! Thank you Johannes, you are my hero!!! —Eric Story

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