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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
Jul162014

Bike Riding in Champagne

 

So many perfect, narrow, traffic free roads to ride in Champagne!

The Champagne region, as I like to tell anyone who will listen, is a great place to visit. While I come for the great wines, the fantastic food, great accommodations and many other attractions would be well worth a trip without a drop of bubbles. Today, I am writing from the small village of Crugny, where Cinnamon and I have rented Gite La  Grange with two other couples. It is a converted farmhouse, and could not be any nicer, with four bedrooms, and a generous living space with an open kitchen and a backyard with outdoor seating and a grill.

Cinnamon and Doug wrestle with the duvet cover at Gite La Grange.

Last night we cooked a good dinner of rabbit in Dijon sauce, vegetables from the farm stand next door and sausages, with a cucumber salad, generous cheese plate from La Cave aux Fromages at 12 Place du Forum in Reims and chocolates from Vincent Dallet in Epernay. Today I got on my bike to work it all off!

The northwestern corner of Champagne is full of gorgeous old churches, this one is in Dravegny.

In this north-western corner of Champagne, it is very easy to get a good work out on a bike. While the terrain is not mountainous, there is scarcely a kilometer of flat, and many of the small climbs are quite steep. On my ride I tackled a chalk cobble climb to the chicken farm that we were buying eggs from, where I was welcomed by the farmer’s dog, who chased me until I sprayed him with my water bottle! I also saw a chevreuil (a small deer), a red fox and to many birds to count.

Yes- the eggs were fantastic!

The ancient churches were also too numerous to count, and riding by the Abbaye Notre Dame d’Igny was spectacular- even if their famous chocolate shop was closed- again! I ended up riding for about 2 hours, taking in numerous gorgeous villages, including my favorite: Brouillet. Brouillet is home to Champagne Aspasie… A destination in itself!

A toast to you!

Gary Westby

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