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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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Burgundy: Negociant Deal

The red wines of Burgundy are a labyrinth - a never-ending maze of communes, vineyards, grower/producers, and negotiants presenting their take on what the weather gods have dealt them. The commonly held belief concerning Burgundy is that you start with great fruit and try not to mess it up. What that actually means depends on the philosophy of the winemaker, but the results can range from juicy and light-bodied to tannic, course, and highly acidic. Many producers are not making wine for drinking in the short term. Much like a tough piece of meat needs to be tenderized with hours of marinating, the structured wines of Burgundy need to be put into the cellar, left to slowly integrate and soften over time. Some are ready to drink now, but it's hard to know which ones are ready and which are not.

For as much as I love Burgundy, I'm not anywhere near an expert.  I buy the few bottles I get to taste now and then in the store, but I'm always looking to branch out and grab a great deal when I see one. Pinot noir from Burgundy is not the same as what we see here in California.  The wines are far more rustic - full of earth and much less fruit-forward.  It's an acquired taste that gets into your soul and eventually causes one to crave it like no other flavor. Because red Burgundy is usually expensive, the values are few and far-between.

Nicolas Potel is a negociant that purchases both fruit and ready-made wine from his family connections. He is both a dedicated proponent of bio-dynamic winemaking and a man with a keen palate, capable of sourcing the best wines in the Beaune, as well as deciphering which are worth keeping. We've recently received his entry level 2010 release - the humble, yet delicious 2010 Nicolas Potel Bourgogne Rouge $11.99. The wine is made with fruit sourced from both the Cote de Beaune and Cote de Nuits, hand-harvested and cold-fermented in stainless steel tanks.

Whether the wine delivers or not depends entirely upon your expectations. I've been watching Anthony Bourdain in Burgundy all week, so I'm in a rather romantic state of mind.  I'd been craving a red Burgundy with typicity and an earthy backbone. This wine needs decanting, but the quality for the pricepoint is unmatched.  Nicolas Potel has a history of delivering fantastic wine for the price, so when I search for a glass to accompany my meek table fare for the occasional Tuesday night meal, it's nice to know I won't pay too much out of pocket.

For those interested in exploring the everyday values of Burgundy, wines meant for drinking young during the week, I can't think of a better choice. I'm in for a few bottles, no doubt.

-David Driscoll

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