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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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Friday
Apr052013

Champagne Friday: Reporting from Champagne! The First Day at Aspasie

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

The first day in Champagne at Champagne Aspasie

I am very lucky on this trip to have my father Jim with me. He and I left for France on Easter Sunday and arrived on Monday, which--no surprise--is a holiday in France! Our friends the Aristons of Champagne Aspasie invited us to visit them and stay for dinner, so as soon as we got off the plane we drove straight there.

Paul-Vincent Ariston had arranged a tasting of the base wines from the 2012 harvest for us, and we had a chance to learn the crazy story of this unique season in Champagne. This vintage had every challenge that a vigneron could face: freezing temperatures in the winter (as low as -20 centigrade) killed vines, spring frosts followed destroying many of the fresh buds, cold and rain during the flowering stunted grape growth, and horrible weather in July produced so much mud that it was often impossible to get into the vineyard to treat the vines against mildew. All of this lead to drastically lower yields, but miraculously the weather turned around in August and the grapes came out perfectly ripe, with plenty of acidity, but very scarce. Aspasie harvested more than 1/3 less in 2012 than average.

The base wines from Aspasie, as well as the other producers we have visited have been some of the best I have had. They are concentrated and quite full bodied, but have immense freshness and transparency. After tasting with Paul, we went to the winery were he moved more than 20 full palettes of Champagne to get our prize- a bottle of his 1983, which he disgorged manually, on the spot for us to enjoy. You can watch him doing it in today's video.

Try the Ariston "Aspasie Brut Prestige" Champagne ($39.99, $84.99 1.5L) with the fresh asparagus of the season!

Paul’s father Remy made this bottle, as Paul was only 11 years old! It was a sunny year with lots of grapes, and Remy Ariston worked day and night to load the press. It was still super fresh at 30 years old, and full of honeyed bread aroma and flavor. The wine had no sugar added to it as it was disgorged on the spot, and didn’t need any. We had it with Marie-France Ariston’s incredible white Asparagus with homemade mayonnaise… I was over the moon for it all.

We just received a new shipment from Aspasie, and with Asparagus season in full swing, I suggest you try this pairing your self with the Aspasie Brut Prestige ($39.99, $84.99 1.5L). This old vine blend is rich without being at all sweet, and I am sure you will love it!

A toast to you!

-Gary

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