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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
Jun292012

Champagne Friday: Stopper Study

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

The Seal: An Essential Part of Champagne

Happy Champagne Friday! This week is all about stoppers. After all, Champagne could not exist without a perfect seal! Trapping carbon dioxide inside the bottle during the second fermentation is the step that makes Champagne sparkle- and it is very likely that this was first done by mistake.

Champagne is one of the highest acid fine wines in the world, and the climate is cool enough that often fermentations would stop for lack of heat after the harvest. The high acidity in the wine can easily mask a touch of residual sugar, and in the days before lab analysis, it would be easy to bottle something that had some sugar left. Add a tight seal and – bang! Bubbles or a broken bottle! 

In today's video, we will examine the first crown cap that Champagne receives at bottling, the cork it receives after disgorgement and finally to the stopper that often is put into it when we don’t finish the bottle. Along the way we will look at corks before they are inserted, corks from the past, silicon plugs on the ends of corks and synthetic/ composite “corks” that producers use to minimize cork taint. If you've never stopped to consider the stopper, you'll be surprised to learn there's more to it than you think.

A great bottle to have in the door of the fridge is the Baron Fuente "Grande Reserve" Brut Champagne for $23.99. Baron Fuente is a negociant that owns almost 90 acres of vines and purchases another 90 acres "sur pied," meaning that they pick the grapes. This is an important distinction since many negociants buy "sur lattes" meaning in bottle!

Baron Fuente "Grande Reserve" Brut Champagne ($23.99) This delicious Champagne is composed of 10% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay and 60% Meunier and had been aged three years on the lees. It is fermented at relatively cold temperatures in stainless steel with 100% malolactic fermentation. The wine has a very light, white gold color for the blend which is predominantly black grapes and a very pretty, tight bead. On the nose it is flowery and exotic, with a doughy richness to anchor down the wildflower elements. On the palate the wine is well balanced, light and finishes very cleanly. This Champagne is a spectacular aperitif.

I hope you give it a try. If you don't finish the bottle, you can just stopper it up and save to enjoy later, on its own or in a Champagne cocktail like the Negroni Sbagliato, one of my favorites!

A toast to you!

-Gary

 

***

Check out more educational wine & spirits videos from the experts at K&L on YouTube!

How many corks does it take to stopper a bottle of Champagne? In today's video, Gary invites us to "stop" and consider the stopper, one of the most essential yet oft-overlooked components in Champagne production, storage, and consumption, from start to finish.

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