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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
Feb152013

Champagne Friday: Top Value in Vintage Champagne

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

Happy belated Valentine's Day! Valentine's Day and other festive occasions can provide those of us with something special to celebrate the perfect excuse to splurge on a 'special' bottle of wine, but what about the rest of the year? 

If you're like me and most folks out there, you probably can't afford (or choose not to) open pricey bottles every night. Pricing on Champagnes from the famous houses start around $50 per bottle--and that's for the entry level bottlings--and rise skyward from there. If this is out of reach for you on an everyday basis, you're not alone. Fortunately, my mission as Champagne buyer for K&L has been to focus our Direct Import program on Champagnes from the small grower-producers, where real value lies. These are true artisan Champagnes, and thanks to our direct import, we are able to offer many incredible values in $30 price range.

 The 2004 Baron Fuente "Grand Millésimé" Brut Champagne ($34.99) is hands down our best value in vintage Champagne. There is so much more class and breeding here than what you get for spending the same or more for one of the famous house's large production entry level Bruts. Made with fruit from the very northerly Aisne department of Champagne, this blend of 45% Chardonnay, 40% Meunier and 15% Pinot Noir is fresh yet rich in the mouth, with depth of flavor balanced by crisp acidity and mineral drive on the finish.

Believe me, you rarely see vintage Champagne of this quality for this price. It is showing fine development now--try it with a classic pairing of oysters or caviar--but it has the stuffing to age, too.

I hope you give it a try!

Cheers,

-Gary

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