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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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Tuesday
Jan282014

Fabulous Taittinger!

Hamachi shots and Champagne- outdoor dining in January!

We have been having quite the summer this winter in California. This past Sunday, with half of the country under freezing snow, Cinnamon and I were enjoying our aperitif and appetizer dans le jardin in short sleeves. While it has been very nice for bike riding and grilling, this unseasonable weather has been playing havoc with our water supply. It is the driest winter in 500 years, and some of the wine growers are reporting premature budbreak… In January! If the state is going to dry up and blow away, the least we can do is give it a Champagne send off. You might be seeing more Champagne Friday from the backyard this year!

The week before, K&L’s new super star sales associate Angie An came over for dinner and made us hamachi shots to go with our Champagne before we sat down for leg of lamb and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. This appetizer was so good that we asked for the recipe and made it again for our Sunday starter. These are a home run with Champagne… As good as anything in the world to go with bubbles!

The sunny 2006 vintage went well with the California sun!

The 2006 Taittinger Brut Champagne ($69.99) is composed of half and half Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that is vinified in stainless steel.  All of the Chardonnay is grand cru and sourced from the Cotes de Blancs, while the Pinot Noir comes from grand cru sites on the Mountain of Reims and the Grand Valley of the Marne. The Taittinger shows off the sunny personality of the 2006 vintage, and has a nice golden straw color and lazy bead of miniscule bubbles. The texture reminded me of many of the 1990’s that I drank young, and I think these two vintages have a lot in common. This wine has a little bit of high quality toast, classy white fruit and very good chalky minerality on the back end. The hamachi shots made the wine come alive, and showed the chalky terroir in the Taittinger in its best light. I love it when a pairing brings out the best in a bottle, and this was certainly one of those occasions!

A toast to you! -Gary Westby

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