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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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Wednesday
Feb122014

Joe's 2014 Spain travelogue (part 1) Galicia: A different side of Spain

 

I am, quite possibly, about to blow lots of minds right now with this statement, particularly those who track the weather and most especially anyone living in drought stricken California: It has rained everyday for the last 60 days in Galicia.

No joke. True to soggy winter 2014 form, it has rained everyday since my arrival in Vigo Monday afternoon. While I expected the rain (it's Galicia, after all, the Northwestern portion of Spain where annual rainfall is amongst the highest in the country) what I did not expect was to be told how how often and how much it has rained so far this year. Well, the Gallegos seem to be dealing with the rain in a characteristically non-chalant fashion. So what, we get wet? So what we get soaked?

[A quick note...I have a laptop I'm just getting used to, with a different keyboard layout, and the usual keyboard tricks I know to create accent marks, tildes and such do not work here. Thanks for your patience as I temporarily have some misspellings. Will fix asap....]

For those of you new to this part of Spain, the first thing you need to do is to toss aside the usual Spanish images and scenery. Replace your bull fights, flamenco, sangria and paella with roaming chickens, bag pipes, Albarino and oysters. Then, as far as the scenery, even I was not prepared for the stunning view flying into Vigo from Madrid. While flying into Barajas (Madrid) I saw the snow covered Gredos mountains (home of some of the world's finest Grenache), while prior to touching down in Vigo I was treated to a beautifully contrasting view of dark green pine trees interspersed with the brightest emerald hillsides, and plenty of red clay colored ceramic roofs. I mentioned all the rain, but the sun was actually shining as I looked outside the plane window (don't be alarmed, it quickly clouded over and rained on my way to Cambados, the birthplace of the Albarino grape and home base for the first few days of my trip).

After settling into the hotel and relaxing a bit following the 27 hour journey (shouldn't take this long, but a 4 hour de-icing delay on the runway at Philadelphiade added time, as did my missed connection in Madrid), I ventured out to one of the few spots open on a Monday night. I had a choice between an old man bar and some place with slghtly modern, more composed sounding tapas. Surprisingly I opted for the latter. Spain travel rule #1: if you see old men sitting down at a bar, the food there will be very good. Needless to say, there were no old men at the fancy tapas place, and of course the food was not that good: mediocre razor clams, a bit chewier, grittier and less tasty then I'd like, and a vege timbal (I know, that's a really bad order on my part) in a sad mushroom cream sauce. Oh well, I risked this one and paid the price. Fortunately, I have more meals to make up for this misstep! One positive outcome, however. I talked to the guy behind the bar, who suggested I buy a particular Albarino at the wine shop across the street, and had an opportunity to head there the following day. A very knowledgeable  and passionate young woman helped me out, and I cannot wait to try some of her suggestions.

Who knows, it may lead to a new direct import for us.

Next up: Palacio de Fefinanes, the first famous producer of Albarino.

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