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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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Tasting with Oliver Krug

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Meeting With Nick Mills from Rippon Winery


Scheduling a stop at K&L while in California, New Zealand winemaker Nick Mills brought his line up of red and white wines to the Redwood City store today for a quick tasting with the staff.  Nick is passionate about making serious pinot noir and his affinity for his family's Central Otago vineyards is clear.  The Mills family is the fourth generation of winemakers to work the land where the Rippon grapes are grown, dating back to when Nick's great-grandfather purchased the area in 1912.  The vines were planted in 1975 when Rolfe Mills began experimenting with vitis vinifera, which have now grown into one of the most beautiful vineyards in the world.  The schist-based soils beneath them help to foster wines of a supreme character and the entire property is run bio-dynamically - no fertilizer, herbicide, pesticide, or fungicide is used.  From 1998 to 2002, Nick lived in Burgundy and worked for some of the region's most celebrated estates, such as Domaine de la Romanee-Conti and Maison Nicolas Potel.  The influence is clear when tasting through the pinot noir expressions from Rippon, as the structure and acidity levels are built for the long haul.  These are wines that will pair with food and drink well now after some decanting, but the potential for complex flavors of depth is clear.  Tasting a 2003 bottle that Nick brought along with him, it was obvious how good these wines would become.  Here's Nick explaining to the staff the history behind the vines:

2008 Rippon "Mature Vines" Pinot Noir Central Otago New Zealand (Biodynamic) $49.99 - Lovely hints of dark raspberries and strawberry notes, before turning over foresty notes of baking spice and earth.  Firm acidity and fine tannins on the finish.  A wine that could easily be enjoyed now or stored away for a few years.  Somewhere in between a Premier Cru level Burgundy and a fine Oregon pinot noir. 

2010 Rippon Osteiner Central Otago New Zealand $18.99 - The grape variety is the little known Osteiner, which tastes a bit like Riesling, but then not so much, Impossible to describe in words, at this price do your self a favor get to know this fantastic "lunch" white!  Citrus notes, tangy, clean and fresh!

-David Driscoll

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