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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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« Chasing Burgundy: What You Can Drink Now | Main | {Terra Ignota}: New Zealand Beyond Sauvignon Blanc »

Mid-Range Burgundy

Burgundy is a tough section for many of us at K&L to wrap our heads around. Part of the problem stems from availability. We might only see a case or two of some of these wines, so is it really worth cracking a few bottles for the staff? By the time we taste them they'll probably be sold out! That being said, how are we supposed to tell Morey-Saint-Denis from Nuits-Saint-Georges if we don't ever taste any of the wines? It's a Catch 22. The other problem is knowing when to drink Burgundy. Unlike our Bordeaux selection, we have practically no library wines from Burgundy whatsoever, so most of us are in the dark when it comes to understanding maturity. Every bottle is probably too young to drink now, so most of what we're telling customers consists of: "You should probably wait a few years," but I'm not sure how many of us know how long or how the wines will actually evolve. Sometimes, however, you just have to take matters into your own hands, so I decided to spend some of my hard-earned money and crack a couple of mid-range bottles from one of our newest producers: Domaine Odoul-Coquard. There's not a lot of info about these wines, but I did find a small summary from Clive Coates:

Thierry Odoul, forty-plus, originally from Vosne-Romanée, has been in charge of his in-laws' domaine since 1992. The fruit is 100 percent de-stemmed, cold-macerated for 4-5 days and vinified at 30 degrees C maximum, and the wine is aged in 20 to 30 percent new oak for 18 months before bottling. The Clos La Riotte is a plot owned by the village and planted in 1983 with different clones, as sort of an experiment. It is very good indeed. His other wines are also very good. This is an address to note.

The motivation to taste some new village-level red Burgundy stemmed from our frustrating pre-Thanksgiving experiences in the store. We had a sales floor full of people who wanted fine pinot noir with their traditional turkey, but all we could offer were bargain-basement options or our best guesses. We've all got a good grasp on the $10-$20 wines, but wanted to know more about some of the $30, $40, and $50 options – namely, were they drinkable now or should they simply sit in your cellar for the next few years? I ended up buying both the 2009 Nuit-Saint-Goerges "Aux Saints-Jacques" and the 2010 Morey-Saint-Denis "Les Crais Gillon," since both seemed like they might be approachable right now. I opened them in the store at the end of the day so my fellow staff members could also share in the experience. We were huddled around the monitor, searching for more information about Thierry Odoul and his Burgundy wines, but all we found were mostly French message boards with information in French. We tried to use the translator option on Google, but all we wound up with were phrases like: "The wines are well appreciate and the white paw is certainly open now," or "the body is of medium and the fruit is like new opening of berry."

Not too helpful.

The above picture is posted on the website of Domaine Odoul-Coquard. I think you can glean a good amount about their wine from their choice of attire. As our Champagne buyer Gary Westby noted: "If you're wearing gym pants and a loose-fitting polo for the official website picture, you're probably more concerned about the wine than the aesthetics." That's a good thing for Burgundy fans.

While we all tasted the wines in the store, I took the bottles home to enjoy with my dinner and to get a better sense of how they might open up.  Both wines were quite pretty on the nose, but the 2010 Morey Saint Denis was surprisingly more aromatic. From our experience, 2009 was a riper vintage than 2010, so we expected it to be more approachable. There's a fine amount of fresh red fruit and integrated oak on the nose of the 09 "Les Grais Gillon," but the acidity of the palate is still quite wound up – you can only get a quick dose of fruit before it tightens back up and shuts you out. It needs a little time still.

The 2010 "Aux Saints Jacques" is much more robust and fuller on the palate – meatier with a bit of spice on the finish. Like the 2009, the wine is also quite young with plenty of potential, but if you had to open it now you could decant it for a few hours and truly enjoy what it has to offer now: crunchy red berries, a judicious amount of oak, and a lovely texture. Whether you'd want to spend $50 for that experience is up to you (that $50 would probably be better invested in some cellar time), but there are few inexpensive options right now for Burgundy lovers, so it's sometimes a necessity to indulge if you're like us: desperate to learn more about one of the world's most amazing red wines. You've gotta taste to learn - there's no other way!

-David Driscoll

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