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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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« Mature Claret, Great Value! | Main | Jacquesson Single Vineyard Champagne »

One Great Bottle: 2008 Marguet Pere et Fils "Les Crayeres" Ambonnay Brut Champagne

The 2008's- good now, great later!

Benoit Marguet is one of the vanguard in Champagne, pushing for quality in the vineyard and winery no matter how difficult the process. Starting with the 2008 harvest, he began setting aside and bottling separately the wine from his best vineyard plots. The 2008 Marguet Pere et Fils "Les Crayeres" Ambonnay Brut Champagne ($69.99) is the first of these wines to be released, and it is a stunner. This Champagne is composed of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir from old, massal selected vines in the mid-slope vineyard site Les Crayeres in Ambonnay.

As the name suggests, this is an extremely chalky site, and happens to be one of the very best in this grand cru village. Egly-Ouriet also owns vines in this vineyard, and also bottles a single vineyard expression. Benoit fermented this wine exclusively in old barrique, with very little sulfur. The 2008 vintage was a great one in Champagne, with ripeness and acid that hasn’t been seen since 1996. This wine reflects that concentration of both acidity and ripeness, and the wine shows tight and electric right now, but promises to age with the greatest of Champagnes.

Sushi & Champagne- Part of our weekly diet!

Cinnamon and I opened this last night with sushi- one of our favorite pairings and a meal we try to do once a week. As usual, Akasaka in Menlo Park did a great job with the sushi, providing us with a wide range of flavors to work with the Les Crayeres. This wine was very young and tight, and I think its most impressive days are in front of it. That being said, it was extremely good with the food, and had plenty of cut for the crunchy, tempura shrimp stuffed Akasaka roll and excellent finesse that brought out the best in the subtle hamachi.

This is a very concentrated bottle of Champagne and it took a while to open up, showing better as it got warmer. The bead of this wine is remarkable, with impossible tiny bubbles making their way through serious juice, delivering texture at the top level. Just as the name suggests, this wine is incredibly chalky and driven. If you plan on drinking it now, shellfish or sushi are a must. I can’t wait to have this wine again in 5, 10 and 20 years. It is incredible! –Gary Westby

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