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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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Saturday
Jun282014

Paso Robles trip highlight - The land, the people and of course THE WINE! Day 1

As the newest employee of K&L I was very excited to tag along on this trip down to Paso Robles. I’m a huge fan of the so call “underdog” wineries compare to the glamourous ones in Napa Valley up north, so this trip is right up my alley and I’m here to share my experience.  I never thought of myself as a writer but boy do I love taking pictures! A picture is worth a thousand words is what they say. I will unfold our journey with part of the 700+ photos I took over the 3 day trip! Here we go!

Kenneth Volk- Bright and early, this was our first stop of the day. If there were one sentence to describe Kenneth’s wine making style that would be: “Ken has never meet a grape varietal that he did not like”. They make roughly 2,500 cases of wine per year and anywhere from 24-28 different varietals! Everything from Pinot Noir, Albraino to Touriga Nacional and 200 cases Cabernet Peffer (I think Kenneth Volk is responsible for at least 50% of Cabernet Peffer production world wine!)

Next stop is Au Bon Climat and Qupe. We tasted through 30 wines with lunch. Not including barrel samples. The Clendenen Mondeuse Rose was an instant hit with our crew and later became a staff favorite in the store, worth a try if you are looking for a rose this summer!

Au Bon Climat is also known to keep a massive library stock of older vintages. Jim was kind enough to open their 1990 Arroyo Grande Chardonnay at the end for us. It was beautifully fresh, with firm structure and lively acidity. “Who said 1990 Chardonnay is dead? Tell them Jim said it’s still very much alive!” – Jim Clendenen winemaker of Au Bon Climat and Qupe said. And we agree.

Next we headed to Talley, which I’ve always been a fan of. A personal story: This was the first winery I took my now fiancé to when we first started dating. During barrel tasting our guide enthusiastically suggest we taste side by side from the two different blocks of Pinot Noir to really see the difference in terroir. I got really excited and dump my entire glass of wine onto his Nikon camera! Luckily the camera is still functional and I’ve always believe it was the charm of the winery that help me clumsy self to still be together with him!  

Back to the trip: It is undeniable how beautiful the vineyard looks. We were there at the end of March and caught bud break all over the vineyard. Green everywhere with blue sky in the background. The wines themselves are done in such elegant style that captures the silky texture of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with the right balance of minerality and acidity. They also offer a second label call Bishop’s Peak that offers the same elegant style at an everyday price.

It was difficult to pick out a favorite from the lineup, they each offers a specific sets of aroma and characteristics, totally worth trying. Below: Visiting the vineyard with winemaker Eric Johnson (left), follow by our beer buyer Jim boyce, our domestic wine buyer aka the master mind behind this trip Bryan Brick, and our fearless leader of Redwood city store Jason Marwedel (Right)

Last stop on day 1: Saarloos + sons (What the huh what?) Yup, just a building on main street in the small town of Los Olivos looking like every other in the small town.

But before we even get to meet the guy I know he’s got a sense of humor (a sign on the window says “You are lucky we are closed”) …I guess we will find out. Truth be told it was such a treat, we started NOT with wine, but with beers he made (Beer can be such a treat after wine tasting all day). Then moved onto the Wineificiation, which is their collaboration with Fess Parker brewery. Black Tuesday Imperial Stout plus Syrah. (I know all the beer guys are jealous seeing this picture, and we want to promise we give this bottle a good home, as you see Keith sipping every last drop, even the ones spill on the table. )

All jokes and messing around aside. Saarloos and Son is one of the most passionate family own winery I’ve ever seen. 15 years of farming, 10 years of winemaking and 5 years since their tasting room open. We tour some of the vineyards they own, he talks about his vision, the future for family and winemaking. It wasn’t just for the here and now, he talk about the 250 years plan. You really don’t find this level of passion and devotion this day and age, plus the wines are delicious.  What a great spot to end our first day.

We did went out for dinner afterwards, but the pictures are probably not appropriate to show…. To be continue…. 

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