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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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Perfect Wine?

2000 Chasse-Spleen- Perfect Wine?

Perfection in wine is a contentious subject. Famous critics give a few wines a year a 100 point score, and many of us wine lovers question reducing a wine to a number- no matter how big that number is. Last night at home, Cinnamon called our bottle of claret “perfect” and I agreed. This morning I couldn’t help but think about exactly what that meant.

One of my favorite ways to debunk the concept of “perfect” wines in the 100 point sense is with a story. Let’s use the 2009 Chateau Latour as an example. This wine has been given 100 points by Parker, the Wine Spectator and others, and every wine pro and serious wine lover that tasted this wine and I have spoken to agreed- this is top Bordeaux. Most 100 point wines are more contreversial than this. Imagine now that you have been invited to eat fresh oysters, at the oyster beds at Hog Island today. Can you imagine a wine that would be worse to bring? I can’t.

A lot of our customers feel that a wine should stand “on its own”. I completely disagree. I think that all of the good wine experiences come with context, and that perfect wine experiences come from perfect context. Last night was a great example of this, as the deck was stacked in the favor of the Bordeaux we drank in every way. I had gone on a big bike ride in the morning and spent the afternoon throwing around a truckload of firewood. I had a serious appetite for protein. I decided it was time for steak and claret night, and cooked up a couple of New York’s, pommes de terre dauphinois and peas. I built a big fire and decanted a bottle of 2000 Chasse Spleen, Moulis about an hour ahead. It turned out perfectly.

Steak and Claret- A "Perfect" Combination 

I bought this bottle on pre-arrival in 2001 for $23.99. It would never win a wine competition, but it had just the right amount of sinew and tannin to cut the rich food, while having great open lead pencil and black currant flavors and aromas. I would not have traded it for any other bottle. We served it at the right temperature (we like cellar temp for our red wine) in the right glassware, with the right food on the right day. It really was perfect!- Gary Westby

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