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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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Friday
Apr162010

Winery to Watch: Quinta de Cabriz

This  “Winery to Watch” comes from one of the wine world’s up-and-coming regions—Portugal’s Dão DOC. Tucked among granitic mountains in north-central Portugal, the Dão’s location limits the Atlantic influence on the vineyards, but also protects them from the harsh continental climate to the east. Instead, the vineyards in the Dão benefit from altitude (most vineyards are at 200-900 meters above sea level), well-drained sandy soils, and a consistently hot and dry growing season that allows the grapes to ripen slowly and evenly. Rather than ride the international varietal wave to world renown, the Dão still focuses on making wines from indigenous varietals—the dominant red grape is Touriga Nacional, but there are smaller plantings of Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Jaen and Alfrocheiro Preto. The region is also gaining a repuation from white wines made from grapes like Branco, Cerceal, Encruzado and Verdhelo. With only about 5% of the DOC planted to vine right now, there’s plenty of potential, and Dão Sul, the owners of Quinta de Cabriz, are at the forefront of capturing and marketing that ability.

Established 20 years ago, Dão Sul is a four-person partnership devoted to making wines across the spectrum—from limited quantity reserve wines to more affordable everyday wines—without ever compromising on quality. Their winemaker, Carlos Lucas (Portugal’s “Winemaker of the Year” in 2007), works to ensure that the wines of Quinta de Cabriz showcase the Dão’s terroir in a modern, accessible style. You won’t need to “learn to appreicate” the wines of Quinta de Cabriz, they’re appealing now, and they’re priced for drinking often.

We currently have one wine left from this up-and-coming producer:

2008 Quinta de Cabriz Branco, Dão, Portugal ($11.99) This may very well be my white wine for the summer. Dominated by Encruzado— the Dão’s best white varietal—with 20% each Cerceal, Bical and Malvasia-Fina finishing the blend, this is a tropical breeze of a white that makes you want to go looking for your grass skirt and coconut bra. Aromas of papaya, guava and plantain lead to a palate kissed with stone fruit and leesy, creamy richness on the mid-palate that makes me think of peach pie with whipped cream. There’s plenty of acidity here to counter the wine’s richness. This would be a great match for halibut with dill and garlic, fish chowder or salt-roasted Santa Barbara spot prawns.