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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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Entries in Holus Bolus (1)

Thursday
Feb242011

Winery to Watch: Black Sheep Finds (Hocus Pocus)

Peter Hunken and Amy Christine, the proprietors of Black Sheep Finds and the winemakers behind Hocus Pocus among other wines.Wine doesn’t have to be stodgy. Or expensive. And this month’s Winery to Watch, Black Sheep Finds, proves that over and again, with every new release. Started by former Stolpman assistant winemaker and hopeless Cubs fan Peter Hunken and his now-wife Amy Christine, a MW candidate, sommelier at L.A.’s AOC and a rep for the Burgundy and Bordeaux importer Veritas, who are both as approachable as they are knowledgeable. They make wines at the famous Central Coast industrial park amusingly referred to as the Lompoc Wine Ghetto, and have gained a loyal following among K&L’s staff because they make wines that are fresh, bright and food-friendly, with plenty of juicy California fruit.

"Peter and Amy have gained a loyal following even among K&L’s staff because they make wines that are fresh, bright and food-friendly, with plenty of juicy California fruit."

Of the five wines under the Black Sheep Finds umbrella, you can always find the Hocus Pocus Santa Barbara County Syrah (2008 $17.99), which Amy once told me actually sprang from a mispronunciation of the Holus Bolus Santa Ynez Valley Syrah (2008 $22.99) that Peter makes with Sashi Moorman (Stolpman, Evening Land, Piedrasassi), Chad Melville (Melville, Samsara) and Jim Knight (Jelly Roll) on our shelves. The Hocus Pocus blends Syrah from a number of different vineyards in Santa Barbara County. It is aged for 14 months in one-year-old barrels and is easy to drink with tannins so soft that it glides like a skater across your palate. I love this on a Tuesday night with griled lamb chops dusted with lavender salt or a bison steak. The Holus Bolus comes from four vineyards in the Santa Ynez Valley and has a wonderful cool-climate character, with aromas of fresh-baked blueberry pie and hints of graphite, violets and spice that carry from the nose to the palate. Great as a cocktail wine or with food. I think this would be fabulous with the braciole my husband keeps begging me to make.

Leah Greenstein