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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 Manchuela (1)

Wednesday
Feb162011

Wine of the Week: 2007 Ponce "La Casilla"

Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Priorat, Jumilla, Rueda. The list of Spanish appellations you should know about gets longer every year. Add to it now the D.O. of Manchuela, the source of this week's Wine Blogging Wednesday-inspired Wine of the Week: the 2007 Bodegas y Viñedos Ponce "La Casilla" ($21.99). (Thanks Catavino for putting this together.) Just north of Jumilla and west of Alicante, and flanked by the Jucar and Cabriel rivers, Manchuela's 30 or so wineries are defined by a continental climate, with long, hot, dry summers, and limestone subsoils covered by clay. Of the eight red and five white varietals approved for the D.O., the one that's most intriguing is Bobal, a dark, bluish-red-skinned indigenous berry with firm tannins medium acidity. 

For years the wines made from Bobal would go into blends or rosés, but the Bodegas y Viñedos Ponce "La Casilla" proves that in the right hands Bobal makes fantastic, full-throttled varietal wine. The 15 hectares if vineyards that make up the Bodegas y Viñedos Ponce estate are owned and run by the family of Juan Antonio Ponce, who also leases another two dozen vineyards. The grapes for this wine come from biodynamically farmed vineyards ranging in age from 30-70 years. Within those vineyards, seven distinct parcels of sand, clay and limestone soils were identified and vinified separately, utilizing native yeasts and carbonic maceration, finishing malo in different sizes of French oak barrels, where it ages for 10 months.

The resulting wine smells like plums and cherries roasted over a campfire with wild lavender and rosemary. You can even smell the hot rocks that confine the flames. In the mouth the wine is intense, lacking the jammy quality you expect from something carbonic. Instead it's a summer fruit basket full of sweet raspberry and brambles, tangy cherry and savory plum. There's a dusting of spice that isn't overwhelming, and the wildness from the nose carries through, flecked with mineral stoniness and a thread of black licorice. The tannins are perceptible, but well integrated, and the alcohol is kept in check by solid acidity. Fascinating, unique and fun to drink, this is a must-try for anyone who digs Spanish wine.