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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 Vacqueyras (1)

Wednesday
Feb232011

Wine of the Week: Domaine la Garrigue "Cuvée Romaine" 

When the mercury drops, I want wine that will warm me up. Sometimes that means a heavy, tannic red to match with the hearty stews I have bubbling away on the stove, other times it's a wine that transports me to someplace I imagine to be warmer, where the sun's rays will bake me like I was a loaf of bread. Sometimes I want a little of both.

Enter the 2008 Domaine la Garrigue "Cuvée Romaine" Côtes du Rhône ($10.99), this week's Wine of the Week, grown and produced by six generations of the Bernard family, who have worked their estate's vineyards in the Southern Côtes du Rhône communes of Vacqueyras, Gigondas and Sarrians since the 1850s. The winery's name comes from the wild scrub that lends the Provençal landscape its distinctive look and, moreover, its characteristic scent, and the wine gets its moniker from the Roman artifacts excavated on the property back in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The 2008 vintage is actually declassified Vacqueyras and is made from 65% Grenache, 25% Mourvèdre and 10% Syrah. It's a classic representation of that Provençal wine, with a bouquet of sun-baked scrub, plum and raspberry fruit that tickles your nose with an underlying blend of roasted game sprinkled with freshly-ground white pepper and cinnamon stick. Full and bright in the mouth, I actually preferred this to the 2007, which seemed a little blousy and overripe for my tastes. I like my Côtes du Rhône to be earthy and tense, and this fits the bill with plenty of tannin to keep the crunchy red fruits from seeming too frivolous. With some time (or air) the tannins resolve to reveal and complex palate with all of the aforementioned spice and fruit complemented by a thread of smoked bacon and violets.

What I love most about this wine, and there's a lot to love, is that it feels like a summer in Provence and while substantial enough to be drunk alongside braised shortribs while contemplating the rain and snow, it will also be lovely come summer when I'm grilling lamb burgers.

Leah Greenstein