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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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Monday
Jan242011

Thinking on Drinking: Inexpensive Wines

Last Monday I kicked off the week with a question, and I so enjoyed reading all the responses posted here, on Facebook and Twitter that I wanted to start this week off in similar fashion. Still bleary-eyed and clinging to my cup of Cafecito I pulled a card from the stack of Tabletopics wine conversation starters on my desk.

"What's your favorite inexpensive wine?"

As a member of the K&L family, answering this question is harder than you might think. This is NOT because I drink a lot of expensive wine. Or because I think expensive wine always tastes better. On the contrary, it's because working here I've been exposed to so many incredible, affordable wines that I have favorites in almost every category. I know that wine doesn't have to be expensive to have the balance and complexity I seek. I rarely buy wine that costs more than $15 a bottle, and with my husband and I poised to buy our first house, I think this trend will continue for quite awhile. 

That said, I love discovering new inexpensive wines to add to my arsenal. Last week, K&L's Southern California Italian wine liaison Chris Miller poured a lot of great values for the staff (including the wonderful 2009 Marchese di Gresy "Martinenga" Nebbiolo, which drinks like a Barolo three or four times its price), but the wine that surprised us all the most was the 2007 Mezzacorona Cabernet Sauvingon at just $6.99! Let me start by saying that I'm not usually a fan of Cabernet Sauvignon, especially at this price point, because it's usually overpowered by oak flavors and is flabby at best. I am also not usually a fan of French varietals grown in Italy, preferring instead the myriad of native grapes the country has to offer. But the Mezzacorona, from one of Italy's biggest producers, won me over with its varietal character. It displayed aromas and flavors of smoke, black pepper, cassis and anise that were wonderfully precise, buoyed by a soft structure and a juicy, drink-a-bottle acidity. It's exactly the Cab I'd want on hand if I were grilling burgers or making meatballs and spaghetti for dinner. 

What's your favorite inexpensive wine?

Leah Greenstein

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Reader Comments (4)

Villa Pillo Toscana Borgoforte!
January 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSteve
I'm a big fan of South African wines in the value category. Boekenhoutskloof's Wolftrap red blend is a bargain for under ten bucks and when it comes to sparkling you absolutely cannot beat Graham Beck Brut for under fifteen.
January 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJamie
@Steve A great wine! And @Jamie - Both the Boekenhoutskloof and Graham Beck make fantastic value-priced wines. Have you tried the Man Vintners Chenin? It's a refreshing, melony example at only $7.99.
Pascual Tosso Cab from Argentina, drinks better young than CA cabs 5-7 times their $9 / bottle retail. They make a nice Malbec too.
January 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rodgers

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