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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
Aug012014

Top Tete de Cuvee- Grand Siecle!

Grand Siecle is fabulous with Totem of Seattle's smoked salmon!

We are always finding Champagne occasions at home, but this week was extra special, as we just returned from the region. As if that weren’t enough of an excuse, Cinnamon’s mom Margaret hand carried some Totem Smokehouse smoked salmon back from her trip to Seattle. That called for a great bottle of Champagne! We decided on the Laurent-Perrier "Grand Siècle" Brut Champagne ($109) and the pairing was spectacular.

The Grand Siecle is always all grand cru, with the Chardonnay coming from Avize, Mesnil, Chouilly and Cramant, and the Pinot Noir from Verzenay, Bouzy, Louvois, Ambonnay, Mailly and Tours-sur-Marne. They always use three declared (for them) vintage years in each bottling. The current batch of Grand Siecle is composed of half Chardonnay and half Pinot Noir sourced entirely from grand cru sites. The blending of grape variety and place are interesting, but it is the blending across time that makes Laurent Perrier’s top of the line wine so fascinating; it is 20% 1999, 20% 1997 and an astonishing 60% 1996. I have never heard of another producer using 80% reserves in a Champagne before, and the electricity of that 1996 defines this bottling.

The Grand Siecle seemed airy and very light to begin with. My father always says that “Champagne is the perfect wine for the jaded palate” and this bottle certainly fit the bill. It was effortless, but had lots of hidden power. The finish was not just fine and precise, but also extraordinarily long. The full flavored smoked salmon did not bring out the Pinot savor as I had expected, but instead highlighted the freshness of the Chardonnay. I think that if I had been given this wine blind, I might have guessed it was from LP’s sister property Delamotte- it tasted like blanc de blancs.  Although the oregano flowers from the garden were very pretty, I liked the pairing better without them, so I plucked them off of the pieces of salmon that I ate.

 

Grand Siecle at Les Crayeres- a good combination! This shot is from 2010.

I have been a fan of Grand Siecle for a long time, and love the way that it ages. They have been making Grand Siecle at LP since 1959, and hold onto some of each batch in what they call the “Cave de Moines”- if you ever get invited to taste one, don’t pass up the opportunity. I have had wonderful, nutty, complex examples going back as far as the 60’s, and I think that this particular batch is an especially good cellar candidate. I expect that the Pinot side will take over in another 10 years, but the wine should continue to evolve for a generation. The trick will be to leave it in the cellar!

A toast to you!

Gary Westby

 

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