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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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Saturday
Jan192013

What the F is this? #2

I had this great plan to start typing up this series at least once a week and then I got totally sick. I wasn't drinking anything, let alone the oddball bottle of wine, so the "What the F is this?" series got completely sidetracked. Now....where were we? Ah yes. We were talking about those bottles at K&L that don't turn up on emails, nor in the monthly newsletter, and they don't adorn the bright yellow staff pick stickers when you peruse the store aisles. Your eyes glaze over as you observe an entire wall of Austrian varietals that both look and sound entirely unfamiliar. You pick up the bottle and ask yourself, "What the ____ is this?"

Claus Preisinger is a young Austrian winemaker that we need to keep a close eye on. His first vintage was in 2000 and he has dedicated himself to hands-off winemaking, letting the purity of the grapes speak for itself. We currently have this fantastically delicious 2008 Claus Preisinger Zweigelt $14.99 that I picked off the shelf completely blind. First off - what is Zweigelt, you ask? Is that the name of the region or of the grape? In this case, it is indeed the name of the varietal. Zweigelt is a crossing of two different grapes: St. Laurent and Blaufrankisch devloped in 1922 by an Austrian viticulturist named Fritz Zweigelt. It is sometimes also called Rotburger.

The part I found most appealing about the Claus Preisinger Zweigelt was how approachable the wine is. It's fruity, soft, round, and easy to like. If I were to have tasted it blind, I would have guessed Zinfandel or a California red blend. The red fruits are concentrated and pure, not overly ripe and well-balanced. The alcohol is also a low 12.5%, which really does make a huge difference. The lower percentage allows the fruit to shine and me to have an extra two glasses without waking up with a headache.

Overall, this is a wine that any red wine drinker would appreciate. It's nothing wild, crazy, or new on the palate, but rather just a great table wine for just about any meal you can whip up on a weeknight. If you want a familiar flavor in an exotic package, or if you just want to learn more about the red wines of Austria, I think you'll really like this bottle.

-David Driscoll

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