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2000 Ladera Cabernet, Howell Mountain, Napa

Inaugural vintages are so exciting. At least for me. Even if the people and the grapes involved have been making wine for years, it's fun to see a new incarnation or a new direction spring up under a new name. Such is the case with this 2000 vintage from the new label Ladera. Pat and Anne Stotesbery purchased the Chateau Woltner property a few years ago, ripped out all the Chardonnay vines, and settled down to make distinctive Bordeaux-style reds using two steep hillside vineyards at either end of the Napa Valley (Howell Mountain and Mt. Veeder).

Now with their first vintage, they are displaying a remarkable commitment to their chosen style -- a restrained, elegant wine that is 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc. Look for the release soon of their 2001 Cabernet as well (late may, 2004) which promises to be even better than this one.

Tasting Notes:
Glowing perfect ruby in the glass, the wine has a light, woody nose of cedar and cherry. On the tongue the predominant flavor is cherry with a few highlights of oak, blackberry and mixed dried herbs. Remarkably smooth, the tannins are well integrated into the wine and the finish is long with elements of redcurrant, and a slight note of red currants and a whiff of calcium, which is one of the (for me undesireable) characteristics I find in many Howell Mountain wines. This is a very subtle wine, and not a big fruit bomb like so many Napa cabs. Pretty much the opposite end of the spectrum from the Altamura which I reviewed last week.

Food Pairing
I drank this wine at dinner the other night that included many bits of red meat, but it really went well with dish very similar to this herb crusted rack of lamb.

Overall Score: 9

How much?: $65

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