Steve Bird’s debut, the 2006 Bird “Old Schoolhouse” Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough New Zealand ($13.99) is a winner. The nose has notes of grapefruit, passion fruit and some minerality. On the palate there is good acidity with tropical fruits and good body and length. Some of you may remember the Blue Rock and Frasier vineyard Pinots we carried last year from Murdoch James. The 2004 Murdoch James Pinot Noir Martinborough New Zealand ($17.99) is the first release of their “regular” wine. In 2004 they made no Frasier, so it went into this wine along with fruit from four other vineyards. The bouquet offers pretty plum, cherry fruit with a bit of clove, mushroom and a note of forest floor. On the palate there are silky tannins and integrated oak that add a hint of mocha to the fine finish. Both Clyde and I tasted the 2004 Craneford Private Selection Cabernet Sauvignon South Australia ($9.99) from barrel in January and thought it to be a tremendous value. The wine sees neutral French and American oak that seasons the pure fruit. There are aromas of violets, black current, dark cherry and a mineral note. These elements come together on the palate with soft tannins and a touch of bittersweet chocolate that follow through with fine length. —Jimmy C
This Thanksgiving I am advocating a rather unusual food and wine pairing. Actually, my colleague Brian Brick in our Redwood City store is completely responsible for enlightening me to this wonderful combo. He is definitely the one you are going to want to thank after pouring youself a chilled glass of the NV Clairette de Die Cave Carod ($12.99) to enjoy with your slice of pumpkin pie! Brian contends that the delicate, sparkling sweetness (redolent with nectarine, white flowers and ginger) pairs sublimely with the earthy, spicy sweetness of pumpkin pie. Enough said, sign me up! For those of you asking “Clairette de who..?” here is a bit of background on this fantastic little northern Rhone sparkler. The A.O.C. Clairette de Die spreads over 1,300 hectares and 32 villages, located on clay and limestone based hillsides. Clairette de Die has been known since ancient times (dating back to 77 A.D.). The Carod’s vineyard’s altitude (over 700 meters) makes it one of the highest in France. With very fine bubbles, light in alcohol (8°) and still containing a touch of residual sugar, this Clairette de Die from Cave Carod is comprised of 75% muscat petits grains and 25% clairette and is produced by the method champenoise. Clairette brings delicacy and lightness to the wine whereas muscat gives its typical sweetness. This is an ideal wine for many fruit- or spice-based desserts, as well as with foie gras. To be consumed young, to conserve the full fruity and floral flavors. Happy Thanksgiving to all! —Mulan Chan
We have had an unbelievable string of luck with these wines over the past few vintages, and I have come to look forward to what each new vintage has to offer, especially this year’s 2005s. Each year my appreciation for the efforts Pascal and Mireille Renaud grow. This young couple manages their small Domain, only 12 hectares, with vines growing in the Macon, Pouilly-Fuisse, and St. Veran. Within their new cuverie, built about five years ago, they work predominately with stainless steel and large German foudres. This is done to maintain brightness and freshness of the fruit and the purity in the expression of the terroir. I think they have achieved this, once more with these terrific 2005s. These are wines that exceed expectation, bright lifted aromatics, fresh and driving acidity that balances ripe and round fruit. 2005 Domaine Renaud, Mâcon Charnay ($11.99) The wines from Mâcon Charnay typically have a soft floral nuance; I think it is the higher concentration of granite in the soils. This wine perfectly expresses this terroir! Behind ripe orchard fruit on the nose is the tell-tale floral character. The palate is moderately round with delicious ripe orchard fruits and just a hint of cream. It possesses plenty of charm, and is capable of winning over die-hard burgundy fans as well as adventurous California Chardonnay drinkers. The 2005 Domaine Renaud, Mâcon Solutré ($11.99) This wine hails from the higher hillside vineyards under the monolith Solutré. These vineyards tend to be steeper, have better drainage, experience cooler evenings and most importantly tend to have more limestone and chalk in the soil. As you would expect, this is a wine with more focus and cut and a pronounced mineral vein. The ripe apple and pear fruits elegantly balance the minerality on the palate and it possesses remarkable length. This is a terrific Burgundy bargain —Kirk Walker
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