This month I suggest several of my favorite Rhone wines, a delicate sparkling wine, a luscious rosé and a full-throttle red. A wine for my every mood. And yours! NV Clairette de Die Cave Carod ($12.99) This non-vintage sparkler from the northern Rhone is composed of 75% muscat petits grains and 25% clairette, and made using the methode champenoise. This is a sparkling wine with very fine bubbles, light in alcohol (8°), and still containing residual sugar. Clairette brings delicacy to the wine whereas muscat gives its typical sweetness. This zippy and refreshing sparkling wine is the PERFECT accompaniment to all spicy cuisines. 2005 Tavel Rosé Domaine de Segriés ($11.99) This is not your everyday quaffer of a rosé. The average vine age here is 30 years, and the resulting juice (specifically 50% grenache, 30% cinsault, 15% clairette and 5% syrah) is concentrated and deep. Yes, this is a vin de saignee, meaning it is bled off the grapes keeping just a hint of the red color. But bear in mind that no red wine is made in Tavel. Just rosé. And we’re just fine with that! Enjoy with hearty foods like pissaladiere. 2004 Lirac Alain Jaume “Clos de Sixte” ($16.99) The 2004 Clos de Sixte Lirac is composed of 50% grenache, 35% syrah and 15% mourvèdre. A gorgeously intense red garnet color sets off striking aromas of cassis and wild blackberries. And although full-bodied, with notes of licorice, espresso nib and truffle, the tannins are supple, making this a fantastic Rhone to enjoy tonight with say, gigot d’agneau or grilled sausages. —Mulan Chan
This May I had the opportunity to spend time with Olivier Pithon, a rising young star making wine in the Roussillon. Olivier is now recognized in Europe as part of the new generation of winemaking phenoms. K&L is proud to offer a selection of Olivier’s wines, which beautifully showcase the beauty and terroir of one of the most underrated wine regions of France. 2003 Côtes du Roussillon Domaine Olivier Pithon “La Coulée” ($20.99) “La Coulée” is a great introduction to both the terrior of the region and to Olivier’s non-interventionist style. This grenache-based red (with some carignan and syrah for tannin and acidity) offers copious quantities of sweet red fruit with a spicy note of pepper and local wild herbs. 2004 Cotes du Roussillon Blanc Domaine Olivier Pithon “Cuvée Laïs” ($26.99) Laïs is the name of one of Olivier much cherished Jersey cows. Maybe it’s strange to name a wine after a cow, but, you see, both the wine and cow share something quite significant in common; they are both loved by Pithon! The blend here is maccabeu and white and gray grenache. A proportion of new oak is used in fermentation, but the wood influence is always discreet, allowing the very fresh flowery notes to speak. 2003 Côtes du Roussillon Domaine Olivier Pithon “Saturne” ($28.99) Produced from black grenache and carignan, planted on the rock on shale slopes almost 60 years ago. A touch of syrah enlivens this local base. Very special attention is given to these vines from which you can catch a glimpse of the Mediterranean, the foothills of the Pyrenees and Corbières. 2003 Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes Blanc Domaine Olivier Pithon “LA D18” ($39.99) For the domaine’s top white cuvee, Pithon borrowed the name of a local road, one that threads its way quite breathtakingly from Calce to Le Col de la Dona. The LA D18 is based on a selection of the best slopes of white and grey grenache and tastes quite like a white Châteauneuf. —Mulan Chan
One of my favorite beverages is sparkling wine, particularly Champagne and especially those coming from those small Champagne houses that our buyer, Gary Westby, continues to discover. One can occasionally discover non-Champagne sparklers from other French regions that will rival some of the better multi-vintage sparklers from Champagne. Such is the case with the Charles Baur Cremant d’Alcase ($14.99), a blend of pinot blanc (40%), auxerrois (40%) and chardonnay aged on yeast for two years. With a finely etched bead, this shows a rich, creamy texture with a mild nutty tone both on its fabulously aromatic bouquet and in its clean, bright flavors. As Jeff Vierra (our Alsatian wine buyer) has pointed out to customers: “Most people outside of the region don’t think about Alsace for sparkling wine.” Once you try this you will. The 2005 Domaine de la Pépière Classique Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie ($10.99) has arrived and it is a very fine example of the exceptional quality of the ’05 vintage in France (as well as in the rest of Europe). “This gem has become a perennial hit with our customers,” Jeff Vierra, who also does our Loire Valley wine buying, was overheard saying recently. Produced from 40 year or older vines that are planted in granitic soils, the Muscadets from La Pépière are among the best in that region. To once again quote Jeff: “It is energetic, juicy, and full of life, a cool crisp slice of the Muscadet soil tempered with snappy fruit.” To quote, in unison, Eby and Vanilla, as they hiss and snarl at each other: “This will be our house white wine for the month.” For the most part, I have never been a fan of Los Carneros fruit. I have always thought that most of the pinot noirs smelled and tasted like Beaujolais, which is generally not a bad thing if you enjoy a simple, one-dimensional, tutty-fruity wine. And the chardonnays have been generally simple to me. To have a syrah coming from that cool climate, fogged-in area that would show depth, character and incredible richness, would unravel the rules of universe to me. But, lo, the 2003 Kalinda Los Carneros “Reserve” Syrah ($17.99) is possessed. It actually possesses richness, depth, complexity, roundness and a wonderful degree of exacted white pepper, spicy to plumy varietal character and exactness that lingers into its well extended finish. This wine should be had with a “Fred’s Steak” from Shaub’s in the Stanford Shopping Center. Anderson wants this to be one our house reds for the month of August. Enjoy! Finally, one of my favorite red wines in our inventory is the 1999 Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard Estate Pinot Noir ($16.99), which is a monumental wine for those of you who enjoy aged pinot. One of the questions I always ask customers who wonder into the Old and Rare Wine section of our store is, “What is your experience with old and rare wine like this?” The vast majority of you have been raised on young, fleshy, bright wines, and the first encounter with a somewhat aged red wine makes many of you believe that it is a bad wine. Well, aged wine has a leathery, cedary, soft, rounded, complex, subtle character with similar developed aromas, and that is what it is…. so get use to it and learn to appreciate it. That is what this wine is about. This is incredibly well-made pinot (I wish that I could make wine like this) that has an aged quality to it. Anderson has told me that this will be our house red for however long it is around. If you have any questions about these selections, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy this month’s wines! —Jim, Anderson, Eby and Vanilla
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