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Author: Ken

New & Notable – Casa Noble Tequila’s

The following reviews are from Drinkhacker

Casa Noble Crystal (Blanco) – Pungent on the nose, with deep, deep agave notes, white pepper, and cayenne. The body isn’t nearly the agave bomb you might be expecting. It is both sweet and peppery, but not really vegetal at all. Instead you’ll find notes of tart lemon juice, caramel sauce, and a touch of rhubarb. Very well crafted. Everything a blanco should be. A / 34.99

Casa Noble Reposado – Spends 364 days in French white oak, making this a very well-aged reposado. The nose has that trademark peppery pungency of the blanco, but with an undercurrent of stone fruit — peaches and apricots — to give it some balance. The body is very fruity, slight tropical notes atop lemon and oranges, plus notes of chocolate peppermints and ample wood-driven vanilla. It doesn’t drink nearly as leathery and “old” as my prior comments indicated, but perhaps that’s just my increased experience with tequila over the last five years talking. Still delightful, either way. A / 49.99

Casa Noble Anejo – Aged “to perfection” for two years in French white oak. Nicely dark, but not overdone. That peppery agave is still front and center on the nose, with more of a caramel/marshmallow character attempting to overtake it. The body shows that it’s a silky dessert sipper all the way. The palate starts with bittersweet chocolate and graham crackers, then hops to burnt caramel and dark brown sugar notes. The fruit is absent save for a little flamed orange peel, which plays nice with the molten chocolate cake character that bubbles on and on on the finish. A benchmark anejo that mixes a racy attack with a silky sweet finish. A+ / 57.99

Elegant, affordable Pinot Noir

Hi friends

I was hanging around the Marlboro store when a salesman popped in to taste Joe on some new wines.

When Joe likes something he get’s a little excited and generally brings me in a glass to try and he was palpably excited this morning. I was in the office, and he rushed in, stuck a glass under my nose, and said “Kenny, you’ve got to try this!”

I looked at the wine, it was a beautiful cherry red, slightly opaque, with the unmistakable aroma of Pinot Noir. I knew it wasn’t from California, they just don’t have the climate to succesfully grow this kind of Pinot. And no, I’m not dissing California Pinot Noir. I considered New Zealand, but finally settled on Burgundy. I thought this was one of the better wines from the Cote Chalonaise. Maybe Givry? or Mercury? This wine was balanced and juicy though, without any of the telltale funk of Burgundy.

It was from Oregon, and when I heard the price I flipped! It was a Montinore Estate Pinot Noir 2013. Established in 1982, Montinore Estate is a 210 acre Demeter Certified Biodynamic and Certified Organic estate in Oregon’s Williamette Valley. They believe that exceptional wine is is produced with a combination of soil, climate, controlled fruit, careful fermentation and estate bottling

The thing that really struck me about this wine is the combination of fruit and acid that displays a bountiful punch of flavor. Soft, ripe, and voluptuous flavors marry beautifully with ripe cherry aromas.

And the critics are gushing over this wine! The following is from Eric Asimov, the wine critic of the New York Times.

2013 Montinore Estate Red Cap Pinot Noir
“Every year Montinore manages to release inexpensive pinot noirs from the Willamette Valley that are light, balanced, juicy and simply delicious to drink. What’s more, the grapes are farmed biodynamically. The wine, pale ruby with balanced, lively flavor of spicy red fruit, is proof that even in prestigious regions, moderately priced wine can be made with love and care.”
This wine is not a big, bruising, modern Pinot Noir with a big dollop of Syrah in it. This wine is restrained and elegant. It is classic Pinot.

The regular price of this wine is $19.99. For this e-mail special we are selling 6 packs of this wine for $90.00 or you can buy a full case of 12 for $170.00. E-mail me at ken@actonwine.com. We have approximately ten cases left out of 50.

Classic Pinot Noir, from a meticulous producer.
Cheers,
Ken

Beautiful wine from Southern France

Hi Friends, January 19th, 2016

This is the kind of wine we just love to sell to you. Southern French? Check. Red? Check. Exclusive? Yup. Inexpensive? You bet. Delicious? Yeah, it’s all that.

2013 Chateau Valcombe “Les Hauts de Valcombe” Ventoux Rouge, Rhone, France

The wines of Chateau Valbombe are made by Luc and Cendrine Guénard, a couple that has a great respect for terroir. They studied winemaking under the famous Paul Jeune, owner of Chateau Monpertuis, whose lovely wines have graced our shelves throughout the years.

The vines on their estate are roughly 75 years old. The property is at approximately 1,000 feet, farmed organically, and they produce TRADITIONAL wines.

They have about 28 hectacres of vines, mostly old vine Grenache and Syrah, with a little Cinsault and and Carignan. A little bit of white grapes are also grown.

We tasted this in December, and had it brought in from the New York warehouse of Rosenthal Imports. I have since tasted it over multiple days and it kept getting better and better. We have less than 25 cases.

I should have bought 50.

Our tasting notes.

2013 Les Hauts de Valcombe. A blend of Grenache and Syrah. 13.5 alcohol.
Black cherry aromas leap from the glass as we pulled the cork on this spicy, sappy red. Additional aromas of dried flowers, garrigue, red currant, plums. cinnamon, cracked pepper, pomegranite, leather notes, raspberry, and a great minerality probably due to the large stones (galet) in the vineyard. The wine is medium bodied, with outstanding balance and precise flavors. The finish is long and tangy with smoke, cherries, and lingering blueberries.

I have twice tasted this over a 3 day period and it kept getting better. The kind of wine that when you have the last sip you want to open another bottle.

This is scrumptious wine at a deliciously low price. Retailing in at $14.99, I can sell you a 6 pack for $70.00 or step up to a case for $140.00.

If you like inexpensive Southern French reds, you should take some of this home.

I know I am.

Spanish powerhouse at a ridiculously low price

Hi Friends, January 27th, 2015

The first place I ever went to in Spain was Yecla. I was there with some other wine professionals on a tour of the wineries and regions of Spain. You would think we would go to Rioja, or Ribera del Duero, or perhaps Priorat to begin our explorations, but no, we went to Yecla.

And there began my education in Monastrell.

Yecla is a Spanish Denominacion de Origin (D.O.) for wines located in Murcia around the town of Yecla. It is hot and dry and gets a minimal amount of water from it’s 12 inches of rain per year. The province of Murcia is located in eastern Spain and is completely surrounded by the D.O.’s Jumilla, Alicante, and Almansa.

The main (although certainly not the only) grape of Yecla is Monastrell. The grape is also grown in Southern France as Mouvedre and in the United States as Mataro, although the origin of this grape is most certainly Spain. It is the second most important (after Grenache or Garnacha) grape grown in Spain. The vines produce small, sweet, thick skinned berries that generally produce wines that are high in alcohol and flavor. The grape can also, under the right conditions, age very well.

So anyways I was in our Marlboro store last week and our store manager Joseph and I were tasting through some French and Spanish offerings. This wine stopped us in our tracks. The nose was heady and the palate was big and sweet and full and dense and layered with raspberry. The wine coated the tongue with flavor and it felt rich with fruit. Joe, in particular, was almost jumping up and down with excitement about this wine.

I really think this is the pinnacle of relatively inexpensive Spanish winemaking today. This wine is gorgeous. Wait till you see the price!

Castano Solanera Vinas Viejas 2013
The Wine Advocate (Parker) liked this also giving it 92 points. Here’s some of what he had to say –

“Even better is the 2013 Solanera…this blend is 70% Monastrell, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Grenache, aged 10 months in French and American oak… The Solanera, which comes from relatively high-altitude limestone soils at 900 meters, has a dense purple color, a big sweet kiss of blueberry and blackberry fruit mixed with crushed chalk, a full-bodied mouthfeel, beautiful purity, density, and richness. The oak is well concealed by the lavish fruit-the wine just amazing. Drink it over the next 2 to 3 years, as these powerhouses are best consumed in their exuberant and extroverted youth.”

We highly recommend this one if you like big, lavish, New School wine.

Regular Price – $15.99

6 pack – $75.00

Or buy a case of 12 for $140.00. Just e-mail me at ken@actonwine.com or if you would like to receive your wine in Marlboro e-mail joe@marlborowine.com

Session Beers

It’s the 4th of July weekend again, and even some of our best wine customers are drinking beer. What could be more American than burgers, sausages and hot dogs sizzling on the grill, and a can/bottle/glass of cold suds in your hand? On a warm summer day out on the deck, nothing is more refreshing.
But for craft beer drinkers, and even wine drinkers that crave more flavor than one can get from a typical mass produced lager, a 7.5% ABV pale ale is a little too strong for a day in the sun. Two or three bottles of IPA, and most people would be ready for a nap. So, what’s the solution?
Welcome to the world of Session Beers. Session Beers are full flavored Craft Beers with the alcohol content of a mass produced beer (usually around 5.0% ABV) or even mass produced light beer (usually around 4.2% ABV).
While the term “session” may be new, the concept is not. Farmhouse Ales, or Saisons, were originally low alcohol beers for farm workers to drink when clean drinking water was unavailable. Shandys, or Radlers, were created as a way to “water down” beer for German Bicyclists in the early 20th century.
We have a full selection of Session Beers in a variety of styles. The following is all currently available (as of 7/4/15) in the Acton Store (and most are available at the Marlboro Store as well), and new ones are being released all the time. Prices and availability are subject to change.
– 21st Amendment Down to Earth Session IPA – 4.4% ABV
$11.99+ Deposit/ 6 pack cans
– Cambridge Brewing Co. Remain in Light Hoppy Pilsner – 5.0% ABV
$10.99+ Deposit/ 6 pack cans
– Firestone Walker Easy Jack IPA (Staff Favorite) – 4.5% ABV
$10.69+ Deposit/ 6 pack cans
– Founder’s All Day IPA Session Ale – 4.7% ABV
$12.49+ Deposit/ 6 pack bottles, or $19.99+ Deposit/ 18 pack cans
– Jack’s Abby Jabby Brau Session Lager – 4.5% ABV
$9.99+ Deposit/ 6 pack bottles
– Lagunitas DayTime Fractional IPA – 4.65% ABV
$10.69+ Deposit/ 6 pack bottles
– Mayflower Brewing Daily Ration Hoppy American Ale – 4.5% ABV
$11.99+ Deposit/ 6 pack bottles
– North Coast Brewing Co. Puck the Beer Petite Saison – 4.0% ABV
$10.29+ Deposit/ 4 pack bottles
– Notch Brewing Left of the Dial IPA – 4.3% ABV
$10.49+ Deposit/ 6 pack cans
– Oskar Blues Pinner Throwback IPA – 4.9% ABV
$11.49+ Deposit/ 6 pack cans, or $18.39+ Deposit/ 12 pack cans
– Otter Creek Over Easy Hop Soaked Session Ale – 4.6% ABV
$10.99+ Deposit/ 6 pack bottles
– Peak Organic Summer Session Ale – 4.4% ABV
$11.49+ Deposit/ 6 pack bottles
– Samuel Adams Rebel Rider Session IPA – 4.5% ABV
$10.49+ Deposit/ 6 pack bottles, or $17.39+ Deposit/ 12 pack bottles
– The People’s Pint Training Wheels Session IPA – 4.5% ABV
$5.75+ Deposit/ 22oz. bottle
– Two Roads Lil’ Heaven Session IPA – 4.8% ABV
$18.99+ Deposit/ 12 pack cans

Everyone knows that nobody drinks Merlot anymore.

Roger and I tried this wine a month ago and were, once again, completely floored by the price/value relationship available in wines from the Maule Valley in Chile.

The Maule River runs directly through the valley. It is amazingly like Bordeaux, where the Gironde cuts through the region. Wines from the north (let’s say Right Bank) are dominated by Merlot much like Pomerol and St Emilion, while grapes planted in the south (let’s say Left Bank) are dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, much like the great wines of the Medoc.

Emile Bouchon came to Chile in 1892, and the family has been making wine in the Maule Valley ever since. The current proprietor of the estate is Emile’s grandson, Julio. And he has done a fantastic job with this wine.

I tried this wine last night again and it has taken on even more weight, with brilliant cassis and plum aromas emanating from a fragrant bouquet of raspberries and cherries. VERY structured from the Cabernet in the blend, this wine can go on for years.

Fruit, ripeness, acid, structure, and power. What everyone is looking for in great Bordeaux. Except we have a PRICE from Chile. We have about 15 cases left.

75% Merlot, 15% Carmenere, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine comes in at 13.7% alcohol. I find it to be delicious AND A SUPERB VALUE!

J. Bouchon Canto Norte Maule Valley, Chile 2012

Even the critics are weighing in on the value associated with this wine. This is from Steve Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar; “Spicy cherry and red berry aromas are complicated by pungent herbs and floral oils. Taut and focused on the palate, offering vibrant redcurrant and cherry flavors that turn spicier with air. Finishes with refreshing bite, supple tannins and strong fruit-driven persistence. Outstanding value.” 90 points!

That’s a pretty accurate review IMHO. The words I focus on are “Taut and focused”, “fruit-driven persistence”, AND OF COURSE “Outstanding value” This is EXACTLY the wine that I tried last night.

This wine normally goes for the bargain price of $14.99 (hey, it’s not from Bordeaux, it’s from Chile). For an e-mail special, however, I can sell you a 6 pack of this 90 point wine for the mere price of $65.00 or you can advance to the bonus round and pick up a case for $125.00.

Either way you should tuck a few bottles away. This wine should age very well. E-mail me back please, 15 cases available. Structure and power for $10.42 a bottle!

Cheers,

Ken

Wine Director

Acton Wine & Spirit Co.

Wine Tasting

I was recently conversing with one of our regular wine customers (let’s call him Mike). When the topic of our Grand Wine Tasting was brought up, Mike told me that in the 15 years that he’s been shopping here, he’s never attended it. He occasionally comes to our Saturday tastings, but he confided that he usually wanders around the store until there’s no one else tasting, before he’ll step up to the table. When pressed for a reason, Mike would only say that he didn’t really know HOW to taste and was nervous that he would do something embarrassing. After 20+ years in the business, I tend to forget that there was a time when I felt the same way. The only difference was that I had experienced professionals to “hold my hand” and walk me through it. So, now it’s time for me to try and pass on what I’ve learned.

The following should be a helpful guide for the novice wine-taster; a brief summary of wine tasting technique and an explanation of some basic tasting etiquette.

Just about every wine professional that I have met has different methods for tasting; different idiosyncrasies, different order in which to do things and even some superstitions that they follow out of habit. However, I do find that almost always, everyone’s methods include what are known as the 5 “S’s”; five steps all starting with the letter S. For this exercise, we’ll actually expand that to Seven “S’s”.

See- Ideally you want to view the glass against a white surface. Your wine should be clear unless you have an aged wine with lots of sediment. Note the color. Wines can range dramatically in color depending on the type of grape used to make the wine and how long the wine sat on the skins. As wines age they lose color, so a good look at the color can tell you a bit about how old it is.

Swirl- Hold your wine at the base and lightly swirl the wine in your glass. The swirling process sends oxygen through the wine, expanding the surface area and allowing the aromas to open up.

Sniff- The next step is to give your wine a nice big sniff. Don’t be shy. Stick your nose way into the glass and try to identify the scents. Remember that wine tasting can be subjective and there are no right or wrong answers.

Sip- Take a nice big sip of your wine. Let the wine spread out across your mouth, curl your tongue, and breathe in air through your mouth. This will send air through the wine once again and allow it to open even more.

(Swallow or Spit, Not usually considered part of the 5 S’s )- The latter may sound impolite, but it’s not. In fact, it’s the only way to taste if you are sampling many wines. At most tastings, you’ll find a large bucket for that purpose as well as for any leftover wine in your glass.

Savor- Most wines have a lingering aftertaste or “finish” even after you have completed the actual tasting. Take some time to appreciate the unique flavors of the wine; how they coalesce into a single unique experience.

These five (seven) steps should allow you to experience all facets of a wine that your senses allow. Everything beyond that is extraneous and intended to impress, or more likely someone that doesn’t know what they are doing trying to appear like they do. A few other things to remember when tasting…

Don’t monopolize the wines or the people pouring them. Get your taste, and then step away from the table to give others a chance to taste as well. If you have a question, ask, but be brief. This also goes for spit buckets. They’re for everyone, not just the people in front.

Respect the Wine, Don’t Chug It.  Whether tasting a $5 wine or a $5000 wine, respect each wine you taste and give it a chance. Whether in a wine tasting room, where you might insult the wine maker, or at a wine tasting party, where you might insult the person who brought the wine, don’t treat any wine like swill.

–Don’t interfere with other taster’s senses of smell. This means that smoking is not recommended at or around a tasting. Also, using any scent (perfume, after-shave lotion, scented hair spray, and so on) in excess is undesirable. These foreign odors can really interfere with your fellow tasters’ ability to enjoy the wine’s aroma.

—Let others form their own opinions. Courteous wine tasters also do not volunteer their opinions about a wine until others have had a chance to taste. Believe it or not, you’re opinion can have an effect on the perceptions of others; it has happened to me on a number of occasions.

The bottom line is that wine tasting should be an enjoyable social experience that can expand the mind and please the senses. A lot of people think of it as a pastime for the wealthy, powerful, and well dressed, but in the end all the bluster and ceremony is unnecessary. It’s just wine.

Gifts for Collectors

These are special wines that are sought after by collectors and aficionados, that have been stored in our temperature controlled wine cave. They are available in the Acton store in extremely limited quantities (sometimes just a bottle or two). They must be picked up at the store; we do not ship. This list is accurate as of 12/12/14, but is subject to change.

RP = Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate

WS = The Wine Spectator (Various Editors)

ST = Steve Tanzer, International Wine Cellar

 

France & Alsace

1999 Louis Jadot Bonnes Mares                                                                                                       $125.00        86-88RP

2000 Chateau D’ Yquem                                                                                                                      $595.00

2000 Trimbach Clos Ste. Hune 375 ml                                                                                           $99.00        95 ST

2001 Trimbach Fredrick Emile 375th Anniversary                                                                     $99.00        93 RP

2005 Vieux Telegraphe La Crau  signed by Daniel Brunier                                                     $99.00      95+ RP      

Italy

1997 Allegrini Amarone                                                                                                                         $115.00      95 RP

2001 Aldo Conterno Cicala Barolo                                                                                                    $150.00      95 ST

2004 Paolo Scavino Bric Dei Fiasc Barolo                                                                                    $135.00      96 RP

2004 Sandrone Le Vigne                                                                                                                       $145.00      96 RP

2006 Luce Brunello                                                                                                                                   $99.00      92+ ST

2006 Sandrone Cannubi                                                                                                                       $160.00      97 RP

2006 Sandrone Le Vigne                                                                                                                       $145.00     96 RP

2007 Giacomo Conterno Cascina Francia Barolo                                                                      $150.00     96+RP

2007 Luce Toscana                                                                                                                                    $69.99     95 WS

2009 Sassicaia Bolgheri                                                                                                                      $215.00      94 RP

Australia

2003 Torbreck Runrig                                                                                                                           $199.00     95 WS

2005 Hundred Acre Ancient Way                                                                                                     $299.00   

2005 Torbreck Runrig                                                                                                                           $199.00     95 WS

United States

1992 Ridge Monte Bello                                                                                                                        $350.00    94-97 RP

1994 Ridge Monte Bello                                                                                                                        $275.00     95+ ST

1996 Ridge Monte Bello                                                                                                                        $250.00     95 RP

1997 Ridge Monte Bello                                                                                                                        $250.00     91-94 ST

1998 Mondavi Reserve Cabernet                                                                                                        $99.00      89 RP

2002 Mondavi Reserve Cabernet                                                                                                      $120.00     92 RP

2003 Caymus Special Selection                                                                                                         $150.00     94 RP

2003 Spottswoode Napa Cabernet                                                                                                   $125.00      94 RP

2004 Ridge Monte Bello                                                                                                                       $150.00      93 ST

2005 Roy Estate Proprietary Red                                                                                                    $120.00      95 RP

2006 Ridge Monte Bello                                                                                                                       $140.00     94+ RP

2007 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet                                                                                     $135.99     94+ RP

2007 Heitz Martha’s Vineyard                                                                                                           $230.00    94 WS

2007 Ridge Monte Bello                                                                                                                        $140.00     92+ RP

2008 Joseph Phelps Insignia                                                                                                               $199.99     97 RP

2009 Inglenook Rubicon                                                                                                                       $199.00    93 WS

2010 Phelps Insignia                                                                                                                               $230.00    95 RP

2010 Opus One                                                                                                                                           $235.00    96 RP

2011 Plumpjack Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon                                                                               $109.99   90 RP

Paul Hobbs Pinot Noir from Patagonia

People in Acton (one in particular) give me a lot of grief for saying that Pinot Noir is my “desert island” wine. In other words, if stranded on a desert island with only one grape to choose from, I would drink Pinot.

That was true when I wrote it a couple of months ago, and it’s still true.

The only problem is most of the Pinot’s that I like, with a few noticeable exceptions, cost at least $40.00 a bottle. Pinot Noir is a notoriously fickle grape to grow, with thin skins, prone to mildew and rot, and quite a lot of the inexpensive ones (sorry, inexpensive California producers) just are not that good.

Now Burgundy is the home of Pinot Noir, and Burgundy is located between 40 and 50 degrees latitude. So is Oregon. Although the wines of Oregon DO NOT taste like the wines from Burgundy (sorry all you wine salesmen) it seems to be that the grape thrives in a cooler climate. Ditto Northern Italy.

But there is somewhere else on the globe that has the same latitude.

Turn the world upside down.

Patagonia in far southern Argentina has the approximately the same latitudinal coordinates as Oregon and Burgundy, (as does New Zealand on the other side of the globe) and is virtually unknown as a winemaking center.

Enter Paul Hobbs.

Paul Hobbs is known as the person who literally brought Argentian Malbec to the fore in his work at Catena, and of late he has been producing some stellar Pinot Noirs from California (at $50.00 and up).

Here though, he has teamed up with Leonardo Puppato to produce a modern Pinot from old vines in Patagonia, Argentina. Fermented in open top stainless steel 18 days of skin contact, and then aged in a combination of stainless steel and French and American oak, this wine pops with acidity and flavor.

And it’s priced like Pinot from Patagonia should be. It does not cost the proverbial arm and leg. Joe and I tried this wine at a dinner a couple of months ago, and have been waiting to get a price on it.

ALTO LIMAY “SELECT” PINOT NOIR
2012 Patagonia, Argentina

Tasting notes: 100% Pinot Noir. 14% Alcohol. Bright Ruby Red color. This is not a delicate Pinot. You can see the 18 days of skin contact here, as well as taste it. Cherries, rose petals, flowers and great lift with a strong acid backbone. A slight hint of vanilla from the oak, this Pinot is distinctly drinkable, with a silky feeling in the mouth, and a dry finish with a firm tannic structure.

This has the stuffing to age well. One can see the work and structure of Paul Hobbs in this wine.
This wine lists at the bargain price of $20.00 a bottle, but for this e-mail special I can sell you a 6 pack for the low price (for good Pinot) of $85.00, or you can step up and order a case for $165.00. Just e-mail me back. There were just 1000 cases produced, so we got around 5% of the world’s supply. This wine will go with foods as diverse as barbecued fish, chicken, or steak.

Just e-mail me back at ken@actonwine.com. In stock now.

News from the Beer Department

    At Acton Wine & Spirit Co.(and Marlborro Wine & Spirit Co. as well) we love more than just wine.  We have a couple of talented guys here who love beer.  REALLY LOVE BEER.  And they buy A LOT of beer.  So much so that we have to do a little “thinning of the herd”

    Starting right now we have ON SALE about 120 different Craft Beers.  These are all marked with a red tag and the savings are significant (20% or more).  We are including brews from Amager, De Proef, Mikkeller, Nogne-O, Lost Abbey, The Bruery & more… these are mostly available in very small quantities and once they’re gone, they’re gone.

    We also have a new craft beer guy!  His name is Xandre.  He used to work for us, and just got back from a stint at Element Brewing Co. where he learned about brewing from the ground up.  A lot of you will recognize Xandre from his time that he worked here before.  We welcome Xandre and you can follow him at on Twitter at Xandre@ActonBottleShop.