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Author: Ken

“The Best”

    Everyone loves to complain about their job. Even if they love what they do, they’ll find something to gripe about around the water cooler. If you’ve ever seen the film “Clerks”( a favorite of retail workers everywhere), you’ll already know that those of us in the trade LOVE to complain about our customers. No, not all of them, just a select few. My personal favorite is a customer I like to call Mr./Mrs. Best. The exchange usually goes something like this…

Me – “Hi, can I help you find something?”

Mr./Mrs. Best – “Yeah, I’m looking for a bottle of Chardonnay (or Merlot, or Cabernet, etc.) for dinner with friends.  Which one is “THE BEST?”

    Now there’s a loaded question. The Best? The best how? The best value? The best balanced? The best match to the food being served? The best purity of fruit? The best expression of terroir? I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

    The problem with “ The Best” is that it is a completely subjective term. How do you quantify the quality of a wine? I know lots of wine critics try to with their 100 point scales, or “stars” or “Bicchieri” (Glasses), but what do those scores really mean? It’s just the opinion of one individual (or group) that may have very different tastes than you do. You could ask ten different people what they think “The Best” Chardonnay is and get ten different answers, for ten different reasons. I’m not saying that some wines are not better than others, but to single out one bottle as “The Best” is a bit presumptuous.

    However, the solution can be easier than one might think. With just a little more information, we can figure out what wine(s) will match up well with their tastes and needs.

-What are they looking to spend? $200 wines can be wonderful, but so can $20 wines.

-What are they pairing it with? Veal Parmesan? Burgers? Good conversation? Whatever it is, we can find a wine to go with it.

-What do they usually like, or not like to drink?  If I’m thinking Malbec and they like Malbec,…we have a winner. If they don’t like Merlot, then I’m not going to recommend Merlot even if it is the traditional pairing.

-Then some fine tuning. We’ve decided on Sauvignon Blanc. Do they like 100% varietal or perhaps a blend, like a white Bordeaux? A minerally bottle from the Loire or one with tons of fruit from New Zealand? Something that’s spent a little time in oak or something fresh from stainless steel?

    Just by asking a few simple questions, we can find the wine(s) that are “The Best for you”, whatever your situation may call for. Leave “The Best” for the critics to argue over. We’ll just drink good wines.

-Roger Waxman

Flash Sale!

For those who do not remember, flash sales are not advertised in the newspaper, only electronic media (web-site, e-mails, tweets). From now until 6 P.M. on Sunday, February 23rd, mix up 12 750 ml bottles of wine and receive 25% off. The only exclusions are Everyday Low Priced wines, Sale wines, and French Champagnes. All of our Bordeaux, California wines, Italian wines, and more is on sale! So come on down and shop till you drop!

We should all drink more Cru Beaujolais

We should all drink more Cru Beaujolais (I’m not talking about Beaujolais Village or Nouveau). Take tonight for example. I want to do a simple roast chicken. And of course I want to drink red wine. But I don’t want it to overpower the simple, unique flavors of the chicken. I want it to be somewhat substantial, yet I need some of those bright berry flavors that go so well with the bird. I really don’t want harsh tannins, and I don’t want to spend an arm and a leg.

In short, while my head is saying Grand Cru Burgundy I’m operating on a much simpler budget.

AND, if I’m going to buy something that I might throw in my cellar I’m going to want some indication that it will age.

AND, Cru Beaujolais, made from 100% Gamay Noir a Jus Blanc, can age very well. Especially in the cru’s Moulin-A-Vent and Morgon, oftentimes resembling Burgundy more that Beaujolais after 5 to 10 years.

AND, Beaujolais is NOT priced like Burgundy! There has been no worldwide escalation of prices, like there has been in Bordeaux and Burgundy.

For all of these reasons I present to you two examples of Cru Beaujolais which are delicious and satisfying, age-worthy and somewhat unique. At prices that won’t make you run from the store clutching your wallet.

2011 Domaine Mont Chavy Morgon – “This big, burly effort is structured and solidly textured. It has weight accompanying the blackberry flavor, with a firm character that demands aging over at least 18 months. The finish is still firm and concentrated.” 91 points Editors Choice Wine Enthusiast. Regular price $17.99 on sale $14.99 NET!

2011 Domaine des Rosiers Mulin-A-Vent – “Representing one of the multi-generaltional collaborations with Georges Duboeuf, the 2011 Moulin-A-Vent Domaine des Rosiers – from parcels in the commune of Chenas including a portion of La Rochelle, and raised in a mixture of barrel and tank – is pungently resinous in its expression of dried herbs and more subtle in its smoky black tea and spicy, oak-related elements, which are nicely woven into an overtly dense palate presentation saturated with cassis and beet root, and suffused with fine tannins. Finishing with cut, juicily mouth-coating persistence, invigoratingly peppery bite, and saliva-inducing salt-and iodine-tinged shrimp shell reduction, this superb value promises to reward at least through 2016.” 92 points Wine Enthusiast. Regular price $21.99 on sale $17.99

I have slashed prices on these two outstanding Beaujolais Cru’s down to what I would normally offer on my e-mails for a case. Although you can certainly order cases, the prices will not get any better than this. Both of these wines are brought in by Georges Dubouef, widely known as the King of Beaujolais. And both are serious examples of the best the region has to offer.

Both are in stock now. So tonight, roast a chicken and try some Morgon or Moulin-A-Vent with it. Then put the rest away for a year. You’ll thank me.

Cheers,

Ken
Wine Director
Acton Wine & Spirit Co.
Marlboro Wine & Spirit Co.

Information and Misinformation About Beer

    When I first got into the beverage business I was told there were two kinds of beer; Lagers and Ales. I was told that the only difference between the two was the temperature at which the fermentation process took place. Ales were Top Fermented (at higher temperatures) and Lagers were Bottom Fermented (at lower temperatures) …and that was it. I took that information and I ran with it.

    Now, this information isn’t necessarily incorrect, …more like incomplete. Like most people (see just about ANYTHING on Facebook for details), I fell victim to the old adage, “a little information can be a dangerous thing”. When I discovered just how deficient my knowledge on this subject was, I began to digest, both physically and figuratively, anything I could find on the subject. I discovered that it was in fact the type of yeast used (lager yeast or ale yeast) that determines the type of beer being made, and something deeper still;  there was a third type of beer. Sour, or Wild beers that are made using indigenous yeast and spontaneous fermentation.

    To those “in the know”, this information might seem very easy to gain access to, but it isn’t always so.  For instance, doing a recent Google search for “types of beer”, I found four websites, on the first search page alone in which information on wild/sour beers is partial, non-existent or wildly inaccurate.  Thebrewbros.com mentions a, “third rather obscure type of beer, called a Lam­bic, which is made only in Bel­gium”. While Lambics do come from Belgium, they are only one of many wild/sour beers that are brewed all over the world. Bendbrewfest.com lists Pilsners (a type of Lager) as the third type of beer, while listing Lambics and Gueuze (a blend of Lambics) as types of Ale. Differenttypesofbeer.com makes a minor mention of Lambics as being, “far less popular than Ales or Lagers”, and good ol’ Wikipedia makes no mention of them at all.

    So, what’s my point? If you’re interested in learning about beer (or wine or spirits for that matter), or just looking to pick up a six pack for “the game”, it’s important to find good sources of information to help you make better and more informed choices. The number of choices available to us seems to grow more every day. My advice? Find a knowledgeable, experienced beer guy (even if it’s not one of ours) that is passionate about his craft. I’ve learned in almost 20 years in the business, that it’s passion that instills us with a hunger to experience and learn as much as we possibly can; and then share. Real beer guys like to share; both information and beer.

    We are very fortunate to have a great beer guy in each of our stores; Tony in Acton and Jeff in Marlboro. From personal experience I can tell you that both are passionate, and both LOVE to share.

Roger Waxman

The classic Martini

I’ve recently been doing some research on the original recipes of classic cocktails such as the Martini. Now I’m not talking about Vodka-tini, Strawberry-tini, or any of the thousands of other tini’s that you see on menu’s today. I’m talking about the original Martini. It’s made with Gin.
I was in a bar/restaurant just last night and I told the young man who arrived at our table that I was in the mood for a Martini. He asked what kind of Vodka I preferred.
That is just wrong.
What really surprised me was the reliance on bitters in the drinks of the 1920’s. Even in Martini’s. While most modern recipes do not even mention bitters, they were apparently very prevalent in the classic cocktails of the 20’s.
This from Wilkpedia – A bitters is traditionally an alcoholic preparation flavored with botanical matter such that the end result is characterized by a bitter or bittersweet flavor. Numerous longstanding brands of bitters were originally developed as patent medicines, but are now sold as digestifs and cocktail flavorings in the contemporary market.
So anyways back to the classic Martini. After numerous tries (I assure you, not all in the same night, and never during daylight hours) I have arrived at this recipe that I kind of like…
Crushed ice
2 1/2 ounces Green Mountain Organic Gin
1/2 ounce Dolin Dry Vermouth
2 dashes of Bitter Truth Old Time Aromatic Bitters
2 Blue cheese stuffed olives
Fill a large Martini Glass with crushed ice. Wait for glass to get cold. Have patience. Fill your shaker with Gin, Vermouth, and Bitters. Pour ice from Martini Glass into shaker. Stir about 25 times vigorously. Stick a toothpick into olives and place in glass. Strain drink into glass.
And dump the ice! I have personally never understood why a bartender would ask if you wanted the ice (quite a few do). It’s done it’s job!
Enjoy. (limit 2)

A must buy in 94 point 2010 California Cabernet Sauvignon

I am REALLY EXCITED to tell you about this wine, so please excuse me for being a little “wordy”, but I have several points to get across.

I have recently written to you about the surprisingly stellar quality of the 2010 Napa Cabernet’s I have recently tasted.  This was based on the better wines that are being released right now.  Indeed, the Wine Spectator in their current issue has rated the 2010 vintage at a whopping 98 points.  This after a string of highly successful vintages.  2006 (95 points) 2007 (97 points) 2008 (96 points) and 2009 (96 points).

It rained in October in Napa.  But there were two heat waves that hit at the end of August (it hit 107 degrees in Oakville).  This intense heat helped push the ripening levels before the harvest.  To say I have been shocked at what I have tasted recently would not be an understatement.  These wines, for the most part, are magnificent examples of age-worthy Cabernet Sauvignon.

NO DOUBT ABOUT IT.  THIS IS A GOLDEN AGE FOR NAPA CABERNET.

Now, the question is, what to buy?  You could buy Araujo Eisele Vineyard, which got 94 points in the Spectator. Of course that’s if you could find it, but it would cost you $315.00 a bottle.

Or you could possibly buy Scarecrow 2010 (94 points) if you’re on their mailing list, but that would set you back $250.00.

Or you could buy Colgin IX Estate Napa Valley (94 points) but that would also cost you $350.00.

Or perhaps Paul Hobbs Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Beckstoffer To Kalon (94 points) but, dang it!  That would also cost you $350.00.

Even Chimney Rock Stags Leap Ganymede (94 points) is going to set you back $120.00.

Or you could do what I would do-buy 2010 Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Knights Valley Reserve (again 94 points) for well under $70.00 a bottle.

This wine was tasted yesterday by a major wine wholesaler in Boston.  It is probably sold out of the local market by now.

But we got the jump on everyone and bought it before the tasting started.

Sometimes timing is everything.

Beringer’s “new winemaker”, Laurie Hook, (I say new even though she has been chief winemaker since 2000 because her predecessor, Ed Sbragia, was so influential) has taken up where Sbragia left off.  With less of an emphasis on oak and crafting more refined wines.

Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve at $160.00 scored the same in the Spectator (94 points) as the Knights Valley Reserve.  And the Araujo.  And the Scarecrow.  And the Colgin, etc.

From now, while supplies last, the 2010 Beringer Knights Valley Reserve will be on sale for $49.99 a bottle.  Or better yet, buy a three pack for $145.00.  That’s 29% off the official Massachusetts book  price of $67.50.

If you would like a quantity of this wine, please e-mail at ken@actonwine.com and I will hold some for you. We only have 20 6 packs coming, and I am taking some home with me.

I’ve tasted it, and this wine is a steal! To quote James Laube of the Wine Spectator, “Strikingly rich and layered, with blackberry, licorice, and currant flavors.”

By the way, 2009 was the inaugural vintage of Knights Valley Reserve.  It is made from select blocks on Beringer’s Knights Valley property, and it was awarded #8 in the Wine Spectators Top 100 issue.    

This wine is ridiculously good for the money.  Buy it.  I am.

Cheers,

Ken

Wine Director

Acton Wine & Spirit Co.

Marlboro Wine & Spirit Co.

Long Trail 12 pack special

We have a late addition to this month’s sale! All LONG TRAIL 12 pack bottles are on sale for $12.99 +deposit!