Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The State of the Hustle

No truer words written in regards to creating a life in the wine business.  So many folks have asked me over the years "so how'd you get into the wine industry?",  I've always replied "I just did it, wine was a big hobby for me and I made the jump one day guessing the wine business needed passionate marketing and sales people".  And the rest has been history in the making...with one helluva hustle attached.

Last weekend I volunteered in Dallas for the 10th Anniversary of Texsom and am still floating from all the awesome people surrounding me.  I thought a lot about leadership in this industry while working Texsom behind the scenes this year.  The leadership qualities I noticed were abundant not only by the executive teams and captains, but also by the entire Texsom community.  I saw many leaders who are also great teachers, many leaders who listened and gracefully solved issues, but the leaders who stood out the most had the hustle!

The younger set of leaders among the Texsom community are smarter than ever before and more grounded than I ever imagined. These Young Guns are incredibly passionate not only about their own personal well-being in the community but deliberately passionate about giving and sharing their knowledge of wine to anyone that crosses their paths. They work hard, the study hard and they have the hustle it takes to turn them into real leaders among our spectacular wine community. Refreshing and welcomed.

As I've now entered into a "veteran" slot within the wine buiness, I'm thankful for so many people and places that have inspired me over the last decade.  But I'm most grateful for the gift of the hustle.  Thank you Texsom 2014 for putting another gust of wind in the TexaCali Sail!

See ya around - TexaCali Ali

Monday, July 21, 2014

New Partnership Created by Instagram!

2014 has been a new year for this gal, a bit of dusting off and relaunching TexaCali Wine Co. within the National and International Markets.  Another big focus of our services this year is social media strategy, website creation and communications management.  

I’ve also partnered with a design firm “Sketchbook Creative”, Devin the owner and I have the same sensibilities as to why wineries need to care about their online image. Sketchbook provides affordable and super cool website design and development, email marketing, photography and print design. 

A recent little Q & A between Devin and myself as we were getting to know each other’s core business…

D: What IS TexaCali Wine Co.?  A: We are a sales and marketing consulting firm, always have been, always will be.  2014 has presented a solid mix of client needs from opening national distribution to writing emails to their wine club members. Currently I’m working with a handful of wineries and one importer…oh and there’s the fantastic Zalto (stemware) sales that come along with it too.

D: What isn’t TexaCali Wine Co.? A: Great question, seriously do not come to me with 1000 cases of wine you bottled a few years ago that you didn’t have a sales plan for then…there are people in this business that feed like sharks on others’ misery and mistakes, this is not for me. It’s best to utilize TexaCali Wine Co. in a positive situation, where you want to strengthen your current working plans and/or begin planning for the first time ever.

D: So do you live in Texas? A: Not anymore, I’m basing operations from Marin County (proximity to airports is KEY!) but am always up for a visit to Texas, Germany, NYC – you name it.  I basically live behind my Mac and in my car…thank goodness for our view from the deck at home in Marin!

D: Who’s your favorite client? A: Now now, you can’t ask me that, they’re all special in many different ways. My best clients have a focused vision for the business, are organized for me to step-in and lend my strengths and are already implementing “best practices”. First you must be making wine that I love to drink…seriously matters. Oh and don't be an asshole, my #1 rule in life from now on...

D: What do you think your best strengths are then?  A: Oh my enthusiasm for the “business of wine” and the art of story telling to make sure anyone I’m reaching out to feels the passion that went into those bottles! I’ve been known to move a few truckloads and containers of wines too…the best part!!

D: Weakness – come on, spill it... A: I loathe projects that are full of time wasting minutia, I love to sell BIG, kills me to wrap my talents around selling a handful of cases at a time for someone, I’m not very good at staying on target with that task.  Make me work for a solid BTG placement and for a special feature any-day!  Oh and I wish I was a Master of Excel, I blame it on my age, but man I'm such a Excel dummy. 

D: Describe a perfect day in the life of TexaCali Wine Co. A: Easily begins with a handful of Purchase Orders from Wholesalers, news of a big weekend of wine club/mailing list purchases right up there with hearing from buyers and sales reps throughout the day about how the wines are working for them.  Getting text messages from my Inner Circle makes my day!  My day starts early, the East Coast is rockin’ by 8am Cali time, so is my email/iPhone by that first cup of coffee in the morning.  The rest of my perfect day is tooo long to finish in this Q&A…but meeting folks in the vineyards and/or wineries are my very favorite part of the job! I dream of ending each day at Three Dog Yoga in Santa Rosa for a 90 minute class…but haven’t made that happen in a couple of years now. Le sigh.

D: How do you see this new partnership with Sketchbook Creative working for TexaCali Wine Co.?  A: Oh, you guys bring such valuable expertise and resources that I can not provide technically.  I was the project manager of a website in 1998 and I’ve hardly stopped with my online focus since. I code just enough to mess things up, but have clear and precise ideas that Sketchbook can easily help to execute for my clients. I’ve been spoiled in my roles prior to TexaCali Wine Co. to have a creative resource team within arms-reach, so shazzam, now I do finally in 2014!

D: What’s on tap for Fall 2014 for you then?  A: Besides having my clients in active distribution across the USA for the big OND season, the division will be in full-swing with wine country visitors and then there’s a new project I’m working on with my husband Eric that’s ramping up this Harvest 2014.  I hope to walk the dog (Lord Sandwich) a few times inbetween my market travel and vineyard visits too.

D: Speaking of Dogs…isn’t that how we met on Instagram?  A: Oh yeah, you follow @sandwichthedoodle then the “Dog Gods” connected us with @thedogsofwine ...that’s business done the right way, love it.  I'm really excited to be lending my expertise to Sketchbook and watch all of our dog-loving (we do like cats to) clients grow with our help.

Cheers to the Art of Wine, indeed Devin!

 - Ali

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

TexaCali Wine Co. in 2014...

I've now put in the time over the past decade learning, living, building and breathing the wine business. Years full of beautiful successes, wines and travel but the beautiful people who've crossed my path have meant the most to me.  Now's the time to make certain that all the niche skills I've honed along the way are put to the best use yet - helping those in the wine business that are truly among my circle of friends.

The first winery on-board is owned by my dear friend Dick Handal, Denier-Handal Wines, a small but rewarding winery that produces vineyard driven Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma County.  Dick and his wife Lisa have known me longer than I've been in the wine industry and have seen me through all the ups and crazy downs over the years.  Dick's daughter Doralice and I were roommates living in the Presidio years ago  - well before she opened The Cheese Shop in Healdsburg.  I often refer to Dick as being my "California Pops".

Denier-Handal Wines have developed a cult following over the years, you'll often find Dick giving personal tastings on their back porch overlooking the Dry Creek Valley. Perhaps my favorite porch of all time too.  Can't wait to spread the word and have you all experience what's in the bottle...

Drink Well.

- TexaCali Ali  (repost from

TexaCali Wine Co. is officially in the business of helping friends in the business.

Dick & Lisa Handal pictured here as special guests at my recent wedding celebration.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

On the Road in Austria

Get Ready to here a lot from me soon about FURMINT!
Written on June 20...posted on the 25th thanks to wonderful wifi access in the Mosel (and a day off from meetings for me!).

Right this very minute, I'm typing from the back seat from a rental car on the way to visit Neumayer in Traisental and then onto the Wachau to visit Holzapfel Day 9 of travel, grateful for hot cappuccinos at the Autogrills at this point. It's been much easier to post photos and fun facts through my phone while connecting to wifi along the way than emailing & firing up the laptop to write unfortunately.  Find TexaCaliAli on Twitter & Instagram if you like.

Vie Vinum in Vienna was incredible, beyond the hundreds of wines tasted, it was a fantastic time with many of the Top Wine Writers,  US Sommeliers, Wine Buyers and Importers.  I'm traveling with Winemonger Imports, who is celebrating over 10 years of representing a premium selection of Austrian, German, Italian and French wines - along with Zalto from Austria in the USA.
Winery Dog at Moric with Winemaker Roland...

Many reviews and photos to come soon,  hoping we'll have a bit of a break while taking a train from Salzburg to Munich on Sunday, then a 5 hour drive on Monday to the Pfalz for a week of visiting German wine producers.

For now, here a few of my favorite photos from the past week in Austria. - TexaCali Ali

The Styria Region in Austria, well known for Sauvignon Blanc.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Vintage Albuquerque

Reporting from Vienna today while attending the fabulous Vie Vinum along with American's top wine pros!  It's been an exciting few days and we've only begun.  Taking a little break this morning to catch up on TexaCali Wine Co. correspondence and happenings...

This week is also exciting back in the states for Denier Handal Wines, June 18-22 is Vintage Albuquerque! 

A few reasons why this so cool I say! Owner Dick and Lisa have actually called Albuquerque home for many years, it's also the first state outside of California their wines are distributed AND they are co-hosting a fantastic dinner at Season's on Thursday night.

I tell you, it's been awesome to hear the feedback around the US about these small production wines made in the heart of Sonoma County.  What a treat for all attendees of Vintage Albuquerque this week to meet the dear owners and taste their wines.  Their Rosé, Cabernet Sauvigon, Zinfandel and Petite Sirah are featured throughout the week.

Thursday night - please contact Seasons for the Vintage Albuquerque wine dinner featuring Denier Handal.  Wish I could be there too!

Cheers, Ali

Friday, June 06, 2014

White Wine of the Weekend

Every single time I hear "Domaine Jean Louis Chave" dance into conversation my mind goes straight to the first sip of Hermitage Blanc I ever had, not their legendary Syrah.  Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of Chave Syrah - but that unbelievably beautiful sip of Marsanne and Rousanne was truly breathtaking, a welcomed memory indeed.  

Fast forward to 2014, so very honored to be working with Alder Springs Vineyard and their gorgeous Row 5 White, a blend of their estate grown Marsanne and Viognier.  A cousin in style, certainly not as complex as the great Chave Blanc, but not to be missed by fans of Northern Rhone whites.

At $30 a bottle, the Row 5 White over-achieves in quality with classic Rhone white wine layers of aromatics and elegant flavors of lemon oil, white flower pedals and a tiny hint of anise. A true California white Rhone blend providing a much lower-priced alternative to the wines of the Northern Rhone.

Where exactly is Alder Springs Vineyard?  About an hour North of the town of Healdsburg, California. The property is a 6,000 acre forested wonderland, approx. 120 of which are devoted to vines.  The vineyards are planted above the fog line, between 1700 and 2700 feet in elevation.

Really Cool Fact: An incredible 140 MILES of bird-netting is placed over the vines to protect some of the most sought after rows of grapes in California from feathery predators. A huge job for this sustainable vineyard and their loyal vineyard workers each year.

What to pair?  Well, this bottle goes incredibly well with great conversation among friends while hanging out this summer on a porch or by the pool.  I'm not kidding.  A simple spread of mild cheeses along with a little fig jam and a fresh baked baguette will compliment the Row 5 White.  Better have a few bottles chilled!

For those needing a recipe, try this Pork Tenderloin suggestion from William Sonoma, it looks delicious, might have to give this a try over the weekend.  So don't forget to look for Alder Springs at your favorite wine shop and/or ask your local Sommelier for one of the most exciting white wines I've fallen for this year...  Alder Spring Vineyard, Row 5 White  (purchase direct from the winery). 

Cheers - TexaCali Ali

Monday, June 02, 2014

Auction Napa Valley with THE GRADE Cellars

It's that time of year folks, the 2014 Auction Napa Valley is this weekend. A weekend that the worlds biggest collectors of Cabernet Sauvignon convene together to share in the bounty of Napa Valley.  To keep up with all the instant happenings follow the hashtag #anv14, it'll be quite a show!

So here's the important part...THE GRADE Cellars participation can be found 2 ways:

1) Barrel Lot #290- THE GRADE Cellars

2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Release Date: March 2015
  • 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Winfield Vineyard, our estate property in the Calistoga AVA
  • Aged in French oak; this vintage will have spent about 18 months in barrel as of 2014 Auction Napa Valley
  • A blend of two favorite vineyard blocks; reflects the significant soil variation in our vineyard
Winemaker: Thomas Brown

2) E-Auction Lot #449: Stevenson’s Silverado: A Journey up THE GRADE

Put on your hiking shoes, grab your camera and join THE GRADE Cellars in retracing the steps of Robert Louis Stevenson to the site of Napa’s historic mining town of Silverado! This adventurous history lesson is coupled with a cook-out afterwards on THE GRADE’s estate vineyard at the foot of the mountain.

Now listen up! Your experience begins at the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum in St. Helena with a privately guided tour through its collection of “Stevensonia” – the largest of its kind in the world. Louis, as he was known to friends, was a world-renowned writer of such memorable works as Treasure Island, Kidnapped, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Silverado Squatters, written during his honeymoon with Fanny Stevenson on Mount St. Helena near Calistoga. There will be no quiz!

You will then be transported to the side of that mountain, driven up a secret road to the panoramic site of Silverado and escorted to the end of its famous “Silver Street” for a sparkling wine toast to the author at the monument built to memorialize the cabin where he spent his honeymoon. After all this book-learnin’ stuff, Tom & Brenda, owners of THE GRADE Cellars, will take your group back down to their stunning vineyard for a chuck-wagon barbeque served with multiple vintages of THE GRADE Cabernet Sauvignon.

After dinner, and as the sun fades in the West, you’ll kick back at their vintage Airstream and enjoy some films – including of the California’s Forty-Niners (the old-timer ones) and what Silverado mining was really like. That’s as good as gold! To be arranged during the warm season by mutual agreement.

 - TexaCali Ali