Thursday, February 23, 2006

Out of the Office Reply

I’m off to Japan for a week with Vine Connections. No doubt it’s a work trip, but I’ve heard it’s a trip of a lifetime - this experience will be something I’ll tell my grandchildren about one day (oh double fingers & toes crossed that I’ll get to this place in life one day!).

As for Vine Connections, I’ve spent the past 10 months selling to and strategizing with wine buyers throughout the state of Texas. It’s so awesome to represent these guys; all the talk about “new cult wine importers” and such, well Vine Connections put Argentina on the premium wine map years ago. How often do we as wine consumers find a “cult wine” priced from $14-$50 on the shelf? Well, thanks to Vine Connections efforts over the past 8 years or so, we’ve got at least 25 “cult and/or premium fine wines” to choose from that are affordable. Ed Lehrman and Nick Ramkowsky are pioneers of importing the best of and the highest quality wines and sake from their chosen Vine Connections regions of the world…Argentina, Sonoma, Napa, Mexico and of course their most sought after selection of Ginjo Sake in America. They are too humble, I have to brag a bit!

Spend sometime while I’m away and click around on
, read all about each and every bottle they so boldly stamp their logo on. Remember the next time you are standing in the aisle in your local wine department with indecision, flip the bottle around and look for the Vine Connections logo on the back label for help. Ed and Nick have personally guaranteed American wine and sake consumers’ extreme quality in each and every bottle. No foolin’.

I’m off to Tokyo in a few hours…no cell phones, no internet for a full week, I’m talking the boonies of the boonies is where I’m headed to meet the Toji and see how sake has been produced for thousands of years. Expect a full report on March 6 and pass along the TexaCali Wine Trail to others while I'm away...thousands of Texans are following this blog - we're all on this lifelong wine and sake journey together - how cool is that! Cheers - Ali

Pellegrini Carginan Tasting in Austin!

So you’ve heard that the latest Pellegrini Carginan is smokin’…here’s your chance to taste before you buy. But be warned – you’ll walk out with more than one bottle! Here’s the dealio: The Pellegrini Carignan is big and fruity, but with the chewy complexity and concentration that old vines provide. Brambly cherries and blackberries with decent acidity and a longish finish. An unusual Rhone varietal not often found in California in its pure (i.e. unblended) form.

Saturday, February 25th, 2006, 1 to 8 PM

Beverage World, next to the Whip In in Travis Heights! The funkiest and most groovy wine and “adult beverage” store in town! As always, all featured liquids are 10% off during the tastings. Cheers! Ali

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Hat's off to Fort Ross in Fort Worth!

Wine of the Week

Fort Ross Pinot Noir “Symposium” 2002 ($29.99) — A touch of pinotage varietal intensifies the color and taste of “Symposium.” At first sip, the wine rests on the tongue with concentrated cherry and plum. Complexity and minerality add layers of flavor, making this wine well worth the investment.

Available at King's and Central Market.

No doubt, one of the most interesting and delicious wines I've had in years! Texas' allocation of all Fort Ross wines is very small - so collectors, please take note! Cheers - Ali

Saturday, February 18, 2006

A Tasty Tuesday Wine Tasting!

Calling all Austin Wine Lovers...the Susana Balbo wine collection is featured at the new Cork & Co. downtown on Congress. Here's the scoop...Feb 21st & Feb 28th, 5pm to 8pm Cork & Co. will be tasting the portfolio of Susana Balbo. Come & go as you wish and try 5-6 wines for just $10pp. Pick one that you can't live without and receive 10% off retail on any bottles in the Susana Balbo collection!

A super cool chance to taste before you buy and find out why the Susana Balbo and her Crios wines are the top selling premium brands from South America! Cheers -Ali (oh and this is Susana and me about a year ago, I was very happy b/c I had my first glass of Crios Rose of Malbec just before this picture was taken - YUM!).

Friday, February 17, 2006

Winter Wine Values

Hope this helps us all save a little and enjoy a lot! This is only the short list, for a larger list - say 25 wines at least - please send me an email request.

1. Cloverdale Ranch Cabernet from the Pellegrini Family of Sonoma, this killer cabernet just beat out 2001 Silver Oak Alexander Valley in a blind tasting in North Texas. If you are a BBQ griller or live with one – keep a case of this around! $24.99

2. Eloise Sauvignon Blanc a crisp, & citrus filled sipper from CaliforniaÂ’s North Coast. No oak, all fresh structure and bright texture from beautiful California Sauvignon Blanc grapes. $14.99

3. Mapema Tempranillo no doubt this Argentine red will become your favorite Tempranillo from ANY region. Intense fruit character, with deep color and flavors of ripe black cherries and black raspberries. The wine finishes with captivating hints of cardamom and allspice. $16.99

4. Crios de Susana Balbo Cabernet Sauvignon - Intense ruby color with enticing aromas of ripe plums and red currants. The richly textured plum and currant flavors are joined by accents of dark chocolate and spicy, vanilla oak on. The ripe, vibrant tannins give the wine beautiful structure and an amazingly long finish. $14.49

5. Loica Carmenere - This is a great representation of classic Carmenere - a grape that only grows in Chile. This is a voluptuous, full-bodied wine rich with flavors of dark cherries, black-currant, chocolate and cedar. The velvety finish lingers on the palate and is perfect with grilled meats, pasta and cheeses. A crowd favorite always!!! $10.99

6. Budini Malbec I love this simple red! Easy drinking fruity Malbec from Mendoza. Great with Pizza! $9.99

7. Crios de Susana Balbo Syrah-Bonarda - A few facts...Syrah is the well-known grape of France's Rhone Valley and AustraliaÂ’s Shiraz. Not well-known outside Argentina, Bonarda is surprisingly second only to Malbec in red grape plantings. Its origins are in Italy's Piedmont region where it represented 30% of all pre-phylloxera plantings. In Mendoza, yields can reach 12 tons per acre (though with little flavor concentration). The key to producing great Bonarda is finding very old vines growing in the warm, sandy soils of eastern Mendoza, then limiting vigor through severe pruning and irrigation techniques. Luckily, SusanaÂ’s husband, Pedro, owns and manages such a vineyard. $14.49

8. Crios de Susana Balbo Rose of Malbec - this one was made for those who think they don't like PINK wine. Far from sweet but plenty of ripe and spicy berry in flavor. This is my favorite with King Ranch Casserole! $11.99

9. Pellegrini Old Vines Carginan this wine is all about pleasureflavorsreat berry flavours with a dark rose petal texture. A true gem among the California other red sections in wine stores throughout Texas. $19.99

10. Handley Dry Creek Sauvignon Blanc - Subtly complex, this wine offers rich aromas of melon and mango, accented with grapefruit, lime, and a hint of jasmine. Clean flavors of gooseberry and citrus on the palate make it a food pairing champion. It is a fine complement to a wide array of foods, from creamy risottos to simple vegetable dishes. $16.99

(Prices may vary by individual retailer)
Sign up for the "Inner Circle" for insider wine news on
Cheers - Ali

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Wandering Texan

I had the great opportunity to meet the owner of Rihaku in Austin on Monday. Mr. Tanaka flew into Texas along with a big group of Japanese biz owners who are promoting their partnership of technology and trade with Texas. I had the pleasure of showing him around Austin on Monday and introducing him to key accounts. Also, we had Lunch at Chinatown, who was the first restaurant in Austin to list Ginjo sake on their menu years ago and dinner at Maiko - which was DELICIOUS.

I wish I had a camera phone, no instant pics of the day and event, but this 5'9 Texas girl was standing tall among my new friends from Japan (literally). "Ali, you represent Dom Perignon of Sake", said ALL the JAPANESE travelers to me.

Mr. Tanaka was so kind to have brought over a sake that was bottled on February 8, 2006 - that's last week folks and it tasted like spring! WOW. No wonder his bottles are Texas TOP selling sakes'! Dreamy Clouds in a Nigori (unfiltered) and rich while Wandering Poet is crisp and clear. You can find these bottles at all gourmet food stores and fine wine stores throughout Texas, Central Market has these chilled and ready to sip always! I'm off to Japan next week - so get ready for the launch of upon my return! Can you say GINJO????? Ali

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Love in a Bottle

OK - here it is everyone...the perfect wine to go with dark chocolate on Valentine's Day. I've been saying this all year, no lie. Another great by Susana Balbo... the blend of 44% Malbec, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Bonarda, 5% Syrah is amazing. It's around $30 a bottle.
Tasting notes: Wafting aromas of red currants, black cherry and mildly smoky and sweet vanilla oak. Layers of creamy currant fruit, dense black cherry, and notes of brown spice (cocoa, nutmeg). Keeps showing its stuff as it breathes in the glass. Perfect balance, great length and loaded with fine, ripe tannins for having with food or for aging. Cheers - Ali

Friday, February 10, 2006

Texas is Talking about TexaCali Wines!

WOW! I don't even know how to describe how sensational the "First Annual TexaCali Wine Co. Grand Tastings" went! A few HUNDRED wine buyers and wine VIP's attended all 4 tastings. I must share just a few kind words that were emailed to me this week...Super Cool, TexaCali Wine Co. is making a difference in very significant ways...

Ali, ...Thank you for inviting us to the Grand Tasting in Houston. Your tasting opened our eyes to such beautiful wines...we look forward to uncorking many of them very soon! Also, we love receiving the "TexaCali Inner Circle" news each month, your passionate words are always a joy to read - our entire staff has read your "Grand Tasting Program" at least 3 times over today. Cheers and we look forward to learning more from you in 2006. Sent by "Houston Fine Wine Restaurant Buyer & Sommelier"

I wanted to congratulate you on what you are accomplishing. It was refreshing. I find myself getting a bit bogged down and disinterested in this business from time to time, and at least for now, you got me excited again. Thanks for that. Perhaps it was the atmosphere or getting to talk to Linda Schwartz, a true artist it seems...She is just the sort of person I imagined meeting when I got into all this. Or maybe it was seeing what you've built in such a short time that was inspiring. I'm sure it was a little of each.

Thought you would want to know. All the best to you in 2006. But I really just wanted to say "good job!" From my meager position, you are doing something right. Thanks for the experience! Sent by "Austin Wine Buyer"

Hello Alison,

Monday night's tasting at Reata was terrific. Yes, the wines were good and interesting, and the food super delicious for that kind of affair, but the real core is that you have such a great persona. The wine business is full of all sorts --- some you would like to have at your dinner table and others would be not only terribly uncomfortable, but wouldn't fit the scene at all.

You are a lovely, fun, considerate, appreciative, wholesome, honest, helpful yet direct person. I could have used more complimentary adjectives but then you wouldn't believe me. Really you are a joy to be around and handle yourself with aplome. Go girl go!
Sent by "Food and Wine Writer"

Dear Ali,

Thank you SO much for putting together a dazzling series of Tastings! I think that everyone had a very good time and that many good connections were made. We were so happy to get to know you better and even to get the pleasure of meeting your Mom and Step Dad. They are both so charming - and you are just phenomenal - creative, intelligent, wise, calm and great fun!

I do look forward to continue to work with you,but somehow it just does not seem like work the way you do it! Sent by "TexaCali Wine Co. Winery Client"

reat, it's working. Thank you all for attending and for your ongoing generous support and encouragement. Cheers! Ali

(Pictured is Moreno Panelli of Pellegrini Family of Sonoma Winery, who so kindly flew in for the tastings all week, please stay tuned for more pics and a complete recap on very soon!)

Monday, February 06, 2006

Looking forward to seeing you this week...

SO finally, Grand Tasting week has arrived! I'm so excited, so many RSVP's, the owners of Fort Ross have flown in along with their National Sales Director, Vine Connections and Pellegrini have also flown in the top dawgs!

I'll have almost 100 bottles open to taste and learn about in each city. All the details are posted on
Cheers - Ali (This picture is of me over on the right, courtesy of the Dallas Morning News Wine Competition)

Thursday, February 02, 2006

2006 Grand Tasting

You must email me or call your sales rep to have your name on the list in each's going to be an incredible opportunity to taste more than 75 wines and sakes!

Dallas- Feb. 6, 1:30-4:30pm @ Standard, 2816 Fairmont Street

Ft. Worth- Feb. 6, 7-9:30pm @ Reata (rooftop), Downtown

Austin- Feb. 7, 4pm-8pm @ Gibson Guitar Showroom Ste. G400, Penn Field, 3601 S. Congress (NEW UPDATE: Afterparty at Opal Divine's featuring the talented(and Virtuoso Selection's VIP) Eric Hisaw!

Houston- Feb. 8, 1:30-5pm @ Uptown Sushi, 1131 Uptown Park Blvd

For a detailed list of featured wines and sakes click on Grand Tasting here

See you next week! Ali