Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Listen Up!

“It’s nice to be important, but more important to be nice”, yeah, I encountered a few
donkeys-behinds this summer that made me mutter this under my breath. Read Sunday, March 26 on the blog for more of my thoughts on the subject.

On a fun note...Handley Rose of Pinot Noir - Wine & Spirits Magazine this month says it's a perfect match for take-out chinese. That's right, goes incredibly well with take-out Thai too! Cheers - Ali

Monday, August 28, 2006


A little thunder rolls in and a few rain drops fall in Austin! A welcomed break indeed from all the heat ...this was taken a few minutes ago. 3 Cheers! Ali

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Sweet Endings

The past week was about as packed as a week gets for TexaCali Wine Co. Somehow I managed to travel over 1000 Texas miles in 3 days, shake hands with hundreds of wine buyers, pour wine for those same few hundred, get through a horrible bout of food poisoning, finalize a marketing strategy for 3 new TexaCali Wine Co. producers and close a few Fall promotion deals for Vine Connections and last but not least - manage to let Henley out for a few walks throughout the week - thank you Karl and Grace!

Whewwwww - so here's to one of my all time best meals in Dallas that ended the week. I was asked to join a few new friends for dinner after our Horizon Dallas Portfolio Tasting - I am so glad - the experience was amazing, great foodie talk, incredible food in general and of course impeccable wine and bubbles along the way. The only thing that sucked was the fact that I was too tired to take course notes and more pictures during this multi-course dinner.

All I have to say is that if you haven't made time in your life to eat dinner at
York Street do it soon...

Sharon Hage works her culinary magic in the kitchen that promises to put a smile on your face and make a lasting beautiful memory in your belly! Oh yeah...I leave you this morning with a few pictures from our meal and a tour of her kitchen, so generously given by Sharon after dinner. Next time you see me, be sure to ask me about this fun! Cheers - Ali

This just in...

Pictures from the Dallas Uncorked and Kitchen 1924 TexaCali Wine Co. Tasting a few weeks ago... Thanks Hayley!

More pics at the bottom of this page on

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Dog Days of Summer

I’m asked all too often these days “So TexaCali Ali, what are you actually drinking in this heat?” Easy…here’s my personal list of August Wine Delights. They all pair beautifully in the comfort of air-conditioning and a good friend…four-legged or two!

2005 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir Rose, as see in Wine & Spirits Magazine this month too. Low production, so only the quickest wine hunters will get their hands on this beauty. This Rose shows fragrant wild strawberry and floral blossoms on the nose with a solid core of strawberry in the mouth, finishing with hints of cranberry and spice. YUM. $17.99

2002 Fort Ross Chardonnay, ahh, here’s a chardonnay that loved more time in the bottle before sipping. This was among the Dallas Uncorked Tasting bottles and was the most elegant wine of the night. Extremely well balanced, blind tasted you’d guess it was from France. If you love or hate chardonnay – this is a keeper and a wonderful sipper this summer. $34.99

2005 Storrs Gewürztraminer, FINALLY this has arrived in Texas. It needs some help from all of you since it’s a new kid on the block in the Lone Star State – distribution is just getting started so don’t hesitate to mention Storrs Winery to your favorite Fine Wine Shop or Sommelier. Exotic fruit, flowers and spice make this wine one to buy over and over and over. A perfect wine to drink over these so-hot-and-sticky summer nights. $18.99

2005 Pellegrini Sauvignon Blanc, on my list of favorites for years now. More Sancerre style than New Zealand, more mineral and lemon zest than crazy grapefruit. This wine is on many wines by-the-glass menus across Texas this summer. $12.99

2005 Crios Malbec, another perfect occasion red wine from Argentina’s Susana Balbo. Don’t say NO to Malbec until you give the Crios a whirl, I convert merlot drinkers weekly with this fruit-driven bottle of Malbec. This is a wine that you’ll want to buy by the case because it can be consumed at almost any occasion, whether at a fancy dinner party, or just curled up on the couch in front of a movie. Fun and delicious—what more can you ask for?! $14.99

2003 Handley Cellars Mendocino Zinfandel first heard about the Handley Zin after it won a Silver Medal in the California State Fair. It’s my kind of Zinfandel (oh and so is the Pellegrini Eight Cousins Zin, don’t forget this baby!). Handley’s Mendocino Zinfandel offers fruity aromas of cherry, pomegranate, and blackberries, with a lovely dusting of cocoa. Plum flavors predominate, with accents of cassis and cedar. A Perfect food wine – frozen BBQ Pizza to spicy turkey tacos!! $19.99

WOOF! It's a long hot summer out there... Ali & Henley

Mexican Wine

I've received many phone calls and emails over the past few months regarding wines from Mexico.

Many Texans spend time in Mexico in the summer months and
return home hunting these fabulous wines from the Baja. "The wines d'Acosta has crafted at Casa de Piedra – known for their clean, terroir-driven style – have already achieved cult status in Mexico City, where they command prices up to $150 a bottle at fine restaurants." Check out this great article and one in the NY Times...also more information about these wines on the Vine Connections site.

Lanny's Kitchen in Fort Worth is the first to feature the Baja wines in Texas, along with the rockin' Fort Worth wine department in Central Market...the secret is out! Pictured - Hugo d'Acosta stood in the door of his Casa de Piedra winery. D'Acosta and his partners will use 200 acres of newly acquired vineyards and land to makes wines reflecting the unique conditions of Baja California's Valle de Guadalupe Cheers - Ali

Dining in Dallas

Here's a goody for all you Dallas time your dining at Stephen Pyles, a tip on a few bottles of tasty wine!

Vine Connections is well represented on the list... Mapema Sauvignon Blanc, Luca Chardonnay and Tikal Amorio.

Thanks to the Bates from Highland Park last
week who graciously emailed TexaCali to express their delight of these wines..."Ali, we had a bottle of each with our good friends from Chicago, the wines from Argentina absolutely made our evening, we love to look for TexaCali Wine Co. producers on wine lists!".

That's what I'm talking about! Cheers - Ali

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Shark Tonight?

My friend, lover of Italian vino and fellow wine blogger Alfonso has offered up wine pairing suggestions when eating Shark! He features A16 - my favorite old neighborhood Italian spot in San Fran too...thanks Alfonso!

"...Alison Smith is a pistol! She and Shelley are the next wave…Dividing her time between Texas, California, South America and Japan, Ali sent this in from her Bluetooth Corporate Hang Glider some where overlooking the Brazos River.“Ahh, I just sipped a 2004 Schiopetto Pinot Bianco- so this popped to mind first. Pending the shark recipe, the Crios Rose of Malbec would be lovely, it's a wonderful wine for heartier fish. For a red, a nice Barbera d Alba might work - again pending the recipe.” Not bad considering she sent this while managing not to crash into Michael Dell’s house. Thanks, and besos to you!".

Read more about wine and sharks here...

Cheers - Ali

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Horizon Portfolio Tasting Next Week

Send me an email for location details, I'll be in Houston, Austin and Dallas showing off the following Vine Connections Superstars...

Ginjo Sake:

Bride of the Fox
Morning Glow
Shadows of Katano
Tozai Well of Wisdom

Argentine Wine:

BenMarco Cabernet
BenMarco Expressivo
Budini Chardonnay
Crios Malbec
Crios Torrontes
La Posta Bonarda
Luca Chardonnay
Susana Balbo Brioso
Tikal Patriota
Mapema Tempranillo
Mapema Primera Zona
Luca Malbec

See ya there - Ali

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Ratings or Not

A big shout out to K&L's "online stud" Brian Zucker and Cellar Master at BevMo - Wilford Wong this morning. I opened the Times to read a somewhat controversial article on wine ratings and how retailers across America are reacting and or using the different rating systems to move wine. Here's the link... Wine Ratings Might Not Pass the Sobriety Test (requires login).

I know ratings help "sell" wine, but I honestly prefer my old standby "you either like it...or not!". The scores certainly build mass market credibility up for a winery or importers, but I can't 100% agree that ratings and scores are a necessity. But they sure do help move wine to those who don't have time to consider their own taste or even have one (taste) altogether.

For instance, for years Pellegrini of Sonoma has relied on "word of mouth" and "local wine competitions" to spread the word about how wonderful their wines such as Cloverdale Ranch Cabernet and Olivet Lane Pinot Noir taste. The Pellegrini's have been making and selling wine now for over 30 years!

Something to think about this Sunday morning...Cheers - Ali

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Tonight Above San Francisco

So I'm asked almost everyday if I miss living in San Francisco ... of course, who in their right mind wouldn't? The cool thing about missing SF is that it's only a picture, phone call, email or 3.5 hour flight away.

Seeing, feeling, hearing, touching and tasting the beauty of San Francisco and the wine country surround me at all times. I'm totally star-crossed with SF!

Like tonight where I'm reading through a very cool San Fran Blog -
Curbed SF
and read a quote from my favorite gal in the wine business - Mulan Chan.

Boom - the phone rings and it's Mulan, we end up talking for an hour - catching up and making certain our professional lives (oh and love lives) and dreams continue to move forward. Star-crossed indeed! Mulan is an expert in French wine and food pairings and has made quit a name for herself. Can't wait for her to visit Texas - get ready folks!

So the picture up there tonight is what I missed seeing "live and in person" and something that I would rarely miss while living in California, Mother Nature's of my favorite memories - laying on the roof of my building atop the Fillmore Hill and Pacific Ave. and watching stars rush like waterfalls for minutes at a time. This picture is the top of the south tower of the Golden Gate Bridge which appears to cradle the moon at 8:20 p.m. this past Tuesday, as viewed from the Marin Headlands. Ahh, just amazing. Cheers - Ali

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Small Production - Big Awards

In today's Press Democrat ....4 Stars for Pellegrini Zin!

2004 Pellegrini Zinfandel, Eight Cousins Vineyard, Russian River Valley. Planted by the Pellegrini family’s fourth generation, the Eight Cousins Vineyard is a seven-acre site adjacent to the Olivet Lane Vineyard in Russian River Valley. Bordered on the south by the Saitone Vineyard planted in 1905, and the old Maffei Vineyard to the north, this region is unique in that it is has a reputation not only for exceptional Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but is also home to some early 20th century Zinfandel vineyards that produce wines of exceptional depth and concentration. In an effort to replicate and preserve the character of “old vine” Zinfandel, the Eight Cousins Vineyard was developed in 2000 by taking budwood from the Saitone Vineyard and grafting on to St. George rootstock.

In 2004, the first wine made from these vines was awarded a Gold Medal at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair. This Zinfandel was aged for nine months in a combination of French and American oak, one-third of which was new barrels. This wine shows classic Russian River Valley traits: deep, dark fruit aromas with flavors of blackberry and spice. The palate shows a smooth texture that is rich and inviting, with a full body, leading to a lingering finish. Drink now or over the next three to five years.
And yes, this bottle shot is of the 2003, but the 2004 label is the same - happy wine hunting! Cheers - Ali

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Dallas Uncorked Tasting Notes

Thanks to all of you who came out for the Dallas Uncorked and TexaCali Wine Co. Boutique Tasting last night at Kitchen 1924. An amazing group of old and new friends of TexaCali paired with a beautiful showing of wines from Argentina and California...oh and a BIG THANK YOU to Hayley of Dallas Uncorked for organizing and to Shawn for creating incredible food nibbles throughout the night! Pictures are posted at the end of this page -

2005 Handley Gewürztraminer - Just sweet enough for a Texan who prefers a little sugar, but enough beautiful fruit clarity and balance for serious lovers of the Alsace. Wine and Spirits Magazine gave it 93 points. This vintage will not last long in Texas!

2005 Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes – so I pulled the last of the 2005 for the event. This wine is just eye-popping good! Floral elegance is what comes to mind each and every time I open a bottle. The intensity is greatness – jasmine, lychee fruit, cherry blossoms, and apricots. It’s so hard to describe! I swear I could dab it behind my ears and receive complements on my “scent”.

2003 Handley Dry Creek Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc – I read this review awhile back, couldn’t agree more! “Crisp like a Grüner, but heavier in structure, like a Mâconnais
Chardonnay. Fruits highlight the landscape of this wine, which shows green apple, peach and tangerine with hints of ruby red grapefruit rind and stones. Well balanced and lovely”. Perfect of course!

2005 Pellegrini Russian River Unoaked Chardonnay – A great example of clear and lovely Russian River Valley Chardonnay. The nose always reminds me of a soft bartlett pear. I overheard a few guys saying “I could get use to this no-oak thing!”. Slight creamy lemony finish – perfect for summer seafood in Texas.

2002 Fort Ross Chardonnay – this bottle of Fort Ross Chardonnay should be called “The Charmer”, it absolutely reminds you of why you fell for wine in the first place. Creamy, lovely Chardonnay, not too heavy in body - heavenly indeed!

2003 Fort Ross Pinot Noir – WOW! Such an elegant bottle of Pinot Noir. Crushed red cherries on the nose that magically pull your lips towards the glass. Not a big and over-extracted pinot whatsoever, vibrant berry flavors with hints of baking spices on the finish. My WOTN (wine of the night).

2004 Pellegrini Carignan – always a favorite at tastings. The color is the first thing you notice when pouring – deep garnet and blackberry with an incredibly crimson rose petal nose. This carignan is sooo easy to sip – pairs perfectly with our TexMex year round.

2004 BenMarco Malbec – the Wine Spectator just gave this one 90pts. for very strong reasons. Susana Balbo and her husband Pedro Marchevsky are behind this full-bodied Malbec. It has 12% Bonarda and 1% Cab Franc to add to the savory flavors. Perfect for anything beefy on the grill or for the grillmaster alone!

2002 Fort Ross Pinotage – listen here, this is not your average –run-of-mill Pinotage from South Africa, this one is grown and produced right along the Pacific Ocean high above most of Sonoma County. Racy, sexy, brambly – too good to be believed without sipping on a little yourself.

2002 Cloverdale Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon – my favorite Sonoma Cabernet producer, this Alexander Valley monster gets the job done every time! Full of dark peppery Alexander Valley fruit – but it’s a tease – the finish always ends with an incredible burst of wild cherry. This should always be your cab-by-the-case at home!

2001 Susana Balbo Brioso – love LOVED this wine! She only produced 595 cases of the 2001 so I;ve only had a few glasses. Intense, rich and powerful. A true Argentine meritage – I walked a bottle over to some Francophiles sitting at the bar – they swore it’s the best they’ve ever tasted from South America. Delicious. Cheers - Ali