Saturday, December 29, 2007

Wrapping up 2007

Where did this year go? I truly believe 2007 was the fastest year of my life. I admit, it was a year of greatness and only a smidgen of bad. In fact, I can really only think of a few bad things – besides usual frustrations with the Texas wine sales supply chain (there are a lot of Jackasses I get to deal with), Norwegian attic rats filming the sequel to Ratatouille all summer long in my attic and walls, but falling off my porch at 6am onto my ankle resting on 3 inch heels took the top “things that sucked” spot. My Ankle is still messed up after 3 months.

As for all the good, man, what a year of learning how far I can push myself and really enjoying running TexaCali Wine Co. I’ve always known I’d end up making a career out of something I love; it is such a feeling of freedom. I know I say this all of the time, but I really do believe in and like all the wines and sake producers I so proudly represent. I have such an obligation to them all – which is profoundly scary and exciting all at the same time.

In 2008, you’ll see the producers of TexaCali Wine Co. in more high-profile events this year and I promise you this – many more placements on wine lists across the state as well. I didn’t travel much in 2007, things kept me busy here in Texas, but in 2008 I must get to Spain and France to explore and strengthen my wine knowledge of these regions. Many exciting projects in the works - like adding new items to, completing a cookbook and finalizing a Texas wine buying guide next year. Personally in 2008, I want to read more, start playing golf again, take a French language class, see more live music, and of course step-up the workouts. Oh and it wouldn’t hurt to find fall in love this year for real, I’m way over due in this department. Just a few little things...

Happy New Year everyone, thank you for supporting me and the producers of TexaCali Wine Co., 2008 is going to ROCK. Cheers - Ali

Thursday, December 27, 2007

In Food and Wine Magazine NOW

A Sushi Lover’s Taste Test

Sushi pairs well with both sake and wine. Give fanatics a copy of Sushi: A Pocket Guide ($8.95; with a bottle of sake—Rihaku’s Wandering Poet Junmai Ginjo ($35) is very good—and the 2006 Poet’s Leap Riesling ($20).

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas with the Family

Packing up my dog, loading the car with gifts, a few bottles wine and then off to Fort Worth for a few days. Here's a shot of the best thing about Christmas 2007. - my little nephew Brady - such a heartbreaker already.

My Christmas Day wines include: Handley Cellars Brut Rose, Luca Chardonnay and Pellegrini Cloverdale Ranch Cabernet. Finally a day of rest after a very busy year and hopefully my last 6 hours on I-35 this year!!!! Cheers - Ali

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A little nugget ...

Luca Chardonnay is annually a candidate for Argentina’s finest Chardonnay, the primary competitor being Catena Zapata. The 2006 Chardonnay was aged for 12 months in French oak, 50% new. It is light gold in color with a superb aromatic display of spicy oak, mineral, butterscotch, poached pear, and tropical fruits. Medium to full-bodied, it is smoothly textured with outstanding depth and concentration and a lengthy finish. It blows away most white Burgundies and California Chardonnays at twice the price. Luca is the personal project of Laura Catena, daughter of Nicolas Catena. Luca takes its name from Laura’s oldest son.

Robert Parker's review of Argentina just published today, Jay Miller has provided an indepth look at all Vine Connections producers and WOW, I am so proud! OH YEAH - ALI

Friday, December 21, 2007

3rd Annual "The List"

Drum roll please...With the thousands of wines to choose from these days, count on this list to make you and anyone you share these bottles with happy during holiday sipping.

This list of win
es is the one to print off and keep close while holiday shopping...Enjoy! - TexaCali Ali

Wet your Whistle Wines…Bottles for yourself to sip before your party or while preparing a festive holiday dinner…

2005 Jo Pithon Savennières La Croix Picot: Chenin Blanc from the Mastermind of the Loire Valley, a full-bodied white brimming with tropical fruits and supported by superb minerality and acidity. $35

2006 Pellegrini Sauvignon Blanc: A Wine Spectator Best Buy, Crisp, Fresh and slightly Mineral Driven, special Sauvignon Blanc from Lake County’s Leveroni Vinyeard. $14

2006 Handley Cellars Pinot Gris: 94 pts. by Wine & Sprits Magazine, this Pinot Gris is gorgeous. Loads of apple and pear tastin’ magic. Luscious and almost honeyed…but it finishes crisp. $17

2005 Teira Zinfandel: Dry Creek Zinfandel that smells like ripe black cherry, blueberry and black currant with hints of vanilla and black pepper on the nose. On the palate, elegant flavors of ripe black cherry, currant and creamy spice are complimented with hints of dark chocolate. $16

Party P
als…Save these bottles for your Holiday Bash or as a gift for that special person who doesn’t quite know what kind of wine they especially like. Very appealing wines for just about anyone…

2006 Storrs Gewürztraminer: Gorgeous perfume of lychee fruit and rose petals. The flavor is full of Lychee nut, honeysuckle and spice with a touch of oak and an underpinning of creaminess – all complemented by a firm acidity which allows for a clean, bright finish. Slightly sweet with 1.2 % residual sugar. $16

2005 LIOCO
Sonoma County Chardonnay: This wine, like all of the LIOCO vineyard designate wines, was grown from the ground up. No bulk wine/juice was used. It was hand picked and sorted, and naturally fermented in 100% stainless steel using a wild yeast. It underwent a natural malolactic fermentation, and was bottled without fining or filtration. This wine showcases the hallmark traits of Sonoma County Chardonnay with lemon blossom, chamomile, and chalk playing leading roles. $20

2005 Olivet Lane Russian River Chardonnay: A cabernet lovers Chardonnay! 90 points W
ine Enthusiast: "Nice and oaky and rich, from a vineyard in the heart of the cool-climate southern part of the Russian River Valley. Acidity stars, giving zesty balance to the ripe pineapple, green apple, Key lime pie and pear flavors. New oak, to the tune of 40%, adds an opulent touch." (10/1/2007) Classic Burgundian notes of mineral, flint and wet stones evolving into hints of toasted bread crust. The mouth is rich and full-bodied with firm acidity, and the lingering finish is long and seamless. $24

2005 Tikal Patriota: 91 pts Wine & Spirits Magazine. Bonarda and malbec, Argentina's flagship red grapes, offer all their charm in this blend: The bonarda delivers juicy, ripe red fruit and a soft, lush texture; the malbec adds elegant tannins plus violet and dry red cherry notes. $24

Pinot Noir Lovers Only – a great collection from the most superior Pinot Noir growing regions on the West Coast…

2004 Lange Estate Freedom Hill Pinot Noir: A cabernet lovers Pinot Noir…this is a masculine expression of the grape with extraordinary depth. A distinct nose displays dark, brooding fruit, crushed peppercorns and sage. The palate shows ripe blackberry, blueberry, anise, tobacco and toast all balanced by a well-integrated tannins structure and elegant acidity. $62

2004 Fort Ross Vineyards RSV Pinot Noir: 92 points
Wine Spectator: "Deep and complex, with wonderful earth, clay, spice and earthy berry flavors that turn more expansive, with dense, chewy currant, mineral and anise. Ends with ample tannins and a long finish. Drink now through 2012. 370 cases made." $60

2005 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir: Milla Handley mixed several Pinot Noir clones plus 1 percent Pinot Gris to attain the various characteristics she wanted in this wine, including floral perfume, fresh strawberry, dark cherry and lovely hints of earth on the nose. The palate
has fresh red fruit acidity and some density with soft tannins and a lingering finish. $28

2006 Olivet Lane Russian River Valley Pinot Noir: Most famous for
the role it's played in Williams-Selyem's vineyard designated pinot noirs, the Olivet lane Estate Pinot Noir exhibits those same unmistakable characteristics typified by brilliant color, silky texture, delicate mouthfeel, and upfront flavors of framboise, cherries and spice. A gorgeous pinot noir! $35

The Trophy Collection – impress your boss, your accountant, your wife and maybe even that good friend who named his dogs “Opus and Sir Silver”, most importantly save a few for your own killer wine stash…

2005 Mendel Unus: As one of Argentina’s most highly anticipated and regarded new wi
neries, the Mendel Unus is incredibly dark red/purple in color. Incredible dark purple color. The aromas of dark cherries, plums and roasted cocoa come leaping out of the glass. This is a big, but very suave, wine with layers of ripe cherry and berry fruits, and the cocoa and vanilla flavors simply make this wine's finish go on and on and on. There are loads of ripe, soft tannins, so this wine will certainly age beautifully for a decade or longer, but the temptation to drink it right away may be too much to resist. 91pts Wine & Spirits Magazine. $50

2003 Medlock Ames Cabernet Sauvignon: This dark and intense Cabernet shows delicious dark cherry and cassis aromas which are enhanced by chocolate, dark berry and licorice on the palate as well as an exotic spicy quality we find characteristic of their vineyard. The dark fruit core of this wine is balanced by firm structure and supple tannins that last with the finish. $50

2005 Pellegrini Cloverdale Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon: This may be the best vi
netage ever produced by the Pellegrini Family…The 2005 Cloverdale Ranch Cabernet is a beautiful deep red color with purple highlights. The cooler weather in September gave us a wine with classic Cabernet aromatics and structure. Ripe black cherry and current aromas dominate the nose with chocolate, coffee and spice notes adding complexity. The vintage once again put its stamp on the wine. The structure is firm and elegant and promises a graceful evolution in bottle, a steal at $28 a bottle.

2004 Davis Family “Guyzer Block” Syrah: For this wine, Davis Family Vineyards follows the Cote Rotie tradition of fermenting the Syrah with about 2% Viognier grapes. The results are staggering. The wine shows cool-climate blackberry fruit with beefy notes all at the same time. With only 15% new aging, the pure fruit quality really comes through. The texture is pure crushed velvet while hints of white pepper on the finish keep the palate intrigue going. It's everything you love about the exotic nature of Syrah with a pretty side that you will not be a
ble to leave alone. Won a gold medal at the 2007 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. $40

2001 Storrs BXR: The grapes for the 2001 Storrs BXR were grown in a series of plantings located in the recently-recognized San Francisco Bay appellation. Each of the classical Bordeaux
varietals is represented in the blend… Merlot; Malbec; Petit Verdot; Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. The various plantings are all located in Region II mezo-climates where the heat of the day allows for the formation of the cassis and black cherry notes found in the wine; while the evening coolness promotes the tobacco box and cedar hints that you will discover in the long, lingering finish. This tasty number is deep garnet with a purple edge and has a delightful nose of cassis and black cherry, with hints of cedar and cigar box. In the mouth it is very big and full-bodied with layers of cassis, ripe plum, cigar box, tobacco and notes of vanilla round the palate. This wine has backbone to spare and will age beautifully for many years to come. $58


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Coming to Texas......

sake2me is the first bottled drink to blend pure, premium junmai sake with all-natural Asian flavors.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cloverdale Ranch Merlot on You Tube

You'll see...just in from the west coast.

Michael Lonsford Says Farewell to the Houston Chronicle

An email from Michael...this blog is read by hundreds of industry folks each day, so here ya go...

"After 28 years of writing my wine column, and dealing with some terrific people such as yourself (but let's call a spade a spade here - I had to deal with many assholes, too, like Justin Meyer, I don't care if he
is dead), my wine column at the Houston Chronicle is history. So I need to say that dealing with many of the wine people I have come to know and like - the pleasure
has been mine, and I'm grateful.

So, a few words of farewell, and
please do me this favor and pass this on to others in the wine business - suppliers, wholesalers, retailers, public-relations people. I only managed to retain a few e-mail addresses from my work computer before I left the confines of the office, and anyone who knows me knows I am completely computer-illitirit (I may has mispeled that).

For a long time I fought the good fight, but I never,
ever kidded myself. I always knew I was local and never pretended that I wielded a big stick like wine critic Robert Parker (and some of you liked to point that out to me - just business, you said, and I understood, although ...). My one satisfaction: I'd like to think I was a better writer. You may disagree, but at least allow me this one self-delusion.

Believe me when I say I have been the luckiest wine writer in the country. I'm not sure, but my tenure may have been the longest - if not, certainly one of the longest - uninterrupted wine columns in U.S. newspaper history. Which means you have been kind enough to overlook all my mistakes (and I know that was a lot of overlooking!) and that you understood that you - the Chronicle reader - were my customer. If I liked a wine, fine. If I didn't, fine, too - but you needed to know that there are a lot of crappy wines out there. I never hedged my bets.
I always did it for you my way -
straight, no chaser.

Believe it or not, the first time I wrote a a farewell wine column for the Chronicle was more than 20
years ago. You see, periodically I would get burned out and would approach people on staff I knew who liked wine to see if they would like to take over the beat - offered to help them over the rough spots - but no one would take up the challenge. I was amazed - the wine beat, along with, maybe, being a travel writer or movie reviewer - was primo - yet no takers. How strange. So even though I would get refreshed on the wine beat I would still update periodically the "goodbye" column that was, I hope, more inclusive and certainly much more
eloquent than this rambling. But again, the Chronicle deemed it not necessary to run my farewell column. So be it. Sometimes silence speaks far more loudly than words.

My retirement from the Chronicle is now complete: No more pun-dacious headlines, no more haikus and - now - no more wine columns. As for the latter, if you enjoyed them even half as much as I enjoyed writing them for you, it was worth all the time, all the inconvenience, all the hassle - and that was a lot, not just for me but also for all the people involved.

Don't believe it? Think of all the winemakers and winery owners who came to Houston, dog-tired from weeks on the road, when all they wanted to do was sit in a hotel room, watch CNN and have a beer, but no - they had to sit down with yet
another wine writer and repeat the same mantra over and over again. They weren't happy, but it was business. And I was there, too. Dog-tired, often bored, too, but it w
as business. Yourbusiness.
And think of all the
Houston wholesalers who had to schedule interviews with me and their suppliers at inconvenient times to accommodate my inflexible schedule, at local venues such as the Corskcrew, Crapitto's, Shade, Brennan's - so many places - that generously let me come in and occupy a table and dirty up glassware just to let me do my thing. The list is long and, I'm thankful to say, distinguished, and folks, I am grateful beyond words.

Yes, I'm grateful to you, the restaurateurs. And to you, the distributors. And to you, the wineries and your winemakers and reps and brokers and and PR people. Twenty-eight years - whew - I couldn't have done it without you.

To all of yo
u, I am grateful. For your thoughtfulness. For your support. And for your friendship. Yes, I'm grateful: That's the truth - as always, straight, no chaser."

Please visit the IN THE NEWS section on to read a few reviews and feature articles Michael so generously wrote in years past...Cheers - ALI

Monday, December 17, 2007

Jingle Bells and Oh What Fun

"But if anybody else wants to come with me, this moment will be the ground floor of something real and fun and inspiring and true in this godforsaken business and we will do it together!"... Like my little brother always says about TexaCali Ali!

Cheers - Ali (PS, thank you to the fella who opened his WHITE TRUCK DOOR into my NEW CAR last SATURDAY - you know who you are and what you did , 3 dings and scuff marks??? I parked next to you b/c you work there and figured I was safe). AWESOME. Merry Christmas too.

Keeping the Holidays Weird

So I'm all eyes and ears when conducting in-store wine tastings all year long. But something about the Holidays just makes things so freaky strange at times...a few highlights over this past weekend include:
  1. Listening to the entire Amy Grant Christmas Album 4 times in a row while pouring Argentine wines at Grape Vine Market for 6 hours last Saturday. All I could think about was those countless teenage hours spent in youth choir at the ol baptist church my parents made me go to. I was laughing to myself all afternoon about it.
  2. No kidding - while standing in Whole Foods yesterday, a man walked by with his CAT ON A LEASH, I think he was trying to hide it under his coat, but come on - a CAT ON A LEASH? Freaky.
  3. While at IKEA purchasing a cool new glass-top desk, I was almost knocked off my feet by a group of 6 teenage girls riding and racing each other on those electric shopping carts - they were laughing and screaming all the way and NOBODY at Ikea even gave them a second glance.
  4. I was parked at the very top of the escalator in Whole Foods in Austin yesterday as the welcome committee and the ultimate sampling station while pouring the Crios Malbec. I counted at least 10 people who said "we need to load up on wine, the inlaws are staying with us this year". HA!
  5. Weirdest Holiday gift I've ever seen - "Santa, Reindeer and Snowman Poo" Pez Candy dispensers. I just shake my head back and forth with this one...
Thanks to all of you who bought the beautiful wines I represent over the past weekend - Cheers! Ali

Friday, December 14, 2007

So I'm not the only one blogging about Storrs!

From a friend and fellow wine blogger a few days ago...


2005 Storrs Winery Petite Sirah - Santa Cruz Mountains

storrs_05_petite.jpgI don't know who said it, but in the last few years I've heard it uttered that the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA is quite possibly the most underrated wine growing region in California. I'm not sure if I'm confident or encyclopedic enough in my knowledge of California wine to affirm that statement, but in my experience there's definitely something to that claim.

The winegrowers and winemakers of the Santa Cruz mountains suffer from the same obscurity that a lot of winemakers in other AVAs do throughout the state, simply by virtue of not being in Napa or Sonoma. I also privately think that having the name of the lazy beach town in the name of the region causes some people to dismiss the whole idea of growing good grapes so close to a bunch of flip-flop-wearing surf bums.

In reality, the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation is a large and diverse winegrowing area that spans three counties. Despite its geographical coverage, however, it is sparsely populated with vineyards and wineries -- containing only about 50 wineries and only about 1500 acres of vineyards under cultivation.

Whatever its association (imagined or real) with the laid-back town that shares its name, growing wine in the appellation is not a particularly easy task. The mostly hillside vineyards are anchored in shallow soils, and subject to quite a few extremes of weather, depending on where they are situated, from chilly fog to blazing sun, and everything in between. Of course, many grapes do well under the stress such climactic conditions provide, and the regions generally cooler aspect makes for generally very nice ripe fruit without the sugar spikes (and correspondingly higher alcohol levels) that warmer regions must grapple with.

One of my long-standing favorite producers in the Santa Cruz Mountains is Storrs Winery. They are one of my favorites not because they make wines that I or others score off the charts, but simply because they consistently make great tasting, authentic wines at humbly reasonably prices.

Storrs is a small family outfit that has historically made wine from fruit sourced all over the Santa Cruz Mountains and Central Coast. Owned and operated by Stephen Storrs and his wife Pamela Bianchini-Storrs, the label started small, but got off with a bang: winning gold medals at the SF Wine Competition for their very first vintage in 1988. The UC-Davis-trained couple – he with a degree in Viticulture and she with a degree in Enology (winemaking) – make small quantities of high-quality wine with great care.

Recently the Storrs have planted their own estate vineyards, which will gradually replace their fruit purchased on contract.

This wine is made from fruit grown on the slopes of Mount Madonna, which rises up to the west of Gilroy. The vineyards are on the Pacific-facing side of the mountain and benefit from the cool maritime influence. Surface temperatures rarely get above 80 degrees during the summer, making for slow maturation of the sun-loving Petite Sirah grape. The vineyard sits on an ancient riverbed of gravelly soil, and generally yields less than two tons of fruit per acre. The grapes are picked by hand, totally destemmed, and fermented at relatively low temperatures in small lots without crushing, and with lots of hand punchdowns (mixing of the juice and berries). This all has the deliberate effect of managing the tannin levels of this beastly, tannic grape. The wine is aged in a combination of French and American oak for about 14 months before bottling.

Tasting Notes:
Dark, inky garnet in the glass, this wine has a nose of black and blue fruits with distinct notes of cassis and wet earth. In the mouth it is remarkably smooth, and relatively light-bodied (emphasis on relatively) given the variety, with cool flavors of blackberry, black cherry, and mixed spices, and beautifully restrained tannins that support a long finish.

Food Pairing:
Despite the generally accepted friendliness between red wine and chocolate, there aren't a lot of wines that I think really do go well with chocolate, but this is one of them. I'd drink the remains of my glass with a chocolate pot-du-creme any day.

Overall Score: somewhere between 8.5 and 9
How Much?: $23

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

December 12 - A Toast to Health

Nice little rhyme to start off the day...sorta.

A big thanks to Cef of Zambrano's Wine Cellar in Fort Worth - what a wonderful night of great people and beautiful wines. We all sipped on Crios Torrontes, Crios Malbec, Tikal Patriota and Susana Balbo Cabernet Sauvignon. Despite the drop in
temperature - 30 wacky degrees, the turnout was super. Can't wait to lead another tasting soon...

So today - I must say - is a HUGE day for TexaCali Wine Co. I'm meeting with a top wine importer all afternoon and tasting through a portfolio of very prestigious wines. Soon - I'll write up a complete report on each wine and the events of the day. I'm so excited that Decemeber 12 has finally arrived!!! It's all about helping Texas wine drinkers discover the best wines from around the world...I love it! Cheers - ALI

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hometown Wine Talk

Hey Fort Worthians...Hope to see you all tonight!

Please join us to as we taste and learn about a few great wines from Argentina. Special guest Alison Smith will be with us talking about these delicious wines! Be sure to call and reserve your spot today!

When: December 11,2007
Time: 6 to 8 PM
Cost: $25 per person
Where: Zambrano Wine Cellar

Zambrano Wine Cellar
910 Houston St Suite 110
Fort Worth, Texas 76102

Friday, December 07, 2007

Crios, Ben Marco & Susana Balbo Wines

Here's the next best thing to being at the winery...thanks to Susana Balbo, you all now have a wonderful view inside her surroundings. AMAZING! Cheers - Ali

In the News - BIGTIME

San Francisco Chronicle

Friday, December 7, 2007

Winemaker to Watch: Robert Pellegrini of Pellegrini Family Vineyards

Robert Pellegrini doesn't want people to drink his wines only at Christmas or other auspicious occasions. And if one of his wines is on your Christmas list, he hopes it will be in your glass, not under the tree.

Pellegrini, who oversees the vineyards and the winemaking for Pellegrini Family Vineyards near Santa Rosa, betrays his Tuscan heritage by the way he views wine - as an integral part of a meal.

The veteran Sonoma winemaker prides himself on top-quality wines, all produced from single vineyards, including Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the family's Olivet Lane property in Russian River Valley; plus Cabernet Sauvignon from Cloverdale Ranch in Alexander Valley and Merlot, also from Cloverdale Ranch, that made this year's Chronicle Top 100. He is businessman enough to want a fair return on his investments. But he refuses to let prices go so high that only the wealthy can afford to crack open a bottle. His wines sell from about $14 to $45, a price range that allows most wine lovers to enjoy a bottle with a meal.

It's a traditional view of wine for someone who could charge dearly, considering that the Pellegrinis' grapes are sought after by prestigious winemakers like Merry Edwards. He could easily plant the acreage now devoted to Merlot with something flashier, but his loyalty to this traditional grape is yet another reminder that the Pellegrinis have been a part of Sonoma County's wine culture since before Pinot went hot and Merlot went cold.

Read full article here...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Texas...listen up.

Now this AMAZING bottle is available anywhere in Texas. The Pellegrini Cloverdale Ranch Merlot was selected by the San Francisco Chronicle in their Top 100 wines of the year. Come on, please quit buying factory produced merlot folks, here's a family made wine that is tremendous both in quality and value.

2004 Pellegrini Cloverdale Ranch Alexander Valley Merlot
($22) Often known for Pinot from its Olivet Lane property, the Pellegrinis also deserve credit for their Cabernet and Merlot from their Cloverdale Ranch property in Alexander Valley. There's subtle dried cherry, pebbles and black tea aromas that preface a juicy, textured wine with plenty of backbone. Cheers - Ali

Quick post - fun pics

I'm so excited about 2008, it's going to be a super great year for the producers of TexaCali Wine Co. I've been in non-stop meetings since I landed on Saturday -well, there was the Karaoke last night in San Francisco's Japan town, jut a little team building exercise to bring out the Pop-Star in TexaCali Ali. Love it. Ed - our fearless leader of Vine Connections morphs into Mick Jagger with a crowd and microphone in hand...hilarious.

Please visit my website to check out some snapshots over the past 3 days...Cheers - Ali

Friday, November 30, 2007

Crazy busy time of year...

Whew - what a week. I moved into the house next door - what a hassle it is to move, but now I have 3x as much space, I can't wait to have some raging dinner parties here! The new house was built in the 1920s and is a big A frame, so high ceilings, beautiful hardwoods - a lot of modern updates though the house still has a ton of character.

Next, I am jumping on a flight to northern California at 6:30am tomorrow and will return Friday evening. IF I can find my camera - I know it's somewhere around here (soo many boxes and piles to organize yet) I'll update the blog from California. My itinerary is packed full, hoping to mix in a little social time with dear friends while visiting. After hanging with my friends in the food and wine biz out there, I'm always left so inspired!

I love Texas, but man I miss California. Check in later - I'll at least update you with some new tasting notes...I'm excited to taste the LIOCO Pinot Noirs that are being released very soon! Cheers - Ali

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Divine Import

..."Any way you slice it, those are big numbers," says Ed Lehrman of Vine Connections, an importer of Argentine wine and Japanese sake based in Sausalito, Calif. "Sake is becoming more of a requirement as part of a complete program for distributors and major importers." Lehrman began as a wine connoisseur and marketer, tasting about 3,000 wines a year, before starting Vine Connections with wine partner Nick Ramkowsky and importing what has become a 12-brand sake portfolio, which accounts for about 30% of the company's sales.

Lehrman says that sake's lack of tannin structure and its low acidity compared with wine make it a drink that's hard not to like.
"Our role is part evangelist and part educator," he says. He educates restaurants and retailers on sake's
finer points, which, he says, can be approached through a lens of wine knowledge. "The kind of wine you like is the kind of sake you like," he says. "It seems to be a direct crossover. If you like white Burgundy, you'll like Niigata-style sake. [The taste is] clean."...

Sake buyer Paul Tanguay says more information in English on the label is key to U.S. sales. And he's one to be heard. Having worked with every distributor in the U.S. while he was the beverage director of Sushi Samba restaurants nationwide, Tanguay is a formidable player in the popularization of the drink and imported sake's upward trajectory. "So much of what goes into developing brands in this business is distribution," says Sidel. "This is true of management of any luxury good or product--who is buying it, who is drinking it--and that is determined by distribution."

Tanguay plans to continue educating sake drinkers as Vine Connections' national sake ambassador. "Paul will add significantly more bandwidth," says Lehrman. "He brings a lot of experience from the buyer's side." Tanguay says growth in sake consumption may not be evident in places like New York City, but it's definitely heading inland from the coasts. Read full article here

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The transportation supply chain...

Almost every time I walk into a wine retailer and restaurant I think to myself "if these folks around me only knew how hard it is to get the wine in here". Well, without going into all the people it takes, here's a window into the transportation side...

Wine and Sake from outside North America have to take a ride on a ship, that's after the product is picked up from the winery or brewery by a truck, dropped off to the shipper, placed into a container, lifted onto a boat, sailed across the Atlantic or Pacific oceans, picked up by another truck then driven and dropped off to a warehouse usually on the west or east coat, THEN picked up by a Texas trucking company headed back to Texas, unloaded in the distributor warehouse, THEN re-loaded to an account THEN FINALLY bought by you and opened either in a restaurant or your dinner table at home. So just one of the reasons why I respect every bottle of wine that crosses my own path... Cheers - ALI

Photo credit:
Frederic Larson, a photojournalist at the San Francisco Chronicle

Friday, November 23, 2007

And the winners are...

2007 Thanksgiving Food & Wine Recap

So after averaging about 3500 miles a month traveling around Texas - I stayed put in Austin for Thanksgiving this year. A big thanks to Lauren and Courtney along with the Loeffler gang for such a wonderful time together. Here were the highlights…

Cheese pairing: Redhawk Triple Cream with 2003 Fort Ross Chardonnay: This Chard was perfect with the rich cheese since it’s not a crazy over the top California Chardonnay. It was extremely bright with flavors of lemon curd and a touch of honey on the finish.

With the 3 Turkeys (fried, smoked and roasted), sweet potatoes, corn casserole, stuffing, green been casserole, spinach soufflé and yeast rolls.

2005 Olivet Lane Chardonnay: The Wine Enthusiast recently rated this wine a 90. Ah, the guys loved this full-bodied Chardonnay. So many layers of apple and pears, a little holiday spice, slight flint and toastiness. Perfect complement to the smoked turkey!

2006 Lange Estate Willamette Valley Pinot Noir: Bright berry flavors with a hint of allspice – very smooth down the hatch! Loved this with the roasted turkey and cranberry sauce.

2004 Fort Ross Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir - There’s a big reason the Wine Spectator gave this bottle 91 POINTS! This pinot was filled with wild berry, a little earthiness and spice. A very elegant ending and silky finish. Super tasty with the green beans and the dark meat from the smoked turkey.

2006 Handley Cellars Gewürztraminer: It was hard not to break this puppy out with dinner, but glad I waited until after. This was a perfect compliment to the sour cream-apple crumb pie. Tiny bit of white flowers on the nose and sweet effervesce combined with lychee fruit and peaches made this bottle lush! The sweetness from the Pie made this dry Anderson Valley Gwerz an amazing pair!

2005 Pellegrini Old Vine Carignan: Last sip of the night, I’ve thought of the Pellegrini Carignan at Thanksgiving all year long. This bottle is so supple! Had half a glass to tie-off the night and it was singing with plums and dark berries, no harsh tannins, just ends with a smile. Oh – great with a bite of Pecan Pie too!

What’s on tap for the UT Game today? King Ranch Casserole with all the fixins’, Susana Balbo's Crios Rose of Malbec and some good cold beer! Cheers - Ali

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Thanksgiving - oh the day everyone in wine sales lives for! We wine pros talk about "Thanksgiving Wines" all year long - trust me, I've had my line-up set for months now.

Over the years I've made some knock-out wine memories with dear friends and family. Champagne at noon, whites about the time the Cowboy/49ner game starts then into favorite pinot noirs with the Turkey.

The first year I lived in San Francisco, my entire family flew out and we spent the day in Napa - had a beautiful dinner at the Napa Valley Grill. Thanks to dear old Mom's anti-drinking ways, after a nice solid wine dinner we were driven back to my house in Pac Heights safely!

I think the best Thanksgiving Day I've ever had ended in the backyard of a beautiful home in Saratoga, California - we all huddled on a sprawling deck over looking the family vineya
rd trading stories about life, love and careers while sipping on port to keep us warm. I recall wandering off to sleep in the guest room that night in an old antique "the diamond" bed. Legend was - the bed was passed down a few generations and at one point had secret little compartments hollowed out that stored the family jewels for safe keeping. Never found the diamonds or any family jewels, sure made a sweet memory though. Perhaps my favorite guest room of all time.

This year I'm just flat thankful for all you TexaCali Wine Trail followers - especially you folks that buy wines from all the producers of TexaCali Wine Co. Without your loyal support, I certainly wouldn't be livin' the dream - and for that I will never be able to thank you enough! Cheers to a great Thanksgiving Holiday everyone! - Ali

PS - the real reason all wine pros love Thanksgiving - we get the day officially off!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Robert Pellegrini sent this reminder today...

The 2005 Olivet Lane Pinot Noir outscored (4 Stars!) a list of big names in Pinot Noir, I'm just thankful the "classiest" one is widely available in Texas, the 2006 vintage is here - Gobble Gobble! - Ali

Pellegrini Family of Sonoma
Olivet Lane Estate

Pinot Noir Vintage: 2005
Russian River Valley Wine region: Sonoma
Review rating: Wine of the week:
Review date:
6/20/07 Source: Press Democrat
Review: An elegant pinot, ripe yet balanced. Aromas and flavors of cherry, mushroom and tea. Integrated tannins. Soft texture. Showy.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The List

Is now published here. Fantastic wines for the holidays...all available all over Texas. Oh Yeah! Have a great weekend everyone...Ali

Review just in time for weekend shopping...

Wine Recommendation

Handley Cellars 2006 Pinot Gris  (Anderson Valley)

Handley Cellars

2006 Pinot Gris
(Anderson Valley)

This is a real appellation statement from Milla Handley. She sourced the fruit from seven different Pinot Gris vineyards in Anderson Valley – I didn’t know there were seven, and I live there – and blended them into one seamless wine. Most of the lots were fermented in neutral oak, ranging from standard barrels to puncheons and one foudre (870 gallons, or almost 15 barrels), and lees were stirred. The point of all this? To make the creamiest, most luscious wine possible. Now, you might not think of Anderson Valley, with its cool climate, dark forests, and morning fog as a place where creamy wines are grown. That’s why this is an appellation statement wine.

My initial aromatic impression was of mango, then tangerines and nectarines with some lime zest. The wine has all of these as flavors, plus nut and mineral layers that will make fans of Alsatian Pinot Gris nod in approval. The viscosity of the wine doesn’t quit, even in the finish, because the acidity delivers such good palate spread that you’re feeling the wine all over your mouth even as the last of it is volatilizing into aftertaste.

Reviewed by Thom Elkjer.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Cool new release

Look for LIOCO at all Centennial Fine Wine and Spirits in Dallas and the Austin Wine Merchant in Austin, Texas.

You can read about the amazing old vine Carignan vineyard LIOCO sources for their Indica red blend here...

Cheers - ALI


Mr. and Mrs. Ray Rainey from Fort Worth,Texas!

Two little love birds sitting in a tree...

Last Tuesday night, about 10 minutes after sitting down to dinner at York St. in Dallas' Lakewood district, Ray and his beautiful bride walked in for a celebratory dinner .
I just saw Ray the day before while working with Veritas Imports and Monique Fillioux - a Cognac producer from France.

During dinner I chatted with the host of York St. who whispered "you know they just got married today!", how exciting! So we all finished our glorious meal that Sharon (the chef & owner) created for us...then
Ray let the cat out of the bag himself! Congrats to you both!

I've known Ray for years now and he has been a great supporter of all things TexaCali Wine Co. Stop in to Kings on Berry Street and give Ray a whopping congratulations while
you pick up a few bottles of oh let's say....Crios, Cloverdale Ranch and Handley Cellars!

Cheers and Best Wishes! ALI

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


Now, I get more Texas wine industry scoop and gossip than anyone I can think of, so tonight was like scoring a picture of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes that nobody in the world got but me...SOO COOL.

"Someone" we (wine pros) all know very well and respect even more in the Fort Worth wine world got married today...check back in 24 hours to hear and SEE who! I'm heading home to Austin mid-day tomorrow and will upload and expand the SWEET story about our Fort Worth Love Birds! Cheers! ALI

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Fort Ross Wines

I received a few emails this week from Fort Ross Winery Fans in Texas. Yes, the Fort Ross wines are available statewide in Texas - just contact your favorite wine shop!

And no, I don't have a favorite - I like them all - Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and their famous Pinotage from the
Sonoma Coast!

Classy Wines. Here's a shot of one of the incredibly STEEP SLOPES in the vineyards of Fort Ross. Linda and Lester Schwartz - the owners of Fort Ross created one of the most stunning
vineyards on the west coast...Cheers - ALI

(click pics to enlarge)

Cognac anyone?

Since I'm spending the next few days with Monique Fillioux in Dallas and I've been reading up! Here's a great article in Forbes magazine that keeps things clear and simple for us all to understand the world of Cognac a little more... Cheers! ALI

Cognac Q&A

Why is cognac special? Like all brandies, cognac is distilled from wine. What makes cognac unique is a combination of three factors: the climate and quality of the land, the distillation method, and the skill of the master blender.

Where is cognac made? Cognac is made in the regions around the town of Cognac in the départements of Charentes and Charentes-Maritimes in the western part of France. The climate--which has an average annual temperature of 56F--and chalky soil are ideally suited to the growth of low-alcohol grapes from which cognac is made. READ MORE

Friday, November 02, 2007

2005 Tikal Jublio

Click photo to enlarge - the new 2005 Tikal Jublio is released!
Get it while you can! Cheers - ALI

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Coming to Texas within days!

As a tribute to our founders, we are pleased to introduce a wine that commemorates the 75th
anniversary of Pellegrini Family Vineyards. With the first winery bonded in 1933, the company’s
history spans four generations, and traces its evolution from being a grape and wine merchant house to producer of estate-bottled Sonoma County wines.

Milestone was conceived by selecting special lots of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Verdot, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc to form a mosaic that would be defined by its depth of color, richness, complexity, and supple texture. With Merlot as the dominant variety, it is a stylistic nod to the wines we admire from Pomerol and St. Emilion, yet Milestone’s character is clearly the provenance of three vineyards located in the Russian River, Alexander, and Sonoma valleys.

The five components of this blend were produced by traditional artisan winemaking methods that include fermentation in open top stainless steel vats, with frequent hand punch downs. The wines were aged separately in new and one-year-old barrels for a year. Then the final blend was assembled and aged for an additional eight months before being bottled in August 2007. The first samples are flying into Texas today! Cheers - ALI

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Harvest Notes From the Top of Sonoma!

We've waited patiently and anxiously for the last month while other vineyards rushed to pick all of their grapes. Our vineyards just wanted that little bit longer to reach the optimum flavors we were craving - so we decided to take a deep breath and let the fruit hang a little more for full maturity. It was worth the wait and the sleepless nights and we're now in the home straight with only a few more days of picking in our sights. Phew. Read more about how things are going in the vineyard in the latest vineyard diary.

All the very best from everyone at Medlock Ames. - Distributed in Texas by Avante Beverages.