Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Fort Ross IN THE NEWS Again!

James Laube Unfined

A Discovery on the Sonoma Coast
Posted: 01:13 PM ET, February 20, 2007

Fort Ross Vineyard has found a groove. It's a relatively new brand of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that wine lovers should pay serious attention to.

Linda and Lester Schwartz, who came to California from Cape Town, South Africa, in 1976, own the 44-acre vineyard. He is an attorney working in San Francisco and she works in arts administration and international trade. The couple resides in Piedmont, a suburb of Oakland.In 1988, Lester discovered their property on a leisurely drive along the Sonoma Coast, north of Jenner where the Russian River empties into the Pacific Ocean. The property is located in the coolest of true Sonoma Coast sites, one ridge away from the Pacific Ocean. I’m not sure you can grow grapes any closer to the water. In 1994, they began planting the property; Linda studied viticulture and the couple tried some long shots—Dolcetto, Nebbiolo and Zinfandel—only to discover that none of those grapes would ripen on their site. That led to grapes that excel there—Chardonnay (eight acres) and Pinot Noir (34 acres) and one that they hoped might succeed, Pinotage (two acres). Ed Kurtzman is the winemaker, and he is currently making August West's wines as well. He has also worked with Pinot at Bernardus, Chalone and Testarossa.

I tried the new wines last week, informally during a visit with Linda and in blind tastings for formal reviews. The new wines are excellent, and the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are both modestly priced. The 2003 Chardonnay ($32, 713 cases) is intense, vibrant, clean and structured, with lively acidity and a mix of lemon, butterscotch and green apple flavors turning rich and creamy. The 2004 ($32, 264 cases) follows suit, with intense, vibrant, focused fruit. The Reserve Chardonnay ($49, 234 cases) is a shade richer, very good, but I liked it less than the regular 2004.Both the 2003 Pinot Noir ($37, 600 cases) and Pinot Noir Symposium ($32, 688 cases) are rich, complex and impeccably balanced. The latter wine includes four percent Pinotage. The 2004 Sonoma Coast ($39, 953 cases) is fragrant and delicate, while the Reserve Pinot ($49, 370 cases) offers complex earth, spice and berry flavors that are expansive and chewy.The 2003 Pinotage ( $32, 396 cases) is deep and flavorful and shows a touch more tannin than the Pinot Noir Symposium.

Fort Ross’ lineup is impressive. The quality is terrific, the prices are more than fair and the case volume means the wines will be available, though I wouldn’t wait too long. They are scheduled to be released within the next few weeks (

"OK Texas - we have Fort Ross in stock - ask your favorite retailer for Fort Ross Wines"...Cheers - Ali

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Out of the Office

For a few days...celebrating a landmark birthday this weekend in Sonoma of Mr. Lance Loeffler! While I'm away take some time to read up on a few places we'll be visiting...
Pat and Peter Lenz, the owners of Duchamp have heart-strings attached to Texas. Their Duchamp Syrah and Slaughterhouse Syrah are "cult-favorites" among many Texas wine circles. I can't wait to show off Pat's art work and the stunning Duchamp Syrah - they are located just a few miles outside of the Healdsburg Town Square - so we will stop on our way to dinner on Saturday night at Taverna Santi!
I literally dream about The Cheese Shop, located right off the Healdsburg Town Square near
the movie theater. Doralice, who is one of my dearest friends on the planet has created a world-class store full of delicious cheese, olives, oils, vinegars, sweets, books, photography - you name it - such a wonderful place to pick up a few authentic goodies from the Sonoma Area!
This month marks the first anniversary of a solar powered Medlock Ames. Inspired by their sustainable ideals, Medlock Ames took the plunge a year ago to invest in
producing their very own electrical power at the winery and are delighted to announce that it has been a roaring success. Solar power and their approach to super-premium grape farming are the topic of Ames' latest vineyard diary entry. Please enjoy!
A favorite visit while cruising around the Russian River region of Sonoma. The Pellegrini Family is always full of warm welcomes
and great wine! I'm excited to taste the upcoming "25th Anniversary" red blend release and barrel taste the 2006 Olivet Lane Pinot Noir for sure!
I spoke to Guy Davis last night, I'm soooooo pumped -
he just bottled the "best California port" - along with a few other goodies only found at the winery - I'm taking my traveling Texans here to end our Friday sipping - saving the best for last. Prepare yourself Texas - Guy is visiting the market in May with a bag full of new award winning releases - and a first time ever release of the Davis Family Vineyards "Barn d'Or" for all to go nuts over!!
Cheers - Ali

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Dream

I'm 100% living the dream. I encourage any of you to take a step off from the norm, keep things moving forward on high-speed and start reaping the rewards of this cool awesome thing called life.

Last night was such a great night in Austin -
grabbed a relaxing latte at a coffeehouse on 4th, watched the porterdavis band perform an awesome show at Antones, sat at the sushi bar at Kenichi where we laughed with Andy our chef over delicious sea bass, yellow-tail, Red River rolls, and sooo much more. Wings of Fortune was the Sake of the night - perfection. The evening ended with a quick stop into Starlite to sip on a little Crios Torrontes and uncork a bottle of Lewelling Napa Cab.

Please treat yourself and take time to eat at Starlite and Kenichi this month, both restaurants are so uniquely elegant and wonderful Austin staples.

Need to give a shout out to my Mom and her best friend Karen today - they are in Chicago celebrating their 60th Birthday together - best friends since kindergarten and they scored tickets to Oprah this week - so fun. This is a picture of Mom and Karen in Ireland last year - freezing! Happy Birthday!! Cheers - Ali

Friday, February 09, 2007

Love is in the Air...

and if it’s not, here are a few helpful wines to create a festive Valentine's Day for your sweetheart or if you are throwing a party for one! Print this off and take it shopping with you over the weekend. Planning ahead will keep you out of the doghouse (for the men out there) and of course, for all the women, provide just another layer of classiness and set the mood for your Valentine's Day celebration.

BenMarco Expresivo and Susana Balbo Malbec

Wines for Soul Mates. Susana and her husband Pedro fell in love a few years ago then created their world-class winery Dominio del Plata in Mendoza. Their wines are truly a labor of love in so many ways. These two bottles are their trophies, hands-down these ultimate soul-mate bottles should be enjoyed between your soul mate, one delicious sip at a time. BenMarco Expresivo Tasting Notes: Wafting aromas of red currants, red and black cherries and mildly smoky and sweet vanilla oak. Layers of currant fruit, dense black cherry, and notes of brown spice (cocoa, nutmeg), dark chocolate, and hints of sandalwood. Keeps showing its stuff as it breathes in the glass - for folks who want the full experience and may be a bit impatient, decanting is a good idea. Perfect balance, great concentration and length loaded with fine, ripe tannins for having with food or for aging. This wine should also age beautifully for 10 - 25 years. Susana Balbo Malbec Tasting Notes: Beautiful deep violet color with exploding aromas of blackberry, black cherry, and violets. The wonderful aromas are mirrored on the palate and they are joined by ripe plum fruit and a hint of toasty vanilla, bittersweet chocolate, and a hint of mint on the finish. This is a very ripe and rich style of wine, but it never gets heavy or alcoholic. A fairly full-bodied Malbec, and it has plenty of fine, velvety tannins to carry the very long finish. A wine that truly struggles between its fun and serious side. This is what Malbec is all about.

Crios Rose of Malbec and Storrs Rusty Ridge Zinfandel

Perfect for the “singletons” on Valentine's night while watching the entire first season box-set of “Sex and the City” and pairs perfectly with BBQ Pizza and/or ESPN on the tube! These are two wines that I often don’t care to share with anyone while sipping. Crios Rose of Malbec Tasting notes: A beautiful, deep, vibrant rosé color. Has a surprising amount of glycerin and body for a rosé wine, and beautiful aromas of fresh, ripe wild strawberries. On the palate, the flavors of strawberries and cherries come rushing in, accompanied by some spice notes and a clean, dry finish. Storrs Rusty Ridge Zinfandel Tasting Notes: This is a big, beautiful, jammy yet elegant Zinfandel. Aromas of Black Fruit with a taste of Blackberries, Plums and Currants. The wine fills your mouth and coats it with a long, well rounded finish.

Fort Ross Reserve Pinot Noir

Ahh, this is the special wine to surprise your sweetie with who’s always on the go – traveling all over the place and has cleared the calendar to spend time with you on February 14. Decant this around 5pm to let the oxygen and wine work their magic…truly divine Pinot Noir. Tasting Notes: Swirling rose petals, wisps of smoke and wet earth. Then the lush red fruit, touched with violets, sassafras and teasing spices that enhance the native minerality of the vineyard. Suffused with deep ruby color, this full bodied, well structured and balanced wine has a lingering finish and a delicate tannin and acid balance to age with elegance and distinction. The Reserve Pinot Noir is primarily composed of old Burgundian field selections originating from Vosne-Romanée and Pommard and reflects this remarkable vintage that is considered the finest ever in California Pinot Noir.

Pellegrini Cloverdale Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon and Handley Cellars Anderson Valley Chardonnay

For traditionalists…both of these hand crafted wines are superb in quality and affection. A glass of each of these will send you back to the day you fell in love and still feel so comfortable and deeply in love with your Valentine. Cloverdale Cabernet Tasting Notes: The wine shows exceptional color, depth and aromatics of chocolate, roasted coffee, vanilla and black cherry. With lots of toasted oak and cardamom spice, this wine offers a well-structured mouthfeel, good balanced acidity and a long finish. Handley Cellars Tasting Notes: This wine exhibits many of the characteristics you have come to expect from Handley’s Estate Chardonnay: baked apple, mineral, and pear, with elegance and balance. The 2004 vintage also has tropical overtones, with hints of tangerine and pineapple. The complexity and pleasant acidity of this wine will complement rich buttery foods.

Tikal Amorio

This bottle is perfect for a new “love affair”, seductive, powerful and the sexiest bottle of red wine in the TexaCali Wine Co. portfolio. Perfectly paired with a little old school Maxwell or even older Marvin Gaye and candlelight. Tasting notes: Mouthwatering, penetrating flavors of ripe red and black cherries, red berries. Quite rich and velvety on the palate and finishes with just enough grip to make it a real winner with food. This is some seriously sexy Malbec.

These wonderful wines are on restaurant wine lists all over Texas – keep your eyes out when ordering or send me an email asking where to find them in your city. Cheers - Ali

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Coolest 6 Pack of Red Wine in Texas


2003 BenMarco Expresivo: Review by Wine Spectator Online, 90 Points
Dark and beefy style with loam and bittersweet cocoa framing the blackcurrant and blackberry fruit. Muscular and structured through the finish, with plenty of fruit that's worth waiting for. Cabernet Sauvignon, Bonarda, Syrah and Tannat.

2003 BenMarco Expresivo: Review by Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, Nov/Dec 2005, 91 Points Bright ruby-red. Pure, primary aromas of black raspberry, black cherry, violet and smoke, with a suggestion of of slightly roasted ripeness. Sweet, silky, and lush with black cherry, bitter chocolate and menthol flavors building in exorably on the palate and lingering impressively on the finish, which features aromatic suggestions of leather and sweet oak. The tannins are broad and suave.

Decanter Magazine Review by Time Atkin, MW: "Six of the Best from Mendoza and San Juan" , " One of my favorite Argentine blends, combining 50% Malbec with Cabernet, Bonarda, Syrah and Tannat. This is packed with ripe blackcurrant fruit, underpinned by smoky, spicy oak and fine tannins."

Varietal Composition: 50% Malbec, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Bonarda, 10% Syrah, 5% Tannat

Vineyard Locations: Lujan de Cuyo-Agrelo, Tupungato-Villa Bastias

(Department-District) San Carlos-La Consulta, Lujan de Cuyo-Chacras de Coria

Avg. Vineyard Elev.: 3,300 feet Avg. Age of Vines: 36 years

Rootstock: Ungrafted Harvest Method: Hand-harvested

Oak Regimen: 14 months in 50% new French and 50% second-use American barriques

Fining: None Filtration: None

Alcohol: 13.5% pH: 3.6 T.A. 5.4

Total Case Production: 1000 cases (9L) cases available in 6-pack oak cases or 12-pack cartons

Tasting Notes/Food Pairing Suggestions
Wafting aromas of red currants, red and black cherries and mildly smoky and sweet vanilla oak. Layers of currant fruit, dense black cherry, and notes of brown spice (cocoa, nutmeg), dark chocolate, and hints of sandalwood. Keeps showing its stuff as it breathes in the glass - for folks who want the full experience and may be a bit impatient, decanting is a good idea. Perfect balance, great concentration and length loaded with fine, ripe tannins for having with food or for aging. Pairs well with a wide range of foods including grilled steak, roasted pork loin, veal, medium-strong cheeses, and most cream sauces. This wine should also age beautifully for 10 - 25 years.

About the Name/Label
BenMarco means "son of Marcos" in Hebrew. Pedro produces his wines as an homage to his father, Marcos who taught him how to plant, tend, and love the vineyards. Pedro's lifelong grower relationships give him the pick of the best old-vine grapes (including those from his own vineyard). The grapevine illustrated on the label is modeled after the wide-trellised vines that Pedro has planted on the borders of his vineyards (instead of unattractive fences).

Ask for this at your favorite wine shop! Cheers - Ali

Sunday, February 04, 2007


I let another week go by without posting. In one word "magical" can best describe the last few days and weeks. So I'll just leave it at that. Work is full-throttle right now with exciting sales and marketing opportunities throughout Texas for all TexaCali Wine Co. producers. I love what I do each and every single day!

On Wednesday, I squeezed in a little personal time for dinner at Uchi in
Austin. Though I've been doing business with Uchi for a few years now, this was my first time to sit down and enjoy Uchi creations. Also, Uchi just happens to be my boyfriend's favorite restaurant in town - so shazzzaaaamm - dinner at Uchi was AMAZING. The atmosphere at Uchi is hot, sexy and cool - much like my dinner date (which the tipsy gaggle of ladies sitting next to us were happy to let me know!). I loved the red walls, gorgeous lighting and dark wood accents. I must find out more about the designer wallpaper! Well done.

The Crios Torrontes kicked off our evening paired with fresh Maguro Sashimi & Goat Cheese (with fuji apples, cracked pepper and pumpkin seed oil). After the first course we munched on a handful of other delights - beef on a "hot rock", crunchy tuna roll, and fresh sea scallops.

Our last course was unbelievable - get this - grilled foie gras with a crazy rich Thai peanut topping along with lemongrass sorbet
that was to DIE FOR. And of course "Divine Droplets" Junmai Daiginjo Sake to sip. I feel confident saying this was the best food and sake pairing I've ever had. Truly mouthwatering greatness. To completely finish off things we went for the chocolate and wasabi fondant. Incredible display of culinary adventure and overall YUM.

If you don't live in Austin - dinner at Uchi is one hell of a reason to visit. Big shout out of thanks to Andy for taking time out of his busy night to chat with the Texas "Sake Ninja" - Cheers - Ali