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