Thursday, January 31, 2008

My New Hometown Sake Hang!

Now Serving the best premium Japanese Sake - just ask for the good stuff (Vine Connections imported Sake).

Ronin is located in Montgomery Plaza


2600 W. 7TH ST. SUITE 171

Cowtown goes bigtime now! Cheers - Ali

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sunday, January 27, 2008

One day - sooner than later...

Persistence is the common denominator in all those who find success when following their dreams. And I'm not stopping anytime soon.

Cheers to a fantastic week ahead everyone! Ali

PS - Check out the AMAZING reviews on the hottest Argentine wine portfolio ever here.

Hey Dallas...and the rest of the world.

Just in case you missed it...

Wine of the Week: Handley, Anderson Valley, Pinot Gris
12:00 AM CST on Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Rebecca Murphy - Dallas Morning News
Handley, Anderson Valley, Pinot Gris 2006, $16.99

After working with ace winemakers Dick Arrowood and Jed Steele, Milla Handley started a winery in Mendocino's Anderson Valley and made the first vintage in her garage in 1982. She makes this pear-flavored pinot gris fat and sassy, fermenting most of the grapes in neutral oak to give the wine a creamy texture. Pair it with tom kai gai – Thai chicken soup in a coconut broth – and fresh ginger, and prepare to fall in love at first sip. Available at Corner Wines, Mr. G's Beverage Center and Pogo's Wine & Spirits. - Rebecca Murphy

94 Points in Wine & Spirits (August 2007)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Vintage Blog Post...

Posted this a few years ago on the TexaCali Wine Trail...Erika just signed on to TexaCali Wine Co. to run Central Texas for me! More on this later...very exciting! - Cheers - Ali

Keep "La Posta-ed"

Meet Erika - she's a PLM, knows her wine, mother of the cutest little boy ever and one of the best wine peeps in the Lone Star State - the real deal!

The following is what is currently on her myspace page for all to see! Enjoy - Ali

Monday, December 11, 2006

Keep "La Posta-ed"
Category: Food and Restaurants

From Mendoza, Argentina comes 3 distinct single vineyard wines. Their name is La Posta del Vinatero , "the tavern of the winegrower". The company that imports them asked the growers to stop selling their spectacular fruit that they used to sell to other wineries to blend, and make single vineyard wines. Two Malbecs and 1 Bonarda. They are all absolutely fantastic. First, the La Posta "Estela Armando" Bonarda Vineyard. 43 yr. old vines, that offer a perfect bacon smokiness, crushed berry fruit and dark chocolate richness that carries through on the palate. AWESOME Bar-b-que wine. It will be on the list at the new LAMBERT'S. Retail $15.99

The more demure "Pizzella Family Vineyard" Malbec makes you feel like you just discovered your first perfume that actually smells good on you, or her as the case may be. Beautiful fruit notes, with hints of sandalwood and spice. Its like a glass of love. Not much left of this one Retail $15.99 And last but certainly not least, the if you want to cheat on another wine, cheat with this one...

La Posta 'Angel Paulucci Vineyard' Malbec 2005 Right out of the bottle animalistic and provocatively wanting to be Spanish. But it comes back home with that crazy mineral, iron rich, salt driven Argentine earthiness, with intense fruit and backbone. I would put this up against 'Anime Negra' for a test drive just to see what happens. It has a great balance you won't find in any other wine for under $20. Retail $17.99 and worth every sipping penny.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Freedom, let me tell ya about FREEDOM!

Not too much tasting this week due to all the new things happening at TexaCali Wine Co. More on this later. The highlight of the week however was my staff training at III Forks here in Austin. Oregon's Lange Estate Freedom Hill single vineyard bottles were in the spotlight - here are my notes:

2006 La
nge Estate Freedom Hill Chardonnay: Stunning! This vineyard is Dijon clone 76 and is fermented in both French oak and stainless steel. Very well balanced with rich layers and good acidity. Totally played with my taste buds - hints of golden apple, Asian pear - a little anise to boot. But I have to tell ya, I'm still thinking about the finish - and it's been 3 days since my last sip. Truly beautiful wine. Only 14 cases are making it to Texas this year.

2006 Lange Estate Freedom Hill Pinot Noir: STEAKHOUSE Pinot Noir for sure!Typical of this vineyard, this pinot is more structured. It shows dark, brooding fruit, and ripe blackberry, blueberry, anise, tobacco, and toast all balanced by a well integrated tannin structure and elegant acidity. Approachable now, this wine is a bit savage and untamed, with potential for a decade of positive development. Decant now, or hold for a few years. The finish was incredibly elegant after it was open for awhile...amazing! Only 400 cases made of this killer pinot.

Is it Friday yet??? Cheers - Ali (The Lange Family in the pic)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Austin Chronicle Restaurant Review BY WES MARSHALL

III Forks
111 Lavaca at Cesar Chavez, 474-1776
Monday-Thursday: 5-10pm; Friday-Saturday: 5-11pm

III Forks sommelier, Danny Payne
Photo by John Anderson

III Forks is a steak house with a luxurious feel, thanks, in part, to lots of wood and leather. Everything in the restaurant, from the first greeting to the final goodbye, is aimed at making you feel coddled and comfortable. All this comes at a high price. Luckily, III Forks has a secret weapon for wine lovers that will take a little sting out of the final check.

Our first visit was on a Thursday night. We didn't have reservations, and it was a busy night, but they found us a table in the bar. The bar is wide open with high ceilings and just the perfect amount of sound control. There was a clubby buzz from the stylish and expensively dressed patrons, and the live jazz also upped the sound. Nonetheless, we could talk at normal levels.

Our server was prompt, efficient, and had the ideal juxtaposition of happy friendliness and speedy professionalism. The menu is very simple, just two pages. Steak is the thing, though they also have a nice selection of fish. We started by ordering the huge appetizer medley ($15.95), which includes a shrimp cocktail with three crunchy, sweet jumbo shrimp, an enormous Crabcake St. Francis made almost solely from lump crabmeat and mayonnaise, and some huge, plump bacon-wrapped scallops.

The wine list is mammoth and, like all steak houses, very pricey. This is where III Forks' secret weapon comes into play. Their sommelier, Danny Payne, created a wine list with all sorts of fun surprises, and he is a great guide, quite understanding of financial limitations, encyclopedic in the details of each wine, and excited when he sees a happy customer. We were very happy when he steered us to a nicely aged 1999 Leasingham Bin 56 Cabernet ($55) and a 2005 Luca Malbec ($60), a huge, opaque, almost black wine.

For our main courses, we had a bone-in rib eye ($41.95), a rack of lamb ($35.95), and tenderloin medallions ($32.95). Those prices seem high, but the quality of both the USDA Prime beef and the lamb is spectacular. One nice touch is there are always servers waiting at the kitchen, so the second your order pops up, a person grabs your rocket-hot plate and rushes it to the table. Even more incredible is the deft dance both in the kitchen and out on the floor that allows them to serve everyone's entrée at precisely the same time.

Our steaks and lamb were flawlessly pink inside, and the portions were colossal, so big that most couples will probably do just fine splitting a steak. They charge an extra $7 for splitting an entrée, and that's the biggest bargain in the house. Because unlike most steak houses that ding you for every extra, III Forks includes fresh creamed corn made table-side, mashed potatoes, vegetables, big slices of tomatoes, and spring onions.

Four of us went back a couple of weeks later on a crowded Friday night. We got the same professional, gracious service as before, but this time, we were seated in one of the fancy dining areas. This visit, sommelier Payne again showed us some bargains. He not only remembered my name, he remembered my tastes and price range. This time he picked a 2004 Storrs Petite Sirah ($53), a fruity wine with nice acidity. Later, when we asked for another bottle, he surprised us with one of Texas' best wines, Fall Creek's 2003 Meritus ($58). READ FULL ARTICLE HERE

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Off subject again...

Sorry - last week was overload with the work thing, check this out - John Mayer as JT. LOVE IT. I still can't believe I didn't catch the concert at Madison Square Garden last year - what a night I missed out on. Anyway - John is really amazing here - (sweeeet guitar too) Cheers to a great week ahead everyone!! - Ali

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Off Subject - UPDATE

GREG LONG TAKES MAVERICKS!! OH YEAH!! At least I know how to pick'em!

"When it was all over, the judges awarded first place to Greg Long, 24, of San Clemente, largely on the basis of one superb ride on which he and his 9 1/2 foot long blue board seemed to descend nearly straight down the face of a gigantic wave.

"When I was paddling out, I told myself I'm going to sit and wait for the biggest set," Long said. "If it's going to happen, it's going to happen."

For an instant, Long said, he believed he was out of position for the big wave. He stood up on his tip toes, leaned back and caught the wave just under the lip.

"I was just about weightless," he said. "I said, 'I'm either going down hard or I'm going to get a good one.' Luckily it was the latter."

While Long and his fellow five finalists were waiting in the not so pacific ocean for their final rides, they all agreed to split evenly the total prize pool of $70,000. Under that deal, each rider gets $11,700." - San Francisco Chronicle

Off Subject

Ah, the "Superbowl" of the Bay Area is today - Mavericks Contest Day. I only went once (it's a short drive to Half Moon Bay from San Francisco) to watch the brave surfers ride the monster waves - a day I'll never forget.

So as I sit here on the couch in Austin
I still get a up-front view of the contest (and smokin' hot Greg Long) thanks to a little tech help - watch the live webcast of Mavericks all day today here -

Very exciting! Cheers - Ali

Friday, January 11, 2008

Sonoma Chards

Yes, I still read the San Francisco Chronicle daily. Gives me a sense of still living there - a tiny bit at least. Most of the time reading the paper reminds me how great it is to live in Texas - low crime here, no crazy state income taxes and oh - hardly any parking problems at all!

On Fridays their Wine section is updated, today they highlighted Sonoma Chardonnay. Davis Family Vineyards "
Dutton Ranch", Olivet Lane and Fort Ross are the Sonoma superstars in the TexaCali Wine Co. book. Here's what the chronicle wrote about Fort Ross today:

2005 Fort Ross Fort Ross Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
Lester and Linda Schwartz's latest release has aimed for a French-style wine. There's a slight waxiness and lush texture that is backed by minerality. Bright aromas and flavors of apple, melon, honeycomb and grapefruit are surrounded by buttery, nutty undertones. A rather rich, buoyant and balanced finish.

Love this bottle of Chardonnay! Happy Friday - we made it!! Ali (yes, that is the amazing view from the top of Fort Ross Vineyards near the Pacific Ocean!)

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Vintage Post

A fan of TexaCali Wine Co. sent me an email today "Hey Ali, I was clicking back through the blog last night, thought you'd get a kick out of this post from Nov. 2005", keep up the hard work - it is certainly making a difference out here.

YEP - I could have written this very same post today - now that is the COOLEST. Check it...

Monday, November 14, 2005

Cool According to ME!

So this is a blog – a blog is forum for free thinking and sharing – right? So I’m free thinking tonight about how many times I’m told each week that I have “the coolest job". Here’s what I’d like to share with the thousands of folks reading this somewhat silly but passionate TexaCali Wine Trail. I totally agree – but the coolest job does not come easy! Stripes have been earned and continue to be proven by many long hours, the whole blood sweat and tears thing for sure. I am blessed, truly blessed to have found a “job” that springs me out of bed each day, pays the bills and makes me look forward to the future every second I’m awake. That is cool in my book.

My greatest challenge with starting and managing my own company is dealing with “gatekeepers” who do not share this same passion of coolness. But big things are on the horizon – a new generation of all things wine are stepping up and making waves all over the world, I’m honored and privileged to be a member of this group – as long as I keep earning my stripes, waking up each day excited to teach and share with others the gift of wine and SAKE that so many families for hundreds of years have allowed me to discover the coolest job on the planet. I'm so grateful! Cheers - Ali

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Story

Uncorked: Argentine vintners make wine a family affair
There are plenty of winemaking couples, but not that many in Argentina, and none as high profile as Susana Balbo and Pedro Marchevsky.

Balbo is Argentina's most famous female winemaker, and Marchevsky is arguably the country's most knowledgeable viticulturist. They produce three labels at their Dominio del Plata winery in the region of Mendoza. The Susana Balbo reserve wines are the top of the line, while the Crios ("offspring") de Susana Balbo are everyday wines. In both cases, she uses the latest winemaking techniques and a skilled hand with French oak to produce wines that show the best of Argentinean grapes, notably Malbec but also Cabernet Sauvignon and even a blend of Syrah and Bonarda, a grape native to Italy (though Argentine Bonarda may actually be Charbono).

Balbo also works with Torrontes, the white grape that has become Argentina's answer to Sauvignon Blanc. Her Crios Torrontes comes from a 5,775-foot elevation vineyard in Cafayate, in the northern province of Salta. Marchevsky's BenMarco label, a tribute to his father Marcos, highlights Mendoza's potential for red wines.

The two met 14 years ago and have been developing their family business ever since. Marchevsky, 60, got his start in 1972 teaching soil and irrigation studies, later working for influential vintner Nicolas Catena on the way to becoming one of the country's most sought-after vine experts.

After getting her enology degree in 1981, Balbo, now 51, worked for several wineries before designing Catena's new facility in 1998, which helped launch an international consulting career. Now they have their own facility in the city of Agrelo. Marchevsky's daughter Gabriela, 34, designs all the labels, while Balbo's son, José, 23, just graduated from UC Davis and her daughter Ana, 21, is studying business administration. (Marchevsky also has a son, Emilio, 32.) Given the "Brady Bunch"-like arrangement, it's a safe bet that the winery will remain a family affair.

They are frequent Bay Area visitors thanks to their importers, Ed Lehrman and Nick Ramkowsky, who run Vine Connections in Sausalito. We caught up with Susana Balbo and Pedro Marchevsky during a recent visit.

Q: You specialize in a grape variety that's still something of a mystery here. How can you make Americans drink more Malbec?

Pedro: I think first it's important to understand Malbec is very special. It's the best varietal to show what Argentina is as a country. We're very high - 3,000 feet elevation - (and) it's very dry. The variety can show a very beautiful concentration of fruit. Because we have a very, very long hang time, we can get very ripe tannins. You get a very broad, ripe mouthfeel.

Susana: When I was reading about the most favorite wines for Americans, and what happened with the flavor profile and the tannins, I realized Malbec was one of the most approachable varieties out there. As soon as people realize they have another option, they have only to fall in love with Malbec.

Q: So would that solve the Merlot/Pinot battle?

Susana: Yes, maybe we should make a movie.

Q: I was surprised how much oak I tasted during my last Malbec tasting.

Pedro: I am a viticulturist. And it's really a pity when you put in the bottle more French oak than grapes from Argentina. You should use the oak to show the capacity of the wine, but not to hide the beautiful fruit. It's something to give the wine complexity and durability for the future.

Q: What attracted you to Torrontes?

Susana: Torrontes, as you know, is the most widely planted white grape in Argentina. It's a cross of two varietals, one from Italy and one from Spain (Muscat of Alexandria and Criolla Chica, known in California as the Mission grape). You are able to make wines with great flavor concentration. Our Torrontes ... has some of the most elegant lines. But if it gets to be too strong in flavor, it gets to be a bit much.

Pedro: It was a challenge to make a really fine wine from this variety.

Q: So what wines are you buying?

Susana: We spend lots of money on wine ... We like to know what people are doing, what's happening. We buy wines $50 and above in price. I like some Bordeaux - the most expensive, unfortunately. In Spain we love Priorat and Ribera del Duero. California we like very much. We have good friends here.

Pedro: I try to taste wines from the Rhone Valley. I'd like to introduce wines from the Rhone Valley into Argentina. I like to taste wines from Spain and sometimes Italy, because we have a lot in common, with the sunshine.

Graciano is the first varietal in Spain that I like. Albarino, Carinena, Monastrell, which is the same as Mourvedre. In the south of Italy is Sagrantino, Nero d'Avola. And I think the Greek varietal Xinomavro is something we have to try, but for the future, for my son.

Q: What's your favorite food and wine pairing?

Susana: Well, I like everything. This is my problem. This is why we're always gaining weight. Argentina doesn't have too much natural cuisine. Our cuisine has the influence of Spain and Italy. Our meat is wonderful so we usually make dishes influenced with meat. ... And what am I drinking with this? Usually I like our Cabernet. But the rosé with chicken. Usually in Argentina we make beautiful (rosé). Or the Torrontes is wonderful with spicy food.

Q: How did you get interested in wine?

Susana: It was serendipity. I was in the right moment in the right place. I was the youngest daughter in an Italian-rooted family. My only chance was to study ... engineering. I wanted to make an engineering-based career. The key moment was when I started to study biology, and I liked it very much. Wine is in evolution all the time; it's alive. I compare making a great wine to raising a child. You need to take care and be soft and loving with them to achieve the best results.

Q: How did you meet?

Susana: Through a friend of ours. I met him 14 years ago for my birthday. I was divorced. Pedro was divorced. My friend asked what he was going to do next Saturday. I said, "I don't have any plans." We became good friends and we fell in love and we've never been separate.

Q: Who tastes wine better?

Susana: I think women. It's proven by science. Women can taste 2,000 different flavors. Men can taste about 1,000. After training, men can taste 2,000 like us, but we have the skills.

Pedro: Not every person has the threshold to taste the same things. When I taste something, I need to have Susana taste for bitterness, because she has more sensitivity to it.

Susana: I can taste TCA (cork taint) at a very low concentration, or brettanomyces or microbiological defects.

Q: What's the best wine you ever had?

Susana: Myself, I was able to taste the '89 Chateau Latour, and for me is was wonderful. The '90 Haut-Brion. And the 2000 (Penfolds) Grange was beautiful!

Pedro: And the Ornellaia. But it's really about the moment.

Susana: And Caymus Special Selection.

Pedro: Was it the '94 or the '91?

Susana: I don't even remember the vintage.

Pedro: And Cask 23 from Stag's Leap (Wine Cellars) is so nice.

Susana: Sometimes it's not the wine, it's the circumstance.

Pedro: In 2000, we had the Haut-Brion. Do you remember the restaurant in Bordeaux?

Susana: The Lion d'Or.

Pedro: You can never forget those circumstances. And the wines are so good. And of course, for your birthday, we open 20 different bottles.

Q: How did you come to create the Crios label?

Susana: It's a sad story. In December 2000, we were working with (our importers) Ed and Nick in our blending. Something very shocking with my first husband happened. (I felt that) I should take care of my children. I left those guys alone. I said, "You do what you want." He passed away 40 days later.

Pedro: At that moment, she said, "My crios come first, my children."

Susana: Ed sent me a letter and said he always knew me as a businesswoman and not as a mom. He said, "Susana, let's name the new wine Crios. You love your children like you love your wine." And it was a very nice name.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Planning for the New Year

A lot of this going on right now, I'm buried. More about wine soon. Cheers - Ali

Tuesday, January 01, 2008