Friday, February 29, 2008

Very Exciting News...

The Dallas Morning News Wine Competition Results are in...

Gold Medals

2005 Handley Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

2006 Handley Gewurztraminer

Silver Medal

2005 Handley Anderson Valley Chardonnay

Bronze Medals

2005 Handley Dry Creek Vineyard Chardonnay

2005 Handley Redwood Valley Syrah

2006 Handley Anderson Valley Pinot Gris

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Busy and Blessed

I'm so pumped right now, truly glad I made the decision to attend this symposium. I read aloud to the group that Lettie Teague (Wine Editor at Food and Wine Magazine) probably wears pretty nightgowns - a bit of shock value and honest conscience thought flow during a writing exercise yesterday. Smart & Funny.

Such a breath of fresh air and knowledge. The handful of projects that I've begun working on are coming together with strong focus now - multi-media, print and online. Now if I could just stretch the day into 6 more hours so I could at least grab some beauty sleep. Seriously - I couldn't do all this without you all. Read the top tag line of this blog!

Thank you all for buying the wines and sake of TexaCali Wine Co., I promise to do my best to help you find and enjoy all of these wonderful producers. I added new pictures to the site go check them out! Cheers - Ali

Magical Napa Valley

I'm running out the door this morning, but had to share this killer picture from yesterday. I'll update the blog later this afternoon - Ali

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

After a 12 hour travel day yesterday...

I made it! The weather got in the way of what is usually a very easy flight to San Francisco from Dallas. I arrived at Meadowood at dusk - which was marvelous even in the rain and fog. This is quite possibly my favorite time of year in the California wine country - incredibly calm, quiet and the best thing - a ton of frogs are ribbiting to their hearts content well into the night. Such a cool noise - seriously.

So heading over the CIA Greystone this morning for a day of learning & inspiration... Cheers -Ali

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

This week...

I'm off to Napa today to attend the 2008 Professional Wine Writers Symposium - a much needed break for my "spreadsheeted out" brain right now. I'm very excited about learning from others this week and moving forward with a couple of books I have in the works. The past 3 years for TexaCali Wine Co. have just been amazing and wow - what a swift and dynamic start to 2008... organizing purchase orders, planning winemaker events, launching new products, meeting hundreds of new wine sales folks all over Texas and then there's managing a little late night dancing at my house - oh yeah!

While I'm away, I encourage you to branch out a little at home this week, pick up a few Junmai Sake bottles from Vine Connections and experiment with your menus. Last Saturday evening a group of new and old friends came over for a delicious night of sake, food and fun. We tasted Moon on the Water, Bride of the Fox, Morning Glow, Divine Droplets, Southern Beauty with artisan cheeses, spicy sushi rolls from Uchi, and my old school family recipe of baked almond chicken. Which totally worked. The new sake2me - try these paired along with Italian gelato and ginger snaps - we all sat around the dinner table and debated about which flavors we enjoyed best well into the night. Right now - the Asian Pear is my favorite.

So back to the late night dancing part of the post - check out the music by
Rogue Wave my latest music find thanks to a very cool (and tall, dark and handsome) friend. One of my favorite songs is now playing on my MYSPACE page.

Big shout out to the gang at The Austin Wine Merchant for their recent focus on Vine Connections SAKE - you now can purchase the best of Japan along with their fine wine selection. Also - in Austin Hotel San Jose is now serving Tozai Snow Maiden. Groovy! I'll report from Napa Valley's Meadowood Resort later this week...Cheers! Ali

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Sake at Spec's on Smith St. in Houston

I spent last Tuesday resetting the sake section to make things a little easier when shopping at Spec's. 3 sections - one full section (as pictured) of ALL PREMIUM PURE SAKE.

Only 12% of all Sake produced qualifies for these designations

Junmai: Junmai is pure rice Sake. Nothing is used in its production except rice, water, yeast, and koji (that magical mold that converts the starch in the rice into fermentable sugars). Junmai is brewed WITHOUT any addition of distilled alcohol. Generally a bit heavier and fuller in flavor than other types of Sake, with slightly higher acidity. Goes well with a wide range of food. Must have seimaibuai of at least 70%, meaning the outer 30% of each rice grain has been polished away.

Tokubetsu Junmai: Tokubetsu means "special". Any Sake labeled Tokubetsu has been brewed in some special way. In some cases, this may mean a 60% or 50% seimaibuai, or it may mean the Sake was fermented at lower temperatures or made with very special Sake rice. Tokubetsu Junmai is generally a bit more fragrant and refined than regular Junmai.

Junmai Ginjo: Indicates a special and painstaking brewing process wherein fermentation proceeds at lower temperatures and for longer periods, and pressing is often done by hand. This extra effort produces a Sake that is layered and complex, light and fragrant. Must have a seimaibuai of at least 60%.

Junmai Daiginjo: Even a more painstaking brewing process than Ginjo, which results in Sake that is even lighter and more fragrant and fruity than a typical Ginjo. Must have a seimaibuai of at least 50%. Often, Daiginjo goes as far as a 35% seimaibuai (65% of the kernel polished away!).

Cheers - Ali

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Bonarda - where does it come from?

Ed, who is the co-founder of Vine Connections just sent this to me...

"Historically, there has been some mystery regarding what this grape variety in Argentina really is. People have said Croatina, Charbono and others. After genetic testing conducted by Carole Meredith at UC Davis, it was recently determined to be the same as the grape known as Corbeau, Douce Noire, or Charbonneau in the Savoie region of France. This would also be the Charbono grape we grow (rarely) in California, but not the same as Bonarda or Charbono grown in Italy’s Piedmont." There you have it folks!
La Posta Bonarda is one of the very rare 100% Bonardas available today - retails around $15. Cheers - Ali

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Helping Cupid Out

So over the past year, I’ve cooled the jets on publishing a shopping list for every occasion under the sun - a bit overdone in wine writing these days in my opinion. But Valentines Day is this week and I really think everyone could use a little help with this holiday – creating a perfect evening of love and sauciness. Here’s my best effort to your Friday morning on February 15th starting a little later than usual…

For the Guy Who Has it All

You’ll score big with any 2005 red burgundy from Ch. De Montille a perfect valentines gift for his cellar. The Pellegrini Milestone, Storrs BXR, Mendel Unus and Susana Balbo Brioso are blockbuster wines to open now along with a nice steak dinner.

For the Power Couple

BenMarco Cabernet Sauvignon and Susana Balbo Malbec. Susana Balbo and Pedro Marchevsky are the winemaking love birds of Argentina. After many years of knowing and respecting each other while working for Catena Zapata in Mendoza, fate stepped in and brought these two wine powerhouses together to create Dominio del Plata – where they both work their magic along side one another in the winery and among their beautiful vineyards.

For the Renaissance Woman

Whether you are jet-setting in for a night to have a quiet dinner with your Valentine, or gathering at your favorite hot spot with your favorite friends or just throwing a “party for one” at home, these will provide a lot of fun, relaxation and keep things cheery. LIOCO Indica, Crios Rose of Malbec, Lange Freedom Hill Chardonnay and any flavor of junmai sake2me!

Wine for the Mother of your Kids (or future mother…)

You’ll certainly impress your honey with these, a nice night to thank her for wrangling the kids and running the house – a toast to a moment alone together! These two bottles are named after the kids of the brother and sister team of Laura and Ernesto Catena. Start with a nice chilled bottle of Luca Chardonnay before dinner…a few glasses of Tikal Amorio “love affair” will be a nice way to wind down the evening of bliss.

1st Valentines Day Together?

Three words: Expensive French Champagne. Ask your local fine wine shop for a suggestion here, there are too many wonderful bottles of Champagne for me to list. If I had to choose a bottle of bubbly right now that’s available all over Texas I’d go for Laurent Perrier Brut Rose. Don’t skimp on the cost here - a tremendous return on your investment is 100% guaranteed.

50th Valentines Day Together

Ahh, True Love Pioneers! In honor of keeping love alive and inspiring others – pick a few from Pioneers of the wine world…Ch√Ęteau Puligny Montrachet, Pellegrini Family Vineyards, Domain Jo Pithon, Handley Cellars and of course, any bottle that has “Eric Solomon Selections and/or European Cellars" printed on the back label. These Pioneers of wine keep us newbies hopeful and dreaming for that ever-lasting love.

A big toast to many XXOO - Ali

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Brewed like a beer - drinks like wine!

I'm sitting in Dallas this morning, after rolling out sake2me in Austin, San Antonio, Houston and Dallas Fort Worth this week (back to Austin tonight to kick this off to all the cool onpremise accounts in Austin).

sake2me is possibly the coolest product in my entire portfolio - well, it's a fun drink that totally ROCKS. Sparkling, naturally flavored Junmai Sake in a 187ml bottle? OH YEAH! I love the green tea flavor the most - but look forward to sipping the other fruit flavors p
oolside all spring and summer. Please start looking for sake2me at your favorite adult beverage store!

Cheers - Ali

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

In the Wine Spectator Spotlight today...

10 Wineries on the High Road to Quality

Exciting, ambitious new producers in Mendoza

Bodega Mendel - Mendoza
This small, boutique operation by Roberto de la Mota, former winemaker for Terrazas de los Andes and Cheval des Andes, encompasses two reds. The top wine, called Unus, features Malbec fruit from an 80-year-old vineyard located in Perdriel. Both the Unus and the regular Malbec bottling are packed with fruit, spice and graphite notes.

Monday, February 04, 2008

...Waylon, Willie and the Boys!

Ahh, Robert Pellegrini and Moreno Panelli stopped through Texas this weekend and soaked up a little Texas Hill Country history.

Thanks to all of you that stopped by the Austin Wine Merchant to meet them and taste the beautiful wines of

Don't forget to order a glass of Cloverdale Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon next time you are dining at III Forks in Austin

2008 marks the Pellegrini's 75th year Anniversary!

Cheers - Ali