Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Texas Coast...

Posting from the Harlingen airport this morning, after a big night in South Padre "Wine by the Sea" event. Great crowd in attendance to support Planned Parenthood. Many thanks to Ben's Liquors who orchestrated a very successful event. Folks were incredibly curious, enthusiastic and fun to talk with at the event.

A big thanks to Chad (Pio
neer Wine Co.) and Dale (Avante Beverages) for their hard work and efforts in South Texas! These guys log even more miles than I do each month to make sure the wines of TexaCali Wine Co. are on the shelves from El Paso to the South Tip of Texas.

The stars of the show : Cloverdale Ranch Cabernet from Alexander Valley, Fort Ross Sonoma Coast Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Storrs "Christie Vineyard" Santa Cruz Mtns. Chardonnay, Teira Zinfandel out of Dry Creek, Argentina's La Posta Pizzella Malbec, Crios Cabernet and Malbec and last but not least - folks were totally gushing over Olivet Lane Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Russian River estate of Pellegrini Family Vineyards. A very tasty night (at least at our tables) of superior wine!

Off to a big week ahead with Lange Estate from Oregon's Dundee Hills visiting Austin and Dallas...Avante Beverages just received their new Willamette Valley Pinot Noir release - oh yeah! - Ali (pictured: jumped out the car on the way to the airport with Chad this morning - a few shots of the S. Padre Island Coast)

Friday, October 24, 2008

TGIF - Sorta

"Oh no, I don't drink white wine", said to me by a women that could easily win the "biggest hair in Texas award" a few days ago. Jeesh. Just when I think barriers have been broken, corners have been turned, minds have expanded and everyone at a wine event "gets it". I am proved wrong. This woman said this to me with a disgusting expression while shaking her I just accused her of buying her jewelry at Kmart. I began telling her that she's missing out, but then just shoved a full bodied, American oaked, Napa Valley Cabernet in her hand and let her be.

There's this column in my life called "the S*&# I have to do to sell a bottle of wine"...she is now listed - maybe close to the very top. I don't have time today to write a 59 page dissertation defending white wine - wish I did, her statement is so offensive to me and to true wine connoisseurs across the universe. But I will walk from this one...
Today is jam packed and will be for the next 3 weeks straight, the temperature outside is a cool 43 degrees which I am thankful for finally! I'm closing on my first home today and moving everything in within hours then off to Wines by the Sea event in South Texas tomorrow night. Surely the
"people down by the Sea" like to drink white wine. : )

In the meantime check out these two bottles you should stock up on this weekend - great values and excellent wine. Please ask your favorite wine shop anywhere in Texas for them - Cheers - Ali

2006 Handley Cellars
Anderson Valley Estate Vineyard $24

The fruit for this Chardonnay comes from Handley's Anderson Valley Estate Vineyard, which was organically certified in 2005. This wine exhibits many of the characteristics you have come to expect from Handley’s Estate Chardonnay: pear aromas and flavors predominate, enhanced by vanilla and a touch of lemon. Texture is an important component in the overall impression of this wine. Its complexity and pleasant acidity will complement rich buttery foods.
A few accolades...
90 POINTSWine & Spirits Magazine (October 2008),
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, California Grapevine (August-September 2008), EXCEPTIONAL Dan Berger's Vintage Experience (September 11, 2008),FOUR STARS - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED Santa Rosa Press Democrat - Michele Anna Jordan (September 10, 2008)

In today's SF Chronicle:

2005 Las Rocas de San Alejandro Calatayud Garnacha ($11)

The hook: A gentle, Spanish red for that last warm-weather barbecue.

The details: We're always drawn to this well-balanced Garnacha (or Grenache), for its soft, smooth mouthfeel, good balance between acid and fruit, and low tannins. With rich strawberry on the nose and just a hint of spiciness, it's complex without being overbearing. We'd never guess that it has 14.5 percent alcohol content - it goes down easy with very little heat. Grilled meats, sausages or even chicken would pair well with it. This particular vintage doesn't need anything big and bold food-wise, but would stand up well to dishes with a little bit of spice.

Found at: Whole Foods (San Francisco) Oh and the Wine Advocate gave it 91pts!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

In Memory ...a Friend to All

I was stopped in my tracks this week. Anyone that knows me or at least follows this blog knows this doesn’t happen to TexaCali Ali. I learned about the death of Mike Friend and it took the wind out of my sails in one giant swoop. The last 24 hours I’ve gone over many memories of Mike…the first time we were introduced when I worked for a wine distributor in 2004, the luncheon where Mike and I sat side-by-side together while tasting pinot noir from Anderson Valley, the way he smiled each time I walked into his store or department. Every single memory of Mike Friend is pleasant, inspiring, humbling and just flat good. He was a dear friend and confidant to so many of us rookies in Dallas over the years.

After doing a search in my inbox last night, I found an email from Mike back in October 2005 “Ali, always a pleasure to see you in the Dallas market. In all my years in the wine business I’ve never encountered someone quite like you. Your tenacity, enthusiasm, sales-know how and over all spirit is a rarity (and a breath of fresh air). Keep up the good work – those family owned wineries need you more than ever. Look forward to tasting with you again soon, Mike”. And that’s the way he was.... to everyone, especially my young peers in the world of wine sales.

I always looked forward to seeing Mike, listening to his thoughts, opinions and of course always getting out of him what “new discovery” he might have encountered since the last time we spoke. I will miss Mike, it was a true honor to know him - he was a "wine-angel" to many in this business and most certainly earned his wings. A rarity indeed. - Ali

Read more about Mike and Celebrating his Life...

Monday, October 20, 2008

At Taste Select ...

Click to enlarge and read the post below for details!

Spainish wine dinner - Austin

If you haven’t heard about Wednesday night yet – here is the scoop…I have not seen this caliber of a wine-dinner in Austin in a while folks, drop your plans and sink your taste buds into Spain for a night.
Taste Select
is hosting a very special Spanish wine-dinner featuring the award-winning wines of Solomon Selections. The menu is absolutely
divine! Erika Elliott is leading the dinner and is full of in-depth information about these beautiful wine producers from Spain. Details below:

1st Course:

Steamed Mussels with chorizo & lemon aioli

Wine: Conreria d'Scala Dei 'Les Brugeres' 2007

2nd Course:

Lamb's Tongue with mint aioli

Wine: San Alejandro Las Rocas "Vielles Vignes" Garnacha 2006

3rd Course:

Roast Pork Loin & Braised Pork Cheek with tomato saffron - risotto & wilted spinach

Wine: Bodegas Tomas Cusine El Vilosell 2005

4th Course:

Apple turnovers with marcona almonds & olive oil ice cream

Wine: Gramona Gran Cuvee 2005

After dinner bonus wine: Artadi 'Pagos Viejos' 2005

7-9pm, $75per person + tax and gratuity

202 W Cesar Chavez St
Austin, TX 78707

(512) 478-2783
- please call to reserve your seats

Cheers - Ali

some things never change

Vintage TexaCali Ali

January came up in conversation over the weekend so here it is folks... "Breathtaking Beauty & Grace"

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Chilled out at Roys...

Make a Wish - A night of fundraising and Tozai Living Jewel at Roy's Hawaiian. Vine Connections - who imports premium Japanese Sake and Argentine Wines had the honor of sponsoring the Sake ice bar at Roy's annual Make a Wish night in Austin.

I can't decide who enjoyed the sake more...the guests or the chefs and Roy Yamaguchi himself! I'll have the tally in soon on how much was raised last night.

Here's a little background... In 1984, he opened his own restaurant in Los Angeles called 385 North. However, the desire to further expand his culinary horizons while getting closer to his roots led Yamaguchi to move to Hawaii in 1988 and open Roy's. Soon after the original Roy's opened in Honolulu, Food & Wine Magazine dubbed it the "crown jewel of Honolulu's East-West eateries," and it was named one of Conde Nast Traveler's "Top 50." Gourmet acknowledged Yamaguchi as "the father of modern East-West cooking" while the New York Times described him as "the Wolfgang Puck of the Pacific." Yamaguchi is now regarded as a pioneer who mastered a distinctive style, which brought his cooking to the forefront of contemporary gastronomy.

As testimony to his success, there are now 37 Roy's, including 28 in the Continental US, 7 in Hawaii, 1 in Japan and 1 in Guam.
Honored early in his career with the prestigious James Beard "B
est Pacific Northwest Chef" award, Yamaguchi has hosted six seasons of the PBS-TV show, Hawaii Cooks with Roy Yamaguchi seen on more than 300 stations in all 50 states, as well as in over 60 countries. Equally notable, he was a featured chef on the acclaimed TV Food Network program, My Country, My Kitchen which takes viewers back to his roots in Japan.

Yamaguchi has also published three cookbooks,
Roy's Fish and Seafood, Roy's Feasts from Hawaii and Hawaii Cooks: Flavors from Roy's Pacific Rim Kitchen.
Two locations in Texas:

Roy's - Plano
(972) 473-6263
2840 Dallas Pkwy
Roy's - Austin
(512) 391-1500
340 E. 2nd St
and the Tozai Living Jewel can be found at Whole Foods, The Austin Wine Merchant, The Whip Inn - just ask your favorite shop for a bottle! A 720ml is around $20 bucks...oh yeah! Cheers - Ali

Monday, October 13, 2008

Italian Wine, Duck and Rock and Roll...

Friday night - had a super delicious dinner at Starlite - and possibly one of the best bottles of Italian wine I've tried in years - 2004 Le Pergole Torte [100% Sangioveto] If you haven't been to Starlite lately, you have been missing out. The menu has changed - fancy foods and intimate seating upstairs while a bistro-style menu is offered in the main dining area. The crabcakes are unbelievable - $7 for two and I highly suggest ordering the duck - amazing!

After dinner we
saw The Walkmen at The Parish. By far - the very best small venue live show I've seen all year...they totally rocked the house. I saw them a few years back in San Fransisco at Slim's. This past Friday night they sounded soo GREAT! I even got a shout-out from the lead singer "who's that hell-fire woman out there?" Only those who have attended concerts with me or a basket-ball game can truly understand. What a show!

Saturday was filled with Texas-OU excitement around the house...a loss for my OU sweetheart did not lead to a festive day whatsoever. Cheers - Ali

House Wine

Well, I did it, finally after all these years of living as a nomad - I bought a house! It's a first-house, a true investment and a great place to rest my head for a few years (while my future house in the west hills of Austin with a massive infinity pool awaits!). Funny thing though - while signing my life away on paperwork, my credit report listed all the places I've lived since 1994. WOW.
Dallas - the city apartment on Cedar Springs, the upstairs cottage in Highland Park, a small one-bedroom on Gaston Ave - all bringing back memories of food and wine of course. My Dallas days were full of grilling out just about everything and drinking wine from Italy, Napa and Sonoma. I stuck to the Big Names in the 90's while I began to learn more about the world of wine.

Moving to San Francisco certainly stepped things up in th
e wine department - the 3 bedroom attic apartment on Broadway (where the rent equaled a small ranch in Texas) was filled with wines from the South of France and Burgundy. Then onto the high-rise at the top of the Fillmore hill and Pacific Ave. - mostly wines from New Zealand, South America and the Rhone Valley (on a serious budget this year). Ahh then last but not least my years living in the Presidio where the house was filled with wines from K&L Wine Merchants - where I worked - Loire, Champagne, Germany, Bordeaux and my favorite California producers like Pellegrini, Storrs and Handley - many of which I represent today.

Life brought me back to Texas in 2004 and more rentals - though a hellava lot cheaper. More money to spend on wine-hurray! Wine tastings, winemaker dinners, and Ginjo
Sake - the best new addition to my personal food and wine life no doubt. This past year, I've managed to rent a groovy yellow house a few blocks from Barton Springs where memories of Spanish wine and their makers creating music on the front lawn abound.
I'll be out of here before Halloween - the move sandwiched in between Fort Worths 65 Roses event and a week long visit by Etienne Montille. Off to my new home, just a few blocks away f

I imagine the first night in the new house christened by 96 Krug...oh yeah!
A few shots of the new place...what is your favorite "house wine" these days? Cheers - Ali

Friday, October 10, 2008

Tozai Ginjo Sake

Hi Everyone in Austin - this event is going to be a blast and for such a great Charity. I'll be there talking up the first "Tozai Sake Ice Bar" ever created! Oh yeah!

Check out one of the top-selling bottles in Texas.

Cheers - Ali

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon

Cloverdale Ranch Cabernet has been my very favorite for years now - find it in Texas for about $28 a bottle these days.

From the San Francisco Chronicle...A few grape varieties do particularly well in appellations within Sonoma County, such as Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel and Russian River Pinot Noir. Though it's somewhat overshadowed by neighboring Napa Valley, Sonoma County also does well with Cabernet Sauvignon. In 2007, the red variety was second only to Chardonnay's acreage and tons crushed. We tasted 75 wines from Sonoma County and its appellations, from several vintages: 2006, 2005, 2004 and a few 2003s. More than half were 2005s, from which our favorite three-star wines emerged.


Rating: THREE STARS 2005 Pellegrini Family Vineyards Cloverdale Ranch Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($28) Aged loam and soy sauce aromas add complexity and are lifted by bright, ripe berry-black cherry fruit. Sharp cassis, beautiful fruit complexity and fine-boned, tannic structure with walnut skin hints on the complex palate. Depth, refinement and great balance. Aged 19 months in a combination of French, Hungarian and American oak.
link to complete article

Monday, October 06, 2008

worldle up!

Over the past few months I've been working on a new website and blog design for here's a fun feature - "Wordle". The technology basically captures everything on my current blog front page and creates word-art. I think it's really cool...

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Drinking Away Your Sorrows?

I'm trying to buy my first home right now, yeah the timing is ridiculous with the credit crunch as a sole proprietor. I've had to provide more financial records to qualify for a mortgage than a Southern Debutant requires from her beau before the Wedding Day. But that's just about the only change I've personally felt from the recent economic mess.

The question I'm asked the most, contemplated, analyzed and had to discuss in great length "has the wine business slowed down for you?". Comparing this year, to last year and even the year before - my brands are hitting record sales numbers in Texas. Call it the "energy bubble" or just a decent cost of living here, but Texans still have plenty to celebrate and continue to do so - with a lot of wine.

However - I'm very lucky to have the lion-share of great value wines made by family winemakers from all corners of the world. A handful of so-called "collectors-wines" still go quickly. A few days ago Slate published
"How has the financial crisis affected the wine world?

I'm just glad Wall St. is in NYC and not in Texas - though I'm mad as hell at the broker who just plunked down 100% cash on a house I finally found in Austin. Wonder if he drinks wine??? - Cheers - Ali

Friday, October 03, 2008

What You Must Drink this Weekend

It's still hot - I looked up at the trusty car temperature gage at 6:15pm yesterday 95 degrees shouted back at me! Don't let the 4am cool breeze fool you into breaking out the heavy red wine yet! This is the crisp, refreshing and floral bottle of Spanish white wine that will be uncorked over the next few days at my house in HOT Austin, Texas.

Sitios de Bodega Con Class 2007
The Con Class is a blend of
80% Verdejo, 10% Viura, 10% Sauvignon Blanc - such a delicious combination!

A little background: For six generations, the Sanz family has been making wines in Rueda. In 2005, Ricardo Sanz created started producing his wines under the new Sitios de Bodega label in Rueda. The project distinguishes his modern approach from that of his father, who still produces wines under different labels.

Rueda is located in northwestern Spain - just south of the River Duero and not far from the Portuguese border. Scorched bare by retreating Moors in the tenth century, the region lay fallow for generations. During this period, a wild grape, Verdejo, appeared throughout the district. As Rueda was resettled in the 11th century, the grape was gradually domesticated throughout the district.

In the 1970's, Marques de Riscal initiated a renaissance in Rueda winemaking. Riscal recognized that modern winemaking equipment could produce a fresh and delicious wine from Verdejo, a revelation, since the gra
pe oxidizes very rapidly to produce sherry-like aromas. In addition, the estate introduced other varieties like Viura and Sauvignon Blanc that flourish in Rueda's chalky soils. The resulting wines were completely different from what Spain was used to drinking - totally unlike the heavy and /or oxidized whites the country had produced for generations. To capture the essence of this easily oxidized grape, Ricardo began night-harvesting, putting the delicate fruit into small plastic boxes. Immediately after destemming, the grapes are hit with inert gas (usually nitrogen) to protect them from oxidation. Skin contact is kept to a minimum and overseen carefully. The must settles at a very low temperature (14 degrees C), and the very clean must then ferments for 25 to 30 days, after which Ricardo will stir the fine lees periodically. Bottling takes place after a very light filtration.

I think this is Ricardo's best Con Class yet! Around $10 at Whole Foods in Texas. Cheers - Ali