Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Best Bubbles for under $20

Reginato Blanc de Blanc & Reginato Sparkling Rose of Malbec for New Years Eve!

The Reginato Sparkling Argentine Wines are new to the American market this year, wow have we all been missing out! The Reginato Family in Mendoza has been making these beautiful bubbles for over 20 years for the South American market. Here are some facts:

Robert Parker Jr.'s "The Wine Advocate", December 2007
"These two value-priced sparkling wines are made by Jose Joaquin Reginato and his son, Jose Alberto. Everything involved in the production of these sparkling wines is done in-house, including the grape-growing."

Reginato Blanc de Blancs Sparkling 2006 - $15

Vintage: 2006 Varietal Composition: 70% Chardonnay, 30% Chenin Blanc

Secondary Fermentation: Charmat Harvest Method: Hand-harvested

Press Handling: No press wine Sur lies bottle aging: 3 months Alcohol: 12.8%

Total Case Production: 1,000 cases

Tasting Notes: When you think of a partying wine, you want something bubbly, light, refreshing, but certainly not boring or tiresome. The Reginatos feel the same way, so they pack lots of fresh fruit flavor onto a crisp, refreshing frame.

Reginato "Celestina" Sparkling Rose of Malbec 2006 - $19.99

Vintage: 2006 Varietal Composition: 100% Malbec

Secondary Fermentation: Metodo Tradicional Harvest Method: Hand-harvested

Press Handling: No press wine Sur lies bottle aging: 14 months

Alcohol: 12.8% Total Case Production: 500 cases

Tasting Notes: As soon as it hits the glass, you can see with your own eyes that this is no “salmon-hued” sparkler. It has a vibrant, rich, red color that suggests something heavy, but pop it in your mouth, and you will feel the crisp, dry and refreshing mouth-feel that you want with your meal. It has some light berry flavors, just a hint of tannin structure, and an amazing elegance. It speaks of the rich Malbec grape, but never loses its light, refreshing nature. It will also give you a good reason to drink sparkling wine with your main course.

About the Winemaker
“CJR” are the initials of Celestina and Jose Reginato, the matriarch and patriarch of the highly regarded Reginato winemaking family. Jose and his son, Pepe Reginato, have been making sparkling wines since 1986. They produce both Charmat and “Metodo Tradicional” (bottle-fermented) sparkling wines and they are known to craft some of Mendoza's most sought-after limited-production, boutique bubbly.

The Philosophy
Unlike many other “factory” sparkling wine producers in Mendoza , the Reginatos personally manage the whole process themselves, from grape to bottle. They manage the vineyards, select the grapes, harvest at the optimal time, make the base wine, and then do secondary fermentation at their own winery. They produce both Charmat and “Metodo Tradicional” (bottle-fermented) sparkling wines, and if you ever get a chance to meet Pepe, you'll see what kind of hand muscles you can develop after years of hand-riddling bottles to remove the yeast from sparkling wines.

Ask for them both at your favorite wine shop! Cheers and Happy New Year! Ali

Monday, December 29, 2008

What a year...

Well it's the last Monday of the year, finally one last Monday. I don't ever mind Mondays really, this job is 7 days a week, so Mondays are cool with me. Looking back on this year - it has really kicked my ass - but what does not kill you makes you stronger right? Where is all this coming from this morning? I'm working on the 4th annual TexaCali Wine Co. Year in Review for the Inner Circle this morning. As I'm looking back at the calendar and all the moving parts of 2008, I can hardly figure out where to start. 2008 was full of wonderful business happenings, new challenges, beautiful personal memories but marked heavily by business associates that are huge assholes. No I'm not going to call them out here, you'd be surprised.

I encountered the best and worst in human beings this year, all in the name of "helping" market and sell wines and saké that I truly believe in with all my heart. I'm incredibly thankful and fortunate to represent some of the finest folks in the wine and saké business, and even more fortunate to have asked some jerks to please step out of my way. As far as I'm concerned, we (the entire wine supply chain) are all in this together, it takes good choices, solid respect and even better people behind the effort for all to profit. I often think of a certain "buyer" in Texas who sets the BEST example of this every minute of his day. Boy how we can all learn from him, he's in a place where he could be a real SOB, but never ever hangs his hat on that hook.

I know I'm going to hear it from my Mom today about the "tone" of this post. (Sorry Mom) But hey, she just survived an heart-attack on Christmas Day and is home now recovering. That makes me the most happy of all. Our scary Christmas this year with Mom also makes me want to scream from the highest peaks - "Be good and kind to everyone you encounter (and cut out all the BS)."

Life's too short to deal with the egomaniac, selfish, greedy assholes in this beautiful wine business that take advantage of the little guys (or girls). There I said it. Be good to others from here on out - if you are not capable of kindness, integrity and professional respect, then go hole up in a fancy house in the middle of no-mans-land where you can own your little manipulative & pathetic world.

TexaCali Wine Co. has beat all odds, we started up in May 2005 with nothing more than a few bucks from vacation time not taken. I've slept on more couches than I can count to save a buck for that retailer that needs high-margins and for that winery that has children of vineyard workers to feed. More than ever they need you and me to buy their bottles, it is their life, their history, genius wine and
saké making skills and their blood, sweat and tears that are golden. The families behind the wine and saké bottles are what keeps me in this game.

Since day one, I've had to make smart choices and difficult decisions about the people I must to work with daily - these decisions were and have been the biggest and the most significant part of my success. I'm far from perfect, but I will work my ass off again in 2009 to continue to bring my best, hope to inspire others and always, I mean no matter what - make choices based on sound ethical business decisions in the New Year. Fired up this Monday Morning...Cheers - Ali

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate "Wine of the Day"

2006 La Posta Bonarda 89pts. around $17 - just ask your favorite Texas wine shop for it!

WA Tasting Notes: The 2006 Bonarda was sourced from the 44 year old Estela Armando Vineyard, and was aged for 10 months in 70% French and 30% American oak, 20% new. Deep crimson-colored, the wine is fruity and fragrant with notes of cedar, spice box, red and black raspberries. Medium-bodied, on the palate notes of pepper, chocolate, and mint emerge. Ripe and tasty with gobs of flavor, this hedonistic and well-priced effort can be enjoyed over the next 5 years. All four of the La Posta wines are outstanding values.

A Merry Christmas comes early for the Argentine Families of Vine Connections

Please Click Image to Enlarge - Merry Christmas!! - Ali

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The 2008 Holiday Wine Shopping List is now available
on the
TexaCali Wine Co. website.

Happy Holidays! - Ali

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Teira Zinfandel News

I'm in San Francisco now finalizing 2009 plans for TexaCali producers...how fitting is this little story I'm about to tell?

I ask my dear friend Mulan where I can find a great french wine list and early dinner near my hotel last night...she suggests Cafe Claude. Cafe Claude is just a few blocks away tucked into a little alley. The last time I walked down this alley way was Bastille Day in 2002 - oh actually "sipped" my way through the alley for a few hours...but that's a whole other story to tell someday - maybe.

Anyhoo - back to last night. As we walked up to the Cafe Claude patio I expected to see some eclectic bottles from the south of France, maybe some great labels from Burgundy and Bordeaux. Nope - all three tables had a bottle of Teira Zinfandel sitting front and center! So Cool. Turns out that Cafe Claude rolls through a couple dozen cases of Teira Zin each month...oh those crazy french people. Overall, our experience at Cafe Claude was spot on - the service, food and wine list were exceptional. We did choose to sip on a few glasses of great French wine though! I can't wait to go back for a treat of pomme-frites and Pinot Noir at the bar!

Even bigger news for Teira Zinfandel... Jancis Robinson, one of England's (and the world's) most respected wine critics, recently rated 2005 Teira Zinfandel in her Top 100 Wines list. "
Teira Zinfandel 2005 Sonoma County - Drier and more sophisticated than most Zins. Fruit from old vines in Dry Creek and Russian River Valleys. 13.5% .

Around $16 in Texas - you can ask your favorite wine shop for it anytime!
Cheers - Ali

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Front Lines - Every Bottle Counts

I’m out visiting Texas wine shops, wine bars, restaurants and wine distributors each and every day. Everyone asks “are you seeing a slow-down?”… Well no, actually sales are good and absolutely growing stronger each month.

Two things I hav
e built TexaCali Wine Co. business on over the years 1) offer Texas wine consumers accessibility to high-quality, independent, family owned wineries and breweries and 2) offer bottles that are of great value to the Texas consumer.

The only segment that’s hit a wall in this cra
zy economy is the 2006 Burgundy offerings…hard to follow the VERY expensive and HIGHLY acclaimed 2005 vintage to start, seems that consumers and collectors are still sitting on 2005’s (for good reason) and buying wines from other regions to consume now at the dinner table. Patience is kicking in with this one…

The doom and gloom I read about online, hear about on the TV, Radio and etc…it’s out there, but I am so very thankful for … the hard work we’ve done to create solid distribution in Texas, all the Texas wine lovers and supporters of TexaCali Wine Co. and solid, thoughtf
ul planning…the wine and Sake of TexaCali Wine Co. are selling like crazy!

However, more than ever before I do ask you to support our wineries and sake breweries when shopping and choosing wines while eating out. The families and independent producers we represent don’t have corporate marketing budgets, access to “bail-out” money, and a list of share-holders to please. They have kids to feed, vineyard workers to provide for, and mortgages to pay just like us. The East and West coasts are feeling the pain much more than the Lone Star State – so let’s help out these families and make up for the down-sales in other regions of the US. Texas sales are strong – let’s keep it up.

What’s the easiest way to find TexaCali Wine Co. producers? Click around www.texacaliwine.com and jot down wine and sake bottles that peak your interest and keep it with you while out and about. I receive a dozen emails or so each week asking “where can I find…? I will always get back to you - so keep your requests coming.

The TexaCali Wine Co. winemakers and brewers are true wine pioneers, from Japan to France to Spain to Oregon to California to Argentina – each winery is proud to have wines available to purchase in Texas – let’s make them even more proud to be here during this unbelievable economic time. Cheers - Ali
(pictures: 3rd one - Mr. T of Dreamy Clouds and Wandering Poet, last one - The Angel Paulucci family of La Posta Malbec fame)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Winemaker to Watch (again!)

Last year it was Robert Pellegrini of Pellegrini Family Vineyards, this year please meet Kevin Kelley from LIOCO...published in the San Francisco Chronicle today and pictures I took while visiting with Kevin last December.

Most wine loves start with a memorable glass. Kevin Kelley's started with a memorable book. As a history-obsessed high schooler in south San Jose, he dove into Charles Sullivan's "Like Modern Edens," about the Santa Clara Valley's wine roots.

"Little did I know he was an English teacher," points out Kelley, now 32. "He was Mr. Sullivan, teaching English at my high school."

The Pinot Noir long grown on nearby slopes at Saratoga's Mount Eden Vineyards intrigued the science-minded Kelley enough to abandon his medical ambitions and head for UC Davis, though not before marrying his high school sweetheart Jennifer Hatley, who attended UC Berkeley.

If Davis loaded him with practical winemaking skill - he researched topics like the presence of multiple fermentation yeasts in wineries - he increasingly found Burgundy on his brain. When a visiting professor from Dijon arrived, Kelley pounced. "The first day I met him, it was like, 'Hi, I'm Kevin Kelley. I want to go work in Burgundy.' " He began a student internship at Domaine Meo-Camuzet in Vosne-Romanee just after graduation in 2000.

Back on these shores, he became assistant winemaker to Wells Guthrie of Copain, and eventually ran Copain's custom crush facility, working for more than a dozen clients while starting his own label, Salinia Wine Co., in 2003.

Through one of his growers, Charles Heintz, he met the founders of a new project called Lioco. Kelley's goal with Salinia was "to try and find colder and colder sites, and make leaner and leaner wines" with little oak influence. Lioco's founders, Matt Licklider and Kevin O'Connor, wanted to express the flavors of specific Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards with the least intrusive winemaking possible.

"When we sat down and started talking," Kelley recounts, "it was like, 'You really want to do this? Great.' "

Kelley now views his time at Davis as "learning the rules so I know what and when to break." So not only does he insist on no added yeast but he doesn't raise the tank temperatures to spur fermentation. His 2005 Salinia Heintz Ranch Chardonnay took 10 months to ferment, with another eight for malolactic fermentation. The 2006 was just bottled, two years later.

The resulting wines won't appeal to partisans of the extracted California style. But they have a rapidly surging popularity among younger customers who prefer the higher-acid, red-fruit flavors that come from picking as early as Kelley prefers to - often two weeks before fellow winemakers. The Lioco wines, too, have gained attention for their clean, pure expressions. (Kelley also makes more traditional Pinot Noir for Heintz himself, plus several wines for Spot-On Cellars.)

The Kelleys reside in Windsor with their 2-year-old son, Kian, with their winery across from a Baptist church in a generic Santa Rosa industrial park, complete with a long communal table made from the pallet that contained his winery's glycol cooling unit.

Though Salinia produces a mere 350 cases, the tiny footprint allows Kelley to keep breaking more of those rules. So when a slightly murky white he pours draws a puzzled look, he's quick to explain. It's skin-fermented 2008 Chardonnay. He plans to sell it for quick drinking in reusable bulk containers that require only carbon dioxide, not sulfur dioxide, to preserve the wine.

"We're right here in Wine Country, and you can't get fresh wine," he continues. "The freshness is something I want to capture."

The wines

2006 Lioco Michaud Vineyard Chalone Pinot Noir ($45) This Central Coast vineyard shows itself distinctly in this finely toned, almost coppery wine, with dusky cherry, a fascinating hibiscus-like note and moist loam.

2006 Salinia Heintz Ranch Chardonnay ($45) Powerful and mineral-focused, with real punch, a fine example of Kelley's style. Lots of tart Meyer lemon, mango and peach, with honeycomb and salted almond highlights, surround that expressive mineral core.

What he does: Demonstrates the ability of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to reveal their terroir using cold-climate fruit and almost no new oak.

Weeknight wine: Cru Beaujolais like the Domaine Chignard Les Moriers Fleurie

Quote: "Bringing in fruit at the levels I do is not typical. It doesn't appeal to a mass audience like the riper fruit-forward Pinot Noirs do."

(LIOCO is distributed in Texas by Avante Beverages)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Hot off the press today...

Congrats to all the TexaCali Wine Co. producers who made the San Francisco Chronicle 2008 Top 100 Wine List this year! Ask your favorite wine shop to point you to these on their shelves - all are available in Texas...

2006 Lioco Charles Heintz Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($45) Lioco founders Matt Licklider and Kevin O'Connor want to demonstrate the character of individual sites through their Pinot and Chardonnay. This somewhat polarizing wine hails from the fog-shrouded Heintz Vineyard outside Occidental. Signs of botrytis (noble rot) give a distinct honey note in what is a completely dry wine. Add in fresh orange, yellow apple and Anjou pear, and its leesy weight, and you have an exotic creature, something more like dry Sauternes than Chardonnay. It's the very definition of terroir expression, though certainly not to every taste.

2005 Pellegrini Family Vineyards Cloverdale Ranch Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($28)
The Pellegrini family and winemaker Kevin Hamel keep showing off Alexander Valley's potential for refined, refreshing Cab and Merlot. Here, loamy, perfumed notes add complexity to ripe black cherry and cassis, with structure from fine, broad walnut-skin tannins that hint at more aging potential than the price might reveal.

2007 Lioco Sonoma County Chardonnay ($20) - We selected 20 terrific values under $40, all from wineries that produced some of our Top 100 selections. — Jon Bonné

Saturday, December 06, 2008

In "Better Homes and Gardens" this month...

Crios de Susana Balbo

Second label wines often have somewhat poetic names—Bordeaux’s Fleur de Fonplégade comes to mind, as does Crios by Susana Balbo.

Argentine winemaker Susana Balbo chose the word crios (which means offspring) to express the idea that these wines are not quite as “grown up” as her first label wines. While Crios wines may not exhibit the same level of maturity as Balbo’s more renown (and expensive) Signature wines, Balbo assures wine-lovers that Crios wines have received the same loving care and attention throughout the winemaking process.

Bottles to look for include:

  • Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes ($15) A fascinating wine—floral, feminine, and a bit racy, it’s a like a cross between Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. It’s made from the Torrontes grape, the most widely planted white wine grape in Argentina.
  • Crios de Susana Balbo Cabernet Sauvignon ($15): Tastes like an expensive Cab—but at a moderate price. Find classic Cab flavors of black currant and cedar in a rich, ripe package.
  • Crios de Susan Balbo Malbec ($18): Ruby-garnet in color, this is a classic Argentine Malbec, exhibiting dark-red fruits, pronounced tannins, and toasty-oak. Like many Malbecs, it’s dry—a good companion for a juicy steak or burger.

This just in...

Please visit the home page of www.texacaliwine.com to watch a quick video narrated by Laura Catena about Mendoza, the Rossa Family and the beautiful wines of LUCA. Cheers - Ali

Monday, December 01, 2008

Winemaker Dinner in Austin

First Thursday's Winemaker Dinner Series at Starlite - Featuring Davis Family Vineyards

Call your sitter, tell your wine-loving friends, invite your best client, round up a "girls night out" or just show up hungry!

This Thursday night: 6:30-9:30pm at Starlite (www.starliteaustin.net) 407 Colorado St. Guy Davis is flying in to host this amazing night of incredible wine and food.

Chef Josh is pairing 5 courses along with Guy's Award Winning New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Chardonnay, Russian River Pinot Noir, Guyzer Block Syrah, Old Vine Zinfandel and Napa Valley Cabernet.
All new releases.

RSVP - This dinner will be held in the private dining room so seated is limited. $75 a person plus tax and tip.

mail dsaukam@gmail.com (Deana is the events mgr.) to save your seat. Hope to see you there! Cheers - Ali