Friday, December 31, 2010

A Very Happy New Year

I've been hesitant in posting during this last week of 2010.  "Wine of the Year", "Winery to Watch", "Year End in Pictures", 'Wrapping up 2010" many usual ways to go.  What should I should write and say about 2010?  Well there's one very honest and true sentence to write:   The past 52 weeks were life changing.

Looking back, January and February were full of thrilling times for Davis Family Vineyards in Houston with winning the Grand Champion Best of  Show Award for their Napa Cabernet Sauvignon in the biggest and best Wine Competition in the US.   March started off in Mendoza, Argentina where I was thrown out of bed when the devastating magnitude 8.8 struck neighboring Chile.  A real sign of what blind-sided event was on it's way...?

The Italian portfolio of Indigenous Selections came into my life by a very generous friend in the business by late March.  I landed from Argentina to lead a Texas sized staff training and kick-off with the amazing Liz O'Brien, the co-founder of Indigenous.   Days were now perfectly full of teaching and selling wines of some of most wonderful families now from Italy too.  The month of March ended with an incredible trip to visit Handley Cellars in the Anderson Valley.  I can't wait to open "Day Dream", a Pinot Noir I blended alongside Milla Handley that weekend.   LIFE WAS GOOD!

April began with a memorable weekend with LIOCO at the Michaud Vineyard. Pig roast, great wines and some of my favorite people in the wine business made this killer weekend a lasting memory for me. The wines of LIOCO are frankly outstanding, every single one of them and I'm honored to be among the LIOCO circle of friends.

The week after tax-day in April, I encountered the most devastating news ever in my professional life.  The amazing portfolio of Vine Connections would no longer need my help in Texas.  Those who know the truth behind this horrific decision have held me up over the months and inspired me to keep on keeping on.  The producers of their portfolio were near and dear to me and all things that drove me out of bed each morning -  to do the best job one could ever do for them in Texas.  Building and branding Argentine wine and Ginjo Sake from Japan was "cutting edge" and I fought for their presence in fine wine shops and restaurants every hour of the day for 5 years straight.   I learned so much from the leaders at Vine Connections over the years and still to this day find their decision to cut me out among the greatest disappointments in my lifetime. 

The show must go on...the summer months brought new energy and time to lift up my producers who I work with alongside Avante Beverages.  Over the last 6 months, the fine folks at Avante have sold thousands of cases, for this I am most thankful for during this crazy year of the 3-Tier business.  I decided to really put the name "TexaCali Ali" on the West Coast grid and move out to Sonoma County in late August.  

The Pellegrini Family Vineyards in the Russian River were changing gears and I had the opportunity to help restructure and create a strong consumer sales plan for this legendary family.  Running TexaCali back in Texas (thank God for Peet's coffee flowing in the early morning hours!), flying in ever so often and working from the Pellegrini winery has been exhilarating. TexaCali Wine Co. on it's 6th year in business is finally working in true-form. 

Words can not describe how grateful I am to be living the dream.   I could not have made it here without the towering support of my family and dear friends.   2011 already promises to be the most exciting year yet for TexaCali Wine Co.  Stay tuned, it's going to be a blockbuster vintage,  many new wines to learn about, adventures to tell and open doors to walk through and experience.   Quite possibly the happiest time in the life of TexaCali Wine Co. is right now, this last day of 2010.

Thanks to all of you for your faithful following and Cheers to ringing in the New Year with your favorite bottles of wine tonight!   See ya around the TexaCali Wine Trail next year - Ali

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas.

Cheers to drinking your dearest wines with your  friends and family this holiday season. Much love, Ali

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Check this...

THE Perfect Gift for a Traveling Wine Lover like me.  

I can't express enough how painful it's been over the years to deal with wine at the airport, puts me in a bad mood just thinking about hauling a case in and out of the baggage claim, parking lots, shuttle buses, it sucks. SO - here's a great solution for all...brilliant. 

$54 bucks well spent. Cheers - Ali 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Stuff Your Own Stocking...

with the beautiful 2005 Ciacci Piccolomini d Aragona Brunello di Montalcino Sangiovese Grosso!  

My first trip to Italy was back in June of 2003. I stayed in Montalcino for days touring the region and tasting my favorite Brunello producers.  The clock tower in the square was over-run by children playing all night, their grandma's strolling in circles while the men sat around the steps trading cards and conversation.  Every time I pull a cork of Ciacci, it takes me right back to those magical days...

About the Winery Ciacci Piccolomini d Aragona
The origins of the Ciacci Piccolmini d'Aragona estate go back to the 17th century. In 1877 the property was sold to Francesco Ciacci, head of a Castelnuovo-based family. Then in the mid 1900's, the so-called Palazzo del Vascovo became known as  Palazzo Ciacci Piccolomini d'Aragona after the marriage of Alberto Piccolomini d'Aragona and Elda Ciacci.The Bianchini family inherited in 1985.

Over the course of the last decade Ciacci Piccolomini has become one of the most sought-after producers in all of Italy. This ancient estate has 35 hectares of superior holdings in the prized Castelnuovo dell'Abate zone, including the "Pianrosso" vineyard (from which the best grapes are selected for the Brunello di Montalcino) and the "Fonte" vineyard, which produces grapes for the Rosso di Montalcino.   The vineyards are located in the south, wouth-west side of Montalcino at an altitude between 240 and 360 meters above sea level. The stony slopes near the Orcia River benefit from a particularly mild microclimate and the vines grow in ideal climatic conditions.

About the Wine
This "basic" Brunello is a newer addition to the exceptional Ciacci line-up. New vineyards came into production in time for the 2003 vintage, allowing them to release a great- value Brunello di Montalcino as a compliment to their legendary, single-vineyard bottlings from the Pianrosso site. Aged for roughly 3 years in 20-85 hl Slavonian oak barrels, followed by approximately 4 months for bottle refinement.    Retail Pricing - $42-47 a bottle.

92 points, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate

"The 2005 Brunello di Montalcino is wonderfully plump and juicy in its expressive red fruit. Floral notes are woven throughout, giving the wine its sense of lift and proportion. Though not as explosive as the 2004,  the 2005 Brunello di Montalcino offers outstanding persistence on the palate and a long, generous finish. This is a terrific effort from Ciacci. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2020. Proprietor Paolo Bianchini has turned out a gorgeous set of wines. In 2005 Bianchini elected to forgo his top Brunello, Pianrosso, and bottle just his straight Brunello, which has all of the best fruit he was able to bring in that year. The result speaks for itself. I also tasted a number of Brunellos in cask from vintages 2006 through 2008 that appear quite promising. As good as the Brunellos are, value-conscious readers will want to pay special attention to Ciacci's entry-level wines, which are just as noteworthy."April 2010

Friday, December 10, 2010

The last 2007 Pinot Noir Standing...

Thank God for Handley Cellars! The 2007 production level of their beautiful Pinot Noir was on the larger side of usual.   I've received a handful of texts, tweets, messages and phone calls from folks who've recently opened this gorgeous bottle of  Handley Cellars Pinot Noir.  Last spring I tasted the 2007 for the first time over a sunny lunch at the winery. The chef paired Asian dishes to go with all of the wines, but the Pinot was truly the star of the show.

2007 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir - from their website: 

" Our goal is to produce Pinots that reflect the vintage and region where they are grown.  This Pinot Noir is a blend of twelve different vineyards, each contributing an element of complexity, giving it beautiful aromas of cherry, violets, lavender, and blueberry, along with hints of chocolate. Our Estate vineyard Martini clone brightens the wine, while the Dijon clones contribute to its long, silky finish.

The mild acidity of our 2007 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir makes it an excellent accompaniment to cheeses such as goat or triple cremes, while the textures complement lamb, duck, or salmon dishes as well"

93 POINTS - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - Ultimate Beverage Challenge (June 2010)
RECOMMENDED - Food and Wine, wine guide (2010)
GOLD MEDAL - Mendocino County Fair (2009)
GOLD MEDAL - SF Chronicle Wine Competition (2010)
Pacific Rim Wine Competition (2010)
GOLD MEDAL - Critics Challenge International Wine Competition (2010)
FOUR STAR GOLD MEDAL (BEST OF CLASS) - Orange County Fair (2010)

Retail pricing is around $30 coast to coast.  Distributed in Texas by Avante Beverages, fully stocked for December Drinking! Cheers - Ali

Thursday, December 09, 2010

A Perfect Holiday Italian Treat

 La Spinetta Moscato d'Asti Bricco Quaglia 2009

89 points Antonio Galloni (Wine Advocate): "[$19 list] The 2009 Moscato d'Asti Bricco Quaglia is simply lovely in this vintage. Clean, minerally notes frame a precise, beautifully sculpted core of fragrant, varietal fruit. This is a winner from La Spinetta. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2011. (Aug 2010)"

Producer notes: "Color: yellow with green reflections. Bouquet: complex, vibrant, fresh, delicately sweet, yet light. Taste: a wine that surprises by its remarkable freshness and brilliant fruit flavors. Pairings: traditionally as a dessert wine, but also for aperitif, afternoon refreshment or with Sunday brunch." 

(my non-drinking Mother even likes this one!)

Cheers - Ali

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

San Francisco Chronicle Top 100 Wines of 2010 Highlights

Finally  - I met Jon Bonné a few weeks ago after following his tasting notes, articles and opinions just about everywhere I could "read" him. He knows his wine and I learn from him all of the time.  Here are a few highlights from his "Chronicle Top 100 Wine 2010" that I have a soft-spot for...delicious!

2008 Lioco Charles Heintz Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($45):
Lioco's goal is to frame the potential of outstanding vineyards, and Heintz is such a profound Chardonnay spot that it yielded two wines in this list. With zero oak influence, this shows a vivacious citrus edge, with a woodsy aroma of heather amid pineapple, focused mineral and honeyed pear and apricot. Heintz can yield tricky results in some years, but this is as pure as it gets. 

2009 Arnot-Roberts Campagni-Portis Vineyard Old Vine Sonoma Valley White Wine ($30):
Who could make a cult hit out of weird white wines? Forestville's Duncan Meyers and Nathan Roberts seem to. This blend from a historic Sonoma site is a tribute to California's old field blends - a mix of Gewurztraminer, Green Hungarian, Trousseau Gris and more. An orange-blossom accent leads to greengage plum, ginger, lanolin and ripe pear, tied together with a nervy acidity. Complex and heady, it keeps drawing you back to the glass, testament to the virtues of blending white grapes.   

2008 Hirsch Vineyards M Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($45):
Though wildfires prompted many wineries to skip a Hirsch designate in 2008, Hirsch itself stood firm, producing the M (usually a second tier) as its top wine. New winemaker Ross Cobb has finessed a blend dominant in old Pommard and Mount Eden clones that's packed with pleasing wild strawberry fruit and layered minerality.  

2008 Donkey & Goat Four Thirteen El Dorado Red Wine ($32):
Jared and Tracey Brandt's take on a traditional Chateauneuf blend (with Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Counoise) from three Sierra foothills sites shows tremendous energy and depth. Bright strawberry fruit accented by balsam, sweet pepper and wild garrigue, completed by a darker mineral note. 

2008 Gramercy Cellars Walla Walla Valley Syrah ($45):
Master sommelier Greg Harrington is establishing himself as a major star in Washington state with stupendous wines like this one. A gorgeously elusive scent, something like pepper cookies. Refined aromas of white pepper and mace, a savory mouthful of bright blackberry fruit and a velvety texture add up to a stellar effort.  

Please take time to read over Jon's complete TOP 100 here:  Cheers - Ali

Monday, December 06, 2010


indica is the #1 keyword search hit on this blog and on, interesting.   So - for all you indica hunters and lovers out there, yes, we have a few hundred cases available.

Tasting notes from Matt and Kevin "Our 2008 indica is a blend of old-vine Carignan and Petite Sirah from Alvin Tollini's vintage, plus a nice dollop of gnarly old Mourvedre from a neighboring appellation (Suisun Valley). The resultant wine is black-fruited, spicy, and way more Bauhaus (in a Peter Murphy kind-of-way) than the shrill 07 indica. Reminds us quite a bit of the 06. This wines again takes us to France, but to a slightly warmer part like the Roussillon. Grill up some lamb burgers, twist a cap, and enjoy life."

Ask your favorite wine shop in Texas for a few bottles, a perfect pre and post Holiday treat too! Cheers - Ali

Pizza Wine By the Case-load!

What a treat for TexaCali Austin fans!! The downtown Whole Foods store just brought in a few extra cases (over 100) of my favorite pizza wine of all-time.   And if you know anything about me, Pizza is a weekly meal of choice, fighting cravings for it almost daily!  Ciacci Piccolomini, one of my very favorite Brunello producers now has this killer-value to offer for every-day sippers (or pizza pie eaters) .  So here's the scoop: 

Ciacci Piccolomini d'Aragona Toscana Rosso, 2007 - on sale for $10.99, $5 off a bottle!

Wine Advocate:
88 points Antonio Galloni (Wine Advocate): "In recent years, Ciacci’s Toscana Rosso has established itself as one of the finest values in Tuscany, and the 2007 is no exception. Essentially a second selection of barrels from the Ateo and Fabius, the 2007 Toscana Rosso flows with generous, plump fruit and a juicy, irresistible personality. Readers will have a hard time finding a better value in Tuscan wine. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2012. (Apr 2010)"

Cheers to Ciacci and buying it by the case at Whole Foods now!  -  Ali

Monday, November 29, 2010

Fantastic Bubbles from Italy...

BiancaVigna Prosecco - new cases have arrived and are making friends all over the state of Texas.  Find it at your favorite Texas wine shop for $12-14.

A little reminder:  Prosecco DOC Brut NV
100% estate-grown Glera fruit; 27 year-old vines (average). 

Vinified by gently pressing the grapes, still decantation and fermentation at a constant temperature. Aged in stainless steel vats. Foaming: Second fermentation in stainless steel tanks (cuvée close) at controlled temperatures, with selected ferments, for a minimum of 60 days. Tartaric stabilization at a low temperature.
Bottling: Isobaric bottling, after sterile filtration

Tasting Note: Color: Brilliant straw-yellow with green reflections, fine and persistent perlage. 

Flavor: Creamy mouthfeel, yet dry in style; pleasant acidity, lovely fruitiness

Please visit their US Importer for more information:

Distributed By Avante Beverages in Texas.  Cheers  - Ali

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

A little reminder from Mother Nature a few days ago about how beautiful our world can be.  From the heart of the Russian River AVA, in Sonoma County this year, Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Gratefully yours, Ali

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tis the Season...

for being buried.  The last 2 months of the year for anyone peddling wine is insane. I am now making appointments with myself to wash my hair, put gas in the car, make coffee earlier in the morning -  Thanksgiving Day & Christmas Day are the two days of rest on the horizon.  Man, I needed a pedicure weeks ago, seriously.

Thanksgiving Day is going to be full of fun & love with new and old friends in California this year. My sweet parents are arriving to Sonoma County in a few days to see the beautiful fall vineyards and enjoy some time with me too.

I am so very thankful for my own family and all the family wineries who have trusted and supported me and all that I do to make their world go round...I ask you all to seek out the beautiful wines listed below over this holiday season particularly, they are the REAL DEAL.  No marketing hype, no unjust prices, only  pure and honest wine making for all to enjoy. 

Thanksgiving wines indeed.


Davis Family Vineyards: My new favorite is their Cuvee Luke - white Rhone style blend Guy Davis made from grapes grown in the Sierra Foothills. Guy named this crazy good wine after his first Grandson - Luke.  Also, his "Cote Rose" is my favorite dry Rose to drink while cooking up a Turkey storm in the kitchen.  Call the winery direct for these.

Handley Cellars:  oh their lovely & beautiful Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer (the #1 wine to sip with your roasted Turkey!), Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc from Dry Creek. I almost always have Handley Cellars wines chillin' in my fridge.

LIOCO: out of this world "natural wines" made from "Grand Cru" vineyards in California, unoaked Chardonnays, Pinot Noir and a gulpable old-vine Carignan blend "Indica". I have 2 bottles of their first release Hirsch Vineyard Pinot Noir to open this Thanksgiving. LOVE LIOCO!
Pellegrini Family Vineyards: world class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the famed Olivet Lane (Olivet Lane has been a staple on my Turkey Day table for over 8 years now).  Plus many other bottles to chose from like Cloverdale Ranch Cabernet and Merlot from Alexander Valley, Eight Cousins Russian River Zinfandel and a whole slew of unique offerings that are only sold through their tasting room and wine club. (Did you know I'm running their wine club now? Please jump on their website and sign up - loads of fun and amazing small batch offerings).

Medlock Ames: your best bet for sustainable wine making and vineyard growing in Sonoma County. I just tasted their 2001 Merlot, and it was unbelievably beautiful after almost 10 years...their Red blend that is 50/50 Merlot and Cabernet has been one of my favorites with a hearty meal for a very long time.
Storrs Winery When I think of the perfect Zinfandel I think of Storrs. Rusty Ridge Zinfandel has always been my favorite in all of California.  Their Petite Sirah is mindblowing too.  I can't keep up with all the Gold Medals and "Best of Class" awards the Storrs family receives each year, your best bet is to ask your favorite retailer for Storrs if they are currently without.  This family owned winery is such a gem.


Indigenous Selections:  this new importer on the scene has been the biggest blessing of my year.  Their portfolio full of handcrafted and family owned wineries in Italy continues to impress everyone.   A few highlights include: 





CIGLIUTI - all wines from this tiny producer. 

A big day of thanks ahead, send me some photos of your Thanksgiving wines!  Cheers - Ali

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Off subject - My Dog Henley

Many of you were lucky enough to have known Henley over the last 13 years, many of you have read about him here, many of you don't have an idea as to why I'm writing about him.  After a devastatingly hard summer, his health faded fast and I had to make the call to "put him down" last Friday night.  Over a week ago back in Fort Worth, I spent my my last few minutes with Henley, right before I loaded the car and left for a trip to Austin, he rested his handsome head in my hands and slowly closed his eyes while I continued to pet his ears and hug on him.  Henley lived a great long life, at least every year after his first one. 

Henley was a big goofy sweetheart black Labrador Retriever.  He "found me" one day while visiting the Dallas SPCA along with my dear friend Liane.  Among the numerous SPCA "big-dog" wire cages with loud rowdy dogs,  Liane and I walked to the very last cage in the room that day and there sat this quiet and depressed looking black dog.  He was not in good shape, scabs on his head, skiddish acting, underweight, all the elements of an abused dog.  Liane looked at me and without saying a word, I knew this little guy needed me, needed a good home.  Done.  Henley's new life had begun. 

Henley was instantly loved by all, often going to work with me in Dallas and San Francisco over the years. I'll always remember him waiting for me in my office in Dallas, I'd leave for a bit and upon my return down the long hallway, there he was - his head sticking out of my door looking for me, laying down, paws regally crossed in front of him.  My first office in San Francisco was a group of outdoor cottages on Union Street with a garden. The "Beware of Loveable Lab" sign still hangs on the gate  this very day.  Henley was witness to the birth of my wine-career, hanging out at K&L Wine Merchants sleeping under desks and soaking up love from the owners and staff.  Henley went everywhere I could take him.

Henley and I spent thousands of hours together taking long walks, Lakeside in Highland Park, Crissy Field under the Golden Gate Bridge, hiking The Presidio,  snowshoeing in Sun Valley, trotting around any golf course we could sneak onto at dusk, summertime hiking Tahoe and playing in creeks in Alpine Meadows (clearly his favorite place on earth) and our last routine walks together were tucked away among the rolling hills above Lake Austin.  In recent weeks, Henley eagerly awaited at the end of the day right by the front door inside my Mom's home for my dear stepfather Ben to take him on a long neighborhood walk.  He loved being outdoors - only if he was accompanied by a friend. 

I could write forever about Henley.  He was my shadow, not a minute would pass at home that Henley wasn't right at my feet.  Henley made a friend out of everyone.  Henley was "the model dog" as my Mom would say.  I want to thank everyone over the years who helped me with Henley, there was a lot of "got to let Henley out" days, keeping Henley company for weeks at a time while I traveled for work and of course the last few years of my life couldn't have happened without Kevin and Daniel of the Austin Dog Walker, and our rocks - Mom and Ben in Fort Worth.

Henley was an heavenly soul, greeted me every day with a crooked smile "are you smiling at me Henley?" and sang like Barry White anytime his ears were rubbed the right way.  Henley knew just how to make the day seem better. My angel indeed.  Thank you Henley for your time on earth, you taught me what compassion means, unconditional love - you touched so many lives.  

Since Friday night after posting Henley's passing on Facebook, over 300 friends and family members have called and sent messages. He loved life with all his might and was so loved backed by all.  I am so grateful for everyone's support and kind words, my heart is broken indeed, this year has been so incredibly tough, no question the year I need my friends the most.

Henley I promise to eat every pizza-crust in your honor for the rest of my life!!  My sweet Henley.  Cheers to the best dog ever,  Ali.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

#1 White Wine to Drink Now

My favorite food-magazine highlights LIOCO, actually the fine folks at Saveur rank it #!.  Just in time for the Thanksgiving Table.  LIOCO is distributed in Texas by Avante Beverages, this will disappear in a hurry.  BRAVO!! 

LIOCO Charles Heintz Chardonnay
2008 ($45)

Winemaker Kevin Kelley apprenticed in Burgundy before returning to make beautiful wines like this clean, precise chardonnay. Made from late-harvest grapes meticulously tended along the chilly, fog-shrouded slopes of the Sonoma Coast, this amber-hued chardonnay looks oaked but was made in stainless steel. It smells of heather and tastes like pineapple, honeyed pear, and apricot, balanced by bracing minerals.

Monday, November 01, 2010

2010 World Champions, a grand arrival!

I drove into my new place for the very first time in Northern California a few minutes ago, AM radio blasting the final minutes of the series, top of the 9th.  ...Giants Win!  Incredibly proud of my Texas Rangers, but damn excited for the San Francisco Giants, church bells ringing, fireworks slinging, car horns honking, neighbors cheering, a big celebration indeed. 

Home Sweet Home.  Cheers - Ali  (PS, thank you Brother Colby for the epic photo from The Ballpark tonight!)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

It's time to show up RANGERS, and time for a little Texas wine!

GAME 3: Dang, this TexaCali of a World Series has been 100% Cali  - come-on Rangers, I know your heart is in it, time to buck-up and PLAY BALL!   So now I must suggest a new wine that's on the scene, in fact one of the hottest wineries in Texas these days.   The Duchman Family Winery Vermentino is making plenty of fans - all over America too.   Here's a recent write-up in the Dallas Morning News: 

Vermentino is a wine grape variety successfully grown in southern Italy. Now we can say with assurance that vermentino is successfully grown in Texas. This vermentino is a pale lemon color; it’s enchantingly light and refreshing, with floral and mineral aromas and delicate pear and citrus flavors cheered by zesty acidity. It is delightful as an apéritif and equally at home with an elegant sautéed scallop or a comfy chicken nugget…

Note that the appellation is Texas, meaning the grapes were grown in Texas, in this case at the Bingham Family Vineyards in West Texas. You should know, if you don’t already, that if a Texas winery’s label says “For sale in Texas only,” the grapes for that wine were not grown in Texas. That doesn’t mean the wine is not good; it just means it’s not from Texas grapes. If you buy it, you will still be helping support a Texas winery – a good thing – but not a Texas grower.

The state doesn’t grow enough grapes to fill all the bottles being produced by Texas wineries. It’s hard to grow grapes in Texas, what with early or late frosts, hailstorms, wind storms, various pests and diseases. Texas grape growers are gutsy, persistent and optimistic, perhaps irrationally so, but aren’t we lucky to have them?

Available at Central Market and Whole Foods Market. 

Great to run into my old friend Julio at VINOVINO in Austin last week, he's one of the biggest ambassadors of very well-made wine I know, so the fact he's behind this Texas winery goes a long way with TexaCali Ali - Cheers and GO GIANTS - LET'S GO RANGERS!! - Ali

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Game 2 - Wine Pick!

OH, the 2008 LIOCO Indica brought some luck and hitting skills in for the GIANTS in Game 1 last night.  Here's a little something killer by the Pellegrini Family who have ties to Texans in the Hill Country, looks like the Rangers could use a little Texas-Luck tonight! 

2007 Pellegrini Family Vineyards "Eight Cousins" Russian River Zinfandel

This bottle of Zin is more for baseball fans that football warriors for sure.  This Zinfandel hits it out of the park each time the cork is pulled. Great berry flavors and spice, sexy texture with solid finesse and structure.  Goes well with a great ball park dog too, give it a try! 


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Game 1 of the TexaCali World Series!

wine pairing suggestion for Game 1:  2008 LIOCO "Indica"

LIOCO's 2008 Indica is a blend of old-vine Carignan and Petite Sirah, plus a nice dollop of gnarly old Mourvedre from a neighboring appellation (Suisun Valley).  No hassle with a twist-off cap and will go great with any game-time snacks, especially anything off your grill!  GO RANGERS! GO GIANTS!  Cheers - Ali

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Chefs Under Fire Finals - Monday night in Austin!

My dear friends over at the Keeper Collection have been working hard on the most fun culinary contest in Texas!  The final night has arrived, tomorrow in Austin.  Read all about it... 

Alongside some beauties from the Becky Wasserman Burgundy portfolio, here's a peak at the wine list...Good Luck to the 3 finalists, it's going to be a great night for all the Foodies in Austin! Cheers - Ali

Saturday, October 23, 2010

World Series of my Life

AFTER A 6 HOUR DELAY AT THE AIRPORT...A Few minutes ago, Monica, our flight attendant on my AA Flight to Dallas from San Francisco announced  "Giants are up by 1 in the bottom of the 8th."  DING  CHEERS throughout the cabin.  We have ourselves a "TexaCali World Series".  Hot DAWGS!!! COLD Beer!  

Bravo Rangers and Bravo Giants.   My worst job ever (gawd I hated cold-calling out of the yellow-pages)  but taught me the most about how to sell anything was anchored right there in center-field in the new Ballpark at Arlington for KRLD, CBS Radio and the Texas Rangers Radio Network.

So - bring on the bets - will it be California or Texas who wins the hearts of baseball fans all over America?  My heart is in both places.  We shall to buy my peanuts and Crackerjacks...Cheers - Ali (this post is brought to you by Gogo Inflight Internet).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cigliuti Family

"Never let the odds keep you from pursuing what you know in your heart you were meant to do".

Looking back over the past year, I can honestly say that many of my happiest "wine moments" are credited to the family-owned wineries I'm so honored to help in Texas (LIOCO guys I consider you family owned too!), but WOW Indigenous Selections continues to blow my mind with the quality of their producers and the respect and business sense they bring to the wine-table.  I kid you not, I haven't sipped on a single bottle of wine in their very selective portfolio from Italy that I haven't fallen in love with. Some more than others, but every time a new cork is pulled from one of their producers a smile appears.  My latest Italian discovery...the phenomenal wines of Cigliuti. 

The Cigliutii story is similar to the Pellegrini's history in California. From their website: "Renato Cigliuti’s family has been farming vineyards and producing wines in Barbaresco since 1790. However, it wasn’t until 1964 that they began bottling and selling their own wines, just 300 bottles of Barbaresco. Renato was one of the first in the area to do so, together with Giacosa and a few other estates.

Today, Renato steers the course for Cigliuti but is assisted in the cellar by his wife Dina, and daughters, Claudia and Silvia— a talented and a well-matched team. The winery is located at the top of the Serraboella hill. Today Serraboella is an official Barbaresco subzone and the most important vineyard in the eastern part of the municipality of Neive, thanks largely to the progress made by Renato himself. For decades, Cigliuti’s name has been synonymous with expressive Barbarescos from Serraboella, of the utmost quality, and will continue to be for decades to come." ...Read more here

Cigliuti Dolcetto d’Alba DOC - from the famed Serraboella vineyard in Neive, Barbaresco. Vines are roughly 20 years old. Wine is aged for 8 months in stainless-steel tanks. (if you follow Parker you'll be pleased with his reviews and scores).

Claudia Cigliuti will be visiting Texas for the first time ever, actually Austin just for a short time, but am I proud to show off the town to her while showing off her family's wines to all the best Austin wine folks...Cheers - Ali

PS. I've changed a few things on my website  - go click around and Join the Inner Circle if you haven't already.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Sunrise in the Russian River

Thanks to Pellegrini Family Vineyards - Early Riser & Winemaker Kevin Hamel for this wonderful shot this morning! Follow Pellegrini on Twitter @pellegriniwines

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Pay it forward...

Meet Bridget:

Bridget sells loaves of bread in retail to her customers within her community in Lagos state, Nigeria. She is 50 years old and married with 10 children. Bridget hopes for the loan amount of N80, 000 to purchase more loaves of bread to sell. Bridget lives in Lagos State, Nigeria.

And Nestor:

Nestor is a young man from the Gblinkomé district. He learned food service and is a cook. Not having found work in a hotel, he decided in 2004 to open his own little restaurant in order to support himself. His cafeteria is situated along a big international road so he gets a lot of customers. 

To avoid running short of foodstuffs, he is asking WAGES for a loan to buy 3 cases of milk, 1 basket of fresh tomatoes, 15 trays of eggs, 10 cases of beer, 3 cases of spaghetti, and 1 big tin of oil. Nestor is not married and not raising any children.  He lives in Adidogomé, Togo.

TexaCali Wine Co. has successfully sponsored these two entrepreneurs over the last 2 years and they no-longer need a loan for their business. 100% repaid!   So proud and honored to help Nestor and Bridget achieve their business dreams!

Please help us help Kigozi Grace now in Uganda...(she sounds like my kinda' gal!)

“Men have sight--Women have insight”- This is an adage firmly embedded in 33-year-old Kigozi Grace. Kigozi belongs to Bazirengedde group. Because she has been able to solve deeply entrenched financial adversity on her own with no support, she now has a deeper perspective and understanding of how to handle a crisis situation in business. Notwithstanding the relatively short period of time she has had her food snack and soft drink restaurant business, she has given a good account of herself as a business woman.

Lady luck has shone on Grace’s married life. She and her husband have three highly spirited kids who she says take after both of them in many ways.

Running this business has struck a deep chord with clients who flock to her restaurant. Like her name, Kigozi Grace is truly gracious. She began her business journey selling charcoal and firewood. Grace credits her sister with giving her the inspiration to begin this business. With this loan, she says she is going to buy more furniture for her restaurant.

A little goes a very long way, pay it 

Cheers - Ali

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

Wine of the Week @ Block 7

Big Cheers to Block 7 in Houston for their enthusiastic support of Pellegrini Family Vineyards!  They've circled in on a Pellegrini Family Blend. A perfect excuse to go for the Block 7 Burger and Sweet Potato Fries too.  Cheers to a great weekend everyone! - Ali


Rarely does a value bottle whop us over our heads, but at a recent tasting Pellegrini's 2005 Family Blend did just that. Away are the overripe, high alcohol fruit bombs or thin, uninteresting whippets that one normally finds from California at this price. No - this wine is intense, rich and succulent without the rocket fuel alcohol that usually comes with this price-tag. Amazing texture with black fruit notes and impressive extraction.The wine just coats your tongue - which is what you'd expect from a blend of Zinfandel, Merlot and jaw-dropping 100+ year old Carignan vines. 

The wine drinks like it came from an old vine parcel within la Liviniere, Minervois - definitely not Sonoma County. Unlike a great, old vine Carignan from an esteemed producer such as Gauby or l'Oustal Blanc, this one is accessible for every pocketbook.
We'll be pouring this wine, along with several other amazing values during this weekend's Saturday Tasting from 12-2pm. See you then!"

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Juice Box.

It's been a wild and wacky season thanks to Mother Nature in California.  Pinot Noir grapes came in today for a custom crush client @ Pellegrini Family Vineyards.  The Olivet Lane Pinot Noir is still hanging out for a few more days of sunshine.  A great day at the winery for all! 
Cheers! Ali

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Off Subject - Breakast Food Porn

There are many reasons to go to Perla's in Austin, great people, excellent food, the best cocktails in Austin, killer patio, and of course to see their beautiful oyster-shucker Jen!  

So, after hanging out there a gazillion times  - Ben the Bar Manager suggested I come in for Sunday Brunch, so here is what I'll forever be thankful for at Perla's: 

PS: There's a hidden mound of bananas smack-dab in the middle of this morning masterpiece.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Windsor to SFO to DFW to Fort Worth to Houston to Austin to Dallas to Fort Worth to DFW to SFO to Windsor.

Well worth the trip.  Avante Beverages hosted their Texas Portfolio Tour and knocked it out of the park this week.

I wonder, maybe 100, possibly 200 trade tastings I've now attended and/or organized over the past 10 years.  Portfolio Tastings = massive number of wine producers, marketing agents and sales folks who stand behind tables in a huge room together pouring their wines for wine buyers and media folks to try.   It's a time for folks like me to taste all the accounts who attend, crack some deals, hang out with the distributor sales reps and do a heck of a lot of networking with all the traveling vendors (I'll post a recap of some interesting wines I tasted from others at some point soon).

Yesterday I was a vendor wrapping up Avante's 3 day, 3 city Portofolio Tasting.  TexaCali Wine Co. as you know by now (or you are a clueless moron) represents some of the best family owned wineries from all over the world.  I brought out bottles from all corners of Italy and California this week - and "not a sucker in bunch" said everyone that stopped by my table for a taste through.
Many of us "in the trade" contemplate the need for these sorta tastings.  From a planning standpoint - pulling off a tasting is a HUGE pain in the tush.  It's a ton of work, hard-labor for the warehouse pulling mounds of wine to be delivered in advance to each venue, meticulous organization of each box (always a mixed case of wines) for individual tables, securing enough trays to load with ice for the white bottles, water pitchers and dump buckets for each table and of course all the price booklets and polished stemware all need uber planning in advance before it's "go-time".  There's usually a bus that bounces everyone around the state, most likely a bus that has a flat or a funky smell at some point between here and there too.  It takes everyone in our supply-chain working together to pull-off an excellent tasting.  This week- it was an excellent tasting!
Well attended - hundreds of wine buyers and pros attended the Texas Tour - rain or shine literally.  It was a "white-knuckle" drive on Tuesday through the hurricane, but I can only count on 1.5  hands the number of buyers who missed out, which is/was truly a shame.  This week was an excellent opportunity to not only taste wine, but to see the tremendous amount of comradeship between Avante Beverages and all of their Texas supporters who sell their beautiful wine offerings in their fine-wine establishments.

Avante - these group of fellas started a company driven by passion 4 years ago and live it everyday no matter what.  Wine distribution is a tough, bumpy and steep road &  peddling wine through distribution is filled with more hard & curvy roads.  However,  a week of seeing smiles the minute a wine sommelier or retail buyer's nose hits a glass for their first sip of wine makes it all worth it.  Thanks to all who stopped by my tables, tasted the wines of TexaCali Wine Co. and continue to support and promote the good folks of Avante Beverages in Texas.  

2010 has been an incredibly hard year for TexaCali Wine Co.  As most of you know, last April I undeservedly and ruthlessly lost my dearest client  -  a collection of wine and sake producers I've been fiercely dedicated to over the last 5 years.  Avante Beverages has stood strong by my side since the day they opened their doors.  So to those of you who stayed an especially long time talking with me at the tables this week offering your Texas-Size hugs and kind words of support -  you just blew a whopping amount of fresh air into my weathered sails.   I can't thank you enough.  The next chapter of TexaCali Wine Co. is well on it's way, so stay tuned!! 

Cheers to a great weekend ahead (hopefully you'll be sipping on a few wines from LIOCO, Handley Cellars, Pellegrini Family Vineyards, Teira and the gorgeous Italian wines of Indigenous Selections) Just ask your favorite Texas wine shop!

Follow TexaCaliAli on Twitter and join TexaCali Wine Co. on Facebook

Friday, September 03, 2010

Texas Portfolio Tour

TRADE AND MEDIA ONLY:  Avante Beverages is hosting their statewide portfolio tour...stop by and taste the incredible wines of LIOCO, Handley Cellars, Indigenous Selections, Teira and Pellegrini Family Vineyards along with me!  Please click on invitation to enlarge below...Cheers! Ali

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Prince of Pinot Profiles LIOCO

For all you Pinot Noir fans out there, if you haven't subscribed to the Pinot File yet, here's a great reason - a nice in-depth profile on the winemaking techniques & philosophy behind LIOCO.  Cheers - Ali

LIOCO Winery: A Different Path

Sommeliers approach wine from a different perspective, less focused on the hedonism of wine and more concerned with how the components of wine act in unison to compliment and enhance the experience of dining. Their profession teaches them about what kind of wine makes food sing. It is no surprise, then, that in recent years many sommeliers have launched their own wine labels, directing the crafting of wine or even making wines themselves that reflect their preference for food-loving wines. Many sommeliers have established intimate relationships with winegrowers and winemakers through the years, making it easy for them to gain access to talented people in the wine business to assist in the start up process. One of these sommeliers is Kevin O’Connor of Spago Restaurant in Los Angeles.

O’Connor predates the current surge in sommelier wine producers, having made wine for years under the O’Connor label. Beginning with the 2005 vintage, he teamed with former North Berkeley Imports wine importer Matt Licklider to found the LIOCO label, specializing in non-manipulated site-driven wines. LIOCO is a combination of the partner’s last names.

O’Connor works closely with University of California at Davis graduate Kevin Kelley (pictured below), who also crafts wines for Salinia Wine Company, Heintz Vineyard, and Spot-On Cellars. Like a number of winemakers who started out with ambitions to enter the medical profession, he was derailed after reading Charles Sullivan’s Like Modern Edens, the story of the origins of the Santa Clara Valley wine business. After serving an internship at Domaine Meo-Camuzet in Burgundy, he became an assistant winemaker under Wells Guthrie of Copain. He founded his own label, Salinia Wine Company, with his wife Jennifer in 2003, with the intention of producing wines with minimal winemaking imprint using indigenous yeasts and very little to no oak (only seasoned oak barrels are used). To achieve his goals, he picks early, does not temperature control fermentations, avoids fining and filtration, minimizes sulfur usage, and lets nature take its course...


14.3% alc., pH 3.77, 343 cases, $48. This vineyard is located at an elevation of 1,600 feet on granite and limestone soils. The climate is extreme, with 40 to 60 degree diurnal shifts, resulting in stressed vines. 10-day cold soak, aged 12 months in 1, 2, and 3- year-old oak barrels, unfined and unfiltered. · Deeply colored. Appealing, even ridiculously sensual aromas of warm cherry tart, tea, ground savory and dark roses. Flavors of loamy black cherries and berries, spice and grilled mushrooms. A sweet and sour thing is going on with the fruit. Silky and smooth with healthy ripe tannins yet a charming elegance. Amazing persistence of berry fruit on the generous finish. This wine will stand up to hearty foods. Very good (+).

Please click here to read in full and subscribe: 


Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Sunday Afternoon Office

A welcome view, warm sunshine and cool breeze. Sitting outside in San Anselmo,California this afternoon working on major-cool-stuff!  New business opportunities on the horizon have injected a big rush of excitement and massive focus. Stay tuned & cheers to a lovely week ahead everyone - Ali