Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Lewelling and Davis Family Vineyards Tomorrow...

Day 2 of sitting inside an hotel conference room all day long in Marin County. 2010 planning for Vine Connections is big-time and takes big-time meetings these days. However, tomorrow we're off to visit Lewelling Vineyards in Napa Valley and Davis Family Vineyards in the heart of California's Russian River in Sonoma County.

I love Northern California this time of year, the hills are bright green, flowers are blooming, (whiffs of perfumed petals everywhere too) and the vines are coming alive.

Here's a little vintage TexaCali Ali post, the video is of Guy standing over his Pinot, Syrah, Chardonnay and Zinfandel vineyards from the top of the east-facing hill where he planted the vines years ago...
Cheers - Ali http://texacaliwinetrail.blogspot.com/2009/09/august-8-2008.html

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Handley Cellars

Last Monday I spent a beautiful day with Handley Cellars in California's Anderson Valley - approx. 10 miles inland from the Mendocino Coast. Milla Handley and her co-winemaker Kristen Barnhisel hosted a group of wine-pros from around the country to learn more about their Pinot Noir program, and to experience blending a bottle of Pinot.

The day begin with touring Pinot Noir vineyards in the Anderson Valley ... Ferrington, Helluva and Handley's Organic Estate Vineyard. A bottle of Handley Anderson Valley Pinot in some years can have as many as 10 different vineyard sites, or as little as 1 - depending on the particular role Mother Nature played. The group spent the afternoon blending a bottle of Pinot using 5 different vineyard sites. "Day Dream" was my final blend, Milla suggested I wait until XMAS to open. I'll report back then.

For now... a few quick facts from Monday:

1. Handley Cellars is located in "Region 1" , a scale the folks at UC Davis c
reated to determine the coolest (the chilly kind) to the warmest climate regions. Region 1 means the most days at 50 degrees and under.

2. Bell Beans and Arugula are grown as cover-crop between the v
ineyard rows. Why? They hold a lot of nitrogen down in the roots which is very good for the soil and grapevines.

3. Most of the
Anderson Valley Pinot vineyards are pruned already this year and are budding early.

4. Soils: Most of the soils are clay and sandy loam, with 5-15% rock.

5. Temperatures in the Anderson Valley
swing BIG...it can reach 100 degrees by 3pm and dip back down to 45 degrees at night. This is fabulous in creating acidity levels and the high heat days help prevent disease and mildew.

6. How to tell if the vines need water: If you reach your hand inside the canopy (where the grape clusters hang and are surrounded by their leaves) and it's the same temperature as the outside air - they need water. The canopy should create it's own little AC system within the vines.

7. Handley uses a propane
flame to control weeds. It's the shot with the guy on the tractor down below, flames shoot out at the very bottom on the backsides behind the tractor and hit just deep enough to kill the roots.

8. Handley Estate Vineyards (Martini Clone = big fruit flavors, lower tannins and silky smooth texture) were planted in 1987, the water tower and ranch house
were built in 1906. Milla, her husband and their 2 daughters lived in the old water-tower for awhile (great stories about this time in their lives, ask me in person, too long to type now!).

2007 is the current Handley Cellars Anderson Valley Pinot Noir release.

10. Handley uses solar-power and organic growing practices.
You can see the solar-panels in the background of the first picture on the right with Kristen and Milla.

Handley Cellars wines are available anywhere you like in Texas, Avante Beverages is their distributor and currently has the Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Zinfandel. Cheers - Ali

(Please click image to enlarge each picture, such a magical place)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Perez Hilton in Austin for SXSW

Yesterday was a day that makes all 30,000+ out-of-towners fall in love with Austin. Blue Sky, mild temperatures and a vibe so high it would make your mother dance in the streets here.

A little wine tasting at the Royal Blue across from Lance Armstrong's Mellow Johnny's (Rogue Wave had a 1 hour secret show!) and La Zona Rosa (Ray Davies played!) yesterday...Mr. Perez Hilton stopped by for a sip of Handley Cellars Redwood Valley Zinfandel. $20.50 a bottle at the Royal Blue! Cheers to a great weekend everyone! Ali

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

On a more serious note...

Sad news from Vine Connections today...

"Seijiro Tanaka, Rihaku Brewery’s venerated President, passed away over the weekend after a multi-year battle with lung cancer. Tanaka-san, or “Mr. T” as he was adoringly referred to here at Vine Connections, had been at the helm of the brewery since 1987 and was a close friend and supporter of Vine Connections since the day we started pondering selling Japanese sake," Ed Lehrman.

Mr. T referred to me each time I saw him over the years as his "Texas Girlfriend" spoken in his heavy Japanese accent, it was quite cute! I had the pleasure of hosting Mr. T in Austin over 4 years ago and showing off this great city that has made his
Dreamy Clouds and Wandering Poet the very top selling Sake in the state of Texas. We ate at Chinatown for lunch, and walked through Central Market and Whole Foods to show off his beautiful bottles of premium Sake. Mr. T was an extremely humble man, a kind man who belly-laughed each time I told him he was so sweet and how much I appreciated his support of the Texas market. "Ali, you a supermodel for Japanese Sake in Texas", I'll take it, thanks Mr. T!

One of my fondest memories of Mr. T was the day he lead the group of Japanese business-men at Maiko Sushi on W. 6th, he commanded the utmost attentio
n and filled the restaurant with enthusiasm about his his Japanese brewery. His physical stature was small, but his vision and heart was enormous. A few months later, I visited Mr. T while in Tokyo along with a group traveling with Vine Connections, this picture is of us after a very long day of travel to meet, he was so honored to have me visit his country and introduce me to his family.

Where the brewery is located in the Shimane prefecture - it is considered a "sister-city" to Austin. In 2008 he sent his son to visit Texas on behalf of the Rihaku brewery, we traveled to my hometown, Fort Worth to spread the good-will (and sell a lot of sake!) of what his father had created.

Mr. T will be missed, Kampai! to the legacy he has left behind. I will forever be grateful and honored to represent Rihaku Sake in the USA. - Ali

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Crios Rose of Malbec

Argentine Wine of the Weekend:

Crios Rose of Malbec, $11

Varietal Composition: 100% Malbec
Vineyard Location(s): Uco Valley - multiple locations
Average Age of Vines: 31 years
Oak Regimen: None
Alcohol: 13.9%
Case Production: 20000

Tasting Notes/Food Pairing:
A beautiful, deep, vibrant rosé color. Has a surprising amount of body for a rosé wine, and beautiful aromas of fresh, ripe wild strawberries. On the palate, the flavors of strawberries and young cherries come rushing in, accompanied by some spice notes and a clean, dry fi
nish. This is the perfect chicken wine and a charming companion to mildly spicy Asian cuisine. Keep one in the fridge at all times and you’ll always have a delicious wine to enjoy with light snacks and cheeses.
89 Points, Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, 2010

"Pale, bright red. Strawberry aroma complicated by tobacco, iron and tree bark. Supple and easygoing, with the texture and weight of a red wine, but good acid cut gives clarity and lift to the middle palate. Finishes supple and persistent. A very attractive rose."

89 Points, Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate, 2009

"The 2009 Rose of Malbec is dark pink in color with an enticing nose of strawberry and cherry. Ripe, dry, and full-flavored, this delicious Rose should be consumed over the next 12-18 months."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Oregon Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris

WOW! The new 2008 Lange Estate Willamette Valley Pinot Noir has arrived to Texas. When's the last time you've opened a PHENOMENAL Pinot Noir that's priced under $25?

Robert Parker had this to say: This Pinot Noir is always pretty and approachable upon release, and pairs well with all manner of cuisine.
Robert Parker rated 90. Truly a great value! "The 2008 Pinot Noir Willamette Valley provides an early look at just how good this vintage is. Very expressive aromatically with aromas of cherry, raspberry, and rose petal, on the palate this medium-bodied wine has layered succulent fruit, superb balance, and a lengthy, fruit-filled finish. It has enough structure to evolve for several years but will provide plenty of immediate gratification." 90 Points & Best Value. - Robert Parker, August 2009

A perfect bottle to roll into right after some serious spring-weather patio sipping with their 2008 Pinot Gris as well! Ask your favorite wine shop for the beautiful wines of
Lange Estate
Cheers - Ali

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Vine Connections Importer to Trust

In Details Magazine this month featuring Mendel Malbec.


Vine Connections For the wines of Argentina, an endorsement from this company promises the sort of powerful yet easy-drinking red that the country does best. (vineconnections.com)

LOOK FOR: Mendel Malbec 2007 ($23)

Photograph by Nikolai

Saturday, March 06, 2010

From the Prince of Pinot

Davis Family Vineyards: Reliably Good Pinot Noir

Guy Davis hand farms his 7-acre southeast hillside estate vineyard in the Russian River Valley, producing consistently excellent Pinot Noirs. Buying a bottle of Davis Family Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is a sure thing. It’s like pulling a bottle of Coke off the shelve at the market: you always know what to expect. Although I have used Pinot Noir as my example of consistency, the same could be said for all of his wines (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Zinfandel).

Guy Davis developed an interest in wine at the tender age of 19. While working his way through college cooking in a French restaurant, he was able to taste great wines from all the famous wine regions of France, and became so knowledgeable, he soon was asked to buy all the wine for the restaurant’s wine list. Although he was educated in economics and began his working career as a stockbroker, the stock market crash of 1987 made him look elsewhere for work. He picked up a job as a wine buyer in Sonoma in 1989, and soon was working in the cellars of several boutique wineries in the region. It was a stint with winemaker Lori Olds at Sky Vineyards a top Mt. Veeder that persuaded him to pursue a career in winemaking. He attended classes at Santa Rosa City College and University of California at Davis, and spent years searching for the perfectly situated site to grow Pinot Noir. In 1996 he bought his own hillside vineyard on Laguna Road in the Russian River Valley. By 1998, he was able to fully concentrate on winegrowing and producing premium wines.

A recurring theme seems to be commonplace among winemakers. They are often attracted to the combination of art and science involved in the challenge of producing fine wine. Guy has a soft spot for creative art as shown by the work of local artists displayed on his tasting room walls and the flamboyant artwork that guards the parking lot of his winery and tasting room complex. Guy says that if he wasn’t a winemaker, he probably would like to be a sculptor or some kind of artisan food producer (he actually has accomplished the latter, producing a high quality artisan olive oil from trees planted in 1906 in the Sierra Foothills).

Guy Davis believes the difference between great and just good Pinot Noir is balance and complexity. He says, “Great Pinot Noir has the balance of rich, dark, masculine full-bodied aromas and flavors like black cherries, plums, chocolate, coffee, and forest floor mixed with the elegant and sensual perfume of raspberries, brown spices and sweet cherry blossoms, aligned with textures that are full and mouth coating yet silky and lasting. When harmony exists, the sensual layers seem to unfold forever!”

Davis does not literally farm his 7 acres of Pinot Noir. Rather, he farms 9,274 vines. He tries to get twelve touches for every vine during the growing season from pruning to harvest. He is obsessive, focused and fanatical about picking the right day to harvest. In the winery, his work is meticulous with constant smelling, tasting, and talking to the wines and never intervening unless absolutely necessary. He is an expert at blending, knowing what true greatness requires. As he notes, “Perfect Pinot may be elusive but when discovered and embraced, it is truly heaven.”

2007 Davis Family Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., $40. Tenth anniversary vintage (1997-2007). Best of Class and Gold Medal at the 2009 Sonoma County Harvest Fair. It must be gratifying to Guy Davis to have such a remarkable wine to commemorate his tenth vintage. · Bright reddish-purple color in the glass. Intense and penetrating aromas of Bing cherries, raspberries, strawberries, spice and cola. Discreetly rich, slightly confected flavors that mimic the aromas. Fresh, clean and juicy with caressing tannins, refreshing acidity and an underlying mineral edge. A perfectly harmonious wine that is quintessential Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.

2005 Davis Family Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., $40 · Very slight yellowing of rim edge in the glass. Ripe cherries, raisin, cola and a hint of oak toast on the generous nose. Juicy cherry and strawberry fruit with hints of secondary flavors of savory dried herbs, Pinot reduction sauce and sherry. Still vibrant and silky in the mouth. Probably slightly oxidized. Very good.

2003 Davis Family Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., $35. · Lovely and heady black cherry and strawberry scents that fade quickly in the glass replaced by savory aromas of herbs and oak. Juicy and hit-pitched core of cherries, cranberries and strawberries with oak, dark chocolate and black tea in the background. Racy and a bit tart with fine-grain tannins. This wine has aged gracefully. Decent (+).

Visit the website, www.daviswines.com, to order wine, or better yet, visit the tasting room at 52 Front St. in Healdsburg and talk Pinot with Guy Davis. Just outside the winery you can picnic on the Russian River. He is a soft-spoken and cerebral winemaker who has a trove of wine information that he can offer in an understandable fashion. Discounts on wine and special events are available for Friends of the Family Wine Club. Prices for Davis Family Wines are very sensible. In 2007, there is also a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir available. 1-866-338-9463.


Monday, March 01, 2010

Vine Connections visit to Argentina

Trip recap coming soon...days filled with beautiful producers,the Andes filled sky, plush vines and incredible wines, nights filled with fantastic food, more wines and spectacular Argentine Culture!

I've got a long way home ahead of me, updating the blog soon. Cheers - Ali