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 BonnĂ© 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