Wednesday, December 12, 2012


And on this day I've decided to give the TexaCali Wine Trail blog a rest. 899 posts done.

Ali and Beloved Henley Modeling TexaCali Tees!
May 7, 2005 marked the first time I began to write about my incredible journey as an entrepreneur in the wine business.  As many as 40,000 visitors a week clicked through this blog when I began to reach the's not over, but the journey has changed course. 

I'm not disappearing. Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, Twitter, Pinterest and others that I'm active with have provided a quick look inside the world of TexaCali Ali over the past few years.  Many of my readers follow, "like" and post comments along these sites where I'll continue to be reached.

So I'm signing off today with highlighting my most important post of 2012 (and most viewed).

Friday, October 19. Start-up Mode

...So to you folks not in the wine-biz...I've been preaching this for years, but I will say it again...please pick your wines as though you are picking new friends, learn about them, become involved in their story, support them and be loyal to the wineries that are human from the ground up.  It matters.  And for you folks that are a piece of the supply chain...respect that a winery may be in start-up mode, may be sending their kid off to college for the first time, may need to mortgage their home to obtain funds for more grapes, purchase new barrels or whatever - please keep your word with your business promises and relationships, it matters. 

Cheers to you, thank you for following the TexaCali Wine Trail, showing up at my wine events, buying the wines I've so passionately represented over the years and spreading the good word about great wines I so dearly love and believe in.  See ya around...TexaCali Ali

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Attn. Burgundy Wine Snobs...

Cyprus Pinot on the Deck overlooking Mt. Tam

 yeah, you are and you know it. I am too when I can afford the Burgundy producers I so love to collect and drink...but here's a real "drink now and enjoy" Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast AVA for only $35 a bottle. 

I've been singing the praises of the 2010 Cyprus Pinot Noir all Summer and Fall, but think this beautifully well balanced bottle (low-octane!) of Pinot is drinking truly spectacular right now. From our website...2010 Cyprus Pinot Noir

Aged in 85% neutral French oak, this Pinot reveals a nose of dark fruits with forest floor accents and a sublte earth spice. Hints of exotic spices come forward on the palate, which is silken and focused.  The Pinot hails from the Sangiacomo Amaral Ranch vineyard on the southern Sonoma Coast (just above the San Pablo Bay) and Tobias Glen, located in the southwestern part of the Russian River Valley. 

Both sites experience the moderating effects of a cool, ocean-influenced microclimate to produce low yields of bright, fragrant fruit with excellent flavor concentration. The 2010 vintage was very cool, but the vines enjoyed a long growing season, yielding perfectly ripened fruit with bright acidity. 

Less than 400 cases produced.  I'm looking forward to opening this bottle tomorrow with family over Thanksgiving Dinner.  

Cheers & Happy Holidays, let the wine flow!  - Ali

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Red and Rosé Right Now!

A few wines in my glass lately that rock...and lovely suggestions for the Thanksgiving Day table.

2011 Domaine de la Noblaie Chinon Rosé, Loire France $17 
Noblaie's rosé is produced from younger Cabernet Franc vines, which are planted in the deeper soils at the base of the hillside vineyard. It has a clear and smooth pink color, deep, rich aromas of watermelon and cranberry and loads of lovely fresh red fruits on the palate. According to my better-drinking-other-half at KandL - The 2011 is fruity, clean and refreshing, but with powerful volume. Without even a touch of sweetness, the finish is bracing and refreshing.

2011 Fable Rosé of Charbono, Napa California, $20 - available for purchase only on   I've been sipping on this one for months now, and it just keeps changing and getting more interesting as the time passes. From the Brack website: Cranberry red hued, the nose is of watermelon, cherry blossom and a dash of cayenne. The palate is full of cucumber, ripe pomelo, red cherries and a touch of rhubarb. The structure of this wine is reminiscent of the wines of Tavel. The acidity if high, yet there is a phenolic backbone that speaks to an ageability and even more interesting flavors to come.

2010 Terra Laura Cheverny Rouge, Loire France $18
I always look forward to this producer, thinking this wine should be bottled in Magnums for the ultimate party bottle too!  Also from KandL - Terra Laura is a 50-acre estate in the appellation of Cheverny. The estate was purchased by Laura Semeria in 2007 with her husband Léonard, and they aim to produce wines with the best possible expression of their unique terroir and 15-80 year old vines. This bottling is comprised of 60% Gamay, 35% Pinot Noir, 5% Malbec. It was fermented and aged in stainless steel for 12 months.

Also another wine that's drinking FANTASTIC right now from Brack Mountain, from the website: Nose is fragrant with mix of wildflowers, tangerine peel and bergamot. The palate is equally exotic with asian spice, enhanced by earthy flavors of dried fruits and loam. The mouthfeel of this wine is extraordinarily rich and supple.

2010 Jelly Jar, Old Vine Zinfandel, Nova Vineyard, Lake County California $24
I only drink really good Zinfandel, and Jelly Jar makes the cut for me almost every vintage release. Don't expect a big crazy high-octane Zinfandel here, this Zin is dripping with fall fruit flavors, black pepper and spices. If you like dry Italian reds, you will enjoy this style of Zinfandel too. Small production and very limited in Texas especially, look for it at Spec's stores!

Sorry for the brief notes and post this time around, I've got Sandwich the Dog waiting impatiently for more playtime (as always). Happy Thanksgiving to All - Ali 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Keeping it Personal

I spent the last few days leading consumer tastings in Whole Foods Markets across the great Chicago area. Honestly,  this part of the job is so invigorating to me - talking with wine shoppers always leaves me energized.  Wine is such a personal deal (well maybe not the lady who picked up a sample each of Bench Cab and L'Oliveto Chardonnay - mixed them together and threw the new "blend" down her throat).  I bet I spoke to at least 200 folks, eye-to-eye over the weekend, asking each "what do you like to drink", "what are you looking for today"...almost every single answer had to do with a great memory or emotion that provoked them to buy again from a certain region and or varietal or winery...  
On Saturday, a man walked near me so I asked him if he'd like to try a sample of wine...he stopped and said "I'm 86 years old, 2 years ago my wife cut me off from alcohol", he paused a moment and sorta rolled his eyes, "but she's not here at the store with me today, and I do love a nice Chardonnay".  He tried a big sip of the L'Oliveto Chardonnay walked away with a smile the size of Texas on his sweet old face. 

I just love it.  Heard about weddings in Sonoma, told people about how I was proposed to over the Golden Gate Bridge this summer (oh those store lights make my ring BLING!), was told that a baby sitting in the stroller was conceived in Napa, heard about how some grandparents celebrated a 50th Wedding Anniversary and toasted over their favorite Russian River wine, a proud dad told me about his daughter working on a local farming thesis in Sebastopol while attending UC Berkley, many folks telling me about their first time to San Francisco trips...all such personal reasons as to why they stop to discover more about what I was pouring in the middle of Whole Foods.  

Keep wine personal and you pretty much can never go wrong, drinking what you like & being open to wines you aren't so familiar with is key & is what it's all about...oh and the new memories to come from sharing bottles just may be the very best part. Cheers, Ali

Friday, October 26, 2012

Origine Sauvignon Blanc

Photo: Craig Lee, Special To The Chronicle / SF

Jon Bonné, the Wine Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle recently featured the 2011 Origine Sauvignon Blanc, RRV produced by Brack Mountain Wine Co., which I find so thrilling after following his tasting notes, reviews, tweets, FB posts for years now.  I feel like we have the same taste in wine for the most part and am so honored to have found the Origine Sauvignon Blanc in his Friday wine column last week! Jon has turned me onto loads of good wine over the years...grateful.

2011 Brack Mountain Origine Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($18, 13.2%):  "This Healdsburg-based partnership tapped the Louvau vineyard, with its Musqué clone plantings, for a pungent, deep effort, made by Dan Fitzgerald (Williams Selyem, Pellegrini). Fresh padron pepper and mint mix with rich lemon and fig flavors. Fermented in steel and neutral barrels, it's a compelling mesh of green-flavor austerity and ripe texture." Jon Bonné.

Here's the link for the full feature, I love that Spottswoode is also listed, their Sauvignon Blanc was opened during my birthday celebration in May, delicious!

So, there are a few cases left to purchase direct from the winery here:  Our Texas and California distributors do have current inventory and if you are lucky enough to be in the Austin area, stop by Whole Foods on Lamar to enjoy a glass of 2011 Origine Sauvignon Blanc on tap at Bar Lamar in the wine department.

Cheers! Ali

Friday, October 19, 2012

Start-Up Mode

HELL YEAH!! High-fives mixed with sleepless nights best describe the past 6 months of my life.  Back to Start-Up Mode - Winery Style.  Far from the dot-com boom when I first moved to San Francisco over a decade ago.  Start-Up Mode back then included a big-ass signing bonus, expense account and high-rolling black tie events and schmooze fests all over the Bay Area.  

This time back in Cali, I was shown a tremendously well thought-out business plan by someone who had achieved far greater success than I've yet to achieve in the biz world -  with one big catch if I wanted to sign-on....I had to earn my take-home pay by selling one case at a time. No signing bonus, no expense account, nothing other than seeing current warehouse inventory numbers of some of the best California wine I've ever had in my life.  Confidence mixed with vulnerability is a new feeling  - I've built portfolio's into the millions of dollars running TexaCali Wine Co. on 100% commission one-case-at-a-time deal, but it's very different now, all my eggs are in one Brack Mountain Wine Company basket.  Incredibly scary, the wine supply chain is so difficult to maneuver through with success, but quite possibly the biggest opportunity and challenge of my wine career, I am thrilled.

Someone asked me a few years back "how do you do it everyday, what gets you up in the morning?",  I answered quite frankly with the word "fear".  This person gave me a look of confusion so I further explained..."it's up to me and only me to make what I can of my life, I'm driven because I am so very thankful that I'm not sitting in a boring office pushing paper around just to please a boss or stock price, I'm able to help a far greater cause.  By selling wine like I do I'm actually helping families - families who plant the vines, make the wines and create a product that needs to be sold to keep their world going. Fear of letting them all down, if I'm not doing my job well it means they don't get paid...this gets me up in the morning". These words have never been so true as they are today.

So almost all of us at the winery have left security of other jobs and are giving it all that we can - physically, mentally, emotionally and fiscally. It's hard-core, every sale counts, every bottle opened counts, every invoice paid on time counts from our partners, every trucking company pick-up and turn around counts, every grape brought into our new winery counts, every inch of space inside the winery counts, every deal struck with vineyards counts, every hour of sleep at night counts, we are devoting every waking minute to building Brack Mountain Wine Company. Start-Up Winery Style Indeed.

So to you folks not in the wine-biz...I've been preaching this for years, but I will say it again...please pick your wines as though you are picking new friends, learn about them, become involved in their story, support them and be loyal to the wineries that are human from the ground up.  It matters.  And for you folks that are a piece of the supply chain...respect that a winery may be in start-up mode, may be sending their kid off to college for the first time, may need to mortgage their home to obtain funds for more grapes, purchase new barrels or whatever - please keep your word with your business promises and relationships, it matters.

I end today with the highlight of the week for us - proud of our studs in the cellar - such a hard-working team during crush this year, it's been non-stop for weeks now.  Check out this feature the local news did on us earlier this week:  On our YouTube page - or on the KTVU website

We've launched the new website, I ask you to sign-up to be on the mailing list - and hey - you can also purchase wine direct from us now!  We are just getting started...thank you for following along! 



Saturday, September 01, 2012

Cabernet Sauvignon

Up for air this morning after quite the action packed summer and a big trip in Texas last week selling the Brack Mountain Wine Co. portfolio. My inbox has been flooded with questions of "where can I find Bench Cabernet?". In large part - this post from last March is the #1 hit on google after searching this phrase: "what's a good bottle of Cabernet for $20?"  SHAAZAAM!  Bench Cabernet it is!  

The 2009 Bench Cabernet from Alexander Valley was a complete sell-out at the winery mid-summer, so now you'll begin seeing the 2010 on shelves and restaurant wine lists. More details on the 2010 when I have a few minutes later.

So - here's the #1 hit on google: 

Wine of the Week - a Cabernet??!!

Saturday March 17, 2012
To be totally honest with you all, I hardly drink this bottle of Alexander Valley Cabernet.  ONLY because I can't ever get my hands on a sample since it's the fastest selling Cabernet Sauvignon I've ever worked with.  
All of us at Brack Mountain are in the same boat, the owners and winemaker - nope, none of us, not a drop of Bench Cabernet to be found in any of our stashes. It's selling incredibly quick - by the glass at some high-profile restaurants across the US, poured out of a wine KEG at the United Center's Stadium Club in Chicago and countless shiny bottles are put into the hands of customers in fine wine shops from the West to the East.  
It's a damn good bottle of Cabernet - especially for $20. 

Wine Geeky Facts about the 2009 Bench Cabernet Sauvignon
Vineyard is located in Southern Alexander Valley, along the Western bench of the Mayacamas. These soils are rocky and volcanic, with excellent early and mid-day sun exposure.  Yield: 3 tons/acre. Fermentation: the grapes were destemmed only, then transferred by gravity to a stainless steel fermentation tank.  After a long cold soak, the fruit was inoculated with a proprietary blend of yeasts to imbue the wine with greater complexity. After a steady fermentation to complete dryness, the new wine stayed on the grape skins for an extended maceration to develop mouth-feel and structure. The wine was pressed off 45 days after it went into tank. Malolactic fermentation was left to complete indigenously.  Aged for 18 months in 100% French Oak, 50 % new. 1400 cases produced. pH: 3.58 TA: .57

Friday, July 27, 2012

Summer Break

The sound of the rolling waves, scent of coconut oil, cold fruity drinks while lounging on the beach are only in my dreams this summer! The last few months have been action packed with Brack Mountain Wine Company happenings, in fact we will launch the new website within a week. 

SO - I'm off the blog for a good week so I can focus on getting Brack on the world wide web and train the newest member of the family...he's now 9 weeks old and is a total love!  "Lord Sandwich" our Goldendoodle, soon to be winery dog!  Cheers - Ali

Friday, July 20, 2012

Speaking of Cheese...

Next Thursday night, Doralice is joining us and The Cheese School of San Francisco for a night at Enos Vineyards!  The class will be held at the Enos Estate - about 5 minutes West of downtown Healdsburg on W. Dry Creek Rd. Here's the scoop...

The Cheese School is hitting the road and heading to Healdsburg to visit the good people at Brack Mountain Wine Company. A small, nimble winery started by Jason Enos, Brack is known for wines that pair exceptionally well with food. In fact, they are one of the favorite pairing choices of Doralice Handal, your instructor for this evening and proprietor of The Cheese Shop Healdsburg, and their wines are on tap (and in bottle) at some of the most fun and interesting restaurants throughout the Bay Area. 

You’ll start off with a tour of their Enos Estate Vineyards with Alison Smith and winemaker Dan Fitzgerald. You’ll then head to their wine cave for a tasting of four of their wines and a selection of cheeses, and their estate olive oil. We’re going start to the source for this class!

Time: 6:30 – 8:30pm
Day: Thursday, July 26

A very special chance to taste the following extremely limited, small-lot wines...the cheese and chocolate pairings are fantastic...we can't wait!

2011 Fable Rose of Charbono, Napa Valley,  47 cases produced.

2010 DANIEL "Soberanes Vineyard" Chardonnay, Santa Lucia Highlands, 62 cases produced. 

2010 L'Oliveto Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, 193 cases produced. 

2008 Enos "Girasole",  Cabernet Sauvignon-Sangiovese, Dry Creek Valley, 840 cases produced.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Story Behind the Big Cheese of Healdsburg

Living in the Presidio 2004
Much to my pleasant surprise, a few days ago I clicked on some local news to find this lengthy and incredibly interesting story about my dear friend Doralice Handal.  You've been reading about The Cheese Shop on here for years now...we started our entrepreneurial adventures right about the same time in 2005.  Outrageous to think that a "roommate wanted" Ad on Craigslist in 2003 brought us to gals together.  She's an inspiration to many and good friend to even more.  

Enjoy the read below and don't you ever visit Healdsburg, California without stopping into her store and picking us a few of her many delicious offerings. Her store is like no-other, a treasure of candies, antiques, ice creams, imported goodies and of course all that great Cheese. Cheers to another 7 years of livin' the dream Doralice!   - Ali

Friday, June 29th, 2012 | Posted by  
A painful congenital bone disease has sometimes left Doralice Handal on crutches or worse, but it has not prevented her from taking on life at a dead run.
The owner of the well-regarded Healdsburg Cheese Shop has, at only thirty-nine, carved out a niche for her knowledge of food and wine in a place full of culinary experts.
“She is one of the best things we have in Healdsburg,” says Chef Mateo Granados owner of Mateo’s Cocina Latina, who adds he often taps Handal’s cheese wisdom. “I will tell her what kind of salad I’m thinking about and she recommends cheese for me. She knows everything about a cheese. No, she knows everything about everything — and she loves what she does.” Read full article

The Cheese Shop Ships anywhere you need your fix!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

L'Oliveto - A 2010 Russian River Pinot Noir STAR

A 2010 RRV Pinot Noir I say?!  I had a bottle open at last Saturday's Pinot Days in San Francisco on the Brack Mountain table.  Chatting our lineup to a few hundred Pinot Noir lovers throughout the day, it was so fun to explain how special the L'Oliveto Pinot Noir was and how it reminded me of the 2010 harvest I'll never forget!

I sat front and center in the middle of Olivet Lane vineyards during the 2010 harvest season.  The 2010 vintage will most certainly go down in history as being one of the most extreme and difficult in California. The vintage began with a cold spring and early season rains, followed by thick fog that would remain until late morning or early afternoon. In mid-August, the cool summer was then hit with record-high temperatures, which hit above 110+ degrees Fahrenheit. This heat was devastating for many of my winemakers and grape-growing friends.  

2010 RRV Pinot Noir
Overall 2010 was an extremely cool year for the grapes, so many vineyards cut their canopy way back for more sun exposure by mid-August.  So I was completely freaked out by the 110+ degree heat spike that hit...I was fresh off a Texas summer and 1) hated this heat at night since no AC is anywhere in NorCal and 2) a few days after the temperature shot up, the grapes shriveled up like 4 day old birthday party balloons.  I took many guests out to the vineyard to show the damage after those hot days, explaining how the tiny stems act as umbilical cords feeding oxygen to the fruit - the stems were so terribly fried by the hot sun and record setting heat.  It's a treasure now for any winery to have much 2010 RRV Pinot Noir, so the tiny amounts that were made by the smaller producers are THE wines to get your hands on for sure - created with MEGA TLC in 2010!

So I've tasted a few handfuls of the 2010 Russian River wines, mostly whites until recently.  As for Pinot - most have tasted just fine and a few delicious though not too many utterly spectacular Pinot Noirs - until  - I was poured a glass of our 2010 L'Oliveto Russian River Pinot Noir a few months ago. Spectacular then and also tasted again this past weekend at Pinot Days. SHAZAAM!  

I blame the good fortune of this wine on our winemakers love of acid in his wines.  The magical mouthfeel brought me right back to what I love about pretty Russian River fruit, a Joseph Swan RRV Pinot Noir hooked me right after college and I haven't stopped seeking out great RRV wines in nearly 2 decades (gawh makes me feel so old). So I must share one of our smallest batches of pinot noir created by winemaker Dan Fitzgerald - he made about 193 cases in total.

The 2010 L'Oliveto Pinot Noir was sourced from Terry Noreen’s Tobias Glenn Vineyard in the northern Russian River Valley. The vineyard sits on a steep hillside facing west with north-south row orientation to gain maximum sun exposure. Fog settles into this area nearly every afternoon and generally does not dissipate until late morning. The slope, exposure and row orientation take full advantage of the afternoon sunshine. Yield was 2.75 tons/acre.

Fermentation- All ferments were completed in open top, stainless steel tanks with manual punch downs up to 5 times daily. We use only indigenous yeasts/malolactic cultures for primary and secondary fermentations. Wines are pressed off just before going dry to preserve a supple phenolic structure as well as some barrel fermentation for harmony with the oak.

Harvest Date: September 22nd -­‐ 26th, 2010

Yeast: Indigenous

Cooperage & Aging: The wine was aged in 100% French oak, 30% of it new for 9 months.

Bottling: August 2011

Sensory Notes: Color is deep Venetian red, the nose offers raspberries, plums, tamarind, some cinnamon spice and black tea. The palate is lush and opulently silky in texture. There is a bing cherry core of fruit enveloped in gamey earthiness that finishes with strawberry preserves and a hint of nutmeg.

Final Technical Information:
pH: 3.55    TA: .60    Alc: 14.1%

You can find this bottle at your favorite wine shop (just ask for it!) around $32 and soon available on our website -  Seriously can not believe how much I like our 2010 Pinot Noirs, thrilled with them all actually, soo exciting to be a part of the Brack Mountain dream! - Cheers - Ali

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

First Day of Summer

and my favorite time of year!  Waaay behind on the blog this month -  in the meantime, here's all you need this summer to CHILL from Brack Mountain Wine Company.

Origine - a beautiful Dry (not sweet) Rose of Pinot Noir from the Russian River region in California.  Widely available in Texas, Illinois, California, New York, New Jersey - just ask your favorite wine shop! $18  Cheers! Ali

Fermentation- The Pinot Noir was destemmed and moved into fermentation tanks, then a small percentage of juice was bled off.  Most of the bleed off juice was transferred for fermentation into a stainless steel tank, with a portion in placed in neutral oak barrels. The wine was bottled as soon as it settled post fermentation to preserve its vibrant freshness.
Harvest Date: September 24th-- 28th, 2011 Winemaker: Dan Fitzgerald

Cooperage & Aging:
Stainless steel & with a portion in neutral French oak

Bottling: January 2012  Production: 300 cases
Sensory Notes: This wine is treated delicately throughout fermentation, and the subtle hue of coppery pink is one result. The nose greets with watermelon rind, fraises de bois and a hint of black tea.  The palate is racy, with refreshing acidity tempered by a supple, creamy mouthfeel.  The finish is focused and dry yet full of ripe strawberry and cucumber.

Final Technical Information:pH: 3.22    TA: .73        Alc: 13.2%

Friday, June 08, 2012

Pinot Days

So exciting! Next Saturday I'll be pouring a few of our Brack Mountain Wine Company Pinot Noirs at Fort Mason in San Francisco.  Please stop by our table, taste a few and say hello. It's always such a pleasure to meet TexaCali Wine Trail readers in person.  Here are the details:

AND here's what we are uncorking for the afternoon...looking forward to showing off our Pinots during this first public appearance. CHEERS! ALI

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

2011 Rose of Memorial Day Weekend

and a big birthday celebration for me. So here's what pink wines went down the hatch without hesitation.  Loved every single drop.  Cheers to a summer full of Rosé ahead, many more suggestions to come...Ali

2011 Copain "Tous Ensemble" Anderson Valley Rosé $19

2011 Origine Russian River Valley Pinot Noir Rosé $16

2011 Ameztoi "Rubentis" Rosé Getariako Txakolina $20


Thursday, May 24, 2012


Today has been named over the world-wide-web as "International Chardonnay Day".  Whether this post is read by 2 or 2 million, I'm going to let you in on one of the best kept Chardonnay secrets on the West Coast!

Drum Roll Please................................!

Introducing 2010 DANIEL "Soberanes Vineyard" Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay, 66 cases created by Dan Fitzgerald who's the winemaker for Brack Mountain Wine Company.

Dan's been chatting me up about how wonderful Daniel Soberanes Vineyard's been evolving for a while now during his trial tastings and check-ins with the wine. "Not quite ready yet", so said Dan a few months ago. But let me tell you now, during a recent tasting with the Brack Mountain Wine Company team this chardonnay is mind-blowing good. 

Right after the cork was pulled my eyes popped with disbelief, the aromas were magical hits of bright citrus blossoms and baked lemon bread. Next, the complexity of flavors made my head shake, a beautiful mouthfeel of balanced acidity, a touch of minerality with a layers supple fruit with twist of almond croissant on the fantastically long finish. 

A big deal.  A new and exciting joint venture between the Pisoni and Franscioni families. The site is planted to 40 acres of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah and sits on the Santa Lucia Highlands bench just South of the Garys’ Vineyard. 

Stats from Dan about the wine: 

pH- 3.45

TA- 0.74 g/100ml

alc- 14.5%

$45 a bottle

66 cases produced, brand new release - so please contact me for more information -

Cheers to drinking really good Chardonnay today everyone.  I'm breaking out some blanc de blanc bubbles later and finishing off this beautiful bottle of DANIEL Chardonnay - oh yeah! Ali

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Open Your Mouth

and your mind in order to expand your wine knowledge. PLEASE! 

Nothing and I mean nothing bugs me more than friends who have not tried a new wine since the inaugural release of Sonoma-Cutrer.  I love your loyalty but it's time to expand your drinking pleasure people.  I taste a lot of wine. I spit a lot of wine. I read my ass off about wine.  I don't drink to get drunk, I drink to enjoy the taste and I fall in love with new wines and learn about them almost daily.  No secret really,  it starts with opening your mouth and mind at the same time and constantly reaching for unfamiliar producers, varietals you can not remotely pronounce correctly and not being afraid to try something you know absolutely nothing about.
Quick Advice: Notice what the wine blogs are talking about, turn the bottles while shopping in a store to the back labels - read read read. Follow importers that you've found a few goodies from and keep it going. Ask the Sommelier "what's something really cool you've tasted recently" next time you're out for dinner.  Learning then discovering a whole new world is what wine drinking is all about to me. Join the club if you dare, it's an incredibly interesting and delicious group. 

So what am I honestly drinking outside my beloved Sonoma County producers? You name it really.  Our house is full of wines from all over the planet and we've enjoyed almost every single region at some point...don't be afraid, just go for it.  Funky town is fun! 

Big thanks to the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant, Arlequin Wine Merchant and K&L Wines yesterday for helping me create quite the birthday celebration stash yesterday! 

Left to right from back to front: 

2011 Mas de Daumas Gassac Rose Frizant, Languedoc, France

2010 Hirsh Vineyards The Bohan-Dillon, Sonoma Coast, California

2006 Annie et Philippe Bornard Cotes du Jura Savagnin Ouille les Chassagnes

2010 Matthiasson, White Wine, Napa Valley, California

2009 Paolo Bea Santa Chiara Bianco, Montefalco, Umbria, Italy

2010 Luigi Baudana Chardonnay, Piedmonte, Italy

2011 La Clarine Farm, Sierra Foothills Rose, Somerset, California

2011 Ameztoi "Rubentis" Rosé Getariako Txakolina

2009 Hirsch Vineyards Reserve Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California

2010 Brovia Roero Arneis, Castiglione Falletto, Italy

2010 Monasterio Suore Cistercensi Coenobium Bianco Lazio, Italy

2009 Chanin Wine Company Chardonnay, Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley, California

2011 Copain Rose of Pinot Noir "Tous Ensemble", Anderson Valley, California

2010 Arnot-Roberts Ribolla Gialla, Napa Valley, California

2011 Edmunds St. John Bone-Jolly Rose of Gamay Noir, El Dorado County, California

2010 Villa Locatelli Friulano Isonzo del Friuli, Italy

2010 Monasterio de Corias Joven Vino de la tierra de Cangas, Asturias, Spain

2009 Domaine J. Chamonard Morgon, Le Clos de Lys, France

2009 Michel Tete Domaine du Clos du Fief Beaujolais Villages, Beaujolais, France.

***not a single wine above 13.5% alcohol***

Cheers and thanks for listening!  - TexaCali Ali

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wine Rocks

Travel is one of the greatest perks in the wine business.  Typically when a person either represents a certain wine region as a buyer or as a salesperson they visit the vineyards, break bread with winemakers and of course taste the goods.  I could write forever about these life-changing trips, today is about ROCKS!  When packing my bags for wine trips, I most always leave a few extra pounds free to bring back a small token from the vineyards I walk through.  Besides the wines themselves, the vineyard rocks provoke an exact sense of place for many years to follow with just a glance.   A big glass bowl of  "wine rocks" acting as a centerpiece on our coffee table is a living-room staple.

The eight rocks above are the most recent addition to our home collection.  Big thanks to Eman for lugging this collection back for me!

  1. Blue Slate - Mosel Erdener Treppchen
  2. Mixture of crushed red slate, volcanic and limestone - Pflaz
  3. Blue Schiste - Savennières
  4. Silex - Pouilly Fume
  5. Chalk - Sancerre
  6. Red Slate - Mosel Urziger Wurzgarten
  7. Soft Red Slate - Pfalz
  8. Gray Schiste - Savennières
It's the little things such as rocks that bring the most interesting chit-chat to describing a bottle of wine, we often talk about the minerals and terroir of the land - this is where is begins. One of my favorite wine descriptors is "wet rock", you know, that smell of limestone or slate after a summer rainshower???  Wine Rocks, love them!  Cheers - Ali

Monday, May 07, 2012

A Sweet Mother's Day Wine Suggestion

Well, I'm off the hook this year for the best Mother's Day present for my own Mom..big thanks to my little brother and his wife for bringing her Grandson #3 last night!   

However, when I think of the perfect glass to sip and celebrate Mother's Day with Mom an Italian Moscato always comes to mind.  Here's a longtime favorite of mine and is sure to please anyone this Mother's Day...slightly sweet and tiny crisp bubbles that are perfect for afternoon sipping with only 5.5% alcohol. "Liquid Cake" I like to call it, try it alongside fresh strawberries and cream.

2010 La Spinetta Moscato d'Asti Bricco Quaglia, $20 a bottle and should be easy to find or just ask for it from your favorite wine shop.

Cheers to Mom, Happy Mother's Day to all!  - Ali

Monday, April 30, 2012

Celebrating 7 Years

May 2005, first Photo on the Blog...Henley and Ali
A very Happy Anniversary indeed! Seven big years of wine sales, marketing and blogging...

May 2012 marks year 7 for the TexaCali Wine Trail.  The fact that I'm writing this from where I left my heart in 2004 - Northern California - is thrilling for me.   When I began writing in 2005, only a few handfuls of folks were even blogging about wine! Well, instead of filling this post full of boring stats and braggadocios blah blah blah, I just want to say thanks.

"Emotionally, I know I've made a great decision starting this venture - my heart and brain are soo connected when it comes to the promotion of great wine in the state of Texas. Thanks to all of you that have supported my dream "start-up" within this the low-tech, old-school wine industry. Good people hang together." -  I wrote in May of 2005. 

My Heartfelt Thanks to...

The family farmers and grape growers who allow me to have a thriving career in the business of wine.  If it weren't for your land, your hands in the dirt and your passion for growing grapes I would most likely be living in the concrete jungle of NYC on a life-long quest to find my passion.  Yeah, I almost took at job in 1999 to run online marketing for the Cartoon Channel of all things!  Thank you for giving me a reason to get up every morning to keep the wines moving forward everyday.

All the wine producers I've been so honored to help over the past 7 years.  Your skills, determination and quest to create outstanding wines have filled me with life's riches.  I am thrilled to have made a difference for you over the years while running TexaCali Wine Company.  We've lived through many great accomplishments together.  

Susana Balbo and Ali in 2005 in Mendoza
I will forever be grateful for my winery relationships formed all over the world. Sipping 65 year old bottles in France, pruning vines in California's Russian River Valley while laughing at the symphonies of frogs cheering us on, chowing on the best paella EVER in the middle of Spain, touring wasabi farms in Japan, and one I will never forget -  my historic car ride & deep chat with pioneering winemaker Susan Balbo one afternoon driving through a potato field at the base of the Andes. Hundreds if not thousands of meaningful memories are held so very dear. The heart of our business is about people, something that will never change, I am soooo grateful for this. 

My dear wine-pro friends in this crazy wine business.  I'm proud to have worked side-by-side with driven, honest and real wine professionals, especially those who work so damn hard to make Texas a better wine drinking state! It takes all of us to create success for the wineries we represent together - Farm to Table!  I am so very thankful for everyone who respects their position in our industry and takes care of business the right way.

Olivet Lane tasting in Whole Foods
The amazing TexaCali Inner Circle. Without your enthusiasm and continued support for all things TexaCali Wine Company, none of my success would have ever happened. The greatest memories over the years have been due to you - you showing up at events, receiving emails from you about wines you tried and loved, you spreading the word to all your wine loving friends and family about the producers of TexaCali Wine Co. You are the reason wineries continue to thrive, send their kids to college and keep their dreams alive.  Thank you for making choices to buy wine from family and independent producers from all over the world. Your dollars do keep these families in business!

One thing I've truly learned over the past 7 years...yes, dreams do come true, but "living the dream" does not come easy, it's relentless hard work each and every day.  Making my dream profession of selling and marketing wine that much sweeter as the years go by. I've grown and am so thankful for this lesson learned, no longer chasing the dream but making them come true.

So big changes ahead, I'm happily hanging up my TexaCali Wine Co. hat to bring the magic of Brack Mountain Wine Company (new website will go live within days!) to the world.  A serendipitous opportunity with terrific people that I've certainly dreamed of for a long time...we are creating something new in this historic business together, it's a tremendous portfolio of small lot, hand-crafted and beautiful California wines made by an ambitious and skillful winemaker and all around terrific person - Dan Fitzgerald.  Keep an eye on Dan and our wines of Brack Mountain Wine Company folks, we're just getting started. 

What about Wine Country Connect (Wine.Woot! and Rue La La), yes, I believe in these unique direct to consumer wine channels and think these channels play a very smart role in marketing wine, I will remain an ambassador.  As far as this blog is concerned,  I'll continue to post wine and food adventures all along the way on the TexaCali Wine Trail, which has remained organic in nature with a consistent voice of simply sharing with others who also love all things WINE. Thanks being here!

Livin' the Dream and Forever Grateful.

Cheers, TexaCali Ali 

(twitter, facebook, pinterest, instagram - you can find me here as well!) 

Friday, April 27, 2012

A reasoned fight tonight

So much going on this weekend in the Food and Wine World. Yet, I look forward to relaxing at home over the next few days and soaking up some warm spring sunshine.  

To start the weekend off right, I pulled a bottle of 2010 Domain Alain Normand Macon la Roche Vineuse out of our wine fridge (fancy wording for "fridge in the garage").  I highly recommend this easy drinking and bright fruited Chardonnay from Mâconnais - for under $20!  Imported by Vintage59 and I think I picked this up at The Austin Wine Merchant a few weeks ago. Simply delicious alongside crisp crackers and fresh goat cheese (Redwood Hill Farm - our new neighbors at the Brack Mountain Wine Company winery).

An interesting story about the family from the Vintage59 website: Alain Normand is a grower in the Mâconnais who began his career by taking over an abandoned vineyard with a métayage contract, a common agricultural practice in France whereby the landlord is paid in wine. Today, Alain works the vineyards, makes the wine, and sells off the landlord's portion to négociants. He keeps the finest for himself. His wife Sylvaine handles the office work when she’s not handling the two children. Theirs is a typical family domaine operation.

Most importantly...

He farms according to the pragmatic principles of lutte raisonnée, or reasoned fight. He plows his vineyards rather than using herbicides, and he doesn’t use pesticides or chemical fertilizers. In every way, his methods are the antithesis of the cooperatives whose wines dominate the Mâcon trade.

Cool. Cheers to a great weekend out there - Ali

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

It's been a little too busy...

but no complaints other than CRAZED Mockingbirds chirping all night long at my house!  A few great moments over the past 10 days or so...

Click to enlarge, magical shot of the shadow of the Bay Bridge at Dawn

K&L San Francisco Tour de France - Chateau de Mountfaucon
Kermit Lynch Imports (always good to see Adam in Action!).

One of my very favorite Rose Producers - Beaune Imports
Foggy Sunday Morning on the Golden Gate Bridge  

Jon David Headrick Selections @ K&L Wines
Congrats to Marcus Mumford on gettin' hitched last weekend!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Cyrus in Healdsburg

A little behind today so I'll will post details of the night shortly.  For now this is the precious '76 S.A. Prum Graacher Himmelreich Berenauslese that was outstanding with the Fois Gras during - just one of our 8 courses throughout the dinner. Delicious details coming soon  - Ali

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A little liquid therapy perhaps?

This just in...Please drop by The Wine Therapist in Lakewood tomorrow night to try a few of the new small-lot wines produced by Brack Mountain Wine Company .  Can't wait to see everyone from my old Dallas Hood!  Pulling corks on these beauties...

2011 Origine Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley

2010 L'Oliveto Chardonnay, Russian River Valley

2011 Origine Rose of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley

2010 Bench Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast

2010 L'Oliveto Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley

2008 Enos "Girasole" (Sangiovese/Cab blend) Chalk Hill & Dry Creek AVA.

2009 Bench Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley

2008 Enos Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley

6-9pm & $5 a person.  See you tomorrow night!! Cheers, Ali