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