Saturday, October 01

International Saké Day: Made like a beer and sipped like a wine.

by Alison Smith


My first experience tasting saké was back in my sports marketing days. I was shown how to do a "saké bomb" while hanging out with the Oakland A's baseball team after a game one night at a home tucked in the curvy hills of the East Bay. FUNNO! Fast forward a few years and TexaCali Ali became known as the "Saké Ninja" due to representing a portfolio of family saké breweries from Japan. With some hesitation at first (due to my saké bomb morning-after experience) I fell head over heels in love with Junmai & Ginjo Saké! So to all those who are making the "bitter beer face" about right now, listen up!...

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Saturday, September 24

Priorat, it's the Schist!

by Alison Smith


Si ets Priorati, de les pedres treuras
- "If you are from Priorat, you will extract wine from the stones", or so the saying goes.

Handfuls of rocks filled my pockets, shoes and luggage during a brief 3-day visit to Spain's magnificent Priorat a few years ago. Beyond walking the vineyards, I had the special honor of breaking-bread with the pioneering winemakers and vignerons who lived in the tiny villages of Gratallops, Falset, Porrera, and the even smaller hamlet of Scala Dei that surround the region. I can still hear the kids laughing and playing outside in the middle of the village under the stars at night...

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Wednesday, June 29

Pro-Am Tasting Invitational: Meeker Vineyard 2004 Cabernet Franc

by Jason Toon & Alison Smith

Nothing beats wine advice from an experienced taster. But what if you're just stumbling into the wine game? Wouldn't it help to get a gut-level gut-check from a n00b's gut? That's the thinking behind our new series of Pro-Am Tasting Invitational. This second installment looks at today's Meeker Vineyard 2004 Cabernet Franc 3-Pack. Alison Smith of Wine Country Connect will provide the tasting notes with actual expertise behind them, while Jason Toon will provide the (let's say) outsider perspective. We'll let you decide which one speaks to you...

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Wednesday, June 08

Pro-Am Tasting Invitational: Expression 44° Pinot Noir Willamette Valley

by Jason Toon & Alison Smith

Nothing beats wine advice from an experienced taster. But what if you're just stumbling into the wine game? Wouldn't it help to get a gut-level gut-check from a n00b's gut? That's the thinking behind our new series of Pro-Am Tasting Invitational. Our first subject is today's Expression 44° Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Oregon - 2 Pack. Alison Smith of Wine Country Connect will provide the tasting notes with actual expertise behind them, while Jason Toon will provide the (let's say) outsider perspective. We'll let you decide which one speaks to you.

Part one: Alison "TexaCali Ali" Smith says...

Tonight's Expression 44 tasting was a great excuse to cook a welcome home dinner for my main-squeeze who spent the last few weeks in the Loire Valley & Germany. Riesling is his first love, but you know what they say, the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, so tonight's dinner was a bit more fancy than my usual Tuesday-night-after-yoga meal of bird-feed (and wine). Here's how dinner and wine went down tonight in Cali (with the game sounding off in the background of course - GO MAVS!)...

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Thursday, May 19

6022 Miles Apart

by Alison Smith

…is the approximate distance from Paso Robles, California to heart of the Rhône Valley in France.


Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyards, Spring 2011


Having just spent a week visiting Southern Rhône in March, I was eager to attend the 2011 Hospice du Rhône in Paso Robles the first week weekend in May, hunting for deals to feature on Wine.Woot! The HdR (as we refer to it in the trade) was a world-wide lineup of producers from Spain, Australia, France, and America, of course. An incredible way to taste the world without having to deal with jet-lag. A total treat for me, I chose to spend the first afternoon focusing on producers who opened old & rare bottles. What a wonderful way to taste the age-ablity and quality of a few hundred wines in a few short hours - and yes I now have a few new favorites!

About 1/3 of my personal wine consumption is of Rhône varietals – soo many to explore. Check out this delicious list the fine folks at HdR provided… there will be a quiz tomorrow, class! (NOT.)

  1. Bourboulenc: (Burr-buh-lanc) light bodied, delicate floral, citrus, peach, melon, earth
  2. Camarese: (Cam-are-ess) firm, tannins, delicate aromatics, pepper, spice
  3. Carignane Noir: (Care-ig-non No-our) tannic, solid acidity, good color, cherry, raspberry, pepper
  4. Cinsault Noir: (Sahn-so No-our) elegant, soft & lightly aromatic, strawberry, raspberry, smoke, earth
  5. Clairette Blanc: (Claret Blan) big bodied, floral, aromatic, honeysuckle, tropical flowers, tropical fruits
  6. Clairette Rose: (Clare-et Rose) light aromatics, fruit notes, soft strawberry, cherry, rose petal
  7. Counoise Noir: (Coon-wahz No-our) lively acidity, spice, richness, raspberry, cherry, cranberry
  8. Grenache Blanc: (Gra-nash blan) big bodied, soft, delicate peach, melon, pear
  9. Grenache Gris: (Gra-Nash Gree) full-bodied, light in color, delicate strawberry, cherry, rose petal
  10. Grenache Noir: (Gra-Nash o-our) big bodied, supple, & rich strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, black pepper
  11. Marsanne: (Mar-san) broad palate, soft & rich, peach, nectarine, stone fruits, tuberose, sweet nuts
  12. Mourvèdre: (More-ved) tannic, deeply colored, aromatic, black currant, dark cherries, leather, smoke, earth
  13. Muscardin: (Mus-car-dan) floral, aromatic, firmly structured, rose petal, barnyard, earth
  14. Muscat a Petits Grains: (Mus-cat ah Pet-eet Grahn) elegant, aromatic, floral, musk, honey, honeysuckle, lily, stone fruit
  15. Picpoul Blanc: (Peek-pool Blan) floral, soft, aromatic, pear, earth, lily, daisy, wildflowers
  16. Picpoul Noir: (Peek-pool No-our) floral, elegant, aromatic, rose, violet, dark cherry
  17. Roussanne: (Roo-sahn) firmly structured, powerful, very rich, apricot, honey, almond, nutmeg, honeysuckle, iris
  18. Syrah/Shiraz: (C-rah)/(She-raz) highly colored, firmly structured and aromatic, plum, raspberry, blueberry, blackcurrant, violet, roasted meats, smoke, chocolate, pepper, anise
  19. Terret Noir: (Tare-it No-our) delicate, perfumed, bright acidity, rose petal, lavender, dark berries, spice
  20. Ugni Blanc: (Ewn-yee Blan) delicate fruit, good acidity, pear, honey-dew melon, earth
  21. Vaccarese: (Vac-car-ess) aromatic, firmly tannic, floral, pepper, spice, earth, smoke
  22. Viognier: (Vee-ohn-yea) big bodied, very aromatic, complex apricot, musk, peaches, grapefruit, lychee, papaya, mango, tropical flowers

Download the free and AWESOME HdR iPhone App for this list and more at your fingertips.


The Cellars of Chateau de Beaucastel (owned by the Perrin Family who also have Tablas Creek Vineyards in Paso Robles)


We see a smattering of offers on Wine.Woot! of a handful of Rhône varietals, such as the Davis Family Vineyards "Cote Rose" Syrah/Viogner blend, the Mathis Grenache, Pear Valley Vineyards Syrah, and of course Peter Wellington's Marsanne & Roussanne offering... so get ready to learn and taste some lesser known grapes coming your way soon! I’m keeping the list of my favorite producers to myself for now… see you on the boards.

Cheers -
TexaCali Ali

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Wednesday, May 04

Monkeys on a Train: Wine.Woot Rocks the Railroad Revival Tour

by Alison Smith

Today marks the Wine.Woot blogging debut of Alison Smith, National Buyer for our wine pals at Wine Country Connect. She’s been lurking since the Pellegrini deal - soaking up, learning, getting a feel. "Lioco’s mine, let me get in there." Winedavid 39, not in any hurry, wants to be sure. "Once you cross the rubicon of the woot forums you can never go back, you’re not ready." "But I’ve been here at Wine Country Connect for four months, not to mention a sterling reputation after 8 years of hard labor in the trenches of traditional ultrapremium wine sales. Let me release the hounds!" WD39 finally gives in with a sigh. "OK, TexaCalAli... introduce yourself with a blog post. But you’ve been warned..."

I'm just starting out here, but I’m guessing there are Wooters who love KILLER music as much as they love good wine and their big screen monitors... Right? I was hard at work last week spreading the Woot! love to one of the hottest music tours crossing America this year.

A couple of Thursdays ago, Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, and Old Crow Medicine Show embarked on a tour unlike any in recent memory: "Traveling exclusively in vintage rail cars, the three bands will journey across the American Southwest over the course of a week. The aptly titled Railroad Revival Tour features the three bands playing concerts at six unique outdoor locations along the route."

I was quick to step up when my dear pals from Austin who were in charge of the F&B for the Railroad Revival Tour told me "hey we need wine to stock the train bar car for the bands and guests for the 8 day tour." And I have just enough audacity being the new kid and all to ask Winedavid 39 for the good stuff – and SHAZAM!, TexaCali Ali to the rescue...

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