Wednesday, December 30, 2009

More about the Dallas Secret Wine Society.

Our Mission and Purpose
Uh oh! The secret must be out. You found us. We are the
from all different walks of life. Some of us know a lot about
wines, some a little and still others know absolutely nothing at
all, but we all come together for the experience of wine. Most
of us do not have any experience at all in the wine industry.
We are just ordinary people, like you, that somewhere along
the road of life, stumbled upon one extraordinary bottle of wine
that changed our lives forever. Maybe it has already happen to
you. If not, I’m sure it will!

There is just something magical about a bottle of wine. What
other beverage can you think of that is different from year to
year and comes in so many styles and flavors? The varieties
are endless. Wine brings us great pleasure, relaxation,
enjoyment and fulfillment. It is also a wonderful way to pass
time with good friends or that special someone.

On this website, you will learn about the different styles of
wine, food and recipes that are a perfect match for particular
styles of wine, wine tips, wine terms, wine as it relates to you in
health, stories and adventures we have shared with wine, and of
course our frequent events and outings that occur once or twice
a month. Our purpose is to bring the wine buying and enjoying
public together. We also intend to introduce new people to the
exciting world of wine by breaking down the ridiculous
stereotypes and misconceptions about wine through education
and fun. Above all else, we want to meet new friends as well as
some old ones and share a glass or two of wine together.

So please feel free to peruse our website. Learn a little; maybe
even give us your ten cents worth! But, by all means, please
come join us and get on our mailing list. Then you will be able
to raise a toast with us the next time we meet over a glass of


Shane Johnson
Dallas Secret Wine Society

The Dallas Secret Wine Society is a FREE wine club, there are no
membership fees, nor will there ever be! However, it does cost money
to run the club and maintain the website, so if the mood strikes, we
do appreciate any donation you make!

A Reader quickly provided me with a response... she even has her own wine website in Dallas! Dallas Secret Wine!

Our Valpolicella tasting was for me, a lot of fun. I
was looking forward to it because, only having a
limited amount of experience with the wine, I wasn’t
sure what to expect. Our staff members with the
exception of maybe just one, had never even tried a
Valpolicella wine before and that always makes
these tastings a bit educational as well as
interesting. We had the usual assortment of Italian
appetizers to compliment the wines. This consisted
of smashed cherry tomato bruscetta, Portobello
mushroom pizza, and tiny pepperonis with Port and
smoked Fontina cheese.

We tried seven different Valpolicella wines ranging
in price from $6.00 to $24.00 and covering the three
basic styles, Valpolicella, Valpolicella Classico and
Valpolicella Superiore made in the “Ripassa” style.
For the most part, the quality of the wines broke out
along the lines of their categories with the best being
the lone Superiore style and the worst being a
regular Valpolicella. I think we all thoroughly
enjoyed the wine style and would recommend the
first five wines in our tasting results with glowing

Check them out and decide for yourself:

Since I started tasting wine in the 70's on a trip to Italy, I have always like Italian Wines. Bolla is a shipper who selects wines to sale here ...

Valpolicella is one of my favorites for an Italian dinner. Bollo Valpolicella is a consistently good wine choice. However, remember that Valpolicella is a wine region in Italy and tell me if you fine a better one!

Remember to open this rich, full red wine at least an hour before dinner.

"85 Rating. Highly Recommended"
"Brilliant red hue. Cherry, plum and violet aromas. Fresh and clean, this has ripe berry fruit and a clean round finish with tart acidity and light tannins. A nice quaffer."

Thursday, December 24, 2009

What is a Varietal? The short anwer is a type of grape... first draft of my guide to Varietals

If you are new to wine and wondering what you might like, or you have drunk the same wine for years and are eager to branch out and try something new, you are probably overwhelmed with the choices available today!

Let me help you with a quick guide to the most popular and readily available wines in the world. I’ll start with two famous white grape varietals that are very popular in the United States, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

White Wine Grape Varietals

Chardonnay is the grape responsible for greatest dry white wines of the world, the white Burgundies, like Chablis, Pouilly-Fuisse, Macon-Villages and Puligny-Montrachet. Make a note to try these famous French wines in 2010.

In the US, California is the epicenter of U.S. wine production, and has the most perfect locations for Chardonnay, which is a cool-climate grape. Oregon and Washington are not far behind, turning out wonderful wines every year. Why not try some Oregon and Washington wines this year?

Chardonnay is a dry (not sweet)  table wine that not only goes well with food, but drinks very well by itself. Chardonnay typically comes in three styles: the most popular has some peach and tropical flavors, and no noticeable oak, which seems to hit the “sweet spot” for most Chardonnay lovers. The second is medium-light, pleasant, and the taste runs toward white peaches and pears. The last is barrel fermented, aged in oak and tastes of tropical fruits like guava and mango. I usually associate the taste to "flint" with this wine. Notice that there are three types of Chardonnay, not just the classic two types that most wine experts call "oaked" and "un-oaked."  Oak used to be from the barrel that contained the wine. Chardonnay is frequently highly processed and might not ever "see" a barrel, giving new meaning to having a "refined" wine.

Now grown world wide, Sauvignon Blanc got its start in France’s Loire Valley. To make the white wines of Bordeaux, it is always blended with Semillon. In California, it was always a blending grape, until Robert Mondavi opened his winery in the ‘60s and produced a 100% Sauvignon Blanc called “Fume Blanc”. A Sauvignon Blanc or a Fume Blanc from California is usually all Sauvignon Blanc, although some winemakers do occasionally add a dollop of Semillon for a soft and rich note.  Make note that  Robert Mondavi might be a good base line for your tastings this year.  Compare all of your tastings to the Robert Mondavi standard wine in that Varietal variety.  Another hint, by law, if the name of the varietal is on the label, it only needs to be 65% of that variety grape. If it is vinteaged by date, i.e. Sauvignon Blanc 2007, it must have at least 75%.

French Sauvignon Blancs are more acidic and have more grassy flavors, while examples from New Zealand tend to taste of gooseberries and grapefruit. All should be experienced, but some of my favorites come from California and may have hints of fresh grass or grapefruit, but are predominately noted for their ripe fruit flavors. Note:  I prefer New Zealand and Oregon Sauvignon Blancs, because they have MORE fruit flavor.
Keep in mind, we are not talking about sweet fruits. When wine articles start going on and on about the flavor notes in the wine, I get bored.  But I am old and losing my sense of smell and taste. Note: at your next wine tasting put out glasses with the suggested flavor note in the glass:  put out some grapefruit, gooseberries, fresh grass, peaches (fresh) or coffee beans in tasting note glasses. Spice up the tasting! Have some fun with it!

Red Wine Grape Varietals

The three most famous red wines in the world have their roots* in France, but have spread world wide, as they offer great taste and drinkability. Cabernet Sauvignon is rightfully loved by people world wide, as it offers delicious, complex flavors. Pinot Noir and Merlot are popular with most folks who drink wine, and are sure to please your guests as well.

*ROOTS Interesting historical note:

Cabernet Sauvignon is the famous grape of Bordeaux and reigns supreme there. Bordeaux tends to taste of cassis and dark fruits accompanied by smells of cedar, sweet tobacco and sometimes a nice vanilla finish from aging in French oak. Cabernets from California are usually higher in alcohol and have riper fruit flavors because the fruit gets riper in the California sunshine. They also tend to show more black cherry flavors and sometimes smell of chocolate and black currants.

The well known French red grape, Pinot Noir, got its start in Burgundy. It is also widely grown in California and Oregon, and there are some fantastic wines available to drink. Cooler climate areas are best for Pinot Noir, since it needs a longer, cooler growing season like Chardonnay. Pinot Noir generally tastes of earth (some say forest floor), mushrooms, foie gras, leather and cherries (the last particularly noted in American Pinot Noirs).

Merlot is the most plentiful red grape of Bordeaux, and is used as a blending grape in many outstanding Bordeaux wines. While Merlot is used as a blending grape in the U.S., it is also widely sold by itself, or at least as the primary grape on the label. Merlot can be confused with Cabernet Sauvignon in “blind” tastings as it has some of the same color profiles and smells emanating from the glass. Merlot ripens earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon, is a little smoother (less tannic), and usually tastes of ripe plums.

Remember that wine is fun, not hard, and meant to be drunk and enjoyed! Start with the varietals above, and try a few of each. Did you like that Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand? Try one from Australia with your next meal! Experiment, and above all, have fun!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Why do you never suggest a French Wine? Because no one pours one for me; however, I will suggest a good basic French Table wine and great cooking wine.

French Wine

The Best Wine Region Since the Dark Ages

France. The most famous place in the world for wine. Why? In a word, history. French wines have their roots in the Roman Empire, whose legions and followers planted vineyards as they crossed the continent. And before the French, the Greeks. The religious orders in France took care to protect the French grape vines during the Dark Ages. The records they kept have helped the French continue to make wine perfected over centuries. France is still the leader for all the world's best known red and white wines, though different countries and regions around the world interpret them differently. Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc are just a few examples of wines that have spread across the world.

Why Knowing French Wine Law is Key to Finding Good French Wine

In France, there are four legal "ranks" or ratings of French wine, which serves as a good indicator of how relatively cheap or expensive the wine is. The rank usually appears on the label, and indicates (from highest to lowest) the general status of the wine. "Appellation Contrôlée" (AOC or AC) ratings are the highest grade. "Vins Délimités de Qualité Supérieure (VDQA) ratings translate to "demarcated wine of superior quality." "Vins de Pays" ratings essentially mean "country wines", and is usually followed on the label with the name of the area the grapes are from. And lastly, "Vins de Table," French table wines that have no region, vintage or grape variety indicated on the label.

Where the Name of the Wine is Where it's From

Whether red or white, most French wines are named after the regions they originate from. This works primarily because each region specializes in the production of different types of wines and flavors. The major wine areas in France include: Burgundy (Pinot Noir, Gamay and Chardonnay), Bordeaux (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot) the Loire Valley and Alsace (Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris), the Rhone Valley (Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Muscat), and Champagne (Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay).

A recent Wine Pocket  List search showed that - in general - the wines with higher ratings tended also to be those with higher prices. But, we found that more than one A- wine (white and red) was represented in the "bargain" category of under $10. And while not many of these highly rated wines are widely available (over 20,000 cases imported), when you do find them they are worth the effort.

L'Epayrie Red Table Wine
L'Epayrie. I don't know if it's the least expensive, but it's definitely one of the least expensive French wines

Pronounced "L'Perrier" - but if I were you, I'd write it on a piece of paper and show it to the clerk because no one here knows how to pronounce it.

A friend told me about it (she's been using this brand for years). I am a good cook, but the flavor of my cooking was vastly improved when I began using this brand. They also make a white wine which I use just as frequently.

You certainly can drink it, but the flavor when used in cooking is quite different from the flavor as a beverage.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How to "taste" wine without buying it? Go to FREE wine tastings and CRUISE wine shops and up scale grocery stores on weekends for wine demonstrations

Attend public and political fund raising events. At parties, pour from someone else's bottle....

Why not put on your own wine tasting?

Keep it simple. Have everyone bring one each of the following crackers, fruit, cheese, LOTS of small, clear plastic cups and BYOB (bring your own bottle)... pick a varietal and bring one of that classification. Have a bottle of water for each guest and slices of lemon or lime. Having plenty of plastic (clear) cups available, don't rush the tasting process: let the guests discover that red wine tastes better after 30 minutes in the cup (breathing). Ice the white and rose types, or don't. Recycle the plastic cups for the next tasting!

Don't forget to give everyone a pen and a pocket size memo spiral notebook for note taking.

" You will forget it, unless you make a memo of it."

Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland

There are few national wine tasting event newsletters: here is the one that I was recommeded and have found useful for the DFW area; and, it publishes editions for all major cities:

They publish a weekly newsletter, called The Juice.

My FREE trial of The Juice: Grand Cru is up this month, so I will be downgraded to REGULAR issue; however, here are the details for the GRAND CRU issue for $2 a month:

•Receive The Juice for as many cities as you want.
Standard subscribers are limited to 2 cities.

•Only include events in categories of your liking.
Events are designated as: Food, Wine or Wine and Food, Spirits Beer or Other (coffee, chocolates, tea tastings, etc) If you are not a beer drinker or do not care for hard spirits, you can opt to not have them in your issue.

Only include sections of The Juice that you are interested in.
We have added a lot of content to The Juice over the years, but some sections may not interest you. We offer the options to close sections of The Juice Grand Cru that you would not read anyway.

•Only include events that are in a specific price range for your budget.
If $150 is out of your price range for an event to attend and you would rather not be teased, you can be notified of only events within your price range.

Include a brief description for each event right in your issue.
In efforts to reduce the overall size of The Juice, we removed the snippets of descriptions formerly included in the calendar. As a The Juice Grand Cru member, you can have them included.

•Block posters you are not interested in.
If every week's "Wine Down Monday" at a distant venue that you have no interest in visiting, you can simply choose to "block" that venue and no further postings will be included in your issue.

•Block events focused on singles.
As an added designation for event postings, we ask the hosts to indicated if the event is focused on singles. You can choose not to see them if you wish.

•Eligible to win free tickets to selected events in your area.
At we are often offered complimentary tickets to events that are posted. Sometimes two tickets and sometimes more. Some events are big and some are small. We are going to, with permission from the hosts, randomly select a The Juice Grand Cru member in the areas of the events and give those tickets away, no charge, to the first randomly selected member who can attend.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Suggest a "healthy red wine"... I had heard that Pinot Noir was the top dog ... a google search found otherwise.

A glass of red wine a day keeps the doctor away

Is red wine the fountain of youth or a potent poison?

Is enjoying a glass of red wine with dinner each evening beneficial to your health? Current research suggests that a glass of red wine each day may be providing you with more than just a little relaxation.

What are the health benefits of drinking red wine?

For over 10 years, research has indicated that moderate intake of alcohol improves cardiovascular health. In fact, in 1992 Harvard researchers included moderate alcohol consumption as one of the "eight proven ways to reduce coronary heart disease risk." However, research has suggested that specifically red wine is the most beneficial to your heart health. The cardioprotective effect has been attributed to antioxidants present in the skin and seeds of red grapes.

Scientists believe the antioxidants, called flavonoids, reduce the risk of coronary heart disease in three ways:

by reducing production of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (also know as the "bad" cholesterol)
by boosting high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the good cholesterol)
by reducing blood clotting.
Furthermore, consuming a glass of wine along with a meal may favorably influence your lipid profiles following that meal

Recently, researchers have found that moderate red wine consumption may be beneficial to more than just your heart. One study found that the antioxidant resveratrol, which is prevalent in the skin of red grapes, may inhibit tumor development in some cancers. Another study indicated that resveratrol aided in the formation of nerve cells, which experts believe may be helpful in the treatment of neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Which wines should you consume to reap the most benefits?

Researchers at the University of California, at Davis tested a variety of wines to determine which types have the highest concentrations of flavonoids. Their results concluded that the flavonoid favorite is Cabernet Sauvignon, followed closely by Petit Syrah and Pinot Noir. Both Merlots and red zinfandels have fewer flavonoids than their more potent predecessors. White wine had significantly smaller amounts than the red wine varieties. The bottom line is the sweeter the wine, the fewer the flavonoids. Dryer red wines are your best bet for a flavonoid boost.

How much red wine should I drink?

A four-ounce glass of wine is equivalent to one serving. Men will benefit from consuming one to two servings per day. Women should consume only one serving per day to reap the maximum benefits.

Should I start drinking, if I have NEVER drank alcohol before?
This is not to say that you should start drinking alcohol if you presently do not.

Occasional or binge drinkers have higher mortality rates than those who drink moderately on a regular basis. In those who consume three or more drinks per day, there is an increased risk for elevated serum triglycerides (fat in the bloodstream). Long-term, excessive alcohol consumption can damage nerve cells, the liver and the pancreas. Heavy drinkers are also at risk for malnutrition, as alcohol may substitute for more nutritious foods.

What if I have other health problems?

Recommendations to consume moderate amounts of wine are limited to individuals with a clean bill of health. It is clear that people with medical and social conditions worsened by alcohol should not consume any alcohol at all. Hypertryglyceridemia, pancreatitis, liver disease, uncontrolled hypertension, depression and congestive heart failure are diseases that may be worsened by alcohol. Those individuals at risk for these conditions should consult with their physician before consuming any alcohol at all.

What about grape juice and non alcoholic red wine?

In 1997, researchers at the University of Wisconsin concluded that purple grape juice also reduced blood clotting. Another study by researchers at University of California at Davis, confirmed the findings that non alcoholic red wine contains the same antioxidant profile as red wine.

However in a 1998 study, Japanese researchers found that while grape juice still had antioxidative benefits, it did not significantly lower LDL cholesterol levels compared to red wine.
The debate continues on whether it is the components of the wine, the way the wine is consumed, or the lifestyle traits that is the most responsible for the long healthy lives of many wine drinkers.

However, the evidence seems clear that regular, moderate consumption of red wine is beneficial to your health.

So here’s a toast to your health!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

One or two glasses of antioxidant-rich Pinot Noir (the scientific choice in wine)...

Top 10 Bad Things That Are Good For You LiveScience:

"Red Wine -
A crucial ingredient in the diets of the world's heart-healthiest populations-like those Bordeaux-guzzling French-red wine has long been known to have potent anti-cancer and artery-protecting benefits. The key, some studies indicate, is an antioxidant found specifically in the skin of red wine grapes, called resveratrol. The latest studies even link resveratrol to greater endurance, a reduction in gum disease and Alzheimer's. Unfortunately, White wine, which is fermented after the skins are removed, is less beneficial according to some studies."

Friday, December 18, 2009

Went to a holiday function and they were pouring Fetzer Gewürztraminer (Gavurtz)


Tasting notes:
The wine is deep golden straw colored, with a nose of dried apricot, spicy peach, a touch of rose petal and honeysuckle. In the mouth, crisp green apple, honeyed apricot, and peach flavors meld with the traditional spicy flavors of Gewürztraminer. This medium-bodied wine’s off-dry style strikes the perfect balance between its sweetness and bright, crisp acidity. This fresh, soft wine is a true delight to sip, especially when paired with many ethnic food styles, such as Asian or Hispanic cuisines.

"It’s often called gavurtz because it’s hard to say, and even harder to spell. This wine, though, is a secret weapon, great for taming spicy foods or sipping on its own. Enjoy the honeyed apricot and peach flavors in the glass, and breathe deeply to capture the aromas of rose petals and honeysuckle. Lots of people love this wine, even if they’ll never spell it. Just ask for gavurtz. We’ll know what you mean."

Dennis Martin

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

You need to include South African wines when seeing Invictus with friends....


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

by William Ernest Henley

If you are watching Invictus in the theater this month, maybe you would like to try a South African Wine with an interestng character....

Welcome to The Goats Do Roam Wine Company

There’s no stopping Fairview owner/vintner Charles Back when his interest in a creative, entrepreneurial project is piqued. It all started with a suggestion by a wine buyer... the man humorously suggested the vinification of a Rhône-style blend called 'Goats do Roam'. Back, already known for his panache with Shiraz and always looking for new styles of wine to woo adventurous and discerning consumers, took the ruby ball and ran with it.

Thus was born, in 1999, what was for the South African wine scene an innovative blend using Rhône varieties such as Shiraz, Cinsault, Carignan and Mourvèdre with a dash of local Pinotage, which Back had sourced from various vineyards (his own and others) around Paarl and Malmesbury.

But, despite the humour of the packaging, the content of the bottle is impressive with its quality, combining rich complexity with great drinkability. Since then, Goats do Roam has expanded into a fully fledged wine company with a range of nine whimsically named wines."

Goats Do Roam Red Blend South Africa 2007 750ml

Varietal: Red Blend

Vintage: 2007

Size: 750ml

Wine Type: Red

Goats Do Roam Red Blend South Africa 2006 is a vibrant ruby red. Ripe red fruit, with a fragrant lift and spice notes. Rich medium body, with subtle oak influences and soft tannins. Red fruit and plums on the palate, with soft tannins. Smooth lingering finish.

The 2007 vintage is a blend of primarily Shiraz (50%) and Pinotage (20%) with Cinsaut (10%), Mourvedre (10%), Grenache (5%) and Carignan (5%) being used to achieve a style consistent with what Goats do Roam has become famous for. The wine is lightly oaked before being carefully blended and bottled.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Best Pinot Noir I have every tasted... time to move on and leave Pinot Noir in peace.

2007 Pinot Noir Deep garnet with purple hints. A rather brooding nose of ripe raspberry countered with earth, toast and dark perfume... maybe deep red rose petals. The palate displays a plush, cushioned silkiness, with interplay of juicy, mouthwatering acid and ripe, rich raspberry and boysenberry fruit, offset with dusty bramble leaf. The finish is long and relatively complex for such a youthful wine, displaying minerals with dusty tannin and a kick of mocha.