The Secret Wine Shop Blog

BYOB and free corkage in Bay Area - updated

posted Apr 15, 2012, 9:27 AM by christy bergman   [ updated Apr 15, 2012, 8:51 PM ]

Due to popular demand, I've updated my extract of Open Table's BYOB feature. It's suggested to verify with the restaurant when you make your reservation. 

Dessert Wines in Stock

posted Feb 8, 2012, 2:12 PM by christy bergman   [ updated Oct 2, 2012, 2:07 PM ]

Tasting Sun 4-6pm.  Enjoy a flight of 4 wines for $25; a full glass for $9.  Also open when we have special events, please check our Calendar of Events.  I selected all of these wines because they're local, small production, good value, and very enjoyable with or without food.  In cases where I haven't found a good local example, I've got an import on the list.


- 2009, Bonneau Wine, Late Harvest Chardonnay, Los Carneros.  $15/375ml bottle.  A little bit of yogurt tingle on your tongue is followed by orange zest with Bonneau Winery 2009 Late Harvest Chardonnay, Estate, Carneros. Aromatic, sweet, rich. 8% residual sugar. 100% Stainless Steel Tank, 100% Natural yeast, 3-1/2 months sur lies, stirred every 3 weeks.

- 2010, Uvaggio, Moscato Dolce, Bella Vigne Vineyard, Lodi.  $18. 
Aromatic and flavorful - versatile as a low alcohol aperitivo or dessert wine.  Lively aromas and flavors of candied ginger, ripe tropical fruits mango, papaya, star fruit. Alcohol 8.4%.

- 12-yr solera system aged, Wellington Vineyards, White Port, Sonoma Valley.  $30/500ml bottle. Field blend of Palomino, Monbadon, Semillon, Sauvignon Vert, Trousseau Gris, Sylvaner, Riesling. Aromas of coconut, cream, and spice cookies.


- 2006 Pedroncelli, “Four Grapes” vintage Port, Dry Creek Valley.  $18/500ml bottle.  The grapes for this dessert wine came from Pedroncelli’s (est. 1927) estate vineyard in Dry Creek Valley, a four acre vineyard planted in 1995.  Local legend has it the traditional Port vines were smuggled in by Raymond Burr the actor:  Tinta Madeira, Tinta Cao, Touriga Nacional, and Souzao. Harvested as a field blend, made by the vintage and aged in bottle.  Dark fruit aromas of blackberry and plum. Raspberry flavors with fruitcake, chocolate and black pepper finish.

- 2005 Godspeed Vineyards, Estate “Trinity” blend Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Syrah; Napa Valley. $19/375ml bottle.  Owner/Grower: Larry Stryker. 
With a nose of black cherry, roasted coffee & black pepper, it's mouth filling, superbly balanced with a lingering chocolate finish exhibiting the unique terroir of Mount Veeder. At 13.5% alcohol, this is a very food friendly wine.  I sometimes use this as a dry wine pairing for chocolate dessert.  The half-bottles are tall and make an impressive-looking dessert bottle.

- NV, KOPKE, Fine Ruby Port, Porto, PORTUGAL.  $15/375ml bottle. From the oldest port makers in Portugal, dating back to 1638. This young ruby is perfectly balanced with light sweetness and a spicy finish.

Oyster & Wine Pairing Research

posted Jan 10, 2012, 4:41 PM by christy bergman   [ updated Feb 26, 2012, 3:56 PM ]

oyster wine pairing research

Oysters have a surprisingly narrow wine pairing range, the pairing is finicky and it depends on which oyster and which wine.  The ideal oyster wine pairing is one where the wine enhances the flavor of the oyster and you finish eating/drinking the two together thinking to yourself, "That was a really great oyster!" Last year we "researched" 96 combinations of oysters and wine, see our event page.

My favorite pairing last year was the Evening Cove oyster from British Columbia with Bonny Doon Vineyard, 2010, Vin Gris de Cigare, Arroyo Seco.  The light cucumber and watermelon finish of the oyster was carried beautifully by the delicately scented Rhone blend. 

It's Winter 2012, and time to do Oyster + Wine Pairing again!  This time bigger!  Oysters sourced and shucked by SF Oysternerd Greg Babinecz and Eric Hyman, buyer at Waterbar.  Local pop-up caterer, Global Eats Anthony Rizzi, providing the non-oyster edibles (I hear one of the apps will be pork belly).  The venue has 2 floors including a cosy wind-protected roof deck.  Date/Time: Thurs Feb 23rd, 7-9pm. Location: Dottie's 28-6th St. $60 RSVP >here<.

It took us three rounds of tasting.  Round I, we sampled a whole bunch of different oysters and a whole bunch of different wines.  Round II we repeated with a whittled down handful of oyster varieties and some of the same + different wines.  Round III we re-tasted the difficult to pair oysters each with two top contender wine pairings.  Here's what we learned.

1. Oyster:  Glacier Bays from Glacier Bay, New Brunswick.  Mildly briny, sweet flesh, yeasty finish.
Wine:  Domaine Félines Jourdan, 2010, Picpoul de Pinet, Languedoc, FRANCE.  Ripe melons and white flowers on the nose, a certain weight on the palate that includes sea water, a light, stony, mineral, lemon peel finish. $25/bottle.

Pairing Notes:  The oyster is very approachable with its sweet meat and makes a good first oyster of the evening for people to try.  The wine pairing is safe, and leaves the lingering sweet yeasty finish of the oyster in your mouth.

2.  Oyster:  Island Creeks from Duxbury, MA.  Extremely briny, rich buttery flesh, lobster stock finish.
Wine:  Alta Mesa Cellars, 2010, Verdelho, Alta Mesa in Lodi.  A dry white wine with peach skin and savoriness, hinting at pork, lavender and lemon verbena.  The tiny juice to grape ratio makes a weighty white that traditionally pairs with codfish. $15/bottle.

Pairing Notes:  The oyster feels very decadent and this weighty almost savory white elongates the oyster's lobster finish.

3.   Oyster:  Drakes Bay from Drake's Estero, CA.  Tender, delicate, briny, as you’d expect from an area that sees virtually no rain, and sweet with a touch of bitter herb.
Wine:  Metate Hill Vineyards, 2008, Albariño Barrica, Calavaras County.  Well-integrated oak complements flavors of orange citrus and pear. $24/bottle.

Pairing Notes:  This wine accentuates the flavor punch of the Olympia, then finishes with the bitter herb of the oyster.

Update:  Michael Stange will be in attendance, pouring his wine! Michael's family is originally from Castilla region of Spain, now he's making Albariño and other Spanish variety wines in Calaveras County.    

4. Oyster:  Olympia from Totten Inlet, WA.  Sweet, coppery, musky, nutty, celery-salt.  Tiny things that pack more flavor and interest than a full-sized oyster.
Wine:  Wertzberger, 2010, Chasselas, Russian River.  Aromas of ocean, seaweed, and pears, finishing with green apples and apple seeds. $15/bottle.

Pairing Notes:  This variety that's the original Swiss fondue wine, makes a neutral pairing at the start and middle of the oyster so you can really enjoy its brine, and leaves a nice, long, lingering finish of the musky smokiness of the oyster.

Update:  Bill Wertzberger will be in attendance, pouring his wine! Bill is my hero because he finds old, abandoned vineyards and restores them, including this 60-year old Chasselas vineyard, just behind J Winery in Healdsburg.    

5. Oyster:  Kusshi from Barkley Sound, British Columbia.  Considered the primadonas of oysters, the flavor is similar to a Kumamoto but cleaner, a more delicate balance of brackishness and floral, all with a creamy, meaty mouthfeel.
Wine:  Y. Rousseau, 2010, French Colombard, Russian River.  Sweet and sour acidity with only 15% aged in oak, it has tart tangerine, citron, lemongrass and mineral finish. $20/bottle.

Pairing Notes:  When you finish this wine with this oyster, all you can think of is wasn't that a great oyster!

Update:  Susan Rousseau will be in attendance, pouring Y. Rousseau wine! Yannick can't make it, but his wife will be happy to tell you more about the wines.

6. Oyster:  Rappahannock from Rappahannock River, Chesapeake Bay, VA.  The least salty oyster from the East Coast, sweet, smooth, almost buttery.  Described as an oyster for people with "no palate or a great palate".
Wine:  you decide!

oyster wine pairing

more secrets revealed

posted Aug 1, 2011, 7:35 PM by christy bergman   [ updated Aug 4, 2011, 10:49 AM ]

Reds in Stock

posted Jul 24, 2011, 11:11 AM by christy bergman   [ updated Dec 6, 2012, 1:31 PM ]

Tasting Sun 4-6pm.  Enjoy a flight of 4 wines for $25; a full glass for $9.  Also open when we have special events, please check our Calendar of Events.  I selected all of these wines because they're local, small production, good value, and very enjoyable with or without food.  In cases where I haven't found a good local example, I've got an import on the list.

- 2010 Forlorn Hope, "Suspiro del Moro" Alvarelhão, Silvaspoons Vineyard, Alta Mesa, $25.  Greeted with the scent of white sweet pea flowers, if you were blind wine tasting, you'd never guess you were about to sip a brooding dark red wine, grown in the Alta Mesa appellation of Lodi by Ron Silva, a farmer entirely unafraid of embracing varieties hard to pronounce and hard to find. Whether pronounced in the Spanish, Brancellao, or the Portuguese, Alvarelhão, this variety is full of surprises.  Suitable for pairing with a meal of tapas, lightly chilled on a hot afternoon, or from a goat-skin held aloft at arms length. Whole cluster fermented.

- 2010 Muscardini Cellars, Barbera, Pauli Ranch, Mendocino, $36.  Barbera is famous for keeping its high acidity even when the fruit is ripe.  This fruit comes from the historic Pauli Ranch, originally planted by Robert Mondavi, in Ukiah Valley, on the banks of an old river bed with gravely soil. Cold soaked 3 days, fermented in open top tanks, aged 12 months in 30% new French and Hungarian oak. Opens up with aromas of bright red fruit, raspberry, wild herbs & roasted espresso. On the palate, lively flavors of ripe plum, raspberry and cherry, vibrant acidity, balanced tannins, silky mouthfeel and a long complex finish.

- 2006 - 5 Points Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa Valley, $60.  Fruit from the famous Beckstoffer’s “To Kalon” Vineyard. Owner Chuck Atkins, former dentist, now medical device startup founder, wanted the best wine he could buy.  Made at Clos Pegase winery with new French barrels. Dense tannins, black fruit, small production, American grand cru.

- 2005 Godspeed Vineyards, Estate “Trinity” blend Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Syrah; Napa Valley. $35.  Owner/Grower: Larry Stryker.  With a nose of black cherry, roasted coffee & black pepper, it's mouth filling, superbly balanced with a lingering chocolate finish exhibiting the unique terroir of Mount Veeder. At 13.5% alcohol, this is a very food friendly wine.  I sometimes use this as a dry wine pairing for chocolate dessert.  Only 390 cases produced.

- 2010 Mary Elke, "Boonville Barter" Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $20. This budget-level Pinot Noir, blended from the left-over fruit, was meant to keep the family from drinking the expensive wines and also to use for bartering in the nearby town of Boonville, hence the name. Pale red in color due to a majority of Dijon clones, cherries and strawberries on the nose, with a hint of wintermint. Well balanced acid is finished off with slight anise. Winemaker: Matt Evans.

- 2009 Elke Vineyards, "Blue Diamond" Pinot Noir, Donnelly Creek Vineyard, Anderson Valley.  $35.  Foggy mornings, hot days, and cold nights are what make Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs famous for developed flavors while maintaining acidity. Perfumed layers of black cherries, barnyard, chocolate, tea, and warm spice. The palate gets some earthiness, subtle oak, good acidity and finessed tannins.  It's a classic Blue Diamond (50% Pommard, 25% Elliott, 25% Stang "clones").  Allow this wine a while to breathe before drinking for maximum pleasure.  Production: 840 cases.

- 2010 Von Holt Wines, Pinot Noir, Bacigalupi Vineyard, Russian River.  $38 Fruit from the Bacigalupi vineyard, continuously owned by the Bacigalupi family since 1964.  This vineyard produces a recognizably spicy style of fruit, rumored to come from the high iron content of the soil.  Wente, Wadenswil 2A, Swan, Pommard, and Dijon 115 clones.  Bouquet of strawberries, bay laurel, cloves, smoke.  Perfumed with plum; dusky cherry and soft spice palate.

- 2010 Uvaggio, Primitivo, Lodi.  $20.  Back in stock by popular demand!  Owner/winemaker Jim Moore, formerly of Robert Mondavi and Bonny Doon.  Cold maceration, aged 6 months in 16% new Hungarian oak, 8% in 1-year old Hungarian oak, the rest in neutral French oak.  Fruit is soft, supple with aromas of black cherry, boysenberry, anise, vanilla.  13.7% alcohol.

- 2008 Robert Biale, Syrah, Kiger Family Vineyard, Sonoma.  $62.  Grown on the Sonoma side of the Mayacamas Mountains (the mountain range separating Napa and Sonoma valleys) by the Kiger Family.  This jewel of a farm, run by an ex-Silicon Valley tech couple, uses sheep during the winter to fertilize their vineyards.  Firmly tannic, with dark berry, mineral, licorice and sage, and a beautifully dark elegance.  Just a little Viognier co-ferment too.  90 points Wine Spectator "Drink now through 2020."  Winemaker: Steve Hall.

- 2011 Dashe Cellars, "les Enfants Terrible" Zinfandel, McFadden Farm, Mendocino.  $24.  From an organic vineyard in Potter Valley, Mendocino.  Native yeast, stainless steel fermented, semi-carbonic maceration, and aged in large-format (500 gallon) French barrels.  Tastes of fresh figs with an intriguing nose of dusty fruit, fenugreek, black & white pepper that will keep you coming back for more.  13.6% alcohol.  202 cases produced.

How to promote an event on social media when none of the participants exist there yet

posted Jul 20, 2011, 3:08 PM by christy bergman   [ updated Aug 4, 2011, 10:48 AM ]

This latest event posed a new social media challenge for me.  It's a food & wine event, but the pop-up chefs didn't have their own website, hardly any facebook presence, and zero twitter existence.  The small production local winery has no website, no facebook, no twitter, you can barely find their name on google search.  So, without spending any ad dollars, how am I going to promote this event? 

I started trying the same trick as last time, trying to find someone with bigger social media fame than myself to help promote. I tried the only big winery whose wine I was pouring. I tried the local wine grape association whose appellation I was representing.  No luck.  Following is the anatomy of what did work for me, and it turns out it's all stuff I did myself (and you can do it too).  Again, I started out with my free tools arsenal:  direct email, social media, and my own website.

Step 1) Create a web page for the winery.  Mine is at
Step 2) Create an event page, with a purchase landing, on my website
Step 3) Set up Google Analytics custom reports.  (Actually didn't do this.  I already created reusable custom reports that worked like a charm for this event too!)
Step 4) List the events on both and  Give a different URL to my own event page on both, so I can track where traffic comes from.
Step 5) Post on facebook and twitter.  Again, being a small business with a small following, I didn't expect much result for all my efforts at giving good content.

Yesterday a record 9 people all bought on the same day!  1 ticket came from localwineevents.  About half of the rest of the tickets were names I recognized, people who'd been to the shop before.  But where did the other ticket sales come from?  Swish! That's the sound of me opening my Google Analtyics report! This time I deep-dive directly into the event purchase page on one day=yesterday.  13 visits via 3 sources: direct, facebook & google (no twitter traffic this time).  Since it's the last purchase step, in theory a bounce rate of 100% means everyone's buying.  But bounce rate in this case has to be weighed against time on page to decide if those bounces are because of purchase or just bounces.

I start my analysis by trying to account for each ticket bought.  Each unique ticket purchaser buys 1.7 tickets each.  I use the same formula I invented for my last blog posting about social media ROI.  It turns out my calculations add up to the exact # purchases made, so I think I've figured out where each ticket came from.

Referrer    #visits   BounceRate  TimeOnPage  Calculated # interested   #purchases
direct        8         71.43%        0:47:39         8 * (1-.71)= 2              3.4 tickets
facebook    2         0%              0:02:41                          0               0 tickets
google       3        100%            1:14:09                          3               5 tickets
DAYTOTAL 13         63.64%        0:42:06                          5               8 tickets                              

( I'd be worried about those longer-than-average time-on-page, but I was wrestling with Google checkout the prior 2 weeks.  First there's a hard-to-find checkout setting to "allow unsigned carts".  Even though I'm using Google checkout itself, it considers itself unsigned.  doh!  that blocked me for a while! I filed a bug, but typical Google response was "nothing is wrong with our product".  No helpful suggestion to look for this non-intuitive setting.  Just the unhelpful response I'm so used to from Google - you're wrong!  I digress.  Second, since I hadn't figured out the unsigned cart setting yet, I thought maybe the bug was with the "google checkout gadget", so I tried another gadget called "buy now checkout gadget".  But that one only lets people buy 1 item at a time, and since most people want to buy >1 ticket at a time, they were stuck!  So, those times look whacky I know, but I don't think I'll be seeing that problem again. )

Back to figuring out the traffic. I knew I didn't do an emailing on that day, so I'm still wondering where the direct & google spike in traffic came from.  I have a hunch, I check my email, and sure enough, 4:45am July 19th, "The Juice" was sent to all subscriber's mailboxes, and our event was listed in that email!  So my conclusion this time? 

1) is a *great* way to promote your wine & food event!
2) Email lists have the greatest ROI, especially if your social presence is small (like mine and everyone I'm representing this time)
3) Make sure your website is ready & working, because if you've built up a loyal following, procrastinators (ahem, I mean people) will come looking for you. 
4) Even if the task looks daunting and you're a small business, just try it, you can do it!

How I measure my Social Network ROI using Web Analytics

posted Jun 30, 2011, 10:48 AM by christy bergman   [ updated Aug 4, 2011, 10:52 AM ]

Since there's a lot of interest in social networking these days, I thought I'd share an example how I use web analytics to measure my social network effectiveness.  I have a tiny business, The Secret Wine Shop, with a website (hosted (in the cloud) by Google Sites).  I have Google Analytics set up on my Google Sites.  For social networks, I've got the usual array: Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, Chowhound, Google Maps Place.

The first step was to define a couple monetary goals for my website and customize Google Analytics to measure them.  For me, the goals were 1) sell Wine Club memberships, 2) sell special event tickets, 3) contact us.  Next, I decide to analyze what's going on with one of those goals, in this case a special event.  The screen shot below shows Unique Visitors by page, and it just so happens the Goal Conversion Page for purchasing tickets to my upcoming special event was the top traffic site.

Next, I drill down into that goal conversion page.  Using a custom report with custom dimensions, I can see the top referring traffic and bounce rates.  Given the numbers I can estimate (next step is put this calculated field directly in my custom report) the number of truly interested people in my event as #UniqueVisits * (1-BounceRate).  Direct traffic (people who received the link directly in their non-browser email such as Outlook & clicked on it, I know this because I administered the campaign) was the highest source of truly interested people.  Average time on page for all 3 top referrers is close enough to the average 2'46" I'll count them all equal after bounce rate. To give an economic value to this, I use avg $ price of ticket * #trulyInterestedPeople. 

Referrer        #unique visits  BounceRate #Truly Interested Peoople   Value  %Total
Direct           188               85.65%         27                                 $972      61%
Facebook        32               82.35           5.6                                $202      13%
Twitter           23               78.26           5.0                                $180      11%
Google            18               62.50           6.7                                $241      15%

So let me drill down into the Facebook traffic and see what's going on.  In the next screen shot, you see I had a distinct (small because my business is small) peak in my facebook traffic on May 16.  The 2nd peak was on May 23, the day of my event, so I'm ignoring that, social chatter that's too late to be of any use for this particular campaign.

So now comes the juicy part.  Now I know exactly what day facebook activity peaked.  I ask myself what did I (or someone else) do on facebook that day that triggered a peak in interest?  My search is narrowed now to just 1 day and just 1 campaign.  I start by looking at my own activity on that day, May 16th (fortunately facebook time stamps are in the same timezone as google analytics).  I made one post just before midnight before that day, followed up during that day with comments.

But generally my page isn't such a big deal. I'm sure there's more to it than this.  I suspect it's Randall Grahm who commented on my post that day.  So next, I click on his profile.  This is a harder task, he's a much more prolific communicator than I am.  Fortunately I'm only looking for activity related to my event on 1 specific day.  After much scrolling down, I see something there on his page!  I forgot that I made the same post at the same time on both our Walls.  I also take a look at who "liked" it, among them the one with the most followers is Meg Houston Maker.  I look at her wall to see if she also made a comment, I don't see one.  Just to make sure, I do the facebook Search > "Secret Wine Shop" > posts by everyone.  Nada, no one else talked about it.  So I give myself a pat on the back, I actually did something to trigger that traffic. 

So I make the following conclusion about effectively using Facebook to promote an event and measuring its impact.  On the Google Analytics side, make sure you're set up to measure the effects.  On facebook:
  • Give relevant info about your event
  • URL link to your conversion page
  • ...and also post on that influential person's wall!
I wouldn't have learned this last tip without the aid of Web Analytics!  It's the posting on someone else's wall that is the secret sauce!

The next step is repeat this process, segmenting by Twitter traffic.  Here I see 2 peaks: May 12, May 16.  I also see a smaller spike in activity on May 20-21.

Again, I start by looking at my own tweets on May 12th and May 16th.  I see I made a few tweets about the event and replied to others about the event, but I'm a small business with a small twitter following. I suspect it's not solely my amazing tweets bringing in more traffic on those days. 

Twitter gives us some handy tools: @mentions and retweets.  I look to see what mentions I have on those 2 days, and lo and behold, I have mentions and a retweet from Randall Grahm and his crew.

The insight on twitter is similar to what I saw on facebook - on twitter it's important to @mention an influential person/group of people; otherwise, if you're small like me your tweets don't have much impact on their own to your bottom line.

Bottom line: There's more potential ROI if I focus on improving my direct email campaigns.  Social media is worth something, just not as much. So when I do spend time on social media for a campaign, I need to be more efficent.

What I've shared is just one iteration.  The good thing about all this is I now have a way to see what works in social media & make myself follow my own "best practices", which in turn may lead to revised "best practices", and so on, to be repeated.

Wine Tasting 2011, Part 1: Pinot Noirs

posted Jun 26, 2011, 10:38 PM by christy bergman   [ updated Jul 1, 2011, 11:41 PM ]

It's time for me to 'fess up, and comment after all the Pinot Noirs I've tasted recently (64 blind tastings in one day during the Pinot Summit and another 100 wines tasted on another day during Pinot Days).  Here were some of my picks.

- Couloir Wines
Winemaker Jon Grant showed up on my radar this year as one of those nerdy Pinot makers, making a collection of vineyard-specific Pinots.  According to the Pinot File: "This is a brand new producer with the 2007 vintage of Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. The founder and winemaker is Jon Grant, who is also the assistant winemaker at Turley Wine Cellars. Grant has learned his trade at several notable wineries including PlumpJack Winery, Corison Winery, and Robert Mondavi Winery. Couloir refers to a steep mountainside gorge and reflects Grant's love for ski mountaineering. Production is tiny and the wines are sold through a mailing list." Interesting to compare his Oppenlander to Baxter's.  Avg price $38 for Couloir 2009 Pinots.

- Baxter Winery.  Interesting to compare Couloir's Oppenlander Vineyards to Baxter's same vintage, $45. (I think I tasted a total of 6 different wines that day from the Oppenlander Vineyards: Shandel's, Phillips Hill Estate, Navarro, Handley were the others).

Other "Pinot nerds": William Selyem, Ant Hill Farms.

- Bonneau Wine, 2008, Sangiacomo Vineyard, Los Carneros, $34.  Excellent example of a "typical" Sonoma Carneros Pinot Noir.

- La Follette Wines.  Interesting to compare this to Greg La Follette's Sangiacomo vineyard production, burgundian style, $42.

- Jean-Claude Boisset.  Speaking of Burgundian, the French empire of Pinot Noir that has taken root in Sonoma has a great tasting room on the Healdsburg Square, downtown.  Good chance to taste Pommard, Volnay, Mercurey, Macon.

- Clouds Rest, 2005, Limited Release Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast.  $108.  Outside my budget, but for wow factor (complex, feminine, blackberry, plum, pepper, smoke), this is it.  Again according to the Pinot File "This unique one and three-quarter-acre vineyard is actually on Sonoma Mountain but carries the Sonoma Coast appellation. Frequent fog drifts in from the ocean forming a billowy blanket about 50 feet below the vineyard fence. The Clouds Rest Vineyard is situated at 1250 feet and is the most intensely planted vineyard in the Sonoma Coast AVA, and may be the most difficult and expensive to farm. The vines are planted 3 ft x 3 ft (an arm’s length apart) in volcanic soils and farmed completely by hand. The planted clones are Pommard 3 and 115, 667, and 777.  The Clouds Rest Pinot Noirs are aged for 18 months in 50% new French oak and bottle aged an additional 18 months to 3 years. The noted winemaker since the first vintage in 2002 is Anthony Austin. The single vineyard-designate Pinot Noir is sold on the website."

- Tarras Vineyard, 2008, Estate, Central Otago, New Zealand, $30.  Excellent example of Central Otago, my personal favorite Pinot Noir region in New Zealand (Marlborough sorry, I love your Sauvignon Blanc, but prefer Cental Otago's Pinot Noirs).

- CRU, 2008, Appellation Series, Santa Maria Valley, $35.  If you like spicy Pinot Noirs, then Santa Maria is the appellation for you!  Locals refer to a natural jalapeno flavor in the wine. 

- Laetitia Wine.  Another great choice from the Santa Maria Valley region, and well priced.  Entry level Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir is a steal at San Francisco Costco right now for $19.99. 

- John Tyler Wines.  Along this same vein, the little Russian River Bacigalupi vineyard is famous for its spice, almost on parr with Santa Maria Valley's.  The original is John Tyler's Bacigalupi, $58

- Armida Winery.  Look for Armida's Bacigalupi, $38

Bonus points went to
- Clos Saron.  I got to taste their "Out of the Blue Cinsault", a refreshing change from a day of just Pinot Noirs.  From the Pinot Files: "Gideon Bienstock and wife Saron Rice have developed a very small and young vineyard in the northern limits of the Sierra Foothills AVA. Gideon has over 28 years of experience in the wine industry as buyer, seller, educator, writer and winemaker (he is also the winemaker for the famed and nearby Renaissance Vineyard & Winery) and Saron has considerable knowledge of viticulture. Together, they have set a goal to transcend all of the preconceived notions that exist about what winegrowing possibilities exist in this region. What they have started, and what they have accomplished to date, is highly unusual from just about every point of view. They only work with organic fruit and farm all of their grapes, including sourced grapes, themselves. They specialize in Pinot Noir and non-traditional blends of other red and white varietals. Winemaking is pure and simple - no acid corrections, no fining or filtration, no inoculations, no racking and very minimal sulfur dioxide additions during barrel aging. The Home Pinot Noir Vineyard and tiny winery are located in a cool microclimate in the Oregon House Valley just west of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. 4,500 vines are planted on a gentle, well-drained, north-east facing slope."  This is a winery I have to keep my eyes on!

Sparkling, Whites, Pinks, and Oranges in Stock

posted Jun 21, 2011, 2:05 PM by christy bergman   [ updated Nov 13, 2012, 5:56 PM ]

Tasting Sun 4-6pm.  Enjoy a flight of 4 wines for $25; a full glass for $9.  Also open when we have special events, please check our Calendar of Events.  I selected all of these wines because they're local, small production, good value, and very enjoyable with or without food.  In cases where I haven't found a good local example, I've got an import on the list.


- NV Mary Elke, Brut Sparkling Wine (60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir), Methode Traditionale, Mendocino, $20.  For more than two decades the Elke Family has grown Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for Mumm Napa and for Roederer Estates. This brut is made at Rack & Riddle under the Elke label.  A yeasty sparkler with a tinge of sweetness that compliments almost any food.  For the Holidays, it makes a great pairing with a starter pumpkin apple soup for example.  Alc. 12.5%.

- 2010 Terra Sávia, Brut Rouge, sparkling Pinot Noir, Mendocino. $23.  This is the perfect complement to Sunday brunch and makes festive any occasion.  Red raspberries and grapefruit on the nose. Crisp, clean, refreshing, and citrusy with a hint of red berry juice in the mouth.  Made with Sanel Valley estate grown organic grapes.1% of Terra Sávia sales proceeds support local Wildlife Rescue.  Alc. 12%.


- 2011 Mary Elke, Chardonnay, Donnelly Creek Vineyard, Anderson Valley.  $20.  Most of this Chardonnay fruit is sold to other wineries, but in some years a little bit is made under the Elke label. The vines are cane-pruned, a traditional approach that helps the vine maintain balance and enhance elegance.  This Chablis-style Chardonnay benefited from a cool growing season. Chalky minerals and hint of fresh herbs on the nose, food-friendly acid balance in the mouth, meyer lemon bright finish. Winemaker: Matt Evans.

- 2010 Field Recordings, Chenin Blanc, Santa Ynez. $20. 
Cloudy Chenin Blanc, unfined and unfiltered. A minimal interventionist approach taken by young winemaker Andrew Jones. Apple, citrus, nuts on the nose with a finish of minerals, lime, tonic and acidity. Aged in 50% stainless steel, 50% neutral French oak for 6 months. "The label art is taken from photographs of starlings in flight, unstaged patterns that can never be repeated nor replicated.  In the same way, each bottle of Field Recordings Wine captures the inimitable circumstances of each vineyard, vintage, and friendship that made it possible."  -Field Recordings Website

2010 Y. Rousseau Old Vine French Colombard, Russian River.  $20.  It's hard to believe "French Colombard", or Côtes de Gascogne as it's known in South-West France, was the most-planted grape in the U.S. in the 1970's. Today, domestically, most Colombard vineyards have been replaced with Chardonnay. This "Renaissance" Colombard comes from a 35-year-old dry-farmed vineyard.  Maceration 7 hours on the skins, elevage sur lies 5 months, aged in 85% stainless steel, 15% neutral French oak barrels. 12.8% alcohol. Drink as an offbeat, low-alcohol alternative to Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio."

- 2011 Cartograph Wines, Gewürztraminer, Floodgate Vineyard, Russian River Valley. $22.   The Gewürztraminer is planted on the flats in very light loamy part of the vineyard that has a high percentage of river gravel. This allows for excellent drainage and these vines see very little irrigation, keeping vigor low. Elegant, crisp, refreshing with aromas of orange blossom, stone fruits, white peach, melon, and honeysuckle, with a spine of minerality. There is a slightly phenolic grip on the finish that helps it stand up to moderately spicy Asian dishes with ginger and chilies.

- 2011 Mary Elke, Pinot Gris, Donnelly Vineyard, Anderson Valley. $16.   Crisp, dry Alsatian style Pinot Gris from the unique Donnelly Vineyard in Anderson Valley.  Mary Elke has been growing fruit for others for more than 20 years. The vines are cane-pruned and grown on elevated red sandy loam benchland dotted with large round stones.  White flowers, beeswax, bright melon on the nose, minerals, melon and bite of apple seed on the palate, graceful grapefruit finish.

- 2011 Envy Wines, Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley. $22.   The wine speaks to the olfactory system with whispers of perfume and wide valleys filled with wild flowers. On the palate this Sauvignon Blanc introduces itself with notes of freshly picked Asian Pear. Flavors of sliced apricots and a drizzle of honey soon follow while notes of slightly sweetened vanilla round out the finish.

- 2010, Forlorn Hope, "La Gitana" Torrontés, Silvaspoons Vineyards, Alta Mesa. $20. Usually associated with Argentina, the peripatetic Torrontés has finally arrived in the vineyards of California. Grown by viticultural iconoclast Ron Silva, this strange and wonderful vine appears intent on producing wine of astounding dimension. Enticingly aromatic, La Gitana pitches her woo with a bouquet of soft floral and tropical notes.  This Gypsy's heart is stony indeed, and its refreshing minerality offers ample reason to return to her rocky shores again and again.


- 2012 selections coming soon!


- 2010 Forlorn Hope, "the Faufreluches" Gewüztraminer, Adam & Eve Vineyard, Russian River. $26
Cloudy light orange color.  Honey apricots, flowers and spice on the nose. Ginger, roses, and baked lemon on the palate.  The left-on-skins technique mellows out this variety in a great way and gives an almost sherry-like quality to the finish.   Named for Dune's Faufreluches "The rigid rule of class distinction enforced by the Imperium", I'd say this Gewüztraminer has broken class boundaries and is in a place of its own that's anywhere but rigidly enforced. Can you say anti-faufreluchearianism?

- 2003 Frédéric LAMBERT, Vin Jaune, Côtes du Jura, FRANCE. $55
Vin Jaune is made from Savagnin grapes in the Jura region, between Burgundy and the Swiss border. The grapes are conventionally fermented, then transferred to old Burgundy barrels partially filled in a well ventilated warm environment subject to temperature fluctuations. This allows for the "voile" or yeast film (like the flor of Jerez) to form on the wine’s surface, protecting it from oxidation while it develops and concentrates in barrel exactly six years and three months, then bottled in 62-centileter clavelin (short & squat) bottles. Generally a bottle is not drunk until ten years after bottling or 16 years after the vintage.  This one has a light golden yellow color, deep fino sherry nose, a delicate oily texture, and golden raisin, curry, almond, poached pear long finish.  It pairs decadently with Comté-based fondue.  Best served cellar temperature about 55°F.  Importer:  Return To Terroir.

GiltCity Coupon Holders

posted Jun 21, 2011, 9:03 AM by christy bergman   [ updated Jul 24, 2011, 10:46 AM ]

Dear GiltCity Coupon holders for the Secret Wine Shop,

Please be sure to call/email me to schedule your tasting before it "expires"!  Click "contact us" on the left menu of this page & let me know your info.

Christy @ thesecretwineshop

If your coupon has already expired, according to CA law, gift certificates that are paid for in cash do not expire!

If you're holding an expired Gilt City coupon, you have 2 options:
1) ask for face-value refund of your gift certificate, they have to give you your money back!
2) use the expired certificate.  Once you book with me, give me the certificate #, I will try to get paid & give you your deal (merchants only get paid by proving they've fulfilled orders by giving these coupon # back to Gilt City).  So far, I've been able to honor expired certificates without a problem.

--- a look at the prepaid coupon market from the perspective of a small business ----

What people don't realize with prepaid coupons is the industry term "breakage" - the # of unused coupons. For GiltCity (and apparently some Groupons), the merchant doesn't get paid unless they can prove they fulfilled your order. So if you don't use your certificate, you aren't supporting your local merchant, you're only giving money to the coupon site itself.

"Industry experts" claim unused breakage rates are only 10-20%. 
I personally saw 50% redemption rate. 

Yipit, see slide #7:

Small businesses you have to count "breakage" into your coupon calculations, and the data is murky at best.

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