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Copyright 2009-2010 by
Mary Brotherton
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Inside my Brain

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Saturday, May 20, 2006

Nearly forty years ago, Dean Martin popularized a song with sadly amusing lyrics and a catchy refrain:

I'm praying for rain in California
So the grapes can grow and they can make more wine
And I'm sitting in a honky in Chicago
With a broken heart and a woman on my mind

I’ve asked the man behind the bar for the jukebox
And the music takes me back to Tennessee
And he asked who's the fool in the corner crying
I say a little ole wine drinker, me

If there is something that David and Betty Nettles of Palm Bay like more than drinking wine, it’s truly appreciating it.

“Wine is a personal thing,” said David Nettles, “but to be able to really enjoy the wine, you need to learn how to taste the wine. Just drinking wine is not tasting it.”

Nettles, the winner of several hundred ribbons, metals and other awards recognizing him as one of the nation’s premier amateur wine makers, knows how to appreciate wine. His wife, Betty who is in her third year of training to be a wine judge, also appreciates the art of making and tasting wine.

The couple began making wine at home in 1986, when their concord grapevine had a bumper crop. After making all the juice, jellies, and jams, they could; they still had more grapes than they could give away. Desperate to not let the aromatic and delicious fruit waste on the vine, they turned to wine making. After reading a book his sister-in-law had given him, Mr. Nettles found a use for the abundance of grapes.

“But there is no book out that describes how to finish a wine,” said Mr. Nettles. “It takes an educated palate to balance a wine so that it has the right amount of alcohol, sugar, and acid.”

Moving from Ohio, nine years ago, the Nettles' spent the first five years as Brevard residents feeling that something was missing from their lives. They were the only people in the area who made their own wine, and they missed socializing with others who not only made wines, but who fully appreciated it. They had been active members of a wine appreciation club for many years, and they missed the companionship with like-minded connoisseurs.

Mr. and Mrs. Nettles established the Space Coast Wine Guild in 2002 saying, “the whole idea is to get people interested and educated in wine and wine making.”

Five years ago, the Nettles’ had heard that the Palm Bay Farmer’s Market was hosting a wine tasting, but when they arrived, they learned that no one there knew anything about it. Mr. Nettles got permission to bring some of his own wines, and it was there that he found more than fifty people who showed an interest in learning more. Many of them arrived the next month for the first meeting of the Space Coast Wine Guild.

At that time, the guild met in private homes, and people brought commercial wines or those they had made at home. They came to learn more about wine, wine tasting, and wine making. Now, they meet monthly at the David R. Schechter Recreation Center in Satellite Beach.

Mrs. Nettles said, “The club is a good experience. You can learn; we have activities, go on picnics, have classes, and of course there’s our Christmas party.”

The Wine Guild has created a complimentary relationship with Chef Bob Mittauer from Brevard Community College’s culinary school. Each semester, the Guild makes a presentation which introduces students to more than a cursory lesson on how to read wine labels. In turn, “Chef Bob” comes to the Schechter Center to cook for the guild.

Members of the Wine Guild bring wine, snacks, and their own wine glasses to each meeting for not only socializing, but for enjoying and appreciating after a brief business meeting and an interesting presentation. These presentations are what keep the members and their guests returning month after month. During exhibitions and demonstrations, the members have learned that swirling a glass of wine gets rid of “off” odors, and isn’t just for display. They have learned that when wine connoisseurs swish wine in their mouths in what non-initiates may consider bad taste, they are actually testing the alcohol content of the wine, and getting a better flavor.

They have learned to fully appreciate aromas, as well as why wine making could not be outlawed during the Prohibition Era. Members of the guild know why red wine is typically stored in green bottles, and why white wine can tolerate being kept in clear glass.

“We know a lot, but not everything,” said Mr. Nettles, who has been asked by the American Wine Society to give a presentation on fruit wines at their 2006 Conference in Hunt Valley, MD. He intends to discuss citrus wines such as his double gold winning lime wine, or his lemon wine which one the silver medal in 2003.

Mr. Nettles is certain to have his wines available at every guild meeting. He feels that his wine, which costs him no more than $3.00 per bottle to make, is comparable to the finest $50.00 bottle of wine.

“If you like a wine, it is a good wine,” he believes. “It doesn’t matter how much it costs. Wine is a personal thing.”

King Edward VII, of England said, “One not only drinks wine, one smells it, observes it, tastes it, sips it and – one talks about it.”

The members of the Space Coast Wine Guild definitely agree with the king. They try to educate their own palates as well as helping to enlighten others to the art that is known as wine appreciation. Naturally, this means talking about wine.

There will be much talking before, during and after the June meeting which will spotlight an exciting and informative internal wine competition. Wine making enthusiasts are encouraged to submit forms in advance if they would like to have their wines judged. Forms can be found online at

The Space Coast Wine Guild meets at 7:00pm at the David R. Schechter Recreation Center, 1089 S. Patrick Drive, Satellite Beach on the 4th Thursday of every month. For more information, call 321-956-1894, e-mail or visit