Wine Fellowship Enjoys Taste of “Italifornia”

–submitted by Mike Wilson, Wine Fellowship Co-chair

Rotary “Italifornia” and “Cal-Ital” Wine fellowship tasting at the Madison Club, Tuesday 11th, October 2016.

Michael Pare of the L’Eft Bank wine company representative who has a thing for efts and newts, presented a rousing tasting of California wines with Italian emphases, explaining the Cal-Ital and “Italifornia” tasting slants, and within this tasting some very old vines by USA standards.

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This tasting was had at the Madison Club, with Juli and Keith Baumgartner having arranged for the event. The Madison Club beverage manager, Dave Ginocchio arranged the facility and assisted with the tasting process by pouring the wine. He also prepared marvelous table mats with the 10 wine labels printed with a glass sitting atop each label.  He also provided descriptions of each wine and a list of the wines and the member prices which he made available to all attendees.  These wines were very reasonably priced and ranged from $11-$26.

mad-club-wine-5When thinking of these Cal-Ital wines one can concentrate the early wineries founded by first and second generation Italian-American families and the examples are many: Gallo, Robert Mondavi, Louis Martini, Sebastiani, Simi, Seghesio, Foppiano, Trinchero, Rochioli, Martinelli and Rafanelli and who among us have not tasted some great wine from these folks.  This was addressed by Michael Pare at the start, and Dave Ginocchio added to this idea with three appropriate old “Italifornia” photographs at the top of the price list/ordering sheet provided.

While the Italians were very important in the early California wine industry, there was also that Wisconson transient, Count Haraszthy.  Haraszthy was the pioneer Wisconsin wine guy (albiet unsuccessful, in what is now Wollersheim Winery), but also founder of the oldest incorporated village in Wisconsin (initially Szeptaj – beautiful place in Hungarian), subsequently named after himself, and now Sauk City.  He was a very successful businessman, had brickyards that built many of Sauk City’s old homes, a river shipping company, and a politician to boot.  He then headed for Sonoma California and subsequently developed the Buena Vista Winery that has since been restored, and functions to this day.  His sons inter-married with Mariano Vallejo’s daughters, the very general who surrendered to the California “Bears” when they revolted against Spanish rule. Vallejo then bought the nearby Mission vineyard, with an adjacent city named after him, and so these famous families where united. Haraszthy went on to become the “Father of Zinfandel” as claimed by his sons, but who was a very important facilitator of the Californian wine industry.


There were three white wines we tried, a 2014 Tocai Fruilano from Madonna Winery, a 2014 Malvia Bianca from Onward, and a 2010 Jacuzzi Family Arneis (THE white wine of Piedmonte), and yes the Jacuzzi family invented the jacuzzi we all know.  I loved the Arneis, and read that Jacuzzi make some of the best Cal-Itals produced according to a book on the very topic.


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Photo 1: Sandy & Dana Corbett; Photo 2: Ellie and Paul Schatz

We then moved to the Red wines.  We tried a very soft 2012 Duxoup Sangiovese, then a wonderful 2014 Cline ancient vines Mouvedre made from 80+ year old vines (this means pre-prohibition vines as the Vollstad act required the bottles be broken, barrels smashed, and vines pulled out except for the production of altar wine for church and the 50 gallon per person homemade wine allowance.  This kept about 10% of wineries in business, albiet not a great business, but for us in the 20th century we do now benefit from old vines available to us.

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Photo 1: Leslie & Peter Overton; Photo 2: Joy Dawson, Ben Hebebrand & Bob Winding

We next tried a very good 2013 Folk Machine Charbono that my wife Patty loved. A Marietta Christo Lot #3 Rhone Blend of Syrah, some Petitie Sirah, Grenache and Viognier in a wine rated 91 by Robert Parker was available for $15.75.

We next had a stunning Ridge 2014 Benito Dusi Ranch Zinfandel.  These vines date back to 1922 and 25 acres worth goes to Ridge from the Dusi Family wine operation of now 202 acres (only 100 acres are from 1922 – 94 years old).  The Dusi family sells grapes to Tobin James, Turley, Meridian, Four Vine Winery and several other wineries if you remember having this vineyard from other winemakers.  We followed this wine with Donati Family Winery Claret and their Ezio Cabernet Sauvignon. These were well liked.


Joy Gander & Becky Steinhoff

David then brought out a special wine for us to sample: the “2012” Continuum (“96 rating”). This 100% estate wine using Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc “, Merlot”, and Petit Verdot represents the last project of Robert Mondavi (remember he did OPUS with Baroness Rothschild) – to produce a First Growth wine of his own. The “2012” vintage we tasted is historically important to the Mondavi family, as the vintage marks the first Continuum to come from the Pritchard estate grapes only.  “The available 2013 vintage  is also important as it represents the first Continuum from the new winery building, the 40th vintage made by Tim Mondavi and marks the 100 anniversary of Robert Mondavi’s birth – the 1-40-100 wine in their parlance.”

You can see that several of the wines, the Claret and Cabernet Sauvignon above, the Ancient Vine Mouvedre and Christo Rhone blend weren’t Italian wines, but they are wines and stories that are classically Californian – fulfilling the Cal-Ital/Italifornia tasting formula.  A good time was had by all and there was a brisk sale of these wines to the attending Wine “Fellowshipper” Rotarians.


From left: Keith Baumgartner, Rich Cushman, Lori Cushman & Juli Baumgartner

One response to “Wine Fellowship Enjoys Taste of “Italifornia”

  1. Dinndorf, Robert J

    Mike, Great leads on some new (to me) wines. I always learn a great deal from your fellowship reviews!


    Sent from my iPhone

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