Category Archives: 4. Fellowship Groups

A Gem of a Hike: Table Bluff on Ice Age Trail July 15

–submitted by Leigh Richardson; photos by Jeff Tews

IMG_2524“Embarking on the back road journey 2 miles north of Cross Plains, members of the Rotary Hiking Fellowship had no idea this pristine gem awaited. Towering forests, chin-high rainbows of prairie flowers, and the grand finale– a shelter perched overlooking the driftless region. A view to rival Blue Mounds State Park.

At the bi-section of the Table Bluff Segment of the Ice Age Trail lies the 460-acre “Swamplovers Nature Preserve.”  Even our seasoned hikers were unaware of its existence.

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When rounding a wooded curve, we even encountered an alligator in a bikini!  It elicited frightened gasps until we realized it was merely a lawn statue planted trailside by the lighthearted Swamplovers’ group.

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Thank you, hike coordinator, Andrea Kaminski, for sharing this lovely find!”

“Brown Bag Tasting” on June 29

–article and photos by Mike Wilson

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The Rotary Wine fellowship met at Steve and Meryl Mixtacki’s home for one of Steve’s iconic “Brown Bag Tastings”.  Bread, multiple cheeses, fruits, crackers and chocolate truffles were supplied to supplement the extraordinary wines. The organization was superb.  Mike Wilson and Steve Mixtacki engaged in their eternal discussion about glass position terminology on the tasting placemat.

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(Photo 1: Steve Mixtacki; Photo 2: Mary Janet & Karl Wellensiek; Photo 3: Juli and Keith Baumgartner)

The first three wines were “Wondering about Whites.”  These were from Italy, Israel and Spain – and the two most liked wines were the Italian Vernaccia and the Spanish Godello. Next we tried “Shades of Pink” explaining the gradation from tawny to pink to just plain “Red Rose” colors. The first was a Guigal Cotes du Rhone that the fellowship group had tasted at Steve’s on University tasting, and this won the honors with most liking this wine.  The pink sweet rose was a Beringer, an infamous White Zinfandel, that had been presented to Steve when he retired from WARF earlier in June, and the other was a Rosata from Petroni.  Petroni of Sonoma is a winery famous for being allowed to have the name Brunello on their label because of the extraordinary quality of wine made by them from the Sangiovese grape taken from Brunello cuttings. The Guigal was preferred by ~60% of tasters.

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(Photo 1: Jane & John Wegenke; Photo 2: Mike & Mandy McKay)

The next trio was “What is the Country” and included three fabulous red Italian wines, all DCOG (G meaning guaranteed quality – where else do you see such endorsement). One was a 20 year old Sangiovese (Brunello di Montalcino, Il Poggione), a 2000 Biscardi Amarone with the producer scion’s signature and date of signing on the bottle, and a fine 2011 Barolo.  Three of the finest wines that Italy offers, with the Brunello preferred by 47% despite the sediment.  These were all $60 wines.

Steve had prepared two interesting groupings next.  Three variations on a theme with blends of Rhone grapes: Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre (all of the land of OZ GSM fame).  These were all Californian examples poured from light to dark red in color.  These were from Unti (71% Grenache and 29% Mouvedre), Cline Cashmere (50% Mouvedre with lesser amounts of Grenache and Syrah), and Summerwood Diosa 2013 (80% Syrah and lesser Mouvedre and Grenache). The darker Syrah was preferred, with the Mouvedre a close followup.

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(Photo 1: Mike & Patty Wilson & Guest; Photo 2: Bob & Jennifer Winding)

Lastly, Steve arranged for three Californian Rhone wines of the same varietals, but the “Even Greater Specificity” meaning each was a 100% single grape Rhone based wines.  Here the Adelaida Mouvedre was preferred, with the Grenache from Cline a close followup.  Incidentally the color followed the rule above; the lightest being Grenache, Mouvedre the next “reddest”, and the Syrah the dark red – perhaps a clue for future Brown Bag Blind tastings.

A great evening was had by all.  Thank you Meryl and Steve Mixtacki.

Nowruz – A Celebration of the Iranian New Year

–submitted by Joyce Bromley; photos by Ted & Joan Ballweg

Iranian New Year Celebration 016Who could not use some Nowruz (celebration of spring and annual renewal)?  Majid Sarmadi brought the rich Iranian new year celebration to the Cultural Awareness Fellowship Group and their guests in this year of 2595.  This 3000 year Persian tradition is a celebration of renewal and hope with prepared foods that represent the seven angelic heralds.  Hyacinth (one of the first flowers of spring) brings beauty and its fragrance permeated the room.  The eloquently set table was a sight to behold.  Garlic bulbs decorated with a string of tiny pearls bring good health; vinegar takes a long time to make and requires patience; a beautiful tureen of sprouts (lentils) prosperity—good harvest and a year without hunger; elaborately decorated eggs promise fertility–rebirth; goldfish swimming in a bowl, a symbol of life; the illumination of candle-light brings happiness—good over evil; fresh fruit and sweets bring joy; and we ended with a taste of ground sweet sumac.  A book of poetry lay open reminding us of the eloquent Persian language.  This was the experience of haft sin and only the beginning of the evening.

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After an enthralling slide show of Iran–the culture, the geography, and its people—we traveled the gastronomic route.  Appetizers of eggplant paté, and hummus; a table display of basmati rice with saffron, casserole of assorted beans, braised eggplant with filet mignon; saffron chicken; and basmati rice with lima beans and dill—all of which were as sumptuous as they were beautiful.  All of these delicacies were entirely prepared by Majid.  Oh yes, the desserts!  Cream puffs (made earlier in the day), fresh fruit, rice-flour cookies, cardamom muffins, sohan (almond toffee), were enjoyed with a cup of tea.  At the end of the evening Majid gave us a gift to extend the evening.  We each received a freshly pressed one-dollar bill for good luck.

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We became Majid’s extended family and together we celebrated the joy of friendship in the Persian tradition and are richer for the experience.

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Wine Fellowship Event March 12, 2017

 

–submitted by Mike Wilson

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Mike & Patty Wilson

The Rotary Wine Fellowship Group met at Mike and Patty Wilson’s home to taste wine to compare the major French wine regions with their new world protogees.  We had white and red Burgundy, Bordeaux, as well as Northern and Southern Rhone wines and virtually all were selected from the Wilson wine cellar.  The examples were nearly all very well rated by respected rating organizations (88 – 95 points, mean score 92) and many of the vineyards were very old (one wine from Australia where the vineyard was planted 124 years ago and several others over 100 years, and yet others the oldest regional vines available.

We tried a 2014 white Puligny Montrachet from Pernot, and discussed the Burgundian village (now just used to house workers) and that the area included the greatest white wines of the world (e.g. Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet and Batard-Montrachet). This wine is still available at Steve’s for a modest sum.  This was compared with a Robert Young Vineyard Alexander 2013 Chardonnay ranked among the best of California that year, and a Wilson favorite.  We also compared it with a 1995 Kalin chardonnay Cuvee W which is the current release of Kalin having being kept by the owner for 20 years before releasing to the public for purchase – an extraordinary practice for a business given that now even the great wineries now make their wine for immediate sale and early consumption. At Kalin cellars the owners are microbiologists (Terrence and Frances Leighton) and the sole winemakers, that make all their own wines from bought grapes.  They produce about 7000 cases per year, and are credited with being the first Californians to pioneer the unfiltered Sur Lies approach to white wines.  Kalin also champions the fifth taste – Umami (the meaty brothy taste that is represented by MSG Wine March 12 2017 Ebut without the MSG salt contribution). They seek this out in their wines before release.  The Puligny narrowly wins as the best tasting compared to the quintessential Robert Young Vineyards and the very different Kalin.

Next we tried the red Burgundy and I had selected a Premier Cru Nuits-St-Georges Les Pruliers by Lucien Boillet where the grapes were planted in 1911.  Nuits-St-George is considered the main village of this region and is slightly smaller than Beaune to the North.  Nuits-St-Georges has no Grand cru vineyards but there are 41 Premier Cru vineyards of which Les Pruliers is one.  This wine was compared to similarly rated 2006 Oregon Pinot from Belle Pente Murto Vineyard and a 1995 Kalin Cuvee DD bottled in 2000 (some 17 years ago, and this is the current release vintage).  The Oregon Pinot Noir was considered the best of the bunch.

Wine March 12 2017 AWe had two 2000 Bordeaux blend wines and compared this to a 2006 Rubicon Estate
Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon.  The Bordeaux were a Chateau Talbot and Grand-Puy-La-Coste, respectively 4th and 5th Growth wines in the 1855 Classification of the Haut-Medoc region that includes 61 wines and is the current quality standard of these wines. The 2000 vintage was considered an excellent vintage on both the left (Graves, Medoc, and Haut-Medoc) and right (Pomerol and St. Emilion) banks, a unique situation in the history of these wine regions. This vintage is considered one of the Great vintages because of this, and is one of the few vintages that the price has never fallen below the pre-release prices (when I bought these 2000 wines). The clear winner was the eminently drinkable Californian Cabernet despite it’s lower point assessment (90/91 compared to the Bordeaux: 93 and 94/95 ratings).

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From left: Beth & Rob Van den Berg; Chris & Elaine Rich; Jennifer & Bob Winding

We tried the Upper Rhone (Syrah only red grape allowed) 2009 Cote-Rotie La Landonne by Rene Rostaing and this was compared to an Australian Barossa Valley Shiraz that come from a vineyard initially planted in 1893, and a 1998 Hanna Sonoma Syrah.  While the Cote Rotie was the winner, it was scored at less than the Australian Shiraz (93/94 vs 95) in recent accepted tastings.  The Cote Rotie is interesting as Etienne Guigal (a Rotary tasting will be at Steve’s on University on the 27th April that will assess Guigal’s wines – wait for the call for signup) came to the region, recognized the potential of the wine, restored the reputation of these wines. In the 1940’s when the AOC was created there were only 40 hectares left in grapes, the rest having been converted to Apricot trees. The land was converted back to vineyards as the quality returned to it’s former glory and the apricot trees were removed to get the total acreage back to 210 Hectares.  The vines had been uprooted as the slopes approach 60 degrees and concrete walls and terraces need constant maintenance for tending the vines and picking the grapes.

Wine March 12 2017 BThe last wine we tried was a Chateauneuf-du-pape (CNP) which is from the southern Rhone and has mainly Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre (the GSM label made famous by Australia with their exports of this blend). Other red and white grapes provide an AOC appellation requirement minimum of six different varietals while the appellation allows at least 9 red and 6 white wines.  The ground here is different, having huge heat retention stones (galets) extending from fist sized examples to huge boulders. When Patty and I visited Ch. Beaucastel in the mid 1980’s we wondered how they could even plant the vines in those “rock fields”.

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From left: Leslie & Peter Overton; Ken Yuska; Sandy & Dana Corbett

We tried a Chateau Beaucastel Famille Perrin 2011, the most expensive wine of the tasting. Ch. Beaucastel always uses 13 grapes in their CNP.  We tried it against a 2011 Paso Robles Tablas Creek Esprit GSM with additional Cunoise, and the interesting fact is that Ch. Beaucastel (Perrin family) co-own this Paso Robles property with their US importer (Robert Haas). They found a property, stocked it with 8 vines from Ch. Beaucastel, waited out the 3 year quarantine, and now sell the Rhone wines and the Rhone vines from their USA winery. The Esprit de Tablas is the second best wine from Tablas Creek and the Famille Perrin is Beaucastel’s second best CNP, so it was a good comparison altho the wine from France would have much older vines. We also tried a GSM from Adelaida, also the same year.  All were excellent, all were well rated and there was no definite winner, just personal favorites, with no one wine getting a majority vote.

Wine March 12 2017 CThis was a great tasting and we had 5 cheeses (3 of which are pictured here) selected for these wines and chocolate covered strawberries made by Patty. These included a local Mozzarella on melba toast, with Normandy Brie also on Melba Toast.   We had Dubliner (invented by an Irish UW faculty while getting his PH.D. in Ireland – now sold by Kerrygold (but not currently banned like the butter). We had Cambozola, and Wensleydale cranberry cheese (another story of old English cheese slowly disappearing until owner of the last factory sold to the management who regenerated the business). The Mozzarella and Brie went well with the white and lighter Pinot Noir, while the other cheeses and chocolate strawberries stood up to the reds.  Overall, the tasting was great fun for everyone.

 

Winter Hike Near Lake Wingra

–submitted by Andrea Kaminski; photo by Herman Baumann

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From left: Ted Waldbillig, Mike Crane, Cindy Waldbillig, Leslie Overton, Katie Ryan & Andrea Kaminski

It was 37 degrees when we got to Wingra Park Saturday morning. The ice conditions looked poor, yet people were fishing on the lake. Then again, people who fish through the ice are a particularly intrepid lot, and they are not burdened by the pesky survival instincts that keep the rest of us on terra firma or even indoors in the winter. The surface ice had thawed and refrozen a couple of times, leaving a slippery surface and there were large patches that were covered by water. Although some members of our group were willing to try it, we decided instead to hike a wooded trail that leads from Wingra Park to the duck pond at the northern tip of the Nakoma golf course. This led us over an open, spring-fed stream with a crop of fresh, green watercress. The spring rises from a rock outcrop called Council Ring, which was designed in the early 20th century by landscape architect Jens Jensen. We all managed to stay upright, thanks to cleats on our boots, walking sticks from a store or the forest floor, or a combination of skill and luck. Then six of us piled around a table for four at Colectivo for coffee and treats.

 

Israel Night: Learning About the Country’s Culture, Food, Religion, & More

–submitted by Jocelyn Riley; photos by Jason Beren

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Two dozen Rotarians attended our Rotary Club’s Cultural Awareness Fellowship Event Israel Night on Thursday, January 26, at UW Hillel / The Barbara Hochberg Center for Jewish Student Life on Langdon Street in Madison.  We were treated to a delicious kosher buffet meal of falafel, chicken shawarma, hummus, Israeli salad, pita bread, tahini, and desserts including mandelbread, chocolate and cinnamon rugelach, and “Prussian ears.”  The meal was prepared by Adamah Neighborhood Table, which also runs a restaurant in the Hillel building.

After dinner, Rotarian Lester Pines gave a presentation on the history and culture of Israel.  Lester opened by telling us some details about his own relationship to Israel (which is, he pointed out, about the size of New Jersey).  At the age of 16, Lester spent 9 weeks in Israel in the summer of 1966 (the year before the momentous war of 1967).  When he returned many years later to the place where he had stayed in 1966, at first Lester could not recognize the spot.  Where there had once been small saplings surrounding the building, there was now a forest of large trees, part of Israel’s extensive “reforestation” effort.

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Lester then led us through some highlights of Israeli culture and customs.  Lester pointed out that Israel is home to many people from a wide variety of cultural and religious backgrounds, including people from Western Europe, Central Europe and Asia, and Africa.  Migration to Israel from so many parts of the world has influenced how life there has evolved.  Lester pointed to the mass migration of about a million people from Russia to Israel in the late 1980s and early 1990s as a transformative event in Israeli life.  Many of the Russian Jews who left to avoid persecution were highly educated scientists.  Once in Israel, they initiated scientific work that transformed Israel into “Silicon Wadi,” parallel to America’s Silicon Valley.  Even though the bulk of Israel is located in a desert (the Negev) on a salty sea, its economy had for many years been based on agriculture.  The newly arrived scientists began working on projects that led to Israel becoming the world leader in desalination of saltwater and to developing a strain of potatoes that can be irrigated with saltwater.

Lester closed with a description of an Israeli festival called Purim, based on the biblical book of Esther.  When he showed pictures of people in costumes at a Purim festival, people in the audience spontaneously called out, “It looks like carnival,” and “It looks like Halloween.”  Lester agreed that even though Purim in based in ancient texts, it’s a contemporary festival just for fun.

“Fun in the Sun”day on June 19

–submitted by Mike Wilson

The Wine Fellowship met on a Hot Sunday Afternoon to try drinks designed for a Hot Sunday Afternoon.  The temperature was 85 degrees outside, so the conditions were perfect.  The tasting topic had been suggested by Meryl Mixtacki.

Photo1We started with three Roses: A Rhone from Jean Luc Colombo; a Kermit Lynch Tavel (AOC devoted entirely to Roses); and a Sancerre with 100% Pinot Noir.  The resounding best was the Sancerre L’Authentique by Thomas Labaille in the Loire, sourced from Steve’s Liquor on University Avenue at a cost of $20.

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Next we had bubbles, a typical heat re-mediating wine, all made by the Methode Traditionale, but no actual Champagne.  The first was a french sparkler made the traditional way – Blanquette de Limoux.  The claim to fame of this region is that that is where reports of bubbly wine made here 100 years prior to bubbles from the Champagne region.  This wine is made from the Mauzac grape known as Blanquette, and they tend not to remove the sediment (lees) so the wine could be cloudy.  Next we tried a Cremant (name for French wines made in the traditional champagne method but not in the Champagne region) de Bourgogne.  Finally from the Antipodes we tried a Tasmanian sparkler, made in the traditional method that Downunder they call “Tasmanois”.  The winning wine was the Limoux by St. Hillaire with a nearly 100% winning rate.  This wine was a little unusual as the other sparklers were NV, but this was a 2014 vintage and the company is one of the top 5 rated Limoux annually ~ a top 100 WS rating and the cheapest of all these sparklers.

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We then shifted to still whites, and had a European mixture. First, from the Sudtirol, Elena Walch’s mild Gurwerztraminer that we had had before at a Wine Table tasting, and this wine is made by the Queen of Gurwertztraminer, Elena.  This was followed by an Alsation Pinot Gris, then an Albarino from Nessa in the Rias Baixus of Spain.  The Unanimous winner was the Pinot Gris from Pierre Sparr.  This is interesting as Pinot Gris is identical genetically to Pinot Grigio just made differently, and this is especially so in Alsace where all Pinot Grigio is marketed as Pinot gris where secondary fermentation and the use of oak aging is common making the wine more complex than the usual acidic Italian Pinot Grigio. It is interesting that Pinot Gris (and Grigio) and Pinot Blanc, are all point mutstions of the very old Pinot Noir (1000 year history of cultivation compared to 200 years of Cabernet Sauvignon) so they are white wines very similar genetically to Pinot Noir.  Also, this maker is a very old Alsation winemaking house that fell on poor times and winemaking, so the local vineyards grower cooperative decided to buy the winemaking facility to ensure their grapes were well made, and the winemaking improved.  All these wines were excellent but this wine was superb – obtained at Steve’s at about $18.

The best was kept to last.  The idea had been to try Sangria and Shandies.  Meryl told the story of Glunz Winery making most of the money they needed to run their winery from the sale of Sangria to CostCo, and when the Mixtackis and Wilsons had visited Glunz in Paso Robles, we met the winemaker AND his dog.  Mike Wilson adapted the mixture, by adding 10% of a blood orange liqueur to the Sangria and forgoing all the fruit typical of a Sangria as the winemaker has added all that effect already – this was a crowdpleaser and at <$10 for the de la costa Sangria by Glunz Cellars and ~$27 for the Solero Blood Orange liqueur (one bottle allows for innumerable sangrias given the liqueur dosage is 10% of the entire drink (10:1 ratio of Sangria mix:liqueur).

Photo11We also tried two Shandy’s; a Pitosi lemonade beer and a grapefruit Schofferhoffer, which were very good.  Back home in NZ 50 years ago we added lemonade to our favorite beer on a hot afternoon to get a refreshing drink.  Here in America you can add Sierra Mist to your favorite beer or just purchase these Summer Shaddies.  A Good Time Was Had By All.

All in all, an excellent “Fun in the Sun”day, and while all the wines and drinks were excellent there were clear winners to everyone, and everyone agreed with that.