Category Archives: Wine Fellowship Group

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.


“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.


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.

Brown Bag Blind Wine Tasting April 24

–submitted by Mike Wilson

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On Sunday April 24th, in the late, wonderful Spring afternoon, 17 Rotary Wine Fellowshippers met at Steve and Meryl Mixtacki’s home for a Brown Bag Blind Tasting of 12 wines selected by Steve Mixtacki.

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The first round was of three whites; a 2014 Moscofilero from Greece (a wine we tried at the last wine fellowship at Table Wine), a 2014 Vernaccia from Italy and a 2014 New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  The costs of these were similar at about $15, and the Vernaccia was the most popular among the tasters.

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The second round of bagged wines were Chardonnays with a broad price difference, with two at ~$9 and one $33.  The grand Winner was the Hess Select at $9.

wine photo9The next round was a red wine presentation of Spanish Wines. Two were Rioja’s and the other a  Priorat, and these regions represent the only regional DO’s with quality (i.e. DOCa) as classified by Spain.  Both represent regional blends with Rioja’s having ~60% Tempranillo with additional Garnacha, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah.  The Priorat has more Garnacha but no Tempranillo but with the other wines also.  We tried a 2009 Rioja Crianza (1 year in oak) at $20 and a 2009 Reserva (at least one year in oak and another year in oak or in the bottle) at $28.  Incidentally there is a Gran Reserva with at least 2 years in oak and 3 years in bottle before release. The Priorat which is from the Catalonia region was a 2008 example at $30. These wines were very good and represent some of the best from Spain. All were very nice with no clear winner as I recall.

wine photo16Lastly we tried 3 very different red wines – a 2013 Catena Malbec from Argentina ($15), a 2010 Napa Watermark Cabernet Sauvignon of great quality, and a 2013 Unti Zinfandel from California (~$30). The most impressive was the Watermark with ~2/3 of the group preferring that wine.  Unfortunately this is not available for purchase locally.

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Photo 1: Maria & Jim Fitzpatrick; Photo 2: Mary Janet & Karl Wellensiek; Photo 3: Jennifer & Bob Winding

All in all, a very impressive tasting, with some very clear winners, and some of these at reasonable cost.


Pictured here from left: Ginny Yuska, Mike Wilson & Patty Wilson

Wine & Cheese Tasting Event at Fromagination July 13

–submitted by Mike Wilson


The Wine Fellowship Group met at 7:00 PM Monday July 13 at Fromagination for a wine and cheese tasting.  This is the third Fromagination event the Wine Fellowship has held over the years.  Rotarians, with spouses and friends attended, and the 23 attendees all had a terrific experience.  Ken Monteleone of Fromagination provided his employee Steve Schaefer as the “cheesemonger” and another helper for pouring the wine, and arranged for Andrea Hillsey, sommelier owner of Square Wine Company to supply and collaborate with the wines.

Wine13  Wine12  Wine2

The shop was arranged with beautiful platters of cheese, crackers, dried fruit together with bread and wonderful gougeres (French cheese puffs) to complement the wonderful selection of cheeses and wines.  These gougeres have been a trademark of the Rotary Fromagination tastings.

Wine20  Wine 25  Wine 24

The “menu” was Margaine extra brut NV Champagne (100% Chardonnay) paired with Marieke Golden Gouda; a 2013 Girard Sancerre was matched with a Lombardy Quader de cavra (aged in square pinewood crates for 35 days); and a 2009 Pecina Crianza Rioja with Manchengo a sheep milk cheese from Spain’s La Mancha using Manchega sheep with the traditional herring bone rind.

Wine 21These three combinations were followed by a 2011 Hunt & Harvest Napa Cabernet Sauvignon with Bleu Mont Dairy Bandaged Cheddar cow’s milk cheese from Blue Mounds where the owner ages the cheese in real caves carved into the hillside.  This cheese is truly bandaged, and these cheeses take on the rugged appearance of the cave they were aged in.  The last pairing was a NV Quinta do Infantado Ruby Port with a cow’s milk Dunbarton Blue from Schullsburg, which is an English-style cheddar with a hint of Blue (small amount of Blue resulting from narrow piercings of the cheese for the blue, then pressing the cheese to prevent the usual proliferation of blue veining).

The descriptions of the cheeses and wines were excellent and quite different from other tastings and were immensely enjoyed by all.  Overall the wine and cheese combinations liked best by the group were the Crianza/Manchego and the Ruby Port/Dunbarton Blue combinations, but all were excellent.  It was interesting that these two wines were the least expensive of the tasting retailing at $21 and $18 respectively (the other wines averaged $32).

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The tasting ended with Ken providing a taste of Hooks 20 year aged cheddar – a real treat for us all! This cheese sold out immediately when released (two shops only) after a debut at a L’Etoile seven-course dinner for 70 people.  We got this small taste of a surprisingly creamy cheese with the calcium lactate crystals crunching like “pop rocks” in our mouths – all without having to pay the $209 per pound price.

There was lots of time for questions and answers.  Everyone had an excellent time, learned much about wine, and an awful lot about cheese. All this information provided in a most salubrious atmosphere.


Second New Zealand Wine Tasting on June 2

–submitted by Mike Wilson


Ten Rotarians with some of their spouses met at the Wilson’s to taste wine with a NZ influence.  This was a second NZ tasting as the first was oversubscribed. Because at least two couples (Wilson’s and Mixtacki’s as co-Chairs of the Wine Fellowship) attended both tasting’s there were changes in most of the wines selected but ~5 wines were common and the theme was nearly identical.

Mike & Carolyn Casey with Bill Montei

Mike & Carolyn Casey with Bill Montei

Mike Wilson selected thirteen wines from NZ and the world.  These included wines (wines with winemakers from both NZ and the USA – Washington and Oregon), and with a very large emphasis on Sauvignon Blanc (from NZ of course and also the Loire and California).  These SB’s  represent most NZ wine now produced (75% SB and 9% Pinot Noir).  We also tasted NZ Chardonnay and Pinot Gris which with SB and Pinot Noir makes up 94% of total wine production – an extraordinarily high percentage of the majority of NZ wine being of the four top classical varieties.  In some ways this results from NZ being a New World wine region, where there are no historical precedents of local native grapes having been  grown over the prior centuries.

Because of the early influence of Muller Thurgau (a Riesling and Chassalas hybrid) in the 1970’s when more than half the wine produced in Germany and NZ, and likely most other countries making white wines was made from this sweet, rapid growth, abundant yield grape that was the bane of classical wine drinkers (who were few and far between at the time).  I dislike this wine generally but we tried one from the heights of the Alto Adige (1000 meters) that was excellent with this minimally pink color.  It had been recommended by Pat Ducey at Steve’s University Avenue.

Steve & Meryl Mixtacki with Mike & Patty Wilson

Steve & Meryl Mixtacki with Mike & Patty Wilson

We discussed the history of wine making in NZ and the influence of the Dalmatians (from coastal Croatia) who came to dig up the Kauri tree gum, and then restarted the NZ wine industry that then prospered after the Muller Thurgau was finally dispatched.  An added wine (that the first NZ Tasting group had) was from a winemaker that came to dig gum but when that ran out, bought land in the 1930’s, and planted vines.  His wife remains the patriarch of Kumeu Vineyards (the region where wine making was reinvigorated) and his son is the winemaker and the only winemaker with a Master of Wine (~ 8 get this exam each year, and there are only 300 MW’s worldwide) making him quite unique. Jancis Robinson is a MW too.

We tried some Kim Crawford wines.  Kim is famous as being the first Virtual Winemaker of NZ (no vines and no winery) who with his marketer wife sold half of his 40,000 case output overseas to the UK.  He rapidly became winemaker of the year twice in NZ during the wine resurgence of the late 90’s and had top 100 wines in the Wine Spectator for many years from 2006 to 2010.  We discussed his sale to a Canadian Conglomerate (Vincor) in 2003 of the no longer virtual vines, winery and real estate for US$50,000,000.  There was a subsequent 2006 hostile transfer to Constellation which strictly enforced the Crawford name trademark they had purchased. The Crawford’s were no longer able to use the Crawford name, and not make/sell wine for 10 years.  Crawford now has land in Marlborough and Central Otago (the two prime NZ sites) and sells wine under the Loveblock label, with their name selection relating to the care they used in selecting and preparing the land and vines for their second wine making adventure and released their own Loveblock (not Crawford) wines recently.  We tried their latest SB and compared to their “sold” Crawford namesake wines, with their own wine naturally being the better!


Becky Steinhoff, Cheryl Wittke, Noel Pearson and Brian Basken

Lastly we tried two Church Road wines.  The original owner of this property was Tom McDonald a second cousin of Mike Wilson.  In the early 80’s Tom told Mike some of his stories and one that when Tom made Chardonnay in the 70’s there was no market for it so he kept some for himself each year and threw (blended) the rest into the dreaded Muller Thurgau. Tom began in the wine business at the Mission Vineyards run by the Marist Brothers that happens to be the oldest continuously running winery in NZ.  Tom bought the land next door and began his own business and is widely acclaimed as the Father of the Red Wine Business in NZ.  Mike Wilson received two bottles of red wine from Tom a year or two before his demise in the 1980’s (a 1968 and 1980 Cabernet Blend) which Mike returned to the Church Road Winery museum this year when the Wilson’s and Mixtacki’s traveled to NZ.  We tried an older Chardonnay and a “Tribute to Tom” Cabernet/merlot blend and the latter was both corked and wax sealed (NZ has 99% Stelvin “screw” caps usage).

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All in all, a nice tasting with a fun learning experience for all!

New Zealand Wines Tasted on May 26 by Wine Fellowship Group

–submitted by Mike Wilson


Rotarians and guests of the Wine Fellowship Group enjoyed the hospitality of Mike & Patty Wilson for a “Wines of New Zealand” Tasting on May 26.

New Zealand Wine Photo  DSC00012  DSC00014

The tasting included:

  • Three Sauvignon Blancs (SB).  A Sancerre (original classical example of SB), a NZ SB made by Sineann whose Washington winemaker goes down each year to make and ship this back to the US, then we will try a Russian River Valley version of a “Fume Blanc” with a touch of wood.
  • Three Chardonnays.  A 2010 Nelson example (near Marlborough) from Neudorf a major producer there, a 2011 Auckland Kumeu Village wine with the distinction that the wine maker (the only one in NZ with a MW) is the son of a “gum digging” Dalmatian Mate Brajkovich who bought the land in 1940, and a 2009 Church Road Reserve from Hawkes Bay.  Three Central Otago Pinot Noirs with two 2012’s, one from Kim Crawford (now not able to use the Crawford name hence Loveblock) and Cashburn from the Bannockburn (Felton Road fame) region, and a 2013 from the itinerant Sineann winemaker.
  • Last three wines.  These are three very different wines, an excellent Muller Thurgau from the Alto Adige and the highest winery in the region, a Pinot Gris (the fourth most planted grape in NZ), and a 2009 Church Road Reserve Cabernet/Merlot blend.

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Photo 1: Joy & David Rice; Photo 2: Mary Janet & Karl Wellensiek; Photo 3: Julie & Keith Baumgartner

This tasting represented a very special theme:

The dreaded Muller Thurgau, SB from different countries, Chardonnays with one from an educated (MW equates with best tasting knowledge) descendent of the Dalmatians, whose mother still works for the business (a Grand dame), Two bottles from Church Road that I paid $20 each to ship back home from my second to last visit to NZ, Pinot Noirs including one from Kim Crawford, now being allowed to make wine but not use his name (nor will his winemaker son ever be able to label his wines with the Crawford name).

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Photo 1: Steve & Meryl Mixtacki; Photo 2: Mary Willmer & Steve Holzhauer; Photo 3: Ellie Schatz; Photo 4: Mary Willmer, Steve Holzhauer, Steve Mixtacki & Meryl Mixtacki

In summary, everyone enjoyed themselves and learned a little more about New Zealand!

Bring Your Own Bottle, Story and Snack Wine Tasting

–submitted by Mike Wilson

Group 2

The Wine Fellowship met at our home for a “Bring Your Own Bottle, Story and a Snack” tasting on January 29.  Thirteen tasters arrived with a bottle of wine and a snack together with the story.  Some of the stories included:

The best Syrah in my collection.
Please help me select a good wine for a “fancy pants” tasting.
A Michigan Pinot Noir.
Favorite best buys.

Each wine had a very interesting story.

Yuska  Wellensiek  Mixtacki

Photo 1: Ginny & Ken Yuska; Photo 2: Mary Janet & Karl Wellensiek; Photo 3: Meryl & Steve Mixtacki

All of the wines ranked well in quality (I rated them from 17.5 – 19.0 on a 20 point scale), no doubt assisted by the fun and gaiety had by all.

Schatz  Photo1  Meryl Mary Janet

Photo 1: Ellie & Paul Schatz; Photo 2: Cheryl Wittke & Ken Yuska; Photo 3: Meryl Mixtacki & Mary Janet Wellensiek

The pairings included:

A New Zealand and the very excellent Michigan Pinot Noir.
A Grenache and a Syrah.
Two Merlots.
A Bordeaux and a US Cabernet.

We feasted on multiple cheeses, a variety of crackers and breads, proscuitto and salami wrapped mozarella, hot quesadillas with salsa, spinach roll ups, spicy shrimp, and chocolate coated strawberries.

BrantWe welcomed new Rotarian Mark Brant and his wife, Tracy (pictured at left) to their first Wine Fellowship Event.  We were glad to have you with us!