Category Archives: Wine Fellowship

“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.

Wine Fellowship Event on January 18

–submitted by Mike Wilson; photos by Mike Wilson


Our club’s Wine Fellowship met at Mike Wilson’s home for a BYO wine tasting on Monday the 18th January 2016.  We snacked on bread (Whole Food’s; Italian, Ancient Grain, and cranberry/walnut) and crackers, with grapes and chocolate-covered strawberries.  We also had some Beautiful Bruschetta’s, warm Rachel Ray spiced shrimp on sticks, two Marvellous Marieke Gouda cheeses, a triple cream beautiful Brie served with sliced apples, an artichoke dip (with some tasters requesting the recipe) and salami/pepperoni wrapped Mozzarella straws.

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Photo 1: Becky Steinhoff, Sandy Corbett, Joy Gander & Cheryl Wittke; Photo 2: Karl Wellensiek, Mary Janet Wellensiek, Meryl Mixtacki & Steve Mixtacki; Photo 3: Dana Corbett, Bob Winding, Mike McKay & Mandy McKay

Going with these were some marvelous wines sorted into groups.  These included an Alsatian Pinot Gris and a Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc, followed by a Miner Chardonnay and a Guigal Cotes du Rhone white blend.  We next tried an Unti Segromigno (Sangiovese and Montepulciano), an Adelaida Cinsaut, and a Gnarly Head Merlot that were all Wonderful Wines.  The last series was Owen Roe Ex Umbris Columbia Valley Syrah and an old (2002) Amon-Ra Shiraz from Australia (hence Shiraz and not Syrah), and a Decoy Zinfandel.

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I rated 4 of the wines as exceptional and the rest as excellent quality, and we all had a great time.

Recent Summer Rotary Events

Saying “Aloha” to Bruna Perez on July 24


Our thanks to Dick and Noel Pearson for hosting a Going Away Party for Bruna Perez, our Rotary Youth Exchange student who attended Edgewood High School during the past school year.  Her host families were: Terry & Liz Heinrichs, Lynne & Paul Myers, and Trey & Shelly Sprinkman.  Bruna traveled back to her home in Brazil this week.

Bike Tour de Madison led by Paul Riehemann on July 25


Thirteen members and their guests gathered for a bike ride on July 25 – the weather was beautiful!  Was followed by lunch at Bluephies on Monroe Street.  Much of the ride was in the Arboretum and on bike paths.  Flats – 0; Smiles – hundreds.

Hope you can join us on our next ride! …..August 8, Madison to Paoli, meet at   Break Away SportsCenter at 10am. Until then……

Wine Fellowshippers Gathered at Mixtacki Home on July 28


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(Photo 1: Meryl & Steve Mixtacki; Photo 2: John & Jane Wegenke; Photo 3: Ann Cardinale; Photo 4: Donna Wittke & Cheryl Wittke)

Twelve gathered at the Mixtacki residence to taste wine including Rotarians, spouses, friends, and family.  Meryl Mixtacki had prepared breads, cheese, cold cuts, an olive preparation and chocolate coated strawberries.  These were marvelously displayed and enjoyed by all, complementing the wines tasted.

Three Oregon wines by the Teutonic Wine Company were followed by Fingerlake Region wines of Konstantin Frank fame. Then we switched to the Okanagan valley of British Columbia where we tried three reds and three whites the had been sourced by Mixtacki and Wilson following their visit last year to the region with the Wellensiek’s.

The Oregon white wines included a Pinot gris and two white blends.  One blend contained 60-70% red Pinot noir according to vintage and had a pink blush with small portions of Muller Thurgau, Chasselas and Silvaner.  The other had only had 25% Pinot Noir and the white wine grapes were 50% Scheurebe (Riesling and unknown grape possibly a wild cross and Huxelrebe, another cross).  These two crosses were developed by Scheu in the early 1900’s with rebe meaning wine hence Scheurebe, while Hexelrebe was to honor the grape vine distributor – I guess you cannot have too many wines named after you.  The fascinating thing about the Teutonic Wine Company is their success at being a real little German Winery in the heart of the Pacific Northwest.

Next we traveled to the opposite side of America, to the Fingerlakes district that the Mixtacki’s had visited some time ago.  We tried a semidry and dry Riesling and a Rose, from Konstantin Frank.  Konstantin had migrated from Russia in 1951 with a Ph.D. from Odessa, with his thesis being about Vitis Vinifera in the cold climate.  At that time the Fingerlakes district was firmly in the hands of the Hybrid varieties Crossings of the Vitis Vinifera [the cultivated vines] and an American native [wild vine] Vitis Lambrusca) allowed for the early wine industry to develop in the cold eastern states. In hybrids the european Vitus [species vine] Vinifera [wine yielding vine] provides the quality taste, while the American native wild [noncultivated/wild vitis/vine] provides the weather and disease resistance that is natural to wild American vine species given their millennia of local development.

As we know every Colony of early, and therefore Eastern America, had been charged with producing wine, silk and olive oil for supply back to the Homeland, and despite valiant attempts, including that of Thomas Jefferson, the european Vitis Vinifera just could not be established there.  In 1938 Mr Wagner (newspaper editor, write and amateur vintner) wrote the first book in English on grape growing and wine making – and he was to be the champion of Hybrid grapes that could grow in the cold climate and this resulted in an “East of the Rockies” wine industry.  There developed a prolonged war between Wagner and Konstantin Frank as Frank began to establish that vinifera could grow in the cold Eastern America. Konstantin Frank was said to be stubborn, but he indeed did demonstrate that vinifera could grow in New York.  Four Frank generations have made wine from Vitis Vinifera in the Fingerlakes. His son started the first local quality Method Champenoise under the Chateau Frank label, a grandson developed a second label wine label – Salmon Run. The family wineries won 129 medals in wine competitions in 2013 alone.  Now a Great Granddaughter has an MBA in wine from Adelaide University (Barossa Country of Australia) continuing as the 4th generation of a historic winemaking family.  Meagan Frank is mentioned in the latest Wine Enthusiast N.Y. Wine Country Supplement that arrived today!

Next we moved to the Okanagan Valley region of British Columbia, Canada.  This region makes all vinifera wines well and Wine Spectator recently described it as the second best wine region of the world to visit.  Both Steve and Mike had independently tried these wines when visiting Vancouver and this was the basis of the Rotary trio visiting.  We tried three whites, all Chardonnay.  These included two Meyer’s, their standard and a named vineyard.  We also tried NK’MIP (Inkameep) chardonnay, and all were excellent.  In keeping with the underlying theme of this tasting, this Indian tribe winery was the first to transition to Vitus Vinifera from Hybrid vines in the 1970’s with now a complete displacement of the hybrid vines.

Finally we tried three red wines.  First, a Meyer Pinot Noir that I believe has rekindled my love of Pinot Noir so good was the typical Burgundian Pinot Noir nose.  Next we tried a Laughing Stock Blind Trust red blend with the actual blend under a special flap that needed to be lifted to see the wine balance.  Unfortunately this wine was slightly “corked” so everyone had an chance to see an example of why wines can be returned in a restaurant.  Then we tried a Painted Rock Red Icon, and everyone was told the new winery was indeed an icon (we saw it the day they had a wedding due, and the building and site was glorious).  The owner looks like an icon, with an appearance similar to  Richard Gere.  This man was the person who told us of a way to obtain Okanagan wines as only one winery officially ships to the US.  Using I have been able to get continuing supplies, but I think you may have to contact them to display that part of their portfolio.

As expected everyone left after an evening of fun and fellowship.

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.

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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.

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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!


From the Saone to the Mediterranean

–submitted by Mike Wilson, Co-Chair Rotary Wine Fellowship Group

photo34On Tuesday, the 11th of November, the Downtown Rotary Wine Fellowship Group went down to the Madison Club for a wine tasting themed, “From the Saone to the Mediterranean–Wines of Southern France.”  28 Rotarians and guests were present, and they had a great tasting.  14 glasses were placed on a 20 by 12 inch placemat that had all 14 wine labels reproduced in color, so each wine could be kept in the right place. Each taster could be sure which wine they tasted – and no “front and back” confusion occurring as is the case when tasting at the Wilson’s.

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In addition to the gigantic placemat resplendent with 14 glasses there was a five page description of the wines, with numerous other interesting stories and factoids.  A map of France’s wine regions (the focus of the tasting) was provided, and Kitty Bennett noted that if you split this map horizontally about halfway North and South through the country, then those regions above this line usually produced single varietal wines while those below this line usually produced blended varietal’s.  This was a fascinating observation.

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(Photo 1: Paul and Ellie Schatz; Photo: Tim Stadelman; Photo 3: Janet Piraino and Patty Wilson)

Also provided was an order sheet with the prices of each wine.  The cheapest wine turned out to be the wine most beloved by the tasting majority, costing $18 to purchase while the most expensive wine was a Chateauneuf-du-Pape (CNP) at $78, a bottle added to the samples by the Madison Club as the “Big Boy” wine of the night.

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(Photo 1: Ken and Ginny Yuska; Photo 2: Juli and Keith Baugartner; Photo 3: Mary Janet and Karl Wellensiek)

photo4We were all at the Madison Club as the Co-Chair of the Rotary Wine Fellowship group, Steve Mixtacki, had worked with Keith and Juli Baumgartner, regular attendees of both the Rotary and Madison Club wine tasting events, to see if Rotarians could have their own Madison Club tasting.  This event resulted from this collaboration.  The tasting was managed by Kitty Bennett (pictured at left).  Kitty is the the owner of PRIMA LLC, with a book of outstanding wines. Her portfolio has an emphasis on organically grown wines.   Mike Wilson had worked with Kitty in his Chez Michel days.

The first wine set the tone of the evening.  This was a Macon white from a great Pouilly Fuisse producer, and this Barraud Macon-Fuisse (a lesser version of Pouilly Fuisse) was a stunner.  At the end of the evening this was the rated as the “Best of the Bunch” by more than half the tasters – an extraordinary feat for such a large gathering and large number of wines tasted.  This wine cost only $18 but reflects the vineyards and winemakers of this superb winery.  The most expensive wine, the CNP, was rated best by several tasters.

Next, two red Burgundies of lesser appellations were tried – a Mercury and a Marsanny, with the latter having a true  “burgundian nose”.  We then tried two Beaujolais wines, both family run enterprises and classic benchmarks of their style.

photo24Now we slipped south into the Rhone.  We started with a white (Cairanne) and a Cotes-du-Rhone.  Next we tried two other Rhone wines, A Le Clos des Caillon CNP (home of the new French pope) and a Romaine de la Boissiere Gigondas.  Both were Rhone blends being south of that “horizontal” line described above.  CNP’s are required to have at least 6, and as many as 18, individual wine varieties. The Gigondas we tried had the typical Grenache, Syrah, and Mouvedre combination of this wine, a combination made famous as “GSM” by Australian marketing of their Antipodean blend. We also tried a Rhone Rose.

Next, we ventured into Provence and we had a another great Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Carignan blend, and a Minervois made from old vine Grenache, Carignan, and Cinsault.  The Minervois had Anne Gros as part of the winemaking, ownership team.  Anne is a legend in Burgundy, and as half of this winemaking team, reflects a really serious efforts in place to demonstrate the potential of these regional wines.

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Lastly we had a delightful story of a “sweetie” wine made from Grenache. I loved this 10 year old wine that is aged for a year in a glass demijohn outside – a traditional process that is followed by 6-10 (in this case 9) years aging in large oak casks.

photo5The food supplied was excellent, and even included pickled asparagus spears that I could not stop eating.  All in all, a wonderful evening was had by Madison Rotary Wine Fellowshippers, and we all thank Steve Mixtacki, the Baumgartners, and the Madison Club for this FINE WINE experience.


Rotary Wine Fellowshippers Enjoy Another Great Event on June 24

–submitted by Mike Wilson

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The Wine Fellowship Group had a Bring Your Own (BYO) Event at Mike and Patty Wilson’s on Tuesday the 24th of June. There were 15 attendees, and each Rotarian brought a bottle of wine, their story to go with it and a snack to accompany it. Great fun was had by all!  I rated every bottle of wine as excellent (17.75-18.5/20 on my scale),for an extraordinary fleet of wines.

From left: Nona Hagen, Dan Dieck, Mike Casey & Carolyn Casey

From left: Nona Hagen, Dan Dieck, Mike Casey & Carolyn Casey

They started with three cold wines: a Santinori Assyrtiko to accompany a tapenade; an Alsatian Pinot Gris (Rotenberg from Domaine Zind-Humbrecht) with a Greek dip; and a Rose of Sangiovese from Amorosa (called Goia) with the winery being a large “Napa Castle” which was viewed from their parking lot on the successful Wine Fellowship tour of Napa exactly one year ago.  These were accompanied by feta and watermelon kebabs.

Next, two beautifully soft Pinot Noirs were tasted:  Acrobat from Oregon and Husch from the Anderson Valley.  Both were paired with great artisanal Wisconsin cheeses and a basket of cherries.  Just like the cold wines described above, these were excellent, and the tasting group was evenly divided in preference.

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(Photo 1: Mike & Mandy McKay; Photo 2: Juli & Keith Baumgartner; Photo 3: Patty Wilson & Cheryl Wittke)

Two “racy reds” were then tasted:  A Domaine de la Janesse Cotes Du Rhone with a colorful story of how it came to be selected (Dan Dieck’s son had sent a case from France) and an A Venge wine called Scouts Honor (a dog story, not Baden-Powell) California blend (Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Charbono and Syrah).  Once again, the tasting group liked both equally well.

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(Photo 1: Steve & Meryl Mixtacki; Photo 2: Meryl Mixtacki & Mike Wilson; Photo 3: Mary Barbieri & Beverly Simone)

Finally the hosts provided two very different ports.  A 1960 Warre’s Vintage Porto as a traditional base, and a 1947 “Royal Reserve” Mazuran “Port” from New Zealand. This previously unknown vineyard in Henderson , NZ, has been producing Port for years.  The initial winemaker was a descendant of the Dalmatian Kauri tree gum diggers that emigrated to New Zealand early on for just this purpose, but when the Kauri trees were significantly reduced (now a protected tree) they switched to other work.  Dalmatia is near where the original Zinfandel vines have been located, and these immigrants formed the basis of the early New Zealand wine industry.  Chocolate covered strawberries and other chocolates were the accompanying snack made by Hostess Patty.  Here the New Zealand port was the absolute winner.  The 67 year old Royal Reserve is the very first Mazuran port Mike tried some 40 years ago, and was released for the visit of the young Queen Elizabeth in her 1952 tour of New Zealand as part of the new monarchs tour of the antipodean british Commonwealth.  Perhaps the Mazuran was rated so well as the tasters were informed that it now sells for NZ$700.

Our thanks to Mike & Patty Wilson for hosting another great event!

Our thanks to Mike & Patty Wilson for hosting another great event!

A great time was had by one and all!

Wine Fellowship Group Tasting on April 29

–submitted by Mike Wilson


The Wine Fellowship Group had a great tasting at Steve and Meryl Mixtacki’s house on April 29.  This time there were several new Wine Fellowship attendees, which everyone thought was great.

The theme was an ALL WHITE WINE tasting, in preparation for the long awaited spring season. We started with three sparkling wines: a Cremant from France but not from the Champagne appellation, a Spanish Cava made by the same Traditionale Methode and an Italian Proseco where the secondary fermentation (the source of sparkling wine bubble formation) occurs in steel tanks and then the sparkling wine is bottled, rather than the actual bottle being the site of bubble production as in the traditional Champagne method.  These wines represented different price points: $5-10, $11-20 and $20-30.  The Champion that evening by the vast majority of tasters was the Spanish cava of Juame Serra Cristalino extra-brut (made by the traditional method) with a retail price of between $6-7, a real bargain of a wine and well worth stocking up on for the short-term future.

We then tried New World/Old World Sauvignon Blancs, with the new world represented by New Zealand and California, and the old world by the Loire Valley in France.  The grapefruit aromas on the NZ wine was recorded as the best by the fellowship, and NZ Sauvignon Blancs have been accepted as the best of that grape varietal. The Loire version was more steely, and the Californian had some oak perceived on the palate, and both these tastes typify the respective regions.

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Then three unknown varietal’s were tried of a group called Anything But Chardonnay (ABC) and the Riesling was most recognizable being slightly sweet with a typical “petroleum” aroma.  The apricot-like Viognier was then recognized and by deduction when the three wines were revealed, the Portuguese (usually Spanish) Albarino was established by simple elimination when the other two wines were identified.  As far as the participants were concerned, there was similar preferences for favorite of each of these three very different wines.

The last part of the formal tasting was a selection of Mike Wilson’s Robert Young Vineyard Chardonnays from the 2006/2008/2010 vintages. These wines were quite old by Chardonnay standards, and it was revealing that the oldest 2006 vintage was the preferred wine.

Thank you to hosts Steve & Meryl Mixtacki!

Thank you to hosts Steve & Meryl Mixtacki!

Because the group was larger than usual Steve Mixtacki produced two spicy Gurwurtztraminers and Mike Wilson matched a Brut with the ExtraBrut Cristalino sparkler, to show the contrast in dryness’s (the brut was dryer than the Extra brut).

Four cheeses were provided by the Wilson’s: Manchego (Spanish hard sheep cheese), Brie, a German Triple Cream Blue Cambazola, and a cow cheese Dubliner.  Meryl Mixtacki provided nuts, fruit spears, proscuitto wrapped melon, chocolate coated strawberries,and a yellow citris cake.

A great time was had by all!  Many wines, many appetizers, some education, and particularly good fun was had by everyone.