Category Archives: Rotary Wine Fellowship Group

Wine Fellowship Event October 24

–submitted by Mike Wilson

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Our club’s Wine Fellowship met at Mike and Patty Wilson’s on Tuesday the 24th October – Polio Plus Day for Rotary International.  This was a “BYO bottle and snack to share” event with a charitable donation of $50 per person to go to Polio Plus.  A total of $1000 was raised with the entrance fees and a separate donation. Our club has a strong history of donating to Polio Plus with two major fundraisers in 1987 and 15 years later in 2002, raising a total of ~$280,000.  This Polio Plus Day in 2017 is 15 and 30 years after the original Polio Plus Day Campaign mentioned.  Now Rotary International and the Gates Foundation, with many other donor groups, believe they are finally approaching the time of eradication of Polio from the earth.  I remember as a kid having to stay on the porch at home and not leave the property or play with others – such was the curse of poliomyelitis.

We tried 7 wines and 3 “Ports”.  All the wines were excellent and the accompanying snacks too. We had two whites. a Riesling and a Condrieu (Viognier).  Next we tried a Meiomi Pinot Noir, a Vin Nobile di Montepulciano (recently carried back from Italy by Ellie and Paul Schatz), and  an Opolo Forte Zinfandel and all were excellent.  We then tried a Very Dry Red (labeled VDR) Petit Verdot and Petite Sirah blend and a Walla Walla Winery Cabernet Franc, again excellent drinking.  Most of these wines sold in the 20-35 dollar price range, and added ideas for our own collections. The snacks were as impressive as the wines.

Photo 1: Paul & Ellie Schatz; Photo 2: Becky Steinhoff & Steve Steinhoff; Photo 3: Juli & Keith Baumgartner

We finished with three “ports” and W & J Smith 20 year Tawny, a CharDotto Cabernet Franc version with Dell Dotto providing the red wine and Chateau Charbay (Napa) the brandy, and a Glunz version of Tawny Port. Ports have a higher alcohol content than red wines (~20%) which is added to the wine once it reaches the desired sweetness, and this stops the fermentation process and ups the alcohol content as about 30% of Port is brandy (usually purchased from South Africa in Port from Portugal). With this we had blue cheeses and chocolate coated strawberries – chocolate and blue cheese being excellent accompaniments of Port.

A good time was had by all, and Polio Plus benefitted on Polio Plus Day.

Wine Tasters Gather for Guigal Tasting

–submitted by Mike Wilson

The Madison Rotary Wine Fellowship met at Steve’s on University for a Guigal tasting on April 27.  The tasting was held in a side room, most recently the cheese room, but the room was initially created as a Tasting Room.

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The tasting started with a Bollinger NonVintage (NV) Special Cuvee Champagne.  This is the standard Bollinger champagne, with their other champagnes all being prestige versions or Rose.  This was a great wine.  I visited Bollinger in 2013 on an Ultimate Champagne Tasting Tour where we had a delightful lunch accompanied by the NV Rose, 2004 La Grande Rose, La Grande 2004, and NV Special Cuvee. On that trip I rated the Bollinger NV Special Cuvee (the same as the wine we drink today) as the best of the 17 NV samples tasted, and only 10% of the 71 vintage/premier champagnes were better.  This wine is 65% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay.  85% of all of the grapes used are from Premier and Grand Cru locations (very unusual) and 2/3 of the total grapes used in their Champagne production comes from land they own (also very very unusual). They remain one of the few remaining family owned champagne houses.

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(Photo 1: Juli & Keith Baumgartner; Photo 2: Peter & Leslie Overton; Photo 3: Ellie & Paul Schatz)

The Bollinger history dates back to 1829, and family members have run it for all of this time except in the last few years.  The most famous leader was Lilly Bollinger from 1941-1971, who is famously quoted as ” I drink champagne when I am happy and when I am sad. Sometimes I drink when I am alone.  When I have company I think it is obligatory.  I trifle with it when I am not hungry and drink it when I am.  Otherwise I never touch it unless I am thirsty.”  Other unique Bollinger features includes the fact that every bottle is hand riddled, and it is the champagne of “Bond” movies.

We then started the task at hand: assessing Guigal wines.  Whereas wine has been grown in the Northern Rhone for 2500 years there are no established great old wineries. The region reached it’s lowest acreage in the 1940’s when vineyards being turned into apricot orchards. Etienne Guigal is a late arrival to the region – 1930’s – and ended up being Maitre de Chai of Vidal Fleurie when it was the greatest local winery (now owned by Guigal). In 1946 he established his own Negotiant business.  As if to make up for this late arrival, Guigal became the leader of the Upper Rhone (Shiraz and Viognier) region, and currently makes 30% and 45% of the entire Cote Rotie and Condrieu appellations.  This is a remarkable feat, to be the most prestigious producer of the Rhone’s finest red and white wines.  He early on recognized the potential of the region, and tirelessly worked to acquire the best land and promote the product, that began to soar in the 1980’s.  In addition to the Cote Rotie and Condrieu regions Guigal owns excellent properties in Saint Joseph, Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage.  They are major negotiant of the Southern Rhone and are reputed to produce the best Cotes du Rhone yet they do not own any property in the Southern Rhone, rather they buy in wine or grapes from select producers. The bulk of their 10,000,000 bottle wine sales come from this region.

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(Photo 1: Jennifer & Bob Winding; Photo 2: Jenny & Loie Badreddine; Photo 3: Steve & Meryl Mixtacki)

The way they make wine is uncompromising, and as a rule they continue to age their wines (estate and negotiant) long after other producers have already sold their entire vintage. Quality is their theme in all aspects of vine growing, and wine making. As Robert Parker says Guigal is “This planet’s greatest winemaker”.

We had 1 Rose, 3 Whites, and 5 Reds.  These wines were available to buy from $10.99 through $149.99. I rated the wines very well with the Bollinger champagne and the Cote Rote Chateau Ampuis 2010 being the best, and most of the others matching their 90/91 scores from reviewers being matched.  I will be buying the champagne, and did buy the cheaper Cotes Du Rhone Red and Rose for their fabulous value (90 pointers and <$10).  A great time was had by all and we had excellent wines and great mushrooms, cheese, bread, and pate snacks.

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Wine Fellowshippers at Tasting on October 30

–submitted by Mike Wilson


We had 18 people at the Rotary Wine Fellowship tasting at the Wilson’s on Sunday, October 30th, 2016.  We tried Loire wines as a result of an earlier BYO Rotary Fellowship tasting at Steve Mixtacki’s home when Erin Luken brought a Loire Chenin Blanc that tickled my fancy and made me look into the region.  In several instances we tried the Loire wine against a New World version for contrast.

The region is very old wine-wise, having been established in the Roman era.  It has a good proportion of all of the French AOC’s and is characterized by having famous red (Cabernet Franc, Beaujolais, Pinot Noir) and white (Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadet) wines.  The most famous is the Sauvignon Blanc, and a selection of good ones is a requirement of a good restaurant.

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Photo 1: Jane & John Wegenke; Photos 2: Meryl Mixtacki & Ann Cardinale; Photo 3: Becky Steinhoff & Mike McKay

First we tried two Muscadets (unique to the Loire, and grown only in the Coastal Loire) and a Loire Sparkler made with Chenin Blanc.  All were very well liked with no definite favorite.  The sparkler (Methode Champenoise – Champagne wants us to call this MethodeTraditionale, so there is no mention of Champagne on the label at all) was very nice.  Next we had two Sauvignon Blancs: a Sancerre – the great Sauvignon Blanc of the Upper Loire – and an example from the Touraine – the Mid Loire – which much like the Mid Loire Anjou Region – grows the 4 major Loire grapes: Chenin Blanc. Gamay Beaujolais, Cabernet franc, and Sauvignon Blanc.  We contrasted this with a NZ Sauvignon Blanc as the New World comparison, where the fruit expression dominates the effect of the terroir.  The fruit was best detected in the NZ version, but tasters were again equally divided in their preference for a particular style.

We then tried Chenin Blancs.  We had one from the Anjou-Saumur, and one from Vouvray (the more famous Chenin Blanc region).  Vouvray specializes in Chenin Blanc and is surrounded upstream by the Anjou-Suamar and downstream by the Touraine-Chinon.  We contrasted this with a Washington State version.  Again all were liked without a marked preference.

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Next we tried Cabernet Francs – a Bordeaux varietal famous in the Loire,  We tried one from Saumur and one from the more famous Cabernet Franc Chinon region that specializes in this red varietal. We contrasted these with a Paso Robles from Adelaida from Mike’s cellar that was older and rated well by Robert Parker.  All were nice, but this sequence demonstrated the winner of the tasting, with the New World wine being the winner by a significant majority vote.  This wine was significantly older and more expensive than the Loire counterparts, no doubt the explanation of it’s preference by most attendees.

At the end we had two Noble Chenin Blancs where the grape is desiccated by Botryitis fungus and we end up with a wine that is concentrated, sweet, and with a unique honeyed flavor.  We tried a 2002 Coteaux du Layon (a special appellation within Anjou) and a Quarts de Chaume (a special region within the Coteaux du Layon).  These wines are said to last forever!  These were the most expensive wines in the Loire, and were my personal favorite with the latter being the best, and rated variously as 95-96/100.  The latter was the most expensive wine ($43 for a 500 ml bottle).


Mike & Patty Wilson

The tasting was excellent.  Most attendees said that it was really the best collection of wines they ever had at one of our tastings.  The majority of these wines were suggested by the staff of Steve’s Liquor on University Avenue and were included in the tasting without Mike tasting them.  This is confirmation of the role of the individual sales persons in good wine shops, who can provide specialized advice even to frequent wine shoppers where you can get to know a salesperson with similar taste and also have access to sales regional sub-specialists.

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

Wine Fellowship Event March 7

–submitted by Mike Wilson

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On the 7th of March The Downtown Rotary Club Wine fellowship visited Table Wine, a new wine bar and wine shop that specializes in wines of modest cost.  The Fellowship was introduced to the Wine Table through Cheryl Wittke, and a wonderful event was held.

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Joy Gander & Cheryl Wittke

Seventeen Wine Fellowshippers met at 6:30 pm, and we had a Floral and Spicy Wine Tasting. The theme is interesting, and similar to the oldworld/newworld concept.  The wines were certainly spicy or floral, and were excellent.

Five wines were rated by me as particularly good, and these were the five best by the group as a whole.  In the Spicy White group the Elena Walch Italian Gurwurtztraminer (2013 @ $19.99) and Matchbook “The Arsonist” Chardonnay were equally adored by the Fellowship (2013 @$21.99), while in the other three categories there were “Clear Winners” receiving >70% of the vote as the best of the group classification.

The individual group “winners” were Le Masciare Fiano de Avellino 2013 @ $16.99 (Floral White), a Shotfire Shiraz (therefore Australian) Spicy Red 2013 @ $19.99, and Luzon Altos de luzon 2010 Spanish blend (Monastrell, Tempranillo and Cab. Sauv. 50/25/25 blend) as the Floral Red.  Each of these wines were clearly the most preferred wines in these categories.

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Photo 1: Ben Hebebrand & Joy Dawson; Photo 2: Candace & Mark Moody; Photo 3: Steve & Meryl Mixtacki

So if anyone wants to try good reasonably priced wines, consider these wines available at Table Wine.  All in all, a wonderful time was had by all with great wines tasted. Thank you very much Molly Moran, owner of Table Wine (2045 Attwood Avenue).

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.

First Wine Tasting for the Fall Season

–submitted by Mike Wilson

wine1On Thursday the 24th September the Wine Fellowship organized a tasting that included wines that would be sold by the Madison Rotary Wine Fellowship through UW Rotaract.  This fundraiser for the Mashambanzou Care Trust helps AIDs-affected families and orphans and has been performed annually for about a decade when the  Fellowship raises between $1000 and $1500 annually.  One year, Noel and Dick Pearson held the fundraiser when Mike Wilson was not available.  The official Mashambanzou tasting will follow with 14 wines, which will then be offered for sale.  Today’s “BYO and Snack” event included 6 wines that will not be in the upcoming donation Wine Fellowship event (20 wines would be far to may to try at once) yet needed to be evaluated for recommendation to the Fellowship sales event.

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(Photo 1: Paul & Ellie Schatz; Photo: Steve & Meryl Mixtacki; Photo 3: Carolyn & Mike Casey)

The “Mashambanzou” wines tasted included: Gruet Blanc de Noir, Mollydooker Shiraz, Hey Mambo Sultry Red, Catena Malbec of the more reasonable priced wines (all $12-28) and two excellent reds -Paul Hobbs Crossbarn Napa Cabernet Sauvignon @$53 and a Zenato Amarone @$70.  The consensus was that these were very suitable for purchase with Catena and Hey Mambo universally liked.  All these wines had excellent scores of 90, 91 and the latter two wines rated well above that.

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(Photo 1: Patty & Mike Wilson; Photo 2: Ellie Schatz & Cheryl Wittke; Photo 3: Juli & Kieth Baumgartner)

With the “business part of the event” ongoing, the BYO bottles were also universally liked with a great Virginia Gray Ghost Reserve oaked Chardonnay, a delicious Morgon Premier Cru Beaujolais, a Zaca Mesa GSM that was super, and a St. Francis (for the visiting pope no doubt) excellent single vineyard Old Vines Dry Creek Zinfandel.  All these were excellent and made for good company.

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Snacks brought by individuals to the BYO included the mandatory breads, crackers, nuts and cheeses provided by the Wilson’s, but also a quiche, collections of dried figs and meats, skewers with mozzarella, basil and balsamic dressing, and goat and cream cheese preparation topped with tomato.

As Patty Wilson had procured some macaroons and fresh figs from Whole Foods together with Maytag Blue cheese Mike Wilson pulled out an unusual sweet red wine (Amas Amiel 10 ans – stored outside in glass demijohns for a year, the fermentation ended with alcohol, then aged in oak for 9 years) that he had purchased at the Rotary Wine Fellowship tasting organized by Keith Baumgartner and held at the Madison Club (with record attendance) and this very interesting sweeter wine was a nice way to end the tasting.

Fun was had by all, excellent wines were tasted, and importantly we were able to establish that the six wines selected by Mike Wilson and Steve Mixtacki (Co-chairs of the Rotary Wine Fellowship) from an array of some 91 wines offered by the Purple Feet Wine Distributors (purchased by the Winebow Group) would be appropriate for adding to the 14 wines we will taste at a later fundraiser event for the Zimbabwe Mashambanzou Care Trust.