Category Archives: Rotary Wine Fellowship Group

Wine Fellowship at Total Wine & More

submitted by Mike Wilson; photos by Pete Christianson


Last night, October 16, we had a wine tasting at Total Wine & More at West Towne Shopping Center.  Fellow Rotarian Megan Ballard had been instrumental in arranging this tasting, and with Mike Wilson had met with the manager when we selected an upgraded Bordeaux tasting where the Right and Left Banks were contrasted.  Justin Duffy is in charge of the actual tasting content, and usually Total Wine has 7 wines with a store cost up to $30 and a tasting fee of $20.  Our tasting included 10 wines, and the price range was $15.99 to $44.99 because we purchased an upgraded tasting.  Only one wine was provided without a score, and the remainder were ranked by good sites as 90 – 95 points (an incredible 93.1 mean score).  This was an excellent tasting.

Bordeaux is the worlds most successful Wine region, although going through a little spot of bother now with competing new world “Bordeaux varietals”.  They developed a system that over centuries benefited the producers – to the point they sell their wines on “pre-order” before they are even bottled or officially rated by critics.  For the last two centuries they reigned supreme as the most prestigious wine region in the world.

The region’s most important grapes are Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon (white) and Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (red).  The other red grapes are either to soften tannins, or to add tannin and/or color to the blends.

The Left Bank is to the southwest (left on the map) of the Gironde estuary and the Garonne river.  This includes the Bas-Medoc and the Haut-Medoc (this latter High Medoc contains the 4 AOC’s that are the home of the greatest collection of top-quality wines anywhere in the world – St-Estephe, Pauillac, St-Julien and Margaux).  Further inland is the city of Bordeaux then follows Graves, an appellation famous for BOTH red and white wines, and most inland is Barsac and Sauternes (the sweeties of Bordeaux) made as a result of “Noble Rot”, the  result of infection by the mold botrytis.  This is not made every year as it is dependent on the infection of the grapes, but the “first great growth” of this region is Chateau Y’Quem – with it’s own designation in the 1855 Classification of Bordeaux.

The Right bank is east and north of the Gironde Estuary and the Dordogne River (Right on the map and exclusively making Red wines – the two R’s).  This region is better suited to Merlot grapes, with Cabernet Franc also doing well.  Many appellations exist, with the best being Fronsac, Pomerol and St. Emilion with their subregions.  While Pomerol has never been classified (like the 1855 classification of Bordeaux) St. Emilion successfully petitioned and resulted in a grand cru classe (2 only vs 5 for Bordeaux ) and premier grand cru classe.

Between the two rivers  are the Entre-deux-mers (between the seas – the river/tidal flow) made of exclusively dry white wines made predominantly from Sauvignon Blanc.  The other white grapes are semillon and muscadelle.  The red wine made here is usually Merlot, and are classified as regional Bordeaux or Bordeaux Superieur wines rather than Entre deux mers wine.

We had great examples of all these wines.  We started with a $15.99 Entre Deux Mers that was glorious but unranked.  We next had a Sauvignon Blanc a Ch. Doisy-Daene 2016 94 pointer that sells for $34.99.

We then were switched over to the Right Bank (Libournais wines after the largest city) and had a Fronsac Ch. Dalem 2015 ($29.99 94 pts), a Pomerol Chateau Garraud ($29.99 93 pts – which I liked the most) and CH. Quinault L’Encolos – St. Emilion ($45 94 pts).  All were excellent.

Now we moved to the Left Bank.  We started with a 2015 Ch Labegorce Margaux which was fabulous and rated 95 pts at only $39.99.  I rated this the same and was my favorite.  Next was a 2014 St. Julien Ch Lagrange  ($44.99 94 pts) which comes from the commune with highest proportion of classified growths. The chateaux is a 600 year old building.  Next was a 2014 St Estephe Ch. Lilian Ladouys  ($39.99 93 pts).  To complete the Left Bank AOC’s we had a 2014 Pauillac Ch. Lynch Bages second label ECHO ($44.99 92 pts).

The last wine was a Sauternes (furtherest inland of the Left Bank) a 2013 Ch Cantegril ($29.99 90 pts).  I thought this was superb and rated as a 95, likely as I love these sweet wines in all formats, even as “ice martinis” – the topic of a future tasting “Wines and wine cocktails”.

So we were shown all the regions, all the Haut Medoc AOCs, with excellent wines and great prices.  In the pricing structure if you see a wine that ends in 99 cents then that means if you buy 6 of any of these you get a 10% discount on all, as it represents one of the wines they have special relationships with the Distributer.  All of these wines were in that category.  A good time was had by all.

Wine Fellowship – Pinot Noir Tasting on June 21

submitted by Mike Wilson

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From left: Carolyn Casey, Mike Casey, Ray Bandziulis, Ann Cardinale, Steve Mixtacki & Meryl Mixtacki

Our club’s Wine Fellowship met at the Wilson’s on Thursday, June 21, to taste Pinot Noir.  These wines had been selected from Mike Wilson’s cellar, and the tasting was divided into groups of three wines.  After a description of the Pinot Noir story that emphasized the really long history of Pinot Noir, one of the four oldest vinifera wines (there are said to have been 6000 Vitis Vinifera in the last 6000 years), and one of the most important.  This is emphasized as Pinot Noir was the first fruit and second food where the genome was mapped.  Pinot Noir is related to virtually 60% of wines used these days, being a sibling or parent of all of these wines.  In general the lighter colors, red brick rim seen on older pinots (we had a lot to sample in this tasting) and the fact that they age quite well (one wine was 41 years old – a Bouchard Le Corton, and we tasted three 1999 wines).

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We tried great Red Burgundies (one Grand Cru and four premier Crus) the creme de la creme of Pinot Noir. These 5 wines represent the top 5% of Red Burgundies.  The first three wines were from the first ten years of this century, a 2002 Nuit St George and a Charmes Chambertin, and a 2007 Bouchard Beaune Marconnets.  We then tried three different Californian AVA’s (2010 Artesa, 2005 Flowers & Woodenhead) followed by three Oregon Pinots of the same period all from the Dundee Hills AVA (2007 Winderlea, and 2008 Lange & Scott Paul) so with good age on them. Next we tried three from the British Empire: two from NZ and one from the Okanagon Valley, and two of these wines were actually brought back from overseas.  These latter wines were still a little younger, being only 4-8 years old.

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(Photo 1: from left: Patty Wilson, Cheryl Wittke, Becky Steinhoff, Ellie Schatz & Paul Schatz; Photo 2: from left: Julie Swenson, Peggy Lescrenier and Leslie Overton)

We then had three older wines: a 1999 Truchard from Sonoma, a 1999 Nuit St. George and 1977 Le Corton both from Burgundy.  We cleaned our palate with a Gruet Blanc de Noir (a white Methode Champenoise also made from Pinot Noir).  I had anticipated at least one of these three last century wines would be over the hill, but none were – a testament to Pinot Noir’s longevity.

Onee among the three wine groupings, a particular Pinot, was preferred only once. As all these wines were good, then the individual taster’s palate determined the most liked, i.e personal preference reigned supreme. The cheeses all went great with the wine and included a Compte, Gruyere, Mozzarella, White Cheddar and Cambazola, as did the breads and crackers. A good time was had by all.  A pity we will never be able to repeat this tasting.

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