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.

Lessons from Business Empress Martha Matilda Harper

submitted by Valerie Renk; photo by Pete Christianson

Jane Plitt 10 17 2018

From left: Rotarian Mary Borland, Guest Speaker Jane Plitt & Rotarian Joan Collins

Rotary and Martha Matilda Harper both want to make the world a better place, said October 17 Rotary speaker Jane Plitt.  Plitt highlighted how Harper, a poor Canadian servant for 25 years, became the American pioneer of modern retail franchising with 500 Harper Method Hair shops around the world catering to world royalty, US presidents, along with suffragettes.

Harper was born in Canada and put into servitude at age 7.  As she grew, she learned several business lessons.

Dream. She dreamed of success and marrying, although marriage would not release her from being a servant.

Stick to your Goals.  Her last employer was kind. He taught her about a product he designed to make hair stronger.  On his death bed, he bequeathed her the hair tonic formula.  With that formula, she believed she has the passport to change her life.  She moves to Rochester, New York, home to suffragists, entrepreneurs, and Quakers, a hot bed of activists. With about $300 in savings, she’s denied a building lease, until hiring a lawyer.

Capitalize on Your Assets. Her floor length hair, pictured on the door, drew in mothers of piano students from next door.  She offered them chairs, then drew them into to hear about her hair tonic.

 Understand and Delight the Customer.  Harper created the first reclining barber chair; this meant no soap in customers’ eyes and clothes were protected.

Create Buzz.  Famous customers such as Grace Coolidge and Bertha Palmer kicked off her fame.  Bertha drew her to open a second store in Chicago.

Commit the Customer.  Harper asked Palmer to come back with a list of 25 friends on a petition for her to come to Chicago.

Thinking Outside the Box.  Today we call this franchising, from the French “free yourself from servitude.”  After success franchising, she rethinks her anti-male beliefs and marries at 63 to a 39-year-old. She ends up with 500+ shops, two in Madison, five training schools, one also in Madison, and two manufacturing centers.

Treat Your Staff Well.  She advised franchisees to start staff meetings listening.  She believed it important to celebrate achievements.

In 1935, when Fortune Magazine was saying “a woman’s place is not in the executive chair,” Harper was proving she could make real money and success for her organization and her franchisees.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

“…Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water”

submitted by Jocelyn Riley


This week’s Rotary meeting opened with the singing of Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, a suitable lead-in to UW-Madison Professor Emeritus Ken Potter’s presentation, “Responding to Increasing Yahara Lakes Flood Risk.”

Professor Potter pointed out that this past summer was the “wettest summer since I came here over forty years ago.”

He said that what he called “extreme rainfall” is only one aspect of alleviating flooding risks in Dane County.  Urbanization is even a more important factor, he said, pointing out that in 2017 there was twice as much development in the Yahara Lakes watershed as there was in 1970.  “But most of the Yahara Lakes watershed is not yet developed,” he said, and made the case that we need to oversee more thoughtful development that will improve water movement in the area.  “We are not going to stop urbanization,” he said, “but we need to find ways to plan development more strategically.”

There are some state regulations and laws in place currently that are helpful, but Dr. Potter also pointed out that some state laws recently passed undermine efforts to control flooding.

In answer to a question of what we as individuals can do to help with flood control, Dr. Potter made some specific suggestions, including constructing rain gardens and moving downspouts to send water onto grass or a garden area and not onto a driveway.  The goal should be to “keep as much water as you can on your property.”

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

Rotary’s General Secretary: “We Are All Peacemakers”

submitted by Dave Mollenhoff; photo by Pete Christianson

John Hewko 10 3 2018Rotarians were privileged to hear John Hewko, Rotary International’s General Secretary, talk about three global issues facing Rotary in the 21st century.

First, we must finish PolioPlus, even though we have been supporting this cause for 30 years.  Today, with the help of international partners including UNICEF, WHO, and Gates Foundation, the end is in sight.  Yes, Hewko admitted, we are experiencing donor fatigue, but we cannot move on to the next big project until we are successful with this one.  PolioPlus, he continued, has really put Rotary on the international map.  The remarkable infrastructure that we developed to deliver PolioPlus can be used for the next big campaign, he noted, but admitted that no decision had been made on what this would be.

Second, Rotary’s international membership has been stagnant at 1.2 million members for the last 20 years.  This is because membership in the U.S. has been declining, but membership in Asia and Africa has been increasing.  Faced with stagnant growth, Rotary must develop new products for today’s changing marketplace including experimenting with formats that depart from the club model.  Hewko also urged Rotarians to find ways to increase our impact on the world.   For example, our club could join forces with other Wisconsin clubs to do larger scale projects.

Third, Hewko urged us to recognize that “peace is at the center of everything we do.”  We do this by providing potable water, teaching better health practices, and eradicating disease.  Rotary International has recently joined forces with the Institute for Economics and Peace to focus grant programs on those that create the most enduring peace.

Hewko directs a staff of 800 employees at the RI headquarters in Evanston, Illinois and seven other international offices, and has served as general secretary since 2010.

Members from many Rotary Clubs in Southern Wisconsin also attended the talk.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

Straight Talk on Civil Discourse

submitted by Valerie Renk; photo by Margaret Murphy

Michael Schuler 9 26 2018

Pastor Michael Schuler pictured here with Club President Jason Beren

Rotary’s Sept 26 guest speaker, Michael Schuler, asked, “Is there is an antidote to toxic talk?”

Schuler recently retired as senior minister of the First Unitarian Society of Madison.

Researchers gather data, test hypothesis, operate on provisional truths, demanding scientists have open minds.  However, even scientist succumb to civil discourse.  Debate over what killed dinosaurs is one example.

The book, “Politics of Resentment” by Kathy Cramer documents this resentment.  People in common conversation treat each other like enemies, even in rural America known for niceness.  Cramer contends political leaders are often to blame for our divided experience.  For example, trash talk, and rowdy events held by Trump’s campaign where dissenters were ejected.  “This is fun,” Trump said.  We are receptive to this bravado.

Rural citizens interviewed by Kramer felt their communities were losing to urban communities, despite data showing otherwise.  Perception matters, and politicians exploit this.  Polls focus on winning and losing, so voters overinvest in winning.  We need to focus less on winning and focus more on what government is doing for everyone.

Schuler outlined strategies to increase the quality of our conversations:

  1. Step out of our comfort zone. Invite interaction with people who don’t share your moral narrative.
  2. Think like a good scientist. Hold your ideas as a tentative theory rather than a final fact.  Apparently, it could well be, it seems, are all good phrases to use.
  3. Be more curious. Ask more questions rather than share your convictions.
  4. Be patient. Sit with discomfort until you have more clarity.
  5. Become more self-aware. Is your tone inviting or challenging?

Michael Schuler served 30 years as senior minister of First Unitarian Society of Madison, one of the largest UU churches in North America.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

MSO Celebrates 25 Years

submitted by Rich Leffler; photo by Margaret Murphy

John DeMain 9 19 18

From left: Club President Jason Beren, club member Perry Henderson and John DeMain

Madison Symphony Orchestra conductor John DeMain joined us in his first event to celebrate the 25th year of his leadership here in Madison. Twenty-five years is an extraordinary time for a modern conductor to stay with an orchestra. We have been lucky to have him here for a quarter century.

John began by very generously crediting his predecessor, Roland Johnson, for his long service to the MSO and as creator of the Madison Opera as part of the MSO. He credited Mr. Johnson with making the orchestra professional and with recruiting the services of UW faculty and students. John also explained the changes that he has brought. At one time, the orchestra performed eight single concerts a year. When Roland Johnson passed the baton to John, he urged him to build on his work developing an audience. John has tripled the audience during his tenure. Today, the season consists of a series of eight concerts, each performed three times, on Friday and Saturday evening and on Sunday afternoon. The MSO has done more than increase its audience and its string section (now full-sized). In his first year, John initiated blind auditions for prospective musicians. UW faculty joined the orchestra, which encouraged their students to participate as well. The result was fine musicianship. [Anyone who has heard the MSO will agree that it is shockingly good. Its string section is vibrant and its sound has a sheen.]

John also thanked Pleasant and Jerry Frautschi for their astounding gift of the Overture Center, including Overture Hall, which has a splendid acoustic that allows us to hear how beautifully the MSO plays. John also spoke of the several associated organizations and programs affiliated with the MSO.

John concluded on a somewhat somber note. Former UW Chancellor John Wiley was in attendance. He upgraded the School of Music during his tenure. Some of his work is being undone because of funding woes: many of the faculty are no longer tenure-track. They and their students are less likely to join the MSO. However, fine musicians from elsewhere are maintaining the orchestra’s excellence.

The Maestro made one last point: Madisonians should include the MSO in their entertainment options. This reviewer agrees. As an old ad in New York once proclaimed: “Try It, You’ll Like It.”

We express a special thanks to the MSO: The Rhapsodie Quartet: Susanne Beia, Laura Burns, Chris Dozoryst and Karl Lavine.  The quartet performed a movement from the American String Quartet written by Antonin Dvořák.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

Wisconsin Obesity Prevention Initiative Targets Neighborhoods

submitted by Jocelyn Riley; photo by Margaret Murphy

Vicent Cryns 9 12 2018

“Virtually every organ in the body is adversely affected by obesity,” Dr. Vincent Cryns, the Marian A. and Rodney P. Burgenske Chair and Chief, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, told Rotarians on September 12.

Not only are people’s individual bodies affected negatively by obesity, according to Dr. Cryns, but obesity also has a negative effect on society as a whole.  The cost of the obesity epidemic to American society is equal to 4 to 8 percent of our Gross Domestic Product, with disadvantaged communities affected disproportionately.  The even more discouraging news is that there have been three-fold increases of obesity and overweight in the past forty years.  Dr. Cryns cited several causes, including less physical activity due to factors like increasing screen time and the marketing of “tasty inexpensive calorie-dense foods.”

Dr. Cryns is involved with the Wisconsin Obesity Prevention Initiative (OPI), which is compiling and analyzing “zip-code-level data” to design positive interventions and coaching to help deal with this crisis.  OPI is currently working with two community partners, the Menominee Nation and Marathon County, to come up with place-based solutions to the problems posed by widespread obesity.  Possible solutions include incorporating nutritious foods like wild rice into traditional activities like community feasts and improving pedestrian and bike access so that people who would like to walk and bike more can do so safely.  Dr. Cryns encouraged his audience to find out their individual Body Mass Index (BMI; weight divided by height squared) and modify eating and exercise until it reaches healthy levels.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.