Tag Archives: Rotary Wine Fellowship

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.

A “Different” Wine Tasting on Feb 1

–submitted by Mike Wilson; photo by Pete Christianson 


The Wine Fellowship met at Mike and Patty Wilson’s for a “different” tasting.  We tried fortified wines and added three Single Malt Scotches to show the effect of a REAL aftertaste.  I love the aftertaste of wine and I score it very highly on my rating assessment of individual wines.  A 20-second aftertaste is superb in wine, but Scotches and Cognacs have aftertastes that last all night, and welcome you the next morning.

We first tried Sherries from that small triangle in Southern Spain right at the Straights of Gibraltar. These fortified wines were at their popularity peak in the 70’s when I left NZ and I had often drunk Tio Pepe and Harveys Bristol Cream – bone dry and sweet examples – aperitif and dessert wines.  This time we tried the Tio Pepe Fino and a Lustau Oloroso – the latter a more complex wine.  The latter was the preferred wine  but I warned everyone the Fino is great as an aperitif.  These wines are aged in the Solera system

Next we tried two Ports – the nearest thing to usual dinner wines among those tasted.  Here we tried two styles that are the best bargains – a Kopke Tawny 10 year old port and an unfiltered Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) from Quinta do Noval.  The Kopke is the longest family run Porto in Portugal dating to 1638.  Both were very good and were well liked by most tasters.

These 4 wines averaged about $25 and are all available from Steve’s on University.

Next I tried to make a case for Marsala not being relegated to a cooking wine.  Here there was an interesting tale about this old wine being confined to the Trapini region near the NW corner of Sicily.  When Englishman John Woodhouse in 1773 was forced by a storm to land in Marsala, he fell in love with the wine and recognized the similarity to the popular Port in England, and decided not to collect the load he was to pickup in Sicily and rather filled his ship with Marsala. He came back in 1796 and set up a winery.  In 1806 he was followed by fellow Englishman Benjamin Ingham who even built the first Anglican Church (Church of England), the only church of the Diocese of Europe, across the road from his mansion. These wines use the Perpetuum system – similar in concept to the Sherry Solera system.  We tried a Florio Dry wine (the oldest Sicilian producer of Marsala -established 1833) fino (Aged 1 year), and Marco de Bartoli Vigna La Miccia 5 year riserva which is medium-dry,.  These two represent the range of Sicilian Marsala’s – the first a “post-English” and oldest Sicilian Marsala winery and the latest a very serious wine maker Marco de Bartoli producing what he describes as a “pre-English” Marsala – predating Woodhouse’s arrival.  What drama!  These wines were not favorites of the tasters but Mike had fun reliving his trip to Palermo where he and Patty stayed in the Bingham residence, now the Grand Hotel de Palmes in Palermo, Sicily.

Next we tried two fortified wines being located on distant islands.  First we tried a Madeira from the island of the same name some 600 miles from the home land Portugal, and an Isle di Pantelleria closer to Tunis than Sicily.

The Madeira Islands were discovered in 1419 by Portugese explorers and became the first requisitioning station for travelers/explorers to India, the America’s, and the East Indies.  This was likely the first fortified wine as such, and there the best wine was that that had traveled the “round trip” – vino do roda – to and from the “Hetherlands”.  To simplify production the Madeirans invented the cheaper and more efficient “hothouse” system where the stored wine in large rooms heated by the sun with the wine in large barrels raised on trestles.  They are stored for 20-100 years – and many old wines are still for sale. I personally liked this very much and recounted how a 100 year old sample was brought to a Bring Your Own Wine Rotary Wine Fellowship once.

The other Island DOC is the Moscato/Passito from Isle di Pantelleria. This is made by the new Powerhouse Marco di Bartoli who is restoring Marsala’s name.  He also started this Passito production on the Island, now followed by other major Marsala producers.  This wine is a Passito (slightly raisanated) where the heating of the grapes is done in the field where the grapes are handpicked and left in fields between natural rock walls and allowed to dry out and concentrate sugar and flavors for two weeks before the rest of the grape crop is picked then the Passito is added. This is like brother-sister Italian Passito wines of Valpolicella in the Veneto, and the Montefalco in Umbria.

Last we tried Single malt Scotches.  I selected three of the six regions where Single malts are made.  First we had Auchhentoshen Three Wood from the Lowlands (less than 10 producers) and this example I think of as one of the mildest Malts. Then we tried The Glenlivet as the first legal distillary (1824) after the Excise Act of 1823.  This distillery sued other producers in the valley (Glen) of the Livet river (hence Glenlivet), and the judge determined they could call themselves “The Glenlivit” and the others could include the Glen Livet component as they were also in the Glen of the Livet river – a real Solomon decision that The GlenLivet has exploited since.  This is said to be a light delicate Malt.  Last we tried one of the few Isle of Islay Malts – Laphroaig.  A Smoky blockbuster that was a shock to most of the wine imbibers tastebuds.  A good experience of a Great Long Smoky Aftertaste.

Breads, cheeses, olives, almonds and chocolate covered strawberries were provided.


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.

“Brown Bag Tasting” on June 29

–article and photos by Mike Wilson


The Rotary Wine fellowship met at Steve and Meryl Mixtacki’s home for one of Steve’s iconic “Brown Bag Tastings”.  Bread, multiple cheeses, fruits, crackers and chocolate truffles were supplied to supplement the extraordinary wines. The organization was superb.  Mike Wilson and Steve Mixtacki engaged in their eternal discussion about glass position terminology on the tasting placemat.

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(Photo 1: Steve Mixtacki; Photo 2: Mary Janet & Karl Wellensiek; Photo 3: Juli and Keith Baumgartner)

The first three wines were “Wondering about Whites.”  These were from Italy, Israel and Spain – and the two most liked wines were the Italian Vernaccia and the Spanish Godello. Next we tried “Shades of Pink” explaining the gradation from tawny to pink to just plain “Red Rose” colors. The first was a Guigal Cotes du Rhone that the fellowship group had tasted at Steve’s on University tasting, and this won the honors with most liking this wine.  The pink sweet rose was a Beringer, an infamous White Zinfandel, that had been presented to Steve when he retired from WARF earlier in June, and the other was a Rosata from Petroni.  Petroni of Sonoma is a winery famous for being allowed to have the name Brunello on their label because of the extraordinary quality of wine made by them from the Sangiovese grape taken from Brunello cuttings. The Guigal was preferred by ~60% of tasters.

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(Photo 1: Jane & John Wegenke; Photo 2: Mike & Mandy McKay)

The next trio was “What is the Country” and included three fabulous red Italian wines, all DCOG (G meaning guaranteed quality – where else do you see such endorsement). One was a 20 year old Sangiovese (Brunello di Montalcino, Il Poggione), a 2000 Biscardi Amarone with the producer scion’s signature and date of signing on the bottle, and a fine 2011 Barolo.  Three of the finest wines that Italy offers, with the Brunello preferred by 47% despite the sediment.  These were all $60 wines.

Steve had prepared two interesting groupings next.  Three variations on a theme with blends of Rhone grapes: Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre (all of the land of OZ GSM fame).  These were all Californian examples poured from light to dark red in color.  These were from Unti (71% Grenache and 29% Mouvedre), Cline Cashmere (50% Mouvedre with lesser amounts of Grenache and Syrah), and Summerwood Diosa 2013 (80% Syrah and lesser Mouvedre and Grenache). The darker Syrah was preferred, with the Mouvedre a close followup.

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(Photo 1: Mike & Patty Wilson & Guest; Photo 2: Bob & Jennifer Winding)

Lastly, Steve arranged for three Californian Rhone wines of the same varietals, but the “Even Greater Specificity” meaning each was a 100% single grape Rhone based wines.  Here the Adelaida Mouvedre was preferred, with the Grenache from Cline a close followup.  Incidentally the color followed the rule above; the lightest being Grenache, Mouvedre the next “reddest”, and the Syrah the dark red – perhaps a clue for future Brown Bag Blind tastings.

A great evening was had by all.  Thank you Meryl and Steve Mixtacki.

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.

Guigal 2017 4

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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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.