Tag Archives: Wine Fellowship Group

Wine Fellowship Event March 12, 2017

 

–submitted by Mike Wilson

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Mike & Patty Wilson

The Rotary Wine Fellowship Group met at Mike and Patty Wilson’s home to taste wine to compare the major French wine regions with their new world protogees.  We had white and red Burgundy, Bordeaux, as well as Northern and Southern Rhone wines and virtually all were selected from the Wilson wine cellar.  The examples were nearly all very well rated by respected rating organizations (88 – 95 points, mean score 92) and many of the vineyards were very old (one wine from Australia where the vineyard was planted 124 years ago and several others over 100 years, and yet others the oldest regional vines available.

We tried a 2014 white Puligny Montrachet from Pernot, and discussed the Burgundian village (now just used to house workers) and that the area included the greatest white wines of the world (e.g. Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet and Batard-Montrachet). This wine is still available at Steve’s for a modest sum.  This was compared with a Robert Young Vineyard Alexander 2013 Chardonnay ranked among the best of California that year, and a Wilson favorite.  We also compared it with a 1995 Kalin chardonnay Cuvee W which is the current release of Kalin having being kept by the owner for 20 years before releasing to the public for purchase – an extraordinary practice for a business given that now even the great wineries now make their wine for immediate sale and early consumption. At Kalin cellars the owners are microbiologists (Terrence and Frances Leighton) and the sole winemakers, that make all their own wines from bought grapes.  They produce about 7000 cases per year, and are credited with being the first Californians to pioneer the unfiltered Sur Lies approach to white wines.  Kalin also champions the fifth taste – Umami (the meaty brothy taste that is represented by MSG Wine March 12 2017 Ebut without the MSG salt contribution). They seek this out in their wines before release.  The Puligny narrowly wins as the best tasting compared to the quintessential Robert Young Vineyards and the very different Kalin.

Next we tried the red Burgundy and I had selected a Premier Cru Nuits-St-Georges Les Pruliers by Lucien Boillet where the grapes were planted in 1911.  Nuits-St-George is considered the main village of this region and is slightly smaller than Beaune to the North.  Nuits-St-Georges has no Grand cru vineyards but there are 41 Premier Cru vineyards of which Les Pruliers is one.  This wine was compared to similarly rated 2006 Oregon Pinot from Belle Pente Murto Vineyard and a 1995 Kalin Cuvee DD bottled in 2000 (some 17 years ago, and this is the current release vintage).  The Oregon Pinot Noir was considered the best of the bunch.

Wine March 12 2017 AWe had two 2000 Bordeaux blend wines and compared this to a 2006 Rubicon Estate
Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon.  The Bordeaux were a Chateau Talbot and Grand-Puy-La-Coste, respectively 4th and 5th Growth wines in the 1855 Classification of the Haut-Medoc region that includes 61 wines and is the current quality standard of these wines. The 2000 vintage was considered an excellent vintage on both the left (Graves, Medoc, and Haut-Medoc) and right (Pomerol and St. Emilion) banks, a unique situation in the history of these wine regions. This vintage is considered one of the Great vintages because of this, and is one of the few vintages that the price has never fallen below the pre-release prices (when I bought these 2000 wines). The clear winner was the eminently drinkable Californian Cabernet despite it’s lower point assessment (90/91 compared to the Bordeaux: 93 and 94/95 ratings).

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From left: Beth & Rob Van den Berg; Chris & Elaine Rich; Jennifer & Bob Winding

We tried the Upper Rhone (Syrah only red grape allowed) 2009 Cote-Rotie La Landonne by Rene Rostaing and this was compared to an Australian Barossa Valley Shiraz that come from a vineyard initially planted in 1893, and a 1998 Hanna Sonoma Syrah.  While the Cote Rotie was the winner, it was scored at less than the Australian Shiraz (93/94 vs 95) in recent accepted tastings.  The Cote Rotie is interesting as Etienne Guigal (a Rotary tasting will be at Steve’s on University on the 27th April that will assess Guigal’s wines – wait for the call for signup) came to the region, recognized the potential of the wine, restored the reputation of these wines. In the 1940’s when the AOC was created there were only 40 hectares left in grapes, the rest having been converted to Apricot trees. The land was converted back to vineyards as the quality returned to it’s former glory and the apricot trees were removed to get the total acreage back to 210 Hectares.  The vines had been uprooted as the slopes approach 60 degrees and concrete walls and terraces need constant maintenance for tending the vines and picking the grapes.

Wine March 12 2017 BThe last wine we tried was a Chateauneuf-du-pape (CNP) which is from the southern Rhone and has mainly Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre (the GSM label made famous by Australia with their exports of this blend). Other red and white grapes provide an AOC appellation requirement minimum of six different varietals while the appellation allows at least 9 red and 6 white wines.  The ground here is different, having huge heat retention stones (galets) extending from fist sized examples to huge boulders. When Patty and I visited Ch. Beaucastel in the mid 1980’s we wondered how they could even plant the vines in those “rock fields”.

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From left: Leslie & Peter Overton; Ken Yuska; Sandy & Dana Corbett

We tried a Chateau Beaucastel Famille Perrin 2011, the most expensive wine of the tasting. Ch. Beaucastel always uses 13 grapes in their CNP.  We tried it against a 2011 Paso Robles Tablas Creek Esprit GSM with additional Cunoise, and the interesting fact is that Ch. Beaucastel (Perrin family) co-own this Paso Robles property with their US importer (Robert Haas). They found a property, stocked it with 8 vines from Ch. Beaucastel, waited out the 3 year quarantine, and now sell the Rhone wines and the Rhone vines from their USA winery. The Esprit de Tablas is the second best wine from Tablas Creek and the Famille Perrin is Beaucastel’s second best CNP, so it was a good comparison altho the wine from France would have much older vines. We also tried a GSM from Adelaida, also the same year.  All were excellent, all were well rated and there was no definite winner, just personal favorites, with no one wine getting a majority vote.

Wine March 12 2017 CThis was a great tasting and we had 5 cheeses (3 of which are pictured here) selected for these wines and chocolate covered strawberries made by Patty. These included a local Mozzarella on melba toast, with Normandy Brie also on Melba Toast.   We had Dubliner (invented by an Irish UW faculty while getting his PH.D. in Ireland – now sold by Kerrygold (but not currently banned like the butter). We had Cambozola, and Wensleydale cranberry cheese (another story of old English cheese slowly disappearing until owner of the last factory sold to the management who regenerated the business). The Mozzarella and Brie went well with the white and lighter Pinot Noir, while the other cheeses and chocolate strawberries stood up to the reds.  Overall, the tasting was great fun for everyone.

 

Wine Fellowship Event July 24

–submitted by Mike Wilson

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Twelve Madison Rotary Wine Fellowshippers met at Steve and Meryl Mixtacki’s home on Sunday, July 24, to taste summer wines each couple had brought for the group to try. Steve and Mike Wilson had additional wines so that “pairings” could be arranged with the wines brought along.

We tried two Methode Champenoise – a Gruet brut made in Albuquerque from grapes grown near Truth and Consequences in New Mexico, and a champagne -Taittinger.  Both were excellent, but the Gruet for its price (less than half of the Champagne) was the winner.

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Photo 1: John & Jane Wegenke; Photo 2: Mary & Robert Borland; Photo 3: Meryl & Steve Mixtacki

Next we tried 3 whites.  A 2014 Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc and Viognier blend, a 2012 Adam Alsation Auxerrois (Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio equivalent), and a 2014 Artesa limited release Chardonnay.  This was the flight that was most loved.  The first two wines were inexpensive, but the Artesa has only just been released by the winery and is not listed on the website but expect it to be about $40 (given the 2013 price).

The next flight was cooled Premier Cru Beaujolais, two of the lighter versions – a Chiroubles and a Regnie. After that we had an Artesa Pinot Noir and a Skouras (2012 Megas Oenas) – a Greek blend of Aghiorghitiko and Cabernet Sauvignon – and I rated them both as excellent.

We ended the evening with a Moscato (Piedmonte) that was cold, and sweet, with the typical low alcohol content (5-6% only).

A great time was had by all, and the best loved wines were the Gruet sparkler, Artesa Chardonnay, Pine Ridge (Chenin Blanc and Viognier), and Alsation Auxerrois (Pinot Gris).

“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.

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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 October 27

–submitted by Mike Wilson

From left: Mark Brant, Tracy Brant and Patty Wilson

From left: Mark Brant, Tracy Brant and Patty Wilson

The Wine Fellowship group met at Mike & Patty Wilson’s home on October 27 for the annual Mashambanzou Fundraiser.  This fundraiser has been held for the last 10 years and usually by the Wine Fellowship group, but once Dick and Noel Pearson held it at their place when the Wilson’s were not available.  In the past this has raised up to $1800/year for the Mashambanzou Care Trust (MCT), a Harare based organization in Zimbabwe.  The money is used for orphans and families in need, as a result of the AIDS epidemic. Initially the monies were used for uniforms (a requirement for elementary and high school attendance) and home assistance for these affected families and orphans, but this has graduated to continued education. The most recent monies were used to send several orphans to University/Technical Colleges.  This is a very worthy charity, a 501(c)3 registered group to which the UW Rotaract Club channels the donations that result in tax deductions for the Rotarian contributors.

wine oct 27MPictured at left, Annie Roensch (President of UW Rotaract) and Makenzi Tijerina (in charge of Rotaract fundraisers)  were present to help with the wine purchases, and started the event with a short presentation of the role of MCT and the monies previously raised by us for them to send to MCT.  These ladies will be important in the wine offering that will go to all the Madison Rotary Wine Fellowshippers – more to follow. Also, they will facilitate the IRS Tax deduction documentation/evidence for the entrance donations ($75) and donated portions of wines bought (15-25% of total cost).

Rachelle Richardson has been the driving force behind this fundraiser, and the 20 tasted wines were contributed by Purple Feet (now part of the Winebow group).  The sale of the selected wines will be through Steve’s of University Avenue, and facilitated by Wayne Crokus.  We required a retail outlet to get the sales tax registered, and they received a discount from Purple Feet, and discounted their sales price,to allow a significant portion of the wine price to be provided to the MCT.  Both the UW Rotaract Club and Steve’s liquor Store were vital to this fundraiser, and we, the Madison Rotary Wine Fellowship group, are indebted to them.

We tried Zardeto Proseco, Gruet Brut Methode Champenoise sparkling wine, and Ayala champagne (4 weeks before we tried Gruet Blanc de Noir) and all were excellent.

Next we tried three chardonnays, a Burgundy Bourgogne from Bichot, and a Melville Estates from the Santa Rita Hills CA, and Paul Hobbs from the Russian River Valley.  Again all very good.

Three wines from the 3/Three company proved the “Best Buy” wines with everyone raving about them, especially given their modest prices and their history of aging excellently.  Mike has old versions in his wine cellar.

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Photo 1: From left: Jane Wegenke, Meryl Mixtacki & Cheryl Wittke; Photo 2: Juli & Keith Baumgartner; Photo 3: Ken Yuska

We were reminded of the tasting a month before and four great red wines tasted then. Starting with an unbelievable Hey Mambo (a Sultry Red) from “The Other Guys” group in California, and a great Catena Malbec. These were two reasonably priced ($12 and $23 respectively) wines that scored the best reviews among the tasters at that event.  We also had a MollyDooker (left handed – in the land of OZ) Shiraz that continues a series of mind-boggling awards internationally for these wine growers, and a great but expensive Paul Hobbs Cabernet Sauvignon.

Meryl & Steve Mixtacki

Meryl & Steve Mixtacki

We also tried a Sardinian Cannonau (aka Grenache – Sardinia was once a Spanish colony hence the Grenacha plantings in Italy), followed by a Ripassa (a “repass” of Amarone grapes), and super Barbaresco (93 Pts).  A month ago at the Mashambanzou “pretasting” we had a very soft and beautiful Amarone (95 pts) that was loved, but the most expensive wine at these two tastings.

In all, between the event four weeks ago and last night’s event, we have tried 20 wines that are available. They all had scores between 89 and 95, with the Three 3/Three winery reds being unrated as far as I could find, but definitely “Crowd Pleaser” “Best Buys” in everyone’s opinions.

Of the tasters at last night’s event, $2200 worth of wine was purchased and this contributed between 15 and 25% of the purchase price to the MCT, and is tax deductible for the purchasers.  These were extraordinary wines that we are going to make available to all the Wine Fellowshippers for one week (more to follow soon).

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The Wilson’s provided breads and crackers, cheeses (Brie, Maytag, and Dubliner), three Italian meats, and nuts, seeds, salted caramels, and of course Patty’s chocolate covered strawberries.

A good time was had by all, and Mike made some Aperol Spritzers for some to try, Patty and Mike having just got back from the Veneto where these originated, and are seriously consumed in Venice, Verona and Lake Garda by their observation.

Recent Summer Rotary Events

Saying “Aloha” to Bruna Perez on July 24

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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

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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 invino.com 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.

Wine & Cheese Tasting Event at Fromagination July 13

–submitted by Mike Wilson

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The Wine Fellowship Group met at 7:00 PM Monday July 13 at Fromagination for a wine and cheese tasting.  This is the third Fromagination event the Wine Fellowship has held over the years.  Rotarians, with spouses and friends attended, and the 23 attendees all had a terrific experience.  Ken Monteleone of Fromagination provided his employee Steve Schaefer as the “cheesemonger” and another helper for pouring the wine, and arranged for Andrea Hillsey, sommelier owner of Square Wine Company to supply and collaborate with the wines.

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The shop was arranged with beautiful platters of cheese, crackers, dried fruit together with bread and wonderful gougeres (French cheese puffs) to complement the wonderful selection of cheeses and wines.  These gougeres have been a trademark of the Rotary Fromagination tastings.

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The “menu” was Margaine extra brut NV Champagne (100% Chardonnay) paired with Marieke Golden Gouda; a 2013 Girard Sancerre was matched with a Lombardy Quader de cavra (aged in square pinewood crates for 35 days); and a 2009 Pecina Crianza Rioja with Manchengo a sheep milk cheese from Spain’s La Mancha using Manchega sheep with the traditional herring bone rind.

Wine 21These three combinations were followed by a 2011 Hunt & Harvest Napa Cabernet Sauvignon with Bleu Mont Dairy Bandaged Cheddar cow’s milk cheese from Blue Mounds where the owner ages the cheese in real caves carved into the hillside.  This cheese is truly bandaged, and these cheeses take on the rugged appearance of the cave they were aged in.  The last pairing was a NV Quinta do Infantado Ruby Port with a cow’s milk Dunbarton Blue from Schullsburg, which is an English-style cheddar with a hint of Blue (small amount of Blue resulting from narrow piercings of the cheese for the blue, then pressing the cheese to prevent the usual proliferation of blue veining).

The descriptions of the cheeses and wines were excellent and quite different from other tastings and were immensely enjoyed by all.  Overall the wine and cheese combinations liked best by the group were the Crianza/Manchego and the Ruby Port/Dunbarton Blue combinations, but all were excellent.  It was interesting that these two wines were the least expensive of the tasting retailing at $21 and $18 respectively (the other wines averaged $32).

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The tasting ended with Ken providing a taste of Hooks 20 year aged cheddar – a real treat for us all! This cheese sold out immediately when released (two shops only) after a debut at a L’Etoile seven-course dinner for 70 people.  We got this small taste of a surprisingly creamy cheese with the calcium lactate crystals crunching like “pop rocks” in our mouths – all without having to pay the $209 per pound price.

There was lots of time for questions and answers.  Everyone had an excellent time, learned much about wine, and an awful lot about cheese. All this information provided in a most salubrious atmosphere.

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Second New Zealand Wine Tasting on June 2

–submitted by Mike Wilson

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Ten Rotarians with some of their spouses met at the Wilson’s to taste wine with a NZ influence.  This was a second NZ tasting as the first was oversubscribed. Because at least two couples (Wilson’s and Mixtacki’s as co-Chairs of the Wine Fellowship) attended both tasting’s there were changes in most of the wines selected but ~5 wines were common and the theme was nearly identical.

Mike & Carolyn Casey with Bill Montei

Mike & Carolyn Casey with Bill Montei


Mike Wilson selected thirteen wines from NZ and the world.  These included wines (wines with winemakers from both NZ and the USA – Washington and Oregon), and with a very large emphasis on Sauvignon Blanc (from NZ of course and also the Loire and California).  These SB’s  represent most NZ wine now produced (75% SB and 9% Pinot Noir).  We also tasted NZ Chardonnay and Pinot Gris which with SB and Pinot Noir makes up 94% of total wine production – an extraordinarily high percentage of the majority of NZ wine being of the four top classical varieties.  In some ways this results from NZ being a New World wine region, where there are no historical precedents of local native grapes having been  grown over the prior centuries.

Because of the early influence of Muller Thurgau (a Riesling and Chassalas hybrid) in the 1970’s when more than half the wine produced in Germany and NZ, and likely most other countries making white wines was made from this sweet, rapid growth, abundant yield grape that was the bane of classical wine drinkers (who were few and far between at the time).  I dislike this wine generally but we tried one from the heights of the Alto Adige (1000 meters) that was excellent with this minimally pink color.  It had been recommended by Pat Ducey at Steve’s University Avenue.

Steve & Meryl Mixtacki with Mike & Patty Wilson

Steve & Meryl Mixtacki with Mike & Patty Wilson

We discussed the history of wine making in NZ and the influence of the Dalmatians (from coastal Croatia) who came to dig up the Kauri tree gum, and then restarted the NZ wine industry that then prospered after the Muller Thurgau was finally dispatched.  An added wine (that the first NZ Tasting group had) was from a winemaker that came to dig gum but when that ran out, bought land in the 1930’s, and planted vines.  His wife remains the patriarch of Kumeu Vineyards (the region where wine making was reinvigorated) and his son is the winemaker and the only winemaker with a Master of Wine (~ 8 get this exam each year, and there are only 300 MW’s worldwide) making him quite unique. Jancis Robinson is a MW too.

We tried some Kim Crawford wines.  Kim is famous as being the first Virtual Winemaker of NZ (no vines and no winery) who with his marketer wife sold half of his 40,000 case output overseas to the UK.  He rapidly became winemaker of the year twice in NZ during the wine resurgence of the late 90’s and had top 100 wines in the Wine Spectator for many years from 2006 to 2010.  We discussed his sale to a Canadian Conglomerate (Vincor) in 2003 of the no longer virtual vines, winery and real estate for US$50,000,000.  There was a subsequent 2006 hostile transfer to Constellation which strictly enforced the Crawford name trademark they had purchased. The Crawford’s were no longer able to use the Crawford name, and not make/sell wine for 10 years.  Crawford now has land in Marlborough and Central Otago (the two prime NZ sites) and sells wine under the Loveblock label, with their name selection relating to the care they used in selecting and preparing the land and vines for their second wine making adventure and released their own Loveblock (not Crawford) wines recently.  We tried their latest SB and compared to their “sold” Crawford namesake wines, with their own wine naturally being the better!

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Becky Steinhoff, Cheryl Wittke, Noel Pearson and Brian Basken

Lastly we tried two Church Road wines.  The original owner of this property was Tom McDonald a second cousin of Mike Wilson.  In the early 80’s Tom told Mike some of his stories and one that when Tom made Chardonnay in the 70’s there was no market for it so he kept some for himself each year and threw (blended) the rest into the dreaded Muller Thurgau. Tom began in the wine business at the Mission Vineyards run by the Marist Brothers that happens to be the oldest continuously running winery in NZ.  Tom bought the land next door and began his own business and is widely acclaimed as the Father of the Red Wine Business in NZ.  Mike Wilson received two bottles of red wine from Tom a year or two before his demise in the 1980’s (a 1968 and 1980 Cabernet Blend) which Mike returned to the Church Road Winery museum this year when the Wilson’s and Mixtacki’s traveled to NZ.  We tried an older Chardonnay and a “Tribute to Tom” Cabernet/merlot blend and the latter was both corked and wax sealed (NZ has 99% Stelvin “screw” caps usage).

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All in all, a nice tasting with a fun learning experience for all!