When I started this blog earlier this year, I told you Wine and the Rheumatologist would be about anything we wanted it to be. It merely had to have something to do with the craft of rheumatology and something to do with wine. Simple as that!
Now, I want to thank all of you have written, emailed, tweeted or pulled on my sleeve to speak with me about your stories. I have heard stories about old bottles and great bottles. I have seen offices that proudly display wine art and heard about rheumatology wine collectors, winemakers and more. In fact, this is exactly where I hoped we would be by letting the blog develop organically.
I tweeted a lot during our week in the Bay Area,and certainly there was a lot to tweet about! So many restaurants, events, wine lists and more. I enjoyed hearing from those of you who shared your experiences at ACR 2015...and if you haven't yet shared your story with me, I look forward to hearing from you.
Let me share a great wine and ACR 2105 with all of you. It epitomizes everything I think of when I wish to blend my work and my life and I owe this experience to Mike Schweitz, a noted rheumatologist from Palm Beach.
Mike is a fine clinician and wonderful guy who also happens to have burning passion about wine. Mike hosts an annual ‘wine dinner’ within ACR for a select few to which he has invited me in the past. I never have been able to join; or rather, I never made time to join and that is what I refer to as the goal of work-life balance. This year, Mike asked me again to participate and suggested I was welcome not only an enophile, but also as a wine blogger. I snapped at the chance.
On Tuesday evening, about 35 people gathered at the estimable restaurant Perbacco, each principle bringing the equivalent of 2 bottles of something memorable to drink. Over 20 wines were lined up and they included some remarkable offerings. To the wine-tasting initiated, you will appreciate a 20-bottle tasting is a formidable challenge and, accordingly, Mike told me not to consider it a ‘classic’ wine tasting event but something more similar to ‘speed dating’. This was a great analogy and boy was it ever. Each wine-bearing individual had about 2-3 minutes to explain their offering. I noted some were major collectors while others were earlier in their wine experience. Regardless, Mike treated everyone with warmth and respect. No wine snobbery at this event.
Some attendees were monoliths, bringing wine of the same type for years, continuously exploring a region. One such guest was Richard Rynes, who brought an interesting Washington state merlot from Donendei. Others brought wines with personal stories, while still others brought arcane wines and yet one other, Kevin Winthrop, brought a sangiovese rosato that he made! Regardless, there was a story for each wine which only added to the event.
Mike brought the most memorable wines in my opinion (disclosure: I am terribly biased for all wines Italian so this may represent a conflict of interest). He brought a 1996 Valentini trebbiano from Abbruzzo. Not a region known for a lot of great wine but this one is well-known and unusual. Golden in color, aging extraordinarily, we all savored it. My dear friend and wine guru Roberto Fatica from the ristorante Primo Vino in Cleveland had to remind me I drank this wine previously with him, perhaps a decade ago, while traveling in the Veneto (another story for another time) so my wine memory is not perfect.
By far, however, the wine of the night was a magnum of red called Il Caberlot, again, brought by Mike Schweitz. I had vaguely heard of this legendary wine as it is rare with extremely limited production. There are many stories about Il Caberlot, but at the root of all of them is the uniqueness of the grape identified as a natural hybrid of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. It grows in Tuscany and is produced by Bettina Schnabel Rogosky, who, with her now-deceased husband, started growing and producing this wine in the late 1980s. It only comes in magnums, hand-numbered by the Bettina. As I understand it, the allocation is somewhat capricious with some famous restaurants receiving only 1 magnum in a given year. How Mike acquired it I am uncertain, but it is a testimony to the fact that he is a wine mover and shaker indeed. While this is not the place for sharing tasting notes, I will say emphatically this wine made me very happy.
In a later interview with Mike, he shared this was the12th year of the ACR tasting event. He told me that the original plan born at the 2003 ACR meeting in Orlando was to gather together a number of friends who shared the passion for wine and to have a good time. Among those present at this original tasting included Max Hamburger, Bill Shergy, Herb Baraf, and Greg Schimizzi. They had such a wonderful time they decided to repeat it, and they now have developed a tradition of yearly memorable events. Mike says the focus of the event is not the wine itself but the gathering around wine and sharing its stories with friends and acquaintances. Over the years, they have added a few newbies who are not in the wine geek class as some of us, but merely enjoy the experience and are learning along the way. This event, my friends, is what Wine and the Rheumatologist is all about.
Lastly, while Mike and his ‘founders’ are pretty maxed out in terms of the size of this event, I am betting that there are others among you who are doing something similar. For example, I have an old friend with whom I have been dining with at this meeting for decades and the wine is just part of the joy of reconnecting.
Let me hear about your wine stories at ACR. Email me at email@example.com and follow me on Twitter @LCalabreseDO.