Wines wow capacity crowd, help raise over $200k for at-risk students

For the third straight year, Another Wine Blog-curated wines wowed guests and helped raise money for Communities in Schools – Bay Area at the Sixth Annual Raise Your Glass to CIS, part of the Charity Golf Tournament at Bay Oaks Country Club. This year’s combined proceeds exceeded the organization’s “stretch goal” of $200,000 by $17,000 and bested last year’s proceeds by over $40,000!

Local sommeliers and wine educators provided technical notes and personal anecdotes as they guided the capacity-plus crowd through this year’s tasting which included wines from Limoux, France; Russian River Valley in Sonoma County California; Applegate Valley in Southern Oregon and the Valpolicella region of northern Italy.

“This year’s wine selections were tremendous,” says League City Chamber of Commerce CEO & President CEO Steve Paterson. Paterson, also known as The Cork Guy was among the group of wine professionals guiding the tasting.

Amy at Raise Your Glas to CIS 2017
Amy explains appassimento

Following last year’s format, guests enjoyed a “guided speed tasting” with each sommelier giving tables of 10 a 5-7 minute-introduction to a single wine. Guests then tasted, chatted and discussed the wine among themselves during the remainder of the 10-minute interval as sommeliers moved to the next table in the rotation. Sommeliers and educators worked in tandem with TABC-licensed pourers to help keep the event running smoothly.

The event gains more fans each year. Three years ago attendance for the wine portion of the event was around 75 people with last year at 100. This year the planned for 150 tickets sold out nearly two weeks in advance creating need for an overflow room and extra tables to accommodate the increased interest. Raise Your Glass to CIS is nearly big enough now to be a stand-alone event.

Communities in Schools CEO Peter C. Wuenschel says guests echoed Paterson’s sentiments. “We’ve been getting nothing but compliments on the wines,” he says, “Everyone loved all of them!”

In addition to the wine tasting, guests enjoy a silent auction, designer handbag silent auction, wine pull and special “Purse-onality” bags stuffed with items associated with one of the committee members. We crafted a Wine & Travel purse with things like wine books, wine journals, travel-sized cosmetics, a bottle of wine with corkscrew, foil cutter, pourer and stopper, luggage scale, designer hip flask and international electrical outlet converter all in a red Coach tote bag.

How Are Wines for Raise Your Glass to CIS Selected?

Working with Wuenschel and CIS Development Director (and event planning phenom) Hillary Gramm, each year we choose uncommon wines or wine varieties to introduce guests to lesser-known regions with names perhaps difficult-to-pronounce for the typical American wine drinker. We do this not only to share with guests some of our favorite wineries, but to help remove the mystique from varieties they might not be comfortable requesting in a local restaurant or wine shop. While there is nothing wrong with Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, we like to help guests develop a well-rounded palate that broadens their choices for pairings with a variety of cuisines. We also enjoy sharing selections from regions we have personally visited to provide additional context for the wines.

Each guest receives a tasting mat that includes details about the wine including grapes, release date, price, suggested pairings and where they might purchase the wines. We like to include at least one or two wines that are available at a local retailer or restaurant, as well as wines that are available for purchase directly from the winery.

Past selections have included Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut Cava from Penedes, Spain; Gaia Estate “Thalassitis” Assyrtiko from the Greek Island of Santorini; Eroica Riesling from Chateau Ste. Michelle in Columbia Valley, Washington; Bodegas Caro ‘Aruma’ Malbec a joint venture between Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) and the Catena family in Argentina; and Tercero 2009 Syrah – Larner Vineyard, Ballard Canyon in the Santa Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara County, the only American Viticultural Area (AVA) dedicated to Syrah.

We also chose Hugues Beaulieau Picpoul de Pinet, from the Languedoc region in France; Emiliana Natura, an unoaked Chardonnay from organically grown grapes in Casablanca Valley, Chile; Miraval Rosé Côtes de Provence, from AOC Provence, France; Schauß Monzinger Edition Walfort Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) from Germany; and Spicewood Vineyards Estate Tempranillo from Texas Hill Country as previous selections.

Wines for Raise Your Glass to CIS 2017

This year we chose some really special wines among our favorites along with those selected during a special tasting with the Communities in Schools – Bay Area staff.

Troon Vineyard Black Label Vermentino 2014Chateau-Rives Blanques – Blanquette de Limoux From the first region in France to produce sparkling we chose our favorite from the Languedoc in the South of France. True tradition first created by Benedictine Monks in the Abbey of Saint-Hilaire, Château Rives-Blanques Banquette de Limoux is 100% Mauzac, a crisp white sparker that pairs with everything from blue cheese to pop-corn and onion tarts to King Cake. We keep at least a bottle or two in the AWB “cellar” at all times. Available for purchase in Houston at French Country Wines.

2014 Troon Vineyard Black Label Vermentino – Applegate Valley, Oregon. One of our new favorite wineries, Troon Vineyards is under the direction of Craig Camp. We first tasted Troon wines in Lodi during the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference, along with some fabulous pairings from Mary Cressler and Sean Martin of Ember and Vine. The 2014 Vementino (95.5% Vementino with 4.5% Early Muscat) is a symphony of aromas: lemon blossoms, hazelnuts, gingersnaps, wild cherry and blood orange that yields a melange of elegance on the palate: marzapan, lemon tart and almond croissant, with fresh, crisp acidity yet a roundness in the mouth, with a lingering apricot finish. It reminds one of a lemon meringue pie without the hyper-sweetness. Truly an exquisite Vermentino that outshines many we have tasted from all over the world. Priced at $25, it is available directly from the winery, until someone in Houston has the good sense to start offering it on restaurant wine lists.

Pairing Suggestions: Pear Salad, Goat Cheese, Feta, Mussels, Calamari, Proscuitto-wrapped melon, Fish Tacos. Awesome in a glass all by itself!

2016 Martin Ray Winery and Vineyards Russian River Valley Rose’ of Pinot Noir Robert Larsen of the Larsen Projekt introduced us to this beauty, and we enjoyed it again at a Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery wine dinner on Saint Patrick’s Day at Pax American. We were all set to purchase these locally, but the winery graciously donated every bottle for our event! To help dispel the notion that everything pink is sweet, we love to include a dry rose in each of our tastings. The Martin Ray Rosé of Pinot Noir (100%) comes from Russian River and Green Valley vineyards. The wine is produced in the saignée method: grapes are picked ripe, crushed to a stainless steel tank and allowed to enjoy contact with the skins for 6 to 8 hours to achieve desired color and flavor extraction. Aromas and flavors of white peach, nectarine, cherry and ripe strawberries rounded out by cantaloupe and orange zest.Martin Ray Winery Rose of Pinot Noir Russian River Valley

Pairing Suggestions: Seafood Salad, Pate, Grilled Chicken, Oysters on the Half Shell, Smoked Salmon, Tuna Sashimi

Priced at $25 it is available as a limited release through the winery. Other Martin Ray wines are available at Total Wine.

2014 Troon Blue Label Estate Zinfandel, Applegate Valley, Oregon Zinfandel pairs so well with Texas brisket, but often when you say “Zinfandel” Texans think that sweet pink stuff from the Blush section at the grocery store. We’re trying to change that by acquainting them with the true red beauty, like this one from Troon. This is not the big jammy Zin associated with some hot California regions, but graceful and shapely from the benchlands of Southern Oregon. Savory, sultry, smokey with aromas of boysenberry jam and black plum. You’ll taste smokey grilled peach and blackberry flavors, elegant tannins. Think savory barbecue, wood-fired pizza and some smoked Texas brisket. YUM! Or check out some of the fabulous recipes from Oregonian and sommelier extraordinaire Mary Cressler over at Vindulge.

This one is $29, and like the Vermentino available directly from the winery. If you’re lucky enough to live in Oregon, then contact Sean and Mary of Ember and Vine to cater your Troon Wine Zinfandel pairing fiesta!

Sartori di Verona Estate Collection 2013 Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC

A beautiful expression of the quintessential Veronese wine, the Sartori di Verona Estate Collection Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC is ruby-red, and will turn more garnet with age. But why wait to drink it? The blend of 45% Corvina Veronese, 30% Corvinone 20% Rondinella and 5% Croatina (another name for Bonarda) effuses red raspberry, dried orange peel and dusty cocoa clove aromas with earthy, sultry black cherry flavors with notes of cloves and blood orange. Very balanced tannins and a cherry, cocoa finish.

Pairing Suggestions: Valpolicella is a good companion to red sauce pastas, grilled chicken and mild cheeses. I would pair it with filet mignon or perhaps slow cooked pork belly with mild seasoning.

Why Valpolicella? My visit to Sartori di Verona in January for Anteprima Amarone allowed me to taste this and some of their other wines from the region. There is a great sense of history and grace about the estate, and tasting with Andrea Sartori is always a treat! The great-grandson of Pietro Sartori who founded the winery in 1898, Andrea is President of Sartori di Verona. Sartori is a member of Banfi Vintners portfolio, who graciously donated two cases of this wine, as well as number of other wines for our charity events. Banfi wines show a great sense of place in Italy, as well as in Chile (Emiliana) and the United States.

Our auction also included a magnum of Sartori Amarone also donated by the fine folks at Banfi.

Andreas Sartori and Sartori Valpolicella Label
Andrea Sartori, President of Sartori di Verona leads international journalists through a tasting of Valpolicella wines is his library tasting room.

Tinazzi Selezione di Famiglia Valpolicella Ripasso Superior DOP 2013 (Italy, Veneto)

This wine I discovered while shopping for Sartori in our local Specs. They did not have the Ripasso or Amarone I was looking for, but Jack the wine dude, recommended the Ripasso with a hefty bottle and a not-so-hefty price. Also from Veneto, it is a blend of Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella. You’ll recall that while a Ripasso uses the same grapes as do Valpolicella and Amarone, for this wine, the winemaker enriches the flavor of the lighter Valpolicella by passing it through skins and pumice from warm Amarone and Recioto skins that have gone through appassimento (or drying process).

The Tenazzi Ripasso is a bold and jammy wine with sharp tannins that could stand up to steak, much like a California Cabernet Sauvignon or a right bank Bordeaux. It sports aromas of prunes and black cherries with hints of nutmeg and elegant balsamic. Strong tannins with a lingering finish and 14% alcohol, this wine is an excellent value at around $25.

Pairing Suggestions: The Ripasso is an excellent accompaniment to squid inked or mushroom risotto, braised short ribs or rustic red sauce pastas.

Thanks to our winery sponsors and our guest sommeliers!

Jerry Shoemake at Raise Your Glass to CIS
Jerry Shoemake introduces Martin Ray Rose’ of Pinot Noir

Raise Your Glass to CIS continues to be a success thanks to our winery sponsors, who provide us with deep discounts or donated bottles, as well as our fabulous guest sommeliers who volunteer their afternoons to present the wines to our guests. In addition to Joe and me, we had the following great guest sommeliers:

Iris Allen, is a certified Sommelier (International Sommelier Guild and Court of Master Sommeliers), founder of Urban Wineauxs and Iris by the Glass.

Larry Brett, guest writer, attorney and wine educator, Larry makes his second appearance at Raise Your Glass to CIS.

Charles Chang is a wine and beer aficionado serves as occasional guest blogger and joins us for virtual tastings.

Sandra Crittenden, FWS, WSET-3, is Certified Sommelier and Wine Location Specialist who blogs at Wine Thoughts and writes for Galveston Monthly.

Adam Folden, making his second appearance at Raise Your Glass to CIS, Adam is the food and Beverage Manager at South Shore Harbour Resort and Conference Center.

Steve Paterson. President and CEO of League City Chamber of Commerce and known as “The Cork Guy” Steve also makes his second appearance as guest sommelier for Raise Your Glass to CIS.

Jerry Shoemake, our newest contributor, Jerry has over 15 years’ experience in the wine, beer and spirits industry in both on and off premise sales.

Winery Sponsors

Thanks to our wine sponsors who provided us with deep discounts and donated wine to help keep kids in school through Communities in Schools Bay Area programs:

– Banfi Vineyards (Thanks to Joe Janish & Tim Ryan)
– French Country Wines (Thanks to Phyllis, Tim and Jean-Phillipe)
– Martin Ray Winery and Vineyards (Thanks to Robert Larsen)
– Troon Vineyards (Thanks to Craig Camp)

If you’re interested in having your wines poured at next year’s Raise Your Glass to CIS please email us at or fill out our contact form.

The WineWonkette

Raise Your Glass to CIS 2017 memories