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September 25, 2007

Quit Your Whining and Drink Your Wine: The Wolverine Wine Club's Kickoff Tasting

"Save Yourself: A Semester-Long Exercise in Perspective"
By Liz Polizzi

Got called on in Evidence this week. Thinking that as a 3L I should be immune at least to the routine embarrassment caused by floundering the facts of the case, I was saddened to learn that couching the catastrophe in context did naught to relieve revenge fantasies featuring the first-row gunner who saw fit to raise her hand during the game of charades I found myself playing with the professor. Disheartened at how easily my better side was quashed by the dark forces of law school, I was in desperate need of respite – preferably involving a surreal, dreamlike landscape and lots of alcohol. Lucky for me, Friday night was the Wolverine Wine Club’s season premier tasting, a semi-formal event held at the beautiful Matthei Botanical Gardens on Dixboro Road in Ann Arbor.

Run primarily by oenophiles at the Ross School of Business, the Wolverine Wine Club is “a non-profit organization devoted to promoting the many joys of wine.” According to their website, the wine club’s membership includes mostly MBA, law, and public policy students, but any UM graduate student is invited to join.

Any trepidation I felt upon finding that the event would be a “semi-formal” was assuaged instantly upon entering the elegant venue and beholding the tastefully attired guests – whatever else might be said about business students, they certainly clean up well. The event was held in the auditorium of the botanical gardens, where floor-to-ceiling windows framed the terrace and gardens beyond. Some of the more daring revelers strolled the ambiently lit pathways through the garden, but most remained close to the hors d’oeuvres table and three wine-tasting stations.

The wine for Friday night’s event was provided by Dick Scheer of The Village Corner, a first-rate wine shop masquerading as a bodega. Situated at the corner of South University and South Forest (four short blocks east of the Law Quad), The Village Corner is home to 5,000 wines, 600 kinds of spirits, 150 labels of beer, and 350 types of cigar. It boasts the largest wine selection between New York and Chicago (take that, Cleveland!). Mr. Scheer also hosted a guided tasting at the event, in which he described the history and distinguishing qualities of each of the evening’s wines.

The wines Scheer selected for the season’s first tasting spanned the geographical globe and the world of wines, from a standard chardonnay to the less common but oft-discussed pinot noir, and introduced a few varieties that the average novice would likely overlook. The tasting began with two whites: a Sauvignon Blanc from Babich, one of New Zealand’s largest family-owned wine companies, which offers a light, dry, grapefruity flavor with hints of jalapeno pepper on the finish; and a South Australian chardonnay from Thomas Hyland, which, all told, tasted like chardonnay. Next came a French beaujolais, called Duboeuf Morgon “Flower Label,” which, according to Scheer, should not be dismissed just because beaujolais is so light and fruity that some compare it to Kool-Aid. While beaujolais might never be “serious” per se, it can still be delicious ... and this one was.

The most adventurous wine of the night, in my humble opinion, was the Gard Cuvee Viognier, an incredibly floral and fruity dry white wine made from an ancient, rare white grape that is often found blended with red Syrrah grapes, which, according to Scheer, makes for a deeper red wine. A bit of a let-down after the Viognier, the next wine, a New Zealand pinot noir called Spinyback Nelson, invoked the age-old question, “What did the guy in Sideways like so much about this stuff?” The Spinyback was a perfectly tasty pinot noir – I just can’t exactly understand why everyone who owns a set of wineglasses raves so much about this stuff. Go figure.

Finally, the evening was redeemed by yet another unique wine experience: a Sangiovese blend by Ferrari-Carano called “Siena.” Created by blending Sangiovese grapes with a little bit of Malbec and Zinfandel, and then aged in oak barrels, the result is a deep red wine with relatively light tannins (tannins create the bitter taste common in red wines).

Any of the wines featured at the tasting can be had from The Village Corner for under $15, so even if you don’t have time in your schedule to dress to the nines or frolic in gardens at night, you can recreate the wine part of the experience in the comfort of your own home. The semi-formal aspect is not expected to be repeated any time soon, but the next tasting held by the Wolverine Wine Club is scheduled for October 10 (see http://ross-wwclub.collegemailer.com for more information). In addition, The Village Corner has its own wine tastings and its own wine club – see http://www.villagecorner.com for more details.

Cost: $30 for a non-member ticket; $15 for members (and membership itself costs $45 for the whole year)
Time Commitment: 4 hours
Efficacy*: 90%
Conclusion: The Wolverine Wine Club has events almost every month, offering a great opportunity to branch out beyond the Law School community, meet new people, and learn about wine (all of which have clear professional and career-enhancing value, which we will not discuss in this column for obvious reasons). Enjoy!

* Success at transporting the law-sodden mind to a kinder, gentler place.