Sunday, September 21, 2014

Wineaux: Rominger West’s new wine gives us all a lift


May 4, 2011 |

To a bicyclist, riding with a tailwind means speed, ease and exhiliration. Metaphorically, we all crave a tailwind and get it where we can — in friends and family, in work we love, in our oaks and redwoods, in good food and wine, in music and art.

So when the name “Tailwind” emerged in their conversations, Joaquin Feliciano, Stephen Nowicki and Mark West knew right away it captured just the feeling of uplift, hope and freedom they wanted to express in their new venture — a collaboration to raise money for local HIV/AIDS research and for the support of folks living with the virus.

In 2005, Joaquin did the first NorCal AIDS Challenge, a four-day charity bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The 19 riders raised $65,000 that year. At this point, the cummulative figure is close to a million.

Now there’s a ride for “the Valley” — with funds going to AIDS-related organizations in the greater Sacramento area. The event itself, which takes place this year May 12-15 and may reach 100 riders, will make a loop that begins in Folsom and, on the 15th, shoot through Davis and finish on the steps of the state Capitol in Sacramento.

Since Joaquin turns 40 this year, he resolved to raise $40,000. Looking for places to hold a fundraising event last fall, he thought of Rominger West Winery; Mark West responded with enthusiasm because of RW’s long-standing commitment to supporting the local community. And this project seemed perfect — bringing together both the Davis passion for bicylces and a great cause.

As part of that fundraiser, Joaquin asked his biking mentor and friend Stephen Nowicki, a pediatrician (best one in Davis, according to the 2011 Davis Enterprise poll) and artist, to donate a scupture for auction. Steve had moved to Davis from Florida after his honeymoon in Sonoma savoring wines. He and his wife visited Davis, and the bike paths “made my eyes well up.” And made him apply for every intern spot in the area.

Bikes, wine, Davis, art (“AIDS has effected such great loss in the artistic community”) — of course, he’d do a sculpture, he told Joaquin.

“Everyone around Joaquin stretches themselves,” Steve told me. “He pulled me outside of my box.”

The result: a scupture larger than anything Steve had ever done — nearly 5 feet long. It’s a bicycle, of course, made of scrap copper and steel. It rests on a red base shaped like the AIDS ribbon. When you touch it, it moves, seeming to float or levitate — a sign of hope, Steve thinks, for people with the virus — and for us all.

Mark admired the sculpture just from the email photos of Steve’s progress, but when he saw it “in the flesh,” he fell in love. He quickly consulted with his staff and they agreed to buy it for permanent display in the winery. And it inspired Mark to do more; what better “more” than Mark’s own expertise — making wine. A new wine. Tailwind.

On May 28, at the winery’s celebration of this year’s ride, Mark will unveil Tailwind Red, a nonvintage, easy-drinking, affordable blend of Rominger West’s red grapes — Syrah, Mouvedre, Granache and Cab. Its sibling: Tailwind White, made from Chardonnay, Sauvignon Balnc, Semillion, and Granache Blanc.

Since the blends are still works-in-progress, I haven’t yet tasted them, but I’m much looking forward to this release.

Since part of the profits goes to NorCal AIDS Cycle, I can drink and give simultaneously. Not to mention munch on some appetizers, listen to good music, order a pizza, and admire the scupture.

Listening to these three men talk so animatedly about their project, sharing our stories of how HIV/AIDS has affected the lives of so many friends, talking about the importance of the Davis community in all our lives was my own tailwind for the day. Come join the party on May 28 from noon until 5 at Rominger West Winery.

And two more local wine events in the meantime: this Saturday’s semi-annual tasting — another lovely combination of wine, art, music and food — at Putah Creek Winery from 2 to 6 p.m. and next Tuesday’s all-Pinot tasting at Monticello Seasonal Cuisine from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. I’m pouring.

While you’re waiting for Tailwind, try working your way through the Santa Julia wines on sale for $7.99 to $8.99 at the Davis Food Co-op. These are easy-drinking, lively wines from sustainable and mostly certified organic family vineyards in Argentina. All the grapes are estate-grown and hand-picked.

The owners, the Familia Zuccardi, pride themselves on ensuring “that the people who live and work on our estate get the very best care, education and remuneration for their dedication.” So far, I can vouch for the Malbec, the Bonarda and the Pinot Grigio. Serious bargains all.

— Reach Susan Leonardi at Comment on this column at



Susan Leonardi

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