A Lakewood Ranch wine dilettante uncorks three bottles of vino with the town’s wine club.
Kevin Allen | Contributor
We met in the Lakewood Ranch Town Hall parking lot on one of those sticky September nights when the heat just hangs.
Three prominent members of the Lakewood Ranch Wine Club greeted me as I stepped out of my car: Ron Magee, his wife, Maggie, and Corrine Wagner. It was then that I, an invited guest who enjoys a decent bottle of red from time to time, realized I had shown up empty-handed.
It didn’t matter, for these were the least pretentious, most amiable wine aficionados this side of Interstate 75. During my hour and a half of swilling, I came to learn this kind of laid-back hospitality is the norm for this group. The club’s mission is “to make wine fun and approachable,” not fussy and exclusive.
Ron Magee is a Vietnam War veteran and a retired Washington, D.C., engineer who recently earned his sommelier certification. Ron can be found working at Fine Wine and Tastings on Main Street a few days a week, which is ironic given that his wife, Maggie, a retired technical writer and editor, says she “dragged” him into the hobby. Their dear friend and neighbor, Boston transplant Corrine Wagner, admits she’s “new to wine.” A Coldwell Banker real estate agent by day, Wagner serves as the club’s membership coordinator on the side.
Wagner was gracious to convene a makeshift meeting on my behalf. There are 90 members on the club’s mailing list and membership is free unless you RSVP for tastings (i.e. meetings). Each meeting calls on a different member to present a bottle of his or her choosing. Gatherings are capped at around 50 people. For $30 or less, participants are invited to sample a selection of wine at various price points.
It’s a simple thing, really, a bottle of wine. But if you think about it, when consumed responsibly it can strengthen bonds, fuel conversation and accelerate the transition from acquaintance to friend. In that spirit, I sat down with this trio to talk about their club and passion for all things vino. By the end of the interview, membership was up to 92. I asked Wagner to include me and my wife on the next mailing list.
Bottle No. 1
Katherine’s Vineyard Chardonnay 2015 (Cambria Estate, Santa Maria Valley; $16.99) Notes of oak, caramel, vanilla, peach
What’s your most memorable wine moment?
Ron Magee: A long time ago, Maggie and I were traveling through the Loire Valley and we stayed in a wonderful chateau there. We went out to a restaurant that was recommended by some of the locals and had incredible food. And they brought this wine out. We had just said to the waiter, “We want a white wine and we’re at your mercy.” It was just absolutely wonderful. Now, knowing what I know now and where we were, it was probably a Sancerre or a chenin blanc. I can’t even remember the taste, just that it complemented everything else so wonderfully, and we were having such a glorious time. That was a very special wine adventure.
Maggie Magee: We were doing a wine tour of Napa and we went to the Mumm vineyard. It was wonderful because in California they did such a beautiful job with tastings. They offered beautiful vineyards and you could sit there and look over the whole valley. Of course Mumm is a champagne and I love champagne, so they offered a flight. I never thought Mumm was all that great until we went there. Now I love it.
Wagner: The last month of every year, the club invites four or five members to put forth one wine to present, and I stepped up to the plate. But I was one of the last and so most of the wines that I was familiar with were already spoken for. So, I said, “All right. I’ll do a Chianti.” And I had a lot of fun trying out various Chiantis, and we found a great Chianti for about $15. It was just amazing. And afterward, two or three of the longtime members came up to me and said, “You know, I was really dreading your Chianti, and this was a good Chianti.”
Bottle No. 2
Andre Delorme Blanc de Blancs Brut Reserve (Burgundy, France; $12.99) Aromatic and bubbly with a smooth, fruity finish
What do you love about wine?
Maggie Magee: I think wine and food are the things that make people come together. We’ve always loved to pair food and wine. And I’m learning from him mostly that certain wines go before dinner, certain reds and various wines go with certain foods. And (to Ron) what is it you always say? What grows together goes together?
Ron Magee: That’s a good general rule.
Bottle No. 3
Château Les Millaux Bordeaux 2016 (France, $11.95) Truth be told, we didn’t make it to the third bottle. It was, after all, a weeknight. And I did show up empty-handed.
What’s your desert island wine?
Katherine’s Vineyard Chardonnay.
The one we just had?
Maggie Magee: The one we just had. My favorite … so far.
Ron Magee: I would just love it if I were on my desert island …
Maggie Magee: With me, I hope.
Ron Magee: Of course. And on my desert island comes washing ashore this crate of Chateau Petrus. I don’t even care what year. They run about $3,000 a bottle.
Wagner: I love River Road Double Oaked Chardonnay. They age it in American oak and ... in French oak.
And what about the wine club keeps you coming back?
Ron Magee: It’s very welcoming and comfortable for people who are not well-versed in wine.
Corrine Wagner: I was able to prove with my Chianti that you don’t have to be an aficionado.