Birmingham wine tasting group celebrates 40th Anniversary.
By Jan Walsh
Photography by Beau Gustafson
No one in the Tuesday Group ever said, “We have to stop meeting like this.” And for the 40 years, since their first meeting in June 1976, this wine appreciation group has evolved their palates, friendships, and love of wine.
The Tuesday Group first met at member, William Wood’s office. Original members included C.P. Bagby, Milton Bagby, Nelson Cole, Ron Durham, David Foster, Drennen Jones, David Lawrence, Ben Mazzara, Wimberly Miree, Lee Weathers, Nick Vance, Alex Vare, and William Woods. Later it moved to Nick Vance’s office, and then to The Grapevine in Mountain Brook Village.
The group began with “blind tastings,” which remains the tasting procedure today. And while there is no record of the wines tasted at the first meeting, wines and vintages poured at the second meeting (on June 22, 1976) are most impressive: Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon 1972, Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1967, Chateau Prieure Lichine 1967, Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon Cask G-21 1969, B.V. Georges de Latour Cabernet Sauvignon "Private Reserve” 1971, and Chateau Latour 1967.
The composition of the group was somewhat fluid for the first 20 years with members coming and going for various reasons. But throughout the four decades, Wimberly Miree holds the longest membership. “The first meeting I attended was the second meeting of the Tuesday Group, and I was a very regular attendee for several years until my work schedule wouldn’t allow me to attend weekly,” he recalls. “Approximately three years later, the group moved to only two meetings per month, and I was thankful that I was allowed to return.” The group eventually changed from weekly to monthly meetings and afterwards from Tuesday to Thursday. Thus the name changed to “The Tuesday Group That Meets on Thursday,” or as they refer to it, “TTGTMOT.”
After meeting for approximately seven years at The Grapevine, the group began meeting in members’ homes on a rotating basis among the membership. They also changed the tasting procedure. But rather than the group deciding on a theme for each tasting and bringing a bottle covered in a paper bag, as had previously been the practice, this became the host’s responsibility. Going forward the host for each tasting decided the theme and provided all the wines and some hints, such as the name, producer, varietal, age, country, or appellation of each wine. Some of the hosts also revealed clues throughout the tasting such as the vintage range, number of continents or countries, possible varietals, or whether the tasting was a vertical or horizontal. But members would have to determine which wine was which.
There have been almost 40 members over the course of 40 years, with 10 now deceased whom they toast on occasion. In addition to the original members, other members over time included Mary Jo Baich, Burton Barnes, David Black, Stacy Childs, Ralph Cook, Mira Gearhart, Clark Gravlee, Glen Ireland II, Bobby Naftel, Paul Nagrodzki, Gordon Pate, Albert Shugarman, David Simonetti, Steve Woolsey, and Jerry Young. And current members include Edwin Finch, Ben Johnson, Tony Meyer, Tom Miller, Wimberly Miree, Seth Poole, Gene Price, Frank Stitt, Prince Warnock, Wendy Watts, and Charles Yeates.
Yet the tasting group is about more than just wine. Members anticipate seeing each other as much as tasting the wines that will be served. Some members were friends before joining the group, but the tasting group brought them closer together. And other friendships have developed and grown. “We have stayed good friends since our first participation, and hope our relationships continue as long as we live. Whether it’s hunting together, working together in community projects or charitable wine auctions, celebrating holiday meals jointly with all our families, traveling together, going to the symphony, and so many other things, it always seems more fun with some or all of the Tuesday Group,” Miree describes. “We rejoice with one another about our individual successes, and give support to each other when fortunes turn negative.”
Yet it was and is a love of great wine, which originally brought this group together and that ultimately anchors the group. And at member Ben Johnson’s home, on May 22, 2016, they held their ultimate tasting, to mark their 40th Anniversary Reunion. All former and current, living members were invited. All eleven current members, nine of the previous members, and 14 spouses were in attendance. Wines shared at the reunion included Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon “Martha’s Vineyard” 1974, B.V. Georges de Latour Cabernet Sauvignon "Private Reserve” 1977, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon “Stag’s Leap Vineyard” 1974, Chateau La Mission Haut Brion 1976, Chateau Montrose 1976, Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste 1990, Comte Georges de Vogue Musigny “Cuvee Vieilles Vigne” 1995, Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon "Reserve” 2008, and Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape 1989. After 40 vintages, the memories of the best bottle may differ among members. But they all agree, “Wine improves with age. The older I get, the better I like it.” -Anonymous
Published, B-Metro magazine, September 2016