By Vicki Ikeogu
When Perry Sloneker joined the Rotary Club of Monticello about three years ago, the existing Rotarians had the perfect job in mind for him when it came to the annual Taste of the Towns event: coordinating the Wall of Wine.
“I’m a bit of a wine guy,” Sloneker said. “My sister was the one who actually got me into to wine. I do a lot of tastings, taken a lot of classes and I’ve gotten pretty good at pairings.”
As the resident “wine snob” of the Monticello Rotary, it made perfect sense for Sloneker to head up one of the more popular tables at the annual Taste of the Towns event.
And this year, the Wall of Wine is taking on a new, updated look and feel.
The Wall of Wine, adopted by the Rotary Club of Monticello three years ago as part of the Taste of the Towns, has participants stepping up to a large wheel with different colored slots on it. Those colored slots corresponded to a different price point of wine – between $10 and $80.
For $10, participants could spin the wheel and have a chance at winning a very expensive bottle.
“We used to have the wine bottles put inside some latticing that we borrowed from the Elk River Rotary,” Sloneker said. “And we would just have the list of wine names by different price points that people could select from.”
However, Sloneker said that method of running the system left winners wondering more about wine they won: the vintage, how to pair it and how it tasted.
This year, Sloneker has set out to help demystify the world of wine one wheel spinner at a time.
“We are changing things up,” Sloneker said.
Instead of borrowing the latticing, Sloneker and his team are placing the bottles of wine inside wooden crates. And instead of winners taking their best educated guess on what wine they should claim, Sloneker is taking his knowledge and distilling it down into easy to understand notes.
“I’m creating a wine list,” Sloneker said. “For each bottle available there will be notes on the year the wine was made, the types of grapes in the bottle and the vintage.”
And with 100-150 bottles of wine available at the newly dubbed Wheel of Wine, Sloneker has his work cut out for him over the next few weeks.
“I pick out most of the wine (that is on display),” he said. “Some of the Rotarians do donate some wine, too, within the price point parameters. But a lot of them donate cash so I can go and purchase it.”
Wines for the Wheel of Wine come from all over the world.
“In the reds, we have some from Portugal, Chile, Argentina,” Sloneker said. “We have a lot of Spanish and Italian wines and of course a whole bunch from California.”
Some of the top prizes include an $80 bottle of champagne, several $45 bottles of pinot noir and hopefully – if Sloneker can swing it – a dozen bottles of Chimney Rock Cabernet (valued around $75 a piece).
“The more expensive the wines, the more people are willing to play,” Sloneker said.
The wine wheel generates about $1,000 in revenue each year for the Rotary Club. That money is used to fund a variety of service projects across Monticello.
“A lot of people understand that their money is going towards a good cause,” Sloneker said. “And they have a chance to score a $40 or $50 bottle of wine that they wouldn’t typically buy on their own.”
Sloneker hopes the new Wheel of Wine format – and the information he will provide – will help community members learn more about a product that he has grown incredibly fond of.
“The Wheel of Wine is about giving people the opportunity to drink good wine,” he said. “And with the money being raised for a good cause, it’s a win-win for everyone.”
The Taste of the Towns event sponsored by the Rotary Club of Monticello will be held in the parking lot on the corner of Third and Walnut streets, behind Cornerstone Café on Thursday, Sept. 14. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. for this 21+ event. Tickets are $30 in advance and $40 at the door.
Vicki Ikeogu is a freelance reporter for the Monticello Times