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Wine for Packers Fans
When he's not on the field, Charles Woodson is all about the wine.

This is definitely done in his off time, but you should know that Green Bay Packers cornerback and safety Charles Woodson’s other engagement has everything to do with wine. And, as the Packers first game of the season on Sunday is against a team close to the mother lode of U.S. wine production, it’s especially fitting.

As the story goes, Woodson developed a love affair with Napa while playing for the Oakland Raiders from 1998 to 2005. The first vintage release from TwentyFour Wines, which fans know as his jersey number for the Oakland team, was in 2001. Included in the portfolio now are two wines: Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, both made by Rick Ruiz, a former winemaker for Robert Mondavi Winery. Ten bucks from every bottle sold goes to CS Mott Children’s Hospital & Von Voightlander Women’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Mich.

In Milwaukee, give TwentyFour Wines a test drive at restaurants including Bacchus, Capital Grille Restaurant, Ryan Braun’s Graffito, Ward’s House of Prime and Distil Restaurant, and play around with pairings. Or, pick up an autographed bottle at Vino 100 Milwaukee in the Third Ward where, says owner Paul Monigal. As a member of the shop’s wine club, Woodson “actually stores his wine at our place, in his own locker.”

Have you heard about The Bartolotta Restaurants’ latest restaurant? Joey Gerard’s opened on Aug. 31 on Broad Street in historic downtown Greendale. (The Mequon location opens any day now.) Any time a new restaurant opens I like to skip past the food to the wines (What’s the wine list’s geographic focus? Price points? Deals?). Fifty bottles on the list cost under $50 each – all the time, not just during happy-hour specials. If you dine out a lot and like to order a glass, or bottle, of wine with your meal you know this is a pretty sweet deal. Now, in terms of what you’ll eat with the wine, keep these two words in mind: supper club. That’s the focus of the menu, with oysters Rockefeller, Waldorf salad and beef Wellington just three of your options.

Thief Wine’s Fall Grand Tasting is autumn’s must-not-miss event in this city if you’re a wine lover. This year it’s on Sept. 15. At the walk-around tasting in the upstairs level of Milwaukee Public Market, 145 wines will be poured, most in the $15-$50 price range. Phil Bilodeau, co-owner of Thief Wine, aims to offer “artisanal, high-value, terroir-driven selections from around the world.” Pay $60 for general admission and the chance to try those 150 wines or spring for a $95 ticket that grants access to the Reserve Level (limited to 75 people, this is where an additional 25 wines – all higher-end and $50-plus – are poured). Reserve-Level attendees can arrive at 3:30 p.m. for a two-hour joy ride with the higher-end wines. Otherwise, the event starts at 5:45 p.m. and lasts until 8 p.m. for everyone else. Everybody gets cheese, crackers, bread and fruit with their admission. To snag a ticket call either Thief location (Milwaukee Public Market, 414-277-7707; or Shorewood, 414-906-1906). Still need more info to decide? Check out the website for a list of the confirmed wines. But don’t mull this over for too long. Only 175 tickets are available.

Washington’s Rieslings continue to boast good value and excellent mouth feel. 2011 Cupcake Vineyards Riesling (Mosel Valley, Germany, $14) is no exception. From the pretty blue bottle comes a jasmine and honeydew nose followed by confident honeysuckle notes that wrap up in a finish ripe with zesty lemon and a tad creamy. Neither acidic nor concentrated, it’s a complex and intriguing Riesling to stock up on (did I mention a bottle costs under-$15?). This is the perfect white to start pairing with early-autumn foods like tomato-rich salads (the acid is enough to stand up to Riesling) or even a slice of apple pie (the fruit balance in each is en par). (www.cupcakevineyard.com)

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