IWAGY’s first-ever tasting event was held in April of 1980. It took place when the Club was as-yet-unnamed, and was held at the Fishkill Inn (presently Sapore Steak House in Fishkill, NY); its subject was Wines of the Hudson Valley. There were some 25-30 people in attendance, including winemakers Eric Miller (then at Benmarl winery in Marlboro, NY) and Bill Wetmore of Cascade Mountain Winery in Amenia, NY.
In June of that year, the group was named by vote of members.
In August of 1980, the tasting topic was "Picnic Wines". This was followed by September's "American Cabernet Sauvignon," October's "Dessert Wines," and November's "Sparkling Wines" (including some Champagnes).
1981 was the first full year of IWAGY tastings, with the topics of Jug and Bargain Wines, Red Bordeaux, Beaujolais & Nouveau Wines, White Burgundies and Other Chardonnays, Rosés, Gewurztraminers, American Chardonnays, Chenin Blanc (including a clam bake), Mosel Rieslings (with our first-ever guest speaker, Mort Tavel), and Chateau Esperanza Wines (from the Finger Lakes, with winemaker John Lebeck, our second guest speaker).
In our early years, the Club struggled with finding guest speakers (still a challenge today), and finding venues to hold tastings. We ran several wine tastings at private homes, and often asked attendees to bring their own wine glasses. About the middle of our first decade of existence, we were fortunate to convince the local (Wappingers Falls) restaurant Greenbaum & Gilhooley to allow us to rent their upstairs event room for many of our tastings. (Today this spot is now the restaurant “Heritage”.) In doing so we solved the problems of glassware and a central location, as the Club’s membership was then about equally split between Fishkill and Poughkeepsie areas. Eventually, around the early 1990s, the late Brian Smith was able to negotiate a deal for us with the CIA (he was then one of the CIA’s wine instructors, and a frequent guest speaker at our events). This “deal” allowed us to rent the newly-outfitted Wine Spectator Room. We continued to use this room for most of our events until the CIA changed its policy of renting rooms to outside groups around 2007. After a few attempts at finding a “new home,” we settled on the Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel. When its ownership changed its policy about allowing beverages that weren’t purchased from the Hotel (in 2021), we found several venues that have allowed us to operate “independently.” Those venues include, at present, the Poughkeepsie restaurant Farmers & Chefs, and Casa Italiana (formerly the Italian Center) in Wappingers. To accommodate our events, the Club has purchased its own glassware (see article in “More” Tab of this website, Wine News/Tidbits subsection).
Click here to see a 2020 article from the Southern Dutchess News celebrating the 40th year of the Club.
Click here to see the original IWAGY Certificate of Incorporation, dated September 11, 1980.
IWAGY History of Officer Positions [Compiled in August & September, 2022. Sources: Old hard-copy newsletters]
The Club was founded in 1980, and its officers have changed quite frequently over the intervening decades. Apparently, in the first several decades of the Club’s existence, we had election of officers in the middle of the summer rather than in the beginning of the new year as we do today. We began with the main “officer” positions of President, Secretary, Scribe, and Treasurer. Since those early days, positions have come and gone except for the fundamental need for a) someone to write and distribute the Club’s communications (Scribe), b) a person or group to handle the Club’s event calendar (President or Board of Directors), and c) someone to manage its money (Treasurer).
Here are the people who helped us through the four + decades of our effort to organize educational wine tastings for our membership.
1980-1981 Craig Ransom 1980-1981 Cliff Phillips 1980 Tim Free (informal office, not elected) 1982-1984 Tim Free 1982 Brenda Reeser 1981- 1982 Keith Weldon 1984-1986 Brenda Reeser 1983-1984 Margo Hill 1983-1984 Doug Reeser 1984-1986 Shelly Dynys 1984-1986 Tony Ippolito 1986-1987 Shelly Dynys 1986 Eileen Byrnes 1986 Doug Reeser (again) 1987-1989 Frank Turene 1987-1989 Rita Jedrziewski 1986-1988 Dan Armbrust 1989-1991 Dave Ahlgren 1989-1991 Greg Hopper 1988-1991 Mike Kistler 1991-1993 Art Lichtman 1992 Brenda Reeser/Mike Kistler 1991-1999 Bill Thornton 1993 Mike Kistler 1999-2010 Mike George 1994-2022 Art Lichtman 2010-2013 Dave Ahlgren 2014-2018 Tim Free (acting) 2023 Patrice Stabile 2018 – present Chris Umlauf
Board of Directors: This group was created in about 1987 to serve as a sort of “human backstop” for situations when officers resigned. It helped to temporarily fill roles when needed. As you’ll see in the next section, it later became more important to the functioning longevity of the Club.
1994: The Board of Directors took over the role that was formerly “President” in September 1994 [The title of this group was NOT “Executive Board”.] No one wanted all the responsibility of being President. Initially, when this happened, Board members were all past presidents, including Mike George (through 2016), Dave Ahlgren (through 2006), Art Lichtman, Frank Turene (until his passing in 2014), and Tim Free. Today the Board of Directors is composed of the following people: Chris Umlauf, Stephanie Pyrek, Tim Free, and Art Lichtman (Emeritus).
The Scribe (in concert with the event coordinators) produces the event invitations and sends them to the membership.
The Treasurer manages the Club’s finances and maintains the Club’s checkbook and bank account.
Through December 2011 (the last hard copy mailing), the invitations were called “newsletters,” a valid term for the days when there were members actively writing articles and (often) members writing tasting notes and other highlights of the previous event.
The Club began its life with the position of Secretary among its officers. The Secretary was the writer of the invitations and all the notes, articles, etc. No one does this anymore, as it involves quite a lot of work that is considered nice but “non-essential.” With few takers, we gave up seeking someone to fill this position; it was not filled after about 1998. Instead, today, event coordinators write the content for the event invitations and various members write articles that are then entered into the Club’s website, IWAGY.org.
Vice-President was a position that was created in about 1984. It was described as a “learn about how the Club functions” job; the person in this position helped the President, later the Board of Directors, to do anything that needed to be done. Over the intervening years, this position has been unfilled quite often.
The Club has recently decided to incorporate another “official” position, Club Photographer, into the organizational structure. Currently this position is filled by JoAnn Norris.
Another entity within the Club is the Advisory Committee. Its current makeup consists of Clay Morrissey (Chair), Steve Effron, Ed Hartmann and Arnie Serotsky. It was created in the 3rd decade of the Club’s existence, and helps the Board of Directors by searching for speaker candidates and venues, as well as other minor responsibilities. Its members are recruited and appointed by the Board of Directors.
Arnie Serotsky also created the Club’s website (IWAGY.org) and, with Joe DiDonato, helps to maintain it.
Although not an elected position, the Club would be helpless without event coordinators. These people, oftentimes including officers, Advisory Committee members, etc., organize ALL the details for each event. This includes contacting and securing an agreement with a guest speaker, booking a venue, writing up the salient points for the event invitation, and follow-through with the list of reservations (sometimes the Treasurer accepts reservations), managing reservations to attempt to assure that the event breaks even financially, etc. Seating is also managed by the coordinator if required. In the current era the event coordinator is also involved with planning for food to accompany the tasting, and sometimes the acquisition of the necessary wines in the necessary quantities.