Wine With A Mission

by Stan Bliden

March 17, 1989 was a bad day for me, but it was much worse for my wife. One month after her 34th birthday we learned that she had breast cancer.

Her mom died in July 1987 of breast cancer, so a few months after our younger son was born in December 1987, she underwent her first mammogram. Her doctor told her to wait till age 40 for the mammogram, but fortunately, she did not heed his advice.

One year later, an excellent radiologist noticed a tiny change from her baseline mammogram. The diagnosis was intraductal carcinoma insitu, a very early stage cancer. Little was known about this type of cancer so the recommendations for treatments ranged from do nothing to radical mastectomy.

 It’s been a long road since that dreadful day in 1989. There have been many bumps in that road, including a reoccurrence in 1996 and numerous surgeries, but we thank our lucky stars every day. I’m happy to say that my wife is a survivor.

I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “What the hell does this have to do with wine?”

I’m glad you asked.

Back in autumn of 2002, Two Brothers Winery, a partnership between brothers Eric and Alex Bartholomaus, released their debut wine, Big Tattoo Red 2001 to raise funds for cancer research and Hospice Care in memory of their mother Liliana.

Alex, President of Billington Wine Imports, created the blend in Chile, and Eric, a tattoo artist, designed the Fleur de Lys label—after Liliana’s favorite symbol.

Fifty cents from every bottle sold was donated to Hospice of Arlington, Va. and other breast cancer research foundations. That first vintage yielded $83,010 in donations.

The project and the product line have grown over the years to include Big Tattoo White and Big Tattoo Syrah. The brothers make donations on a state-by-state basis and have convinced local distributors to contribute matching funds. All three wines sell for about $10 per bottle and are excellent values.

Fast forward to 2007 and the introduction of Two Brothers Reserve wines. These consist of a delicious, mineral packed, slightly off-dry Riesling 2006 from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer in Germany and a Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 from the Colchagua Valley in Chile that has a wonderful nose of ripe, red fruit and vanilla oak, a supple texture with soft tannins, good concentration, and a good long finish. Both the Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator awarded it 88 points. Last, but not least, in the Reserve wines is their Syrah 2005, also from Colchagua, with aromas of dark fruit and spice, followed by a soft texture and a nice finish. Alex has outdone himself with these three beauties. The label designs are distinctive and classy, and these wines retail for just $12 per bottle.

Breast cancer took my mother-in-law and one of my grandmothers. I suspect that all of us know someone who has been affected. My wife is a survivor and there are countless other survivors thanks to the great work being done by dedicated researchers throughout the world.

May 11 is Mother’s Day. I recommend buying a bottle of Big Tattoo or Two Brothers Reserve for your Mom to help support this worthy cause. If your mom’s not with us, buy a bottle for yourself and toast her. Even better, dig deeper and make a donation to your favorite cancer charity.

In my store, for every bottle of Big Tattoo or Two Brothers Reserve Wines sold in the month of May, we will match the Bartholomaus Brothers 50 cents per bottle donation. I send out a challenge to other retailers to do the same.

You can learn more about this laudable effort at:

As of this past March, Big Tattoo has raised $1,138,000 since the project began.

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