2020 & 2021

Looking back on the past two years, the Board of Directors recently met on January 29, 2022 and reviewed highlights of years 2020 and 2021 with respect to the society’s programs and activities during the Covid-19 Pandemic. Through the leadership of Board President Dr. Jim Gallagher in 2021, and Dr. Elizabeth Kass in 2020, we commend the contributions of the Executive Committee, Board and Members and share the following highlights with our readers:


In March 2020, severe restrictions on everyday life were imposed as a result of the novel Covid-19 pandemic. By summer 2020, the SMFW Board had suspended six, planned in-person events and pivoted to organizing a series of virtual wine education events via Zoom. These included:

  • Dutton Goldfield Winery virtual tasting in August guided by Dr. Jim Gallagher
  • Palmaz Vineyards virtual tasting in September guided by Dr. Maynard Johnston
  • Elouan Wines virtual tasting in October guided by Dr. Maynard Johnston
  • Cheese and Wine tasting in November guided by Janet Fletcher and Dr. Bob Blumberg

In lieu of the society’s 81st in-person annual dinner, a virtual tour of the Lodi AVA was held on January 23, 2021.  Led by Dr. Elizabeth Kass, it featured four Lodi winemakers. The tour logistics involved each winery contributing a sample bottle of wine that was grouped into a shipment from the St. Amant Winery to the pre-registered participants. Twenty-five households from California, Washington and Idaho (at least 50 total attendees) participated in Tour of Lodi.

In total, 130 individuals consisting of society members and their guests participated in the five, Zoom platform 2020 wine education guided tour and tasting events.  Executive Secretary Claire Keiser, Board members and wineries coordinated the advanced planning with participants.

Dr. Jim Gallagher devised a plan to add three permanent Ex-Officio members to the Executive Board: Newsletter Editor, Finance Manager and Webmaster to serve in these specialized areas.

These functions had been performed by Drs. Robert Blumberg, Jack McElroy and Elizabeth Kass.

 2020 was an active year for the society’s newsletter, led by Editor Dr. Robert Blumberg. (To view the newsletter archive, click on "Newsletters" under the History tab of this website.) Six newsletters issued from January to December featured updates from the president, wine education articles, reviews of the virtual tours, and reports from Dr. Dan Bikle and Dr. Blumberg on medical studies of alcohol use and cardiac health, cancer risk and bone mineral density.

Notably, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration authorized two emergency use Covid-19 vaccines in December 2020, signaling the possibility of a future return to in-person society events in 2021. The health and safety of members would be the primary focus for new SMFW policies.

A financial challenge for returning to in-person events at restaurants and private venues would be guaranteeing sufficient guest-participant reservations to cover the food and beverage (F & B) minimums that are typical in the industry.  Dr. Kass devised a SMFW Dinner/Event Cost Calculation budget worksheet to be used by society event planners and the Board of Directors.

On January 29, 2021, Dr. Elizabeth Kass “passed the gavel” to incoming President, Dr. James Gallagher.  Dr. Gallagher and the Board thanked Dr. Kass for her remarkable leadership of the society in the most unusual year, 2020, that was met with both challenges and opportunities.


Additions to the 2021 Executive Committee included Dr. David Schwartz, President-Elect; Maynard Johnston, Treasurer and Susan Schwartz, Secretary.  Members at large of the 2021 Board of Directors included Drs. Daniel Bikle, Marion Blumberg, Richard Geist, Mort Rivo, Brenda Shank, and Jim Seff, JD.  The full Board of Directors typically meets annually in December or January to review, advise, and confirm policy decisions made by the Executive Committee throughout the year. 

President Gallagher’s letter of thanks to Board officers, society members and donors appeared in the February 2021 Newsletter along with previews of events planned for 2021. Wine education articles written by Drs. Jim Gallagher and Bob Blumberg featured aging characteristics of older Napa Bordeaux varietals, and a review of the SMFW Taste of Lodi winemakers and varietals featured in the society’s first major virtual wine tour in January 2021.

Dr. Blumberg’s report of studies on alcohol and atrial fibrillation informed SMFW’s readership.

The Executive Committee voted unanimously in April 2021 to adopt the policy to confirm three Ex-Officio officers to serve in their organizational roles without tenure limits: Dr. Elizabeth Kass – Webmaster, Dr. Bob Blumberg – Newsletter Editor, and Dr. Jack McElroy – Finance Manager. Dr. Gallagher thanked these officers for their invaluable contributions and welcomed them to regular attendance at Board of Director and Executive Committee meetings and proceedings.

As a non-profit organization, SMFW’s Finance Manager Dr. Jack McElroy coordinates with accountant John Aaron who performs an annual financial audit and files state and federal compliance reports. Dr. McElroy reported at the April 2021 Executive Committee that the audit was effectively accomplished in January 2021.

Charitable contributions are the “lifeblood” of any non-profit organization that help to bridge the gap between membership dues, event income and operating costs. In 2021, the Executive Committee explored a variety of options to gain support for the society, including donations from members and friends, corporate giving, and the Amazon Smile program.  Dr. Kass added a DONATE link to the society’s website to facilitate ease of donation transactions.

Membership did decline by April, 2021, prompting the Executive Committee to identify new and creative ways to tell the great story of SMFW and invite new members in. While SMFW membership has historically been composed of physicians, dentists and allied health professionals, membership is open to those who share the society’s mission and goals.  Dr. Kass had added an online membership application to the SMFW website in 2018, and the society will continue to explore strategies to increase membership in the coming year.

A preliminary Covid-19 precautionary policy for SMFW in-person events was outlined, informed by CDC guidelines and requiring that all members and guests attending SMFW events be vaccinated, and that best practice public health standards at dining establishments would be observed.  This policy would be regularly revisited and updated throughout the 2021 year.

The calendar of SMFW events included:

  • A May 8, 2021 Pinot Noir virtual tasting organized by wine educator Dr. Jim Gallagher
  • A potential tour and dinner at the Poetic Moon Estate Winery (subsequently cancelled)
  • A Piperade dinner in Fall 2021, re-scheduled and organized by Dr. Elizabeth Kass
  • A French Club wine dinner to be organized by Dr. Jim Gallagher
  • The annual Cheese and Wine Tasting with food writer Janet Fletcher, organized by Dr. Bob Blumberg with assistance from Dr. Marion Blumberg and Claire Bloomberg Keiser

The April-May 2021 Newsletter featured a delightful retrospective story of the society’s founder, Leon Adams, with recollections of Drs. Bob Blumberg, Mort Rivo, and Jim Gallagher of their experiences with Adams, including a 1985 society tour that he led to France and Catalonia. Donors and new members were acknowledged and the President’s letter described the SMFW in-person event vaccination policy that would continue to follow applicable CDC guidelines.

The June Executive Committee meeting focused on confirming recent administrative procedures for: event planning and budgeting, sending e-mails on the society’s G-mail account, outreach to current and former members, and a “roll-out” of in-person events as well as budget and finance review and a proposal to offer pro-rated dues (short term) for returning members.

By July 2021, the highly contagious Delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was leading to significantly increased cases and hospitalizations, including in some vaccinated individuals. Mindful of these developments, the SMFW Executive Committee re-stated the mandatory vaccine requirement policy through all event-related communications to members.  The wearing of face masks, selection of well-ventilated venues, and capacity adjustment would be routine considerations for in-person wine tastings and dinners.

Resumption of 2021 In-Person Events, made possible by Covid-19 vaccinations, booster shots and protective measures, included an ambitious array of offerings:

  • A guided tasting at Three Sticks Wines near the Sonoma Plaza on August 24th
  • 289th Dinner at Piperade in San Francisco confirmed for September 18thusing wines purchased in 2020 and including a wine donation from Dr. Maynard Johnston
  • 290th Dinner at the French Club San Francisco on October 22nd where participants bring a wine to share
  • Annual Cheese and Wine Tasting on November 14th at the Mill Valley Community Center. Wines donated by members Dr. Norman Panting and Marshall Berol would be served at this event.

The SMFW logo and letterhead was updated through a pro-bono donation from graphic designer Ron Rick.  Susan Schwartz, Secretary, devised a series of SMFW letters to be used for donation solicitations from members, friends, in the wine industry and business sector, as well as donor acknowledgement.  This is an evolving effort that benefits from member participation.

The September-October Newsletter summarized the enjoyment that members experienced at two in-person events, along with wine notes from the Three Sticks Wines tasting (Dr. Gallagher) and Piperade Basque cuisine dinner (Dr. Blumberg), and previewed what participants could expect at the French Club dinner in October and the Cheese and Wine Tasting in November.

Reporting from the medical literature, Dr. Dan Bikle cited results from a study of the potential protective effects of moderate alcohol intake and risk of development of gestational diabetes.

The final meeting of the 2021 Executive Committee was convened on January 5, 2022 by President Jim Gallagher. The agenda included a review of concerns with the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV2, which is the virus that causes Covid-19 illness. Omicron had emerged in December 2021 and had reached a 12% positivity rate statewide, leading to California public health guidelines reinstating mask wearing indoors through February 15, 2022.  Due to this variant emergence, the committee decided to plan for the first wine dinner after February, 2022.

Dr. Gallagher presented a proposal to add an ex-officio Event Planner/Manager position to the Executive Committee in consideration of the significant skills and time required to plan and organize society events, and in consideration of the executive secretary’s limited hours since December 2020. This position was unanimously approved and Dr. Gallagher agreed to serve in this capacity beginning February, 2022.  Another ex-officio position, that of Dr. Jack McElroy Finance Manager, would assume Treasurer budget oversight in 2022.  Dr. David Schwartz would serve as President, Dr. Maynard Johnston as President-Elect and Susan Schwartz as Secretary.  Other continuing positions would be Executive Secretary, Webmaster and Newsletter Editor.  End of year budget statements would be finalized by January 31, 2022.

The society lost a dear friend in 2021, Susan Guerguy, former executive secretary.  Dr. Elizabeth Kass and Drs. Robert and Marion Blumberg arranged to establish a fund in Susan’s memory to support SMFW’s educational programs.  Society members will find additional information in the February 2022 newsletter and donation web-links on the SMFW website homepage.

Dr. Gallagher led previews and a planning discussion for several events in 2022 including:

  • The 83rd Annual Dinner at Poggio Trattoria in Sausalito on March 5, 2022
  • A virtual wine tasting in Spring, 2022
  • An in-person wine tour in Summer 2022 of the Petaluma Gap AVA
  • Planning for a wine dinner in Fall 2022
  • The annual Cheese and Wine tasting with Janet Fletcher on November 13, 2022

 The annual meeting of the Board of Directors scheduled for January 29, 2022 included members at large with the exception of Dr. Brenda Shank who had resigned from the Board for personal reasons and would be departing from the society.  Dr. Shank was recognized for her considerable contributions as former President and in helping to establish non-profit status for SMFW.  Dr. Gallagher thanked the Executive Committee and Board of Director members for their volunteer time and contributions, and passed the gavel to 2022 President, Dr. David Schwartz.  The Board reviewed a Finance Report presented by Dr. Jack McElroy and approved the addition of the four ex-officio positions to the Executive Committee.  The Board reviewed the Annual Report of Years 2020-2021 compiled by Susan Schwartz and others, and moved that the report be shared with society members, as is being delivered in this  summary.

Some interesting facts by the numbers, and other immeasurable facets of the organization:

  • By year’s end 2021, SMFW’s membership had increased slightly
  • The society’s website received 601 visits in 2021. The Contact Us, Photos and Events and Membership Application links received the most views, especially since July, 2021
  • The society’s e-mail list reaches members and event guests and food and wine societies
  • More than 100 participants attended the four in-person events in 2021 and 20 registered for the virtual wine tasting
  • More than $4,000.00 was donated by 14 individuals in 2021 – THANK YOU!
  • Hundreds of volunteer hours helped to organize meetings, newsletter issues, virtual tastings and in-person gatherings of the Society of Medical Friends of Wine in 2021 - THANK YOU!
  • We all appreciate the capable support of Claire Bloomberg Keiser, Executive Secretary
  • Most of all, the members of SMFW are the backbone of our success - THANK YOU!

Looking forward in 2022, the society is emerging from a nearly two-year altered pandemic reality and disrupted social life, of which much has been recorded in the SMFW newsletters and letters from the presidents.  In spite of unique challenges, the society has re-invented how it reaches members through virtual tours and tastings and smaller scale in-person events.  Those who have remained as Active Members through this unprecedented time period are the true Friends of this society.  Let us all take pause to celebrate these accomplishments together!

This report was submitted by Susan Schwartz, Secretary, with appreciation to the SMFW Board of Directors



281st Dinner , March 24, Piperade Restaurant, San Francisco

We really challenged Chef /Owner Gerald Hirigoyen to plan an all Sauternes dinner for us. He went all out with five courses plus amuse bouches and foie gras. Bob Blumberg, Cellar Master, planned different Sauternes for each course. It was a great success and sold out.

282nd. Dinner, June 10, Prima Restaurant, Walnut Creek

Chef/Owner Peter Chastain planned a four course Tuscan dinner and paired the wines from their wine shop. We hope to return again; everyone enjoyed it all and so did he.

Vintage Tour 2018, July 21, Carneros-Napa Valley

This was a memorable tour hosted by two veterans of the California wine world. We started in the Carneros vineyard of Frank Mahoney. He hosted us at preset tables and regaled us with so much history of wine making in the area. He was one of the first to trust planting in the cooler Carneros area. We enjoyed a box lunch on site with many wine tastings. We continued on to Beaulieu Vineyards to enjoy the historical aspects of the vineyard and appreciated a special tour. The third stop was at Amuse Bouche Gallery and Tasting Room in downtown Napa where Dick Peterson (author of Winemaker and member) hosted us and continued the theme of the local history of wine. We were truly honored to be in the company of these amazing pioneers of quality wines in our area. They are so passionate about what they do and generous in sharing their knowledge and stories.

283rd. Dinner. September 21, French Club

The French Club has become a favorite annual event and we repeated the previous successful event of bringing your own vintage French bottles (red or white) to accompany all five courses. This plan really encourages the mingling of members and the fun of tastings each other’s favorite bottles.

Cheese and Wine Tasting, November 4, Watergate Emeryville

This was our eighth annual event with Janet Fletcher and the theme was “The World of Cheddars”. The Blumbergs selected 7 different world wines to pair with the 7 world cheddars and created interesting discussions on the various favorites.

80th. Anniversary Gala Dinner, Mark Hopkins, January 20, 2019

This anniversary was quite an achievement having only missed a year during WW11. Dr. Michael Caplan arranged a string trio to play during the reception hour and acted as Food Chairperson. Dr. Dan Bikle chose all the French wines which were enjoyed by all. The Mark Hopkins did a beautiful job serving fresh Crab Chowder and Wagyu Short Rib among the highlights. Another highlight of the evening was having Esther Mobley, San Francisco Chronicle Wine Critic/Reviewer, speak about the history and future of California Wine. Susan Guerguy, Executive Secretary, was presented a life membership and museum edition of a vase upon her retirement after 16 years on the job. She was most grateful for the gifts and looks forward to staying in touch.


277th. Dinner, March 25, Piperade Restaurant, San Francisco
It is always a pleasure to return to Piperade and have Chef/Owner Gerald Hirigoyen plan a special five course menu for us. We concentrated on his Basque favorites and the wine chairs Susan Anacker and Jack McElroy enjoyed tasting many Basque and Spanish wines to pair with the menu. Everyone enjoyed it and we sold out.

278th. Dinner, June 19, French Club
The French Club has become the annual favorite location. The theme this year was Burgundies and Larry Dennen M.D. took charge to choose various appellation pairings. Mel Knox, Barrel Importer, gave a very inormative talk on “Oak Barrels and the Taste of Wine”. You will find the transcript in the June Newsletter on our website.

Vintage Tour 2018, July 15, Anderson Valley
The vintage tour digressed somewhat from wine to also include cheese. We toured the new PennyRoyal Goat Farm in Booneville and were sereved a delicious lunch on the terrace. PennyRoyal is connected to Navarro and also make their own wines. We continued up the road to tour Navarro which has been a favorite with SMFW for a long time. The tour was followed by a tasting and in the heat many members enjoyed their new bottles of their chilled grape juice. Family style dinner in the patio of Pizza Diavola in Geyserville was generous and delicious before heading back to the Bay Area in the bus.

Cheese and Wine Tasting, August 6, Watergate, Emeryville
This year, Janet Fletcher created a very interesting theme “Us versus Them”. She paired a domestic with a European similar type, i.e. triple cream, alpine, blue and camembert type. Bob Blumberg, Cellar Master, in turn paired two sparkling wines, two Chardonnays, two red Burgundies and two Ports.

Kenefick Ranch Luncheon, August 26, Calistoga
We finally found a date this year to accept Thomas Kenefick M.D. (past president) and owner of Kenefick Ranch Winery in Calistoga invitation to a non hosted luncheon and tasting on his beautiful Calistoga property. Lunch and Wines were enjoyed by all albeit the temperature hitting over 100F.

279th. Dinner, October 22, Piazza d’Angelo, Mill Valley
Dan Bikle M.D. PhD. of Mill Valley planned an excellent Italian dinner on the patio of Pizza d’Angelo. Members enjoyed a five course dinner paired with interesting wines and thanks to the Boothes and Brunello 2007. It was a pleasure to work with the owners and we hope to return.

79TH. Annual Anniversary Dinner, January 21, Nikko Hotel San Francisco
We were happy to return to the Nikko this year since their remodel. Fiona Donald M.D. our wine chair, concentrated on supporting Napa and Sonoma wineries that had been affected by the October fires. She included Domaine Carneros, Stag’s Leap, Gundlach Bundschu, Chateau St. Jean and Topaz. The wines paired beautifully with the Salmon Tartare and Fillet Mignon menu. Bob Blumberg M.D. gave very informative talk on “To Cellar and not to Cellar that is the Question”.


273rd. Luncheon, March 20, Waterbar Restaurant, San Francisco
This was the Society’s first experiment in switching Saturday dinners to a Sunday luncheon. We started of with Delamotte Champagne and oysters on the terrace overlooking the Bay and Bridge.
In keeping with Waterbar’s reputation for seafood a lobster bisque started us off, followed by pan seared Black Cod. We tasted a Roland Lavantureux Chablis, a Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc and a Shafer reserve Chardonnay. The food and wines overlooking the Bay was a very special event.

274th. Dinner, June 10, French Club, San Francisco
Meeting at the French Club has become an annual event for SMFW. The candlelit long table and food and service is always a treat and very popular with all of our members. The theme this year was “Share the Table, Share your Bottle”. Everyone brought their favorite white Burgundy or favorite vintage red Bordeaux which created great comparisons and discussions. All of these wines paired well with the club’s five course dinner. Our legal counsel and Dr. Blumberg announced the progress of changing
“The Society of Medical Friends of Wine’s” non-profit status to a 501 C 3. thank you to all involved for their work and effort to make this happen.

Wine and Cheese Tasting, August 7th. Watergate, Emeryville
Janet Fletcher took us on a tour of “West of the Rockies” this year. Our cellar master, Bob Blumberg M.D. took us on a tour of the western states, Washington, Oregon and California to pair with the cheeses. These events always create interesting discussions of favorite cheeses and wines and Janet
Fletcher never fails to find interesting and often hard to find items on the market and is very educational.

275th. Dinner, October 22nd. Uncle Yu’s, Lafayette Ca.
Uncle Yu’s created a unique eight course banquet. The food was outstanding. But, the main challenge was the wine pairing. Our Alsatian specialist, Dr. Larry Dennen rose to the occasion by selecting nine different varietals all from this region. Needless to say the service staff were busy changing glasses.
Our very own member, Dr. Richard Peterson, spoke about his winemaking life, which he has written about in detail in his recently published “The Winemaker”. It is a must read of any wine enthusiast and especially those who have witnessed the development of the quality of California wine.

78th. Annual Anniversary Dinner, January 21st. 2017, Trader Vic’s Emeryville
Members were excited to celebrate its 78th. Anniversary. SMFW is the oldest wine society in the country. We met at Trader Vic’s, Emeryville and since we found ourselves during the Chinese new year festivities, the dragons helped us celebrate. Members socialized over Bubbles and Appetizers overlooking San Francisco Bay. Frances Dinkelspiel, author and reporter spoke to us about the early history of wine making in California and reminded us that Fr. Junipero Serra was most likely the first winemaker, planting Mission grapes to make sacramental wine. We were especially interested in her recent book, “Tangled Vines” which highlights many winemakers and winery owners who lost their wine in the 2005 Vallejo fire thanks to Mark Anderson now in jail.


269th. Dinner March 29. Bluestem Brasserie, San Francisco
Bluestem was a new venue for SMFW. Everyone enjoyed this American Brasserie.
Foie Gras is back and was perfectly prepared. Our hosts, the owners, Stacy and Jed spoke on the issues of running restaurants in San Francisco today so that we could appreciate the costs involved. The food was complemented with all California wines.
270th . Dinner May 29th. French Club, San Francisco
The French Club is another of SMFW’s favorite locations. Chef Leon Balbastre served up a traditionally classic French Menu and our host Tom Paige chose his favorite roasted Pheasant with Wild Mushrooms. Thank you Larry Dennen for choosing many of your finest Burgundies and speaking on Burgundy Trends.

Wine and Cheese Tasting, August 9th. Watergate, Emeryville
Janet Fletcher took us to Switzerland this year figuratively speaking. After France, Italy, Spain and N. California in the past four years we enjoyed 7 unique Swiss cheeses this year. Hard, blue, creams, cow, sheep and goat selections. Thank you Andres Anacker for taking up the challenge of finding Swiss wines to match. It turns out that the Swiss sell enough of its best wines in Switzerland that it is hard to find the good ones over here.

Vintage Tour 2015, September 20th. Napa Valley
Art-Bubbles- Lobster feed in the Vineyards
Members enjoyed a very diverse tour to Napa. We started at HESS Family Vineyards savoring their wines after a very interesting docent led tour of their art gallery. We then picnicked under the redwoods in Yountville part, it was fun though we had to battle 100 degrees and observe the earliest start of harvest ever. Mumm-Napa bubbles welcomed us on the Oak Terrace and a tour of their art gallery and collection of Ansel Adams. The gallery was a cooler respite. Our last stop was to Whitehall Lane Winery to enjoy a tour and tasting followed by a fantastic spread of fresh Maine Lobster. A true clambake format and sitting in the vineyards watching the sun set over Napa Valley!!

271st. Dinner October 17th. Piperade, San Francisco
Piperade was another new location for SMFW. Mark Rosenberg and Bob Blumberg planned a delicious dinner with Chef/Owner Gerald Hirigoyen. In keeping with the Spanish and Basque theme, Bob Blumberg presented a very educational tasting on Sherry. Bob explained illustated the differences between Fino, Amontillado and Oloroso
Sherries. Chef Hirigoyen served a mostly Basque five course delicious dinner.

77th. Annual Anniversary, January 23rd. 2016, Nikko Golden Gate Room
SMFW returned to the Nikko to celebrate the 77th. Gala Dinner. We were thrilled to welcome Maureen Downey, DWS CWE as speaker. Ms. Downey is a world expert on Wine Fraud and spoke very eloquently on the process of examining suspect bottles.
Thank you Colin Reed for choosing an interesting selection of Rhône Wines. Another highlight of the evening was Bob Blumberg’s “Mystery Wine Tasting” in keeping with the speaker’s topic. Each table had to guess whether their vintage bottle of Bordeaux was true or false. This created a very interesting discussion and we are proud of our members’ palettes.

SMFW Text Years in Review Page.pdf SMFW Text Years in Review Page.pdf
Size : 128.187 Kb
Type : pdf

Copyright Society of Medical Friends of Wine