By EARL WATT
• Daily Leader
From red to white, sweet to dry, wines of all varieties were on hand Tuesday at Ruffino’s during the first-ever Seward County United Way Wine Tasting fund-raiser.
A large group turned out to taste the fermented fruit provided by Rafter-J Liquor.
And there was a clear favorite — the sweet wines.
“They were the choice of the night,” Rafter-J owner Gordon Applebee said. “For non-wine drinkers, it is a good place to start. That’s where I am.”
Applebee is not a big wine drinker himself, but the event provided him the opportunity to tantalize his palette with different tastes as well. One reason some people don’t buy a bottle of wine is the risk involved with a new taste. That’s why the wine-tasting event was so popular.
“People get to try a variety of wines,” Applebee said. “Then they can decide for themselves rather than have someone suggest a wine for them.”
Host Ruffino’s also sells Ruffino-labeled wines, and the event allowed people to give the wines a sample taste.
“The Ruffino wines went over pretty well,” Applebee said. “Next time, people won’t be afraid to order a bottle off the menu.”
Host Chris Carlile opened the east wing of Ruffino’s for the event, and the crowd poured out on the patio as well.
“People were excited to see how many wines we had,” she said. “They probably never would have tried some of the wines if they didn’t come here.”
Some of the attendees were in town for the Gas Compressor Institute, and United Way Executive Director Kay Burtzloff said Liberal’s event may have sparked an idea for other agencies.
“One of the gas compressor attendees was from Tulsa, and he serves on the United Way board there,” she said. “I asked him if they did one of these, and he said, ‘We’re going to.’”
The United Way sold tickets to the event to raise money for the 28 agencies the organization serves.
“This was impressive,” Burtzloff said. “I’m thrilled with the idea and the great relationship we have with Ruffino’s. It was a great partnership.”
Burtzloff has been planning more events to raise funds since individual donors have been waning recently. While payroll deductions are still popular, the individual donations are not as strong as in the past, and that has Burtzloff planning more events to meet the need of the growing number of agencies in the community.
“I give credit to the community,” she said. “When they see a need, they develop an organization to meet that need.”
The night also provided a unique event.
“People were grateful something like this is happening in Liberal,” Applebee said.
Will the fund-raiser become an annual event?
“I certainly hope so,” Burtzloff said.