Saturday, 13 March 2010

Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Benefit

At Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation benefit, it's reds whites and green

At a corner table inside the Staaten in West Brighton, Robert Rispoli offered visitors his homemade wines, made from imported Chilean grapes.

The 46-year-old Bay Terrace resident, who teaches the fine art of winemaking at his Vino Divino school in Charleston, noted the qualities of his vino: "No sulfates, no chemicals, all natural," he said. But no hard sell was required for attorney Tom DeVito, among others.

Winemaker Heidi Redell and wine distributor Nick Ziccardi talk about their Barefoot wine at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's annual wine tasting event at the Staaten. (Staten Island Advance / Anthony DePrimo)

The Lighthouse Hill resident sniffed the wine, took a sip, swirled it in his mouth and quickly declared: "It's very good. No aftertaste. It's smooth going down. In a word, velvety."

DeVito was one of 175 supporters who brought their wallets and palates last night to the third annual wine-tasting to benefit The Staten Island Branch of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Organizers acknowledged that the wine was a definite enticement.

"It's a very big reason the people come out," said co-chair Kathy Zazula, who noted that seven previous galas never got the crowds buzzed, so to speak, like this.

"People enjoy it and it just brings them out. They love the mingling and communicating, rather than all the ballroom stuff," added co-chair Linda Stiglitz.

Also offered were wines from the 45-year-old Barefoot Wine & Bubbly vineyard. Representative Heidi Redell offered a bevy of the California-made varietals, which she called "Fruit-Forward," bottled with stylish labels.

"We take the grapes from the vine and translate that in the bottle," she said. "There's not a lot of manipulation; they all taste like they come right off the vine and went straight into the bottle," she said.

Master of ceremonies Ed Kalegi reminded the crowd how JDRF deserves their support.

"This organization does such worthwhile and valuable work in the community... it's such a wonderful cause and it is worthwhile to the entire community to get behind something like this."

Among several young speakers describing their lives with Type 1 diabetes was Jessica Burns, 20, of Great Kills, who was diagnosed at age 13.

Now a college student, she recalled feeling as though it were the end of the world when she learned she had diabetes. But getting involved in outreach has helped enormously, she said.

"There is life beyond diagnosis. I try to tell that to people because it [diabetes] really has had an impact on me. It's no longer just a diagnosis, I am living with it and helping others," she said.

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