One of the most important events that took place during the Opimian’s 30th Anniversary year was the inception of the Opimian Hall of Fame, as well as the induction of its first members.

It is certainly true that many Opimian members make their own important contributions. However, the original list of inductees included ten members who had made invaluable inputs of time, energy, knowledge, leadership, experience, and, in some cases, money to build and maintain the club. Without these people, and many other unsung members, the Opimian way of buying, distributing, and enjoying wine would not exist as we know it.

The initial induction ceremony took place on May 2, 2003, following the Opimian AGM in Montreal. Further induction ceremonies will be held annually. Members that were nominated for one year who are not inducted will automatically have their nominations considered again the following year.

To select the members to grace the Hall of Fame, requests for nominations are made to the membership at large.  These nominations are submitted to the Hall of Fame Committee for review.  The Committee then votes on each nominee, and presents their proposed slate of inductees to the Opimian Board of Directors for ratification.  The inductees’ names are officially announced and a ceremony is held to honour the Hall of Fame’s newest members.


Nominations are received in one of four categories; Pioneer, Service, Membership/Recruitment and Members’ Choice.  (see below for details). 

Don’t miss the opportunity to recognize and to thank a fellow Opimian for their contributions to the quality of your “Opimian life”.  Nominate a worthy Opimian today!

Interested in nominating an outstanding Opimian to the Hall of Fame?

Visit our "Downloads" page or click here for the Opimian Hall of Fame Nomination form.



Hall of Fame Commitee

Barbara Chapman(Chair).................................................................................Edmonton, AB
David White......................................................................................................Charlottetown, PEI
Rick Burdeniuk.................................................................................................Sudbury, ON
Neil McClughan.................................................................................................Regina, SK
Lois-Anne Brebner (Opimian President)..........................................................Almonte, ON
Anna Tarzia Zappia (Administrative Coordinator)............................................Montreal, QC 

Hall of Fame Categories


Longevity of membership
Originator of something new; new area, new idea, wine education, or club improvement


Long and exemplary service by area representatives, directors, “unsung” assistants, office members.


Has personally introduced multiple new members; has promoted membership, and encouraged growth

Members Choice / Activity Support

Events: regular attendance, has frequently brought guests, helps to coordinate
Tours: has taken part in many tours, helped tour guides, promotes tours to others
Wine Offerings: member who has consistently bought many different wines from many plans over time.

Nomination Eligibility

Opimian members may be nominated to the Hall of Fame providing that they meet the following qualifications;
·  The nominee is an Opimian member in good standing
·  The nominee must be out of his/her office as Area Representative or Director for at least one year


2014 Inductees

Angela Braks

Category - Service

Former Area Representative for the Kitchener/Waterloo chapter, Angela Braks was first introduced to Opimian by her father - one of the earliest members. Together, they attended events, bonded over wine and, eventually, she joined Opimian herself in 1976.

“In particular, I look back fondly on the 10 years in which Jorma and I acted as the Area Representatives,” says Angela. She remembers “helping to plan and organize a wide spectrum of engaging dinner and wine tasting events that allowed our members to enjoy the nuances of Opimian wines in many different ways.”

“I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people and winemakers through Opimian, and to be able to visit vineyards in different parts of the world.”
Dennis L. Smith

Category - Members' Choic/Activity Support

Since joining Opimian in 1978, Dennis Smith and his wife Nell have been on six Opimian wine tours, assisted in and hosted wine tasting events, brought in a number of members, including heir sons Darren and David and made many Opimian friends.

“What a great ride,” says Dennis. “I have enjoyed it all.”
Dr. Arthur May (Late)

Category - Members' Choic/Activity Support

Upon his retirement, Dr. May took up a new passion - wine. He joined Opimian in 2000 and immediately immersed himself in the total wine experience. During his membership, he attended 28 events, six tours, actively ordered wine and recruited 13 new members - many of whom accompanied him on tours and events. Opimian posthumously awarded him the Members Choice/Activity Support
award in recognition for his contribution to the promotion of Opimian during his time with us.



2013 Inductees

Barry Wylie

Category - Members' Choice

In 1976, my wife Angie and I spent six months in Dublin, Ireland followed by Christmas and New Years in Paris. These journeys ignited a passion for food, wine and travel that we have pursued ever since.  

I joined Opimian in 1979 and was soon coordinating pick up of Opimian offers for a group of friends in Oakville. Angie and I have rarely missed an Opimian event, attending every tasting whether it’s held in a church basement or a high class restaurant. We have also enjoyed many tours, travelling to Rome and northern Italy in 1982, and Rioja and Bordeaux in 1984.The guides on both tours, Juan and Eugenia Lacorte have become lifelong friends, leading to many visits to Spain and other parts of Europe.

We believe a day without wine is like a day without sunshine!

Robert Poirier

Category - Members' Choice

A few Opimian events stand out in my memory: a dinner and wine tasting in an art gallery, accompanied by the harp and cello; discovering the Montreal Racket Club; participating in the 25th Anniversary celebration with magnums of wine on the tables and fireworks on the river. We all remember the Opimian events that mark us.

Even with the wine courses and exposure to wine, I still have not developed the nose or the palate, but my tastes have refined. Opimian has evolved as well. There has been distinct improvement in the Cellar Offering document– the wine descriptions are more informative and the tasting box is the perfect tool, especially for Ginette who loves to cook with a good wine. I am proud to have contributed to the growth of Opimian.

Mitchell McLean

Category - Members' Choice

I joined Opimian in 1975. We were living in Summerside, PEI; in fact, I may have been the first member from Charlottetown. The major attraction of Opimian, for me, was the wine education and the fellowship of others with the same interest.

My wife Judith and I attend events together. In 1982, I met David and Gwyneth in Summerside at their first tasting and we have been good friends ever since. In the late 80s, we held a port tasting in our new home. Over 40 people attended. We had to keep washing glasses all evening to keep up to the many varieties of port we had that evening.

It is through my Opimian education that I have become a wine lover for life.

William (Bill) Easton

Category - Service

It all started in a men’s steam room at the local YMCA. It was 1975, the days before Google, and one could learn a lot when you asked the steam. So I inquired as to where I could get a decent wine.

“Have you heard of the Opimian Society?” The steam responded. The steam was Jim Henderson, an eventual Opimian President.

After swearing to secrecy and vowing proper behaviour, I was invited to an Opimian event called the Wine Taster of the Year (WTOY) competition, held in Winnipeg. 25 guests gathered at someone’s house with the curtains drawn. After the very stuffy WTOY contest was over, the evening turned into a marvelous experience of food, wine and conversation. We agreed to join becoming enthusiastic supporters and attendees at all Opimian events.

We became Area Representatives (then Area Secretaries) in February of 1981. Back then, I never imagined that our Opimian career would span over 36 years: first volunteering as Area Representative; then serving on the Board of Directors; followed by several years as the Chair of the Hall of Fame Committee. Through Opimian, we learned about wine and food, and made many lifelong friends all while travelling the world of wine.

2012 Inductees

Neil Miller 

Category - Members’ Choice/Activity Support

When he joined in 1981, he thought Opimian would be a great way to order quality wines at inexpensive costs. At the time, the Alberta Liquor Control Board outlets did not seem to have a huge selection of wines, once you got past the bottles of “carbonated grape juice with a cork” that seemed all the rage at the time. The opportunity to buy wines from all over the world that were not available locally was one he just could not resist. Over the past 30 years of ordering wines through Opimian he has not received a wine he did not like. Somewhere in the first two or three years of membership, he and his wife, Susan, attended their first wine-tasting dinner. That was followed by a number of dinners and wine-and-cheese events over the next few years.

Rolf Hougen 

Category - Membership/Recruitment

In 1979, Rolf became the first Yukon Opimian member. In the years before Opimian, he and his wife purchased wine, but not in large quantities. From 1976 to 1977, they lived in Grenoble, France with their six children. This area is near the great Burgundy wine region and to the south the Rhône. While the children were in school Rolf and Margaret would travel to these regions and sample wine in countless ma and pa vineyards. Their dedication to French wines was also influenced by the fact that Rolf served as Honorary Consul for France for about twenty years. In 1984 they joined the Opimian wine tour of the Bordeaux region and the Northern Rioja region of Spain. In 2006 they toured the Okanagan wine country with Opimian. In addition to Opimian, they are members of La Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin in Vancouver and the Pol Roger Champagne club.

2011 Inductees

Ronald Liteplo 

Category - Service

A past Director and Area Representative, Ronald’s experiences at Opimian has enriched his life – and elevated his wine tastes above the level of Yago! He first joined Opimian in 1978, after reading an article about this “new club” that offered a better selection of wines than he could find in Fort McMurray. His first wine, a Spanish Special Reserve from the 1961 vintage, gave him his “aha” moment about how quality wine should taste. A passive member until 1994, he stepped into the role of Area Representative until 2000 when he was elected to the Board of Directors. It was there that he worked to recreate the Fort McMurray chapter. As an Opimian member, Ronald has led and participated in tours and made friends across Canada and the world.

Pablo Machetzki

Category - Members Choice/Activity Support

A member since 1976, Pablo’s first order was a bottle of De Muller Solimar Rosado, at a mere $2.59 per bottle. From the first sip, Pablo was a dedicated member, attending events both in his chapter and nationwide, making an effort to speak with new members and help them in any way he could. His years of tasting event experience have proven valuable to the Area Representatives, who occasionally seek out his comments and advice on their next event. A retired corporate secretary, Pablo hikes, plays the guitar, volunteers as a driver for the Home Support Services in Waterloo and remains strongly committed
to Opimian and its membership. 

George Grills

Category - Members Choice/Activity Support

George’s wife Lee once sat beside an Opimian member during a trip from Toronto to Vancouver. It was then that George discovered Opimian – joining in 1981 and remaining a constant presence at events in his chapter and abroad. A close friendship developed between him and past Area Representatives, Jerry and Lorna Porter, and every Vancouver Area Representative since has known him by name. In his mind, all of Vancouver’s Area Representatives have made Opimian a great organization and reinforced wine as his favourite food group.

2010 Inductees

Paul Belyea f

Category - Service 

Recently retired as a founding member of the Hall of Fame Committee, it seems only fitting that Paul himself be inducted. A member since 1976, Paul has actively served the membership, first as New Brunswick's Area Representative from 1978-1983, then as Atlantic Director from 1984-1988, and finally as President from 1989 - 1990. He has been witness to Opimian's growth and his contributions, culminating in the creation of the Hall of Fame, are greatly appreciated.

Bruce Logan

Category - Members Choice/Activity Support

In about 1978, I first learned about the Opimian Society from an article in the Edmonton Journal. I was interested in exploring the world of wines, and in obtaining good value wines not available through the ALCB stores. I telephoned the Area Representative, Andy Johnston, received an application form, and joined the Society.

I was first introduced to wine in 1962 after I joined the University Naval Training Division at the University of Alberta. Attendance at formal mess dinners and learning naval dinner etiquette was a small part of the program, and having appropriate wine with the dinner courses inspired me to learn more about wine. This was accomplished initially by ordering Chianti with pizza at the pizzerias near the University. In about 1965, the Alberta Liquor Control Board introduced licensed lounges and dining rooms, and I could enjoy wine with a fine dinner on special occasions.

The wines of choice in those days were Beaujolais and Rieslings. During the next few years, a selection of good dinner wines became more available in the provincial liquor stores, and I often purchased dinner wines, such as Chateau Neuf de Pape and Chianti Classico, in case lots. Since 1978, I have been an active purchaser through wine offerings and I have tried to attend Opimian functions whenever possible. In September, 2006, my wife, Judi, and I went on our first Opimian wine tour, a tour of Okanagan wineries. We had a great time, meeting new friends, enjoying the tastings and the dinners, and learning about how far the Okanagan wine industry has come since the 1970s.

While attending the 2007 Romance in the Rockies function, Judi and I offered to assist our Area Representatives, Doug and Marietta Clement, in any way that we could with functions in the Grande Prairie area. In November, 2008 we hosted our first Opimian dinner, Celebrating 35 Years of Opimian. Despite a power outage during the reception, during which we all consumed additional glasses of champagne in celebration of the Opimian Society’s 35 successful years, a good time was had by all. We have since hosted a 2009 Mediterranean Delights dinner, and are planning to host a September 2010 dinner. I have enjoyed the benefits of membership in the Society for over 40 years. I am delighted to have been nominated to the Opimian Society Hall of Fame in the Members Choice/ Activity Support category.

Don Curling 

Category - Members Choice/Activity Support

Bruce and Don regularly attend events with guests and/or help coordinate on occasion. They have also taken part in tours, helping guide and promote them. Consistently ordering wine from all over the world, both inductees have taken an active interest in the Total Wine Experience.   

2009 Inductees

Roderick Phipps

Category - Members Choice/Activity Support

Rod joined Opimian in 1980 and has attended numerous Opimian events, including weekend retreats to Banff and Lake Louise. He has introduced 30+ friends to the joys of Opimian and continues to spread the word. Rod and his wife Candy have been active members for over 29 years and have enthusiastically taken part in all Opimian activities from wine ordering to tours and wine tastings. They have built wonderful relationships with members across the country.

Bruce Armstrong

Category - Membership/Recruitment

Bruce joined Opimian in 1976 and is recorded to have recruited at least 24 members. He has actively promoted Opimian in his home province of Nova Scotia and tirelessly supported his local Area Representative’s efforts by assisting at events on numerous occasions, providing insights that were both humorous and helpful. Bruce is always willing to sit with new members and make them feel at home. An admirer of Kenneth Christie and his ‘poetic brilliance’, he continues his active participation in wine offerings.

2008 Inductees 

Christopher P. Parkinson

Category – Service

Joined Opimian in 1984. Served as President between 1995 and 1998 during a period when Opimian was struggling to maintain membership benefits and innovative thinking was required.

Bertrand St. Arnaud (Late)

Category – Service

Joined Opimian in 1974. Served as Quebec Director between 1981 and 1987. Acted as liaison with all levels of  SAQ management. Was an invaluable source of information pertaining to customs brokerage and freight forwarding at a time when volumes were growing quickly and sensitivity to delivery times was spreading. Participated in Opimian tours to Europe and California.

Jerome Chomos

Category – Membership/Recruitment

Joined in 1976. Recruited 36 members. Has attended most of the events held in Saskatoon and has assisted the Area Representative in the organizing and conducting of tastings. Active participant in wine offerings. Opimian is the source of inspiration leading to spreading the good news about wine through writing and tastings for various community organizations. 

Lorna Porter

Category – Service

Joined in 1985. Worked diligently with the BCLDB to expand the number of pick up locations throughout British Columbia to better service a growing membership. Organized the first Opimian tour to the Okanagan where Opimians were the first allowed to visit Blue Mountain Winery. Renowed for the organization of the Fireworks boat cruises which included wine, dinner and the fireworks display for 245 Opimians and their guests. Acted as tour guide on several Opimian wine tours to California, Bulgaria, Israel and Egypt.

Anne Marie Smolak 

Category – Members Choice/Activity Support

Joined Opimian in 1984 in search of value and products not available through the local liquor board. She found the quality of wine she yearned for in Opimian wines and is in the top 2% of Wine Fund supporters. Active membership recruiter.  Enthusiastic supporter of Opimian activites and hopes to one day include an Opimian wine tour.

Philip E. Goodhall f

Category – Service

Joined in 1979. Area Secretary for the Calgary chapter between 1985 and 1989. Participated in Opimian tours to France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Niagara to learn about our wines and the growers so that he could pass on his new-found knowledge to his members. After his move to British Columbia his Opimian experience provided him with the background to lead tastings and judge wines at competitions. His Opimian life includes long term friends and wine education, enough for him to consider himself “almost informed about wine”.

2007 Inductees

Peter W. Bracken

Category – Members Choice/Activity Support

Member since 1980.  Peter was an active participant wine offerings and in new member recruitment.  Continues to attends Opimian events and offers assistance to the Area Representativ and continues to particpate in various Opimian activities – Futures, Opimian Select, Gourmet & Tours.

Paul J. LaBossiere

Category – Members Choice/Activity Support

Member since 1977 and continues to regularly attends Opimian events and has lent support to several Area Representatives.  Paul was aManitoba Wine Taster of the Year competitor.  Continues to be an active participant in wine offerings and all membership related activities.

C. Oryn Pritchard

Category – Members Choice/Activity Support

Member since 1979.  Oryn Introduced the joys gained through the enjoyment of wine to many new members, including his four sons. Oryn participates in Opimian Wine Tours and continues to be an avid Opimian supporter.

Nelly Acer (Late)

Category – Service

Joined Opimian office in 1974 and an Opimian member since 1975.  Nelly held position of Office Manager and later maintained working a relationship with wine suppliers and liquor boards.  Nelly served as Tour Guide on Opimian Wine Tours to Europe, as a past editor of Opimian News and served as Area Representative for Quebec French Chapter.

Donald Neville (Late)

Category – Service

Joined Opimian in 1977.  Served as Area Representative for Manitoba between 1979 and 1981 and was the driving force in its development.  Donald was proactive in marketing Opimian to non-wine drinkers and spurred the MLCC to move away from being solely a purveyor of beer and rye to providing additional products such as wine.  Donald was also credited with educating members in the Manitoba chapter, and the public in general, about the pleasant nuances of wine.

2006 Inductees

James Henderson

Category – Pioneer

Member since 1975 and served as Director in 1980 and subsequently as President in 1984.  Jim assisted in starting up Opimian chapters in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and facilitated the first meeting between Opimian and the MLCC.

Peter Hunt

Category – Pioneer

First joined Opimian in 1976 and served as Fort McMurray’s first Area Representative, boasting the highest membership per capita with 250 members. With the chapter’s best interests at heart, ensured that Fort McMurray was included on the speaking tours of such speakers as Ken Christie.  Peter is recognized by the membership as the driving force behind the chapter’s growth and success. 

Gordon Froggatt

Category – Members Choice/Activity Support

Member since 1975.  Gordon participated in activities pertaining to the Opimian Vineyard Trust and served as chairman.

Judy Rochester

Category – Service

Member since 1975.  Judy started as a typist and moved on to producing Opimian News and then Wine Tidings Magazine.  Judy became editor and subsequently publisher for Wine Tidings as well as organized tastings, was an Opimian tour guide and acted as Montreal Area Representative for seven years.  Judy served as Quebec Director for five years and acted as Chairman of the Hall of Fame Committee until 2003.  

2005 Inductees

Induction ceremonies took place on Saturday, April 30, 2005 at the Isaiah Tubbs Resort in Prince Edward County, Ontario. Of the seven Inductees, three were in attendance and the late Val O'Donovan was represented by his widow, Sheila, and family members.
Highlights included Larry Graham's new suit, Robert Humphry's heart felt acceptance speech, and the presentation of a 15th century book by Sheila O'Donovan to Black Prince Winery. The book, written as an homage to Edward the III (Father of the Black Prince), was originally a gift to King James II, a direct descendant of Edward.

The evening's festivities ended with a night cap at the bar with highlights of the previous year's induction ceremony showing in the background.

Anthony Hedge

Category - Pioneer

Member since 1974 and has served as Area Representative, Director, Vice-President and President. As Assistant General Manager for the West he established a viable network of pick-up locations after privatization. It was also he who conceived the Contingency Fund, now the central core of Opimian's financial reserve.

Larry Graham

Category - Service

Larry joined in 1989 and soon after took on the role as Halifax's Area Representative. He currently holds the record for Opimian's longest serving Area Representative, close to 13 years.

Jerry Porter

Category - Service

A member since 1985, Jerry has worked tirelessly for the Opimian cause. Jerry proudly served the Vancouver membership as Area Representative before being persuaded to join the Board of Directors, a position he held for 10 years.

Robert Humphrys

Category - Service

Bob received a gift membership in 1974 and has been an active member since that time. He served as treasurer for 6 years, a role he took very seriously, and helped establish the current head office accounting pratices.

John Holland

Category - Membership/Recruitment

John joined Opmian in 1983 and worked hard to bring Opimian to the small northern communities of the Northwest Territories.

Val O Donovan (Late)

Category - Membership/Recruitment

Val was a member since 1976, and was a moving force behind the formation of the Kitchener/Waterloo chapter. He was huge supporter to the Opimian California vineyard corp. and Opimian Vineyard Trust interests in California. At the time of his death he was the President of Black Prince Winery.

Ray Healey (Late)

Category - Member's Choice/Activity Support

Since 1976, Ray was a very active member. He consistently promoted Opimian, attended numerous tours and was an avid "winebuyer."

2004 Inductees

Anthony H. Bogert

Category - Pioneer

Tony is an amazing visionary. Apart from his pioneering efforts for Opimian, he is also the founder of the Savoy Society of Ottawa (G & S Operettas) and Opera Lyra (Grand Opera Company of Ottawa). As Opimian's first treasurer he realized the need for a financial system that recognized the difference between members' money and Opimian money, hence the creation of two funds, the General Fund and the Trust Fund. Tony was the first Opimian to work the diplomatic circuit with consuls & ambassadors of wine producing countries -this opened doors to Opimian all over the world and resulted in Opimian being able to import wines of unheard quality and value through complacent liquor boards.

Dr. Gerald Gordon (Late)

Category - Pioneer

With the start up of Opimian in 1973, the vision of the directors was to operate in Quebec and maybe the surrounding provinces and states. Good news however spread fast and within a year Gerry was talking to John Sambrook about the feasibility of opening a chapter in Nova Scotia. The attitude of the NSLC however was inconsequent. Undeterred, Gerry quietly set about recruiting frustrated wine lovers. From this nucleus emerged a sufficiently powerful force that enabled Gerry to negotiate a working relationship with the Liquor Board. By 1975 he became the first area secretary in Nova Scotia and subsequently was elected to the Board of Directors where he served for 3 years. His presentations were always immaculately prepared and usually highly entertaining, thus being proclaimed a talented thespian and wine expert. Gerry died at his desk working in his Child Psychology Clinic in Halifax in 1994. With his passing Opimian lost a wonderful pioneering supporter.

Andrea Salter (Late)

Category - Service

In the early 70's, Andrea was living in Montreal acting as president of the Jaguar Owners Association where she first met fellow JOA member, John Sambrook. It seemed a natural extension to aid in any means necessary when he started Opimian 1973. Andrea volunteered to type, stuff, carry, deliver, anything that would be helpful and proved to be a key figure in those early years. Subsequently Andrea moved to the Kitchener/Waterloo area where she quickly found herself acting as an assistant to the London chapter in the organizing of events and attracting an increasing number of members through her caring attitude. By 1983, Andrea's efforts paid off and the Kitchener/ Waterloo chapter was established. In 1991 Andrea was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer. Undaunted she organized the area representative succession in her chapter and with the help of her doctor put her disease on hold and attended the Area Representative meeting in Napa, California in November before succumbing to cancer in December of that year.

Dr. Carl Rubino

Category - Service

Carl, with his wife Gerry, were the Toronto Area Representatives for 10 years where they operated the chapter unassisted. He was subsequently voted onto the board of directors where he served for many years before acting as president for 3 years. Many creative events were organized through the years and he successfully managed the largest Opimian inventory in the country pioneering the short-term delivery concept. Carl developed the Wine Education program and all the related information. This was a significant accomplishment at a point in time when wine information and education were very difficult to find.

David Blair (Late)

Category - Membership/Recruitment

David Blair was an enthusiastic Opimian supporter in New Brunswick from 1973 until his death. He facilitated early deliveries to members by attaching his private railway car to the Ocean Limited going to Montreal from Moncton. Wines were picked up from the SAQ, loaded on the private car and were disconnected in Moncton to reach the members in New Brunswick. David quickly realized that New Brunswick was growing faster than his train service could accommodate the demand, so with the concurrence of John Sambrook, designated the wife of his public relations officer, Mary Grant, to be Opimian's first area representative east of Montreal. David meanwhile spent time with the politicians and bureaucrats in Fredericton convincing them that Opimian was "a good thing" and it should be supported, setting an example for PEI and Nova Scotia.

Frank A. Degenstein (Late)
Category - Members Choice/Activity Support

Recruited by the late and great Labby Laberge over 25 years ago, Frank has shown a thoughtful love of wine, and diverse support to all things Opimian. An avid wine connoisseur, Frank put his love where his mouth is and year after year was an annual finalist in the then National Wine Taster of the Year competition. His skills were then further used by successive area representatives to give wine tasting events, which were always well supported due to their informative and entertaining nature. Frank and his wife Lil have participated in a wine tour to France and have over their 25 years been consistent buyers of Opimian wines.

2003 Inductees

Patrick (Paddy) Stoker

Category - Members Choice/Activity Support

As one of the long-time friends of Opimian, wine and associated activities have been an important part of Paddy Stoker’s life. An Opimian since late 1973, he has been a solid supporter of the offerings, has visited many of our suppliers’ vineyards, and has even had his own experience at producing wine.

Along with a couple of friends, Paddy was involved in the Chantecler Winery based in the hotbed of wine production that is Quebec City. The group brought in drums of concentrate that they processed, bottled, and sold throughout the province. While the venture passed into history a few years after it began, Paddy does have fond memories of those years. One involved a tasting at the Windsor Hotel, complete with sawdust on the floor, bowls to spit into, and an Australian Wine Master waxing eloquently about $3 bottles of their wine. How things have changed!

Paddy has been a great traveler, especially to wine-producing areas around the globe. On one trip a number of years ago in Australia, he recalls dining under the stars with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and the Australian Brass providing the background for an evening of good food and Chardonnay at the Pokolbin Winery. He brought some of their wine home from that trip, and so was pleasantly surprised to see Pokolbin on a recent offering. It would seem that Paddy has the good taste to recognize a solid Australian Chardonnay even before it became available to Opimians.

We look forward to Paddy’s toast to Opimian once again this year at the Annual General Meeting. Cheers Paddy!

Gordon Brown

Category – Membership/Recruitment

If involvement at all levels of the club is a pre-requisite for induction to the Hall of Fame, then very few Opimians (if any!) would qualify ahead of Gordon Brown. An active member since 1974, Gordon, enthusiastically supported by his wife Sheila, has been a moving force in virtually every aspect of our club; Assistant Area Representative, hosting events, education of members and non-members in wine appreciation of wine, and continuous recruitment. He is also a serious wine taster, having made it to the finals of the Ontario Wine Taster of the Year competitions.

Perhaps the most endearing aspect of the Browns’ involvement was the informal wine events that were planned, organized, and hosted in their home over the years. At these events, members were treated to food and wine tastings that were both entertaining and educational. And Gordon never missed an opportunity to recruit new members. Some of his recruits even went on to become Area Representatives.

Gordon and Sheila have been on three Opimian wine tours, continue to support and help with local events in the Sarnia area, and spread the word about wine and the club at every opportunity. These are Opimians through and through!!

Malcolm Anderson

Category – Service

“Ode to Cherie Chardonnay”

Malcolm has been involved in many aspects of Opimian, most of his own doing, some only after some coercion. His participation in some of the more famous Opimian skits is only part of his grander contribution to the Opimian experience.

As Area Representative, and later as a Director and Opimian Secretary, Malcolm was able to give back a little to the club. He is a qualified French/English translator, and using this skill and assisted by his wife, Danielle Dubois, led a number of Opimian wine tours to France. He also gave back by doing tastings, articles for Wine Tidings, and bringing his jokes and enthusiasm for skits on the road for his stints as tour guide on Opimian tours.

Malcolm tells the story of how he came to write about wine. “ The most popular column in Wine Tidings in the early 80’s was the Tasting Notes column written by David Campbell. David was terribly busy at the time setting up his own business among other things, and asked me if I would take over the column from him. I politely refused, obviously I didn’t have enough knowledge. He then asked if I would like to be on the tasting panel, which I had no difficulty accepting. The first evening I turned up for the tasting panel, but David did not, claiming to have run off the road in a snowstorm, so I really had no choice. I had to write the column, and I went on from there.” Of course, Malcolm went on to a long and prolific history of articles for the magazine. Another example of how Opimians get started on illustrious careers!

Malcolm considers his Opimian life to have been full of rich experiences, most of which revolve around friendship and laughter, two ingredients that he considers to be essential to life, along with food, wine and good health. If it is true that we all reap the seeds we sow, then Malcolm will be harvesting good times for quite a while to come!

Margaret Nazzer

Category – Service

“Neither rain, snow, sleet, or hail can keep a dedicated Opimian from an evening feature of fine food and, more importantly, fine wine” So reads a quote from a newspaper article following a Cape Breton event hosted by Margaret and Don Nazzer on a night when blizzard conditions did not dampen the enthusiasm one bit.

This, in a nutshell, describes the Opimian life of the driving force behind Cape Breton’s chapter. It was not considered a “real” chapter in the beginning, but that didn’t stop the Nazzers from continuing to grow the membership in the area. A grand total of 3 members in 1976 grew to 12 by 1979, and to 73 by 1990. In 1990, Cape Breton received full area status, when Marg convinced GM John Sambrook that she would reach the magic minimum of 100 “soon”. All this is largely due to her tireless efforts, spirit, and fortitude, and the support she managed to garner from the loyal local membership that she had fostered. She continued as the first Area Representative until her retirement in 1999.In those years as Secretary, Marg and Don never missed a single Area Representative Meeting.

Her input was always sought after and listened to with respect and interest. She has been described as quiet, forceful, persistent, and respectful; all great qualities of a great Area Representative. She built and ran her chapter with boundless enthusiasm, bright ideas and energy, always remaining faithful to the Opimian ideal of offering members fun through wine enjoyment. Anyone who doubts that should have Marg, or one of the other attendees, tell them about the Great Gatsby Summer Picnic hosted by the Nazzers.

Margaret and Don have looked at their involvement in Opimian as a two-way street. They have helped to open up the world of wine and, in turn have felt a level of companionship that has been an important part of their lives. Now they look forward to enjoying Al Dean’s events, although we all have the feeling that they will still be tirelessly promoting the Opimian way of life, no matter what the weather.

Tom Beckett

Category – Service

Tom’s two major roles in Opimian have been as Area Representative for Newfoundland, and Assistant General Manager from 1995 to 1997.

After joining Opimian in 1976, Tom became Area Representativey for Newfoundland in 1979, serving a total of over 13 years, until 1992. Under his leadership, membership on The Rock grew from six members to 225 when he retired. In the same time period, orders through the club increased from nothing to $225,000. These increases were a direct result of Tom’s tireless efforts. He hosted more than 20 events a year to promote wine appreciation in Newfoundland, and still had the energy to speak at three to four Opimian events in other areas. All the while, he was developing his own wine knowledge through tastings, vineyard trips, and other activities. Tom has become acknowledged as an expert taster and an entertaining speaker on wines. Root stocks for vinifera vines is his specialty.

Tom continues to be an active member, assisting the local chapter with expert advice, ordering wines, and attending local events.

Sue Bogert

Category – Service

Sue’s first exposure to Opimian was stuffing new member packages with Mary Sambrook in 1973, on her dining room table at home. She stayed on through the Grey Avenue office days, and was still employed when the club moved into its present digs on Sherbrooke St.

A review of her varied duties and responsibilities indicates how involved and important her contributions have been to the growth and success of Opimian. Sue started with keeping the books for Opimian under the guidance of her then husband and Opimian Treasurer Tony Bogert. She became Office Manager in 1976, also looking after systems until 1980. In the early 80’s, after a Lamblin shipment took over a year to arrive, Sue took on the task of trying to improve future delivery cycles. She traveled a lot, liaising with liquor boards, suppliers, and shippers. Trying to work her way through the various mazes of red tape that are our federal and provincial bureaucracies, various shipping companies, and the needs of our suppliers was a monumental effort, but she persisted and came up with a system that simplified the red tape and shortened the average shipping time from 6 months to 4. It was a manual task that was tedious and prone to errors, but she soon took the next step, which was to convince the Board that if wine importation was to flourish, then advanced technology was the answer. Hence the first Opimian computer system, the Osborne 1, using Supercalc. There was probably as much computing power in that system as now powers a child’s Gameboy! Once that was upgraded to a Lotus 123, Sue had a system she could be proud of, and she set her sights on getting onto “the Net”. Let’s not forget that at this time not one of the Directors had a personal computer of their own, so getting them to invest in a web presence was no soft sell. But judging by the use that most of us make of the web now, and the benefits it has brought to the ease of processing orders and member communication for the club, it is easy to see that she was ahead of her time. In the later 80’s, Sue became the Assistant General Manager, with responsibilities in a new Opimian activity – marketing.

As you can see, Sue touched nearly all aspects of the running of Opimian , and we all are the beneficiaries of her efforts. She has always been a stalwart defender of the Opimian concept, and has contributed greatly to its success.

Labby Laberge (Late)

Category – Pioneer

We will never know how Labby first heard about Opimian. We do know that he was working as a manager at the Esso refinery in Regina when he wrote to Opimian in Montreal and bluntly stated that “the West” needed to know more about wine, and that he, Labby Laberge, was prepared to pioneer a chapter in Saskatchewan. Oh, and somebody had better come out to Regina first to show him how to do it!

That attitude epitomized the man, a committed doer and achiever. In only a matter of weeks, he had recruited dozens of members, organized two promotional events, and persuaded a reluctant Liquor Board to co-operate.

Under Labby’s guidance, Saskatchewan became the wine Mecca of the west. Yes, more people drank wine in BC, but it was mostly local plonk, made from hybrids. Regina was the place to learn about, and taste, an eclectic range of wines from around the world.

Labby was transferred to Calgary in 1978, which was the best thing that could have happened to Opimian’s fortunes in the west. He proceeded to start up an Opimian chapter in Calgary, using his Regina experience as a model, and calling upon his depth of friends and associates to help. Downtown Calgary restaurants and hotels did not want anything to do with this upstart newcomer who wanted to extol the virtues of fine wine in their dining rooms. He was forced to hold his initial events in church halls and school basements, hardly an auspicious beginning for what is now a large and vibrant chapter. The Liquor Board was skeptical at first, but based on the Saskatchewan precedent, they eventually co-operated with Opimian’s desire to be in Alberta.

Labby’s events became legendary. The only commercial establishment that would work with him was the Marlborough Inn. He had a formula: 192 members, in tables of eight, and exactly one bottle of wine per person. Speakers came, and he ran sold out events for years, ably assisted by his wife Mattie.

He served as Director on the Board for 1987 and 88, representing Western Canada. After his retirement he enjoyed going on Opimian tours, meeting many of the suppliers whose wine he had spent 15 years promoting.

Labby died in 1995, followed by his beloved Mattie in 1997. He is missed, but certainly not forgotten by Opimians who have had the great pleasure of his company.

John Challender

Category – Pioneer

How quickly we can forget! Particularly if you live in out of the way places, and move often, there might be little permanence to your impact.

This is not the case with John! Even though, as a member of the Air Force he has spent a career moving from PEI to Nova Scotia, to Toronto, Winnipeg, Comox, Victoria, and back to Comox in retirement, his impact has had a lasting effect. In every locale his Opimian profile was high, but he should be best remembered for bringing the world of wine to the wilds of PEI, and for (unofficially) literally bringing wine to Newfoundland members before Opimian officially existed there.

John first heard about Opimian on CBC radio one morning in 1975 while shaving. Mary Grant and Simon Stracey were being interviewed in neighbouring Moncton, and John realized that the world of international wine could be his in PEI with just a little bit of effort. It turned out to be a whole lot of effort, but the end result was a vibrant chapter in Summerside. This was the focus of Opimian activities until John moved to Greenwood, NS, when Charlottetown gradually became the mainstay on the island. John, meanwhile, had become an Opimian Director representing Atlantic Canada. He later went on to serve as Vice-President, and later President of Opimian for 1987 and 1988. During this tenure, he was able to travel extensively and meet Opimians in all parts of the country.

It has been said that one doesn’t need to know much about wine to be an Opimian officer, but in John’s case he made a point of raising his knowledge to a professional level, and receiving the rare recognition from Ken Christie MW of having the best wine Palate of any Director of his era. That’s a long way from the $10 gallon jugs of wine that John used to bring to the Directors BBQ on Grey Avenue!

John continues to promote Opimian at seminars and courses he leads, and in restaurants where he consults on wine lists and helps to train staff.

Fraser Blakely

Category – Pioneer

The Founders of Opimian had no idea when they started the club in 1973 that the thirst for good wine outside Quebec was largely unsatisfied. Fraser was the first to sense the potential flood of frustration awaiting in Toronto and, in fact, all points west in Canada.

Fraser was born in Prince Edward County, Ontario, grew up in Montreal, and then lived in Toronto. Those family ties, especially through the car-racing scene, alerted him to the creation of Opimian. Right away, he was urging for expansion. Fraser felt that he was well situated to pioneer a wine club in Toronto, but he was in for some frustration. Yes, people flocked to join, but the LCBO would have none of it. Their legal counsel opined that a wine club should comprise of a dozen or so people sipping LCBO wines in their living room. There were plenty of Niagara-sourced Labrusca wines on the shelf along with a dozen or so imported wines at the time – the LCBO assumed that surely was enough for everybody in Ontario!

After Fraser convinced them, in principle, to accept a private order, he stunned the LCBO by filling that order with a thousand cases. Expecting a bootleg operation, the board insisted on a name for every case. Fraser provided the names. They then said that delivery would take two years. Fraser showed them how to shorten the delivery time to six months.

Finally he held an event at the Granite Club in Toronto to introduce Opimian's own Master of Wine, taste the first shipment, and arrange for everyone to pick up their first order. When the day of the event came, he introduced K.B. Christie, and then advised everybody that there was no wine on the horizon! Fraser overcame even this debacle, persuaded members to order more wine, and led Toronto into becoming Opimian’s largest and most successful chapter. Later he served as the first Ontario Director and as Vice-President for the club.

He has continued to be an innovative force to this day. Even though he now lives in Boston, his presence and opinion are much sought after. Fraser is currently a Director of the Black Prince Winery, way back home in Prince Edward County.

Peter Keith
Category – Pioneer

Vision and bravery are probably two characteristics needed to be part of a start-up of a barely legal leap of faith called Opimian . Peter was one of five, some would say foolhardy, souls who signed jointly and severally to incorporate as a non-profit wine club in January of 1973.

The previous September, he had returned from automotive college in England, and met up with past motor racing colleagues John Sambrook and Simon Stracey at Friday’s Restaurant in Montreal. They watched Paul Henderson score the winning goal against the Russians, and in the euphoric glow of that victory plotted out how a national wine society could work. Key to the plan was Peter’s conviction that nobody in Canada knew much about wine, and that what the club needed was a wine hotshot on the ground in Europe.

Peter took on the responsibility of finding the right man for the job. Three months later, he had him. His name was Ken Christie, the youngest Master of Wine in the world, who has arguably been the single biggest influence on Opimian wine tastes.

As a member of the inaugural Opimian Board, and living in Ottawa, it was natural for Peter and his wife Randi to start a chapter in Ottawa as Area Representative. It’s a good thing that he had a large garage, for the Ottawa chapter blossomed and he had many members’ wines in storage for them to pick up. Being in Ottawa placed Peter well to communicate with the embassies of many wine-producing countries, the results of which we still benefit from today. He was also one of the first driving forces behind the idea of wine tours by Opimian. Peter was President of the club from 1976 through 1980 while continuing his chapter duties in Ottawa until moving to Calgary later in the decade.

Although Peter’s business duties have curtailed his direct Opimian activities in recent years, he remains an active recruiter for the club and one of its pioneers. In fact, though his membership card reads #7999 after a computer system reorganization, he contends that he is still member #003 Keith, Peter Keith!

Wrap Up

Do you know someone who you think should be in the Opimian Hall of Fame?

This year’s inductees to the Hall of Fame have been chosen and inducted, but we know that there are many more Opimian members who continue to put forth the effort and energy that makes us stronger each year. Opimian would like to honour those people and highlight their contributions at our annual induction ceremony.

We need your help! If you know a member who has made, or continues to make, a special contribution to the Opimian cause, we want to know about it. Contact the Opimian office in Montreal by phone, fax or e-mail for a nomination form, fill it in, find another member to second the nomination, and we’ll take it from there. Remember that if your nominee is not chosen for induction this year, the nomination will be considered again the following year.

Your involvement gives Opimian life and strength. The Hall of Fame provides you with an opportunity to honour the involvement of someone you know.