Story Behind The Label

Featured in the February-March 2020 issue:

Gene Carlson • Lafayette, Indiana

I was a Weapons Mechanic with the 355th Munitions Maintenance Squadron of the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing. At that time the Wing flew the A-7D Corsair II aircraft, which was later replaced by the A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft, affectionately called “The Warthog.” In the early 90s I decided to try and put together a reunion for those who served with the 355th. The internet made it easy to create an internet group to connect with other veterans. The vast majority of our members were with the 355th when it was based at Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand during the Vietnam War, hence the “Takhli Group” name. During the Vietnam War, the 355th flew the F-105 Thunderchief aircraft pictured on the label.

I was able to organize our first reunion in September of 1998 and we held it at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. We were an informal group with other reunions following in 2001, 2003, and 2005. In 2006, we were able to join the 355th Fighter Group Association which, up until that point, was for World War II 355th veterans only. At that time we started to attend their annual reunions, and still do.

In 2018 when I realized we were coming up on the 20th anniversary of our first “Takhli Group” reunion, I just had to do something to acknowledge it. We toasted our fallen comrades at our 355th Tactical Fighter Wing memorial bench located in the Memorial Garden of the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

Featured in the June-July 2019:

Norman Malekos • Dayton Valley, Nevada

My label was inspired by my 43 years as a transmission lineman. I retired four years ago. Before I retired I started growing grapes here in the northern Nevada high desert. My label represents the transition from being a lineman to becoming a “wineman.” My last climb on a power pole was at a lineman rodeo (a skills competition that attracts some of the best lineman from all over) during a flag-raising ceremony. The label includes a photo of me on the pole, making my last climb.

The wine inside the bottle was a white blend: 50% LaCrescent, 25% Marquette, and 25% Frontenac. These were three grape varieties that were able to tolerate the cold temperatures here in the high desert of Nevada.
I have been making wine now for four years and the first year the wine was not drinkable. With that I started reading every article in WineMaker magazine twice. The second year wine was “barely” drinkable. The third year it was finally getting better and this past year I have been getting more compliments than ever on the taste of my wine. The wine press in the shadow of the label is an antique wine press that I restored and use to make my wine.

The following are all the folks involved with Last Climb Wine:

  • Vineyard owners — Norman and Diana Malekos
  • Winemakers — Norman Malekos and Ralph Lewis
  • Photos: Amy Malekos and Justin Cassinelli
  • Pictured: Noman Malekos and JB Wines
  • Label Design: Justin Cassinelli