For nearly two decades Bill Fillmore, a 30-year city employee and current department director for Richfield Liquor Stores, has been instrumental in making sure the Richfield Rotary Club’s annual continues to be one of the largest and most successful of such events in the metro.
The tasting will be held at the Minnesota Valley Country Club in Bloomington this Friday, October 21 from 7 to 10 p.m. In addition to the more than 200 wine varietals available for tasting, Friday’s event will feature an array of chocolate and beer samples, appetizers, silent and live auctions, a raffle and live music.
Members of the rotary club who work alongside Fillmore to stage the annual event appreciate the effort he puts into each year’s tasting.
“Everyone loves Bill. He really cares about the wine events Richfield Rotary puts on,” *Richfield Rotary Club member and event co-chair Sandra Larson said. “He goes that extra mile every year to make sure it’s a success, and just amazes me.”
Larson and Fillmore have known each other since Fillmore, through his work with the Richfield Chamber of Commerce, agreed to help stage the first Richfield Rotary Club tasting 18 years ago.
“[The club was] looking for more money for scholarships, and the people I was working with [in the chamber of commerce] didn’t know too much about wine,” Fillmore said.
A member of the Richfield Chamber of Commerce for 30 years, Fillmore has twice served as the chamber’s chair and reported getting to know a number of business and civic leaders—most notably members of the rotary club—through his work there.
After hearing that the rotary wanted to put on a wine tasting, Fillmore offered up his expertise.
“I said, ‘If you have confidence in me, I’ll put something together where you’ll make a lot of money,’” he said.
He’s been involved with the annual event ever since.
Putting it all Together
In preparation for the tasting, in July Fillmore begins meeting privately with each of the vendors offering wine samples that year. He works with sales representatives to make sure tables at the tasting are staffed and an interesting selection of wines, different from the previous year’s selection, is available.
“Every year we try to mix it up,” he said.
Those in attendance at this year’s tasting can expect a wide variety, including local Minnesota wines, which Fillmore said were always a sentimental favorite. In addition to more regional offerings, attendees can expect to taste wines from traditional exporters including Spain, Italy, California and a range of South American nations.
“There’s one [vineyard] in particular—Piattelli from Argentina—that makes fabulous wines, especially their Malbec,” he said. “Whenever those are tasted people like them.”
Despite his annual contributions to the tasting, Fillmore was quick to give credit to the Richfield Rotary Club for the event’s ongoing success.
“The rotary club works hard," he said. "When they do something, they do it right."
A History in the Business
Fillmore has spent much of his working life in the wine business. Prior to his employment in Richfield, he worked at a chain of liquor stores in Chicago which required employees to gain extensive wine knowledge, an interest he continues to pursue in his current position.
Since he started working for Richfield Liquor Stores three decades ago, the business has grown tremendously. The city’s three stores had annual revenues of approximately $3 million dollars when Fillmore was hired; with a fourth location added, Richfield Liquor Stores last year grossed approximately $13 million. While Fillmore was clear that his job is to make money for the city, he appreciates the opportunity to help out a local organization.
“It’s nice to be able to do a project like this where the final outcome is such a positive and the rotary club can do their fundraising,” Fillmore said. “Along the way I’ve made a lot of new friends. I think that’s what makes Richfield thrive.”
In his spare time Fillmore likes to garden and fish. He and his wife currently spend a lot of their time traveling to see their youngest son Andrew race competitively as a long distance runner for North Dakota State University.
Editor's Note: Sandra Larson was formerly named as being the club's co-president, however she is the co-chair of the wine event. The error has been corrected.