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Mary Anne and John Enjoying Local Wine at an Orthopaedic Meeting in Crete

Reds, Whites, and Blues

by Rich Wilhelm

As an expert wine taster who also happens to be a blues harmonica player, John Disegi is well acquainted with the reds and the whites, as well as the blues.

Disegi’s introduction to wine tasting is proof that a single good idea can sometimes be the catalyst for a lifetime of memorable moments spent with friends. In 1974, Disegi, a 2003 ASTM Award of Merit recipient, began work in the R & D department at Carpenter Technology in Reading, Pa. Around 1978 he was asked to join a new wine tasting club that some of his colleagues had formed. Although Disegi knew next to nothing about wine, the club sounded like fun, so he became a member. While Disegi left Carpenter in 1986 and joined Synthes (USA) in their Product Development Department (now in West Chester, Pa.) he continued to meet with the wine tasting club.

It is now almost 30 years since the club’s inception and nearly all of the original members and their spouses have been meeting once a month (except during the summer) ever since.

It can safely be said that Disegi, who is a longtime member of ASTM Committee F04 on Medical and Surgical Materials and Devices and was chairman of Subcommittee F04.12 on Metallurgical Materials from 1986 to 1995, now knows considerably more about wine.

Disegi says that a typical wine tasting for the club is a social event, with a meal and about six different wines sampled. Often there will be a theme to the wine selection, such as each wine sharing the same vintage year. When asked about his favorite wines, Disegi says, “I tend to like the California red wines, cabernet sauvignon, the Sonoma County zinfandels.” He also enjoys Italian and other European wines, which he is able to explore when he travels to Synthes’ manufacturing and research facilities in Switzerland.

Disegi’s wife Mary Anne, who owns an interior design business, usually accompanies him on his wine tasting excursions. Disegi says that red wines are among his favorites, with his wife tending to favor the whites. While continuing to meet with the original wine tasting club, Disegi also occasionally offers to host a wine tasting as a silent auction item for charitable events in Reading, Pa., where he and Mary Anne live.

In addition to enjoying the reds and whites, Disegi is fond of playing the blues, specifically blues harmonica. “I’ve always enjoyed blues music, particularly the rhythm guitar/harmonica combo,” Disegi says, “So, one day, I just decided to learn how to play the harmonica. One thing that always attracted me to it is that you could always carry a harmonica around with you wherever you went.”

Charley Musselwhite, the legendary player who was part of the Chicago blues revival in the mid-1960s, is Disegi’s harmonica inspiration. Musselwhite is “top-notch, he can really play a blues harmonica,” says Disegi.

After playing harmonica off and on at home for years, Disegi had a chance for garage-band glory when a bunch of musically inclined members of the product development area at Synthes threw a band together. The band, which included Disegi, played one or two benefit shows for fun but were confounded by the search for a name, never actually settling on a permanent one.

While the Synthes band has been quiet lately, Disegi still gets the chance to jam occasionally when his son Jonathan visits from his home in New York City. In addition to also playing blues harmonica, Jonathan shares his father’s interest in wine tasting.

Disegi is currently the group manager, materials, at Synthes (USA). He is responsible for directing all technical aspects of the orthopedic implant and surgical instrument materials program. In addition to his Award of Merit, Disegi received an ASTM Committee on Publications Award of Excellence in 2000 for his work as the co-chair of a symposium on Cobalt-Base Alloys for Biomedical Applications and as the co-editor of the resulting Special Technical Publication.

Harmonicas and wine occasionally combine in Disegi’s life, though this is a rare occurrence. “Once in awhile, maybe during the holidays, we’ll have an informal wine tasting while listening to blues music at a high decibel level, and I might pull out the harmonica,” Disegi laughs. “But usually they’re two separate things.”

Copyright 2004, ASTM International