Four years ago, the Lakeview Foundation hosted a house party and wine tasting to raise money for a program that provides help for people who can't afford to pay for their prescriptions.

The Winemaker's Forum became so popular that it is now held on the rooftop of the Stillwater Public Library.

"We created this thing at a physician's home, but we think 150 people is an imposition," said Paul Erickson, executive director of the Lakeview Foundation, which supports the Lakeview Health system of hospitals and clinics in Stillwater, Oak Park Heights and the Wisconsin towns of Somerset and New Richmond.

A jazz combo from Stillwater Area High School will serenade guests as they sip six varieties of wine from the featured vintner, Durigutti Winemakers, and sample treats prepared by chefs from the Lake Elmo Inn.

The appearance by one of Argentina's most respected malbec makers continues an impressive run that has brought in the likes of Adelaide Winemakers of southern Australia, the Anne Amee Vineyards of Oregon and the Distefano Winery of Washington's Columbia Valley.

Before the corks are popped, physicians will give a brief talk about the Prescription Assistance Program and how proceeds from the $150 ticket price will be used, Erickson said.

The goal Thursday night is to raise nearly $60,000 for the program, which is now in its 10th year. Lakeview spends $50,000 a year on the program that helps more than 300 people annually get free or low-cost prescriptions and medications from pharmaceutical companies or services. Most of the money is used to cover staff time, but some goes to help patients cover co-pays, Erickson said.

Participants must meet strict guidelines to qualify for the Prescription Assistance Program. They must be treated by a physician within the Stillwater Medical Group, meet federal poverty guidelines, and not have insurance or have insurance that does not include prescription drug coverage. Patients might also have to provide other financial documents to prove eligibility.

The program has been well received, Erickson said.

"To fill out the paperwork for financial need is overwhelming, but people are grateful for it," Erickson said. He said one person sent the foundation a note that read, "God Bless you, angels."

The idea for a wine tasting and forum came from a board member who had a passion for wine. The foundation patterned its event after a similar gala put on by Second Harvest Heartland.

Attendees will not be able to buy wine to take home on site because "we don't have that kind of a license," Erickson said. But a local vendor will be able to take orders and have wines shipped within a few weeks, Erickson said.

Tim Harlow • 651-925-5039 Twitter: @timstrib