Wine on Deck
There are few things for which I’ve maintained a passion over the years. Wine, of course. Jazz, especially the timeless 1950s stylings of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and their contemporaries. And every spring, baseball arrives to slow pitch us from April’s rains to autumn’s preview of shorter days and cooler nights.
All of which got me to thinking about the similarities between wine and the summer game. Like wine, teams have ups and downs during the season and from one year to the next. Just as winemakers do, fans hope for a vintage year, like 2008 was for the Philadelphia Phillies. A winemaker’s resources are natural, a ball club’s human, both the prime material for success – or failure.
In honor of the Phillies six-month odyssey to return to October baseball, I’ve tried to pair the team’s most recognizable faces with a wine that matches their talents and personalities. So, without further adieu, a vinous salute to our local nine:
The rangy lefthander is a study in contrasts – laid-back West Coast exterior masking a competitive fire that fuels him when he’s on the mound. He can bring the heat but would rather befuddle hitters with his changeup. He’s a pitching version of the deceptive Travis Chardonnay, which initially looks like a typical Golden State malo bomb, but also showcases the zingy acidity and flavor precision of a cru Chablis or similar white Burgundy. They’re cool – like Hamels. (PLCB SLO, #50529, $9.99, minimum order 1).
His peers marvel at his concentration and focus, his ability to control both the mental and physical aspects of the game. Doc is the personification of a structured, well- made wine with intangible qualities – a Raymond Usseglio 2006 Chateauneuf-du-Pape (PLCB #20547, $39.99). It’s subdued but polished, with concentrated fruit flavors and a solid tannic foundation. And, like Doc, it will develop finesse as it matures.
Intense and persistent, he doesn’t seek the limelight on or off the field. He lets his bat and glove speak for him, the yin to his double-play partner’s yang. The kind of player whose contributions can’t be measured solely by statistics. Perhaps a Bartolo Mascarello Barolo would fit Chase, a wine that’s a force of nature not to be over analyzed, but whose overall excellence grows on you and stays with you. But, as with an All Star player, it doesn’t come cheaply. (PLCB SLO #513876, $115.29, minimum order 1).
The “Big Piece”, the slugger who powers the lineup. No subtlety or nuance with Ryan, it’s all about going long, like Mollydooker “The Maitre D”, a high octane Australian Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is a wallop that swings for the fences and delivers a grand slam of super ripe fruit, a Howard-like blast in the mouth. Even more a propos, mollydooker is Down Under slang for a lefthander! (PLCB #14212, $24.99).
The team’s all-time best shortstop has always been upbeat and enthusiastic. You might even consider him bubbly. He’s the go to guy, the one who sets the table for the rest of the batting order. J Roll’s wine should be the same – a pure and refreshing Cava or Prosecco to get things started, an aperitif to whet your appetite for the innings or food that follows. (Bisol Crede Prosecco, PLCB #27729, $22.99; Conde de Caralt Brut Cava available at Total Wine, NJ or Del., $8.99).
What you see is what you get with the Skipper. He’s direct and honest, as unpretentious as his sometimes convoluted musings on the game he so obviously loves. No frills and no fuss. The most winning manager in franchise history deserves a wine that mirrors his stand-up persona – a La Rioja 2002 Vina Alberde Reserva (PLCB #22931, $20.99). This is an honest wine of depth and character that is not trying to be something it’s not. What you drink is what it is.