Back in the first week of March, my fiancee and I headed off to Napa Valley for a week of wine drinking and nice weather. I'm more of a beer guy myself, but find it interesting to taste new things. Give me something different and I'll be happy. In the end, most wines taste pretty much the same to an unsophisticated palette like mine. But I can sure tell the difference in an IPA.
Anyway, we took a really fun "Wine Tour" through Beau Wine Tours. I would highly recommend this, and at only $100 a person for a full day of boozing, it's definitely worth the money (note: there are wine tasting fees at some places...they are reasonable). If you are in the area and choose to do this, ask for Damon. He was great. If you don't have a big group, that's okay, as they'll just pair you with other random people in the limo. This usually makes for good fun, and we ended up riding around with other people from Michigan!
The wine tour takes you to four different wineries chosen by your host, the limo driver. You get a very scrumptious picnic lunch from a local sandwich shop and they'll even pick you up and drop you off at your hotel. It was really the highlight of heading off to Napa, but going around on your own is fun, too. So why am I talking about wine tasting on a sports blog?
Well, the reason I say ask for Damon at the Wine Tours is this: he is friends with the family that owns Hill Family Estates. It is a small place in Yountville and--if you're the non-wine snob male party like me--you'll love it. BUT, if you're a wine snob, you'll also still really enjoy it. It's got a bit of everything, and they cater to this very well. The owner is a younger guy (well the family owns it, but he seems to run a lot of the marketing) and is into sports, music, surfing, and the like. But here's the kicker: they sit you down for a free tasting (if you come with Damon), fresh cheese and Italian meats in a room covered from wall to wall with sports memorabilia.
Every year, Ryan and the Estate does a 'wine staining project'. Here, they take all sorts of memorabilia like surf boards, guitars, baseball bats, etc. and pair it with a wine that is 'inspired' by an athlete or someone of the sort. They do a lot of this with baseball players, including Rick Ankiel, Luis Gonzalez, Bronson Arroyo, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux.
As a kid, I was never the overpowering pitcher, so I absolutely loved Maddux. This was the first place we went on the tour, and I couldn't help myself. I splurged, and bought only one bottle of wine on the trip (for $75 I might add): Greg Maddux Wine. It's not autographed, but I had to have it after being there. This is it:
There are some Bronson Arroyo and Luis Gonzalez bottles left with signatures (unfortunately, $275 for a magnum Arroyo autographed bottle was a bit steep for a grad student). But the standard bottles with autographs are the same price as the non-signed ones. There were no Maddux signatures (DAMN!), but I still found this to be pretty cool. The autographed wine-stained bats are neat, too.
It looks like the next wine (a 2007 red wine) will be coming courtesy of Johnny Damon. I believe they try and do something with a World Series winner each year. You can get an autographed bottle here. And they do all sorts of cool packaged things like this Arroyo boxed package if you just can't get enough Arroyo:
All in all, these are fun things to have on the shelf. Ultimately, they're just unique, they scream 'baseball nut', and yet have a sophisticated side. But the real fun comes from going to Hill Estates in Yountville and sitting there doing the tasting, talking to the people there, and checking out all the cool wine-stained stuff. You can get the bottles there, and have a really fun experience. Thanks to them and Beau Wine Tours for showing us a great time.