Tag Archives: Chicago Cubs

joe maddon

More wine to celebrate more Chicago Cubs success

chicago cubs wineFinding wine to drink because the Cubs keep winning isn’t a problem

How to explain the joy, while remaining humble and appreciative, as my beloved and once bedraggled Chicago Cubs celebrate their third consecutive National League division championship? Only 11 more victories to go. …

How about we break out the wine?

So, as the Cubs begin their World Series title defense (and I still can’t believe I’m writing that), here are a variety of wines that fit the theme of the baseball playoffs:

• Expensive, because I may have to celebrate a victory or two: A Maryland red, the Boordy Vineyards Landmark Reserve, about $50 and courtesy of my pal Dave McIntyre. This Bordeaux blend, mostly cabernet sauvignon and merlot, is oretty, rich and full (though could use less oak). In this, it’s stylish and sophisticated from a quality U.S. producer that just happens to be in Maryland.

• Cheap, because I need something to drink during the playoffs: A white from Bulgaria, Domaine Boyar muscat, about $10. The importer swears this is available in the U.S., and it’s a lovely thing – the telltalke orange muscat aromas, some baking spice flavors and a little orange fruit.

• Different, because those of us who remember Larry Biittner know baseball is not just cabernet and chardonnay: The Moric Hausmarke Rot, about $25, an Austrian red wine made with two grapes most wine drinkers have never heard of – blaufrankisch and zweigelt. The wine is bright and juicy, with cherry and violet aromas and cherry and green herb flavors.

• Bubbly, because the unthinkable might happen for the second year in a row: Gratien & Meyer Crémant de Loire, about $15, a rose sparkling made with cabernet franc from the Loire region in France. It’s a little softer than I expected, but berry fruit and lots and lots of tight bubbles.

More about the Chicago Cubs and wine:
Cubs 108, History 0
Joe Maddon, expensive wine, and the Chicago Cubs

$300 of wine after 108 years of waiting

$300 of wineTwo $150 bottles of wine to celebrate the Cubs’ World Series victory

A $150 bottle of white Burgundy and a $150 bottle of red Burgundy – what better way to celebrate the Chicago Cubs’ first World Series championship in 108 years than with $300 worth of wine?

The Big Guy brought the white, a 2014 Sauzet Puligny-Montrachet Champ-Canet Premier Cru, and I bought the red, a 2012 Chateau de Meursault Clos des Epenots Premier Cru. Neither were in my original Cubs wine post, but those wines — and which were $20 to $50 cheaper — were sold out.

Needless to say, we had never paid that much for a bottle of wine, which was the point. “It’s OK if you’re going to do this once every century,” said The Big Guy, and who was I to argue?

My other goal? Make sure the food was up to the wine, and it’s not being immodest to say that it was (or so the others at the dinner, including Lynne Kleinpeter and Kathy Turner, told me):

• A goat cheese and salmon timbale with the Sauzet, a chardonnay. The wine was young and fresh enough to handle the richness of the goat cheese, and it complemented the food exactly as I had hoped.

Chicken breasts stuffed with mushrooms duxelles with the Epenots, a pinot noir. This was one of those pairings that shows why pairings matter – the wine made the food taste better and the food made the wine taste better. The Epenots, though still young, had some of that Burgundian mushroom and forest floor, and the bright red fruit did the chicken proud.

• An apple tart with a Fonseca 10-year-old tawny port ($32, purchased, 20%), a bonus because I like port. This is a more traditional style port – less fruit and more nuttiness, and not hot at all.

So were the Burgundies worth $150 a bottle? As delicious as they were, probably not. For one thing, both were still too young, and will need at least a decade before they’re going to taste the way they should taste. The Sauzet, in particular, was angular and disjointed (or at least as much as a classic white Burgundy can be), and only time will smooth out those rough edges.

That they weren’t worth what they cost isn’t so much a criticism of the wines, but of the wine business and how foolish high-end wine prices have become. The Big Guy remembers paying $50 in a restaurant for the Sauzet in the 1990s; that means the retail price has increased 10-fold in the past two decades. In other words, paying $20 for a cup of Starbucks coffee today. The best value of the evening was the port, given how much crappy port costs $20 and $30, and I’ll buy another bottle when this one is gone.

Hopefully, when Cubs manager Joe Maddon – a wine guy of no small repute – celebrates the World Series, he’ll have as much fun as we did on Saturday night.

Cubs 108, History 0

Bill Murray in Cleveland at game 6. He bawled like a baby, too. Photo courtesy of my pal John Palazzo, who is an Indians fan with a heart of gold.

Yes, this was worth waiting 108 years for

I write for a living. I can write any time, any where, any place. I’ve written on deadline, I’ve written in the front sear of cars, I’ve written in flimsy bleachers, and I’ve written in hotel bars.

This morning, I can’t write. Which says everything you need to know about the Cubs winning the World Series.

So, to business. I’m cooking dinner on Saturday night, and the Big Guy and Lynne Kleinpeter will help me drink the $100 wine I promised to drink if the Cubs won the World Series. Look for that post on Monday.

Until then, enjoy the posts for today and tomorrow that I wrote earlier in the week in hopes I would be too overwhelmed to write this morning. And, if you want to share this once in a century moment, click here — my 48 years as a Cubs fan.

If the Cubs win: Picking a wine for the celebration

cubs win
No, that’s not the Wine Curmudgeon’s betting slip on the Cubs.

Buying expensive wine for the once in a century party if the Cubs win

This week, my beleaguered and bedraggled Chicago Cubs took the first step toward ending their 108-year World Series drought. The Cubs clinched the National League’s central division, which means they need to win just two playoff series to advance to the Fall Classic.

Hence it’s time for me to start looking for wine to buy if I get a chance to celebrate a Cubs’ World Series victory. Regular visitors here know this not putting the cart before the horse; I have been a Cubs fan too long for that. And, as my brother has reminded me this summer, this is the Cubs we’re talking about.

Rather, this is about enjoying what is certainly the best Cubs’ team of my lifetime, even better than the mythic 1969 team of Banks and Santo and Williams; the surprising 1984 team with Ryne Sandberg, perhaps my favorite Cub ever; and the star-crossed 2003 Bartman Cubs. If the North Siders are this close to doing something that most of us never thought possible, then I’m going to go wine window shopping. Besides, I promised to splurge if the World Series drought ever ended.

My thanks to Robert Pennington of Pogo’s in Dallas, who walked me through the store’s very nice French wine selection to put this list together. Robert grew up a Cubs fan in Fort Worth, and seemed to have as much fun doing this as I did.

My requirements? Try to spend around $100 a bottle, since anyone can pay $800 and get a nice wine; French, because that’s the expensive wine I enjoy most; and availability. What if I want to buy two or three bottles?

The short list:

Chateau d’Issan 2006 ($99), a third growth red Bordeaux from Margaux. Legend has it that Issan was served at the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine and England’s Henry II in 1152. Given all of that, said Robert, $99 is a value.

Domaine de Courcel Grand Clos des Epenots 2010 ($110), a premier cru red Burgundy. That means pinot noir from what’s considered the second best classification from Pommard in the Burgundy region. Pommard is probably my favorite red Burgundy, but it’s so expensive that it has been years since I had any,

Sauzet Puligny-Montrachet Les Referts 2012 ($135), a premier cru white Burgundy. That’s chardonnay from Puligny in Montrachet, and Sauzet is my favorite white Burgundy producer.

William Fevre Bougros 2013 ($119), a grand cru — the highest level of quality — Chablis. That’s also chardonnay from Burgundy, but without any oak aging since it’s from the Chablis region. Robert was very excited about the wine, and Fevre is a terrific producer.

About the Cubs and that $300 bottle of white Burgundy

My two letters (here and here) to Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon, a well known wine geek, were mostly in fun. Those of us who are Cubs fans don’t know any other way — how else to live with the memories of 1969, 1984, and 2003? Once a baseball generation, it seems, we must watch as our hopes are crushed “like so many paper beer cups.”

In Chicago, you can count on three things: The Democratic mayor, the bone-crushing winter, and the ineptness that is the Cubs. But not this year? Because now that the Cubs have advanced to the National League championship series, I have expectations to manage (to paraphrase my brother), something that I had long ago given up on.

Which means we are one step closer to the $300 bottle of white Burgundy that I said I would buy Maddon if the Cubs did something they have not done since 1908 and which, honestly, I can’t being myself to write. Jinxes and all off that. There are still two playoff series to go, and still plenty of opportunities for those hope-crushing paper beer cups.

But maybe, just maybe, I’ll call my French wine guy and ask him what he has in stock.

A toast to Joe Maddon and the Chicago Cubs

joe maddonDear Joe:

OK, so I was wrong. The Cubs — my beloved, wretched, soul-crushing Cubs, who make existential angst seem like a pleasant spring day — made it to the National League playoffs this year. It doesn’t even matter that they clinched a wild card spot when they lost. Or that it will probably be the second wild card spot. Who am I, after more than a century of futility, to be picky?

So, as promised, I owe you a bottle of nice wine. I realize, in our first communication, that I wasn’t clear about the process, and that it seemed I would only pay up if the Cubs won the World Series. That’s mostly because I didn’t expect the Cubs to make the playoffs this year, not with this lineup — a bullpen about an arm and a half short, bald spots in the lineup in centerfield and at shortstop, and too many young, inexperienced players who should have frazzled as the season progressed.

But you did it. Somehow, you managed this team — where one of the shortstops could neither catch nor hit, and more than once reminded me of Roy Smalley Sr. — to the playoffs. I am speechless at that feat, and anyone who knows me will tell you that that happens about as often as the Cubs make the playoffs. Apparently, you are as gifted a manager as the sportswriters say you are, and that your work this season in juggling lineups, caressing egos, offering encouragement, and providing the occasional firm hand was what the Cubs needed. Even more impressive is that you knew they needed it, something only the best managers know. And who usually work for the hated St. Louis Cardinals.

So, which wine? I’d like to hold off on the white Burgundy and the Corton I mentioned before unless the Cubs win the World Series. Otherwise, you tell me. I tasted some terrific Texas wine over the weekend when I was in Lubbock for a story, and there are some interesting California wines you might not know that would work. And we couldn’t go wrong with an Oregon pinot noir, either. But no Champagne, in case you’re wondering.

So, if you get a minute between preparing for the playoffs, let me know. Otherwise, I can wait until the season ends. Which, hopefully, won’t be for another six weeks or so, and I will need to buy the Corton..

Yours in 107 years of Cubs futility (but maybe not much longer),
The Wine Curmudgeon

ernie banks

Ernie Banks, 1931-2015

ernie banksNot that long ago, I was talking to a baseball fan who didn’t understand why New York Yankees fans were so cranky. “Their best player can make an error in the first inning, and they’ll start booing and won’t let up,” he said. “They take all of the fun out of the game.”

“That’s because Yankees fans are used to players like Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle and Derek Jeter,” I told him. “When you’ve watched them, it’s hard to give anyone else the benefit of the doubt.”

I mention this on the death of perhaps the greatest Chicago Cubs player ever, Ernie Banks. The Cubs, for most of my lifetime, have not had players like Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle, and Jeter. They have had Joe Wallis and Carmen Fanzone and Dick Nen. But as long as the Cubs had Ernie, that always seemed to be enough.

Banks’ death is about more than baseball and being a Cubs’ fan, and it’s about more than the part he played for those of us who came of age with the Cubs in the 1960s. It’s about what baseball says about our lives; as George Carlin wrote: “Baseball begins in the spring, the season of new life. Football begins in the fall, when everything’s dying.”

Banks was a Hall of Fame ballplayer, one of the greatest shortstops in the history of the game. But what he will be remembered for, and what his New York Times obituary did not fail to mention, was the record he holds for most games played without ever making the playoffs, 2,528. It’s a most Cubs-like record, befitting the franchise’s reputation for futility.

But it reminds us that life is not about winning. We can’t all be the Yankees. Life is about getting up every morning and doing the best you can, because otherwise, what’s the point? It’s about understanding that you’re lucky enough to do something that you love, and that doing anything other than the best you can would be wrong. You can’t hit a home run every day, but you can try. And that’s enough.

Todd Hollandsworth, who played a couple of seasons for the Cubs at the beginning of the last decade (and yet another of those players who weren’t Babe Ruth) told the Chicago Sun-Times that Banks “taught me to let the game go and start over the next day. Each day was unto itself. `You can ?t change yesterday, ? he told me. I don ?t think I could fully understand what he was teaching me at the time. Still haven ?t.”

There is no better epitaph than that.