Tag Archives: Joe Maddon

$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.

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

Joe Maddon, expensive wine, and the Chicago Cubs

joe maddon wineDear Joe:

You and I have much in common — you’re the new manager of the Chicago Cubs, and I am a long-suffering Cubs fan who once waited more than an hour to get Kenny Holtzman’s autograph. In the finest Cubs tradition, Holtzman never showed up.

Apparently, we also share wine in common, though what you drink is about as far removed from what I drink as the Cubs are from a successful baseball team. You are, by all accounts, a wine geek of the first order, whose taste runs to Opus One, Insignia, and hot, heavy, oaky California pinot noirs. (Unfortunately, my request to ask you about wine apparently disappeared into the cyber-ether; I never heard back from the Cubs.)

Frankly, your preference for these kinds of wines worries me. This is the Cubs you’re managing, a team that has not won the World Series since 1908, and not the New York Yankees or the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Cubs have had more players like Larry Biittner and Glen Hobbie than Hall of Famers like Babe Ruth and Sandy Koufax, and Opus One is a lot more like Ruth than it is Biittner.

Besides, we’re more comfortable with players like Biittner, who was a mainstay on the woebegone Cubs teams of the late 1970s when I was in college and would sit in the right field bleachers and offer the players various words of encouragement. Who can forget the 1977 game when Biittner, an outfielder, pitched 1 1/3 innings and the Cubs lost 19-3 — and, in the finest Cubs tradition, was fined for throwing at a batter.

In this, the Cubs are more Bogle than Insignia, more cava than Champagne. And that’s a more practical approach anyway. What are you going to do after a tough late-night loss to the hated Brewers in Milwaukee when you want a glass of wine and you won’t be able to find a bottle of $50 Napa meritage? On the other hand, almost any Roundy’s supermarket that’s still open will have more than one wine from this year’s $10 Hall of Fame.

Which is not to say I wouldn’t mind sharing a bottle of white Burgundy with you, particularly if you do the impossible and help the Cubs win something after more than a century of losing. I’d even pay for it — a 2010 Corton from Sylvain Loichet, perhaps? That I’m willing to pay for it should tell you how long suffering a Cubs fan I am.

Until then, try the Little James Basket Press wines. I’m sure Binny’s has them, and will get them for you if they don’t.

Yours in 107 years of Cubs futility,
The Wine Curmudgeon