Results tagged ‘ Wine ’

Friday Night Wine and Angels: Rain Only Delays the Win

This is a very simple game. You throw the ball. You hit the ball. You catch the ball…except when it’s pouring rain and even making the simplest of catches or making contact with the fattest of meatball pitches can become fodder for a Keystone Cops remake. So Friday’s 4 – 3 victory against the White Sox was interesting, entertaining, maddening at times, and very, very wet – seriously, my hat is off to all of those tough Chicago fans who stayed for the whole game – but ultimately a win! This breaks the Angels seven game losing streak against the White Sox which makes me very happy indeed.

Jered Weaver did not have one of his better games but a less than great start for Weaver is still a pretty darned good start in the grand scheme of things and, when the Angels give him run support as they did last night, is usually enough to secure a victory. I was a little worried in the third inning, after he gave up a handful of hits and the infield and outfield each blew a play in rain aided, blooper reel worthy fashion. But then he stalked, nay stomped, off the mound with a string of curses at himself that required no lip reading expertise to interpret and I knew we’d be okay. When Weaver gets angry, he usually channels it back into the pitching with wicked effect.

The Angels still need to work on RISP and some guys had quiet bats, but Maicer Izturis was on fire, going 3 for 5 with a two RBI double. Mark Trumbo continues to hit well. Vernon Wells found his bat for the second game in a row and Peter Bourjos continues to show how speed can create a hit where you didn’t think one was possible. I got a kick of Mike Scioscia and Mike Butcher basically overriding the umpires’ second, hesitant, rain delay call in the bottom of the ninth, sending the Angels back out into the field to warm-up and even tossing Jordan Walden a baseball themselves until the umpires changed their mind and told the grounds crew to stop rolling out the tarp they only just wrestled into position.

So, about the Angels’ bullpen? I am sitting here icing my knee after the Saturday edition of my thrice weekly beating as I type this and I. Hate. Ice. Hate it. I do the ten minutes on, ten minutes off thing for an hour several therapist friends recommend because I can see the therapeutic benefits, but it never fails. The burn gets so stabbingly painful that I want to start clawing the furniture and chucking the ice bag across the room at nine minutes on the dot. Every. Single. Time. And, yet, I still think I would rather spend large parts of the 8th inning in a complete ice bath than watch Fernando Rodney play 8th inning set up guy again. I keep hearing how much Rodney has improved since he adjusted his mechanics but I am not seeing it. No, he didn’t allow a run, but he walked a guy and allowed a hit and we had to get the last two outs with runners on 2nd and 3rd. But, he got out of the inning and then Jordan Walden went one, two, three. It’s a wonderful new feeling to have a closer who closes.

Even with the rain abetted clumsiness and eight inning drama, it was a fun game to watch and this Friday saw the “season premiere” of Seth’s and my Friday Night Ritual – a nice dinner, a good bottle of wine and the Angels game, usually on delay so our commutes dont deny us a single pitch. This Fridays spread? Gourmet a’la lazy chefs – crostini with pea mint pesto or mushroom tapenade, prosciutto and apples with Chronic Cellars’ excellent red blend Sofa King Bueno chosen because the Chronic guys aren’t lying. The wine really is Sofa King Bueno.

And now the ice is finally off my knee – Yay!!! – and I am ready to enjoy watching what the new kid can do on the mound in his second start. Play Ball! …when the rain stops of course.

Only 65 miles to win country!

The saying from my title is from a pun-ny billboard advertising a Chumash casino off the 101 on the way up to California’s Central Coast wine country. I thought it was clever and it made me smile thinking, more like only 11 days until win country. Baseball season is just around the corner! As you can probably guess from this introduction, Seth and I spent the weekend on the Central Coast for the Paso Robles Zinfandel Festival, our it-fit-the-budget-better-than-SpringTraining March trip. Wine, parties under a patio in the rain, eclectic conversation (We went into this great little used bookstore. But when you stepped inside it was really huge, like a TARDIS, for the win.) and, even without Spring Training, plenty of baseball talk. It was a great weekend.

Paso Robles is a wonderfully casual place. There is wine, very good wine even, aplenty. But the winemakers have the perfect fun attitude about their craft and for festival weekends, they throw great laid back parties featuring pairings like wine and street tacos, Pinot and paella, or wine with Santa Maria style barbeque or sliders. It’s common to have winery parties centered around MLB playoffs or, this weekend, around college basketball games. It’s anything but stuffy, which is why I always have so much fun up there. And, seriously, for a town located about as far away from professional baseball as you can get in the state of California, there sure are a lot of baseball fans in Paso.

This trip I ran into an unusual number of Angels fans too. The winemaker’s wife who went to Villa Park high school in Orange County with Bert Blyleven and Bob Boone’s sons. The casual fans up from Orange County for a visit (Vernon Wells, who?). Dissecting the starting rotation and the Kaz question over a Methuselah – a six liter bottle of wine, truly awesome in its absolute absurdity – of a lovely meritage blend. The local who literally tugged on my sleeve at another event after noticing my jacket. So do you think they’re going to make it this year? Ah, the eternal question.

We also made a special trip to Rio Seco, the baseball winery, hoping for a spring training tie-in. Former minor league pitcher, retired scout and winemaker Tom Hinkle and friends were actually at Spring Training though. No matter, the wine was great as usual, from the Grand Slam and the MVP to the “futures” barrel tasting. Hinkles’ wife and daughter, who run the winery alongside him, are as knowledgeable and hospitable hosts as one could ask for…and they told me that Tom thinks the Angels made some good decisions in the offseason and are ready for a great year. *huge grin* Hey, come for the wine, stay for the season predictions. Rio Seco is hosting a summer kickoff wine and seafood event in June, and Seth and I are planning to make the trip back up again at that point. I jokingly asked if they would have the game on, and my wonderful hostess replied, Here? Are you kidding, we’ll probably have several of the games on, before noting “big Angels fans” next to our names on the guest list. I have a feeling that will be a great party.

* * * * *

In Angels news this weekend, It’s official, Kendrys Morales will start the season on the 15 day DL. (Yes, Kendrys. Apparently they mucked up his name on his original visa, which is more common than you’d think) I am disappointed but I am also relieved. He’s hitting. He’s fielding. But it sounds like his ability to run at the level required to play hasn’t improved much since Spring Training started and now there is a problem with his big toe and narrow cleats – injuries to your feet and ankles suck. They take forever to heal and complications as they heal are common. So, suffice to say. Slow down. Heal fully. Come back strong and ready to enjoy a productive career.

But the rest of you Angels, please, stop trying to be trendy. Just because so many of the cool kids are going on the DL this spring doesn’t mean you have to do it too. Trumbo, Pineiro, Bourjos, I’m looking at you. All joking aside, Pineiro’s sholder strain concerns me. Bourjos is back playing after hip tightness. Trumbo is due back any day now from groin tightness but no word on Pineiro since he was pulled from the minor league game he was pitching in today. I’m glad the team is taking precautionary measures with minor injuries and such during Spring Training, but let’s be careful not to need the precautionary measures in the first place, shall we?

Funny news from today’s game? Scioscia was thrown out for arguing that a third out tag had beat the runner scoring. If this were the regular season I might feel more outrage or annoyance – it does sound like the ump was a little overzealous – than amusement but, seriously, who gets thrown out of the game in Spring Training? Too funny!

There’s No Crying in Baseball, But Wine on the Other Hand…

My husband and I took Friday off and spend a long weekend at his folks’ vacation home in Cambria, wine tasting through Paso Robles with friends from college. We had the best time. Chatty fun playing vintner during a wine blending party at the always gracious (not to mention delicious!) Mitchella vineyards. A relaxing lunch on Calcareous Vineyard’s lovely patio. Rhone blends and Zinfandels and Syrahs, oh my at the other wineries. Fun and stories at the baseball winery, yes, baseball winery. A delicious dinner in, prepared by my talented husband. Some of the best Mexican street food style tacos I’ve had since my Oxy days. Games and port in the evenings. It was an absolutely fantastic weekend that looked like a neat combination of this:

20110123 Cambria House Porch View 2 - for web.jpg

Interspersed with a healthy dose of this:

20110123 Mitchella Blending Event 4 - for blog.jpg

So, about that baseball winery. Out in Paso Robles, down the Union Road wine trail just south of East 46 there is an absolute gem for baseball fans. Rio Seco‘s owner and winemaker is Tom Hinkle, a retired baseball scout and former Minor League Baseball player. Hinkle was drafted by the Detroit Tigers and spent several years in their farm system in the 1960s, coached baseball at Cal State Poly SLO in the 1970s and became a Major League Baseball scout in the 1980s for a full roster of teams over the course of roughly 26 years including the Padres, Cubs, Expos, Blue Jays, Tigers and Brewers. Apparently he is the scout who helped sign Randy Johnson among other names you would recognize.

Visiting Tom Hinkle’s winery is a kick. Rio Seco is everything a small family run winery should be – great wine, nice people, a friendly, no frills tasting room in one of the barrel rooms filled with constant glimpses into the business of winemaking, and plenty of locals stopping by which speaks to both the enjoyable nature of the wine and the excellent hospitality of the winemaking family. One of the Hinkle daughters or Mrs. Hinkle are the most likely candidates to pour your wine tasting and all are full of stories about the winery and Tom’s career. If you catch Tom in the tasting room, he is always willing to chat about baseball past and present. He is no Angels fan, judging from the not unfriendly but gruff “Oh. Halos fans.” my husband and I received the first time we visited. Eh, no one is perfect, right? But it was fantastic to hear his opinions on the standings and which teams were likely to make it to the playoffs when we caught him with a few minutes of free time over Labor Day weekend last summer. While I disagreed with him that the bulk of the Angels problem was losing John Lackey, even at that time he was saying watch out for the Giants who could go all the way. Apparently, the Hinkles are friends with Peter Bourjos’ family and it was a lot of fun for us to hear the retired scout talk about him so soon after he was called up from the minors.

Tom was not available this last trip, so we wound up chatting with one of his daughters while we tasted the new vintages. She told us that while Tom is retired, he still gets calls from former colleagues and several of the local teams asking for insight into a particular player so the baseball world is still very much a part of their lives. Rio Seco itself has a nice baseball theme running through it from their “All-Star line-up” of baseball themed wines, including the Grand Slam and Clubhouse Reds, to the Diamond Club wine club (a portion of this club’s proceeds are donated to the Baseball Scout of the Year Foundation each year) to the small mementos from Hinkle’s career in MLB and at Cal Poly SLO scattered throughout the tasting room/barrel room. Many of the events they throw are baseball themed and frequently involve other baseball scouts both current and retired. I am sorry I missed the Harvest Festival BBQ and playoffs analysis this past October and hope Rio Seco hosts some kind of preseason analysis event at Zinfandel Festival in March.

Oh, and the wine itself is really good. According to the Hinkle daughters, their parents refer to Rio Seco wines as being primarily Monday through Thursday wines, rather than weekend and special occasion wines. I adore that phrase and tend to agree with this assessment in the sense that all of Rio Seco’s wines are easily enjoyable, would be equally good on their own or with a meal and are priced such that opening several bottles in the middle of the week will not cause any strain on the budget…but I will happily drink this wine Friday through Sunday as well. My favorites are the #22 Zinfandel (named for the fact that this gem was the 22nd bonded winery in Paso, it’s got a deep blackberry and raspberry flavor with allspice, cinnamon and clove notes, typical of a Paso Robles Zinfandel) and the Grand Slam (a fruit forward table red with nice tannins that begs to be paired with pasta with a spicy marinara sauce, hard salami and cheese or a big juicy burger). Oddly enough for me, another favorite is Glee, a White Cabernet. To me, this is part of the magic of a tasting room. Leave your preconceived “oh, I only like red wine” and “we’re not drinking Merlot!” notions at the door and taste everything the winery is willing to let you taste. You never know, you might find something you weren’t expecting to like. As, lo and behold, I have found a non-dry rose I actually like. I am quite fond of dry roses actually, but seldom like sweet ones. The Glee is sweet without being cloying. It tastes like pureed strawberries with a hint of citrus, vanilla and light herbal notes. This is refreshing in the extreme and we like drinking it while we are barbequing the meat we will eventually serve with red wine at a party.

So, if you are out and about in Paso Robles and looking for a treat, or if you want to purchase a tasty baseball themed wine for one of your gatherings this season (they accept online orders) I highly recommend Rio Seco. I didn’t want to plaster MLBlogs with descriptions of the other wineries we visited on our trip because I don’t know enough of you well enough to know it this would be interesting for you. But if you have an interest in less well known California wines, I did write a couple of posts on the trip on my LiveJournal here and here.

Ignoring the Rumors on a Ramble up the California Coast

It’s about 226 miles to Cambria, we’ve got a full tank of gas, a hot thermos of coffee, it’s dark (and so late it’s nearly early) and we’re not wearing our sunglasses. Hit it.

We’re heading up the coast to meet old college friends for a long weekend in Cambria and Paso Robles – oh yes, there will be wine! …and local micro breweries and gourmet food and live jazz and…yeah, it’s that kind of place. Having finished my half of the driving duties up through Gaviota Pass I am free to blog about baseball for the rest of the ride so long as I keep my husband awake and entertained sharing news articles and your blogs.

The only problem? Ugh! After the news and rumors today I don’t want to blog about baseball. Manny!?! Yes, I know the rumors have been linking his name with the Angels off and on all offseason but now they’re starting to sound serious. I do not want Manny Ramirez on the Angels. I don’t care if he does hit a ton every third season or so. I like baseball players, not drama queens. Let Manny be a diva…er…I mean Manny anywhere else. The thought of Manny in an Angels uniform is enough to make that optimism I was starting to feel dry up again for a while. If they really want to sign an aging DH with no real ability to play the outfield anymore, sign Vladdy please. Professional, clubhouse leader, not a diva bone in his body, swing at anything and hit it more often than anyone rationally should be able to Vladdy.

So enough thinking about baseball for one evening if the rumors only annoy me, right? Okay, then music it is. I just noticed that there is a profound lack of Journey on the radio stations in SLO county this evening. Now anywhere else in the country this would be business as usual. But this year, from the Northern most tip of Santa Barbara up through Paso Robles (and I would assume all the way up the coast to San Francisco) the amount of Journey on the radio stations increased exponentially with the Giants fortunes as the season progressed. The last time we were up here, during the playoffs, Don’t Stop Believin’, Lights and the like were like Law and Order reruns on basic cable – at any given moment, they were playing on at least one station. Not so tonight. This is almost eerie. Can it be they’ve finally tired of it? …Yeah, back to baseball and still annoyed thinking about the Manny rumors. This isn’t working.

Let’s try this again. This is an absolutely gorgeous drive, even late at night. Ocean, forest, orchards, vineyards, plenty of reminders that California is a huge state with far more farms and open spaces than city even still…though that is changing slowly but surely. The cities stretch just a little bit further every year. Driving up here late after work is great because then you don’t eat up four hours of your day off getting to the vacation. The only drawback? Bring your own coffee because, seriously, trying to find decent coffee in Santa Maria or thereabouts after one in the morning is kind of like Mariano Rivera blowing a save. It’s technically possible. You’ve heard of it happening before. It may even have happened once or twice while you were watching. But just how often does it happen really? Yeah, I have a one track mind this evening and this is a lost cause. Okay that’s it. I’m putting this post away and thinking about friends and wine for the rest of the evening…er…morning.

And, of course, what song came on the radio right as I was about to put down the Blackberry? Yep, you guessed it. Uprising by Muse. Haunted I tell you. Well at least it isn’t Don’t Stop Believin’ because even if Giants fans aren’t tired of it, I am. ;)

Have a nice weekend everyone!

Angels 2010 Top 10 – No I Don’t Mean This List Satirically

With only one day left in 2010, I believe it is customary to make a top 10 or some other sort of retrospective list. I don’t recall any actual written rule to this effect in the Big Book of Blogging Rules, wherever that may be, but it hey, the end of the year just cries out for such things, doesn’t it? So why buck tradition? If finding 10 things in this season of all seasons that make me happy to be an Angels fan makes me the unrepentant Pollyanna of Angels baseball, well, I did choose the handle Blithescribe after all *big grin*. In no particular order, here are my personal 10 favorite things about Angels baseball in 2010:

Jered Weaver - Angels fans were all so very worried about who could step up and fill the ace’s shoes with Lackey headed for the Red Sox. That seems so wonderfully silly now! I actually wasn’t that worried. I didn’t know he would step up so fully this season, but I did remember that post season game against the Yankees in 2009 when Weaver became the 8th inning set up man in a moment of need and he came in looking like a steely eyed gunslinger and sat them down one, two, three. I remember standing up and cheering in my living room and thinking future ace. And to be the AL strikeout leader in 2010, icing on the cake! Now let’s get this man some run support in 2011 shall we.

Signing Dan Haren - This was one of those, really, we got him? Way to go Reagins! moments. A second ace to add to the rotation, he was an absolute pleasure to watch in 2010 and finished his partial season here with a 2.87 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. I hope that these stats are indicative of what we can expect to see in 2011. The fact that we happened to be there for his first (Where he took the Youk line drive to the pitching arm, ouch!) and second starts made this extra fun for me.

7/31 and 8/1 against the Rangers - Both were absolute, bare knuckled brawls of a game, the Angels were in top form, and we had tickets to both for our anniversary – this lady demands diamonds on such occasions, natch ;) The Rangers won the first game, but the second was Weaver vs. Cliff Lee, the Angels pulled it off and it was quite possibly the best game I have seen from a stadium.

Players Doing What’s Best for the Team - Torii moving to right field so the Angels could bring Bourjos into center; Napoli taking over first base and doing a darned good job at it really, after Kendry’s injury when he hadn’t played first base since the minors; both were selfless, team spirited moves and, to my mind, damn clutch.

The Month of June - Instead of crumpling in the aftermath of Kendry’s season ending injury, the team cowboyed up and played like, well, like the Angels for the month of June and it was a beautiful thing to see…and then they crumpled. Would that the June play had lasted the rest of the year.

Peter Bourjos - It was such a breath of fresh air to watch this young bundle of talent and enthusiasm move up to the majors. And you’ve all heard it hundreds of time by now, but oh my God is this kid fast. In the games we attended alone I saw him rob four homeruns and turn two sure thing out bloopers to the short stop into a base hits. And he’s smart on the bases and out in the field too. He’s not perfect. He’s definitely a rookie so there were a few issues, primarily with his offense but he seemed to be improving by small increments with each at bat and I for one really look forward to watching him blossom into a full blown All Star in 2011.

Getting to See the Rookie Call-Ups in Action - While it would have been better if the Angles were in contention for a post season and the rookie call-ups mostly sat on the bench, the way things worked out it was a lot of fun to be there at the Big A for to see so many of their firsts – Conger, Trumbo and Romine’s first at bats, their first turns on defense. As with Bourjos, it was a bright spot to see so much youthful enthusiasm on the field, and I think we’ll be seeing Conger and Romine again, Conger quite soon.

16 Games! – My husband and I managed to go to 16 games this year. We typically watch between 100 and 130 of the games in some fashion, mostly on TV but this is the first time we’ve made it to the Big A, which is oh so much better, for so many. No, this is not earth shattering for Angels baseball as a whole, but it was a big deal in terms of my personal fan experience.

The Growth of the Friday Night Ritual - this is another one that would only matter in my house. A good bottle of wine, a gourmet dinner from our own kitchen and Angels baseball became what we called the Friday Night Ritual. It’s fun, companionable, affordable and this year we grew to love it to the point where we turned down all other invitations…’tis such a fine, fine line between the fanatic and fan!

Personal Firsts - Kendry’s exhibition game grand slam against the Dodgers was the first grand slam my husband had ever seen live at a stadium – he didn’t go to as many Dodger games as I did as a kid ;). This was the first year I timed the tickets such that I got to see Weaver pitch at the stadium and honestly, you can’t really appreciate the sheer amount of ground this 6′ 7″ talented stork of a man covers and the deceptiveness of his delivery until you’ve seen it at the game. The first time either of us was there for an entire series – the last homestand against the A’s, many, many thanks to D for his generosity in just handing my husband the season tickets, this game and so many others. And the list goes on…

Suffice to say, yes it was a dismal season. But there were bright spots and enjoyable times for me at least and I for one am ready to call clean cup move down and see what the 2011 season brings…ideally Adrian Beltre but, if not, I am still eager to see what the Angels can do.

Apparently Those Mid-Season All GM Diplomacy Tournaments Paid Off

First the Nationals, then the Red Sox and now, apparently, the Phillies have pulled off a completely unexpected out of left field, or in this case the Bullpen, deal. Cliff Lee. Wow. All this time, I thought that the secret unnamed suitor was sort of a joke, part of the general circus atmosphere and most likely the Nationals anyway, but it was serious. I think we now know the reason Cliff Lee has been off hunting deer all this time – he couldn’t trust himself not to break out in a big Fooled You! grin…much like Carl Crawford, apparently. (Tony Reagins, I take back most of my griping about you, on the Crawford issue at least.)

Yeah, so there I was, diligently writing my company’s newsletter (Yes. Still. At just shy of midnight. Why do you ask?), enjoying a lovely glass of port (Mitchella Vineyards Riportella III – tawny, brandied cherries, slightly spicy, absolutely gorgeous – and, yes, de rigueur when one is still writing one’s company newsletter at just shy of midnight), when on a whim I decided to glance at a few of the MLBlogs until the latest fit of I-don’t-really-want-to-be-writing-about-HR-issues-at-this-hour-on-my-own-time-thank-you-very-much spawned stuck-ness passed. And, much like Wednesday evening, I was left briefly wondering if I didn’t somehow check out The Onion by mistake. Nope, no joke. Lee’s a Phillie, again. (So, Yogi, gotta ask. Would that be déjà vu all over again or just plain ordinary déjà vu?)

I’d be lying if I said I was sorry the Angels won’t have to face Lee in 2011 unless all parties involved have an excellent post season run…and, with Tony Reagins’ latest announcement that having a full season with Kendry Morales and Dan Haren in addition to the two pitchers he has acquired is the equivalent of pulling off four free agency signings, the early odds on the Angels achieving this feat aren’t looking as good as I had hoped. Sorry Tony, I still really have to disagree with you on that one. But I digress (Yes, I am on my second glass of port, why do you ask? LOL!)…

I do offer my sincere condolences to my friends on MLBlogs, especially the Yankees and Rangers fans, who were hoping their team would snag Cliff Lee. We all know what it is to root really hard for our guys and what it is to be extremely disappointed when they don’t get what we most want them have. As one sometime, and recently oft, disappointed fan to another, I feel your pain. To borrow loosely the wisdom according to Scarlett O’Hara, that greatest of all pragmatists, Tomorrow is another day. You can stand it then. And later there will be small satisfaction in knowing that you won’t have to face him unless it’s in the post season either.

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