Friday, May 22, 2009

Wine and...Poker?

I've written about many things directly involving wine subjects and the wine industry. I've even dabbled around the fringes of wine and included subjects like golf, travel, cruises, equipment, and tools to enjoy the trade. So, am I REALLY reaching this time to include a subject such as poker?

I don't think so, and here's why...

1. Good wines while playing poker. Whether at someone's house or at the local poker room, I've been know to uncork a nice bottle during the game and have a more relaxed session of the 'sport'. Quite frankly, there is a lot of down-time during the game and it helps pass the time while you're observing when out of the hands.

2. Dom Perignon and poker. A couple of years ago, I'm watching a taped version of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) and a couple of old friends that ended up at the same table were getting reacquainted sharing "war stories" about their travels having a grand old time down memory lane. Not five minutes in to their banter, they order up a vintage bottle of Dom and toast to their reuniting and then share it with the entire table. Fine champagne and WSOP THAT is what I call a perfect pairing.

3. 2005 Caymus pre-release. A while back, a friend and I decided to meet up for an evening of poker at the card room. It was the first time we were playing together and I decided to have each of us bring a bottle of wine to enjoy while playing. At the time, he happened to be working at Caymus here in Napa and low-and-behold he shows up with an '05 Special Selection Cab ($175) from the tasting room that opened for a pre-release tasting. So here I am playing cards drinking one of the best wines from Napa before the general public even sees the wine. Plus, I ended up winning a couple hundred bucks...lucky me.

4. Michael Mondavi and Oberon wines. Premiere Napa Valley during February is one of the area's biggest overall weeks. It brings in (trade) people from all over the country to try Napa's finest concoctions especially produced from this event. It is a showcase week for the valley on all fronts. During this time, Michael Mondavi puts on a BBQ and poker event called "The Oberon Poker Challenge" at his Folio Wine Studio in Carneros. He limits the players to 100 and has sold out two years running. As I arrived to the scene to get my seat, I noticed several familiar faces both from the industry and the local cards games...all the usual suspects. Uhem, I finished 2nd outlasting all of my poker buddies and walked away with a few nice gift certificates along with a magnum of Oberon's premium Hillside Select Cab. Book me for next year.

5. Poker and wine tasting night. For a while, we had a group that was regularly meeting monthly where we would throw together a poker game and have everyone bring a certain varietal or vintage of wines. It included a nice variety of industry sales people, sommeliers, winemakers and retailers. We'd line the wines up on the counter, pop all the corks, doll out the chips and duke it out all night long in to the wee hours. It was a great way to try 10-12 different wines/styles that I would otherwise maybe miss while having a great time talking 'shop'. "Shuffle up and deal" never sounded or tasted so good.

6. Masters week and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Huh? Ok, bear with me here. Twice a year I like to combine a few of my favorite things collectively in one night. In April, it is my absolute favorite week, Masters Golf week. In the fall, it is when the Steelers play on Monday night football. Each of these occasions, I cook up my world famous (well, maybe only slightly regionally famous...) 'five-alarm' chili and have everyone bring wines that work well with spicy food/chili (we tend to lean heavy on the Zins here) while throwing down a poker game in the midst of it all. Golf, football, chili, wine and poker...the girls can't get away fast enough from these annual events.

7. The WSOP. The World Series of Poker is the penultimate poker event. I have been trying to qualify for the main event for over three years only to fall short by either a card or two or a bad beat or so at the wrong time. I have told myself that if I cannot qualify on my own volition, I do not deserve to play in the 'big show' plunking down the $10k it costs for a seat. I have vowed though that if (when) I make it to the main event (I have played in a couple of the early WSOP prelim events) I will break open something from cellar that is quite special and share it with my table. I do not normally drink while playing serious poker, but here just enough to calm the nerves and salute the moment.

8. Murphy-Goode Winery. Some of you might be aware of the new correspondent position/PR drive that this winery is doing dubbed "A Really Goode Job". M-G has done a great job in making this a widely talked about 'dream job' for a "Lifestyle Correspondent". When the article was published in the SF Chronicle a few weeks ago outlining the qualifications that they are looking for, oddly enough they included poker and liar's dice as a preference. Apparently their winemaker has quite the affinity for these games and is a seasoned poker player himself. Who knew!

Being in Napa now for while, my ultimate goal is to put together a huge weekend event that involves a celebrity golf tournament, casino night, poker tournament, wine auction and charity fund raiser that will be known as the valley's "event of the year" to look forward to. I am in the process of putting all the 'players' together to make this happen for 2010.

In the meantime, I'll be exploring more ways to combine all of my passions surrounding wine and bringing together the people and places to make it happen.

Until the next sip, swirl ya' later!

Chief Wino