Who’d have thunk it? The Washington Nationals are in the World Series!
At the end of last season, they lost star outfielder Bryce Harper to the Phillies, and then started this season out with a dismal record of only 19 wins in their first 50 games. Their bullpen was struggling mightily, and things were not looking good for the Nats. But hey, that doesn’t mean that we ever gave up on them.
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Slowly, the season started turning around. A remarkable winning streak just before the All-Star Break (28 wins in 39 games), put the Nats back into wild-card contention. And they kept rolling through the second half of the season, winning a total of 46 games out of their final 73 games, landing them in a single game, head-to-head duel with the Milwaukee Brewers for the final Wild Card slot. The Nats, trailing 3-1 late in the game, surged ahead in that battle with a three-run homer in the eighth inning to eek out a 4-3 win over the Brewers in dramatic fashion.
Their next stop was Los Angeles to face the season-dominating Dodgers, in the National League Division Series. Their 106-game winning season put LA as the odds-on favorite to win the World Series this year. But it turns out that the Nationals had something to say about that. It took all five games for the Nats to win the three games necessary to move on to the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
This was uncharted territory for the Nats. Playing in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series was a first in franchise history, and the excitement of making it this far in the postseason was almost unbearable for many Nats fans. That’s when the unthinkable happened; the Nats swept the Cardinals in four games. The Cinderella team is in the World Series.
What does any of this have to do with wine? Well, nothing really. It’s just a wonderful excuse to find the perfect wine to enjoy this momentous occasion as you watch history unfold from the comfort of your couch — unless you are lucky enough to score a ticket to one of the games, which, if that’s the case, feel free to ask me to come along! I’ll bring the wine.
Here are a few player-wine matches that I plan on putting in my lineup.
Max Scherzer is all business on the pitching mound, but a bit playful and enthusiastic in the dugout. So, what’s the one wine that can be both serious and bubbly at the same time? Why, Champagne of course! The Champagne House Moët & Chandon is always consistently good, just like Scherzer. Their Non-Vintage Moët & Chandon Imperial Brut is a bend of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier that pitch in to deliver flavors of roasted nuts, green apple and bright citrus across the plate. Just a hint of orange clove and biscuit on the crisp, refreshing finish lends a note of refinement. $40
Juan Soto is youthful. His antics at the plate between pitches can be downright unsettling to pitchers. I can think of no better wine to sum up young Soto’s personality than the 2017 Prisoner Wine Company Saldo Zinfandel from California. This big, red Zin is filled with bold aromas of black licorice, black pepper, dark cherry and baking spice. At the plate, lush flavors of dark cherries and blackberries dominate the palate. The smooth finish highlights hints of vanilla and Asian spices. Serve this up with an RBI double. $25
Anthony Rendon has had a remarkable season, and there is even talk of making him the MVP of the series. He is cool under pressure in the field and dependable at the plate. He is a legend in the making, as is the 2016 Légende Bordeaux Blend from Saint-Émilion, whose name literally means legend. It is a harmonious blend of merlot and cabernet Franc that sports a fragrant bouquet of earthy blackberry, blackcurrant and cassis on the nose. The palate is remarkably well-structured with flavors of blackberry, rhubarb, mocha and roasted coffee on the full-bodied frame. And like Rendon, it finishes clean and strong, with fine tannins and a touch of licorice at the end. It is a versatile and reliable companion in any situation and is definitely Rendon’s wine avatar. $37
Ryan Zimmerman is one of the original members of the 2005 inaugural Nats roster. Now in his 15th season with the team, this veteran is like a fine wine who just keeps getting better with age. What better way to celebrate his best season than with a wine from his rookie year. The 2005 Faustino I Rioja Gran Reserva from Spain fits the bill perfectly, both in age and personality. According to Wine Spectator, this 100% Tempranillo wine is, “Fresh and lively … bright fruit and spice flavors, with cherry, berry, vanilla and anise notes that mingle over light tannins and orange peel acidity. Harmonious and graceful, expressive and alluring.” Fits Zim to a tee. $39