I love baseball, and I love wine. One doesn’t think of sitting down with a glass of wine and talking baseball, but sure enough, it’s happening more and more. My friend Danny is a big baseball fan, a former employee of the New York Yankees family, and currently roots for a Queens domiciled team. He is also a great collector of music and baseball memorabilia. Danny doesn’t drink, but as a fan of this one team, he was given an opportunity that many wine geeks love – to be on the mailing list of a boutique California winery. The winery happens to be GTS Vineyards.
Never heard of it? GTS is owned by one George Thomas Seaver, better known as Tom Seaver or “Tom Terrific” throughout his truly remarkable Hall of Fame pitching career. Despite being stiffed by the team in Queens (twice), many fans remain fiercely loyal to him, as they should. He was the leader of the team that made championship runs, back well into the last century. (And as a side note, the Mets fans I know are fiercely loyal to their team, despite many years of adversity, to say the least.)
Wine is a social thing to me, and my friend Danny wanted to share some of his GTS allotment with me and another friend Dave over dinner last summer. I was flattered and excited to step up to the plate and take a few swings, or swigs. It was a fun and genial night of conversation at Arturo’s Osteria in Maplewood, NJ. We talked a lot of baseball, among other things, and ate really good food (as usual there), and had great conversation…all the right trappings for drinking wine, especially a really good wine. Because Danny doesn’t drink, I brought him one of his favorite beverages (with Yankees roots no less), YooHoo, which the restaurant was kind enough to keep properly chilled, forcing Dave and I to choke down the cab alone.
Seaver at his peak regularly threw his fastball in the mid 90s, sometimes higher, and the quality of his showcase cabernet also regularly hits the mid 90s or higher, in ratings. He was a power pitcher, a big and strong workhorse, who also could use the finesse of his breaking pitches and his pinpoint control. The cabernet could be described similarly, big and strong, classic California in style, but with plenty of finesse and nuance too. Like Seaver, this is no one pitch wonder.
Seaver was also known to be supremely confident and intelligent on the mound. He is no different in the vineyard, shifting his wizardry from the diamond to Diamond Mountain in Napa Valley. He jumped at the opportunity to buy the unplanted south facing parcel of land in Napa a number of years back, and when it came time to put together his own winning team of wine professionals, he used a bottle of Cabernet signed by his fellow wine aficionado Hall of Fame mound mates – Bob Gibson, Don Sutton, Rollie Fingers and Steve Carlton –to help coax vineyard manager Jim Balfour to join his ranks. The work ethic Seaver showed during his baseball career and anytime he took the mound is still evident today. He is not watching from the owner’s box (his home is at the winery), but Seaver works the vineyards regularly.
There is only one catch with the Seaver wines (the GTS cab and the Nancy’s Fancy second bottling, named after his wife). Like many cult Cali cabs, they don’t come cheap. Nancy’s Fancy goes for around $65, and the premier GTS comes in at around the same mid-80s of a Seaver curveball. Those are not unusual prices for incredibly well made, small batch artisanal California cabs. The price and the amount made (only 400-500 cases a year) make it pretty difficult to keep it in the regular rotation though of your wine line-up. But put it in these terms…its less than many of the tickets for a game at Citifield, and arguably a much better and more enjoyable product.
Here’s to a great season, for baseball and wine, no matter who you root for. Cheers!