Panorama of draft night.
Panorama of draft night.
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S pring is always a great time of year because so many things come at once: the Masters Tournament, the NCAA basketball tournament, the Aiken Triple Crown, and especially baseball. The added bonus to baseball is the many fantasy drafts or auctions that occur just before the season starts.
I just finished what one of my oldest and dearest friends calls, “the most wonderful night of the year.” Except he sings it. And he shouldn’t. But it is a special night.
We had draft night for the CLTBL, a league I have been in for at least 10 uninterrupted years. When I lived in Charlotte I was part of the league for many more years, but then I moved to Augusta and after a few years of driving back for draft night realized I couldn’t do that. When you’re working and have a couple of children in the house, weeknight fantasy draft 150 miles away just isn’t a good idea.
I asked the group by email what CLTBL stood for, guessing it was “Charlotte Baseball League,” but also suggesting it could be “Can’t Lift Tanqueray Before Lunch.” Or possibly “Closet Baseball Legends.” There was one vote for the gin one, and another suggestion for “Charlotte League To Become Legendary.” Sometimes I guess an initial doesn’t stand for anything, like the S in Harry S Truman.
Stan is always enthusiastic.
Stan is always enthusiastic.
But I’m retired now, and as I like to say, every day is Saturday. The kids are all gone, and Teri is very understanding. So off I went Tuesday, armed with extensive research and a couple of bottles of wine to help ease the pain of making the wrong selections.
The wine really helped, but I also wasn’t feeling much pain; I actually like the guys I ended up with, or most of them anyway. And I was feeling lucky. After attending baseball games for some 60 years I finally caught a ball during a spring training game in Phoenix the week before.
I got some of the players I really wanted: Chris Sale, Dave Robertson, Avaisail Garcia, Pablo Sandoval, Corey Dickerson and Joc Pederson. At this point of the season they all look like MVPs. We’ll check back in August and see if any of them are still on my team.
One pick was kind of a mystery. I bid $1 on Scott Van Slyke and no one outbid me. There were no other bids, so I got him. Later I realized he is the fourth or fifth outfielder for the Dodgers, so he might not get much playing time. But I corrected that by picking up a free agent who might actually play.
On any other night but draft night the two wines I had would have been the hit of the show. But it’s difficult to beat the pleasure of watching my pal Stan go all the way up to $51 for Angels star Mike Trout. (I had Trout last year for $49, and he is fun to have on your team. But $51 is a lot when you have $260 to spend on 25 players.) This is not a criticism of Stan because he is always among the top finishers in the league.
So, what about the wines? The first was Mulderbosch Faithful Hound, from South Africa. The other was Troublemaker by Hope Family Wines in Paso Robles. Both were great.
The Faithful Hound is a powerful Bordeaux-style blend of 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 13% Petit Verdot, 11% Cabernet Franc and 6% Malbec. It is dark, rich, smooth, full of complex flavors, including plums, blackberries and notes of spices and white pepper. It is a great wine for food, such as grilled steaks or tomato based pasta. My first glass was a nice match for the great barbecue (pork and chicken) Gary picked up for us, but the wine was just as good on its own and with potato chips later that night.
Mulderbosch Faithful Hound
Mulderbosch Faithful Hound
Founded in 1989 Mulderbosch Vineyards was one of the pioneers that drew attention to South Africa with its Sauvignon Blanc and rosé wines. Located in the Stellenbosch Hills outside Stellenbosch, the winery is recognized as one of the finest South African producers.
Noted wine investor Charles Banks bought the property in 2010 and has taken the Mulderbosch wines to a new level with the hiring of winemaker Adam Mason.
Banks, who is probably best known for developing cult winery Screaming Eagle, also bought the Fable Mountain Vineyards. I tasted their Jackal Bird white blend earlier this year, and it was spectacular.
Gary with his faithful hound Charlotte, and Trevor.
Gary with his faithful hound Charlotte.
Banks went to high school in Atlanta, and graduated from the University of Georgia before becoming an investment banker. He and his wife enjoyed wine, and after moving to California bought a piece of land and planted it with vines. The first vintage of Jonata in 2005 was an instant hit, and the Bankses have enjoyed many more successes since then.
Mulderbosch is among the leaders in sustainable growing practices. Some of the bush vines on the estate date back to the 1970s, and the winery works to protect the environment around them.
The grapes for the Faithful Hound were hand picked and crushed into stainless steel fermenters. The must was cold soaked overnight and allowed to begin spontaneous fermentation. The grapes also were innoculated with other yeast.
The wine fermented on the skins before it was pressed and underwent malolactic fermentation, which gives the wine some of its smoothness. The wine then was blended and placed in French oak barrels (60% new and 40% second fill) for 18 months.
The 2010 vintage that we had should remain great in the bottle for another five years or so. The wine sells for about $18-20 a bottle.
Troublemaker.
Troublemaker.
The other wine I drank that night was one of my old favorites, Troublemaker. It is a Rhone style blend that varies with each new version. The winery blends grapes and vintages, a rare practice. Most bottles of wine have grapes from only one vintage.
But owner Austin Hope is a bit of a rebel, so he decided to try something new. When the first batch was released it was called Westside Red, the Troublemaker. The winery created a funny video about the new wine that you can check out here: http://www.hopefamilywines.com/watch/
There are several videos, but my favorites are the Troublemaker and How To Pair A Duck. You can tell Austin takes his wine seriously, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously.
The fun starts with a bold label. Earlier versions call the wine West Side Red: The Troublemaker. Now there is a bold white Troublemaker on a deep red background featuring an abstract red and black image. I think it looks like a bullet hole, but as in all abstract art, others will see something else. The sparse back label says “You know who you are.”
“Troublemaker is a fun drinking wine, so we decided to have some fun with the label too,” Austin Hope told me when I visited the winery a few years ago. “Our goal is to offer a wine in a package that speaks to the inner Troublemaker in all of us.”
This version of Troublemaker is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel. It is smooth, with no rough edges. It is fruit-forward without being jammy, with great depth and structure. As you drink it the layers of flavor keep opening up. The current version is Blend 8 and sells for about $20. I always have several in my cellar.
Hope Family Wines has four other labels: Liberty School, Candor, Treana and Austin Hope. Each produces distinctive, spectacular wines at various prices levels. The winery is based in Paso Robles.
Looks like somebody's having fun.
Looks like somebody’s having fun.
This is the second year I have brought Troublemaker to draft night. I had a good draft last year, so I’m giving the wine credit. In fact, I was running at number two or three late in the season, but when I went out of the country for several weeks in August and September, I wasn’t able to keep up with my team. I probably wouldn’t have caught Trevor, who led the league all year, but I could have finished a lot higher than I did.
So this year, there will be no late-season vacations.
Draft night is always fun because I get to reconnect with some guys I have known for years, and several of whom were on our softball team. I also get to see guys I only see once a year, but who seem like great guys.
The only troubling note this year was everyone seems to be getting older. There’s a lot of that going around. A couple of them even had to bring their prescription medication. Others drank things like water and chocolate milk. Sigh.
It’s still a fun night. I would say a great night. Some would even say “the most wonderful night of the year.” Who am I to argue?
Congrats to Trevor for last year. For this year, good luck to Stan, Gary, Tom, Taylor, Peter, Trevor, Chuck, Jeff, Bill and Brett. I hope you all tie for second behind me.
This is serious business.
This is serious business.

There's always time for a brewski.
There’s always time for a brewski.

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