Vail Wine Ink column: Hometown wines of FIS World Cup Finals competitors
NEED TO KNOW
If you want to watch the fastest grapes ... er ... skiers in the world, here is the television schedule for the remaining races.
• 11 a.m. Friday, March 17 — Alpine Team Event, NBCSN
• 10:30 a.m. Saturday, March 18 — Women’s Slalom Live, NBC
• 11 a.m. Sunday, March 19 — Men’s Giant Slalom, NBCSN
• Noon Sunday, March 19 — Men’s Slalom, NBCSN
With this prodigious winter winding into spring, the fastest ski racers in the world are in the United States for the FIS World Cup ski races. The Finals will be contested on the slopes of Aspen mountain this weekend. The best of the best — the Grand Cru, if you will — of the skiing world will be competing for the crystal globes, the symbol of excellence in skiing.
While they call it the World Cup, virtually all of the skiers in the Finals hail from the Northern Hemisphere. The majority are from Europe and North America, which, by happy coincidence, happens to fit into the sweet spot of this column. The nations the skiers call home are those with the greatest wine traditions. It got me thinking, “What kind of wines would best represent the world’s best skiers?”
WHITE WINES FOR CHAMPIONS
Take the Austrian Marcel Hirscher, for example. The most accomplished athlete on Earth who most Americans have never heard of (except ski-racing fans), Hirscher has won six straight overall World Championships. That would be the equivalent of a winery being named the best by every significant wine journal for more than half a decade. And for good measure, he is ranked first in the slalom and the giant slalom standings going into these Finals, as well.
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In Marcel’s home country, there are 35 grape varieties (22 white and 13 red) that can be used in the production of Qualitatswein (quality wine). Perhaps the best known, especially amongst wine geeks, is the epic gruner veltliner white wines that can show as peppery, racy and full of power. While Champagne will, no doubt, be sprayed this week in celebration of his crystal globes, I’d like to pour Hirscher some FX Pichler Gruner Veltliner “M,” for monumental — in a glass made by his countryman Georg Riedel, of course.
On the distaff side is the young, precise and charming Mikaela Shiffrin from Eagle-Vail. Shiffrin celebrated her 22nd birthday on Monday and is coming off of a pair of victories last weekend in Squaw Valley, California. Shiffrin is favored to win the overall title in Aspen. Though she is youthful, she also represents the future of ski racing and will have an unprecedented shot at five medals in next year’s Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. If she approaches that, then her fame will rise to the Michael Phelps stratosphere.
I don’t know if Shiffrin is a wine drinker, but at the end of this ski season, I suggest she sit down to reflect on her success with a glass of Sonoma Coast chardonnay. It is a region that, such as Shiffrin, is getting more and more recognition on the international scene and one known for precise, charming wines with power and structure. May I recommend a 2013 Hirsch Vineyards Estate Chardonnay? Though the Hirsch is better known for its outstanding pinot noir, this release is a wine for the times.
RED WINES WORK ON SNOW, TOO
Of course, if you are looking for a powerhouse American skier who has not simply had world-class success, but has also overcome the vicissitude of her sport like no other, then consider Lindsey Vonn. Again, nature imposed its uncompromising will this year on Vonn, who severely broke her arm in training at Copper Mountain in November and ended her season this week at the Finals with a second-place finish in the downhill Wednesday, followed by a crash in the super-G Thursday.
Somebody should give that girl a bottle, make it a magnum, of the California Cult Cabernet from Harlan Estate, preferably one from 2010, the year she won two medals, including a gold at the Vancouver Olympic Games. Big, beautiful, balanced and powerful, it is the perfect pairing with Vonn’s book, “Strong is the New Beautiful,” released last fall. Oh, and you can find that magnum on wine.com for $2,199.
Sofia Goggia came into Aspen from her home region of Bergamo in Lombardy, Italy, where the Bellavista DOCG Franciacorta wines are made using the Champagne method. Goggia took third in Wednesday’s downhill, with the gold medal — and overall downhill title — going to Slovenia’s Ilka Stuhec. Slovenia is the home of the renowned Ales Kristancic, who makes Puro, a legendary white sparkler that is best opened while upside down. A position none of the skiers hope to be in this week.
I could go on, but I’d rather go watch the races.
Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.