Going to WAR for a great wine
With the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series hard upon us, it’s a fine time to look closer at what might be the most statistic-oriented sport in human history.
You want numbers? Thanks to the never-tiring endeavors of such stats-happy fans as writer Daniel Okrent, who is credited with inventing Rotisserie League Baseball, and baseball writer and historian Bill James, author of more than two dozen books devoted to baseball history and statistics, there are baseball metrics for every conceivable event.
Which left-handed pitchers allow more steals with two outs? Which batters tend to strike out with one man on and two outs?
Some of the more-obtuse (for non-baseball fans anyway,) include James’ “Runs Created,” which tries to quantify a player’s contribution to runs scored and his “Pythagorean Winning Percentage,” which explains the relationship of wins and losses to runs scored and runs allowed and a team’s actual winning percentage.
All of the numbers, of course, are there for one reason: to determine why teams win and lose (or is that two reasons?)
But then I saw the category “Wins Above Replacement” and thought, “Here’s something I can use.”
The WAR metric can be explained (very simply) as considering a player’s total value and how much his team would be giving up if the player had to be replaced with a minor leaguer or someone off the bench.
Since this ostensibly is a column on wine and not baseball, we’ll tweak the WAR statistic to fit into your wine cellar.
During an Easter dinner, standing head and shoulders (literally) over the other wines on the table was a magnum of the 2003 Le Cigare Volant, the Rhone-style red from Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon, one of California’s original Rhone Rangers.
The wine, whose name literally translated from the French means The Flying Cigar or The Flying Saucer, is considered Grahm’s tribute to Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
According to several sources, the name derived from a 1954 ordinance adopted by Chateauneuf-du-Pape producers forbidding flying cigars/saucers from flying over the region.
Any transgressors, said the ordinance, would be confiscated. As far as known, the only flying saucer yet seen is the one on the wine’s label.
Le Cigare Volant traditionally (the first vintage was 1984) is a fruit-driven blend based on grenache, syrah and mourvedre, with smaller amounts of viognier, cinsault and carignane but 2003 was a bit of stylistic change for a wine Grahm has called Bonny Doon’s “spiritual center.”
In some winemaker’s notes, Grahm said, “We have upped the ante and given the wine a little more grip. I think that in doing so, we have enhanced this Cigare’s ability to age.”
This wine is a blend of 34 percent grenache, 33 percent Syrah, 27 percent mourvédre and 2 percent each of viognier, cinsault and carignane.
Here, though, the syrah and mourvedre are dominant with the grenache hanging back a bit.
We weren’t sure what we’d find on opening the bottle since some reviewers have given the 2003 a definite thumbs down but the large bottle disappeared well before dinner was served.
Eight years of not-great but decent cellaring produced a wine with soft tannins and lots of red-raspberry and dark cherry fruit along with the spicy tang of the syrah and the dark flavors of the mourvedre.
We wished we had one more bottle stashed away to open in another eight years.
Which brings up the wine’s WAR rating.
You can’t keep this wine in your cellar forever, but if you had two bottles, what would you lose by drinking the second right away?
Seriously, this wine was so good we would have popped the second, if it was available.
But that would mean losing (bad WAR rating) the future of this wine, which from the one bottle we had, seems quite promising.
Do you stutter and stammer and bring up a substitute from the cellar, all the while knowing there’s a All-Star in its prime begging for a chance to shine?
You could wait until that “Special Occasion” calls for a particularly impressive wine, and let that baby slam one out of the park.
Or you could play like the 1919 White Sox, shrug your shoulders and say, “I don’t know what happened.”
Maybe the solution is to check the bank account and make a big trade, putting another winner in your cellar.