I’ve crusaded for years to convince sports fans that wines are better for Super Bowl sipping than the wimpy light beers in the TV ads.
Now I come forth to declare that wine is also more apt than sickly sweet mint juleps for the Kentucky Derby, which is running Saturday.
Never mind that the derby has grown up with its juleps since the 1700s. It’s time for a change.
Kentuckians, bless their hearts, are buying the idea. This year the official wine sponsor of the “Taste of Derby” food and beverage bash a couple of days before the Derby is a Washington State winery called “14 Hands.”
Why 14 Hands? A horse’s height is measured in “hands” just as a person’s is in “feet.” In ancient times, traders measured a horse by stacking fists up to its withers, the area just behind its neck. A “hand” is about four inches.
And there are wines named for mustangs, wild horses, iron horses, flying horses.
14 Hands Winery is inspired by that idea. It’s named for the tiny wild mustangs that roamed the area now called Horse Heaven Hills in Washington State. At 14 hands, they were under 5 feet tall, but revered for unbridled spirit.
Wild Horse Winery, near Paso Robles on California’s Central Coast, is named for its own herds of wild mustangs that populated the grasslands nearby to the east.
Iron Horse Winery, in California’s Sonoma, is named for the train that stopped at the winery’s future site in the early 1900s.
Clos Pegase, in California’s Napa Valley, is named for Pegasus, the winged horse of Greek mythology. Winery owner Jan Shrem, who made a fortune in art publishing, has a painting of Pegasus by the well-known artist Odilon Redon on the labels of his wines.
So as you cheer on your favorite on Derby Day, turn the event into a wine tasting.
Highly recommended: 2010 14 Hands Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $12; 2006 Iron Horse Classic Vintage Brut sparkling wine, Sonoma, $34; 2008 Pegasus “Mitsuko’s Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Carneros, Napa Valley, $35.