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Food & Dining // Vino Sense
Roberto Viernes

The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports

What could possibly be “the most exciting two minutes in sports?” Is it the last two minutes of game seven? Is it the 100 yard dash?

No. This title belongs to the world-renowned Kentucky Derby.

I attended the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby in Louisville a couple of weeks ago and it was an absolutely awesome event in so many ways.

Here are some things that many may not know about The Derby. It actually is the 11th race on that Saturday, and is the climax of two days of some of the best thoroughbred horse racing in the world. The Friday prior is reserved for all the filly races, which are capped off by the Kentucky Oaks race, the top race for female horses. The Kentucky Derby is the longest continuously run sporting event in the U.S. It is also known as the “Run for the Roses,” since the winning horse and rider are draped with a bouquet made from 400 fresh red roses.

As you may already know, these two days are filled with pomp and circumstance. Pink is the theme color for the Kentucky Oaks on Friday. I have never seen so many people dressed in all shades of pink. And, oh boy, those hats! Hats are the thing for the ladies. The ladies spend beaucoup bucks on finding just the right color, style and size hat. The hats are bodacious, humorous, always colorful and imaginative. And the men have the most brightly colored suits: seersuckers, pastels, the brighter the better.

But what does one drink at The Derby? The Mint Julep is the traditional beverage of choice. Bourbon County is only a few miles away, so it stands to reason this refreshing drink is de rigueur. As you might have expected, I definitely had my fair share of them. My favorite variant was the Huckleberry Julep, something we don’t get here at home, and it was delicious. In fact, it was the first time I had Huckleberry anything, so now I can add that to my flavor lexicon bank.

There also is plenty of beer flowing at The Derby.

During the heat of the day on Friday, the juleps and beer were worthy thirst quenchers. But Derby Day was cold, wet and rainy. So while I saw many drinks with mint sprigs and suds in them, I reached for the most appropriate wine for The Derby: Fourteen Hands “Hot to Trot.” Fourteen Hands Winery is in Washington State and is inspired by the wild horses that used to roam the region. At 14 hands, they were not big horses (each hand is equivalent to an average man’s palm). But they were known for their strength and endurance. I actually met the winemaker, Keith Kenison, whose philosophy is to make soft and easy-drinking reds and bright, refreshing whites. He says he makes all his decisions in the winemaking process by taste, which in the end is the ultimate indicator of enjoyment for the final consumer.

I drank the Fourteen Hands Riesling earlier in the week, which is a gulpable version of Riesling. It was lightly sweet with soft edges. But the Fourteen Hands “Hot to Trot” is a red blend of mostly Merlot with Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and a touch of Mourvedre. For the money, it is really quite impressive. It is plump and round with tons of red fruit. There is a touch of spice from some wood along with a savory edge with the Syrah and Mourvedre.

As the “call to post” bugle sound announced the race, I grabbed my glass of Fourteen Hands “Hot to Trot” and watched as the horses were put into the starting gate. And off they went, hooves thundering on the sloppy, muddy track. My heart began to race. In two minutes they were around a mile and a quarter. Orb was the favorite, and proved all the experts right with his win.

In those same two minutes I emptied my glass. Was it the most exciting two minutes in sports? You bet!

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. Email rviernes@southernwine.com or follow him on Twitter @Pinotpusher.

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