All star wines for the NHL all star game


In the world of sports, North Carolina is probably better known for NASCAR than it is for professional ice hockey, but last April the National Hockey League announced that the Carolina Hurricanes and the city of Raleigh would host the 58th annual NHL All-Star Game, which takes place this Sunday.

If North Carolina can switch gears from cars to skates, then I suppose I can switch from beer stein to stemware. Since this game features the best of the best in the NHL, I should extend a decent effort to find the perfect, or at least appropriately named, wines to kick back and cheer on my two favorite Washington Capitals, Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green, who will be participating in the festivities.

If you're hosting a party, or simply want to enjoy the game in peace, then consider opening a few of these aptly named wines. Retail prices are approximate.

If you're still celebrating the Capitals victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2011 Winter Classic earlier this month, then think about hunting down a bottle of the 2008 "Decoy" Merlot ($25) that was commissioned by the NHL and repackaged with a special label to commemorate the game. Produced by famed merlot wizard Dan Duckhorn, the Napa Valley fruit used in this bottling results in a wine that shines with scents of blackberry, cassis and violets. The jammy mouthfeel offers up blackberry, black cherry and dark plum flavors on a medium-bodied frame. Ripe tannins combine with a touch of cinnamon on the back of the tongue to provide a lush, balanced finish.

I am a big fan of No. 8, Alex Ovechkin, and there is no better way to complement his aggressive playing style than with the aptly named 2007 Cellar No. 8 Zinfandel from the North Coast of California ($10). Like the Great Eight, this wine is forward and powerful, with scents of ripe red fruit and peppery spices on the nose and full-throttled flavors of blueberry liqueur, red cherry and bright raspberry in the mouth. And just like Alex, this wine finishes strong, taking peppery-soaked notes of red berries all the way to the back of the net, um, I mean tongue.

I know that organically grown and naturally produced wines, or so-called "green" wines, are all the rage. But to pay homage to defenseman Mike Green, I decided to go a different route, namely the Portuguese route, by selecting the 2009 Alianca Vinho Verde ($10) (literally "green wine") from the Minho region in far northern part of the country. My friend and uber-taster Wilfred Wong declares that this wine is "Fresh and citrusy ... and exemplifies the best in a crisp, light wine. Excellent with a bowl of freshly steamed mussels." And since Mike is the muscle on the blue line, this wine is a perfect match.

I don't think you can find a more appropriate red wine to enjoy during a hockey game than Number 99 Estate Winery's 2007 Wayne Gretzky Merlot from the Niagara Peninsula in Canada ($21). The winery is actually owned by Wayne Gretzky and named for the Great One's jersey number. Merlot ripens early up in Canada, so this style features aromas of raspberry, violet and nutmeg on the nose and notes of ripe red cherry, blackberry and mocha chocolate flavors on the graceful frame. A portion of the price of each bottle goes toward Wayne's charitable causes.

Ice hockey is played on, well, ice, so the idea of opening a bottle of ice wine is an appropriate theme to enjoy during the third period. Unfortunately, given the amount of work that is involved with producing these sweet wines, they tend to be a tad pricey. A relative bargain in the Eiswein world is the 2002 Bissersheimer Held by Erich Bender from Germany ($30). Its sweet apricot nose carries through all the way to finish. Flavors of ripe peach and dried mango join in with abundant acidity on the palate to keep the fruit in balance.