The Oakland Raiders are one of America’s most successful franchises: owners of three National Football league championships and a team that has placed twelve players, one coach and their owner into the NFL Hall of Fame. Over the course of their history, the Raiders have developed the reputation as one of the fiercest teams in the country. So what comes to mind when we think of the Raiders?
For many of us, the Raiders’ logo is the first thing that comes to mind: the pirate or “raider” with the eye patch wearing a football helmet dressed in the team’s sliver and black colors. For others, what comes to mind is an image of the players themselves, either as a unit …
…or perhaps a favorite individual player.
As much as the players are celebrities, the Raider fans have also become notorious for their intense love for their team, their elaborate costumes, and the inhospitable nature of the Raiders’ home stadium, the Oakland Coliseum.
These are the images and ideas that we conjure up when we hear the words “Oakland Raiders.” What we do not conjure up are …Cabernet Sauvignon, fine wine, Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley. Nevertheless, American football and the Oakland Raiders do in fact have a strong connection to Napa Valley, wine and great Cabernet Sauvignon. This past week at a local Italian restaurant (thanks, Pasta Prego!) we ordered wine from a label that was new to us: Twenty Four Wines. Our waitress explained that “Twenty Four” was a reference to the uniform number worn by previous NFL football player Charles Woodson, a member of the Oakland Raiders (retired in 2016).
The wine had a lovely aroma of dark fruits (blackberry, blueberry) as well as some spice and a hint of oak. Based on the bold aroma, we were expecting a very fruit-forward, high-alcohol wine that jumped out of the glass. Instead, our first couple of sips revealed a very restrained wine; it almost seemed like it was holding itself back. Initially, the fruit was muted by the acidity and dryness of the wine and there was not much to the finish. We decided to let it open up more and a few minutes later the fruit flavors become more prominent as did the tannins, leading to a much longer finish and more satisfying balance of fruit and acidity.
You might wonder how Charles Woodson went from this …
Charles Woodson was drafted by the Raiders in 1998 and attended his first training camp that year in the city of Napa, where we live. Through his annual visits to training camp and exposure to the Napa Valley, Woodson became more and more interested in wine and became friends with some knowledgeable wine people along the way. After leasing a property in Calistoga in 2001, he planted vines and made his first wine in 2005, a Cabernet Sauvignon. Today, he bottles Cab as well as Sauvignon Blanc, which we also had a chance to taste at Pasta Prego. We were impressed with the aroma and flavor of the Sav Blanc as well – a nice balance of fruit and acidity.
Like many of our favorite wineries in Napa Valley, Twenty Four Wines is still a small production operation compared to the “big fish” in the Valley. But with the quality of the wines, the energy of its owner, and the interesting story behind the brand, we anticipate that growth is in their future. Next time you’re going to a Raider game, forget about that flask of whiskey, case of beer, or bottles of tequila. Get yourself a bottle (or six) of Twenty Four Wines and tailgate like a Hall of Famer. And don’t forget your wine glasses, good Cab does not taste good in a plastic cup.
You can find Charles Woodson’s wines here: http://www.charleswoodsonwines.com/
John & Irene Ingersoll
January 27, 2017