Road Trip: Ballpark Wine

By John ~ May 30th, 2008.

During our cross-country road trip, we have been taking in some sporting events, mostly Major League Baseball games.

Actually, our first ballpark was not a ballpark at all, but Churchill Downs, the famous horse track and site of the Kentucky Derby in Louisville, Kentucky. On Derby Day, they served a choice of Fetzer Chardonnay, Zinfandel, or Merlot for $5/glass. The price was better than I expected for a house wine at such a prestigious event and Fetzer is not a half bad value wine. Of course, the drink of choice at the Derby is a $9 Mint Julep.

Our next ballpark was the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, home of the Cincinnati Reds. While beer was the obvious beverage of choice there, they served four different wines: Beringer White Zinfandel, and Woodbridge Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, all at $6.50/glass. Why wine prices were higher in Cincinnati than at the Derby, I’m not sure.

Progressive Field in Cleveland was the next stop on our ballpark tour. It was harder to find wine there than in the previous two venues, but I finally found wine being offered in the Marketplace Pavilion bar in the centerfield bleachers area. They were offering Woodbridge Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon at $7/glass. At least they were serving it in an actual wine glass, rather than in a plastic cup as many ballparks do.

The next stop on our ballpark tour was Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, home of the Milwaukee Brewers. As you can imagine from the name of the title sponsor, Miller, there were a plethora of stands selling beer, but none selling wine. The only wine available was at a Friday’s restaurant, but none sold at any of the concession stands for the average fan.

The St. Louis Cardinals’ new Busch Stadium was our next stop. I suspected that wine might not be found here either, but that was not the case. They served three different Gallo wines at $6.25/glass, Chardonnay, Merlot, and White Zinfandel.

The final stop on our ballpark tour was Coors Field in Denver, Colorado, home of the Colorado Rockies. As in Milwaukee and St. Louis, I was skeptical of finding wine at the concession stands, but I actually found two different wine offerings. At the bar on the Club level, they were selling Glen Ellen Chardonnay, Merlot, and White Zinfandel, and at a concession stand they were offering Woodbridge Chardonnay and Merlot, all at $6/glass.

As I look back at the six sporting venues we visited, a few things are clear:

  1. Ballparks are primarily beer country; wine is a secondary offering.
  2. Wine consumers at the ballpark are, for the most part, not very discriminating. If they were, I believe that the offerings would be better and more diverse.
  3. I’ve always thought that Zinfandel (Red) is the best pairing with ballpark food such as hot dogs, but none of the ballparks we visited even had it.

In sum, I’d have to say that the Kentucky Derby beat all of the ballparks in giving the most bang-for-the-buck on wine. And, as a bonus, we got to see Big Brown, who may prove to be one of the greatest racehorses of all time.

Filed under: American Wine, Red Wine, White Wine, Wine Travel

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