Caitlin and I had a very romantic Valentine’s Day. We went to the Daytona 500. It was my first time at a NASCAR race, and as I am a wine-loving urban-dweller, I had some preconceived notions of what the atmosphere would be like. Namely, I anticipated being surrounded by lots of people with mullets, southern accents, few teeth, huge guts and shirts without sleeves. While there were some of those people floating around, the crowd and the refreshments were much more diverse than I anticipated. Much to my surprise, one of the first booths we passed inside the raceway was for NASCAR-themed wine and wine tasting. That’s right. There’s wine tasting at NASCAR.
It shouldn’t be that much of a surprise, considering how the demographics of NASCAR are changing - some of drivers even own their own wineries. Still, old perceptions are hard to change, and many people, myself included, still associate NASCAR with Budweiser tall boys rather than Syrah or Merlot. That being said, you have to love a sport that anticipates the growth of its fan base and accommodates them. Even though the wine booth was fairly empty, it was there, and the business appeared to be steady.
As for Caitlin and I, we opted to bring our own wine into the track…NASCAR lets you bring in your own cooler, so think about that when you are forking over $8.50 for a watery beer or rotgut wine next time you're at a ballgame. The wine we brought were several different varieties of Vendange box wines. After I chose their Chardonnay over Cakebread’s, we decided to try their Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot during the race. The Syrah was the big winner among the three. Although it had neither the richness nor the spiciness that I prefer in my Syrahs, it had much more of a body, with some licorice and blackberry notes, than I was anticipating from a box of wine. While I don’t think it will become our regular table wine, Vendange box wines are portable, inexpensive, and certainly drinkable.
While NASCAR is still not up there with, say, football or baseball for me, any sport that lets you bring in your own wine and has a wine tasting booth set up inside is doing something right.