The other day I was speaking to a colleague about my trip last summer to British Columbia for the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference. It was a spectacular trip, full of dazzling scenery and wines. The Okanagan Valley is producing some great terroir-driven reds including Merlot and Syrah plus some very stylish Gerwurztraminer and Pinot Gris. To this he responded, "You really go for the underdogs don't you?"
That stung a little bit, as if I weren't capable of appreciating a fine Napa Cab or an Alsatian Riesling!
But you know what? I'm pulling for the underdogs 100 percent. LeBron James doesn't need one more fan rooting on his team of crybaby millionaires. I'm pulling for the #8 seed or the scrappy basketball team trying to pull out a championship with a couple of aging stars and some no-name three-point shooters.
I'm pulling for the winemaker with a dream and a few dozen acres of vines. I'm pulling for the wine region about which people say, 'I didn't know they made wine there." I'm pulling for the little known grape varieties swimming against the swirling flood of Cabernet and Chardonnay. Yes, damnation, I do love the underdog.
But just like when Andy Murray recently shed a 77-year-old weight from his shoulders by gutting out a Wimbledon tennis championship, a win by the underdog brings the succulent nectar of success. It's sweeter by far than the favorite merely doing what they were supposed to do in the first place.
So who are the underdogs that I’m rooting for? Here’s just a few (I happily acknowledge that some are well on their way to shedding the ‘dog label):
- Wineries in British Columbia
- Cabernet Franc
- Finger Lakes Wine Region
- Wines of Portugal
- Pinot Noir from New Zealand
- Cool Climate Chardonnay
- Washington State Wine
- Tannat from Uruguay
- Wine from Ohio, Missouri, Colorado and Texas
- Virginia Viognier
- Michigan Riesling
Will the wine underdogs triumph over their better known, well-funded competitors? Hard to say – but the struggle against often tremendous odds is inspiring – and often delicious.