Sunday, September 28, 2008

Rustico and Redskins

I went to the Virginia Wine Festival on Saturday at the Prince William County Fairgrounds, where local Redskins and Cowboys fans alike were flaunting their allegiances in advance of Sunday's showdown (Chris Cooley jersey, good; pink Redskins hat, bad; "D.C. stands for Dallas Cowboys" and "Tony Romo for President" t-shirts, ugly).

Having run a 10-miler that morning, I was feeling pretty good after one tent's worth of tasting. Around the same time, I learned that Maryland had come back to beat Clemson. Things would only get better. My friends and I moved to the second tent, which featured the Virginia Wine Lover magazine table. In addition to a wine glass, every festival attendee was entitled to a free subscription to the magazine. I wasn't planning on taking advantage of the offer until I saw Todd Collins' goofy, grinning face on the cover of the latest issue.

I picked up a complimentary copy and examined the cover more closely. I'm not sure that this photo wouldn't have been a better choice, but that's why they pay wine magazine editors the big bucks. Collins is holding a bottle of Rustico from Villa Appalacia in the photo, so I checked the festival program to see if Villa Appalaccia had a table. No doubt they did.

My girlfriend and I approached the tasting table and Villa Appalaccia's wine grower, Dr. Susanne Becker, noticed what I was holding. Like a proud mother, she took the magazine from me and excitedly pointed out that Todd Collins was gripping a bottle of her wine like a brand new Wilson.

"I know," I said. "That's why I'm here. I sought you out. You must've had a lot of Redskins fans stopping by today, huh?"

"No," Susanne said. "You're actually the first who noticed us on the magazine."

Impossible. Does that make me creepy? I asked her if she was a Redskins fan.

"No," Susanne said. "We're located in Virginia Tech country (Floyd, VA). There aren't a lot of Redskins fans there."

She later told me she was from Finland and didn't really follow football much. Sadly, she also didn't know anything about cover boy and oenophile Todd Collins. I asked if she had framed the magazine or enlarged it to display on a wall in her cellar. No and no. She keeps a copy at her winery, but is otherwise taking her newfound celebrity status (read: at least one new fan!) in stride.

At some point during this conversation I tasted the Rustico, which is made from the Corvino grape and is delicious. When it hit my lips, images of Todd Collins zipping spirals to Santana Moss flooded my mind and there was no question I was going to buy a bottle. In hindsight, I should've bought a case. Susanne was happy to pose for a photo with me, Todd, and the Rustico.

I read the cover article, written by the Examiner's John Keim, when I got home. It rehashes Collins' well documented propensity for sniffing things, including footballs and wine, and also includes a few original choice quotes:
"The general culture is more involved in wine and a lot of athletes have moved beyond beer. Not that they're turning their noses up at beer or anything, but I think they appreciate some other things, they get into wine and start tasting and they combine wines with meals and they go to nice places and they're not afraid to spend for a top bottle and then they start buying and cellaring and start talking about it."
-- Former Kansas City Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil

"I didn't know Virginia made so many different types of wine."
-- Todd Collins, whose aging Keim compared to a quality Brunello or Cabernet

Clearly, the only way for Virginia Wine Lover to top this is to put Clinton Portis in costume (Sommelier Jerome?) on the cover of the Winter edition. I will eagerly await its arrival. As for my bottle of Rustico, I plan to let it age until the Redskins win the Super Bowl or lose a game in particularly brutal fashion, whichever comes first. At that point, I will proceed to down the entire bottle in one sitting, pausing only occasionally to sniff its sweet aroma. Todd Collins wouldn't have it any other way.

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