BY RICK RIOZZA

Happy days are here again where I get to do double duty as your valley’s tennis & wine columnist keeping both wine & tennis enthusiasts informed and alerted to a couple of the desert’s great pastimes: Quaffing wine & painting the lines!

It’s often said that the BNP Paribas Open, held at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, is the “5th” Tennis Grand Slam event alongside the likes of Wimbledom, Roland Garros (the French Open), Australian and the U. S. Open.  This annual tennis contest pulls in all of the top players around the world; and, let’s not forget, the Tennis Garden showcases the second largest outdoor tennis stadium on the globe–the largest being Arthur Ashe Stadium at the US Open.

In my interviews with the players, the most familiar comments I hear is something like, “Hey—look around! it’s beautiful here!  I mean—this is Palm Springs!! We love playing here.  Paris is probably the only other place we love better!”  Okay—Paris and Palm Springs in the same breath, we’ll take it!

A funny thing about the usual weather around this time:  Generally, in the days leading up to the event, the temperatures are lovingly mild and oftentimes there’s a beautiful powdering of snow on our local mountains.  But just like that!—the day the tournament starts, we’re into the high 80s and court surface temperatures are over 100 degrees!  Everyone reminds me that—after all, we are in the desert.

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Well then—there’s no better segue than to talk about one of the tournament sponsors: the famed Champagne house, Moët & Chandon, whose Champagne Pavilion at the center of the grounds reeks of elegance & class, provides a great amount of circular shade to relax thereunder—and, by the way, serves up some of the most delicious chilled sparklers around, available in a collectable stylish white Champagne goblet.

Of course the tennis world is still a buzz and still amazed that we have probably the best female and male tennis players of all time playing at this 2018 BNP Paribas, Serena Williams and Roger Federer. Anyone following tennis these past few years knows their stories and accomplishments. 

You loyal readers will remember my 2015 BNP Paribas CV Weekly “interview” with Serena, who at that time, finally came back to play here in Indian Wells, after a multi-year boycott of this tournament.  She was indeed happy to be back playing here, as were her fans; and again she’s back playing competitively after giving birth last year!

As to Federer—what can you say?  He’s won 20 Grand Slam singles titles—the most in history for a male player—and has held the world No. 1 spot in the tennis rankings for a record amount and has continuously ranked in the top ten from 2002 to November 2016—a time when he had to lay off for a while to tend to injuries.  But he’s back and winning again!

Sounds like a great time to offer a celebratory toast to these great players, and Moët & Chandon comes through.  I’ll tell you, their pavilion is a striking design and one feels pretty good sitting quaffing in their lounge chairs.  There are also petite drinking cabanas facing out to the stadiums where those so inclined can be pampered with Champagne bottle service.  In the evening and night, their rotunda illuminates a simmering neon-pink glow that causes one to order immediately their renowned Rosé Impérial Champagne.

This Rosé Champagne chimes in with its own glowing pink colors with amber highlights. Everything soon becomes a party with its lively bewitching bouquet of red fruits such as wild strawberry, raspberry, and cherry along with a floral nuance of rose petals.  The palate continues with those fruits but adding a bit of red currant to the mix.  Some peachy notes and peach pits show with that subtle note of menthol, from no doubt, the twenty to thirty percent blend of vintage reserve Champagne that’s part of the bubbly’s mélange.

I remember these tasting notes vividly, having enjoyed this Rosé Impérial recently during a Valentine’s Day dinner.  It’s an impressive quaff and a special treat that can handles all festivities.

Also served at the Champagne Pavilion are the Moët & Chandon Impérial and Ice Impérial by the bottle at around $140 and by the commemorative Moët goblet for around $27

As a handful of you know, I’ve played competitive tennis for over 45 years and had the knees to prove it! (Yep!—I’ve two new titanium ones.)  Things were promising for me back in my college days—but it turned into a “good/bad news” story.  The good news: I was an Olympic hopeful; bad news, I didn’t make the team.  The good news: My grandfather was born in Italy, therefore I could qualify, under the Italian rules, to play for Italy; the bad news, I didn’t make the team.

For you vino lovers following tennis, you’ll agree that we are seeing a great new wave of tennis players both from the U.S. and the world.  Sorry Donald—but most of us tennis and wine enthusiasts are Globalists: we love our wine country and its production of world class wine and we love the wines around the world. We cherish our national tennis talent with all the new kids on the block playing from out of every economic and cultural niche in America, and we love seeing such talented athletes, women and men from the other 194 countries capable of playing in our tournaments.  Cheers to that!!

Rick is the valley’s somm-about-town entertaining and conducting at restaurant venues, wine events and tastings. He is the brand ambassador to The Historic Galleano Winery and this April he’s off to Verona attending the VinItaly 2018 Wine Festival. Ciao Bella! Contact Rick at winespectrum@aol.com

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