By Rick Riozza

Hey sports fans! Let’s give a cheer! How fun is it to live in the Coachella Valley and be at center court to all the pleasurable and exciting events around us.

Pretty much everyone here knows about the BNP Paripas Open annually held at the Tennis Gardens in Indian Wells.  It’s the fifth largest tennis congregation of players and fans in the world!

This last Sunday, yet another accolade came upon the competition:  For the first time in 40 years The BNP Paribas Open Indian Wells was honored for being the most favored ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Event.  Besides ATP providing ranking for the finest male tennis athletes in the world, they annually put on 62 tournaments in 31 countries.  And the guys voted our Indian Wells venue as the best!

Tennis great, Roger Federer, said, “I simply love it here. It’s different from any other competition; it’s quite special—unique.  There is a life and soul to this tournament—you can feel it!” World number one Novak Djokovic commented, “It’s a really fun place to be!  So many golf courses, it’s so peaceful and great restaurants!

Since a lot of the international tennis events are often supported and sponsored by Moët & Chandon, the famous French Champagne House and producer, they were on hand with a Nebuchadnezzer of Moët & Chandon Imperial Brut Champagne to open and share with the presenters and crowd.

Now that is the largest format champagne bottle which holds 15 liters of wine.   That’s almost four gallons!  And we vino lovers made sure we brought along our long and sturdy straws! Cheers to that!

And most lovingly served at this two-week event is the Moët & Chandon Imperial Ice.  I’ve written on this Champagne before:  At a Champagne tasting, when Moët & Chandon first presented this “new type” of Champagne, they poured the Imperial Ice into each of our large wine glasses that held three large crystal clear ice cubes!  We were all shocked that anyone—let alone Moët & Chandon themselves—would purposefully dilute their precious golden sparkling nectar.

But it’s a brave new wine world out there and Moët & Chandon had perfectly crafted a most delicious Champagne to be poured on ice.  And believe me, no one is complaining in this 90+ degree heat about this chilled and refreshing glass of fine wine on ice!

So I took advantage of my media credentials here at the BNP Paripas Open and taking a break from center court action (and from the sun!), I whipped over to the live interview of tennis great Serena Williams who had previously boycotted this tournament for the last 14 years.

Big news for certain in the sports and tennis world; and, I sat next to tennis commentator Mary Carrillo and close to our valley’s own sports girl, Julie Buehler, where many questions were posed to Serena regarding her decision to come and play here again.  But I’m a wine, food & tennis columnist so my questions came from a different perspective.

Now I’m not sure what the effects of all that wine, women, and sun had on my Q & A session with S.W., but if given the chance, I would have asked hard-hitting culinary questions to set any record straight and perhaps it went like this:

RR: What is your favorite wine?

SW:  Well—wine guy—if I did drink wine. I’m sure it would be a boutique bottle produce by a retired tennis player who has commissioned me and my sister to design the wine label

RR: Are you saying it’s a good year for wine?

SW: Yes—that’s right.  And thank you for reminding me, I’ve got a perfectly chilled bottle of 2015 crystal clear water awaiting.

RR: And what about being in Stadium 2 with all those restaurants wafting down heavenly aromas of steak, fries & pizza?  Do you find it distracting?

SW:  Just got into town actually—but thanks for the heads-ups.  Really looking forward to the sights, sounds, and smells of the desert.  Ciao!

It was a pleasure to be front and center in the presence of the best women tennis player in history.

Tennis anyone?  Cheers!

Rick is the wine steward at Pavilions in Rancho Mirage and wittily titles himself the “somm-about-town” in this Vino Voice column, where his beat is to eat, drink, and cover the gustatory scene of the CV. A freelance writer and contributor to Tasting Panel Magazine, a wine reviewer for, he is also the Brand Ambassador for the historic Galleano Winery. Rick conducts & entertains locally at wine tastings, food & wine pairing events and fun wine seminars. Contact