By Rick Riozza

Hey there sports fans!!  This is your valley’s tennis & wine columnist doing his double duty keeping both wine & tennis enthusiasts informed and alerted to a couple of the desert’s great pastimes: Quaffing wine & painting the lines!

Now if any of you readers are new to this planet, then allow me to introduce you to the “5th” Tennis Grand Slam that this earth offers. Alongside the likes of
Wimbledon, Roland Garros, Australian and the U. S. Open, the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden takes place annually here in our fair city of Indian Wells.

It’s become the true tennis center for all of Southern California, the largest professional two-week combined men’s ATP and woman’s WTA Tour tennis tournament on the globe, and is home to the second largest tennis stadium in the world that seats over 16,000 spectators! And how apt is it that one of the tournament sponsors is the famed Champagne house, Moët & Chandon, and, whose booth is on hand to provide refreshments!

As some of you know, I’ve played competitive tennis for over 45 years and have the knees to prove it! (Actually, one is brand new and the other one is waiting its own replacement).  And engaging on the hard-courts in and around So Cal., I know what it’s like to play in the heat. It’s just uncanny however how year after year, right at this exact time of our big tournament, the big heat of our desert sets upon us big time!

We’ve enjoyed such cool, pretty, and well needed rainy weather, and I was hoping to welcome the tennis pros to a great 80 degree March climate. As I’m writing my article here at the Tennis Garden, it’s 93 out and 120 on the surface of the court on Stadium One.  But—duh!—it’s the desert!! Embrace the heat!

And one of the best ways we vino quaffers know to deal with desert heat is to bring on the chilled champagne!!

And most lovingly served at this two-week event is the Moët & Chandon  Ice Impérial.  The bubbly itself has pretty much shaken up both the wine and champagne world!  Although mixologists through the years have poured their libations on top of cubes of ice for their inventive concoctions, no one in their right mind had ever thought of doing so to chill a world class Champagne.  Not until lately, that is.  But it’s still a bit hard to wrap one’s mind around—up until the time the 90 degree weather kicks in!

I’ve written on this Champagne before:  A couple of years ago, at a Champagne tasting where the staff  of Moët & Chandon first presented this “new type” of Champagne, we took a much needed lunch break, leaving our seats and wine glasses at the table.  Through the windows, we saw the staff pour the Ice Impérial into each of our large wine glasses which held three very large crystal clear ice cubes! Sacré bleu!—we thought! What the heck!? We were all shocked that anyone—let alone Moët & Chandon themselves—would purposefully dilute their precious golden sparkling nectar.

We all cut our lunches short and hurried back into the tasting room.  And there we sat: Staring helplessly at our glasses of world class Champagne having these huge ice cubes with no representative in sight to explain this troubling phenomenon.  Seven minutes later, still no one arrived to either explain or simply speak.  Our room was in an uproar and we couldn’t take it any longer: we drank down that Champagne stat!

The Ice Impérial was delicious.  It’s a brave new wine world out there and Moët & Chandon had perfectly crafted a most delicious Champagne to be poured on ice. (The secret of course is to use a very high percentage of Pinot Noir in the mix.)

Here’s what Moët’s marketing tells us: “The first and only champagne especially created to be enjoyed over ice. A new champagne experience combining fun, fresh and free sensations, while remaining true to the Moët & Chandon style, a style distinguished by its bright fruitiness, its seductive palate, and its elegant maturity.”

Tasting notes for this wonderful wine include: “An intense, fruity bouquet the powerful aroma of tropical fruits (mango, guava) the sumptuousness of stone fruits (nectarine) an original note of raspberry.                 

A generous palate combining roundness and freshness the broad, fleshy, voluptuous flavor of a fresh fruit salad the captivating sweetness of caramel and quince jelly the refreshing acidity of grapefruit and ginger notes.”

Looking around me amongst the beautiful trees and flowers in this tennis garden setting, I see many happy tennis campers refreshing and enjoying themselves with the Moet Champagne as we speak.

And now local Breaking News! The stats are just in that more millennials (the largest living generation in our country) in our valley are getting their local up-dates, sports, and entertainment info on-line and in print from these pages in the CV Weekly more than any other publication in the valley!  Cheers to that!  I’m honored to be this new valley generation’s vino voice, somm-about-town, and tennis gadabout!

Add to the fact that millennial women are now the largest wine buying segment in the wine world—I’m seeing some wonderful connection with women, CV Weekly wine coverage, and, hopefully a new energy of women’s—and men’s—tennis enthusiasm here in our valley.

Hey—I’ve got to get over to a match.  Next column, let’s get more into the tennis personalities and their efforts & successes here at the tournament—and of course, perhaps their favorite wine picks!  Anyone for tennis? Cheers!