N.F.L. free agency so far & reviews of some Bogle wines Ron Rivera might want to drink to drown his sorrows over free agency

22 Mar
Dusk at Bogle Vineyards

Dusk at Bogle Vineyards

Last year I explained why free agency is a crap-shoot & you can’t predict which teams really did the best.  Obviously this year I have to completely forget about that & make some predictions about which teams have done the best & worst in free agency, even though it is still going on as I type.

I still believe that it is true that no one wins the Super Bowl in March, but this year it looks like you can guarantee that you won’t even be in the hunt.  Here are the teams that I think have helped or hurt themselves the most so far.  I didn’t write about every team, just the ones who have made significant moves.   I haven’t included Oakland because I can’t really figure them out yet.

Teams that helped themselves

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals haven’t made a lot of moves, but the moves they have made look good.  They signed Antonio Cromartie to a 1 year contract.  He didn’t have a great year last year, but he has been a solid cornerback.  The best thing for him & for the Cardinals is that he will handle the #2 receiver for the opposing team.  Pairing him with Patrick Peterson & Tyrann Mathieu creates a great defensive backfield for the Cardinals.  They also signed Jared Veldheer to a 5 year contract.  He might not be the left tackle of your dreams, but adding him & Ted Larsen to the line should keep Carson Palmer from having so many nightmares.

Denver Broncos

With the exception of losing Eric Decker to the Jets, everything seems to be going right for the Broncos this year.   The Super Bowl showed them how much improvement their defense needed to make this year.  John Elway is working on it with a vengeance.  They signed DeMarcus Ware, who should be amazing paired with Von Miller.  They replaced Champ Bailey with Aqib Talib, which not only upgraded their secondary, but also looked like it would hurt the Patriots.  It didn’t, but it was a great move either way.  On offense they replaced Eric Decker with Emmanuel Sanders, who should be able to stretch the field & open up some crossing routes for Wes Welker.

Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions have made a few key moves.  Adding Golden Tate at wide receiver looks like a smart choice.  He should see single coverage every game and has the opportunity to have a great year.  I think Jed Collins at fullback will be a good move as well.  If Jim Caldwell can get any discipline into this team in his first year, they should be a threat to make the playoffs.

Green Bay Packers

The Packers don’t usually do much in free agency, but signing Julius Peppers was a big deal.  I think that he has a couple more good years in him & that might be enough to get the Packers deeper into the playoffs.  Despite having the 8th best scoring offense in the NFL last year, the Packers were still outscored overall by their opponents (by 11 points).  Signing Peppers might close that gap.

Indianapolis Colts

Hakeem Nicks had a bad season in a contract year, but his quarterback had a terrible year.  Now Nicks is on a 1 year prove it deal & will have Andrew Luck throwing to him, who should give him a chance to shine.  Signing D’Qwell Jackson looks like a good move.  At the moment, the Colts look likely to repeat their AFC South championship.

Jacksonville Jaguars

They haven’t made any splashy moves, but they have signed some solid players who should help.  Toby Gerhart has looked very good in limited duty for the Vikings.  Chris Clemons, Ziggy Hood, & especially Red Bryant should help Gus Bradley continue to improve the defense.  I could see this team winning somewhere between 7-9 games next year.  They only play 5 playoff teams from 2013.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins always seem to be the champions of March & then can’t do much in the fall.  I do think that they have improved this year.  Their line last year was not only the worst in the league, but they also were involved in a bullying scandal that led to the firing of their line coach.  Of course I thought he should be fired for performance even before the report on bullying.  When you are the line coach for a team that gives up 58 sacks in one season, you probably know better than to take out a new mortgage on the house.  58 sacks are more than the Lions & Broncos allowed combined last year!  This year they have signed Brandon Albert who should be much better at left tackle.  Shelly Smith may not be a big name at guard, but he is solid & probably won’t go crazy & smash his own car with a baseball bat.  Cortland Finegan might turn out to be a decent signing at cornerback, although Jeff Fisher giving up on him isn’t a good sign.

New England Patriots

The Patriots have had some high profile busts in recent years with veteran players like Albert Haynesworth & Chad Johnson.  I don’t think that’s the case this year.  Losing Aqib Talib made it look like a secondary that was improving last year was going to regress.  Instead, the Patriots signed Darrelle Revis & Brandon Browner.  Browner can’t play until week 5, but after that they might have the best secondary in the NFL.  The key will be finding someone to stuff the run.  I think that the pass rushers will automatically get better this year because opposing quarterbacks are going to hold the ball longer trying to find an open receiver.  On offense I thought that Julian Edelman was a priority to re-sign so that Tom Brady wouldn’t lose his #1 receiver two off seasons in a row.  It took a while, but it happened.  I don’t know if Brandon Lafell will be a difference maker at wide receiver, but he has potential.  He dropped too many balls last year, but he is a big fast receiver & Brady is a more accurate quarterback than Cam Newton, so maybe the balls will be easier to catch.  If they can keep Legarrette Blount & find a way to make Vince Wilfork happy, this will be a great off season for the Patriots.  Even if they lose Blount, I think that the team has significantly improved.

Teams that hurt themselves

Carolina Panthers

They have signed Jerricho Cotchery to a 2 year contract & franchised defensive end Greg Hardy.  Otherwise this seems to be a nightmare offseason for Carolina fans.  For whatever reason, they really wanted to get rid of leading receiver Steve Smith.  Cutting him means that he will still count $4 million this year against their salary cap.  He signed with the Ravens for an average of 3.8 million a year.  Basically it cost more to cut him than to keep him.  Carolina’s receiving corps wasn’t spectacular last year, but it wasn’t terrible.  The other starting wide receivers were Ted Ginn Jr., who signed with Arizona, & Brandon Lafell, who signed with New England.  I’m sure that they will sign someone else & maybe they will trade for Desean Jackson which would really help.  At the moment though, the 5 wide receivers on their roster have caught 4 passes combined in the NFL.  So anyone reading this is at least tied for NFL catches with a starting wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers.  Congratulations!  Beginning the season with all new starting wide receivers is incredibly difficult.  You just have to look at how Tom Brady struggled last year to get on the same page with his new receivers.  Luckily for him, he had some experience with Julian Edelman & that helped while he got comfortable with all of the new guys.  Even with those problems, he at least had the offseason to work with them.  Cam Newton had surgery this week & won’t be able to work with his new receivers until the beginning of training camp at the earliest.

Right now I think Carolina is the most likely playoff team from last year to drop down to a losing season.  I feel bad for Coach Ron Rivera.  I think he has really been building something there & this year is going to be tough.  He has a great defense, but you won’t win many games scoring under 20 points against the Saints or Falcons in the NFC South.

Dallas Cowboys

I doubt even Jerry Jones thinks that his team is better today than it was a month ago.  I know that Jeremy Mincey was signed for depth rather than to replace Demarcus War, but any way you look at it, they aren’t as strong at that position.  Signing first round bust Brandon Weeden to be the 3rd string quarterback was probably a good idea.  Of course if Kyle Orton retires & Weeden is the backup quarterback, the Cowboys better hope that Tony Romo stays healthy.

Houston Texans

The Houston Texans have basically sat out free agency.  Considering that they finished with the worst record in the league last year, you might think that they would be looking for help.  They did sign Jerrell Powell at nose tackle.  They released Owen Daniels, which I think was a mistake.  He was injured for 11 games last year, but has been relatively healthy otherwise.  He is only 31 & is a 2 time Pro Bowl player.  I always considered him a poor man’s Jason Witten & I mean that as a compliment.

New York Jets

I think that the Jets will be better on offense this year.  That’s partially because they couldn’t get worse, but also because they signed Eric Decker & while he wouldn’t be a number one receiver on most teams, he is a huge improvement for the Jets.  The problem is at cornerback.  The team released Antonio Cromartie because his contract was too rich.  I understand that, but they haven’t signed anyone nearly as good to replace him.  If you watch Jets games, you have probably seen Coach Rex Ryan spike his headphones into the ground in anger at some point.  I’ll bet that the look he has on his face when he does that is the exact look he had on his face when Darrelle Revis signed with the Patriots.  In 2014, the Jets will face Tom Brady twice plus Peyton Manning Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers, Jay Cutler, Ben Roethlisberger, & Matthew Stafford once each.  That’s half of their games against quarterbacks with Pro Bowl credentials & as many as 5 games against future Hall of Fame quarterbacks.  An elite cornerback would make a real difference there.  I’m sure that they will draft a cornerback or two & Rex is a great defensive coach, but that is still going to be a harsh introduction to the NFL for the rookie(s).

After typing this portion I found out that they have signed Mike Vick & might sign Desean Jackson.  That would help a lot.  It wouldn’t fix the defensive backfield though.

Revis signed with the Patriots??!!!

Seattle Seahawks

By the time this is posted they may have signed Jared Allen.  Even with that possibility, the Seahawks are learning just how hard it is to repeat as NFL champion.  There is a reason that no one has done it since the Patriots in 2004-2005.  After a Super Bowl victory, every player on the team wants to be paid like a Super Bowl champion & there is usually another team out there that will pay them that way.  With the salary cap & free agency, it is difficult to keep a team together.  The Seahawks have a big advantage in that they don’t have to pay Russell Wilson much.  He is still on his rookie contract & won’t be making Joe Flacco money for a while yet.  They have lost a lot of players though including Golden Tate, Red Bryant, Brandon Browner, Chris Clemons, & Walter Thurmond.  Those are all solid contributors.  I don’t think that they are going to fall out of the playoffs or anything  like that.  I just think that the team isn’t as good now as it was a couple of weeks ago.

The Broncos & the Patriots may not be breaking the Champagne out just yet, but I can definitely see how Rex Ryan & Ron Rivera might be ready for a few glasses of wine.  Here are some wine reviews to help choose a tasty distraction.

Bogle Vineyards

At the recent Unified Wine & Grape Symposium Bogle Vineyards was named Winery of the Year.  That is a pretty big accomplishment for a Clarksburg California winery.  Over the years they have experienced rapid growth & are now the 13th largest winery in the U.S.  Most of their wines are under $15 & occasionally my local grocery store has them for under $10.  A few of these wines are winery only, but most of them are in mass distribution.

I visited a few weeks ago & had a great time.  The tasting room is a pretty building with vineyards on the ground.  It is very close to the delta & the roads were covered with fog as we drove along.  If I didn’t have GPS I might not have found it.

I was with a business associate & we spent some time talking with other people tasting their wine.  On some wines I have more notes than others.

Blanc de Blanc 2011 sparkling

This is a Chardonnay based sparkling wine made in the Methode Champenoise (traditional Champagne method).  That means that it does its secondary fermentation in the bottle from which you are pouring.

This has very small bubbles & a light clean nose.  I smelled some butter & a yeasty note.  On the palate I also tasted a little green apple & some lemon or lemon curd.  This is a nice example of a Californian sparkling wine.

Sauvignon Blanc 2012

This was a crisp Sauvignon Blanc.  It had intense grass & grapefruit flavors.  This is a solid summer wine.  It might make a nice wine to sip on the porch after cutting the grass.

Chardonnay 2012

Half of this wine is oaked and half of it is not.  The half in oak goes through sur lie aging, which means that the dead yeast cells are left in the wine as it ages.  The barrels have to be turned on a regular basis or the barrels have to be opened up & the wine stirred.  If you don’t stir the lees, you have reduction & some nasty tastes in your wine like rotten eggs & burnt match sticks.  If you do it right though, you have a wine with more mouth feel & a nice baked bread component. I didn’t need to look on their web site to know that this was American oak.  This wine almost has a mesquite flavor to it.  It was actually kind of weird, but in a good way.  I bought a bottle to take home.  The traditional Chardonnay flavors are there as well.  There is spiced vanilla, pear, and apple to compliment the baked bread.

I actually had this wine again last night & didn’t get the mesquite flavor, so that may have been an aberration.  The creamy butter flavors were more at the fore front.  It is still a very well made Chardonnay for the price.

Chenin Blanc 2012

Here’s another crisp white.  There are minimal oak and malolactic fermentation notes, but the wine still has nice acid.  The primary flavors are green apple & melon.

Riesling 2010

There is a small amount of the classic diesel nose to this wine.  It is still a sweet Riesling though, which is kind of an odd mix.  I usually expect Riesling with the pronounced diesel notes to be on the dry side.  It has good mouth feel & is actually a fairly nice Riesling.  It has a blend of apple, pear, & honey flavors.

Petite Sirah Nouveau 2010

Here’s a fun small production wine.  I don’t think I had ever tried a Petite Sirah made using carbonic maceration.  It has the classic bubble gum & banana nose associated with Nouveau Beaujolais.  The wine is actually softer on the palate as well, which I didn’t expect from Petite Sirah.  I has a light color, more pink than purple.  The wine has moderate tannins.  It would be nice with smoked ribs or spicy Mexican food.

Pinot Noir 2012

This wine sees a blend of French & American oak.  It has a clean nose of moderate intensity.  It is actually fairly big on the palate for a Pinot.  The tannins are soft.  I tasted plum with a little cinnamon & all spice.  It’s a fruit forward Pinot Noir & a textbook example of the New World fruity style.

Reserve Barbera 2010

This is another winery exclusive that is produced in small amounts.  If you remember Barbera as a thin acidic & tannic wine, that is understandable.  For years that’s what came out of Italy.  Over the last 20 years or so there have been many more fruit forward & food friendly Italian Barberas produced.  In the Sierra Foothills of California from which these grapes are sourced, there is the ability to really focus on the fruit.  The result is a fruit forward wine with blackberry, fig, & prune.  I also tasted some tobacco & herb, but really this wine is all about the fruitiness.

Petite Sirah 2011

I was surprised at how pink the Nouveau version was.  That isn’t the case here as this is the classic purple that you expect.  It has an intense nose & medium acidity.  There is plenty of dark fruit including blackberry.  I also tasted menthol & sage.  This is a very good Petite Sirah for the price.

Reserve Petite Sirah 2010

This wine is somewhere between purple & black.  It has jammy black fruit.  The overall impression is of dark rich fruit.  The wine has huge tannins, but they are well integrated.  This is a big, over the top wine, but in a good way.

Reserve Zinfandel 2010

This has a clean nose with red fruit.  It is soft on the mid palate.  It was probably harder to try this after the Reserve Petite Sirah since that was so tannic & overpowering.  This is a much more reserved wine with a velvety finish.  It has high tannins & high acidity.  My guess is that this wine will age very well.

Petite Sirah Port 2008

On the nose I smelled alcohol, raspberry, plum, & brown sugar.  On the palate I tasted raspberry, cherry, & plum.  The color of the wine is dark, but a little orange around the edges.  This is a well-rounded, easy to drink Port style wine.

Vines at Bogle

Vines at Bogle

Blind tasting is fun. Having a blind General Manager isn’t.

7 Mar

 

Jerry Jones looks sad  I had to do a blind tasting recently for a wine class.  I was able to identify the grape varietal, but only because I had the context of knowing that all three wines were made with the same grape.  That let me taste three very different wines & then see what the similarities were and what types of grapes could make these three diverse wines.  This was a case where if I had focused on only one aspect and not thought about the group as a whole, I would have failed.

Focusing on only one thing at a time and not thinking about the group as a whole seems to be a serious problem for Jerry Jones.  I had expected the Dallas Cowboys to be in much better salary cap shape in 2014.  This was the year where they no longer would suffer from the blatantly biased and punitive salary cap penalties that they and Washington faced because NY Giants owner John Mara was able to get his divisional rivals penalized for treating the uncapped year as an uncapped year.

I knew that there would be some contracts that had been back loaded to get them through the penalty years.  I just didn’t expect it to be this bad.  They were penalized $10 million for not being part of collusion in 2010.  This penalty was broken into 2 years at $5 million each.  This year the salary cap has been raised to $133 million, which is an increase of $10 million over last year.  Surely having an additional $15 million to spend would have the Cowboys sitting pretty right?  Unfortunately when the new year started, the Cowboys had $37 million (or almost 28%) of their cap space tied up in 2 players.  Tony Romo & DeMarcus Ware.  Projections showed them being somewhere between $20-$30 million over the cap.

On February 28th, the team cut 4 players, but that only saved $1 million in cap space. According to Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Cowboys reduced their cap problem a bit more on March 3 when Orlando Scandrick and Sean Lee agreed to restructure their contracts. The move will save the team roughly $7 million. Finally, they restructured Tony Romo’s huge deal so that 12.5 million of his 2014 base salary of 13.5 million will be converted into a bonus.  That lets them spread that amount out over the remaining years of his contract.  That gets them to just about 1 million over the cap.  Of course it means that Romo’s cap hit will be way too high by the end of the contract.  At some point that bill has to come due.

There are doubtless more moves to come.  Miles Austin may be cut, which will save almost $5.5 million if he is designated as a June 1st cut.  DeMarcus Ware may have to take a pay cut.  Eventually they will get below the cap.  The problem is that they will have just barely cleared enough room to sign their draft picks & maybe a mid-tier free agent.  At the same time, they will have put themselves into the same position next year unless the cap dramatically increases (which it may).

The bottom line is that the Cowboys will have worked hard to meet the salary cap & preserve the core of a team that has gone 8-8 for the last 3 years.  Meanwhile, the Super Bowl champion Seahawks have almost $12 million in cap space.  At least a truly bad team like the Raiders has managed to get to a point where they have over $66 million in cap space & can try and fix their team over the next couple of years.  I think Jones needs to look at the entire roster.  Nothing suggests that will be the case though.  If Jerry Jones employed a General Manager who had put him in this position repeatedly, that GM would be fired. He should at least hold himself accountable.  At best for Cowboys fans, he should bring in some help.

Here are the wines we tried blind.

Domaine Sylvain Gaudron “La Butte du Trésor” Sec 2011 Loire Valley, Vouvray AC $14.99 12.5% alcohol

The wine was clear & bright with a pale straw color.  The nose had a crisp acidity and smelled of kiwi, green fruit, & green apple.  It was clean & intense.

Those green fruit flavors followed through on the palate.  I tasted kiwi, green apple, lime, & a bit of grapefruit.  It was dry, with a long finish.  The body was light, but the intensity was high.

Truthfully, I might have guessed that this was a Sauvignon Blanc if I hadn’t tried the other wines & known that they were all the same.  It reminded me more of a new world, Southern Hemisphere wine than of a Loire Valley Vouvray.

Botanica Chenin Blanc 2010$19.99 13.5% alcohol

After smelling this wine, I knew that we weren’t dealing with Sauvignon Blanc.  I narrowed it down to Chenin Blanc or Chardonnay immediately.  This wine was straw colored, but turning yellow.  The nose had obvious French oak with some cream, a little nuttiness, & lemon.  On the palate those same flavors came through, with the oak being the primary flavor.  It had a full body & the lingering lemon cream & nut made it an enjoyable wine.  It could have been a light Chardonnay or a medium bodied Chenin Blanc.

This wine is from the Western Cape of South Africa.  They make some fantastic Chenin Blancs over there.

Chateau Pierre Bise Coteaux du Layon AC 2001 $31.99 (500ML) 12% alcohol

The final wine sealed it for me as Chenin Blanc.  It was a golden or deep amber color.  The smell of burnt sugar and caramel told me it was a sweet wine.  In fact, it was a nice sweet wine with acid that was nicely integrated, a long lasting finish with flavors of brown sugar and that tell-tale taste of botrytis.

The wine is from the Loire Valley.  It is hand-picked in several passes so that the grapes are picked at their ripest.  Most of them were infected with botrytis, which in this case is a beneficial fungus that sucks most of the water from the grape & concentrates the sugars.

Because the grapes are so ripe, there is more fructose than glucose in them.  That means that the wine will taste sweeter.  During fermentation, the glucose is converted into ethanol faster than the fructose.  Since there is residual sugar in this wine, it is primarily fructose, which tastes sweeter to us in wine.  That’s kind of getting into the geek side of things, but I think it is kind of neat.  Sometime I’ll get really geeky & explain why no wine is ever 100% dry since only the 6 carbon ring sugars change to ethanol.  The upshot is that this is a delicious dessert wine that is not fortified.

Once I had tasted all three & thought about them as a set, it was obvious to me that the wines were all Chenin Blanc.  While it isn’t the most prestigious grape out there, it is one of the more versatile.  There aren’t many grapes that can make a fruit forward crisp & acidic wine, a soft creamy wine, & a botrytis dessert wine.  It is all about keeping the big picture in mind.  Jerry Jones should try it.  I’ll probably just drink extra wine while I watch the Cowboys play.

Harmony Wynelands

7 Feb

I visited Harmony Wynelands in Lodi recently.  I wanted to post pictures of how they have flooded some of their old vines because the drought has been so bad.  I figured as long as I was doing that, I should review their wines.  I have been pretty busy with work and a class I am taking, so I am behind on posting.  I’m sure I will have some pithy comments about the NFL soon.

The Organ at Harmony Wynelands

Harmony Wynelands is a small winery in Lodi.  They may produce anywhere from 1,000-5,000 cases in a given year.  They make some good wines, but they may make more money as a center for weddings and other events.  They have a pipe organ from an old movie theater in the tasting room and they have silent movie nights where the organ is played.  The winery is owned by Bob Hartzell, former president of the California Wine & Grape Growers Association.  Shaun MacKay is the winemaker & viticulturist.  Shaun was nice enough to hang out with me for a while and answer my esoteric questions about how they train their vines.  We also talked about their use of native yeast in some of their wines and the problems of working with vines as much as 100+ years. They are worth a stop if you are in Lodi.  That’s especially true if the weather is nice and you have time to sit outside and have a glass of wine.

Linda and Bob Hartzell and Shaun MacKay (center)

They were out of their 100% Alicante Bouschet wine.  I want to try that one next time around.  Here is what I tried…

Harmony Wynelands Chardonnay 2012 $16
This wine has tons of green apple.  It is fruity with no oak.  It is a pretty tasty wine for those who are tired of overly oaked Chardonnay.

Harmony Wynelands Riesling 2012 $19
I don’t know if I would have correctly identified this wine as Riesling when I first smelled it.  It is very floral.  I know that Riesling is a floral grape, but somehow this had an almost Muscat quality to the floral notes.  While this wine isn’t the style that I prefer, I can see how it is one of their better sellers.  It has a medium sweetness to it and I can see how it would be a great picnic wine for those who like their Riesling on the sweeter side.

Harmony Wynelands GMA 2011 $32
33% Grenache, 33% Mouvedre, 33% Alicante Bouschet                                                                 This has a more rich flavor with deeper notes than I really expected from this blend.  There is a little bit of spice on the nose.  On the palate I taste blackberry, boysenberry, and cinnamon.  I took home a bottle of this one.

Harmony Wynelands Pipe Dreams Old Vine Zinfandel $44                                                      This is a blend of 3 vintages. The grapes come from 40 year old vines. This has very deep flavors.  Part of that comes from 2 years in French oak.  I tasted black cherry and dark chocolate.  It’s a very fruit driven wine considering the oak influence.  It clocks in at 15.7% alcohol.  You definitely notice the alcohol, but it never seems too out of whack to me.  Half of the wine was fermented on native yeast.

Harmony Wynelands  Zinsation dessert wine $16 (I believe this was in a 500ml)
I get pruned and plummy fruit.  This will be a hit with anyone who likes Port style wines made with Zinfandel.  I need to pick up a bottle before I see my Dad again.  He will love it!  This wine wasn’t fortified, but it is still a big dessert wine.   The grapes were picked at 28 brix.  I’m impressed that Shaun was able to get to 16.5% alcohol on this wine primarily using native yeast.  Often native yeast has a lower alcohol tolerance and can die at much lower levels.  Even commercial yeast doesn’t tend to do well over 16%.

Harmony Wynelands Champagne $12.00
Sweet to off dry, French Colombard based sparkling wine.  This is a mild and lightly flavored sparkling wine, but it is actually pretty nice.  There isn’t much complexity here, but my guess is that it is primarily drunk at weddings at the winery and it would be perfect for a large group that might not enjoy dry nutty Champagne.Old vines flooded to relieve drought pressure

I guess I should throw in one comment on football here so…

Congratulations to Peyton Manning for having the best regular season ever for a quarterback who was stomped in the Super Bowl.

Watering

Link

Cheap & quick test for Brett. Sounds awesome!

6 Jan

Cheap & quick test for Brett. Sounds awesome!

If this works, it will be a great tool for winemakers.  Early detection of brettanomyces should save a lot of wine!  I don’t mind a hint of brett in certain wines, but having been around a tank of grenache rose’ that was chock full of brett, I know how much of a problem it can be.

My 15 favorite wines of 2013 + things I got right & wrong about football in 2013

3 Jan
J. C. Leyendecker

J. C. Leyendecker

One of the reasons I like to watch the football experts on Sundays instead of the political talking heads is a sense of accountability.  On the various NFL morning shows the experts make their predictions about who will win the games that week.  They keep track of the success of their predictions throughout the season.  At the end of the year, someone receives a meaningless award for winning & the last place person is mocked mercilessly.  They really need to try that on the political talk shows.  Donna Brazile & Charles Krauthammer are wrong much more frequently than they are correct.  It would be nice if they had to own up to the frequency of their errors.

In keeping with that theme, here are some of the things I got right & wrong on this blog in 2013

1)      I was probably wrong on my first blog when I said Wes Welker should stay a Patriot.  I still think that he might have done better to stay in Foxboro, but he had a solid year with Denver.  His receptions and yards were down this year, but his touchdowns were up.  I think that moving to Denver was the best place he could have moved.

2)      A couple of blogs later I wrote that it would be almost impossible to trade Darrelle Revis.  At least I qualified that with “almost.”  In the end, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded for him.  The Jets used the pick they acquired from Tampa to draft Dee Milliner, who had a shaky start, but won Defensive Rookie of the Month in December.   Tampa used Revis in zone coverage primarily, which isn’t his strong suit.  That may have contributed to the firing of Tampa Bay’s coach & general manager.  Now they have hired Lovie Smith to coach the team & he uses a Tampa 2 defense that features lots of zone coverage & very little press coverage.  It will be interesting to see how Revis fits in next year.  I guess what I should have said was that Revis would be hard to trade unless the Jets found a sucker.  That trade didn’t cost the GM and coach their jobs, but it didn’t help.

3)      I was right about the pre-season talk about Miami winning free agency didn’t necessarily translate into the playoffs.  They missed out on the last game of the year.

4)      I said that I would be shocked if the Rams equaled last year’s 7-9 record & that Jeff Fisher was a career .500 coach.  The Rams did finish 7-9 again.  I’ll stand by the career comments on Fisher.

5)      I was right about Harry Douglas crushing his previous production.  He had more yards this year than in any two previous years combined.

6)      I was right about the Cardinals being a good team if they could just find a running back.  They did & his name is Andre Ellington.  The Cardinals are in a tough division, but they are building a solid team.

7)      I was probably wrong when I said that the Raiders might be a team on the way up.  That was irrational exuberance.

8)      I was right in saying that the Patriots should always be open to trades from Tampa Bay.  The trade of Jeff Demps & a 7th round pick for  Legarrette Blount looks even better now for the Patriots than it did a few weeks ago.  Blount had 334 all-purpose yards last week, which broke the New England record & ranked #12 all time.  Demps had 14 yards for the year.  This might also have contributed to the firing of the Tampa Bay coach and GM.  I don’t expect them to trade with the Patriots in 2014.

9)      The biggest issue where I was right this year was the officiating.  I tried not to harp on it each week, but I did write about it a couple of times.  This year had the worst officiating I have seen since I started watching football, and I am including the replacement refs.  The capper on the whole mess was the game between San Diego & Kansas City in week 17.  With 8 seconds left in a tie game, Ryan Succop attempted a 41 yard field goal to win the game for the Chiefs.  He missed.  Chiefs coach Andy Reid called a time out to get the referees to review the play because the Chargers had an illegal defensive formation.  He was told it wasn’t reviewable.  The game went into overtime and the Chargers eventually won.

If the play had been called correctly, there would have been a 5 yard penalty & Succop would have had another chance to kick.  There is no guarantee that he would have made the kick, but he was 15 of 16 on the year from 40 yards or less.  I would have bet $1,000 on him making the second kick.

The NFL even admitted that the referees got it wrong.  They issued a statement on December 30th which said in part “On the play, San Diego lined up with seven men on one side of the snapper. This should have been penalized as an illegal formation by the defense.

The fact that the referees screwed this up is worse than the usual referee goof.  In this case, winning the game put the Chargers in the playoffs.  If Succop had hit a second field goal try, the Chargers would have finished 8-8 & by virtue of a tie breaker, the Pittsburgh Steelers would have gone to the playoffs instead of the Chargers.  That is a huge screw up.  There are people whose jobs might be on the line based on whether they make the playoffs.  On a financial note, players in the Wild Card round of the playoffs each make $19,000 for the game.  That means that the Chargers players net $1,007,000.00 that probably should have gone to the Steelers.  I have made a lot of mistakes, but at least none of mine cost over a million dollars.  I guess I will take that as a win for the year.

Here are my top 15 wines that I reviewed last year.  I probably tried other wines that I liked more, but if I didn’t type up a review, I don’t remember them.  This list skews more than normal towards Napa wines, but that was just a result of trying a higher proportion of Napa wines this year.  I’m sure that if I had tried as high a percentage of Bordeaux, it would be reflected in the reviews.  We’ll see what I can find to taste this year.  The wines are not in any particular order.  I did manage to get a rose’ into the top 15.

1)  Domaine Carneros    Domaine Carneros Le Rêve Blanc du Blanc 2006 $99.00
Le Rêve means “the dream.” This is a 100% Chardonnay (Blanc du Blanc means white from white) sparkling wine.  There is a long finish to the wine.  It tastes like toasted bread with a tiny hint of mushroom.  There are creamy cheese notes to the wine.  I would love to try it with some soft gooey cheese.

2)      Blankiet Paradise Hill Red Napa 2008 15.2%
82.5% Cabernet, 16% Merlot, with the remainder made up of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc.  Blankiet has only been around since 1996.  They are in the Mayacamas Mountains above Yountville. There is ripe fruit on the nose.  I get big plum & blackberry.  There is delicious blackberry & chocolate on the palate. This is a big & juicy wine with lighter tannins, or maybe just lighter, compared to what I have been trying.  I taste cassis & blackberry, & chocolate… with maybe a bit of cherry.  The tannins come up a little as I drink it so I think it will age well.  I like this a lot.  I tried it a second time & I am really wishing I had a steak with a red wine & cherry sauce.  The tannins are good, so the first time around it may have been a reaction to the tannins on the other wines.  There is a long finish that accents the chocolate.  If I were going to spend $190 on a Cabernet, this is one that would be worth it.  Robert Parker gave it a 95+ rating.

3)      Premiere Napa Valley Sterling Cabernet 2010 1st Calistoga 15.2% 20 cases produced

Elegant fruit.  This is a “wow!” wine. There is raspberry with cocoa dusting on the nose. I get big tannins, but they don’t overpower the wine.  It has a very long dry finish, that leaves you thinking about it & reaching for more.  At the core of this wine there is a fresh fruit center. This is their 1st Calistoga designated wine.  It sells for $110.

4)     mayacamas1992.preview Mayacamas 1992 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Delicious.  This was frankly better than I expected.  Fruity, red fruits, tannins are light, but still there.  This is a bright & fresh example of classic 1990′s Napa Cabernet.    There is an earthiness that would make you think of St. Emillion if it weren’t for the fresh fruit.  I am impressed with this wine.  Dark red with fresh red edges.  It doesn’t look like a wine from 1992.  Here’s a review from a big name reviewer, who went a bit more over the top than I did…

“It restores the will to live”…”Elegance, finesse, allied to concentration. Balanced and sleek, slightly tarry fruit, moreish and good acidity. Lovely. The balance is like being released from prison: a sense of lightness.”

—Margaret Rand
The World of Fine Wine (London)
on the Mayacamas Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignons of 1992 and 1999, respectively

5)     KungFu Girl Kungfu Girl 2012 Washington State Riesling 2012 Evergreen Columbia Valley Charles Smith Wines
11% alcohol
Green apple, guava, great acid.   I tasted papaya, followed by even more green apple.  It finishes dry or just off dry, but it really tastes like a green apple Jolly Rancher. It smells like white flowers & a little bit of green apple.  It doesn’t smell as intense as it tastes. I had this with smoked turkey fried rice.  This has great mouth feel & a mouthwatering, lingering finish.  On the finish I got some slightly creamy lime.   This was on spectator top 100 wine this year & definitely worth it for the price.

6)      McCrea Cellars Rose’ non vintage
This is a blend of Carignan & Grenache.  I have tried to find out a little more about it, but have only found information about some other rose’s that they have made over the years.  This is a full bodied rose’ with nice spice.  It has a long finish.  It’s really one of the nicest American rose’s I have ever had.

7)      Schramsberg Blanc de Noir sparkling wine 1988 magnum
This was fantastic. I actually wasn’t expecting this.  The bottle had been lying around for a long time & hadn’t been kept in ideal conditions.  I felt like it was something that might end up getting poured out.  I was wrong. It was a fantastic wine!  It had a real Pinot Noir taste to it.  It was full bodied with great mouth feel.  If I tasted it blind, I would have guessed that this was Champagne instead of California.  It has lots of taste notes due to autolysis.  For those who aren’t wine geeks, this just means the wine sat on the dead yeast after fermentation.  Usually the dead yeast, (lees) is stirred on a regular basis.  This can make a white wine taste bigger, which usually is called mouth feel.  It also can lead to toasty or baked bread flavors in the wine.  It can be tricky to get right, but it is a key component of the best Champagne.

8)      Chateau de Beaurenard Chateauneuf du Pape Boisrenard 2001 magnum
This is full of berries.  There is blackberry, boysenberry, & blueberry.  Paradoxically, it seems to get even more dense as it opens up.  This is just an amazing, mouthwatering wine.  The oak has integrated so nicely that it is more about structure and it isn’t overtly “oaky” in any way.  Robert Parker liked it as much as I did apparently.  He gave it 97 points & wrote “There have been a number of spectacular vintages of Domaine de Beaurenard’s luxury cuvee, Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Boisrenard, but the 2001 may be the finest they have ever produced.”  Wine Spectator gave it 95 points & said it would be good through 2021.  Mine didn’t make it that long. I would love to try it again in a few years, but I doubt I can afford it!

9)      Jacob Franklin Petite Sirah 2000 (Napa Valley/Howell Mountain)

This was an exceptional wine.  It smelled of blueberry & perfume.  It tasted like dark liquorice, blueberry, & chocolate.  The tannins were still strong. It was an amazing wine at almost every level.  As great as it was, it tasted to me like a youthful wine that still had plenty of time to settle in.  I would highly recommend this wine if you can find a bottle.  The label says that there were only 16 barrels made, so that is about 400 cases.

10)  premiere napa valleyPremiere Napa Valley Saint Supery Rutherford Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 #40 of 240 14.8%
One of the tasting notes with this said that it had a “brandied oak” taste.  I have no idea what that means, but I know where they get the brandy idea.  This wine doesn’t taste hot at all, but it really has an almost port/brandy finish to it.  It does have noticeable oak, but it is pretty well integrated.  I think the only part that stands out as oaky is that the dryness of the finish is distinctly from the oak rather than something else. There is cassis & licorice.  This is a delicious, complex Cabernet.  I don’t know if this is the best of the batch, but it is probably the most interesting. 2nd tasting.  This has a really dark color.  I think that there was some concentration of flavor & alcohol here from evaporation from the barrel.  This is called the angel’s share of the wine.  As the wine sits in the barrel, oxygen slowly enters and matures the wine.  At the same time, some of the wine evaporates, and that is the “Angel’s Share.”  This evaporation isn’t consistent across the board.  The alcohol in the wine doesn’t evaporate as quickly as the other liquids.  So you end up with higher alcohol and a more concentrated flavor.  That gives me that brandy taste.  Some people might associate that taste with being oxidized, but that isn’t the case here.  On this second tasting I’m getting more of the herbal notes of the wine.  I don’t know if that is from this bottle being open longer or just thinking about it more. I also taste mocha, cherry, and black currant.  After tasting it a second time I think this is currently drinking the best of the batch.  That doesn’t mean it is the best, or will be the best long term, but right now this is a darn tasty wine.  This is $160.

11)  Delas Les Lanes 2009 Crozes-Hermitage
Good tannins. Beautiful blueberry & blackberry .  It has almost a perfume nose.  In fact if they sold a perfume that smelled like this, high quality winos would beat a path to the sales door.  It has deep flavor with layer after layer of flavor.  Maybe some tobacco.  It is a delicious wine. The wine actually says it is Syrah on the back. It looks like it was added by the importer. The only reason I mention that is because although all Northern Rhone reds are Syrah, they don’t usually list the varietal on the label. They just assume that everyone knows that the Northern Rhone reds have been Syrah for hundreds of years. That might work for a small percentage of the population, but I think it would be great if everyone would provide varietal information. This wine was fantastic by itself.  It would be great with steak, lamb, or char-grilled chicken. Actually this is good enough that I might drink it with just about anything.

12)  Groom Barossa Valley Shiraz2008

To me, this was a wine that could only have come from Barossa Valley in Australia. The wine was so dark that it ranged somewhere between dark purple and black. It had dark brambly fruit that was extremely deep. There were layers of plum, blackberry, and dark cherry. The wine had a long finish. It had good mouthfeel and enough acid to pair well with food. The tannins were solid, but not especially pronounced. As the wine opened up it showed deeper fruit and a longer lasting finish. This would be a great wine with a Montreal steak. The heavy fruit would soften the spice of the seasoning and the acid would make the steak melt in your mouth. For those who care, it received 92 points in Wine Spectator. I tried it with some chocolate that had lemon and cracked black pepper in it and it was fantastic. I know that wine books tell us that red wine doesn’t go with chocolate. I know that experts will say that the polyphenols, acids, and tannins that chocolate and red wine share make them a terrible match. I know that you are only supposed to have chocolate with Port or a Muscat based dessert wine. I also know that lots of people love red wine and chocolate. This is a great example of how the two can work together. The fruit in the Shiraz translated into sweetness compared to the spice of the black pepper in the chocolate. You can believe the scientists here, or you can try it for yourself. Anyway, the wine tasted great. It also was a wine that made me think of Australia and the red dirt in Barossa. It felt like it came from somewhere.

13)   DuckhornDuckhorn Patzimaro Vineyard 2010 Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon 18 months French oak
83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc
This is a wine with depth.  The tannins are solid, but not to the point where they overwhelm you.  There are dry cocoa and some mushroom and earthy notes. There are blackberry, raspberry & plum flavors.  There is a minerality here that gives the wine a backbone.  It is just an excellent example of Napa Cabernet.  This has an incredibly long finish.  I was sitting around 5 minutes later & realized I was still tasting it.  The vineyard is in the St. Helena appellation at the base of Spring Mountain. According to their website, “the site was named after the town of Patzimaro de Aviña in honor of the Hurtado Family, an essential part of the Duckhorn Vineyards winemaking team who migrated from this small village to the Napa Valley in 1987.”

14) 

Trefethen in the fall.  You might be able to see skeletons stealing cases of wine from the window.

Trefethen in the fall. You might be able to see skeletons stealing cases of wine from the window.

Trefethen Family Vineyards  Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
There is spice on the nose with some licorice & cherry.  It has deep flavors and solid tannins.  I get primarily dark fruit, plum, cherry, & blackberry.  This wine will be better in 5 years than it is now.  I taste cassis, caramel, & a tiny bit of black pepper on the finish.  It has a really good dusty taste on the finish.  It doesn’t taste like Bordeaux, but that dustiness reminds me of Saint-Émilion.  The fruit is from the north western corner of Oak Knoll.  That puts it near the Yountville & Stag’s Leap appellations.  Wine Enthusiast gave this a whopping 97 points.  It is an excellent Cabernet and I really want to see what it tastes like in 3-5 years.

15)     The Pope's new castle Delas Haute Pierre 2008 Chateauneuf du Pape
Pepper. There is a ton of pepper. Plenty of tannin.  I opened this right before dinner & it was just all right.  The next night I pulled it out again & was amazed at how nuanced & textured this wine was.  There is dark fruit, pepper, plum & an umami taste (if I have that right).  It is almost like duck fat. That tastes better than it sounds I promise.  This is a wine that still has time to age. The wine is so purple it looks black in the glass, with just a hint of red at the surface. I have 1 more bottle & I am torn on whether to wait a year or two to see how it evolves, or to crack open that bottle right now.  I heated up some leftover lamb & it was a special combination.  The lamb had  marjoram & spice & the combination was terrific.  There was a synergistic effect & both tasted better together than alone.  Definitely decant this wine before drinking it.

 

Those are the ones I chose today.  I’m sure that if I thought about it tomorrow I would come up with a different list.  I will say that you can’t go wrong with any of these wines.  Give them a try if you get a chance.  Feel free to let me know what your favorite wines of the year were too.  I’m always looking for something new!

Fear the hoodie & the deadline

15 Dec

I made a commitment to writing one of these each week for the rest of the NFL season.  This week I have to admit that I am slapping something together at the last minute.  I’m still getting something posted though!  I’m hoping that next week will involve less Christmas shopping.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Bruce Arians as a possible coach of the year candidate.  I think that the most likely winner is still Andy Reid, but I have a couple more names to throw into the pot.  Andy Reid’s old team is looking like a juggernaut these days.  The Eagles ‘ performance last Sunday in the snow was an exclamation point to their recent run of games.  There were many questions about whether Chip Kelly would be able to make the switch to the pro game.  So far he has answered all of the questions decisively.  He has adapted his game plans based on the differing skill sets of Mike Vick & Nick Foles.  He made a great hire in Billy Davis as the defensive coordinator & they have turned around a terrible unit.  You might even make an argument for Mike McCoy, who may still be a year away with the San Diego Chargers, but who seems to have done a great job of changing the culture there.

The coach who has most impressed me so far this year is Bill Belichick.  I think that sometimes Belichick doesn’t get credit for the quality of his work.  There is an expectation that he & his certain Hall of Fame quarterback will always win the AFC East and contend deep into the playoffs.  His consistent success has made him seem less exceptional.  It is still hard to ignore what he is doing this year.

Belichick knew that he was going to be re-tooling the receiving corps this year.  Brandon Lloyd was off to Hollywood to make terrible movies.  Lloyd actually gave up millions of dollars to play football to be in a direct to DVD Daniel Baldwin movie.  Daniel.  Not even Billy.   They weren’t going to re-sign Wes Welker.  They were going to hope that Danny Amendola could stay healthy for a year to replace him.

The good news was that Aaron Hernandez would be back & Rob Gronkowski’s arm would be healed in time for training camp.  It turns out that Amendola wasn’t going to stay healthy.  Worse than that, Aaron Hernandez was going to be charged with murder, & Gronk was only healthy for 7 games.

That means that the Patriots have played most of the year without their top 5 receiving targets from the previous year & their #1 free agent signing.  Somehow they have made do with rookies, including an undrafted free agent, and a 4th year converted quarterback at wide receiver.

Normally, the only way to remain competitive would be to be perfect on defense.  Instead, Vince Wolfork (5 time Pro Bowler, #30 on the NFL top 100 list), Tommy Kelly, & Jerod Mayo (2 time Pro Bowler) are all out for the season.  Additionally tackle Sebastian Vollmer (2nd team All Pro) is out for the season & Aquib Talib & a half dozen more have missed games.

Somehow Belichick has not only kept the team competitive, but has also kept them in the hunt for the AFC #1 seed.  If they win their next 3 games, they will get the #1 seed.  This team has been in tatters all year & it is hard to see how they can continue to patch a bald tire while the car is driving.  If they can pull this off and make it to the AFC Championship Game, I think that Belichick will have achieved more than he has in his Super Bowl winning years.  Despite the fact that they have no business being there, I think that if the Patriots get to the Super Bowl, & it snows, they can win it all.  There is no team I trust more in the snow than the Patriots.  Even Archie Manning wouldn’t bet against Tom Brady in the snow against anyone.

What Bill Belichick is doing is unprecedented in the salary cap era.  We should appreciate it.

Quick wine reviews

Sud Sauvage 2012 Rose’
Southern France 70% Cinsault, 15% Grenache, 15% Syrah 12.5% alcohol
I smell roses & strawberries on the nose.  This is a crisp, clean wine.  On the one hand, this isn’t an extraordinary wine, but on the other it is a good thirst quencher with spicy food. Aside from the strawberry & rose notes, I get a little bit of spice.

I had it with shrimp & Andouille sausage grits.  It was quite nice.  It could probably use a little more acid, but it worked very well with the food.

3 Girls Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Soft , deep & dark chocolate truffle flavor.  This reminds me of the chocolate covered cherries that my grandmother loved.  I would have had to buy some of this for her!

Harney Lane 2012  Albariño
Nice acid, but a little soapy at the finish.  I get guava & melon with some lime.  It is mouthwatering from the acid.

Michael David 6th Sense Syrah 2011
Full bodied, with nice meaty bacon flavors.  This with lamb wrapped in bacon would be great. It kind of tastes like a plum, with a prune, & perhaps some bacon, & some herbs.  That may not sound good, but it tastes great!

Trying to help Tim Tebow. Successful examples of guys who switched from the quarterback position + wine

7 Dec

After a nice Thanksgiving, I was thinking of all that for which I am grateful.  When I thought about football, I thought about how happy I am that I’m not a Browns fan.

The Factory of SadnessHere’s the perfect video/song for your favorite Browns fan.  It’s a Factory of Sadness. In fact, if you Google “Factory of Sadness” you will get multiple Cleveland Browns links & images, including t-shirts.  Mike Polk returned to the Factory this year.  My two favorite bits on that link were the one about Brandon Weeden “He’s already probably staring down the first receiver he is going to throw to (next week)” and “I’m not sure I’m going to be able to get drunk enough to make that game watchable, but the difference between me & you is that I am at least going to try!”

While we are on the Browns, here’s one more. Basically, the Browns have some of the best, funniest, most long suffering fans in the NFL & I am glad I am not one of them.

It looks like Jason Campbell may be able to start at quarterback for the Browns this week.  That usually isn’t great news for your team.  In this case however, it means that the Browns won’t have to start either Alex Tanney, who was signed from the Cowboys practice squad last week or Caleb Hanie, who was signed as a street free agent this week.  Tanney has never played in an NFL regular season game & Hanie has played in 10 games since signing with the Bears as an undrafted free agent in 2008.

This further confirms what I said last week about Vince Young not getting another shot & Tim Tebow needing to think about a position change to get another chance in the NFL.  Truthfully, I think either player would give the Browns a much better option to come in with little preparation and win a game.  I don’t think a lot of Tebow as a quarterback, but you can’t tell me that Caleb Hanie is a better option.

Some people say that it is too late for Tebow to change positions.  Their argument is that he would be competing against players who have spent decades learning to play their particular position.  That is true, but I think that quarterbacks learn the routes and the blocking assignments for all of the other positions and can make the transition.  To prove my point that it can be done, here is a list of some of the best players to switch to another position from quarterback.  For years there was prejudice against black quarterbacks and successful black college quarterbacks were often forced to change position if they wanted to play in the NFL. “For so many guys in my era, that was just how it went,” said Tony Dungy, 58, the first black NFL coach to win a Super Bowl. “They would say, ‘Hey, you can play in the NFL but it’s going to be a position change. Or you can go to Canada and play quarterback because the style of the game kind of fits what you do.’ And that’s what happened in the ’70s and ’80s.”  Dungy switched from quarterback to safety and won a Super Bowl ring playing for the Steelers in 1978.  Of course he is better known now as a Super Bowl winning coach.

Thankfully, I believe that attitude has finally changed.  Here’s my list in no particular order.

Hines Ward

Hines Ward played quarterback at Forest Park High School in Georgia.  When he went to the University of Georgia he primarily played as a wide receiver as a freshman, although he played some running back.  As a sophomore As a sophomore, he alternated between wide receiver and quarterback.  In the 1195 Peach Bowl he started at quarterback and set Bowl records for Georgia completing 31 of 59 passes for 413 yards.  The next year Mike Bobo was the quarterback and Ward only threw 3 passes.

Once he got to the NFL he became a full time receiver and had a borderline Hall of Fame career.  He caught 1,000 passes in his career & threw just 2.  He gained 12,083 receiving yards, which is 21st all time.  He was also a Super Bowl MVP.  That is a pretty successful transition.

Josh Cribbs

Josh Cribbs injured his shoulder trying to make a tackle for the Jets on Sunday and will miss the rest of the season.  He has had a pretty successful NFL career so far though. He is in a tie for the record for most kickoff returns for a touchdown with 8 and he is also tied for the most kickoff returns for a touchdown in a single game, with 2.  He has thrown 15 passes in his NFL career. He was a threat to run and pass as a quarterback at Kent State.  I think that if he were coming out of college today, he might even get a shot as a quarterback due to the recent success of running quarterbacks.    At Kent State he set the school record for all-purpose yards and still holds several career records at the school, including passing yards and completions.

He signed with the Browns as an undrafted free agent.  Officially listed as a receiver, he has also worked as a running back, with 141 carries.  He never really broke out as a receiver, but his skills as a return specialist have sent him to 3 Pro Bowls and earned him a spot on the NFL’s all decade team for the 2000s as the 2nd team kick returner.  When he signed a second contract with the Browns in 2010, he made $20 million.  That’s a fantastic change for a previously undrafted free agent.

Julian Edelman

Following in Josh Cribbs’ footsteps, Edelman was a great quarterback at Kent State.  He threw for 3,196 yards & 26 touchdowns and broke Cribbs’ single season total offense record. He did catch 1 pass for 11 yards, punted a few times, and worked on kickoff returns, which is amazing for a quarterback. He had offers to play QB in the Canadian Football League, but he wanted to play in the NFL.

Edelman ended up being a 7th round draft pick of the New England Patriots.  As a rookie he returned punts and stepped in at wide receiver when Wes Welker was injured. He even played at cornerback in 2011 due to injuries and he did a decent job.  In the first few games of 2012 he was featured a bit more than Welker, before Welker game back and led the team in receptions.  As a free agent this year, the only team outside of the Patriots who brought him in was the New York Giants despite the fact that at that time he had the highest career punt return average among active players.  He signed a 1 year deal with the Patriots, but I think that next year he will be offered a solid long term contract from several teams.  So far this year he has 70 catches for 711 yards.  According to Tom Curran of CSNNE.com, Tom Brady now calls him “Minitron.”

Antwaan Randle El

Randle El was such a well-rounded athlete that he was drafted by the Cubs to play baseball, but chose to play quarterback at Indiana instead.  While at Indiana, he also played baseball and basketball.  By the time he left school, he was 5th on the NCAA all time total yards list with 3,895 rushing yards and 7,469 passing yards.

He was drafted in the second round by the Pittsburgh Steelers, which is somewhat odd for a player whose position you expect to change.  Over a 9 year career with 2 teams, he had over 4,000 yards in receptions and over 4,000 yards in punt & kick returns.  He did manage to throw a few passes in the NFL. He completed 22 of 27 passes.  His passer rating of is the highest quarterback rating of anyone who three at least 20 passes in the history of the NFL.  In fact, despite having flashy return plays like a 99 yard kickoff return for a touchdown, probably the play for which he will be most remembered was a 43 yard game winning pass to Hines Ward in Super Bowl XL.

Marlin Briscoe

On December 6th 1968, Marlin Briscoe became the first black quarterback to start a game in the NFL.  He began the season as the 3rd stringer for the Denver Broncos, but after the starter broke his collarbone & the backup wasn’t able to do much, Briscoe was brought in to finish a game.  After that, he started for the rest of the year.  He threw for 14 touchdown passes, but also had 14 interceptions.  He did lead the league with a 17.1 yards per completion average.  Marlin Briscoe was drafted in the 14th round of the 1968 NFL draft by the Denver Broncos.

He was released before the start of the next season and was picked up by the Buffalo Bills.  In Buffalo, he changed positions to receiver.  He became an All Pro in Buffalo & had 1,036 yards receiving in 1970, but was traded to Miami for the 1972 season.  He never caught more than 30 passes in a season after 1970, but he was part of two Super Bowl winning teams in Miami.  He also played for the Chargers and the Patriots before he retired after the 1976 season.

Freddie Solomon

Freddie Solomon was the last quarterback for the University of Tampa.  They dropped football the next year.  He was a running quarterback & amassed 3,299 yards running the ball, which was an NCAA record back in 1974.  He was a second round draft pick of the Dolphins as a receiver.  He returned punts and caught a few passes for the Dolphins, then was traded to the 49’ers in 1978.  He played for 11 years catching 371 passes for 5,846 yards and 48 touchdowns. He also ran for 519 yards and 4 TDs and returned four punts and one kickoff for scores.  He was an All Pro in 1980 and he retired with two Super Bowl rings.  Perhaps the most famous play in which he was involved was one where he was the primary receiver, but he slipped coming out of his cut.  That meant that Joe Montana threw the ball to Dwight Clark for “The Catch” that put them in the Super Bowl.  He had a couple of clutch catches on that drive.

Brian Mitchell

Brian Mitchell may not have been able to continue his career as a quarterback, but by any measure, he had a successful NFL career.  After becoming the first player in NCAA history to throw for more than 5,000 yards while rushing for over 3,000 yards, he was drafted in the 5th round of the 1990 draft by Washington.

As the quarterback at Southwestern Louisiana he didn’t return any kicks, but that’s what Washington wanted him to do.  He did it well.  He is currently second on the NFL’s all-time list in all-purpose yardage with 23,330 yards, behind Jerry Rice. He is also first all time for combined yardage for a non-wide receiver. His 13 special teams touchdowns are second in NFL history, behind Devin Hester, and his nine punt return touchdowns are third. Mitchell was ranked the 2nd greatest specialist in NFL History by NFL Network’s NFL Top 10 Return Aces.

Anquan Boldin

In 1998, Anquan Boldin was named Florida’s Mr. Football while playing quarterback for Pahokee High School. When he moved up to Florida State University, he primarily played wide receiver, with some time spent at quarterback.

In the 2003 NFL Draft, he was selected in the second round by the Arizona Cardinals.  He won the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award.  He played for the Cardinals long enough to see them come close to winning a Super Bowl.  He was traded to the Ravens and was a key factor in the Ravens winning the Super Bowl.  He caught several jump balls in key moments when Joe Flacco seemed to trust him to just go up and take the ball away from the defender.  He was traded this year to San Francisco and he has done a good job so far bailing out his young quarterback on contested balls.  He is just short of 11,000 yards for his career.  He has been to 3 Pro Bowls.

Gene Washington

Gene Washington is the current director of football operations for the NFL.  It was a different world when he entered the NFL in 1969.  He was the quarterback at Stanford and was the first round pick of the San Francisco 49ers.  They immediately converted him into a wide receiver.  Beginning with his rookie season, he made it to four straight Pro Bowls and was selected onto four All-Pro teams. He had almost 7,000 yards receiving in a time when passing yards were harder to come by than today.

 

I spent too much time on the football portion this week, so I’ll just throw in a few wine reviews.

KungFu GirlKungfu Girl 2012 Washington State Riesling 2012 Evergreen Columbia Valley Charles Smith Wines
11% alcohol
Green apple, guava, great acid.   I tasted papaya, followed by even more green apple.  It finishes dry or just off dry, but it really tastes like a green apple Jolly Rancher. It smells like white flowers & a little bit of green apple.  It doesn’t smell as intense as it tastes. I had this with smoked turkey fried rice.  This has great mouth feel & a mouthwatering, lingering finish.  On the finish I got some slightly creamy lime.   This was on spectator top 100 wine this year & definitely worth it for the price.

Cline North Coast 2012 Viognier
This is one of the first Varietally correct Viognier I have had in California.  It has all of the peach & apricot that you might expect. It has the honeysuckle on the nose that I like.  This is a very nice inexpensive Viognier. There is some tropical fruit as well, particularly guava & kiwi.  It isn’t particularly complex, but it is nice and varietally correct.

3 Girls Cabernet 2011 Lodi
Earthy, with dark red fruit.  This has some mint & oregano.  There is also some ripe plum.  This is a better wine than I expected. It has some varietal character and at under $10, it is a solid everyday wine. There are a number of herbal notes.  It has light tannins. This wine tastes older than it is, so I would say drink this now.

446 Chardonnay
Here’s a nutty, oaky Chardonnay. It reminds me of nuts toasted in butter.  There is some lemon on the finish. It has great mouth feel.  It is probably too over the top for most food pairings, but it would be good with buttery popcorn, or buttery lobster, or buttery whatever.

Gnekow Family Winery Campus Oaks Old Vine Zinfandel 2010
I tasted candied cherry and bright red fruit.  It has medium tannins.  It kind of reminds me of Ludens cherry cough drops.

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