Ballpark eats have evolved way past popcorn, peanuts and Cracker Jack, with modern offerings ranging from the filet mignon sandwiches at Citi Field to T-Mobile Park’s lobster rolls. It may, then, come as no surprise, given the proximity to Wine Country, that right here in San Francisco, the offerings also include top-notch bottles — hand-selected, as of this month, by the team’s very own Master Sommelier, a first for the industry. Evan Goldstein, who in 1987 became the eighth American to pass the prestigious Master Sommeliers exam at the tender age of 26, is now the official somm of the San Francisco Giants, making him the first person to ever hold such a role.
“As a fan who also happens to love wine, this partnership is something I have always wanted to see codified into Bay Area eno-DNA,” says Goldstein. “Since we announced, it has been fascinating to hear that so many members of the wine industry are as excited, if not more so, than we are.”
This isn’t Goldstein’s first collab with the team. His initial brush with pairing wine and baseball dates back to the mid-’90s, when the team held its first ever wine tasting event at Candlestick Park (RIP).
“He has been part of the Giants family in one form or another ever since,” says Jason Pearl, senior vice president and chief business development officer.
The specifics of the partnership are still being ironed out, but Goldstein’s role will likely include organizing more wine tastings and pairings, and there’s even talk of a mentorship program for current and former Giants players looking to transition into the wine industry.
“The role and partnership is just beginning — the proverbial top of the first, as it were — and there are many innings left to play,” says Goldstein.
But of course, one element of his role is iron clad: having a hand in selecting the wines poured at the ballpark.
“I look forward to learning more about the demographics of our fan base and how many of them are from Wine Country,” says Goldstein. “Being in California, we are very fortunate that ‘wine country’ expands all over the state: Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Livermore, Lodi, Cupertino, Monterey, Paso Robles, Lake County, Amador County, the Sierra Foothills and even the Central Valley. While our main focus will be on local wines, we will certainly evaluate any opportunities that add value to the program and joy for the fans.”
As a warmup, here’s how Goldstein would pair some of baseball’s most nostalgic foods and memorable experiences with his favorite wines from California and beyond.
“We can go in two directions. One, is to play off the ‘crack’ of the popcorn and have something that is bubbly and at once sweet (key takeaway: if the wine is not at least as sweet as the Cracker Jack, it will taste sour). The fizz will be a contrast to the crunch. A demi-sec Champagne or off-dry sparkling wine will be just fine. However, if you do not like bubbly and would prefer to flavor-layer to pick up on the caramel/nutty elements, I would go with a sweet, fortified wine — a brown or cream sherry, a tawny port style (from Portugal, Australia or California), or a sweeter style Madeira (Boal or Malmsey). In California, Mumm Napa Cuvée or if going a little decadent — Moet et Chandon Brut Imperial. If the Tawny Port route, Sandeman Porto Tawny 10 Years Old or in sherry, Gonzalez Byass Solera ‘1847’ Oloroso Dulce.”
“For the good-old, all-beef frank, I am a fan of brown mustard, chopped onions, a little sauerkraut and pairing it with bright, youthful zinfandel. A few options: Dry Creek Vineyard 2019 Old Vine Zinfandel, Ridge 2019 Pagani Ranch Zinfandel and lighter but maybe the best, Dashe 2018 Zinfandel, Heart Arrow Ranch.”
“You’ll want a bright white wine that can cut the richness and echo the soft salinity that comes from the brine in which they are boiled, so…a dry sherry (fino is ideal), a young pinot grigio, a youthful and completely unoaked chardonnay or, if you are looking for something richer, an Albariño (Spanish or otherwise). Or a zippy sauvignon blanc like Twomey Sauv Blanc.”
During the 7th-inning stretch
“Something that makes you want to get off your feet and sing, of course. For me, that’s an easy, quaffable red: juicy merlot, snappy pinot noir or creamy Grenache: Long Meadow Ranch Napa Valley Merlot, Patz and Hall Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir or 2020 Babcock’s Grenache “Love Among The Ruins.”
To celebrate a no-hitter
“The best bottle of bubbly your wallet can afford — could be from California or anywhere else that excels in effervescence. Just make sure there is more interesting flavor happening in the wine than there were hits by the opposing team! In California: Iron Horse Classic Vintage Brut Estate Bottled Sparkling, Roederer Estate L’Ermitage or Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs.”
To bemoan a no-hitter
“If you have been no-hit, something strong to fortify you from the disappointment. An old vine zinfandel, an Italian barolo or Aussie shiraz are three wines that come to mind: Oliver’s Taranga Vineyards Shiraz, Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel Contra Costa County or Luigi Pira, Margheria, Barolo (Serralunga d’Alba).“
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