The Pairing of Bowling and Wine: A Strike

iStock_000010993531XSmallYes, I write about bowling. Deal with it.

When meeting someone for the first time, the conversation inevitably goes something like this:

  • Other Person: “What do you do for a living?”
  • Me: “I’m a writer.”
  • Other Person: “Oh, really? What do you write about?”
  • Me: “Mostly bowling and wine.”
  • Other Person: “Bowling and wine? Shouldn’t that be bowling and beer?”

The other person then laughs uproariously at their question — a question I have heard at least a hundred times through the years.

“Bowling and wine” may seem to be as unlikely a pairing as sauerkraut and peanut butter, but the marriage of strikes, spares, splits and Shiraz proved to be a happy union when Barossa Valley Vineyard rolled out its new vintages at downtown Chicago’s plush 10pin Bowling Lounge some years ago.

In 1995, a group of 80 grape growers in the Barossa Valley, one of the main vineyard areas of South Australia, formed a co-operative, hired a winemaker, and began bottling Shiraz and other varieties under the Barossa Valley Vineyard label. Over time, the co-op began producing wines at three quality levels: the original, priced for everyday enjoyment; Barossa Valley Estate, which represents a step up in quality; and the top-of-the-line E&E, a premium-priced brand.

“We wanted to produce wines that really reflect the regional characteristics of the Barossa Valley,” said winemaker Stuart Bourne after converting the 1-2-4-7 spare on 10pin Bowling Lounge’s lane #2. “And by paying the growers a premium when we use their grapes in our higher-priced wines, it gives them motivation to do the best job of farming possible. While our Barossa Valley Vineyard wines are quite good, the growers brag about getting their grapes into the E&E.”

Why did the winery and its distributor select a bowling facility to introduce their wares to the local media, restaurant owners and lucky 10pin Bowling Lounge patrons?

“A lot of people still think of wine as intimidating,” Bourne said. “We want them to think of it as fun. And what’s a more fun activity than bowling?”

It should be noted that the venue selected is no typical bowling “alley.” It is one of the new wave of facilities — a la the Lucky Strike and Bowlmor chains — that are dispensers of adult beverages first and retailers of bowling games second. The specialty of the house: martinis.

But for at least one evening, the partnering of bowling and wine seemed downright… normal.

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