Your Wine Guide to the NCAA Title Game

Scoring the winning points at a basketball gameIf you are a fan of college basketball, I don’t need to tell you that tonight at 9 o’clock Eastern (6 o’clock, Sonoma County), the Blue Devils of Duke University will take on the Badgers of Wisconsin for the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball championship.

What you may not know is that the man calling the action for the 25th consecutive year for CBS, Jim Nantz, is a wine connoisseur. In fact, he and Peter Deutsch, the CEO of importer Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits, have a joint winemaking venture in California’s Sonoma County called The Calling.

The name is a reference to what Nantz does for a living: calling sports events. Specifically, it refers to Nantz calling golf’s Masters, but it certainly could be applied to the role he’s playing in tonight’s NCAA title game.

Using grapes grown in some of Sonoma County’s top vineyards, The Calling’s portfolio currently consists of two Chardonnays, two Pinot Noirs, a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Bordeaux-style red blend.

So, after calling tonight’s game, one may presume that Nance will be able to return to his hotel room and wind down with a nice glass or two of wine.

I don’t really have a pony in this horse race, but because my Dad was born in the Dairy State city of Eau Claire, I’ll be quietly rooting for Wisconsin to score a big upset.

And were I in the university’s hometown of Madison, I would plan to celebrate the victory at a tapas and wine bar called The Icon.

Here is how The Icon is described on the restaurant’s website:

“Located a block off the Capitol on State Street, The Icon is the perfect spot to impress your guests. The vibrant, modern décor, featuring some of Hollywood’s 1940s and 1950s icons, will inspire you to be an icon in your own right.

“The Icon is on the same block as the State Street parking ramp, and then it is just a few steps across the street to your show at the Overture Center. After your show, come back for one of The Icon’s signature martinis, or choose from our more than 100 wines. Whatever your reason to visit The Icon, it is sure to be an unforgettable evening.”

If Duke ends up winning, as most experts are predicting, that university’s hometown of Durham, North Carolina, has a pretty good tapas destination of its own: Mateo Bar de Tapas.

From that restaurant’s website:

“Mateo Bar de Tapas is the first solo venture from chef Matthew Kelly of Vin Rouge, housed in the old Book Exchange building in the heart of downtown Durham, and featuring a menu that blends the flavors of Spain with beloved ingredients and dishes of the South.

“We offer a casual, yet refined, menu of Spanish small plates with a Southern inflection. Accompanying the food is a robust Spanish wine list, as well as one of the largest Sherry offerings in the country.”

In fact, the Sherry selection appears right at the top of the wine list, and even is broken down by type — something I’ve rarely seen in a restaurant setting. The types include Fino, Amontillado, Oloroso and Palo Cortado, and tapas pairing suggestions are offered for each.

Whether the 2015 NCAA basketball championship goes to Duke or Wisconsin, the fans in the hometown of each university have a wonderful place to go and raise a toast.

As for Jim Nance, his “wonderful place” would be called “home.”

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