It’s Tuesday night at the Detroit Athletic Club, the downtown meeting place for the movers and shakers of the Motor City’s business community.
The DAC is an athletic club — with pool, exercise equipment, et al — and a whole lot more. Founded in 1887 and located right next door to Ford Field and Comerica Park, the club also has a fine dining restaurant (with a strictly enforced dress code), numerous guest rooms and suites, meeting rooms... and an 8-lane bowling facility. There are numerous clubs within the club, catering to various special interests and hobbies, and the DAC hosts an array of special events throughout the year. As an example, one month from tomorrow, the DAC will host its annual Spring Wine Tasting, a two-hour event featuring a selection of fine wines, hors d’oeuvres and live music. It’s an opportunity for members to mingle with friends while savoring the gift of the grape. Many members look forward to the Spring Wine Tasting all year long, their anticipation heightened during the cold winter months when virtually anything associated with spring can bring a smile to the face. But eight members of the DAC do not wait for the Spring Wine Tasting to indulge their wine-drinking hobby. Each week during the bowling season, those eight — all members of the Tuesday evening bowling league — pool their (considerable) resources and order a bottle of wine to share. They make their selection from the DAC’s impressive wine list, and then a club staff member fetches the bottle from the club’s temperature-controlled cellar — the same cellar that supplies the fine-dining restaurant.
I was visiting the DAC’s director of bowling, Tom Reaume, last Tuesday night when the group that I have dubbed the “Grape Eight” ordered their selection for the week: a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from Shafer, vintage 2006. A ninth bowler decided to join them on this particular evening, so the octet-plus-one opted to order two bottles... and one of the gentlemen was nice enough to offer me a taste. The wine was deep and concentrated — typical of Shafer Cabs — and perfectly aged to my palate. I prefer Napa Cabs when they’re 5 years old, and at 4-and-a-half, this was a “prime time” wine that still had at least a decade of positive evolving to go.
Several years ago, I ordered a glass of Merlot at a more “traditional” bowling center, and was (not pleasantly) surprised when it was served cold — right out of the refrigerator. Right then and there, I swore off “bowling alley wine.” But the DAC bowling facility is no “typical bowling alley,” and the list of wines available to the bowlers is both long and impressive. To the wine-tasting tradition of swirling, sniffing and sipping, DAC members can add: striking and sparing.
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