Andy Perdue

Ace winemaker Palencia, Mariners great Edgar Martinez team up

Edgar Martinez teamed up with renowned winemaker Victor Palencia to craft this 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon in a commemorative magnum bottle.
Edgar Martinez teamed up with renowned winemaker Victor Palencia to craft this 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon in a commemorative magnum bottle. Photo courtesy of Edgar Martinez

Spring without baseball is wrong on so many levels. I understand why it has to be this way, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

You see, I was raised on baseball. It was practically a religion around my house.

My dad, Ed Perdue, was the sports editor of the daily newspaper in Washington’s Kitsap County. He loved baseball, especially the Detroit Tigers. He was my coach when I played on Pee Wee and Babe Ruth baseball teams growing up.

I have several fond memories of baseball. To start, we went to a Seattle Pilots game in 1969, their only season in Seattle before they were moved to Milwaukee. A lawsuit over the Pilots’ departure led to the Mariners coming to Seattle in 1977. My folks took me to the Opening Day game – along with more than 57,000 fans in the new Kingdome — but it was a loss to the California Angels. Pitching for the Mariners was Diego Segui, who had pitched for the Pilots.

It turned out that Pilots pitcher Jim Bouton wrote a controversial book titled Ball Four, which chronicled the team’s exploits. In 1970, it was the first of the "tell-all'' sports books that became so popular. My dad did not want me to read Ball Four, perhaps because he didn't want his little boy to know the unsavory side of some professional athletes. I finally read it this winter while I was in the hospital recovering from a stroke. Once I set aside the childhood guilt of breaking Dad’s rule, I learned some interesting Northwest sports history.

Baseball dominated our summer evenings. It was easy to take the ferry from Bremerton to Seattle, then walk to the Kingdome (with a stop at Ivar's for fish and chips) to catch the Mariners. When we didn’t go to the game, Dad listened on the radio — even keeping the box scores.

His favorite Mariners included Ruppert Jones, Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson and Edgar Martinez, with whom he shared a first name. My dad passed away more than a decade before Martinez was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2019. This is an unusual honor for a designated hitter and well-deserved for Martinez.

Soon after his acceptance speech in Cooperstown, N.Y., Martinez got in touch with Victor Palencia, owner/winemaker of Palencia Wine Co., in the Tri-Cities. They had met in 2012 at a children’s hospital fundraiser and built a connection, but last year they began to talk in earnest about collaborating and developing a wine to commemorate his induction.

It feels like a home run! One of my favorite baseball players teaming with one of my favorite winemakers.

This dynamic duo have a pitch-and-a-hit with a 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon in a commemorative magnum bottle for the Hall of Fame election. The Edgar Martinez Special Selection is part of Palencia’s El Viñador Reserve program. It retails at $180 per 1.5-liter bottle, but wine club members get a discount for pre-orders.

“This wine was designed to celebrate baseball, our Washington wine region and our families,” Martinez said in the May 14 announcement. Martinez and Palencia worked together to blend and cellar this limited release.

Palencia says they are planning on a series of Cab-based blends to pay homage to other Martinez career milestones, including Martinez’s double into the Kingdome’s leftfield corner that drove in Griffey and defeated the Yankees in their 1995 playoff series — arguably the most important play in Mariners history.

Baseball games don’t typically lead us to think of wine. Instead we think about beer and hot dogs. But times have changed. In a typical Mariners season, I’d be dreaming about which of the T-Mobile Park gourmet food choices to pair with Palencia’s wines. And especially for Martinez, I’d make an exception for a glass of Cab instead of a Northwest craft beer.

Martinez, who was inducted into the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame in 2007, is known for his generous support of the Seattle Children’s Hospital through the Auction of Washington Wines — another traditional summer event pivoting into a virtual gala due to the curveball of COVID-19.

Baseball more than any sport is about tradition and balance, paying tribute to the past and building for the future with practice, patience and precision. Those traits apply to how Martinez played baseball and how Palencia makes wine. In 2019, Palencia was Wine Press Northwest’s Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year.

Baseball and wine. It turns out they do go together. So join me in raising a glass to salute Martinez’s career, only instead of saying “Cheers!”, let’s chant “Edddddgaaaaarrr! Edddddgaaaaarrr!”

ANDY PERDUE is a third-generation Washington state newspaper journalist. He is the founding editor of Wine Press Northwest magazine, has authored one book about wines and contributed to several others. A survivor of stage 4 cancer and several strokes, he lives in the heart of Washington wine country with his wife, Melissa, and daughter, Niranjana.

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