Good thing we're in a leap year, because February 2024 is already proving to be jam-packed. Just like us, you're sure to be cramming as much as you can in, but just as important is taking a moment to unwind, sit back and take in one of the best event seasons we have every calendar year.
Lucky for you, we thought ahead and planned out pairings for your favorite sporting events and some of the best stuff due to come on your TV this coming month. Pairings are subjective, of course, but let me enact the powers of persuasion as you enter my warped mind's ability to bind two dominant parts of my world together.
Be sure to comment if there's another event you need a proper pairing for!
Part 1: The Sporting Calendar
Probably the best time of year for sports, as we're at the NBA midseason where it really starts to heat up, the NFL is fully escalating into Super Bowl mayhem, football (the other kind) leagues are starting to take shape and rivalries intensify, among the throng of sports popping off this month. Here are some I'm keeping my eyes on, starting at the beginning of the month:
February 1: NBA: Los Angeles Lakers @ Boston Celtics
One of the premier rivalries in all sports - think Red Sox vs Yankees, Madrid vs Barcelona, Nadal vs Federer - showcases a 20-time all-star in ageless Lebron James versus a young rival in Jayson Tatum who burst onto the scene as a young buck by dunking over "The King" in his first playoff matchup, even going so far as to chest-bump James in defiance. There probably won't be swings and bully ball like the old-school epics, but this is prime viewing.
Pairing: I immediately thought, this needs to be two titans - also, it's West versus East coast, so two rivals. This took me to Bordeaux, with two iconic houses, one of the left bank and the other the right. Tatum is personified in the young, flashy and silky-smooth style of the 2021 La Fleur-Petrus, bound to age gracefully and powerfully. James embodies perfectly the ageless 1986 vintage of Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, in that this wine will undoubtedly also stand the test of time from the all-time Pauillac vintage...while also being known as a "Super Second" (that's an MJ joke, if you're keeping score). A good back-up (like Lebron coming off the bench in his first Olympics) is the 1986 Gruaud-Larose.
February 4: EPL: Liverpool @ Arsenal; La Liga: Madrid Derby
Two fan bases who truly bleed Red, while also being bluebloods of English football, this is indeed a premier matchup of two teams battling it out for the league. Only a handful of points separate them; will Liverpool hold up in Klopp's last stand, or will Arteta's men find a second half surge that escaped them in their title run last season?
Pairing: For such royalty of the best soccer league in the world, with two sides in Liverpool and Arsenal that play incredibly classy styles, you need a wine as royal as it is hard to put down. Something as classy as Madame Bize's Domaine Leroy Bourgogne Aligote from the incredible 2010 vintage. This match will come around again, but this wine may not!
The Madrid derby is historically a high-wire act of contrasting styles, sometimes down and dirty but gritty and great to the bitter end. Perhaps less dirty and gritty but still a high-wire act of glorious goodness is Envinate's Migan Tinto, one of the wines that put these vignerons on Spain's upper echelon among the likes of Vini Jr and Griezemann.
February 11: NFL: Super Bowl LVIII
The height of the sporting calendar for many, as outside of that episode of Dallas, few televised events have had larger audiences than some Super Bowls. SB 58 sees the return of Patrick Mahomes, forced to face the 49ers' dominant pass rush and CMC, Deebo and Kittle. You could see it going either way - 70 points on the board or a defensive battle ending at 17-14. Either way, we are crowning the "next" something, be it the next TB12 or the Next Big Thing in ol' Mister Irrelevent.
Pairing: Since we're in the Bay area, let's just let it be known that we have to pull for Brock, Shanny and the boys. Shanahan has finally shown he can win from behind, and they're the most complete team in the league. Nothing says "former Mister Irrelevant" like a top-of-the-line Beaujolais, formerly an oxymoronic phrase that we now hold as gospel. Check out Benoit Moreau's Chiroubles - the man behind the farming for the Bernard Moreau wines for more than a decade has put his imprint on some top crus down South, and my goodness are they special. Doesn't hurt that the label matches the scarlet hue of our boys' unis!
February 13: NBA: Oklahoma City @ Orlando Magic
For many, this wouldn't pop as a marquee matchup, but stay with me here - you have last year's #1 and #2 draft picks, and possibly the densest collection of young talent on any NBA floor this season in any single game. Will Paolo's muscle outdo Chet's angular craftiness?
Pairing: Could it scream louder for a young, exciting winemaker already on par with his mentors & idols? Maxime Cheurlin Noëllat has achieved that, after taking over the Georges Noellat estate in 2010 at the age of 20 and completely revitalizing it. best shown in the triumph of the 2019 Vosne-Romanée Beaux Monts, a pristine example of the greatness of 100-year-old vines from top terroir in the hands of a phenom. It's like Chet learning all the tricks of Bill Russell while he's barely 20, and artfully blocking Paolo's Chamberlain-esque charge down the lane.
February 17: Boxing: Tyson Fury-Oleksandr Usyk; MMA: UFC 298
Sure to appeal to even casual fans of any martial art, any Fury fight is a main event; surely so is any UFC card, especially one featuring a title bout. You can almost taste the blood and sweat flying into the crowd, and feel the raucous energy seeping into your pores.
Pairing: All this talk about blood and sweat makes me think of the dark, brooding blood-red fruits of Cornas - always meaty to me, full of minerals from iron-rich soils...it just makes sense to me. Pair that with the natural style of La Grande Colline, where the vines have the same wild energy, and we're on the same page here.
February 20-March 10: Soccer: CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup
The inaugural campaign for this competition is sure to mean a great deal not only to our own national team, but this entire side of the world, what with fantastic teams brimming with talent like Brazil, Canada, Mexico and oodles more. They've long deserved their own version of this competition that has been a proud fixture for the mens' sides for years.
Pairing: Périne Baillette is wise beyond her years like so many of today's footballers, her wisdom coming from both her family's winemaking legacy but also a shared vision with her husband, Alex Chartogne. Périne's wines are her own, though - vinous, pristine and with great balance of flash and precision (especially the Bulles de Rosé!)...just like we're hoping for the new era of the USWNT!
Part 2: Pop Culture & TV
February still means cool temperatures, cozy blankets and nighttime bingeing of your favorite shows; good thing your favorite networks & streaming services are rolling out some new content this month. For the [slightly more] adventurous types who still like to venture out (in your outdoor sweats), February brings a few exciting new theatrical releases, too!
February 2: Amazon Prime: "Mr. & Mrs. Smith"
Donald Glover and Maya Erskine star in this series that serves as a reboot of an adaptation of a reboot of an adaptation of a 1940s Hitchcock film of the same name. The plots vary between all of these, of course, but with Glover as the main creative force behind this version, there's promise of some laughs and lovable characters.
Pairing: I can't help but think of a wine masquerading as something else - a lion in a sheep's clothing as it were. Danjou-Bannessy's "Coste" (2017) is like white Burgundy with the less fearsome masque of a Roussillon white, historically something to cook with more than drink. Fear not, the brothers worship Burgundy and Rhône winemakers and have generated a cult-like following of these wines that somehow are still available to purchase.
February 2: Theatrical Release, "Argylle"
Bryce Dallas Howard, Dua Lipa and Henry Cavill star in this adaptation of Elly Conway's yet-to-be-released book; the film essentially releases the author into the world of her own creation. With Sam Rockwell and Catherine O'Hara among other luminaries packing a star-studded cast, this new take on the mystery-thriller genre is highly anticipated.
Pairing: Either as a pre-game for a theater trip or for when it lands on Apple+ (produced through Apple Pictures, so it's coming there, too, eventually), maybe pull out one of these and take your sleuthing to a new level - Dominique Belluard's 2018 Les Alpes, his flagship bottling of Gringet. You won't find him anymore, no matter how hard you search, as he passed during C*vid, but his wines live on as stunning examples of an almost-extinct varietal that he almost solely resurrected, producing an Alps-y Chablis-style white that is sure to stand the test of time.
February 10: Lunar New Year!
Welcome to the first New Moon of the lunisolar calendar, or as it's also known, Chinese New Year! A time for celebration of new life and wish for a prosperous year ahead. You can assume that many a vigneron celebrates this holiday, wishing yearly for weather that more closely resembles something like "normalcy".
Pairing: I'm going with someone who very closely follows the phases of the moon, and has simultaneously embraced the history of winemaking while stripping the previous generations' adherence to chemicals and farming for bulk instead of quality: Fabrice Pouillon. Fully biodynamic in practice, Fabrice's vineyards sing with wondrous life while neighboring vineyards resemble concrete parking lots in the doldrums of the early growing seasons. His wines are similar, pulsating with reserved energy. I'm particularly fond of his Solera Extra Brut, one of the more approachably-priced wines of this style, in which he has perfectly harmonized the blend of freshness and maturity. Utterly masterful, and worthy of celebration.
February 14: Theatrical Release, "Madame Web"
Starring Dakota Johnson and Sydney Sweeney, which is draw enough, this is the first film within the Spider-verse without Spiderman himself showing up. Marvel has spun a few new threads to their multiverse in the time since Iron Man's passing, and a new femme-focused feature is bound to weave an exciting web of possibilities (ok, enough spider puns).
Pairing: This movie is set at least 20 years in the past with a strong female cast. Johnson's character is blessed with clairvoyance, much as the late Anne-Claude Leflaive was when it came to the importance of implementing biodynamic viticulture, among many innovations through her wildly impactful life. Given that this film is bound to make you want to further explore the multiverse I can't help but recommend a magnum of the 2020 Macon-Verze from Leflaive, as it will take you on a journey of inexplicable greatness and force you to see Madame Leflaive's vision of a Macon revival.
February 21: “Messi’s World Cup: The Rise of a Legend,” Apple TV+
The pandemic pushed us firmly into the era of the athlete's documentary, starting with "The Last Dance";' pretty soon we were besieged with documentaries that served more as commercials, however entertaining (the Redeem Team doc, well, if you don't like Kobe lighting up a young Lebron, Carmelo and others, I don't know what to tell you...it still could've provided more, though). Now, we have the GOAT - Leo Messi - and his journey through FIVE World Cups to get the greatest prize in all the land, something a record number (EIGHT?!?!) of Ballon d'Ors couldn't quench. Four parts ought to keep you busy for at least a couple nights.
Pairing: When the GOAT of GOATs is at play, I can't fool around. This isn't pretty boy Tom Brady, we're more in Jordan camp here. There's really nothing else you need but a wine that titillates the senses yet remains light on its toes and never seems to stop mesmerizing you. In one word? Salon. Born of a quest for the best, served for so long to so few, then introduced with great fanfare and held as the absolute best, the 2002 Salon is utterly fantastic and will drop a jaw akin to Messi's own brilliance.
February 23: Season Premiere, "Formula 1: Drive To Survive," Netflix
The hit series which debuted in 2019 has hit an absolute apex among fans, driving the popularity of the sport to an all-time high, resulting in America's embracing of the sport, with races (albeit not loved by high-profile drivers) taking place in the States during the last year. Follow Verstappen and Ricciardo and countless others in their need for the most speed.
Pairing: While milk is the choice of Indy 500 drinkers, maybe we just look for something that went through malo? Sheesh...When you want racy but you want the best, look to Emrich-Schonleber and their famous Halenberg Grand Cru, in the fabulous 2021 vintage. It's lean, develops around every turn and broadens in time for a triumphant finish.
February 24: Series Premiere, "The Consultant," Amazon Prime
Featuring the long-awaited return of the villainous Christoph Waltz, this new thriller series takes us through the reign of a consultant hired by a tech giant, and if you know the actor's ability to instill fear and send shivers down your spine, well, you can imagine the terror he instills in his new charges.
Pairing: I was tempted to go with something with screeching acidity, but that could take you out of it unpleasantly. Instead, I faced my own fears and pulled out a Nebbiolo, namely Canonica's 2018 Paiagallo, as its riveting structure will develop throughout the night (as you're clearly so bound to the series that you can't watch just one) to the point that you'll take your first breath in minutes only to look at your glass, muttering, "F***, that's good."