Wine Pairings at Districts
3 August 2014
This season’s District Cyclocross Championships, for NorCalNevada, will run at the LangeTwins Winery on 14 December 2014. The Lodi family vintner’s have hosted a race on the SacCX calendar every year since 2009 and it has become an outstanding event. One wouldn’t necessarily consider a winery as an ideal venue…this one is located in the low-lying, flat central valley and typically beer is the sport’s beverage of choice…yet somehow the Lange family and the Sacramento/Lodi cyclocross community have cultivated this race into one of the best in the entire region.
“And if you go chasing rabbits”
Fit and Filthy spoke with Joe Lange, Wine Club Manager and Marketer at LangeTwins Wines, about the venue and their support of bicycle-racing. “We got started on hosting cyclocross races pretty much from the grass roots with Rich Maile and Keith Williams,” described Joe Lange. “The reason we stuck with it, hosting cyclocross races at the winery, is because of the people that come: the racers, the spectators, and the families. They’re just so appreciative of having the venue. As obscure to the cyclocross world as a winery is, they have a place to race then they turn around and support that place. They thank us, buy the wine, and enjoy the day out there.
“I’ve seen my whole family come around from wondering why the heck we’re inviting all these people to race, in the mud in the shittiest part of the year, to they’re excited about cyclocross coming every year. It’s because the people are so down to earth. There are no attitudes, no egos…they get checked at the door. We’ve kept going on cycling in general because of the relationships we’ve built doing cyclocross races.
“If truth be told, the cyclocross days at the winery aren’t making a whole lot of money for wines sales. It’s just about connecting the dots between what we try to do at the winery, with sustainable wines and trying to promote active lifestyles. Cycling just seems like it fits in there. Also, the personalities behind the world of cycling, that I’ve met, seem to jive with my family’s.
“You take someone like Cody [Kaiser], who is accomplished and has potential, but he’s humble. He’s willing to come back and have real conversations and help out and go the extra mile for putting on races like this. I’ve just seen so much humility in him and racers like that. It just makes total sense for us.”
“[Cycling] has given LangeTwins a great platform to talk about something other than wine,” continued Joe Lange. “I think it’s maybe counterintuitive but it’s all points of differentiation. When you’re out working and selling wine across the country, and the family does go out, how do we stand out from the crowd, from all the wines that have a restaurant or a retail shop. The more and more we dive down that rabbit hole of the cycling world, we’ve figured out there’re a lot of cyclists making decisions for wine lists in restaurants or working in distributors of wines.
“We stumbled upon the world of cyclocross and cycling in general, me being an enthusiast and riding myself helps, but it helps to talk about something else than the generational family farm, sustainability, and the quality of grapes, which are all important. This is just something extra for when we find somebody in the wine world that is a cyclist.”
Under New Management
This season has seen important changes to the Sacramento Cyclocross Series with management and organization going over to Jennifer and Clint Claassen. The series has most of its venues moved or remaining within the Sacramento-Roseville-Folsom area. One “distant” race that returns to the SacCX calendar is LangeTwins, a locale that is fast becoming a signature event for the series.
“I’ve just started racing cyclocross,” remarked Joe Lange, “even though I’ve been helping put on the race at LangeTwins for 5 years. I think [LangeTwins] is a signature venue because it’s so different. From the beginning, Rich Maile saw the place and said ‘hey, I’m going to take the riders over that flyover’ and my response was ‘what the hell is a flyover?’ It was the wine grape receiving bridge. We have a mix of materials; we have concrete, we have mud, we have some peanut butter mud when it rains a lot, we have gravel, we have grass, and we have different elevation changes. I think it’s the varying conditions.
“I’ve also heard Linda Elgart say on multiple occasions, with sarcasm and truth, ‘it’s the most civilized cyclocross race’. We provide an amount of hospitality as well. There’s wine tasting, there’s food, there’s amenities, there’s bathrooms. It didn’t take much to elevate LangeTwins into a signature event.”
It’s a European Thing
Beyond the ‘cross racing, the venue has always had a festive side, with wine-tasting and paella. This season’s race promises to go even further with the added draw of Districts. Forewarning everyone of expectations, Joe Lange first gave thanks. “Especially for this year with the District Champs, a quick thank you to everyone involved with SacCX and the powers that be for bringing the districts to LangeTwins. We’re going to pull out all the stops.
“The fact that we can put the spotlight on not only LangeTwins but just the Lodi area is extremely important. So we’re not going to go light on amenities and opportunities to open people’s eyes to LangeTwins and what the surrounding area can provide. Planning is still in progress but we’ll have a couple of different food vendors so we can have some choices. Fingers are crossed for some kind of coffee vendor to wake everybody up. And we’ll pull out all the stops on wine-tasting too.
“Bruce Kaiser from Kinetic Cycles and Cody go to cyclocross races all over the world and they just see how festive an environment those events create. And that’s what we’re trying to do. Let’s just come, have a great time, and get the spectators there too. That will build the ‘cross community. We’re going to do as much as we can to blow it out. We’ve also done our homework just to get the logistics dialed.” Here read good parking.
It behooves Fit and Filthy to raise the question and bring Joe Lange to book. Wine pairings are part and parcel with wine. So, what does Joe Lange think is the wine to go with cyclocross? “I’m going to say my favorite wine and I’ll tell you why. My favorite wine that we make, and I drink way too much of it, is our Petit Syrah, Petit Verdot blend. Typically the blend is 60% Petit Syrah and 40% Petit Verdot. The cool thing about that is all the flavor, color, structure come from the skin and seeds of the grapes. So when you have that ratio you develop a very intense wine. The other side of that is we take that wine that is very intense and we don’t mess it up, in my opinion, with oak aging. It’s 100% stainless steel fermented and then we bottle it.
“You connect that with cyclocross. Cyclocross is very intense. Right out the gate it’s as fast as you can and you hope to hold your place. It’s this very intense race. I’ve never had my heart rate go up so fast other than at a ‘cross race. So it has that intensity but your not muddying the waters with a lot of attitude from other racers. It’s an easy going crowd and an easy going wine. Out of all the wines we make that is a pretty good fit.”
LangeTwins recently became the title sponsor for Cody Kaiser but this continues their support for bicycle-racing, after the road team and the cyclocross race. “The extension of sponsoring Cody comes down to a few things,” explained Joe Lange. “One, since life is short, because of who he is and the relationship with the Kaisers, it’s a mutual support of not each other’s businesses as much as each other’s families. And that’s so important and is something big in both the Kaiser’s and the Lange’s books.
“The other side is supporting a community we love inviting to our winery. There is not a better group that comes through our winery. I hope it never changes because if it does it will be a very sad day. It’s such a great, humble down-to-earth, appreciative group of people that are from all walks of life, from all over California, and we love hosting them. People come up, and I don’t know how they know who I am, and say ‘hey, thanks so much for having us at your winery, we love racing here.’ For that alone, we will keep hosting cyclocross races.”