We're plenty familiar with the urge to run to the wine cellar, but what about running inside of one—for miles? On Jan. 20, more than 350 wine-loving runners (or fitness-crazed enophiles?) flocked to Mileștii Mici winery in Moldova to do just that, part of the massive historic cellar's first-annual 10K race.
Spanning more than 124 miles of subterranean wine catacombs, the state-owned Mileștii Mici certainly has plenty of room to host such an event. The cellar, which boasts nearly 2 million bottles, holds the Guinness World Record for "largest wine cellar by number of bottles"; the Soviet Union once got much of its red from Moldovan cellars like these. In partnership with sports organization Sporter and communications firm Simpals, the winery welcomed guests from more than 15 different countries, including the U.S., Canada, Romania, Russia and more, to go high-speed spelunking in what they call their "underground kingdom."
"The purpose of our event was promotion of amateur sports and tourism in the Republic of Moldova, as well as … [to] show tourists the culture and traditions of our country," a representative from Sporter told Unfiltered.
Runners donned mandatory headlamps and used maps labeled with the cellar's "streets," named for different wine varieties, to navigate the course, which was mapped out more than 300 feet below ground. Along the way, they enjoyed views of Moldovan art, and sounds of the country's traditional music. "In the cellars, we specially placed folk musicians, so that participants would not be bored," the rep said. "But some runners were so happy when they met our artists that they stopped running and started dancing and having fun with them!"
At the finish line, all the runners were greeted with Moldovan food and wine, so in true retro-communist fashion, they shared in the win no matter where they finished.
As we reported last week, the NBA's New Orleans Pelicans paid a visit to McEvoy Ranch for a wine and olive oil tasting, after star power forward Nikola Mirotic touted the winery's Marin County Montepulciano. It was a page right out of LeBron James' formidable wine playbook—his Cleveland Caberniers were the original wine-country ballers—and this week, King James took notice.
As is his wont, James posted his evening's pour on his Instagram account earlier this week: So happens, it was a bottle of 2010 Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, accompanied by the message, "Only for my real vino heads. Cheers to you." Translation: "I am LeBron James, the undisputed champion of wine and basketball, and I see you, New Orleans Pelicans, trifling with my claim. Behold, when I drink Montepulciano, it is a well-aged bottle from the best winery in the ancestral home region of the grape." If you think Unfiltered is reading into it a bit much, recall that James is a man who, upon defeating the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals, stepped off his team plane in Cleveland wearing a t-shirt depicting the wrestler Ultimate Warrior with the words "Ultimate Warrior" in big green letters, holding his trophy aloft—and then claimed it was the only shirt he happened to have in his bag.
Still, James' message sprinkled some pizazz around rural southern Italy. "They have been few lively days after the LeBron post: Lots of friends, clients and wine lovers showed their excitement, and people from Abruzzo felt enormously proud," Chiara De Iulis Pepe of Emidio Pepe told Unfiltered via email. "It's a sign for a notably increased knowledge and eagerness of discovery of fine wines from less renowned wine regions and less prominent grape varietals.
"We hope to welcome [LeBron] in Abruzzo to let him discover our beautiful region and let him taste some of the most historical vintages from our aging cellar. "
In other wine and basketball feuds that may or may not be imagined, the Sacramento Kings have announced a new home-stadium wine, a Clarksburg Petite Sirah blend called Proud Roots made by Bogle Vineyards. Bogle is known for its eco-cred, winning a California Green Medal in 2018 and earning sustainability certification from the California Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing. It's good teamwork: The Kings are green leaders on the court, and the Golden 1 Center, opened in 2016, is the first arena to receive the prestigious LEED Platinum sustainable-building designation. The Kings organization sources 90 percent of food served at the arena from within 150 miles of it, and the Bogle vineyard, Sanchez Ranch, is just a few bends down the Sacramento River 15 miles from the stadium.
“The Sacramento Kings are leaders in sustainability efforts, and our family and staff are excited to partner with them to create something our entire region can be proud of,” said Jody Bogle of Bogle Vineyard & Winery in a press release. “As longtime Kings fans, the Bogle family looks forward to enjoying the wine with other Kings fans and the Sacramento community.”
You can referee for yourself if this green wine flex has anything to do with last month's announcement that the Kings' Norcal rivals Golden State had partnered with Silver Oak to supply their own Oracle Arena with LEED-Platinum pours.
Enjoy Unfiltered? The best of Unfiltered's round-up of drinks in pop culture can now be delivered straight to your inbox every other week! Sign up now to receive the Unfiltered e-mail newsletter, featuring the latest scoop on how wine intersects with film, TV, music, sports, politics and more.