A Pre-Thanksgiving Surprise!

Twas a few nites before Thanksgiving and the Twin Cities were stirring.  With family and friends gathering, out for nibbles and drinks, even those in know were not as lucky as I.  For I was about to meet one of my sports heros, over six foot – sky high!
Ha!  Silly rhymes need not describe the absolute giddiness I felt when meeting one my all time basketball heroes, Gregg Popovich.  Nicknamed “The Pop”, believe it or not ~ Mr. Popovich was my Pre-Thanksgiving Surprise!
Out to dinner with a couple of gal pals, on a chilly Tuesday nite a couple of days before Thanksgiving, we expected the city to be quiet knowing that folks were getting ready for one of the biggest eating holidays in the U.S.  Stopping in first to one of favorite friend’s restaurants, The Butcher Block, we were greeting with delicious carpaccio and Prosecco to quench.  A fabulous quaint true Italian spot with a GREAT WINE LIST and food to die for.  Delish. 
After finishing our house-made Limoncello, we decided we were up for one more stop.  The foodies that we are, decided to head over to Restaurant Alma.  Actually, my friend Erin’s recommendation, as it is one of her favorite restaurants (outside of her own~ Café Ena & El Meson).  Walking in, we expected a slow nite with folks preparing for the holiday, yet were completely surprised with the wait at the door and a restaurant full of folks.  No wonder, as Chef Alex Roberts was named the 2010 Best Chef for the Midwest under the James Beard Foundation.  Pretty big deal.
As we waited for our table, I kept looking at the table directly in front of me, seeing a familiar face.  Thinking…is that a client?  Why do I know this face at this table of 6’5 and over tall men?  I shot him a look as I walked by.  Once seated in the restaurant’s balcony, it came to me.  I quickly blurted, once I had figured it out, with a loud “Oh my God, it’s Gregg Popovich!”  My girlfriends looked like I had just put them on stage, naked!  (I guess I was loud.)  Here, in my city, was one of my favorite head basketball coaches of all time, and not to mention, the head coach to one of the best teams in the league, the San Antonio Spurs! 
Without hesitation, I told my girlfriends that we should order a bottle and send him down a glass.  They, of course, were against my idea completetly telling me that I had already made an ass of our table.  Yet, I went for it.  Here is what I forced them into…
DagueneauBoo Hoo for them, right?  Only one of the most world renowned winemakers to have ever walked the earth.  Didier Dagueneau.  A genius taken too early from his career, having passed of a plane crash in 2008.  Didier defined the region of Pouilly-Fumé in the Loire Valley of France.  So to pay homage to my hero, I sent a glass of this heavenly Sauvignon Blanc down to my new pal, Pop.  Of course, there was some excitement over how it was to be done, having to explain my crush on this 60 something year old man that the server had no idea was.  But once done, came with a ‘salut’ from the ground floor.  And the wine well deserved…with hints of flint, dusty chalk, clean, diamond cutting acidity and minerality – yet lite with flecks of lemongrass, citrus and honey.  Outstanding and quite a treat.
Continuing to gush about everything that I knew about Pop, I then went on to tell my girlfriends of my days at Archery Summit Winery and my very good friend, Alphonse (once my asst at the winery).  Alphonse had a huge crush on Pop, even bigger than I, and even better – on the S.A. Spurs.  We quickly realized that our connection to the winery would do us well, when the strength coach for the Spurs was turned on to our winery.  Visit after visit and hosting some of the team’s best players, our love for the team grew as we then took on tickets to many of the games they played when visiting Portland’s Trailblazers.  Yet, we never met Pop.  Knowing that he himself was a huge Pinot Noir lover, his interests in the years following turned into his current part ownership of A to Z Winery in the Willamette Valley. 
Elk CoveAs my story went on, the server quickly interrupted us with ‘Mr. Popovich would like to send up a bottle to you to say ‘thank you’!” 
“Oh my gosh!”, I screamed.  “Is it Willamette Valley Pinot?!”  By that point, she looked at me like I may have a strand of his hair hidden in my pocket, signifying a true stalker.  “It is,”  she said slowly.  Two minutes later…a delicious bottle of Elk Cove Pinot Noir appeared, forcing us to then in turn ‘cheers’ the coach back.   A wine I was already very familiar with having scents of my old Willamette Valley home.  Deep cherry red, filthy jory soil, dark tobacco and delicious pork belly fat.  Yum-my.  And incidentally, would have been a great pairing to any Thanksgiving Table!
As dinner went on, through plates of delicious bites and well into a gorgeous artisanal cheese plate – we oohhed and ahhhed over the fabulous wines and funny run in.  Not expecting to get anything more back from our response, I dug into conversation with gal pals not even noticing Sir Popovich’s approach.  Then, in front of me, he was there!  I was so surprised, I jumped up and hugged him like an old friend and began to tell Pop my whole story of Willamette Valley, my obsession with basketball and more.  While I wasn’t quite sure he appreciated my over reaction to his presence, he did go on to make my night that much better.  After asking what we were all doing the following nite, we proceeded to ask us to come to the game with our spouses as his guests to the Timberwolves/Spurs Game the nite before Thanksgiving!
Come on really?  This stuff doesn’t happen everyday does it?  Of course, we all went the following nite.  Spouses in hand and with a husband, who was very embarrassed for me, yet very happy for 6 row seats (behind the Spurs bench)to be in attendance for one of the Timberwolves best games of the season.  And while the home team did not beat this season’s best team, the San Antonio Spurs, I was happier than a little pig in a blanket with my Pre-Thanksgiving Surprise, Sir Popovich.  Thanks Coach!!  Spurs Game

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