A race report in seven samples
At the Autumn Lake Winery in Williamstown, New Jersey, lines of picnic tables sit at the top of a grassy hill. Look one way and you’ll see a clear, spring-fed pond. Look another way and you’ll see row after row of grape vines.
What could possibly be better? Dropping a triathlon into the middle of this idyllic scene, of course. In honor of this perfect pairing, here is a race report in seven samples. We’ll go from dry to sweet, featuring the Autumn Lake wines.
Traminette – Described on the wine list as having “crisp acidity,” this one seems suited to the driest information: The race was held August 13, 2017. It was the inaugural event, hosted by Williamstown Badgers Tri Club. The tri was a .4 mile swim in a spring-fed lake, 13 mile out-and-back bike over flat and straight roads with a surprisingly challenging head wind after the turnaround, and a 4k trail run over the sandy soil of the vineyard. Duathlon and aquabike also were in the mix. The hosting club clearly thought through all the details, and everything seemed to go according to plan.
Albariño – This was my favorite of the whites, still fairly dry but with a nice body. It pairs well with a little information about the winery: According to other reports, the Autumn Lake Winery has been open for less than a year, after establishing the vineyard in 2012. Tucked off of an unassuming road, you might be surprised to find this gem of a spot. When it’s not playing host to a triathlon, I’d recommend taking a picnic and spending some time with friends and family at the tables overlooking the lake. There’s plenty of room for the littles to run while the over-21 crew samples the wares.
Riesling – Not as sweet as I’d expect from a Riesling, this one didn’t wow me. Contrast that with the sweet and impressive gang that hosted the race: As the hosting group, the Badgers tri club was very well-represented. They seemed to include racers of all ages and abilities, and were quite supportive.
Chardonnay – In my book, you really can’t lose with a Chardonnay. The Autumn Lake wine list described this particular one as “comfortable.” Surprisingly, in this race, the swim was my most comfortable event: The water was 78 degrees on race morning, just on the edge of wetsuit legal. I opted to wear mine, though many didn’t. Rather than the “What have I gotten myself into?!” that I usually feel in the first few minutes of the swim, I felt almost like I was just doing laps at the pool. Feeling strong in the swim was well-worth the extra time on transition. The choose-your-own-pace rolling start, with a single racer sent out every five seconds, added to my sense of calm. What would you choose? Wetsuit or a faster transition?
On to the reds! The Autumn Lake selection was smaller than for the whites. I tried two out of the three on the list, and was pleasantly surprised by both.
Blaufrankisch – Pleasant bright berry notes. Since the description calls it “earthy,” this is a good time for a little more detail about the run: This is the first time I’d completed a tri with a trail run (hence, “earthy”). At only 4k, I underestimated the run. But the sandy soil, along with the effort I’d expended riding against the wind for the second half of the bike took it out of me. The course was two concentric loops around the lake, with plenty of shade.
Cabernet Franc – You had me at barrel aged, though “aged” is a pretty apt description of how I felt on the run: I was pretty wiped by the run. In fact, the one highlight was the quarter mile or so I spent near a guy named Norm who was a member of the Badgers. All the volunteers knew Norm and shouted out hearty encouragement to him. I felt like I was in some bizarre multisport episode of Cheers.
Per Diem White – The sweetest offering, but not overly so: Sweet could be a good intro for the cloying vanilla Gu I choked down on the run. But the really sweet part was my two race buddies and I scoring podiums in our age groups. (As an aside and in light of my very limited podium experience, is it okay to bring kids on the podium? I was corralling a runaway two-year-old and tailed by his big brother when the announcer called my name.) My good friend and first-time duathlete even did it after wiping out in the first few minutes of the bike. A challenge completed, time with tough cookie friends and supportive family. It’s why I do this.
Our tasting wouldn’t be complete without some snacks. And, look, it’s a major award.