St. Innocent Pinot Noir
St. Innocent Pinot Noir

Trainer Johnny Nerud said, "I'd rather have a bad day at the track than a good day off it."

In a little more than a week, I'll be heading out on my annual trip to Saratoga Springs, N.Y., to take in the horse races, visit a few favorite restaurants, and greet old acquaintances.

This year, because of the election season, I won't be going with my regular group of horseracing buddies for this weekend's Alabama Stakes.

In fact, I was considering taking a pass altogether this season. But the Wine Goddess coaxed me into making a short excursion. She never goes -- in fact she abhors gambling of any kind -- but understands that my trip to Saratoga is much more than a wagering proposition. Like its famous mineral spring baths which soothe the body, Saratoga is a ritual of renewal for me.

The summer begins its steady wane in late August, but Saratoga Race Course holds its beauty until Labor Day when it shuts down for 365 days. Now celebrating its 150th anniversary, the race course sits on 350 meticulous acres in the heart of Saratoga Springs, a history lesson of a city with more than 1,000 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Saratoga is more than a race track. It's horse heaven. Socialites and celebrities go to be seen there, walking under the stately trees in the rarefied air of the paddock, trying to compete for attention with the most beautiful and talented horse flesh on the planet.


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For the big races, women wear dresses and bonnets; men wear bow ties and bowlers.

Everyone has their favorite places and mine are simply two: The Jim Dandy Bar located at the race track and the Wishing Well Restaurant on Route 9, about 10 minutes from the downtown.

It was at the Wishing Well where I fell in love with St. Innocent Pinot Noir, a rare find seven years ago from Oregon's Willamette Valley. The 2013, which I tasted recently on my trip out west, was rich and exuberant and I can't wait to find it on the wine list.

Of course, I'll be fixing a wine menu of my own, to enjoy in the cool night air in the poolside gazebo at the Adirondack Inn. I'll take a bottle of the 2010 Groth Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, a 2010 Foley Estates Pinot Noir Bar Lazy S Ranch, and a 2010 Orin Swift The Prisoner, a Zinfandel blend.

I really think I'm going to win this year. Of course, I say that every year, rarely do, yet still return. That's Saratoga.