Bengals cornerback Terence Newman, who turned 35 last week, checked the bottle with his face and autograph when asked what kind of wine.
"Good question," he said. And in his best North-Central Kansan French called out, "Cabernet Sauvignon."
That would be 2011, but Newman is of the '78 vintage that has held up well enough that his coaches believe he has aged like the finest of wines.
"I've heard that before, but I just think I'm a little wiser," he said.
The bottles were earmarked for Newman's guests, each of whom paid to watch Monday Night Football with him at Morton's Steakhouse in downtown Cincinnati. But rather than trying to get a read on new Eagles coach Chip Kelly's fast-break offense, they were there to support Newman's Whiz Kids, a group of about 1,200 at-risk school children at 63 sites that range from Middletown, Ohio to Erlanger, Ky.
Luke Dooley, the senior events planner for the City Gospel Mission, went a step beyond and tried to translate what Newman's gift of 131 Kindles last year meant.
"It's all about literacy," Dooley said. "It's a way to show them that there's someone out there who really cares about them and their goals in terms of education and who's willing to go out of his way to impact them. To make sure they have the basic educational necessities to be successful.
"A kid who doesn't like to read, or who doesn't think it's cool to read, and then all of a sudden they have this device in their hands that makes it maybe a little more cool and they fall in love with reading, now that changes the path for them."
That's what guys like Newman, head coach Marvin Lewis, and his other players who venture into the community weekly are trying to conjure and coax and cajole during their off days.
The morning after the Newman gathering at Morton's, The Marvin Lewis Community Fund began another year of its enormously successful Learning Is Cool program with the Bengals that encourages and rewards local students for making the "A" Honor Roll. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth and defensive tackle Domata Peko, the de fact captains of their respective units, began it all Tuesday at Cincinnati's Bond Hill Academy.
"Terence is really passionate about the program," Dooley said. "He's seen it in action. He's sat down with some Whiz Kids and spent time with them. He's seen the statistics that show it does work."
Newman also donated signed footballs from some of his illustrious mates, such as A.J. Green and Andy Dalton, as well as a ticket package for the Ravens game and two Paul Brown Stadium tours led by one T. New. Also in tow came another Whiz Kids backer, special teams stalwart Cedric Peerman, and the two took questions that had been texted to Dooley.
(Peerman admitted he's always dreamed of forcing a fumble at the 10 and scooping and scoring.)
With the help of the enthusiastic Brad Johansen ("I'm looking at you"), Channel 12 sports anchor turned state fair auctioneer, the Whiz Kids had some four-figure takes.
It will find plenty of use in a sprawling program that encompasses 64 school partnerships, 63 tutoring sites, and 27 school districts in seven counties.
"This fundraiser could be used to fund a site," Dooley said. "They cost money to operate for the materials and the training for the leadership of those sites. It will go into the Whiz Kids general fund and we'll determine how best with that money we can help kids to learn to read and reach their goals."
This isn't the first rodeo for Newman's Rising Stars Foundation, which took root in Dallas when he played for the Cowboys during the first nine seasons of his career before coming to the Bengals last season.
"We were helping at-risk high schools, encouraging (students) to look at continuing their education," Newman said. "I would get them as freshmen and mentor, tutor them a little bit until they were seniors. We had a set of rules. No unexcused absences, have a certain GPA. If they did that for four years, we'd give them some kind of college scholarship. We still do that. Because I was here, I'm not as hands-on, so I had to figure out something to do here.
"What Whiz Kids does in this city, it's a big deal."
After taking part in his 11th NFL opener, Newman has pounded out some grapes and he'll be dispensing some of that wisdom this week as the Bengals prep for a Monday Night show of their own (8:40 p.m.-ESPN and Cincinnati's Channel 5) against the Steelers.
"Our goals are to win the division, make the playoffs, and win the Super Bowl. We can still do all those things," Newman said, mulling the 24-21 Opening Day loss in Chicago that included Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall mauling him on a 38-yard catch in the winning drive. "He's a big-grab guy. I don't know how it didn't get called, but it didn't. So we live with it."
As Newman gets ready for his 150th NFL game, he's lived with plenty and this is maybe the one thing he's learned from all those games.
"When you're doing it, it's never as good as you think and never as bad as you think. It's always good to watch it the second time around to see exactly what happened," he said. "It's one of those things where guys are like, 'I played terrible.' Then they watch it and it's like 'I didn't play as great as I wanted to, but I didn't play as bad as I thought, either.' "
Sounds like Newman is going to be helping mentor the city's other Whiz Kids this week, too.