We’ve never seen a professional golfer swig a Chardonnay en route to winning a trophy – only later, out of the trophy. Yet, plenty of players are signing their names on scorecards and wine labels.
Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Luke Donald, Greg Norman, Ernie Els, Nick Faldo and David Frost are among the PGA Tour players and legends who have bottled their own wines (hmm, does John Daly count?), in a wide range of prices and from all over the global grape map.
And more recently, two of the LPGA’s own, Annika Sorenstam and Cristie Kerr, stomped on the scene.
It makes plenty of sense to GottaGoGolf: After all, as noted in our March health and fitness issue, golf lends itself like no other sport to the ingestion of goodies along the way. With breaks in the action and the possibility of one- or no-hands transport of golf clubs, a glass of wine can make delicious and easy company for a walk in the 18-hole park.
Wineries naturally market their pro golfer labels to golf courses, who find mostly inexpensive wine they can mark up comfortably to sell at their 19th hole or cater to weddings. Arnie and Norman routinely make par on this course.
Some of the golfers, however, have taken their usual pursuit of excellence to the barrel rooms and are actively participating in making a wine that reflects and suits their taste. Els, Sorenstam and Kerr routinely enjoy wine at home and have gotten passionate about making their own.
Kerr’s first effort, Curvature, made with Napa Valley’s Pride Mountain Vineyards, turned out to be an in-demand small lot that even we couldn’t find. (Check out her website’s Reading the Vines section for her monthly tasting notes, www.cristiekerrgolf.com.)
But we did round up an Els offering and two Annika selections to taste alongside the more mass-produced Arnie and Norman vintages. After putting them before the experts on a sunny and warm Super Bowl Sunday, we can now tell you exactly which on-course champion you should be championing at the tasting bar.
Hint: She didn’t outplay the men on the tour, but she steps up her game on the crush pad.
Greg Norman Estates
Norman started drinking wine in the 1970s, when he was playing a lot of golf in France. Later he developed a fondness for wines from his native country, Australia, and from California, where particularly the Chardonnays tickled his tongue.
Greg Norman Estates, founded in 1999, operates in both Australia and in California, generating seven varietals from each region. The California wines and some of the bigger-lot Australia bottlings are easy to find in the U.S., and wines for this tasting were purchased at a neighborhood BevMo.
Alas, it may have been Super Bowl Sunday, but the panel decided that the Norman wines would not have made the cut to play in the finals of this tournament, even at moderate prices of $15 and under.
The 2007 Santa Barbara County Chardonnay fell flat on everyone’s tongues. “Boring!” was the verdict. “Did we get a bad bottle?” one panelist wondered. (Maybe so, we later learned.)