As wine’s popularity around the world holds up strong, the PGA TOUR and several top players are getting into the game big-time.
By Don Wade
Almost from the earliest days of the game, golf professionals have supplemented their tournament winnings by lending their names to a wide variety of products and services. For example, the legendary Englishman, Harry Vardon, played an enormous role in the growth of golf in the United States with his series of exhibitions that drew thousands to theaters and courses across the country promoting his “Vardon Flyer” golf ball.
But clubs, balls, shirts and cashmeres aside, the endorsement business has been remarkably diverse. Arnold Palmer (and his tractor) endorsed Pennzoil; early in his career, Jack Nicklaus promoted a pull cart; Lee Trevino was a big fan of Dr Pepper and the United States Golf Association, in a frenzy of moral indignation, once stripped Bobby Jones and Francis Ouimet—Jones and Ouimet!—of their amateur status for perceived commercial violations of the game’s purity.
Those days are long gone, and here’s some good news: If you are a wine collector and a golf fan, happily, you won’t have any problem finding some truly excellent wines to stock your wine cellar. Just consider some of the World Golf Hall of Fame’s members who have their own labels: Palmer, Nicklaus, Gary Player, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, Ernie Els and Ben Hogan, just to name a few. Throw in South Africa’s David Frost, Arkansas’ John Daly, Canada’s Mike Weir, England’s Luke Donald and the PGA TOUR’s Corporate Partner, Beringer Vineyards of California, and the choices would be dizzying—before you even took so much as a sip.
Beringer Vineyards became the “Official Wine of the PGA TOUR, Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour” in 2010. It is the first vineyard to enter into such a partnership with the TOUR.
Beringer offered wine tasting at PGA TOUR events throughout the 2010 season, as well as in-store promotions.
“We’re excited to partner with the PGA TOUR and offer golf fans throughout the country a taste of the Napa Valley with our wines,” said Francesca Schuler, Beringer’s chief marketing officer. “We believe that PGA TOUR fans and Beringer wines are a natural fit—they both appreciate the pursuit of enjoyment and luxury in life.”
Those sentiments were echoed by the TOUR.
“We are extremely pleased to partner with Beringer, which is widely recognized and highly respected for its outstanding wines,” said Tom Wade, chief marketing officer for the PGA TOUR. “We feel that this category is a great fit for the TOUR as it aligns extremely well with our fan base, and Beringer is an ideal partner for the TOUR.”
Jacob Beringer and his brother, Frederick, founded Beringer in 1876, making it the oldest continuously operating winery in the Napa Valley.
While the winery was being built, Jacob took up residence in a farmhouse on the property built in 1848, now referred to as the “Hudson House,” which serves today as Beringer Vineyards’ Culinary Arts Center. In 1883, Frederick began construction of a 17-room mansion that was to be his home—a re-creation of the Beringer family home located on the Rhine River in Germany. The Rhine House is the center of Beringer’s reserve and library tastings. In 2001, the estate was placed on the National Register for Historic Places as a Historic District.
And now a look at some of the PGA TOUR members who have become active in the wine industry:
Arnold Palmer is collaborating with Luna Vineyards to produce and market Arnold Palmer Wines. It is based upon a friendship between Palmer and Mike Moone, the founder of Luna Vineyards that dates to 2003. Their first offering was a California cabernet sauvignon and a chardonnay that was released in 2005.
“Since I hooked up with Luna, I’ve had a reason to be more involved with wine,” said Palmer. “I’ve learned something about the process, and it’s fun to think that you are part of something you enjoy so much. Mike is a good friend, and he produces a good product, because that’s what he does.”
The wines are marketed through high-end wine shops and restaurants such as Smith & Wollensky and resorts such as Palmer’s The Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, FL, and The Lodge at Pebble Beach in Pebble Beach, CA.
Jack Nicklaus and his family have teamed with Terlato Wines to produce Jack Nicklaus Wines, limited-production wines from California’s Napa Valley. The first offerings were a 2007 cabernet sauvignon and 2007 private reserve. After Nicklaus and his sons, Jackie and Gary, visited the Terlato-owned Chimney Rock and Rutherford Hill wineries, they were convinced the partnership was the best for everyone involved.
“It took just moments for us to know that this was going to be a great partnership,” said Nicklaus, a long-time wine collector. “We immediately felt a mutual respect and a connection, sparked by a shared passion for quality and a vision to create something that embodies the high standards of both our families.”
Gary Player’s company, Black Knight International, is collaborating with South Africa’s Quoin Rock Winery, winemaker Carl van der Merwe and South African artist Athol Moult, to create the Major Championship Series wine collection. The collection commemorates all Player’s major championship victories. The series plans to launch 18 vintages over a 20-year span beginning with the 1959 Muirfield—the site of his first British Open victory—released in 2008. The second vintage making up the collection, the Augusta 1961, was previewed in December 2009 at the Gary Player Invitational in South Africa.
Greg Norman Estate Wines produces both American and Australian wines in a wide variety of reds, whites and sparkling varieties which have been widely praised by critics. And just as Norman exists as a larger-than-life figure in business and golf, his company also offers a wine club and a cookbook. Norman’s daughter, Morgan-Leigh, serves as the company’s executive chef/ambassador.
Nick Faldo’s wine line was launched in 2000 in partnership with Australia’s . There are currently four wines being offered: a sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, a shiraz and a sparkling shiraz. The cabernet and the shiraz have received good marks, and the wines sell for around $22.
Ben Hogan may have died in 1997, but the legend and the brand live on. Ben Hogan Wines are produced by Veris Cellars, a central coast, CA, winemaker. The wines consist of five varieties: chardonnay, zinfandel, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and “Carnoustie” (a cabernet, merlot and syrah blend). Each wine forms part of a “Tribute Series” (primarily for on-premise consumption) and the “Collector Series,” which have individual and consecutive numbering on each bottle. There are five-bottle packs (one of each varietal), three-bottle packs (cabernet, merlot and zinfandel) and two-bottle packs (cabernet and carnoustie), each of limited volume.
Ernie Els Wines grew out of a long friendship with winemaker Jean Engelbrecht, and in 1999, they established Engelbrecht Els Vineyards, with the assistance of veteran winemaker Louis Strydom. The featured wines are cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, malbec and petit cerdot. These South African wines have steadily garnered critical acclaim.
David Frost has deep roots in winemaking, having grown up on vineyards run by his grandfather and father in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Frost now owns a 300-acre vineyard in Paarl, the two regions being the country’s equivalent of Napa and Sonoma. His vineyard began producing wines in 1997 and current offerings include a 2002 cabernet sauvignon and a merlot, and a 2004 shiraz. Collectibles include the Legends series Frost made from 1998 to 2001 honoring golfing greats Snead, Palmer, Gene Sarazen, and Nicklaus, with label portraits painted by LeRoy Neiman. The 2002 heritage cabernet/merlot blend, received a 90-plus rating in Wine Spectator.
John Daly introduced his John Daly Wines in 2008. It includes chardonnays and shirazes, a cabernet sauvignon, and a limited-edition “Perfect Round” bordeaux blend. The series also includes the “Fairway Range,” and “Lion’s Range.”
Mike Weir launched Mike Weir Estate Winery in 2005 both to showcase Niagara Region wines, and as a way to raise money for the Mike Weir Foundation, a charity that assists “the many causes that support children in physical, emotional or financial need.” Proceeds from sales of Weir’s wines support the Weir Foundation. The first vintage was a 2007 cabernet merlot, and subsequent wines have included pinot noirs, chardonnays, and sauvignon blancs.
The Luke Donald Collection of wines has its roots in a friendship with Donald and Bill Terlato of the family-owned Terlato Wine Group. Their first release, in April 2008, was a claret-style red wine blend. A Carneros chardonnay was released in spring 2009.
The grapes used in the Luke Donald Claret are come primarily from the highly praised vineyards in the Rutherford and Stags Leap District. The chardonnay is burgundian in style and comes from a vineyard facing San Pablo Bay.
Finally, if you want a good guy to assemble your wine list, give Jeff Sluman, the winner of the 1998 PGA Championship and many other tournaments, a call. The rumor is he has a cellar that rivals “21’s.”