We have entered the highlight of the professional golfing season. The Tour Championship, also known as the FedEx Cup, just ended, and the winner took home $15 million, the richest purse in the sport. Even the last player in the tournament received a six-figure check. But before top golfers embark on a new season, they are preparing for the Ryder Cup, a biennial competition that pits the best professional golfers in the United States against the best of Europe. National pride is at stake and the competition can become fierce. The excitement even spills over into the world of wine: Both True Myth and Silver Spur wineries are producing Ryder Cup editions.
It turns out that there is a substantial link between professional golf and wine. It seems that more golfers own vineyards or represent wineries than any other sports figures. In addition, the PGA Tour has announced that Meiomi is now the official wine of the tour.
Numerous golfers have taken to wine, some as vintners and others as partners. One of the first was Greg Norman. but now others have become involved, like South Africans Gary Player and Ernie Els. LPGA players have embraced wine, as well, with Christie Kerr's two labels and Jan Stephenson with her own vineyard.
Most of these wines are small-production and may be difficult to find, but one wine that is generally available is Nobilo sauvignon blanc—a very pleasant, crisp, citrusy wine from New Zealand. Frank Nobilo was a professional golfer and is now a television commentator for the Golf Channel. Although he was directly involved in the winery for some time, the winery was sold a few years ago to Constellation Brands, a large consumer products company.
Wondering how the relationship between golf and wine came to be, a couple of thoughts crossed my mind.
First off, golf is unique among sports because it is played on various courses, none of which are the same, unlike most sports, where the venues are required to be identical. Similarly, no two wines of the same varietal, produced by different wineries, are the same. Each winery strives for uniqueness instead of sameness.
Or perhaps the relationship can be explained by the time spent in golf course restaurants after a round, where wine is abundantly available. Enjoying both wine and golf, I can attest they both offer learning experiences, camaraderie and enjoyment. While not as frustrating as golf, wine can always be a challenge.
Bob McGinn has spent his entire career in the wine industry—forming wine clubs, working in wine sales marketing and engaging in all facets of the winemaking process, including vine management, fermentation and yeast analysis. He has developed wine programs for companies such as Marriott, Sheraton and Smith & Wollensky, and consults with local restaurants. You can read more of McGinn’s work at gulfcoastwinejournal.com.