I was watching the final round of the PGA golf tournament from Hawaii last night, umm… that is, I was on my couch, the tournament was in Hawaii, and I was wondering what to write on my blog post for today, when they showed Ernie Els, a golfer from South Africa. Ernie Els, one of the best golfers of his era, the winner of three majors and countless other events around the world, would not normally get mentioned in a wine blog, except that he also is the owner of a vineyard. He produces a few red blends from the Stellenbosch region in South Africa. I have tasted his wines in the past and thought they were better than many of the wines to which celebrities attach their names. Wine Spectator gave his 2007 Proprietary blend a 90 point rating and his 2007 Guardian Peak, a Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache blend, an 89 point rating.
Celebrities owning a winery or putting their names on a bottle of wine is nothing new. Lillie Langtry, an actress from the early nineteen hundreds, owned 4200 acres of vineyards in what is now the Lake County region in California. Look at a bottle of Guenoc Wines and you will see her picture. Another actor turned winemaker was Fess Parker, whose Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays still sell very well all over the country. Probably the most successful and well-known celebrity wine maker is the Oscar winning movie director Francis Ford Coppola. He produces a Diamond Series and Director’s Cut line of wines that can be found in just about every wineshop and grocery store in the country along with his higher end Rubicon wines. His holdings include vineyards that were once part of the great Inglenook Winery (yes, that Inglenook, though not to be confused with 3 liter screwtops). This once-proud name in the industry produced some of the finest wines in the early days of California winemaking.
There are other golfers with their names on wine bottles, including Arnold Palmer, David Frost, Luke Donald, and I’m sure athletes from other sports and many Hollywood celebrities also have financial interest in vineyards…if you know of any others, comment with their story.
Ken Amendola, North Florida Wine Supervisor