The Terroirist: On Golfers and Grapes
One in a continuing series
They say that the best way to make a small fortune in the wine business is to start with a large fortune. If this is true, then from the rate PGA golfers are starting up wineries, they must be absolutely swimming in it. First Greg Norman opened the originally named Norman Estates winery, then Ernie Els created his own brand in South Africa. And now, our very own green-jacket-wearing Mike Weir has lent his name to a winery (Mike Weir Estate wines are currently being made out of the Creekside winery, but he's slated to have his own building completed by the 2007 vintage).
I've always been of two minds when it comes to 'vanity' wineries such as these; wine making is primarially a labour of love - the hours are long, the conditions are harsh, the money (unless you already have an empire) can be problematic, and you're at the mercy of the weather - and the idea that with enough tour winnings you can become an instant-winemaker seems wrong. On the other hand, I don't suspect that the Baroness de Rothschild is herself grubbing up vines or rolling barrels across the cellar.
Despite this, the wines that their teams - because lets face it, travelling around the world playing golf is not very condusive to taking an active role in winemaking - produce can range from the simple but drinkable, to the outstanding. While a famous owner should never be a reason to pick up a wine, it needn't always be a reason to avoid it either. Just fear for the day that 'Clos de Domi' hits the markets.
So what's drinking nicely this Saturday?
Mike Weir Estate Cabernet/Merlot 2004 (Niagara Peninsula, Ontario) $17.95, 000109
I'll be honest - this is a wine that I wanted to hate. I wanted to be able to write about how golfers really have as much business getting into winemaking as moviestars do getting into politics (hello Mssrs Reagan and Schwartzenegger), but then I tried it. And try as I like, I couldn't dislike this wine. It has a nice, dark cherry red colour to it, with a nose of pepper, chocolate, vanilla, and coffee. The mouthfeel was rich, with firm tannins and notes of coffee, cocoa, vanilla, and cherries. It would be best to let this wine sit in your cellar for 2-4 years, but enjoy it now with rare roast beef.
Konzelmann Gewurztraminer Reserve 2002 (Niagara Peninsula, Ontario) $14.95, 392357
Maybe it's the sudden coming of Spring after this dreary non-winter of the last few months, but lately my thoughts have turned to patio sipping wines. On a hot sunny day, you need a well chilled wine with a touch of sweetness to really cool down and relax - and being non-carbonated it's even better at it than the Canadian tradition of beer. This lovely rich golden Gewurztraminer is ideal. It has a spicy full nose that envelops your nosebuds with rose, grape candy, lychee, and peach. In the mouth, it's just slightly off-dry, with the lychee notes predominating and followed by rose, peach, and an aftertone of cloves. If you're not up for drinking it all by itself, try it with a spicy Thai mango chicken green curry.
Conde de Caralt Cava NV (Catalunya, Spain) $12.95, 664623
I generally shy away from cheaper bubblies - in order to produce quality sparkles, you need to do secondary fermentation in the bottle, and that doesn't come cheaply. Sometimes though, I find a joyful exception. The Conde de Caralt is one of those. About as cheap as you're going to find anything drinkable, this Cava represents some really stunning value. A pale yellow green in colour, the nose is full of lime, smoke, and earth. The mousse in the mouth is big and filling, with flavours of lime and grapefruit filling it out. Champagne is it not, but if you're looking for an easily affordable sparkler - this is it.
The Terroirist is published fortnightly on Thursdays
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