Wine has a prominent place at the table in professional golf, to the degree, so it sometimes seems, that a tournament in the Napa Valley ought to be considered the fifth major.
The Frys.com Open in Napa this week isn’t that, notwithstanding a field that includes Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose. But it is a good time to check in with long-time Napa Valley vintner and golf enthusiast Mitch Cosentino to get his opinions on who the leaders in the clubhouse wine cellars are in the professional golf fraternity.
Those involved in the wine business to varying degrees include Greg Norman, Retief Goosen, Luke Donald, Ernie Els, Cristie Kerr, David Frost, Annika Sorenstam, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Mike Weir and Nick Faldo.
The Big Three aren’t Palmer, Nicklaus and Player, not in this business. The Big Three are Frost, Els and Donald.
Frost, in fact, actually gets his hands dirty. “Frost Wines is the one that actually has a vineyard and background,” Cosentino said. “David is actively involved in all aspects of the business. Earlier this year, I talked to him about doing a Napa cab project. He has more knowledge and background than all the other guys put together.
“The wines that Ernie’s got are pretty good, especially the big red signature. Luke Donald’s wine is good, a nice wine.”
Cosentino, who for a time was making wine for Fred Couples’ label, ranks Frost and Els wines at the top. “They’ve got money invested,” Cosentino said. “Frost has had that going back a long time. They’re in and active. Luke Donald wants to be, because he’s a real wine buff.”
What about Norman? “I’d rather answer another question,” he said. “Those are Treasury Wines [Treasury Wine Estates], a big company. A very big production deal.”
Cosentino had high marks for Cristie Kerr and her Curvature Wines and for her passion for wine. Sorenstam is “a little limited with what she wants to do” with her wine interests, he said, noting her association with Wente Vineyards, which does not have a presence in the Napa Valley.
“But she really has a passion to do something. The best thing and the thing that gets them the most traction, would be to buy a little vineyard or a little piece of a vineyard here and start from there.”
Cosentino’s own wine interest these days is PureCru Napa Valley. Meanwhile, the former club pro, now 63, plays to a handicap index of +0.5 and has a goal of shooting his age soon. “I got to within four a couple of weeks ago,” he said.