Golf this weekend was an adventure—and not the 100-swings-of-the-club, looking-in-the-trees-all-day kind either. It was a fun adventure, with a sense of mystery thrown in.
That’s because one of my golfing buddies finally twisted my arm enough to get me to play Grossinger’s up in the Catskills. He’d talked the course up for the last few years, but I never felt like making the trek. Grossinger’s is a former resort, one of the old grand daddies of the Catskills resort genre. But the resort is now shuttered, and the golf course is all that remains. I knew the pedigree of the course was good—old-time course, wide open, lots of elevation, challenging. But I expected the conditions to be poor. Nonetheless, I acquiesced, and made the drive out for an early morning tee time on a cold, windy Sunday.
Driving up the entrance road, past the burned out, crumbling hotel rooms and cabins was depressing. I thought to myself, "This could be a waste of a day." But I stuck with it. The clubhouse hasn’t changed in 50 years—dark wood, creaky floors, worn carpet. Amenities? Yeah, right …
But after warming up on the range, we headed over to the first tee. My partner was going through a play-by-play of the course since the last time he played it, about 10 years ago. He was really wound up, the way I usually am, though today I was uncharacteristically cool, as my expectations were low.
The first tee box looks down over a wide undulating fairway, with a green that slopes back to front and right to left. Despite the raw, gray weather, the course was vibrant green and lush. After putting out on the first green, my partner exclaimed “Wow, this is June-like conditions, this course is in such great shape.”
He was right: It was in great shape. No beverage cart anywhere. No ranger to be seen all day. And with no one behind us or in front of us, it was 18 holes of quiet, pleasurable golf. The back nine in particular is superb, with several dogleg holes that wind in and out of the woods and across streams and ponds. It’s topped by the 13th hole—a par 5 with an island green, reachable in two if you hit an A-plus drive (I parred the hole, after laying up).
When it was over, I thanked him for dragging me out to a forgotten corner of the golfing world. And of course that got me to thinking about wine—a long segue I admit, but if you’ve read this far, hear me out.
What is the Grossinger's of wine—a forgotten wine that still delivers like it always has, a wine you would never bother with unless you were forced to?
It's got to be white Bordeaux.
Is there a wine with more pedigree and history that gets a colder shoulder than white Bordeaux does? I don’t think so. It’s like an old golf course you have to go out of your way for. Out of sight, out of mind.
And so the other night, I forced a Grossinger’s on myself and Nancy. We ducked into the casual bar/café area of Country and ordered a few soft shell crabs. Normally I’d pick a Loire white after spending about 18 seconds with the wine list. But this time I dug a little bit deeper, and found a 1998 Château Malartic-Lagravière Pessac-Léognan White languishing on the list. At $70, it was worth trying.
And what a surprise—it delivered. Creamy and rich, with flavors of lemon verbena, white flowers and minerals, along with a hint of honeyed maturity. It had the acidity to match the food, along with weight and complexity. 91 points for me, non-blind obviously.
“What made you order this?” asked Nancy.
“Sometimes you have to go off the beaten track,” I answered. “And force yourself to try something that’s been overlooked for a while.”
“It’s really good,” she answered.
Just like that course tucked up in the Catskills.
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