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Wine-and-Golf Pairings Back in Season

Plus, two of 2012's biggest trends continue unabated— Chinese investment in Bordeaux and wine on reality TV

Posted: February 23, 2012

• The 2012 PGA Tour season is back in full swing, which means Unfiltered's favorite final-round pairing of wine and golf will be on the DVR menu for many months to come. Last week, Beringer Vineyards, the official wine of the PGA, Champions and Nationwide tours, announced its newest partner, golfer Justin Leonard, who won the 1997 British Open and 1998 Players Championship. Leonard, who will appear in various Beringer ads this summer, joins a very long list of golfers who have turned their eyes from the fairway to the vineyard. Ernie Els' label has long stood on its own as one of South Africa's most prestigious wines. Els' countrymen David Frost and Retief Goosen have wine brands as well. Greg Norman's Australian and Californian wines are top sellers. Annika Sorrenstam, Nick Faldo and Mark O'Meara all play the wine game. Even all-time greats Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer have time for wine. Not surprisingly, golfers took up half the panel at the Athletes and Their Wines seminar at October's Wine Spectator New York Wine Experience. It seems golf and fine wine have become ubiquitous, with good reason—they're probably the only two vices that retirees and their cardiologists can agree on.

• The Chinese invasion of Bordeaux shows no signs of slowing. A few hours after closing on the purchase of Château du Grand Moueys, a sprawling 420-acre estate in Bordeaux's Entre-Deux-Mers region, new owner Zhang Jinshan sat down with Unfiltered to discuss his game plan. At first, Zhang, an amiable goji berry spirits tycoon from Ningxia, China, revealed a strategy so predictable that Unfiltered begins to suspect a central committee directive for Sino-Bordelais investments: purchase picturesque historic castle in modest appellation, drop some serious change to repackage as super-premium wine and use vineyard estate as centerpiece for high-volume export business—in this case, a modest 1.2 million bottles per year. Then things got interesting. First, rather than diverting the entire production to China, Zhang will keep 10 to 20 percent of his Merlot-dominated blend in the U.S. and European markets so we can all enjoy the efforts of consulting guru Stéphane Derenoncourt to produce a smooth, fruity, elegant wine, "St.-Emilion style." Major investments are planned for the cellars. Next, the Gothic Revival château will receive a $5 million facelift, and re- emerge as a boutique hotel and 70-seat gourmet restaurant, run by restaurateur Lei Wu An, who is something of a celebrity in Ningxia for his eight Dong Gan eateries. The decor will be classic, contemporary French, but Lei told Unfiltered that the food will be an authentic, modern fusion of French and Chinese, with ingredients and chefs flown in to do the job properly. Think Peking duck roasted over fragrant jujube and pear tree wood, served on a terrace overlooking 145 acres of vineyards following nine holes on the new golf course. Zhang envisions bringing contemporary Chinese culture—cuisine, art exhibits, concerts—to Bordeaux, East meets West in luxurious wine country.

• It's become nigh impossible to avoid reality (TV) in the wine world these days. A few weeks ago we told you about Kendall-Jackson's Rick Tigner going Undercover. On Feb. 10, inventor Eric Corti presented his Wine Balloon to the investor judges of ABC's Shark Tank. The Wine Balloon is a hand-pumped inflatable rubber balloon inserted into a half-emptied bottle of wine and inflated, displacing the oxygen and theoretically preserving the wine for several days. The Sharks bit, offering Corti as much as $600,000 for full ownership of his invention (he passed). And this past Friday, Wine Spectator reported that original Real Housewife Bethenny Frankel's wildly popular Skinnygirl brand is introducing three California wines next month. Of course, the undisputed king of the reality TV wine world is the winemaking Bachelor, Ben Flajnik of Sonoma's Envolve winery. This week was the seasonal "hometowns" episode, in which our hero visits the homes of his final four lady friends and meets their families. Fittingly, Flajnik watched the episode from his own home, in Sonoma, with his sister, Julia, and their mom. Flajnik, who does all the cooking at the San Francisco apartment/bachelor pad he shares with his two partners, made chicken parmesan, and they opened a bottle of Paul Dolan Deep Red Mendocino County 2007 (the Bachelor is very into biodynamic wines; most of Envolve's grapes are sourced from organic or biodynamic vineyards). It was the first time Ben watched an episode with his mother, who awkwardly laughed her way through the make-out scenes. It's down to three suitorettes for Ben now—including Unfiltered's episode 1 pick, Nicki—and they're off to Switzerland this week. The Bachelor tells us he'll be keeping it real with a Swiss wine this Monday night, Cave des Tielleuls Réserve.

Timothy Brinkmann
Franklin, TN - USA —  March 6, 2012 2:13pm ET
Don't forget recent #1 Golfer in the World - Luke Donald Collection Wines with Terlato.
Excellent Carneros Chardonnay and Napa Red Blend.

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