Professional golf and wine have made for good bedfellows since the likes of Greg Norman and Ernie Els began producing and releasing wines under their own names a few years ago. Now the PGA Tour is releasing its own set of wines, trying to appeal to a broad range of tastes at several price points, similar to its strategy for marketing the sport of golf.
The wines, which prominently carry the PGA Tour logo on their labels, should begin arriving at retailers and restaurants nationwide over the next few months. "Our mission is to grow our fan base by trying to touch consumers at as many points as we can," said Leo McCullagh, vice president of marketing and retail licensing for the PGA Tour.
The brand is the brainchild of Costa Mesa, Calif.-based Bermuda Triangle Ventures, which is also working on a private-label wine for the cruise line Royal Caribbean. BTV approached the PGA Tour about a year ago, offering to work with several growers and small- to medium-size wineries on a custom-crush basis to bottle varietal wines under the PGA name. "Our selection approach is to look at what wines are best from each appellation, and go in to make wines from those areas," said BTV's chief winemaker, Brian Zealear, formerly of Napa winery Rocking Horse.
The PGA Tour wines, which currently all come from California, will be offered in three tiers. "We have a very diverse audience, and it appealed to us to have small amounts of very good wine at each price point," said McCullagh.
The Players Cellars label includes a 2003 Sonoma Merlot ($18), a 2004 Santa Barbara Chardonnay ($15) and a 25th anniversary California sparkling wine ($18) that celebrates the Champions Tour, which was started in 1980. The bubbly will be produced according to demand, while there are 1,000 cases of Merlot and 1,500 of Chardonnay. The Champions Select line, which focuses on more specific appellations and ranges in production from 200 to 1,000 cases, includes a 2003 Monterey Santa Lucia Highlands Syrah ($24), a 2002 Sonoma County Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel ($24), a 2004 Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($18) and a 2003 Monterey Carmel Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($30).
While the first two tiers will be available at retail, the wines in the top tier, the Commissioners Private Reserve, will be sold primarily at country clubs, golf resorts and on the Internet, though some will be available at PGA Tour tournaments and other events. This range includes a 2002 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon from the Rutherford Bench and Stag's Leap District ($60); a 2003 Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from three different vineyards ($44); a 2004 Sonoma Chardonnay from Dry Creek and Carneros ($38); and a 2003 Monterey Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir ($55).
Both BTV and the PGA Tour expect to expand or change the volumes and varietals in each tier over time, based on what wine drinkers are interested in at the moment. "The thing we like to compare it to is golf—it's like the experience of playing a different golf course," said Steve Bisceglia, COO of BTV.
"We can dart around and find things that are hot properties and trends," added Zealear. "Certainly places like Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Ynez, Russian River. The approach we're taking gives us a little more flexibility."
BTV is already looking at other appellations in and outside California for the PGA Tour label. "We'll probably branch out into Oregon and elsewhere down the road," said Zealear.