"The whole thing has gone completely crazy," said Mildara Blass spokesman Stuart Gregor. "The wines were only launched Aug. 5 at a function in Greg's Palm Beach [Fla.] home, and already we've sold our U.S. allocation for the year -- 10,000 cases."
Although the wines are priced at $15 a bottle, a 3-liter bottle of Norman's first red was auctioned at the launch for $9,500. Tasted blind with other Australian reds, I rated the Greg Norman Estates Cabernet-Merlot Coonawarra 1996 at 91 points ("outstanding" on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale). A supple wine, it has more intensity and pure Cabernet character than many Australian wines made to sell for two or three times the price.
The Chardonnay Yarra Valley 1998 is not quite as spectacular. Its smooth texture and bright, profuse pear, floral and apricot flavors earned it an 88-point rating (or "very good").
The understated labels, which discreetly display the golfer's signature and his multicolored shark logo, explain that the wines are a joint venture between the Australian-born Norman and Mildara Blass, which is best known in the United States for its Wolf Blass, Black Opal and Yarra Ridge labels.
An avid wine collector with an impressive collection in his Florida home, Norman likes to serve Australian wine to friends whenever he can. He commented, "You could say that fine wine is one of the great passions in my life, behind my family and golf."
Norman actually approached several wineries with the idea of his own label before making a deal with Mildara Blass. Norman and the companys chief winemaker, Chris Hatcher, tasted through several dozen wines from the company's inventory before deciding on what to bottle.
"They were my favorites," said Norman. "The two wines show off Australian fruit quality and winemaking expertise in their very best light, and they represent my taste. I think both wines are benchmarks of their style."
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