Swedish-born Annika Sorenstam, 38, shocked the golf world when she announced her retirement from competitive play last year. Highlights from her highly decorated 15-year professional career include 72 LPGA tour wins, shooting a round of 59 in competition and being the first woman to play in a men's PGA tour event since 1945. But just because she's off the tour doesn't mean she has plans to slow down. A recent marriage, a golf academy and a self-titled wine from Wente Vineyards with a May 2009 release date are only a few of her projects. She recently spoke with Wine Spectator from her home in Orlando, Fla., about her growing collection, how she's still setting the precedent for women golfers and how wine makes a great gift.
Wine Spectator: How did you get into drinking wine?
Annika Sorenstam: I've never been a drinker really—being a professional athlete, it wasn't really part of something I did. But then I started to acquire a taste for wine. The knowledge of the stories that go with each bottle—I just think it's so neat that [wine] isn't just a drink. Everything has a story, a little connection. I love it now. I read about it, I study it, I try different wines.
WS: We hear you're quite a cook. Is that true?
AS: I do love to cook. I worked in a kitchen a few years ago in my off-season at the Lake Nona County Club [in Orlando, Fla.]. I worked 8 hours a day for six weeks. It was hard! I wanted to try everything. I worked with the pastry chef. I did salads. I learned how to roll sushi. I did sauté. I worked with a new chef every day to learn everything.
WS: Are you doing your own wine pairings?
AS: I try! I'm a beginner when it comes to pairing wines and food. I'm hoping that will come with experience. If we have friends over, we'll just open a bottle that I like.
WS: What do you usually reach for?
AS: I'd go with something $25 or less for a weekday. Rombauer, [which] is unbelievable for the price. Beringer, I like. It's a nice value for something $20 and below. And then I'd probably go up to $50 or something [for the weekend]. L'Ecole No. 41 is something I like. Kathryn Hall has some nice ones, as does Duckhorn.
WS: How did your new wine project get started?
AS: We were up in California, Livermore Valley, where we connected with the Wente family. They have a golf course on the property amongst the grapes. We talked about how it would be so great to have a partnership. It was a perfect fit. We came up with a bottle of wine that is 75 percent Syrah and 25 percent Cab [15 percent from Napa and 10 percent from Livermore Valley]. We were sitting in a lab trying things and it was interesting to come up with the right mix. It's fun to be part of a project like that and feel like not just that it's got my name, but it's got my approval and my work behind it.
WS: So now you're part of this club of golfers that have wines.
AS: [Laughing] I'm not the only one. I've tried several Greg Norman wines, several of Arnold Palmer's, and I have a few Ernie Els and David Frost. What's interesting is that I'm the first female golfer to come out with a wine.
WS: Do you collect wine?
AS: I probably have 750 bottles [in Orlando]. I'm trying to figure out how I can put them in a better place with a temperature gauge. Over 50 percent are from California, and I have quite a few from Chile and Argentina. I like Malbecs quite a bit.
I purchase quite a bit of wine, am part of a few wine clubs. It's a perfect gift for us. I'll go on the Internet and see what people say, kind of check out the ratings. I've always been a numbers person so for me these ratings are fun.
WS: What's the best wine present you've ever received?
AS: We just received a Heitz Martha's Vineyard. That was a wedding gift. I'm almost afraid to open it, but I guess that's how you enjoy it. For now, I've put it in a special place.
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