A Frost in the Vineyard

Golfer David Frost gets back to his roots, making South African wine
Sep 28, 2010

South Africa native David Frost, 51, grew up practicing his golf swing amid his family’s vineyards on the Cape and has played the sport professionally since 1981. During his time on the PGA tour, Frost won 10 titles, and he now competes on the European Tour and Champions Tour (the PGA tour for golfers aged 50 and older). As that career winds down, however, Frost is devoting more of his time to the 300-acre vineyard in South Africa’s Paarl wine district that he purchased in 1994. Frost spoke to Wine Spectator about returning to the fold, introducing other wine-loving golfers to his brand, and a memorable evening of drinking 19th-century first-growth Bordeaux.

Wine Spectator: How were you introduced to South Africa’s vineyards?
David Frost: My mother grew up on a winery called Saxenburg, a well-known winery in South Africa. And then my dad started his own vineyard when they got married, so I grew up from day one in the vineyard. Always on a Sunday we would get a little glass of wine—just a drop—and that’s how we started drinking.

WS: What made you decide to return to the family business of grape production?
DF: My brother Michael asked back in ’94 if I was interested in getting into the business, mainly table grapes. [After the end of apartheid, that year,] there was a big change in government, and no one really knew what was going to happen. I told him to see what he could find. He found a vineyard of table grapes, but it happened to have wine grapes on it as well. We delivered the [wine] grapes to the local co-op and sold the table grapes out of the vineyard.

WS: How did you move from table grapes to fine-wine production?
DF: In ’97, I said, “Listen, let’s see what kind of wine grapes we’ve got.” I made about 3,000 cases of a 1997 Cabernet at the local co-op—they made the wine for me. And then in ’98, I invited a Napa winemaker, Jason Fisher, and took him down to South Africa from ’98 to 2002. He [had] worked for Paradigm, and then for Cosentino. I put up my own [winery] with more than a dozen 10,000-liter tanks in 2000, and we’ve got a barrel-aging facility there as well. Last year my brother brought in a guy from France, Julian Mori, to help with the wines.

WS: Golf and wine seems to have become a popular pairing. How have your wines been received by the other wine-loving golfers on tour?
DF: Guys haven’t really had a chance to taste my wine, so what I did [at the 3M Championship in August] was, I left a bottle of wine in each guy’s locker. And since then, I’ve gotten calls from guys saying, “Gee, this wine is fantastic—I’ve got to order some cases.” I got quite a response from some of the guys—Jeff Sluman, Morris Hatalsky, Don Pooley, Graham Marsh. They finally realized that it’s not just cheap-ass wine.

WS: Do you have any standout wine-drinking memories?
DF: The oldest wine I’ve had is an 1875 Lafite, which I drank with [developer] Lord Peter Palumbo outside Pittsburgh, where he owns [Kentuck Knob,] a Frank Lloyd Wright home. He took me down to his cellar, and I saw these white chalk marks, and he says to me, “Those are the wines that I think are ready to drink.” I said, “What makes you think those two 1875 Lafites are ready to drink now?!” He opened one on Sunday night and we had dinner, just me and him, with that bottle. It was fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. And we had a ’59 Mouton as a backup. That’s my most memorable wine evening ever. The 1970 Figeac we gave to the chef, because we’d had too much wine. I had played 36 holes of golf that day, and I was just too tired to drink any more.

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