Cristie Kerr is one of the most accomplished athletes in women's golf, with 19 LPGA Tour wins to her name, seven Solheim Cup wins and her first European title at the French Open, which she earned earlier this week. What's her celebratory drink of choice? Wine, of course.
In partnership with Pride Mountain Vineyards in Napa, Kerr, 40, started her Curvature wine label with the 2006 vintage and still makes Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay with co-owner Suzanne Pride and winemaker Sally Johnson. All of the proceeds from the Curvature wines go to breast cancer research.
More recently, Kerr started a new venture, this one with all-star winemaker Helen Keplinger. Kerr Cellars was born with the 2013 vintage, and the label now includes Pinot Noir and both red and white Bordeaux blends. On her way to go watch the Presidents Cup, Kerr sat down with assistant editor Emma Balter to talk about her post-golf future (in wine), her latest philanthropy happenings, and changing perceptions of golfers in the wine business.
Wine Spectator: How did your journey into wine begin?
Cristie Kerr: I started really falling in love with wines in the early 2000s. I had always really enjoyed them, but we had an LPGA tournament where it was the top 30 in the world. It was in Napa Valley, and [we] stayed in Yountville at the Vintage Inn. And I just went around with some of the other golfers wine tasting. We'd play our rounds at 6:30 in the morning to [have time to] go wine tasting. I just fell in love with the valley over a long time of going there—over a decade, at least—meeting winemakers, vintners, growers, just trying to learn as much as I could about it. And then I was like, "I really, really want to do this."
WS: You've been studying for the Court of Master Sommeliers certification. How's that going?
CK: I just passed level I this year. I would like to [take level II]. I feel like I need to study for a while and really expand my taste and sense profile. Since I don't work in a restaurant, I also need to go find one of our friends who either manages a restaurant or owns a restaurant to help me do the service.
WS: Are you getting better at blind tasting?
CK: I've learned that my mouth has to be quiet until my brain has a chance to process what [the wine] is. You have to let your senses actually digest what's in the glass: Is there presence of oak, is there spice, is there smoked meat? It takes discipline to sit there and figure it out.
WS: What has it been like working with Helen Keplinger? How involved are you in the winemaking?
CK: Helen's a great teacher; she'll actually put up with me. I'll say, "What about 1 percent Petit Verdot here?" And she goes, "OK, we'll try it." I'm involved in the sense that I help come up with the blend with her and taste a couple times a year to see how the wines are progressing. I try to stay out of Helen's way. I try to be an accessory to her once she needs me. As far as the winemaking, I try to taste and I try to learn. Being in the industry, you never stop learning about it.
WS: You're now in your 10th year with Pride Mountain Vineyards for the Curvature label.
CK: It's been an amazing journey; we've written many checks to breast cancer research. We got pretty popular pretty quickly, and when people were finding out what we were doing with the donation … some people think the wine's not very good because you're giving the profits away, and, "Oh, you're a golfer, you must not make very good wine." So we've been slowly changing people's opinions. This is what I want to do after golf. I want to be successful at this.
WS: How is your philanthropy in breast cancer research going?
CK: In 12 years, [the foundation] raised over $3.5 million for breast cancer research. We have an event every single year. This year we had a "vintner pour" where all the wineries came and poured for the membership. It was Staglin, B Cellars, Keplinger, us, Pride … It was very well-received.
WS: Do you taste a lot of other California wines to see what's out there?
CK: Oh yeah, it's all market research! We didn't want to come in and be this new kid on the block that pounded our chest. We want to do things the right way so we can fit into the wine community.
WS: David Frost is a wine sponsor for the Presidents Cup. Do you ever talk shop with him?
CK: I haven't actually. I've met him a few times, but I think I've become a lot more into wine since the last time I met him, many years ago. I've tried many of Ernie [Els]' wines; he does a great job. It's a hard business. Hopefully what Ernie is doing, what David is doing, what I'm doing in the wine business will redefine how people think of golfers making wine.
WS: Do you think you've inspired other golfers to make wine?
CK: No, because it's really expensive! I inspire plenty of golfers to drink.