Golf Gold

The 11 Absolute Best Spots for Golf and Wine-Tasting

The Best Wines in Golf
More than a handful of Tour pros have their own wine labels. But which vintages reign supreme? We asked master sommelier Brian Cronin to blind taste five whites and seven reds from some of the game's top players -- and name the best in class.

Where can you find the best golf and the best wine? Sometimes that’s easier said than done, but don’t worry, we mapped out the best spots for your multi-tasking trips.

1. OKANAGAN VALLEY, BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA

THE WINEThe second largest wine region in Canada, with more than 130 wineries, the valley grows some 60 grape varietals. But ice wine is its signature style. As its name suggests, the wine is made from fruit that freezes on the vine, giving rise to a lush dessert libation with a bright acidic finish that cleans up any cloying sweetness and erases recollections of that double-bogey you made on 18.  

Recommended wineries: Mt. Boucherie Family Estate Winery, Intrigue Wines, Cedar Creek Estate Winery (below)  

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THE GOLFThe valley soil is also rich in golf, with more than a dozen public options. Tops among them are the two championship tracks at Predator Ridge (below), a luxe resort and two-time host of the World Skins Game. Both layouts buck and roll over the same lilting landscape on which ice wine vineyards thrive.  

2. NAPA VALLEY, CALIFORNIA

THE WINEWhat St. Andrews is to golf, Napa is to the American wine industry: the cradle where it all began. With hundreds of wineries in the offing, the visitor experience spans the spectrum, from appointment-only tours of cult Cabernet sauvignon producers to mass-tastings of two-buck chuck. Consider hopping on the Napa Valley Wine Train, which runs along the valley’s spine, making pit stops at marquee wineries while sparing you the worry of getting behind the wheel.  

Recommended wineries: Dana Estate (by appointment only), Beaulieu Vineyard, Hall Rutherford (below)

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THE GOLFAsk a local, and they’ll likely direct you to the Napa Golf Course at Kennedy Park, a municipal sleeper that ranks among the best values around. But the valley’s premiere destination is Johnny Miller’s property, the Silverado Resort and Spa (below). Its newly renovated North Course hosted the Frys.com Open this fall.  

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3. SONOMA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA

THE WINENapa’s rustic neighbor sprawls from the sun-drenched inland hills to the Pacific Ocean, its mix of soil conditions and micro-climates covering a quilt of prestigious appellations. Pick your pleasure. Old-vine Zinfandel in the Dry Creek Valley. Buttery Chardonnay in the Alexander Valley. Or perhaps your preference lies with Pinot noir, which flourishes along the Russian River as it spills toward the fog-cooled coast.  

Recommended wineries: A. Rafanelli Winery, Ridge Vineyards, J Vineyards & Winery (below

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THE GOLFIf Robert Parker gave out scores for golf design, he’d award 100 points to Mayacama for its Jack Nicklaus-signature course. Problem is, the place is private. For public play, your two best choices are quietly compelling Windsor Golf Club, a former Nationwide Tour stop, and nine-hole Northwood (below), a charming Alister Mackenzie layout shaped through giant redwood trees.  

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4. SANTA YNEZ VALLEY, CALIFORNIA

THE WINE: "I'm not drinking any f--ing Merlot," Paul Giametti's Miles declares in Sideways, the hit film set in the Santa Ynez Valley. Not that you can’t find great Merlot here. And Viognier. And Syrah. And Sauvignon blanc. It’s just that the region’s calling card is Pinot noir, a delicate grape that thrives only when conditions are just-so. It’s poured in tasting rooms and restaurants all around the valley, which includes such quaint towns as Los Olivos, Santa Ynez and Solvang. “Oh, its flavors,” Miles says of Pinot. “They’re just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and ancient on the planet.”  

Recommended wineries: Gainey Vineyard (below), Lucas & Lewellen Vineyard, Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards  

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THE GOLFIn the film, Miles and his buddy, Jack, also hit it sideways in a scene shot at the Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort (below). Its Ranch Course, a sylvan Billy Bell design framed by oaks, sycamores and eucalyptus trees, dates back to 1956. It’s private but open to resort play. The public River Course is a less demanding test set along the Santa Ynez River.  

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5. MONTEREY PENINSULA, CALIFORNIA

THE WINEBetter known for its fairways and greens, the peninsula also generates some nifty reds and whites. A good number are produced in nearby Carmel Valley and many more are poured around the region. In Clint Eastwood’s Carmel-by-the-Sea, you can purchase a $65 Wine Walk Passport, which entitles you to tasting flights at any nine of 14 local tasting rooms, all within walking distance  of one another.  

Recommended wineries: Ventana Vineyards, Bernardus Winery, Mercy Vineyards (below)

THE GOLFIt’s the golf destination of your dreams. When it finally comes true, you punctuate the moment with blowout celebration, starting out at Poppy Hills (below) and moving on to Spyglass. But you can’t tell your friends, much less live with yourself, if you go home without playing Pebble Beach.  

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6. WALLA WALLA, WASHINGTON

THE WINEOnce widely referred to as “the next Napa,” Walla Walla now stands proudly on its own name, its reputation rooted largely in Syrah, Grenache, Mouvedre and other Rhone varietals. More than 100 wineries operate in the region, many of them family-run businesses whose modest bearing belies the world-class quality of their wines.  

Recommended wineries: Gramercy Cellars (below), Pepper Bridge Winery

THE GOLFConsistently ranked among the top tracks in the state, the Wine Valley Golf Club (below) is a course of modern vintage but it plays more like an ancient links, with wide, rumpled fairways, steep-walled bunkers and large, often befuddling greens.  

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7. SONOITA, ARIZONA

THE WINEAn emergent wine region, south of Tucson, Sonoita sits in the shadow of three mountain ranges and features some of the country’s highest-elevation vineyards, planted at nearly 5,000 feet. Rhone varietals are well-represented, and you’ll find them showcased at the 12 wineries that make up the Sonoita Wine Trail.  

Recommended wineries: Lightning Ridge Cellars, Kief-Joshua Vineyards (below), Callaghan Vineyards  

THE GOLFBefore you tee it up at Tubac Golf Resort (below), doff your cap in tribute to Roy McAvoy, the down-and-out duffer played by Kevin Costner in a film that every golf fan knows. Many of the scenes were shot right here. If you want to rinse a few shots in Tin Cup Lake, a hazard that was built just for the movie, that would be a touching gesture, too.  

8. TEXAS HILL COUNTRY

THE WINETo your list of things to do in Texas (barbecueing, bare-back riding) add wine-tasting, on a trail that runs from Austin to Fredericksburg and beyond, with 42 wineries along the way. The styles you sample vary wildly, from silken Syrah and Sangiovese to Cabs as big as the Lone Star State. texaswinetrail.com  

Recommended wineries: Pedernales Cellars (below), Duchman Winery, Becker Vineyards  

THE GOLFGolf abounds here in the land of Hogan, but for quality and quantity, it’s hard to do much better than Omni Barton Creek Resort (below), which has four championship 18-holers, including the Fazio Canyons Course, ranked 76 on Golf Magazine’s list of Top 100 Courses you can play.  

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9. FINGER LAKES REGION, NEW YORK

THE WINEA five-hour drive from the Big Apple brings you to this great grape-growing region, its vineyard-latticed hills prized especially for Riesling and Gewurtzraminer. Three wine trails wend there way through the Finger Lakes, lined in total by more than 50 wineries, many of which take part in lavish food and wine events throughout the year.   

Recommended wineries: Standing Stone Vineyards, Red Newt Cellars, Fox Run Vineyards (below)

THE GOLFValues galore line the Finger Lakes Golf Trail, a constellation of four bucolic courses, most notable among them Greystone Golf Club (below), a linksy layout whose scene-stealing back-nine closes with a stirring  sink-or-swim par-4. You can risk the pond on your approach, or, by local rule, take a one-stroke-penalty drop on its far side.  

10. CENTRAL VIRGINIA

THE WINEWine-making has come a long way around these parts since the late 1700s, when Thomas Jefferson took up the practice as a hobbyist, concocting sugary-sweet vintages in his home at Monticello. Nowadays, the region brims with heralded producers of Pinot gris, Petit verdot, Petit manseng and other beautifully balanced wines. Our poor Founding Fathers lived at the wrong time.  

Recommended wineries: Autumn Hill Vineyards Blueridge Winery, Ankida Ridge Vineyards, Barboursville Vineyards (below)

THE GOLFDonald Trump, who owns a winery in the region, has run up against road blocks in his attempts to build a course on his property. In the meantime, though, we have Pete Dye to thank for just-opened Full Cry Golf Course at Keswick Hall (below), a 600-acre resort near Charlottesville. The layout covers the old footprint of a Fred Finlay course that first opened in 1948 and was later renovated by Arnold Palmer. But the new design is pure Dye, replete railroad ties, deceptively placed bunkers and a Redan-style par-3 patterned on the famed 15th at North Berwick in Scotland.

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11. CENTRAL OREGON

THE WINE: When conversations turn to Oregon wine, they often focus on the prized pinot noirs of the Willamette Valley, closer to the coast. But here at higher elevations, they aren’t exactly low on great wine either, thanks, in part, to rocky, mineral-rich soil that gives rise to a range of first-rate European varietals, from robust malbec to swarthy tempranillo and petite sirah.

Recommended wineries: Maragas Winery (below), Naked Winery, Volcano Vineyards

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THE GOLF: With more than two dozen courses clustered in and around it, the city of Bend and its surrounds are frequently referred to as “the Palm Springs of the North.” Lauded layouts range from Bob Cupp’s Crosswater course at Sunriver to the Jack Nicklaus Course at Pronghorn Resort (below), a rustic-chic retreat that caters to oenophiles with regularly scheduled winemaker-hosted dinners.

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