Golf is a better game when there’s consolation in wine
In a series of articles about the game we love, HK Golfer has invited our golfer-journalist-at-large, the SolitaireMystery@hotmail.com, to contribute his take on the game and anything around it.
Sonoma or Napa is the place to be if you’re into American wine. It is “the most” of anything to do with American wines: the most winery per surface area; the most grape types planted; the most volume produced; the most expensive wine; the most innovation; the most eclectic collection of owners and so on. You name it, you have it.
But do you know that Sonoma is also where one of the most exclusive private clubs of America is found? Yes, this is where Mayacama is located, nestled in the hills of northern Sonoma County, not far from the charming town of Healdsburg; where membership is hard to seek, and the club boasts a golf course that is consistently ranked in the top 50 of the world - although few people I know have ever played on the course. The wealth and influence of the members who belong to this club are perhaps most evident by the private jets that land at the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport. Members arrive from all over the country (and some from other parts of the world) and disappear onto the club grounds daily, and even more so on the weekends. It is said that to become a member, one not only needs to seek nomination by an existing member, but also to survive the screening interviews of a few others.
All this for the privilege to play on the Jack Nicklaus signature golf course? Perhaps not. This is Sonoma County after all. Where wine is the most important consideration in anything. Mayacama currently boasts a list of 35 Vintner members whose wines are consistently rated 92 points and higher. Yes, this is a pre-requisite for consideration to be a Vintner member. To understand the significance of this act is a walk down history lane, and a quick lesson as to why we don’t find the top, I mean really the top, quality American wine in the open market.
The French grew vine, made wine, bottled, and sold them across the world long before planes were invented. This leaves behind a legacy of négociants who ensured distribution of the end products across the globe. And thanks to this tradition, there’s en primeur and distributors in every continent. Everyone can very much buy the wine and the vintage we want as long as we’re willing to part with the necessary fortunes.
America came to the wine game later, with some exceptions. Small producers sell directly to wine enthusiasts who happen to visit the winery. Direct mailing lists start and wine is sold straight to the end consumers, bypassing the middleman. Wine makers make more and end consumers pay less. Everyone wins, right? Not for the poor souls like you and me who didn’t make it on the list. We can never lay our hands on those wonderfully fermented grapes, pampered in boutique wineries in limited quantities and sold even before they are bottled. Yes, occasionally some entrepreneurial collectors who favor cash sell them on the open market, but provenance, my friend, is a high price to pay.
I still remember my first sighting of a Wren Hop in a wine store in NYC. First, I was very much taken by the book cover design of its label; the juxtaposition of a muscular style wine in a museum art piece like bottle. Then my rational left brain took over. Too good to be true…? To buy or not to buy…? How did this limited production Pinot-for-Cab-lover wine get here…? Here in my hand lies a label where only a few thousand bottles have ever been produced.
Back to earth, and back to Mayacama. Members, I was told, have private access to the wines from the 35 Vintner members. A private allocation and auctioning system is in place to keep everyone happy. I know it’s a different world when you have money. Not to be a sour grape, but this is too much for me to handle and too little for me to drink. I protest. What exactly are we missing? Besides Wren Hop which I have mentioned earlier, let me introduce you to three other known Vintner members of Mayacama.
Vineyard 7&8 - after a measured and patient search for a vineyard property in Napa Valley, the Steffens Family ended their quest when they acquired a forty-acre property atop Spring Mountain. Planted in the early 1980’s to eight acres of each Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, the property met the family’s stringent requirements to sustainably grow premium grapes allowing them to craft wines
with a true sense of place. Founded in 1999 and named after proprietor Launny Steffens’ life and background in the world of finance with a theme encompassed by numerics, and a keen interest in numerology - “seven” being a number of luck in western culture, while “eight” follows the meanings of prosperity and happiness in eastern culture - Vineyard 7&8 is the culmination of the family’s pursuit for producing fine wines including Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.
Fisher Vineyards - since 1973, Fisher Vineyards has been blessed with outstanding estate vineyards in Napa Valley and Sonoma County. Today, Fisher Vineyards stands alone as the longest established winery to produce site specific wines from estate vineyards in both regions. Blessed by significant contributions over five decades from several of California’s greatest wine talents (including Paul Hobbs, Mia Klein, David Abreu, Aaron Pott and Adam Goodrich), Fisher Vineyards now releases thirteen smallproduction bottlings each year. Having produced the first near-perfect Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma (99 points from Robert Parker), the family remains focused on making timeless, world class wines.
TOR Wines is a small family owned winery that specializes in Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Chardonnay. Tor Kenward, a Napa Valley Vintner for over three decades, is champion of single vineyard wines. “After making wines here for over thirty years I believe the vineyard is the real winemaker. My job is to nurture and stay out of the way of greatness,” observes Tor previously. Many in the wine world would associate him as a godfather of the trade in Napa. In his most recent tasting with Robert Parker, TOR received three potential 100 point wines, and was featured recently on the cover of the Wine Spectator. I bet you didn’t know that, fellow oenophile.
Top wines of the America and possibly of the world; yet, I’ll bet, not many of you readers have tried them all. Leave alone trying it side by side – in one club. Mayacama members have. I love golf and I appreciate a good wine. Mayacama seems to have a marriage of the two. So please – invite me. Any of you elusive, secretive Mayacama members out there who happen to read this article, please take me with you on your next trip to the club. I’ll carry your bags if you don’t let me play, and take in the course visually. You don’t have to buy me dinner prepared by the famed chef of the clubhouse restaurant, but I will seek consolation sipping the wine after the game. Dear Santa, all I want for Christmas is a Mayacama membership. Really.
View of Mayacama
Spy cam of a member’s wine cellar at the club.
Wren Hop wine - a piece of art inside and out.
Yet another exclusive dining spot for members at the club.
The 100 RP pts TOR Wines that I’ve yet to try.
Famed Fisher Vineyards Vintages. Picture by a friend.
Vineyard 7&8 Cabernet Sauvignon. Beauty.