Vintage Golf

What goes best with wine? Ask Californians and they’re likely to say, “golf.”

Just about anywhere you travel here, you’ll find two things in common… golf and wine, as California’s sun-kissed climate has made “The Golden State” the ideal place to experience grapes and “birdies.” For every golf course in the state, there’s a commercial winery – about 800 of each – and all are worth tasting.

North of San Francisco lie the famous wine growing regions of Sonoma and Napa Counties. Rodney Strong, Jordan, Ferrari-Carano, Mondavi, Cakebread and Heitz are among the names of viticultural baronies found along Sonoma and Napa county roads. Their wineries, aging cellars and tasting rooms are impressive grand chateaus, aerie lookouts and surrealistic structures that that overlook a landscape scribed with rows of vineyards and lined with fairways.

Start your California golf and wine sojourn by visiting the California Welcome Center in Santa Rosa. The connection between California wine and golf is immediately evident near the Center at nearby Matanzas Creek Winery with its impressive displays of lavendar and the 36-hole Mountain Shadows Golf Course near Rohnert Park. One of the oldest wineries in California, Gundlach-Bundschu, is a 3-wood drive from Sonoma Golf Club, once declared “near perfect” by golf legend Bobby Jones. And for a true California twist, sip California sparkling wine at the Korbel Champagne Cellars, then tee off through towering redwood trees at Northwood, an executive course designed by Alistair Mackenzie of Augusta National fame.

Four major “wine courses,” are found in the Napa Valley. Chardonnay Golf Club, across from the newly completed Kirkland Ranch winery, has the highest rated 36 holes in the region. Vineyards actually encroach upon Chardonnay’s greens. Or is it the other way around? Further up the Valley in the Atlas Peak wine-growing district is Napa’s preeminent golf resort, Silverado, with 36 holes that host the Senior PGA Transamerica Tournament, each October. Chimney Rock, off the Silverado Trail, is the only Napa Valley golf course actually on the property of a winery. If golf, wine and fine dining are appealing, drive over to the new Yountville Golf Club, then dine in one of Yountville’s exceptional restaurants… (cont.)