While checking the match play tree of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that Ernie Els was playing against Luke Donald in the third round. The matchup caught my attention because both are really into the wine business-neither is just a “celebrity” endorser.
Els won the match 2 up, but the more important question is this: Whose wine would win? Well, the answer isn't easy, since besides sharing a relationship with the Terlato Wine Group, a leading producer, importer and seller of wine, Ernie Els Wines and the Luke Donald Collection have little in common.
Els' wines are produced in his home country of South Africa, while Englishman Donald has chosen to make his wine in the Rutherford region of Napa Valley-Britain isn't really known for making wine. And each of these areas makes totally different styles of wine.
Given the disparities, here is how they stack up. Els has the honor:
2005 Cirrus Syrah
Coastal Region, Stellenbosch South Africa
Cirrus is a joint venture/partnership between Els, Jean Engelbrecht, a South African who is Els' partner in the wine business, and Ray Duncan of Napa Valley's famous Cabernet Sauvignon-producing Silver Oak Winery.
South Africa is known for Syrah, and while this one is a bit expensive, it is well worth the price. The wine is quite nice, well made and sophisticated. It is deep ruby red with a classic Syrah aroma of white pepper and ripe fruit. The wine will evolve with more time in the bottle.
$55 per bottle, ernieelswines.com
Luke Donald Collection 2005 Claret
With 44 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 43 percent Merlot, 12 percent Cabernet Franc and 1 percent Petit Verdot, this wine is made in Donald's European style, wine code for Bordeaux. This Claret has a taste that is sophisticated and elegant-a wine word that essentially indicates a lighter style, as opposed to a monster California Cabernet style, which one could expect out of a Napa blend like this.
This wine is easy to drink and has sweet, soft and supple flavors of blackberries, cassis and violets with aromas of black licorice and tobacco. It will mature over the next three to five years.
With a tiny production of just 1,100 cases, the 2005 Claret might be hard to find. But it's worth the search. A Carneros Chardonnay is expected this spring.
$40 per bottle, terlatowines.com