A golf outing used to be about golf. Everything was secondary to the day's competition and the night's recollection of the same. Now there is a...
A golf outing used to be about golf. Everything was secondary to the day’s competition and the night’s recollection of the same.
Now there is a more civilized and diverse way, a chance for people who love wine as much as they do golf to do both. For golf widows to shed their veils.
To taste, take a tour, have a picnic lunch among the vineyards or dinner overlooking the estate. And still get in 18 holes — and not necessarily in that order.
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I started tasting in California’s Napa Valley in the 1960s when the conversion from the cocktail began. I’ve tasted wine in France, Italy and New Zealand. But I never really thought much about the compatibility of enjoying golf and wine on the same trip.
But as the Northwest wine industry continues to grow and flourish, the potential of tasting and teeing it up on the same outing becomes harder and harder to ignore.
“Golfers have become more sophisticated,” says Gordon Schultz, owner of Golf Canada’s West. “It used to be all about golf and nothing else. But now they’re on the course for 4 ½ hours, and there are still eight hours of daylight left, and they’re thinking, ‘What do we do now?’ They are looking more and more into other activities, including wine tasting.”
Golf and wine: It’s a combination that makes sense — and one that’s catching on.
It’s showing up in regional promotions, tour packages, even the names of golf courses and housing developments.
There are wine clubs within some country clubs.
“The two are a really good fit, for people who like traveling, beautiful scenery and a relaxed atmosphere,” says Laura Brady, president of Oregon-based Luxury Wine Tours.
Pairing the two pursuits can be as simple or as snooty as you want. It doesn’t have to be about spending $150 on golf and twice that much on a case of cabernet to take home.
There are the celebrated spots, and the casual ones. Resort golf and public golf, big wineries and mom-and-pop stops.
We’ll group them roughly into three geographic areas: Canada’s Okanagan, Eastern Washington and Oregon’s Willamette Valley. With hundreds of wineries and dozens of golf courses, the possible wine-and-golf combinations are endless.
Resources are plentiful, both in print and on the Internet, and often it’s even simpler than that: Just look for the signs along the highway.
“Chipping and sipping” in Canada’s Okanagan
The Okanagan in British Columbia — which begins about an hour’s drive north of Okanogan in Washington — has long been Canada’s fruit basket and a tourist area known for its “peaches and beaches” on the shores of three long lakes.
The Okanagan is an attractive and easily accessible golf experience, even without considering its wonderful wines, and its specialty, ice wine.
It takes about six hours to drive to the southern Okanagan from Seattle. Or, you can fly to Kelowna — in the middle of the region — in about an hour.
In Kelowna, it takes longer to claim your bag after the flight from Seattle than it does to get to the nearest golf course, the Okanagan Golf Club, a half-mile from the airport and yet over a forested ridge and seemingly in another world.
We played one morning at the Harvest Club, then spent the afternoon at Summerhill Pyramid Winery, one of Canada’s emerging tourist stops. It is a delightfully zany place where wine is stored in a four-story-high pyramid so it can get all the right vibes.
The guy who makes this place is the guy who made it, New York transplant Stephen Cipes, a New Age Pied Piper for the area. Besides that, the food in his bistro is yummy.
• A morning enjoying the sheer beauty of playing golf at Predator Ridge in the tawny foothills of Canada’s great Okanagan Valley, then an evening meal at the Quails’ Gate winery overlooking the 100-mile-long Okanagan Lake.
• Pick apples off trees lining the fairways at the Harvest Golf Club, then later dine overlooking the lake in either the dining room or the more casual Harvest Grille. An extensive wine cellar features both Okanagan and international vintages.
The club is part of the Okanagan Golf Alliance, which also includes Okanagan Golf Club’s two courses — the Jack Nicklaus-designed Bear Course and the Les Furber Quail Course — the 27 holes at Predator Ridge, venerable Gallagher’s Canyon and the new Fred Couples-designed course called The Rise.
Seattle native Couples described the course as having “just the most beautiful views.”
The Alliance’s Web site boasts “more than one winery for every two golf holes” and explains that grapes and golfers thrive in the same warm, dry weather.
The Mission Hill Family Estate, where the architecture and surroundings compete favorably with the wine, is a popular destination, but my favorite stop was the mom-and-pop Red Rooster winery just outside Penticton. But then I like finding home-grown, off-the-beaten-path golf courses as well.
Overwhelmed by all the options? Okanagan Wine Country Tours offers “chip and sip” tours featuring golf at courses including Predator Ridge, followed by three-hour afternoon wine tours.
Golf Canada’s West has suggested itineraries including five nights’ lodging, three rounds of golf, an afternoon wine tour and a vineyard dinner.
“The tours have definitely become increasingly popular in recent years,” owner Schultz said. “We find that the destination golfer, one who travels to play golf, is usually a pretty sophisticated traveler who has seen a lot of the world and is looking for more when coming to a particular area. Wine touring and wine tasting fit well with sophisticated travelers like this.”
While Kelowna makes a great base, there also is plenty of great golf and wine to be had in the less-populated southern Okanagan, just across the border from Washington.
The downside to Canadian golf these days is the price, exacerbated by the dip of the U.S. dollar. Expect to pay $130 or more for a round and a cart at the top courses.
Best of both in Oregon
You can plan ahead to combine golf and wine in a single trip — or you can just let it happen.
“In an area with so many great wineries and great golf courses, doing both together during the day is a great fit even if it’s not part of a formalized itinerary,” says Jeannine Heidenreich of the Convention and Visitors Association of Lane County Oregon, where the combination is certainly catching on.
And she’s on the fringes of what’s considered the “heart” of Oregon’s wine country.
Lane County is about the midpoint of a north-south drive through Oregon, and wineries there are more widely scattered and a bit less prominent.
Still, Liz Doyle, owner of Diamond Woods Golf Course near Monroe, says special golf-wine promotions almost don’t seem necessary — “people naturally do both due to the proximity with the wineries” — but she does some anyway, working with Benton Lane Vineyard and Winery to offer a discount to people who visit both in the same day.
The golf course also paired with Pfeiffer Vineyards in Junction City to promote its Villa Evenings, private gourmet wine-paired dinners for groups of 12 or more, as the perfect complement to a day of golf.
Farther north, just an hour southwest of Portland is a rich tradition of wine and golf, from well-known wineries like Argyle and Adelsheim to top-notch golf courses like the public course at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains, where on the adjacent private course two U.S. Women’s Opens were contested and Tiger Woods won his final U.S. Amateur title.
Quail Valley isn’t too far down the road.
No wine is made at the Reserve Vineyards and Golf Club in Aloha, but a visitor could be forgiven for not realizing that.
The chateau lends a distinct Loire Valley ambiance, and grapes are grown, but only for looks.
The reserve has two courses and has seen a run of Champions Tour major events. Greens fees are $50 to $75.
Wine is available in the dining room, and some of it doesn’t travel very far to get there, as wineries dot the highways and backroads between Interstate 5 and the Coast Range.
Just off Interstate 5 at Aurora is the tantalizing layout at Langdon Farms, one of the best cooperative designs of John Fought and Bob Cupp. Another quality course is owned by the Oregon Golf Association in Woodburn, also near I-5.
A new course is Chehalem Glenn, a Bill Robinson creation in Newberg near the heart of the wine country. It hopes to take advantage of its locale by offering wine and golf events next year.
There is also the charming Forest Hills in Cornelius or the remodeled Redtail near Beaverton.
Golf in Washington’s wine country
There is no better value — for both wine and golf — than in Eastern Washington, where the reds and the golf are both robust.
The Tri-Cities, about a three-hour drive from the Puget Sound area, is home to a bustling wine industry and some of Eastern Washington’s best golf.
In fact, why wait until you get there?
You could break up the drive with a round at the Prospector course at Suncadia, the new golf resort off Interstate 90 near Roslyn and Cle Elum.
Or you can stop for golf at Apple Tree in Yakima, which has its own wine industry and will eventually have the Vineyards Resort Golf Course east of town, a Tuscan-styled, 500-home development around a 7,500-yard course.
As a destination, though, the Tri-Cities boasts a good variety of golf, including public courses such as Canyon Lakes, a championship-level course that has won national acclaim for its quality and value, and Horn Rapids, a target course in a desertlike setting. Columbia Point offers riverside scenery as well as good, affordable rounds.
There are close to a dozen golf courses nearby, and about 150 wineries within an hour’s drive.
The combination of wine and golf is something tourism boosters have been promoting for a decade, said Kris Watkins, president and CEO of the Tri-Cities Visitor & Convention Bureau in Kennewick.
She says the area’s mild weather and scarce rainfall make it a perfect place to golf, especially in the spring and fall.
“Coupled with wine, it makes for a fabulous weekend getaway,” she said.
Some of the more recognizable names include Barnard Griffin and Bookwalter wineries, Hogue Cellars and Kiona Vineyards.
Watkins sketches out her ideal wine-and-golf day: Get up early, play 18 holes, visit two or three wineries, go back to the hotel, lie by the pool or maybe take a walk along the river, then go out to dinner.
More than a dozen area hotels offer “Golf in Washington’s Wine Country” packages combining golf and accommodations, often throwing in breakfast, drink specials, transportation or other extras.
“People call every spring to ask about the packages,” Watkins said, noting that the packages attract couples but also groups of men or groups of women. “A couple comes, then returns with all their friends,” she said.
Other rich areas for the golf-and-wine buff include the area around Lake Chelan-Leavenworth in north-central Washington, and the Walla Walla vicinity, about an hour east of the Tri-Cities.
The area’s wine industry was attractive to the developers of Wine Valley Golf Club in Walla Walla, which will have an 18-hole golf courses plus homesites. The course, which is set to open next spring. It it being designed by Dan Hixson, whose Bandon Crossings recently debuted to good reviews.
“Building this in a wine area was a big factor in us building the course here, because the golf and wine go together,” said owner Russ Byerley.
Plans for the project eventually include adding a clubhouse, restaurant and wine-tasting facilities.
“I think it’s easier for husbands to bring their wives along on their golf trip when there’s wine sipping at the end of the day,” Byerley said.
Combining wine and golf may bridge the gap not just between the sexes but between generations.
Eric Degerman, managing editor of Kennewick-based Wine Press Northwest magazine, said, “I’ve found that the game of golf and wine touring are the two constant interests I still share with my folks — things that we still enjoy together as we both age.”
Seattle Times desk editor Scott Hanson compiled the segments on Oregon and Washington.