Annika Scores Another Big Win

Yet another reason to admire Annika Sorenstam – she makes great wines.  ANNIKAVineyards, a joint venture between Sorenstam and family-owned Wente Vineyards, launched in 2009 with the release of an elegant, full-bodied 2006 Syrah.  It begs for a big, juicy steak – or some velvety, extra dark chocolate -to match its richness.

Wente Vineyards is owned and operated by fourth – and fifth-generation descendants of German immigrant Carl Heinrich Wente, who founded the wine legacy in 1883.  It’s the oldest continuously operated family-owned winery in California, located just east of San Francisco in the still-rural Livermore Valley.  Sustainably farmed Estate vineyards cover more than 3,000 acres.

The 2006 Annika Syrah contains 75% Livermore Valley Syrah, 15% Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Livermore Valley Golf Vineyards adjacent to The Course at Wente Vineyards.  Both Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon were aged for 24 months. Only 611 cases were produced.  Annika calls it “silky, soft, and voluptuous.”

Player-vintner Greg Norman designed The Course at Wente Vineyards, which opened in 1998.   Fairways weave through the majestic vineyards, sometimes close enough to venture in and search for errant golf balls.  A steep ascent along the twisty “Lombard Street” of cart paths reveals a back nine that plays among the clouds with valley views extending far and wide.

I had the good fortune to attend the Second Annual Annika Golf and Wine Event in July 2010, held at Wente Vineyards to celebrate the new 2008 Chardonnay.    During the shotgun golf tournament, Annika poured the Chardonnay on the 7th tee and hit a tee shot for each foursome on the downhill par-3.  She watched as each of us hit our tee shots – they turned out to be probably our worst drives of the day!

Not a big, oaky California chardonnay, the 2008 Annika Chardonnay is more balanced, suitable for easy drinking by itself or to accompany a meal. Fifth-generation winemaker Karl Wente describes it as having, “
apricot, peach, and tangerine interlaced throughout that lead to graham, vanilla and ground spice flavors on the finish.” The Chardonnay was harvested from the Livermore Valley estate, grapes hand-picked and hand-sorted at the winery. It was barrel-fermented in a combination of French, American, Eastern European and neutral oak and aged for 17 months.  Limited production yielded 221 cases.  We all loved it.

Annika says, “I’m probably a nine handicap in wine, I make a few bogeys.”  But she knows what she likes and enthusiastically participates in the blending process with Karl Wente. They begin in something like a chemistry lab with measuring cups, trying a third of this and a third of that.  Finally the perfect combination is achieved.  Annika’s fans around the world eagerly await her next release.

Annika wines are available at www.annikavineyards.com or www.wentevineyards.com

Syrah: suggested retail price $75/750ml Bottle

Chardonnay: suggested retail price $40/750ml Bottle

Cori Brett is a Scottsdale-based golf travel and lifestyle writer. www.coribrett.com

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