For some it’s not enough to be the thirteenth-ranked golfer in the world (and a pretty good painter besides). Luke Donald can now add winemaker to his list of achievements. The thirty-year-old Englishman just released his first wine, the Luke Donald Collection 2005 Claret ($40, worldsgreatestwines.com), a Napa Valley red that’s a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and petite verdot. (Donald, a merlot fan, is bucking the trend against that often maligned grape.)
It hasn’t hurt his winemaking ambitions that he is friends and occasional golf partners with Bill Terlato. Terlato Wine Group owns a handful of top California wineries—Chimney Rock, Rutherford Hill, Sanford—and imports more than thirty other brands, including the successful Santa Margherita pinot grigio. When Terlato, a scratch golfer, met Donald through the latter’s coach several years ago, they began to play together—and to talk wine.
The Englishman’s interest in wine—primarily California reds, though he’s branching out into Bordeaux—has paralleled his golf success over the past few years; on display with his many trophies is a Cristal champagne bottle that he and his wife, Diane, shared with friends the day they got engaged. What sets the Luke Donald Claret apart from the gang of golf-tie-in bottlings is Donald’s active role in its making. And the whole point of starting the Luke Donald Collection, he notes, was to do something he truly enjoyed, not just to lend his name to a random wine. “We blended different proportions of the different varietals, going through eight or nine cuvées until we narrowed it down to what I liked the most,” he recalls. The result is a silky-smooth red with intense black cherry and plum notes and a touch of spicy oak—definitely better than par for Donald’s first outing on a course unlike the ones he’s used to competing on.