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Pairing Wine with Golf

Courtesy of The Phoenician The Phoenician

Photo: Courtesy of The Phoenician

Golf Resorts: Which Rule the Wine Roost?

Today every quality golf resort offers an excellent wine list. But these four offer complete wine immersions, and none more so than the Phoenician, tucked onto the south slope of Camelback Mountain in Phoenix. You may come for the golf, but by the time you leave, it will be the wines you tasted that linger in your mind.

The Phoenician

Phoenix, Arizona; 800-888-8234; thephoenician.com

The Phoenician is among the most elegant golf resorts in the Southwest. It’s such a haven for oenophiles, however, that it might fairly be called a wine resort. True, it is renowned for its highly rated twenty-seven holes of golf, its art- and sculpture-filled lobby, and its sybaritic Centre for Well-Being —but how does a $3 million, 44,000-bottle, 2,500-label wine cellar sound?What’s more, talk to any number of Phoenician employees, from your minibar stocker to your cabana boy, and you’ll likely find a knowledgeable interlocutor on the subject of wine.

In 2005, the Phoenician’s director of wine, Sean Marron, encouraged staff members in every department to enrich their lives through wine education—by studying to pass certification requirements from the British Court of Master Sommeliers. Sixteen Phoenician staffers took the introductory course last year, and Marron is angling to double that number this year. "Many of our guests are wine lovers," explains Marron, "and we were looking for another way to engage them."

Among golf resorts, the Phoenician’s wine credentials are second to none. Greg Tresner, one of only about seventy-five master sommeliers in the country, presides at Mary Elaine’s, the resort’s top-rated restaurant. Mary Elaine’s has a Grand Award wine list, the highest honor bestowed by Wine Spectator, and has thrice been nominated for a James Beard Award for Wine Service, the Oscar of that industry.

Between sips of and chats about wine, resort guests can play some of the best desert golf around. At just 3,250 yards, Oasis is the longest of the three nines, but what these holes miss in length they make up for by demanding precise shots over mountainside terrain. And don’t be surprised if the fellow tending to the cactus happens to change the subject from golf to grand crus and late harvests. "We’re trying to do something no one else has done," says Marron of the Phoenician’s employee sommelier program. "That’s what brings people back." —Joe Passov

Coeur d’Alene Golf & Spa Resort

Idaho; 800-688-5253; cdaresort.com

The daily tour through the impressive cellar at Coeur d’Alene is like a Disneyland ride for wine lovers. The $2 million collection features more than twenty thousand bottles, including multiple vintages of Château Latour Bordeaux dating back to 1945 and hard-to-find dazzlers from the Pacific Northwest. All of which is authoritatively organized on a ninety-five-page wine list, "in case you don’t want to talk to the six-foot-one, two-hundred-and-forty-pound wine steward," jokes Coeur d’Alene’s imposing Eric Cook.

Meadowood Napa Valley

St. Helena, California; 800-458-8080; meadowood.com

After walking the pretty but daunting nine-hole course, resort guests and members at this luxe wine-country Relais & Châteaux property are rewarded with the most extensive Napa wine selection on the planet. The list at The Restaurant sports four hundred labels of Napa cabernet alone. No wonder the sippers at the next table have names like Mondavi and Cakebread.

Sea Island Resort

Georgia; 888-732-4752; seaisland.com

Members and guests are privy to three world-class courses and two out-of-this-world cellars that hold close to nineteen thousand bottles. "A lot of places forget about the wine when they build a great golf course, but we take it just as seriously," says Heath Porter, one of the three sommeliers at the Cloister, the voluptuous new hotel that opened its doors last year (the accommodations at the Lodge at the golf club are nearly as princely). Just how seriously?An 1840 Ferreira port lists for $3,300. Guests can reserve tables in the cellar catacombs with a ceiling made of heart pine dating back even earlier than that bottle of Ferreira. And Porter serves limited-production wines by the glass. "Georgia peaches with a glass of ’99 Château d’Yquem Sauternes, at $45 a glass, after a lamb chop," he sighs. "How can you beat that?" —David Hochman

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