Jack Nicklaus Aims To Ace the Wine Business

Jack Nicklaus Aims To Ace the Wine Business
Jim Mandeville/The Nicklaus Companies

Having conquered or designed most of the world’s great golf courses, living legend Jack Nicklaus is turning to another course of business: making Napa Valley wine.

Jack Nicklaus Wines are being produced by the Napa operations of the Terlato family—led by father Tony and son Bill—and consist of a 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon ($40) and an 2008 Bordeaux-style blend called Limited Production Private Reserve ($50). Doug Fletcher, Terlato’s executive winemaker, is overseeing production, with day-to-day winemaking being handled by Marisa Taylor-Huffaker. The first vintage of the wines (2007s) are available at selected golf clubs around the world and through Uncorked.com. But interest in the 2008 vintage is as hot as the Golden Bear stalking Palmer, Watson or Player back in the day.

Unlike many wines bearing the image or name of an active or retired sportsman or entertainer, Jack Nicklaus Wines, which were first tasted in public earlier this summer at the Memorial Tournament in Ohio, appear to be serious bottlings for those who enjoy Napa Valley Cabs and blends. According to Bill Terlato, Nicklaus spent five years pondering and researching a wine project due to personal interest in wine. But that’s not the only reason. Golf clubs throughout the world urged him to get involved in wine in order to provide them with some juice they could sell in their clubhouses and 19th holes.

Tapping into an existing relationship with Nicklaus (Bill Terlato is a member and former club champion at the Nicklaus-run Bear’s Club in Jupiter, Florida), the Terlatos invited Jack Nicklaus and his sons Gary and Jack II to stay with them in California and to visit their vineyards and wine facilities. Over two days, the group tasted through a range of different Cabernet samples, did some blending and discussed the real possibility of launching a joint wine venture with Nicklaus’s name on the label. According to reports, Nicklaus was immediately intrigued but found it almost comical when he sat down to his first real wine tasting, where more than 200 wine glasses and dozens of wines covered the table.

During that extended get-together, Bill Terlato recommended that the project concentrate on quality first and that Nicklaus should have a personal hand in the development of the venture. “The wine needed to be something he would be proud to have his name on and serve to family and friends. When we shared his vision of what the Nicklaus wines should represent, that’s when Jack realized that he had found the right partner,” said Terlato.

Published on August 26, 2010