The palate reflects the fruit forward style of thiswine while offering a number of layers that emerge as the wine breathes. The traditional winemaking develops greater length of flavor and complexity, all supported with refreshing natural acidity.
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What do Arnold Palmer, Nick Faldo, Ernie Els, John Daly and Greg Norman have in common? Of course they are all famous golfers but did you know they each share another interest? They have their own wine label, utilizing each of their reputations to enter a unique market. Many sportsmen and women before them have opted to invest in other industries taking advantage of the marketing strength their endorsements bring and hoping, aiming for commercial success.
So what makes the latest offering any different? Firstly, it isn’t just any golfer, it is THE golfer, the legendary Ben Hogan and it has been created to celebrate his immense talent and outstanding achievements. The essential components are a fascinating ensemble of original photographs of Ben Hogan by Jules Alexander, the superb wines from the Paso Robles region of California, the support of Sport Haley (the world’s largest licensed Ben Hogan apparel manufacturer) and the blessing of the Ben Hogan Foundation.
Let’s wind back the clock a bit......intensive research identified the potential to develop a series of wines to commemorate the one person credited with bringing the game of golf into the modern era, Ben Hogan. Well, that’s not quite how it happened.......
Matthew Talbert acquired a small winery, Veris Cellars, on the Westside of Paso Robles (Central Coast, California) in February, 2008. Matt is a very dynamic and successful international businessman who decided he always wanted a winery and during a sales trip in LA struck up a conversation with a limo driver about life (mostly) and what it brings. The limo driver had a number of executive positions in life and as well as driving worked for Don Jewel, the owner of Sport Haley. "So you have a winery, eh.......you should do a Ben Hogan label.” To which the world-wise Matt replies "Who’s Ben Hogan?” (it’s real entertaining watching Matt now frantically learning how to swing a golf club). That comment alone would draw a collective gasp from most Americans but, remaining un-phased, Matt presses on and by the end of the drive has formulated a marketing concept for the greatest golfer ever (the driver has managed to ‘educate’ his passenger).
The project then takes on a life of its own and following meetings arranged with Don Jewel from Sport Haley and then Callaway, an arrangement is made and planning begins in earnest. It is obvious at this point to recognize that all the staff at Veris Cellars immediately became golfing experts and could relate many tales of Ben Hogan’s remarkable career. Only two things were missing.......a winemaker, and someone who could actually play golf. Enter Chris Cameron who, after receiving some very disappointing news from his ‘former’ employer, received a phone call at 7.00am one Saturday morning: "Hi, my name’s Matt Talbert, I own Veris Cellars and I need a winemaker, can I buy you lunch?” The rest is history, Chris, a winemaking veteran of over 30 vintages became the Winemaker/Operations Manager at JanKris and was tasked to create the wines for the Hogan Series’.
Typical of Matt, who’s official title is "Owner/Winedrinker”, places Chris Cameron’s title upside down on his business card, a difficult test for some until they realize Cameron is Australian. Matt’s unique approach to business, and life, was the perfect catalyst to develop an instant hit. The wine was previewed at the 2009 PGA Show in Orlando and created a great deal of excitement which gets Matt pumped up some more as he keeps increasing the original volumes on a weekly basis. At this time Cameron begs for a firm target, using the analogy "Give me something solid to aim at, not a target painted on a horse’s butt (Cameron uses a more colorful Australian term) running down the vineyard. The volumes are agreed to and while they are higher than first anticipated, they remain limited with the first release selling fast.
Critical to the success of the project was the involvement of Jules Alexander, the only ‘official’ photographer for Ben Hogan and a life-long follower of the game. Jules is currently releasing a book of fabulous black and white images of Tiger Woods, certainly a treasure to keep an eye out for. The five photographs used are ‘classics’ each depicting either the purest swing in golf or a gentle insight to the Hogan psyche.
At this point note should be made of the logistics with such an enterprising concept. The wines consist of five varieties, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and ‘Carnoustie’ (a Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah blend.......a wine Cameron describes as "Australifornian’ style). Each wine forms part of a "Tribute Series” (primarily for on-premise consumption) and the "Collector Series” which have individual and consecutive numbering on each bottle. There are 5 bottle packs (one of each varietal), 3 bottle packs (Cabernet, Merlot and Zinfandel) and 2 bottle packs (Cabernet and Carnoustie), each of very limited volume. Consider that each bottle in each pack has matching numbers (as has the pack) and the logistical nightmare of compiling them. "We will have this done in two weeks” is Matt’s confident prediction, to which Cameron has a quiet chuckle and "Matt, you have no idea how much a pain in the butt (again Cameron uses a far more colorful Australian term) this will prove.
........now for the good news, we are complete! The Collector packs are finished with each bottling matching numerically, individually wrapped and containing a Certificate of Authenticity. A great deal of care was critical during the entire operation and the result is stunning. As Cameron explains, even the choice of closure was critical, selecting a DIAM ‘technical cork’ which guarantees zero cork taint and a consistent seal ensuring the Collector Series will do just that...remain collectible. Pressed for a favorite, Cameron immediately chooses the Carnoustie blend, a wine he describes as a wonderfully balanced, brilliantly structured wine with masses of fruit and as he says (tongue in cheek) this wine is good enough to be Australian. Both the Tribute and Collector Series are available direct from the winery, via the internet at www.benhoganwine.com or keep an eye out for it at your favorite store or home golf course.