Originally created 04/09/00

Golfer's wine takes off during Masters



One of Greg Norman's latest business ventures has taken off in Augusta.

Greg Norman Estates wines, a Chardonnay and a Cabernet-merlot Coonawarra, are hot sellers at many restaurants and wine retailers across the area.

"It hadn't sold (well) until this week, and I think we had one person to buy 10 cases," said Jean Ufret, front-end manager at Fresh Market. "When (customers) see it, they think they ought to have it."

Fresh Market restocked the wines early during Masters Week.

The Australian wines were introduced in August through Mildara Blass Limited of Raleigh, N.C. On his Web site promoting the wines, Mr. Norman praises Australian wines:

"In association with Chief Winemaker Chris Hatcher, I have personally tasted and assessed many of Mildara Blass' best wines from across Australia and come up with my two favourites. The two wines show off Australian fruit quality and winemaking expertise in their very best light -- both wines are benchmarks of their style."

Wine Spectator magazine named the Cabernet-merlot Coonawarra one of the top 100 wines of 1999. It gave the red wine a score of 91 out of 100 points. The Chardonnay earned 88 points. Both wines retail for about $15 a bottle.

According to a review in the magazine's Nov. 15 edition: "The golfer has turned his eye to the wine business, and if this debut red is any indication, he's in for another great career."

The Chardonnay and Cabernet-merlot have been available in Augusta since before Christmas, but it's just been the past week that sales have taken off.

"We're selling all we can get," said Pat Templeton, sales representative for Empire Distributors, which distributes the wine in Augusta.

Mr. Templeton attributed the recent sales success with Mr. Norman's name recognition, but it's the wines' quality that's getting repeat sales.

French Market Grille West promoted the wines during Masters Week, bar manager Debbie Fowler said. Every table has a small sign advertising the label.

"I think part of it's the name. You've got Greg Norman written on the bottle. You've got his signature on the bottle. It's got the shark all over it. That in itself is more of a souvenir. Even the ones that drink a bottle, they want to take their bottle home," she said.

Ms. Fowler said she probably would carry the wines only during Masters Week unless they catch on with customers after the tournament.

Christine Wilks, marketing service manager for Mildara Blass, said that so far the Greg Norman wines have surpassed all the company's sales goals. The label opened with 25,000 cases in the fall, and so far 100,000 cases have been sold.

Reach Jennifer Miller at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 114 or jmiller@augustachronicle.com.