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Big Easy On The Course And In The Winery

I am very excited about AIR Golf allowing me the opportunity to write about 2 of my favorite things: Golf and Wine.  Golf and Wine complement each other in so many ways and in this quarterly column we will be exploring the intersection as well as how each can be enjoyed on their own.

Several South African PGA golf professionals have had great success on the course as well as catching the wine bug and starting their own wine brands in their native land.  With some of the most picturesque vineyards in the world, almost perfect Mediterranean climate and a diverse food and wine scene, there is no wonder why these South African’s got involved in wine.  

David Frost (29 professional victories) and his family have been in the wine business for over 60 years. David has been in and around the wine industry longer than he has been playing golf professionally which is a very different path than most athletes/celebrities who typically start in the wine business much later in life. In 1994, David and his brother Michael established a 300 acre vineyard in Paarl, South Africa which they ended up selling in 2012. Today, David Frost Wines produces a selection of wines with his namesake from grapes sourced from the Western Cape area (which are not currently available in Japan). David most recently played golf in Japan in 2019 at the Japan MasterCard Golf Tournament which resulted in him finishing in 6th place. 

The inspiration for many South African golfers is the famed Black Knight, Gary Player.  His impressive golfing record includes 9 major tournament wins, 118 international tournament wins, 24 PGA Tour wins and 22 PGA Champion Tour wins. Player himself is not a big drinker but he was interested in starting a wine business with his son.  In 1998 they started the Gary Player wine label, producing wines with major golf championship themes to celebrate his past wins on tour from the famed Stellenbosch wine region in South Africa.

Retief Goosen (35 worldwide tournament wins, 2 US Open Championships) who joined the PGA Champions Tour last year (1 win) is another highly successful South African golfer who got the wine bug. In 2005, he launched his first vintage of “The Goose” wines from the Upper Langkloof appellation with his business partner Dr. Werner Roux. The wines are widely available in South Africa, Europe and the USA but are not yet imported into Japan.  

Ernie Els

Photo: Ernie Els’s vineyard at harvest

Ernie Els has not only been a superstar on the golf course (4 Major Championship wins, 71 tour wins), his winery has also been producing award winning wines under the Ernie Els wine brand from Stellenbosch, South Africa.  Ernie was introduced to wine by his wife, Liezl, which led to her introducing Ernie to Jean Engelbrecht, owner of the highly acclaimed Rust en Vrede winery.  The pair first collaborated on a winery project at Guardian Peak in 1998 which then in 2004, led Ernie Els opened up his own winery in Stellenbosch. 

The winery is popular in South Africa but has also done well with internationally. I first tried the Els’ wines several years ago at The Els Club in Dubai after a round of golf and recently tried and reviewed 3 of his wines last week for this article.  Ernie Els’ wines are imported and available in Japan through Estate Wines Japan (

2018- Ernie Els “Big Easy”

Big Easy is Ernie Els’ nickname and is the name for the entry level wines of his winery.  This wine is straight forward, fresh and youthful with a fruity nose full of honeydew melon.  The palate is dry with pear flavors and lasting acidity.  This wine would be good to enjoy on a summer afternoon after a golf round on the patio or with a plate of grilled chili prawns. 

2016- Ernie Els Cabernet Sauvignon

This wine is approachable and is drinking well now.  The nose exhibits oak and dark fruit with a palate that mimics the nose with the addition of tobacco. The wine is medium to full body with rounded tannins.  Enjoy in the clubhouse after a round with your playing partners or better yet, enjoy at dinner with meatballs with red sauce.  

2015- Ernie Els Proprietor’s Syrah

The wine is deep purple in color with a savory and peppery nose.  The palate is full of dark plums and chocolate with medium to long length.  This wine would be best to be enjoyed with food, try with braised pork shoulder or lamb shanks.  

About The Author

Tom Kriegshauser is a wine industry professional based in Tokyo, Japan. Tom has a diverse wine background with a Master’s of Wine Business from the University of Adelaide, working in wineries and vineyards for harvests, building wine brands, international wine sales, and participation in numerous wine tasting groups have allowed him to experience many aspects of the wine industry.

Tom loves the game of golf and is constantly trying to get rid of a duck hook. He enjoys playing an array of golf courses around Japan as well as courses internationally. When not working, tasting wine or on the golf course, Tom enjoys time with his family, going to restaurants, and traveling. His personal and professional travels have taken him to wine regions around the world in pursuit of wine treasure and culture.

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