Did you know that a relatively new Northern California Winery has had their wine poured for the contestants at the Augusta National Golf Club during The Masters? Did you know that several PGA Tour players, also wine aficionados, have traveled to this remote Napa, California winery to sample and buy its five wines? Did you know that one of the partners of this Winery absolutely loves golf and is now conducting wine tastings for the members of some of America’s most exclusive golf clubs? With an inspiring, heartwarming background, the Jocelyn Lonen Winery may be one of Napa’s best-kept secrets. Not for long!
Jocelyn Lonen Wines are golf’s equivalent of a “hidden gem” and could be available at many area golf courses in the near future. Why you ask? Well, grapes and golf go together. Just as golf makes for a great way to meet and develop wonderful new friends, so does sharing a good wine. Savoring a special vintage with a delicious meal or snacks can be a memorable experience cementing relationships. Combine the two activities together and, well life doesn’t get much better than that! Ask Susan Curtis, a member of the Napa Valley Country Club and partner in the Jocelyn Lonen Winery. But first, an inspirational and emotional story of how it all came to be.
Picture a husband and wife team of two very successful career Hewlett Packard executives, Lonen and Susan Curtis. Add in a very talented daughter, Brandi Jocelyn Pack, who has inherited her parents’ business sense and was also employed with the H-P family working with their Board of Directors. The wife, Susan, has played golf since the age of ten and eventually convinces her husband, Lonen, to join her in the game. He gets the golf bug. They travel all around playing many of the famous as well as not-so-famous courses.
The Curtis’ also develop a love for wine. Be it a result of their golf or wine travels, the two grew a host of good friends around the globe. Life is good. Business is good as well for the duo. Whether it is planting and cultivating an acre and a half vineyard at their Saratoga, California property or playing golf, they both decide to retire relatively early, and pursue these two passions. Golf and wine tasting together with travel are on their horizons. Perhaps they might even start their own winery one day, but there is no particular hurry.
Life changes things. Just six weeks after retiring, the family gets terrible news. Lonen has a rare form of terminal brain cancer and has three to six months to live. There are no good reasons for this. Here was a hardy, vigorous, happy, health-conscious man. They relocate to the Silverado Country Club in Napa where Lonen can be close to both of his interests. Lonen lived on two years, passing at the age of 56, and leaving a legacy of love. It was with that inspiration that wife, Susan, and daughter, Brandi Jocelyn Pack, found property in the Atlas Peak Appellation with seven acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and opened the Jocelyn Lonen Winery Tasting Room. Lonen would be proud of the women in his life!
Unique to this winery is its “Golf & Grapes” theme. Both Mother and Daughter along with three young grandsons are all inclined to golf. As either tells it, golf and wine each helps to bring people together by promoting friendship, celebration and sharing. They love having the opportunity to introduce a great bottle of wine to friends and family around the table or on a special occasion. Says Susan, “It is the same with golf. You get to know someone so well in a round of golf that though you may begin as strangers, you leave at the finish of a game as understanding friends.” She adds, “It is a pleasure to have a hand in helping to create an experience that adds to pleasurable memories. Combining golf and wine forms the best of all worlds.” As a result, Jocelyn Lonen is spearheading the initiative to pour for some of the country’s most exclusive golf clubs as evidenced by a recent events at The TPC at Sugarloaf outside of Atlanta or at the exclusive Camargo Club near Cincinnati.
The grape doesn’t fall far from the vine. Daughter Brandi Pack, has her father’s eye for numbers and a talent for operations which allows her to run the day-to-day affairs, making her one of the youngest female wine executives in California. Mother Susan is the more social of the two and is usually the person pouring the wines or spreading the word to the golf community.
Were this just a heartwarming family story, it would have been concluded here. The fact is that the Jocelyn Lonen Winery is quickly making a name for itself as a producer of excellent wines and is impressing facilities that cater to golfers. Its Cabernet Sauvignon at $35 is considered “the steal of the Napa Valley” while its two Chardonnays will easily lure “red wine drinkers” to love it. Of its current offerings, it is difficult to choose a favorite as perhaps mood and food may make your selection easier.
The area in which the Jocelyn Lonen Winery grows its grapes is the Atlas Peak Appellation (appellation refers to the small geographic region in which the grapes are grown.) People in the know describe the area as “the last undiscovered appellation in the Napa Valley” and few know that its grapes are anonymously used in the area’s cult wines. Situated 2,100 feet above sea level, the area is above the fog belt with lots of wind. This means that the grapes get a good amount of sunshine, but also cool off from a full day’s sun, adding to the grape’s robust flavor. What’s more, vines grown in this lean, volcanic soil, force the plants to work extra hard to nourish themselves resulting in a richer taste.
While the wines are sure to grab your interest, the views from the Jocelyn Lonen Winery are spectacular as well! On a clear day from the tasting area, guests can look eastward past the immediate pastoral mountains and valleys to the Sacramento skyline and then all the way to the Sierra. Then you add to that the friendly hospitality of Brandi Pack and Susan Curtis. True to their “Golf & Grapes” theme, they even have a driving mat and balls set up to hit a ceremonial ball or two over the vineyard. It combines for the perfect combination of peaceful, natural beauty, superb wines, good company, and yes, even golf!
A trip to Jocelyn Lonen Winery is certainly worth the scenic climb escaping the Napa Valley congestion. Just ask touring players, Lucas Glover, Brett Quigley, or Charles Warren. The three, along with their wives, were among the latest golfers to make the trip to enjoy the Jocelyn Lonen menu. (Reportedly, they resisted the offer to hit shots over the vineyard.)
Don’t take my word, the wine experts and also the folks at Augusta National feel that the Jocelyn Lonen Winery offers some special wines. Touring golf pros are detouring to search them out, and hackers like me savor them as well. The Winery conducts private tastings and can be contacted by calling 707-257-2821, and refer to: www.jocelynlonen.com