By Kevin Nelson
People think of Arnold Palmer mainly as an extraordinary golfer and businessman, and for his invention of what has come to be known as “Arnold Palmer tea,” an iced tea and lemonade beverage that he licenses and sells under his name.
People do not, however, tend to associate him with wine. But the other day at the Tap Room at Pebble Beach the bartender handed me a lunch menu whose wine list included a 2013 Arnold Palmer Cabernet Sauvignon. This was news to me. Arnold Palmer makes a Cab? Unable to resist the temptation of drinking a Hall of Fame golfer’s wine at one of the world’s great golf courses, I ordered up, along with a Southwestern-style chicken quesadilla. Both were just right.
Turns out that the Palmer wines—they also have a chardonnay—are made by Luna Vineyards on the Silverado Trail in Napa Valley. Coming from the south after Trancas Street, Luna is one of the first wineries you see before the valley opens up into the Stags Leap District and you get that striking view of the craggy rock formation along the eastern ridge. Luna’s founder Mike Moone is a good buddy of Palmer’s, and they have been collaborating on Arnold Palmer Wines for some time. Naturally the brand is sold at such fine golfing establishments as the Tap Room, which looks out on the practice green at Pebble and as you’re enjoying your meal you can watch golfers miss putt after putt after putt.
Even if you are not a golfer—and I am not—the Lodge at Pebble Beach (of which the Tap Room is the prime dining spot, in my opinion) is a splendid place to hang out, with sights such as these to see:
• The heritage wall near the practice green. One of the historical plaques here pays tribute to Bing Crosby, Der Bingle, whose annual Crosby Clambake Pro-Am tournament brought Hollywood stars to the Monterey Peninsula and added 1950s cool to Pebble’s luxury golf scene.
• The first tee. Not far from the practice green you can watch golfers hit their opening drives to begin their round of 18. Close by is a gallery of shops selling clothes, golf gear, memorabilia and jewelry. Stop by the Coldwell Banker real estate office where, if you have a spare mil or two, you can pick up a Carmel or 17 Mile Drive mansion for a steal.
• A rare bottle of Opus One signed by its two founders, California’s Robert Mondavi and France’s Baron Philippe de Rothschild. This unique artifact can be found among other unique artifacts in the display cases inside the Lodge.
• The Bench. This looks like an ordinary bench but it’s so much more than that. It honors the purchase of Pebble Beach from the previous Japanese owners in the 1990s by an American group that included Clint Eastwood, Peter Ueberroth and Arnold Palmer. It is on the Pacific Ocean side of the Lodge. From here you can stroll along the 18th fairway and, while keeping an eye out for any errant golf shots, see, on the one side, golf course homes that are as interesting architecturally as they are lovely, and on the other side, the miraculous blue and green and turquoise waters of Carmel Bay.
• The balcony. A broad stretch of green surrounds the 18th hole, and you can sit on the grass and soak up the vibe and the views. The best view, for my money, is to be found on the Lodge balcony, where you can stand (or sit) and look across at the sweep of green and the rocks and the breaking surf and the shorebirds and perhaps a seal or two playing in water and think, yes, life is good.
Kevin Nelson is an award-winning author who blogs at WineTravelAdventure.