Jack Nicklaus Follows Golfers Norman, EEls With Premium Wine Business

Jack Nicklaus is getting into the wine business, a field he has spent more than 50 years participating in as a collector and drinker.

The 18-time major tournament winner unveiled his Jack Nicklaus Wines label today during the opening round of the Memorial Tournament at the Nicklaus-designed Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.

Nicklaus, 70, joins several other golfers with wine labels, including Australia’s Greg Norman, England’s Luke Donald and South Africa’s Ernie Els. Nicklaus’s wines are being produced and sold by the Terlato Wine Group, a closely held family winery based in Lake Bluff, Illinois.

“The wine business is a big business,” Nicklaus told reporters inside a private villa at the course. “Hopefully it will be a good business for us.”

Bill Terlato, a son of Terlato Wines founder Anthony Terlato, said he was reluctant at first to go into business with Nicklaus, fearing he was simply looking to become another “celebrity” wine maker. That impression changed after first talking with Nicklaus, who also has a clothing label, golf equipment brand and sunglasses line among other business ventures.

“We didn’t really have a desire to do something like that,” Terlato said. “We only work at the highest end of the market and in the beginning I think I was trying to talk him out of it, but he made the commitment and showed that he was really serious about doing this at a high level.”

The first two Nicklaus wines, a 2007 cabernet sauvignon and a 2007, a Bordeaux-style red blend labeled Private Reserve, are from California’s Napa Valley. They are only available online and in golf clubs and resorts in Ohio and Florida. The wines sell for $35 and $43 a bottle, respectively, the company said.

Nicklaus said he plans to distribute more than 3,000 cases in 2011, up from 500 this year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael Buteau in Dublin, Ohio, at mbuteau@bloomberg.net

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