What The Heck Does Champagne Have To Do With Golf, Anyway?

Plenty, dahling.  Crank the Wayback Machine to 1962 when Tony Lema promised reporters at the Orange County Open that he’d force-feed them Champagne if he won—then beat Jack Nicklaus by five strokes and did, becoming known as ‘Champagne’ Tony Lema ever afterward. Also, a now-famous photo of Rory ‘The Curly One’ McIlroy shows him swilling sparkles from the U.S. Open trophy after his 2011 upset.   Oh, and the saga of Elin and Tiger began in a Stockholm clothing store called ‘Champagne’, where she met golfer Jesper Parnevik, who introduced her to the Urkel-like, mocha-colored Lothario from whom she’s been able to suckle enough tiger milk to last a lifetime.

But What The Heck Does Korbel Have to Do With Either Champagne or Golf?

My impulse is to say ‘nothing even vaguely’—and in fact, before it makes me think ‘golf’, Korbel makes me think ‘Gulf’, since that’s the gas station where I bought my first bottle for around eight bucks.

Naturally, those were the days before international convention made producers (outside of northeast France) who called their effervescent effluvia ‘champagne’ wear the ignominious badge of disgrace and everlasting reproach; in fact, in the United States, the only wineries who can even legally use the term ‘champagne’ on their labels are those grandfathered in prior to 2006.  Most respected houses have recognized the spiritual significance of true Champagne as it springs from its French font and that usurping the name to turn a buck is akin to bylining your shitty novel ‘by F. Scott Fitzgerald’ and hoping no one notices.

How  Far Will Some Folks Go To Avoid Producing Something That Can Stand On Its Own Merit…?

“I need a lawyer. Not to defend me, silly–to run over.”

Korbel has chosen to raise a defiant middle finger to such sniveling, cultish, sycophantic wimps and adds insult to injury by calling themselves ‘Korbel Champagne Cellars’.  Exploiting a legalese loophole known as ‘semi-generic’—which I’d explain to you if I was a lawyer, although if I was a lawyer I couldn’t explain it to you because I’d be dead, having stepped purposefully in front of a DDOT cross-town bus ten minutes after passing the bar—Korbel is required to add ‘California’ to the word ‘champagne’ on their labels, just as I am required to claim that my go-nowhere, poorly-written potboiler was penned by the ‘Michigan F. Scott Fitzgerald’.

So, Back To Golf

‘I had taken two finger-bowls of Champagne, and the scene had changed before my eyes into something significant, elemental, and profound…’  – F. Scott Fitzgerald.

L.: Profound  R.: Not Profound

Of course it did, F. Scott.  Granted, I’m a drunkard, not a duffer, but I would humbly submit that 1979 Krug Brut is significant, elemental and profound while clubbing a ball repeatedly until it falls into a hole is not.  So, it should be that much less W.T.F.y that Korbel’s latest press release announces ‘Korbel California Champagne Honors Star-Studded Golf Tournament’ and goes on to suggest that their affiliation with Lake Tahoe’s July 17 – 22 American Century Celebrity Golf Championship ‘adds to its reputation as the drink of celebration.’

That’s ‘the drink of celebration’, my droogies, not ‘a drink of celebration’—so in 2012, don’t think that celebrating with anything less (or more) is in any way appropriate.  Actually, back in the ’70’s when I was buying Korbel at Gulf Station convenience stores, I did in fact use it as an excuse to celebrate: To celebrate the fact that the counter clerk didn’t ask me for I.D.

Referred to (by somebody, not necessarily me) as ‘The Superbowl of Celebrity Events’, the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship—forthwith known as the ACCGC—has been around for 23 years.  The 54-hole stroke play tournament is arguably the most prestigious and richest celebrity tournament in golf, featuring a $600,000 purse with $125,000 going to the winner.

This year, Korbel will host a $250,000 Hole-in-One contest where 15 top players will vie for a chance to donate half the purse to the Lake Tahoe Community College Foundation, which was set up specifically for students who aspire for more of a Korbel Sweet Cuvée than a Vintage Krug lifestyle.

The ACCGC and Korbel: A match made in Heck

Other events at the 2012 ACCGC include a Celebrity Spray-Off where an A-List of bored athletes like Charles Barkley, Aaron Rogers, Tony Romo and Michael Jordan will shake up bottles of Korbel and mimic the totally phallic ejaculation of sparkling wine they do when they win a championship game or something; the object is to see whose penis technique is most praise-worthy.  Now, it can be argued that wasting Korbel in this way is but a venial trespass in the Gradations of Sin that we learned about at St. Gerard, but only the most callous isolationist among us could enjoy such a spectacle of masculine empowerment without a guilt twinge over the children in Darfur who will be going to bed sober.

Then there’s the 18 Golf Entertaining Tips seminar by Korbel’s ‘entertainment expert’ Tim Laird, who will offer some unique suggestions on how to liven up the golf-themed parties that you are no doubt intending to throw during The Masters, The British Open and the PGA Championship.

Tim Laird, the Chief Entertainment Officer and some random chick in red.

Laird intends to go beyond the obvious ‘turn off the stupid television set and go watch internet porn while mainlining street smack and ordering fifteen pizzas for the jag-off neighbor who called the cops during your last golf-themed party’.  No, Mr. Laird is far more creative than moi, suggesting such fantabulous frolic and jocular hilarity as ‘have a putting contest between rounds’ (fun), ‘fill a vase with golf balls, insert flowers and use it as a centerpiece’ (very fun), ‘put everybody’s name in a golfer’s hat and draw for prizes’ (very extremely and nearly unbeatably fun) and ‘play Texas Hold ‘Em using golf balls for chips’ (the absolutely ne plus ultra of maximum fun).

Everybody Loves Raymond Except Casting Directors

Perhaps less fun, if more edifying, is Googling the other star-studded stud stars of this year’s American Century Celebrity Golf Championship to figure out why they are still considered celebrities in 2012.  Ray Romano  (reported dead in this odd news story that is still online without a disclaimer: http://pastehtml.com/view/1alzcr5.html) has been unemployed since 2009 other than a stint as Manny in Ice Age: Continental Drift for which he was clearly robbed of an Oscar.  And there’s Emmitt Smith, the retired Arizona Cardinal running back who spices up his personal life by selling real estate; and there is Oliver Hudson, an actor who I’ve not only never heard of, but have never heard of a single movie that Wiki claims he’s been in; he does, however, list on his resumé that he was runner-up in last year’s homoerotic Celebrity Spray-Off.

If I were a man-on-the-street type reporter at the event, I would make my own fun in impromptu, one-on-one  interviews with the celebrities, asking them each a single question: “If it wasn’t for your paid participation in this Championship, would you ever, for any reason, be caught dead buying Korbel or ordering it in a restaurant?”

And let the chip shots fall as they may.

Enough About Golf, By Heck!  Let’s Talk About Korbel

‘Family quarrels are bitter things. They don’t go according to any rules. They’re not like aches or wounds, they’re more like splits in the skin that won’t heal because there’s not enough material.’  – F. Scott Fitzgerald

So, I am, admittedly, not a good person to write about golf—I find it insufferably insipid—the only game ever invented that is more boring to play than it is to watch.  And so dull is it to watch that I remember one time (stuck in a Belle Tire waiting room) that I saw some circuit pro get his ball stuck in a tree, climb it, and try to make a shot from a branch, and that remains the single most exciting moment of televised golf in the history of everything.

I am much more qualified to write about wine, winemakers, wine scions, wine dauphines and best of all, wine scandals.

Bubbles, people, more bubbles! The bigger the better.

You may have noticed my incessant use of the word ‘heck’ in the above diatribe, and the reason is not because I have OCD or have made Baby Jesus my personal savior and taken an oath against speaking oaths.  Fuckity fuck, fuck, fuck.  See?  No, it is because the owner of Korbel Champagne Cellars is a man with the unlikely name of Gary Heck, and based on what unfolded in the great Manse of Macerated Mediocrity in Guerneville, California, he’s not been courting any personal saviors either.

“It’s an ugly story. A very sad story, another example about how family fortunes collide,” said Julia Flynn Siler, who as author of The House Of Mondavi  knows whereof she speaks.

“Of course, people bicker over small amounts, too, but this one is so twisted…”

‘O shame, where is thy blush?’ -William Shakespeare; Hamlet

In a twisted nutshell (with an emphasis on the word ‘nut’), in 2006 the family scionette, Richie Ann Samii, along with her husband Chris, were accused of raping two winery employees by the wine-bottle-shaped company pool.  Although charges were dropped, her old man—who is reputedly a tough guy to get along with under ideal circumstances—booted her and her ne’er-do-well paramour from the estate.

Of course, the nut doesn’t fall far from the tree, and Richie Ann—whose sole purpose on earth seems to be taking care of her pet zebras and excelling at—hold on to your Stetsons; a sport even more idiotic than golf: Barrel horse racing—promptly sued her sixty-four-year-old father in Sonoma County Superior Court for the $24 million dollars she feels she was cheated out of during her eviction.

Much juicy, evil, hilarious backstabbing resulted from this sudden hemorrhage of bad blood, including Richie Ann stating that as a child, the family referred to dear pater as a ‘short, fat, bald Nazi alcoholic’ and he to her as a ‘spoiled, mouthy brat who doesn’t pull her weight’.

The Hecks in happier times.

You’d have to go to Pirate’s Bay dot com and download old episodes of Falcon Crest to find anything as left-fieldish as this fright of family fuckery, which was, nonetheless, settled in secret for an undisclosed sum.

Part of the settlement upon which Richie Ann (now 42) was willing to comment was the potential for future litigation.  With a flair for the sort of melodrama likely exclusive to California zebra owners, she said that she would seek no further action ‘from the beginning of time and throughout the universe.’

“Good stuff, Chris. Nice and snarky, just like I like it.”

Which—whether she’s heard of it or not—includes the five wine producing districts of  Champagne.

‘The victor belongs to the spoils.’  – F. Scott Fitzgerald

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