Volleys and Vines
Where to go when your passion for playing tennis matches your enthusiasm for drinking wine.
Great wine is one of life’s pleasures,” tennis legend Roger Federer told Wine Enthusiast about his role as Moët & Chandon’s brand ambassador. Savoring it, he says, has much in common with the joy he gets from competition: “Playing in a really great tennis match can be like tasting a well-matured, vintage wine.”
Your own matches may not quite live up to the premier grand cru quality of Federer’s, but like him, you can count tennis and wine among life’s pleasures. A handful of resorts make it easy to pursue both.
No less appealing are the resort’s extensive amenities. Most of the 99 guest rooms, suites, and villas have wood-burning fireplaces and either private patios or balconies. These have been tucked into 250 acres of lawns and forest along with a nine-hole golf course, an award-winning spa, a fitness center, three pools, croquet lawns, hiking trails, and, not incidentally, a Michelin three-star restaurant. Completing the layout are seven terraced tennis courts (quite a large complex for such a small resort). Tennis professional Doug King, a former UC Berkeley No. 1, has maintained his tenure at Meadowood since 1984, running an active weekly calendar of tennis clinics, drop-in round-robins, and private lessons, many of which afford the opportunity to meet and socialize with local members who share their interests in both wine and tennis.
Room rates from $750/night; wine experiences from $100/person for a food and wine pairing theory class to $1,250/couple for a private, full-day sommelier-guided excursion. meadowood.com
An aura of exclusivity envelops the property. The tiny hotel at the core has three suites in the original 1921 adobe-walled farmhouse, each with its own fireplace, and another five, slightly larger and more modern, in a newer lodge, which has fireplaces in its gallery. Comfortable rather than posh, the lodging comes with a wealth of resort amenities, including a nine-hole golf course woven into the vineyards and an alluring tennis complex, rare for having three surfaces—hard, red clay, and natural grass—all handsomely laid out through a grove of olive trees. The courts are free for guests to use, and there is a pro on call for those wanting lessons. The on-site restaurant serves traditional Argentine cuisine, including the resort’s own olive oil, optionally paired with its wines. A two-night Wine & Wellness package ($750/couple) includes all meals, tennis, golf, bicycles, a one-hour massage, and a bottle of wine. algodonhotels.com
Vineyards cover nearly 3,000 acres of Washington State’s Walla Walla Valley, sharing that fertile terroir with wheat fields, strawberries, and famous Walla Walla sweet onions. A designated American Viticultural Area (AVA), the region is home to more than 120 wineries. For the past nine years, Walla Walla Tennis & Wine Camps have helped showcase some of the best of the local vintners as part of three- and four-day packages devoted to tennis, wine tastings, vineyard tours, and winemaker dinners while also serving as a fundraiser for the Whitman College tennis program.
The camps devote the morning hours to tennis under an exceptional team of instructors: Greg Patton, who works with rising Americans as a US Tennis Association National Coach (past charges have included Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, and Michael Chang), and Whitman’s men’s and women’s tennis coaches, Jeff Northam and John Hein (joined in October by members of the teams). In keeping with the camp’s generally convivial vibe, the three-hour instructional sessions lean toward games-based play rather than hard-core drills. In the afternoon, local wine expert Tom Sawatzki gives tours of vineyards and wineries. In the evenings, winemaker dinners are often served outdoors in the vineyard itself. Three- and four-day packages on select dates in June, July, August, and October start at $995, including tennis, wine excursions, and all meals; lodging additional. tennisandwinecamps.com
CHÂTEAU ÉLAN WINERY & RESORT – Braselton, GeorgiaArchitecturally inspired by 16th-century French castles, the 3,500-acre Château Élan is nonetheless very much a 21st-century resort, having undergone a $25 million makeover in 2019. In addition to having a full range of resort amenities, it stages a monthly Taste of Georgia tapas and wine-tasting event; hosts Vineyard Fest, a November festival of wine making, craft beer, local cuisine, and live music; and it’s home to one of the most acclaimed wineries in the Southeast.
Some of its accolades can be traced to the resort’s vineyards of sweet Georgia muscadine grapes, which thrive in the Southern climate. But by sourcing other varietals in California, the award-winning Italian winemaker Simone Bergese produces a diverse portfolio of signature wines. You can sample just how varied by ordering a flight of its limited-release Fingerprint Collection, which includes gold- and silver-medal cabernets, chardonnays, tempranillos, and red and white blends. All available to pair with dinner in any of the several restaurants.
Château Élan also has a long history as a tennis destination. Former world No. 1 Stan Smith designed the complex, giving it his signature spacious layout. Set amid the trees, it has two clay and three hard tennis courts and four pickleball courts. British-born Matt Kirkham of Cliff Drysdale Tennis caters to guests’ needs with a series of weekly clinics, including some for kids as young as age 4. Custom-tailored packages are available for groups. From $459. chateauelan.com
These resorts offer wine and tennis weekends on select dates during the year.
THE BROADMOOR – Colorado
The iconic Colorado Springs resort wins high praise for everything from its Old World elegance to an abundance of activities, tennis among them. Play in the invigorating mountain air on the apron of the Colorado Rockies, as the resort stages several tennis camps each year to enhance the experience. In 2020, the resort will stage two combined tennis-camp and wine-tasting weekends, offering 12 hours of lively drills and play around an evening of appetizers paired with wines chosen by the resort’s sommelier. August 7–9 and October 9–11, two-night packages from $1,000/person, double occupancy, including 12 hours of tennis, lodging, resort fees, wine tasting, and a welcome gift. broadmoor.com
ENCHANTMENT RESORT – Arizona
Dramatic red-rock walls can make it hard to keep your eyes on the tennis ball at Enchantment Resort in Sedona, and easy to while away hours on your casita patio with a glass of wine or after a rejuvenating massage at the resort’s award-winning Mii Amo spa, a destination in its own right. Still, tennis is a reason to visit, never more so than during two weekend camps put on by resort director and former ATP and WTA coach Nelson Banes and enhanced by a wine-pairing dinner hosted by the resort’s chef. The two camps, May 15–17 and October 23–25, include 10 hours of tennis, lunch, and a Saturday dinner with wine pairing for $645; casita lodging from $515/night. enchantmentresort.com
HORSESHOE BAY RESORT – Texas
The Lonestar State’s fast-growing wine trail runs through the Texas Hill Country not far from this sprawling, multidimensional resort/residential development on LBJ Lake, northwest of Austin. Half a dozen times a year, tennis director Michelle Stallard, the personable former University of Texas standout, takes advantage of that proximity to stage three-day weekend Ladies’ Tennis and Wine Getaways. Hosted on the resort’s red clay and hard courts, the sessions mix drills and social tennis with an afternoon of wine tasting at one of the notable local wineries. Select dates, March through October, from $559/person, including all tennis, socials, a wine tour, lodging, and a lunch. hsbresort.com