Sawgrass Eats – An Innovative (and Delicious) Solution to Dinner

We’re all trying to do our part to take care of one another in this crisis. The leadership team at Sawgrass Country Club are constantly looking ahead and planning to meet the needs of the club in unconventional ways.

Sawgrass Eats is a program born out of a desire to serve members, especially those who are most vulnerable. C.W. said it like this, “A doctor at Mayo said that the Sawgrass Eats initiative made him so proud as a member not only because it’s a great initiative but in his opinion, it was also helping to save lives as it is allowing many members in an at risk demographic to easily get meals without having to venture out in the local community. For me as a club professional and servant leader at heart, it feels good to be making an impact in a tough time.”

On the “menu” for today is the creation of Sawgrass Eats. We’ll talk about how it came about, how it’s serving members, and what’s on the horizon.

Creation of Sawgrass Eats

It all started with a meeting of the minds. C.W. Cook, General Manager, Perry Kenney, Food and Beverage Director, and Michael Meuse, Executive Chef, got together the second week of March to talk about the growing concerns around restaurants and other clubs in the area. Mr. Cook suggested a To Go concept to get ahead of what they determined would be the new normal in food preparation and service. Michael and Perry were tasked with coming up with logistics like developing menus, outlining delivery and pick up options, and staffing the operation. Within just three days, the program was up and running!

Perry was set on a fun brand for Sawgrass Eats. From T-shirts and car magnets for delivery drivers to menu design, the idea was to have modern and friendly imagery.

When developing the menu and specials each week, Michael and his team take into consideration the diversity of the membership. They strive to create exciting pop ups and comfort food offerings from quarantine date nights to larger family shareables. And most are at a $30 price point making them affordable to order on a regular basis.

Sawgrass Eats

The whole food and beverage team came together to make Sawgrass Eats happen. Jared created a command center in Topsider where 5 servers are taking orders that are coming in daily. Perry worked with the beverage team to create Sawgrass Drinks – shareable-sized drinks like 96 ounce mixed cocktails and signature 16 ounce cocktails designed to be taken home and enjoyed. He also found an app called Circuit that provides the most efficient route to deliver meals within Sawgrass. To top it all off, you can now drive through and pick up Bloodys and Biscuits on Sunday mornings.

At the heart of the program is serving members. Michael says, “The food and beverage teams enjoy serving our membership and we are all grateful for their support of our operation which is keeping our teams together.”

Success of the program and what’s coming

The program has been incredibly successful so far. According to Michael, they are “currently serving anywhere from 200-300 To Go meals daily, depending on which promotions are offered. Some of the most popular family meal promotions are the pizza combo, sliders, and fajitas – all selling out in as little as 20 minutes. The dinner for two has been very successful focusing on value driven comfort foods like Jambalaya and pulled pork.”

Delivery is an option if members live within the Sawgrass Country Club community. If not, you can schedule pick up at the Beach Club.

Sawgrass Marketplace

Sawgrass leadership will continue to look at ways to help membership like the recently launched Sawgrass Marketplace.

Sawgrass Marketplace

This is a service to the members to purchase basic needs from the club so they can make less trips to the store. Sawgrass Marketplace is offering items like portion meats, dairy products, seafood, and household items that can be picked up or delivered within Sawgrass. See the menu here.

If you’re interested in utilizing Sawgrass Marketplace, here are the instructions to download the Sawgrass app and place the order within the app. See the schedule for placing orders and deliveries below.

Sawgrass Marketplace

Let’s continue to look for ways to serve one another and look for light and positivity through this crisis. Be sure to say thanks to all our committed Sawgrass staff for working hard for us.

Horse Soldier Bourbon Whiskey Comes to Sawgrass

The term Horse Soldier is used to describe a member of the small teams of Green Berets mounted on horseback who went into Northern Afghanistan just days after 9/11. These brave soldiers embarked on risky missions, and they didn’t know how long they would be there or if they would be coming home.

Horse Soldier Bourbon

These soldiers were the inspiration for the award-winning Horse Soldier® Bourbon Whiskey we were honored to try at the Whiskey and War Stories event at Sawgrass Country Club. Merrick Mirabella, a First Responder at Ground Zero, and Billy Howell Jr., a retired Green Beret and member of those early teams that infiltrated Northern Afghanistan, came to Sawgrass and gave us a glimpse of what they went through while on those missions. Their goal was to disrupt and to disband Taliban forces in Afghanistan….not easy or simple!

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Merrick and Billy talked openly about their experiences and fielded questions from the audience. It was fascinating and humbling. There is much to understand about war and the people on the other side. Some hate us simply for being American; they were raised to think we are evil and deserve to be wiped from the planet. Others fight for survival from those that teach such hatred.

We were enthralled by their stories, the exquisite bourbon, and the future of American Freedom Distillery.

How the dinner came together

Executive Chef, Michael Meuse, has a passion for bourbon, the hard-to-find kind of bourbon. During conversations with members, he discovered many have the same passion and desire to find and enjoy these rare high-end bourbons. Talking led to thoughts about hosting an experience centered around bourbon. Much like our wine dinners, Chef Michael wanted the bourbon to be the star of the event with the menu complimenting the bourbon. “Sawgrass is known for remarkable wine dinners that sell out quickly, and I wanted to create a different facet of the club’s food and beverage events by putting together a next level bourbon experience,” said Chef Michael.

Horse Soldier Bourbon

He saw Horse Soldier® doing a bottle signing event in Jacksonville and learned more about the story behind the brand and tried the bourbon. He was hooked. As a son of an Army Veteran, he appreciates what the brand stands for and knew members would feel the same way. With the idea in-hand, he approached a few members with the idea, and it didn’t take long for the experience to sell out simply word of mouth. 34 members attended, including a few military veterans of our own; Thomas Petersen, Butler Strain, and Garrett Luebker. We are all so thankful for your service.

About American Freedom Distillery

American Freedom Distillery was started by a group of veterans looking for the next chapter. I got to talk to Merrick and Billy before the event and the theme of our conversation was gratitude for the group of owners and employees. It simply, “feels like a family,” said Merrick. According to Billy, he was ready to go to the Caribbean to start a business teaching scuba diving, but plans changed when he got the call about the distillery! Their first product was Rekker Rum, then they branched into Bourbon. It was a HIT. With the movie 12 Strong kick starting their marketing efforts, it took them only four years to sell 20,000 cases, a feat that took competitors ten years to achieve. The Horse Soldier® glass bottle is molded by steel recovered from the World Trade Center to commemorate the lives lost and never forgotten.

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The soldier on horseback on the bourbon bottle represents these soldiers and their bravery. The image is taken from a real monument displayed at Ground Zero called America’s Response Monument created by artist Douwe Blumberg. This monument serves as a reminder to all of us in America that there are brave men and women fighting to keep us safe in the most awful places under the most dangerous circumstances that we will never know about.

American Freedom Distillery has big plans for the next few years, including a distillery on the bourbon trail as well as an event space and tasting room in St. Petersburg, FL.

Fun fact: Did you know women purchase more bourbon than men? It makes sense that some are definitely buying it for their partners, BUT, bourbon is getting very popular among women. I might have to buy a bottle just for me!

Bourbon and dinner experience

Michael Meuse, Executive Chef, and his team put together a stellar menu with rich flavors pairing various bourbon preparations with amazing courses. It was a night of bourbon, great food, cocktails with bourbon, and more bourbon.

First Course: Bourbon Glazed Ruby Red Shrimp – Fried green tomato, pimento cheese, baby frisee, crispy pancetta, and a thai basil oil.
Drink Pairing: Basil Bourbon Smash made with Horse Soldier® Straight Bourbon. (My favorite, and now you can order it from the drink menu!)

Horse Soldier Bourbon

Second Course: Berkshire Heritage Pork Tenderloin Luxardo Cherry BBQ – Sweet potato butter, white acre peas, smoked bacon lardons.
Drink Pairing: Bourbon Old Fashioned featuring Horse Soldier® Small Batch Bourbon

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Third Course: Kobe A5 NY Strip Foie Gras Butter – Melted heirloom tomatoes, goat cheese micro potatoes, pickled cipollinis, baby carrots, small batch peppercorn demi.
Drink Pairing: Danhattan featuring Horse Soldier® Signature Barrel Strength Bourbon

Horse Soldier Bourbon

Fourth Course: Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Torte – Madagascar vanilla custard, “Old Fashion” cherry jam.
Drink Pairing: Commander’s Select 12-year Old Bourbon Neat

Horse Soldier Bourbon

It was all so delicious. The shrimp was delicate, the pork tenderloin was tender, and the Kobe just melted in my mouth. With each course, it got harder and harder to leave room for the next! Each course paired nicely with the drink served, and it changed my thoughts on bourbon.

“I wanted to give the members an experience they’d always remember,” said Chef Michael. I think he achieved that and more.

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When asked if he thought the event was a success, Chef Michael said, “Yes! We’ve had members approach us and comment on the pairings as well as food and drink quality. We sold about six cases of Horse Soldier® bourbon that night, which is a testament to how much members enjoyed it. It was truly a collaboration of my team as well as Beverage Director, Bo Cure, and his team, and we are extremely excited to keep this momentum going!” He wanted to make sure he thanked Chef Ben Brett for his fantastic culinary skills and Robert Boaz for unbelievable mixology.

Chef Michael let me in on a few plans he’s working on to further ingrain a bourbon culture into Sawgrass, but those ideas will stay hidden in a secret vault for now (hint, hint).

Sawgrass Partners with Outlaw Oysters

There’s something special about seeing the source, doing the hard work, and discovering the people behind the products we enjoy.

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Outlaw Oysters is dedicated to “growing oysters so shuckin’ good,” and a team of chefs from Sawgrass made the trek over to taste the slurp-worthy oysters. They promise oysters that are tender, salty, and minerally, and according to Michael, they delivered.

About the trip

On January 13th, Michael Meuse (Executive Chef), Ben Brett (Chef de Cuisine at the Beach Club), Dean Bales (Chef de Cuisine at the Golf Club), and Elia Balas took a drive over to Panacea, FL to visit Outlaw Oysters oyster farm. The area used to be known as a crabbing town but natural disasters as well as oil spills have hurt the area significantly. But that didn’t stop owners Blake and Denita from opening their very own thriving oyster farm. As Dean put it, “It is a tight-knit family of people dedicated to reviving business, specifically oyster farming.”

Outlaw Oysters

The team from Sawgrass toured the facility, then went out on the boats to tend to the oysters. According to Michael, “We smelled like the ocean when we got done, but the work was very rewarding. There’s nothing like eating fresh oysters right on the boat!” The team got to know Blake and Denita as well as the cutting-edge farming techniques they follow. The result is a consistently killer product, which has positioned Outlaw as one of the nation’s premiere oyster companies.

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The philosophy behind Outlaw Oysters

Great oysters have a specific flavor profile. It can vary depending on what type of oyster it is and what waters it came from. The waters in Panacea, FL bring you a salty, tender oyster with a smooth minerally finish. The techniques are what make the Outlaw Oysters stand out. Just as a farmer painstakingly tends to his fields, so does Outlaw Oysters.

Outlaw Oysters Outlaw Oysters

The oysters start out between ¼ and ½ an inch long. That’s tiny! They are grouped in bags that can fit as many as 10,000 tiny oysters. The bags float on top of the water where the oysters can eat all the nutrients found on the surface. This floating farming technique ensures that the oysters aren’t at the bottom taking in grit and sand. Farmers are out every day turning baskets and sorting oysters.

Here’s why that’s important:

  1. The floating bags are rotated to allow for a small dose of Vitamin D – which kills algae, bacteria and barnacles on the shell. Farmers who don’t rotate and flip the bags end up with a mossy tasting oyster. Yuck. Instead, Outlaw Oysters taste minerally and clean, like a good oyster should.
  2. Sorting the oysters ensures that the larger faster growing oysters don’t overtake the slow growers. The oysters are dumped into a custom-built tumbler that has holes around the outside. The holes gradually get bigger as the oysters move down. This allows like-size oysters to fall through the holes into buckets. The biggest oysters get to the end and are deemed ready-to-eat! The smaller oysters are grouped together and put back into the ocean to keep growing.
  3. There’s a BONUS reason why tumbling and sorting are important. As the oysters are funneled through the tumbler and flipped in the water, little tiny pieces break away from the shell, which cause the oyster to grow deeper rather than longer. This is why Outlaw Oysters have a more meaty oyster!

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After about 6-8 months, the oysters are market size. Having purified 50 gallons of water per day, they not only make for a tasty treat but are helping purify the ocean and bay during the process. The Sawgrass team got to “taste the difference between the different size oysters,” Ben said. He went on to say the oysters were the cleanest he’s ever eaten.

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Sawgrass and Outlaw Oysters

With a partner like Outlaw Oysters, Michael can present the best oyster experience to members. Several things were important to Michael as he evaluated the relationship:

  • It was important to stay local. FL oysters are special, and to have them come from a few hours away is amazing!
  • Michael looked for a sea to table relationship where we buy directly from the farmer, which ensures the best price for members.
  • The quality of the oyster is important. They must be briny, salty, tender, and minerally.
  • He looks for an item that presents well on the plate.

Sawgrass is the first restaurant or country club to offer Outlaw Oysters on the east coast of FL, which means we get to have a unique oyster eating experience that no other Ponte Vedra Beach restaurant can offer.

On January 30th, Michael and his team hosted an oyster event where the product debuted. Members could buy 6 oysters for $12 served with traditional accompaniments. They were telling the story of Outlaw Oysters and gauging the reactions.

Look for more pop-up events like this and for Outlaw Oysters on the menu! At first the preparation will be raw, but they will offer other preparations in the future.

If you’re wondering if you can buy these from the source, the answer is yes! Check out their website for details. Outlaw Oysters allows consumers to buy the oysters directly from them, but why would you want to when you can get them at Sawgrass!

Christmas Festivities at Sawgrass!

Christmas is here!

Santa Brunch at Sawgrass

This is a bustling season for so many. Kids are having programs and class parties while tests and papers due for the older ones. There are dinners, work parties, and various activities going on all over Ponte Vedra Beach. It can be easy to lose the joy in the midst of the craziness. But let’s not. Make sure you take time to do good. This can look different for each of us, whether it’s reaching out to a family member or friend that you’ve lost touch with, baking cookies or taking dinner to your neighbor who is struggling with an illness, or simply offering a smile or helping hand when the opportunity presents itself.

Sawgrass Santa Brunch

We are all so blessed to live where we live and to have the options that we do. Sawgrass is so good to us members and puts on so many great seasonal events. Our family got to do participate in a few this weekend. First, we went to the end of the year tennis gathering on Friday, then painted ornaments at the Youth Activity Center on Saturday, and attended Santa’s Brunch on Sunday! It was a weekend full of family fun!

Holly Jolly Exhibition and End of the Year Tennis Party

This event had such a great turnout! Kudos to Ken and his staff for organizing a fun event! The food was delicious, and the exhibition was so fun to watch! They make it look so easy, especially Magnus! I caught a picture of Kyle in the middle of his serve!

Sawgrass Tennis

The pairings were Ken and Josh vs Magnus and Kyle. By a narrow margin, Kyle and Josh pulled out the win! There were long points and great net play from all!

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The food was great! Mini sliders, chili, meats and cheeses, and sweets were all complementary and there was a member charge bar for drinks! Everyone was taking advantage of the pro shop sale, which started at 4pm and lasted through the entire event. I bought a few things I’ve been eyeing, and so did Cory! They had items up to 40% off, so it was a great time to buy.

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Overall, it was great to see fellow tennis players outside of the courts even though we did talk about tennis! Haha!

Ornament painting at the Youth Activity Center

Saturday morning, I took Will and Wyatt over to the YAC to paint their very own Christmas ornament. The Policastros were there with their four kiddos, too! Check out cute little Lena enjoying her hot chocolate!

Sawgrass Youth Activity Center

Will chose to make an ornament with two faces, a happy face on one side and a sad face on the other. He said it was so he could switch it around to reflect his mood! Where does he come up with these kind of ideas?!?! Wyatt’s was simple, he filled his with red tinsel and then wrote his name in blue. After making ornaments, all three of us indulged in hot chocolate and cookies and played in the YAC for a bit. It was a perfect morning. Thanks to Lacie for putting this together!

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If you’re interested in painting ornaments, you still can! She’ll have supplies out the 14th and 21st from 10-12, drop in anytime.

Also, did you know Lacie highlights the kiddos in Horizons? It’s called the “Yak” of the month, and you can find it toward the back of Horizons. Holtz Weaver (7) and Lillie Relihan (4) are featured this month! 

Santa’s Brunch

The boys were VERY excited to see Santa this year. They knew exactly what they were asking for, and couldn’t wait to see if his beard was real. We arrived about 11am, and Santa and Mrs. Claus had just taken a break to check on the reindeer, so we sat down and ate lunch.

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The pancake bar was the favorite with the boys! My personal favorite was the shrimp and grits, but everything was good! There were so many choices…omelette station, prime rib, salads, chilled shrimp and smoked salmon, and a pretty sweets table.

If you haven’t been to this event before, make plans to go next year! It’s a great event if you have kids or grandchildren. But even if you don’t, the food is well worth it.

Santa Brunch at Sawgrass Santa Brunch at Sawgrass

Santa was amazingly authentic. He was rosy cheeked and laughed just like you would expect! And Mrs. Claus was just as good! They both made the kids feel comfortable and engaged in conversation. It was just the sweetest to see the excitement and wonder on the children’s faces.

Santa Brunch at Sawgrass

Santa Brunch at Sawgrass

Beside Santa, Sawgrass set up activities as well as a fantastic face painter. One table had an ornament station with different ornaments to stick together. The other table had coloring sheets and crayons. The boys had a great time, and I got to see so many smiling faces of friends and their families.

Santa Brunch at Sawgrass

The boys are getting old enough that they will start remembering the “traditions” we do this time of year, and I love that coming to Sawgrass to see Santa will be one of them.

Now if I could only master Christmas cookies…

If you’re looking for something fun to do this weekend, sign up for the Nights of Lights Pub Crawl either Thursday or Friday night. The bus leaves the Golf Club at 6:00pm and returns at 10:00pm. Cost is $40pp and includes beer and wine for the bus ride!

Sawgrass Holiday Gift Guide

The holidays are here! Are you ready? I must say that I am tackling my list left and right so far. It feels great to get things done early, doesn’t it? Getting things done means I can spend time with the boys when they are out of school instead of last minute shopping and getting stressed out! After all, this SHOULD be a season of rest and spending time with family. But if you do find yourself in a pinch or need some ideas, we’ve got you covered!

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Your team at Sawgrass has put together a few gift guides to help you start early this year! There’s a gift guide for the man in your life and one for the woman in your life. Whether you’re shopping for husbands, wives, brothers, boyfriends, children, or friends, there’s something for everyone! I’ve even included some pro shop favorites from our very own golf and tennis shops.

Gift Guide – Men

Let’s start with the men. I have trouble every year wondering what I will get for my husband, Cory. I like thinking outside the box and looking for unique items that fit his lifestyle. When all else fails, an experience usually saves the day. Don’t tell him, but I got him fly fishing lessons from Blackfly Outfitters this year. Ever since we moved here, he’s been wanting to learn to fly fish in saltwater, and now he’ll get the chance!

Mens gift guide

1. Toadfish can cooler ($24.99) | 2. Ons Terry ($149) | 3. Rak Magnetic Wrist band ($15.99) | 4. Nordstrom Trunk Club (price varies) | 5. Patagonia Men’s Classic Synchilla® Fleece Vest ($79) | 6. LL Bean Men’s Handsewn Slippers, Flannel-Lined ($49.50) | 7. Exceptionally Bad Dad Jokes ($8.99) | 8. FreshJax Organic Spices ($34.99) | 9. Personalized bottle opener ($34.95) |10. Starling’s Car Trunk Organizer ($39.97) 

Gift Guide – Women

Us women are easy to shop for, right? Maybe not. It really depends on how close you are to the person you’re buying for. I could find 20 things that my mom would love, but not so much for other family members. If you know their interests and habits, you’re set! If you need more help, I’m here to guide you to a few favorites for this year! I’ve included all kinds of price ranges and interests from skin care to fun in the sun!

Tip for husbands – If you really want to hit a homerun, you have to be a little sneaky. Go look in your partner’s makeup bag, and see what brands are in it. Take a picture if you need to. Take this picture to Ulta in JAX Beach, and let the consultant lead you to the brands in the bag. She can help you pick out a few skin care items.

Womens gift guide

1. Bamboo Cutting Board With Trays ($59.94) | 2. Draper James Pretty As a Peach Manicure Set ($28.00) | 3. Oventure Key Ring ($25.00) | 4. Sur la Table Nutcracker Mug ($12.00) | 5. Uncommon James Bullet in Gold ($46.00) | 6. Not a Day Over Fabulous Tumbler ($19.99) | 7. Barefoot Dreams Cozy Chic Throw ($147.00) 8. Tula Brightening Eye Balm ($28.00) | 9. Capri Blue Fir & Firewood Mini Jar Candle ($14.00)

Sawgrass can save the day!

We are members of a fantastic club with knowledgeable and professional staff that can help you pick out a gift! Here are some ideas below!

Tennis – The tennis pro shop always has new apparel! Have you seen the new logo’ed vizors? They are awesome! Tennis skirts, shorts, shirts, and even stocking stuffers like sunglasses all make great gifts for the Wimbledon contender in your family! Ken and the staff do a great job picking out styles that are flattering on everyone. Check out the new racquets like the HEAD Graphene 360 Speed MP and the HEAD Graphene 360+ Gravity MP (pictured below).

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Sawgrass Gift Guide

Sawgrass Gift Guide

Sawgrass Gift Guide

And if you’re looking for entertainment AND a deal, drop by this Friday for an exhibition match, food, and a pro shop discount!

Event: Holly Jolly Exhibition, Pro Shop Sale, and End of Year Party
Date: Friday, December 6th from 4:00-6:00pm

Golf – I confess that I am not a golfer, but I love the outfits! It’s great that you can look fabulous while you play these days in adorable patterns and comfortable fabrics. Our pro shop stocks the cutest trends in golf apparel, clubs, even underwear (check out this ultra comfortable brand of men’s briefs called 2 UNDR!).

Sawgrass Gift Guide

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The golf shop can also customize items like head covers for a unique gift!

Sawgrass Gift Guide

And if you’re looking for discounted items, check out the annual Golf Shop Christmas Sale!

Event: Golf Shop Christmas sale
Date: Tuesday December 10th from 3:00-7:30pm

Fitness – Give the gift of a personal trainer this year or treat yourself to new fitness gear or a massage! Studies show that folks work harder when working with a trainer. Plus, their knowledge about nutrition, training regimens, and stretching can help you develop a plan for wellness long term! Get 30% off at the Fitness Center apparel holiday sale now through December 24th!

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Wine – Bo Cure, Wine Director at Sawgrass, is amazing at picking out wine. It just so happens that many stockings are the exact dimensions of a bottle of wine! Let Bo help you pick out a bottle or a case for the person that’s hard to buy for. These also make great hostess gifts!

Experiences – There’s a reason why you see “Experience Sawgrass” on the website and throughout printed materials. If you get to live here and experience Sawgrass Country Club, you will be here for life. Why not give the gift of experiences around the club? Consider things like a tennis lesson, personal training session, private golf clinic, or maybe give your wife a girls night out at Ocean’s Edge!

It’s the holidays…don’t sweat the small stuff! Enjoy time spent with family whether it’s baking cookies, fishing, or playing an endless game of Monopoly!

From my family to yours, may you find peace and joy this holiday season!

VINTUS Tour of the World Wine Dinner Featuring Craig Collins

Wine is meant to be enjoyed by all the senses. We’re given wine in a glass and taught to look at it to decide the color, smell to decide the top notes and first impression, taste and swish to determine thickness and balance, and taste again to confirm or deny our first conclusions. It’s a wonderful process that opens the mind. It becomes even better when you can pair a wine with the story of how it came to be, much like a songwriter telling the origin of the song.

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Craig Collins, Master Sommelier and Italian Portfolio Sales Manager for VINTUS, was our guide for the VINTUS wine dinner, and he was able to tell us about the wines themselves, the makers, and the backstories of both to enrich our wine tasting experience.


Craig is truly a master of his trade. He admitted that wine has “traditionally been associated with snobbery” but he made the wines approachable for us novices while also speaking to those in the room with more knowledge. Through the wine, he took us on a journey through France, Italy, Argentina, and Portugal. Craig shared bits and pieces about each wine that helped us taste the story behind the wine.

We even had a couple fun members milestones to celebrate! Lou and Shanel Pontigo celebrated their 26th Wedding Anniversary! They are such a fun couple…we wish you many more years of wine dinners (and wine vacation!), lazy days on the beach, and family fun!

Sawgrass Country Club VINTUS Wine Dinner

Deborah & David Heald are celebrating 40 years at Sawgrass! I did a little math…if they ate dinner at Sawgrass once per week for 40 years they have been members, that’s 2,080 dinners at Sawgrass!

Sawgrass Country Club VINTUS Wine Dinner

Dinner and wine pairings

Ben Brett, Chef de Cuisine, led his team in creating a magnificent eating experience that paired beautifully with the wine. The image below shows the dinner and wine pairings for the evening.

Sawgrass Country Club VINTUS Wine Dinner

All elements were present; crispy, creamy, rich, light, sweet, and salty…and the presentation was on point! I saw eyes wide and mouths gaping as we all enjoyed the courses. My personal favorite was the Seafood Paella. This was paired with an Italian wine, Sandrone, Barbara D’ Alba, Piemonte 2016.

Let me stop here for a bit and tell you the normal flow of things if you’ve never attended a wine dinner. The wine for the course is poured into your glass, Craig (or the featured speaker) speaks about the wine and what to look for, we taste the wine, and then the course is served. Once served, we enjoy the wine with the course.

When Craig spoke before the Italian wine, he asked us to taste it. Then he asked if it tasted aggressive or bitter. And a few said yes! I didn’t know where he was going with this until he said that Italian wine is meant to be more of a condiment for the food rather than the star of the show. In Italy, culture revolves around food, and the wine adds depth and flavor to the food. At the same time, the food is changing the wine as well making it smoother and more balanced. He said it this way, “specifically high tannin Italian wines need foods that are higher in fat, salt, and richness to neutralize the tannins.” The Italian wine was perfect for the bold, rich flavors of Paella!

Sawgrass Country Club VINTUS Wine Dinner

With each wine we tried and course we consumed, we were captivated by Craig’s knowledge. The Argentinian wine was made from grapes that grew on a higher elevation therefore the wine was not as sweet. The Port wine was very sweet and was served with dessert. Craig said, “Make sure the wine is sweeter than the dessert” when choosing a port wine to serve with dessert.

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Craig Collins, Master Sommelier

I had the pleasure of interviewing Craig before the wine dinner, and I got to ask him some questions about his background and what prompted his quest to become a Master Sommelier. I am clearly a novice, and he was kind to offer opinions and suggestions that both novices like me and seasoned wine tasters and travelers (like the Pontigo’s!) could use.

We started with his background. While at Texas A&M, he fondly recalled getting a call from his father on his 21st birthday to not only tell him Happy Birthday, but to inform Craig that he was now officially off the family payroll. So what does a college student do? Naturally, Craig, with zero wine experience, applied at a wine tasting room. Turns out he loved it! After three years at the tasting room, a study-abroad opportunity came up in Tuscany, and he took it. What was supposed to be three months, turned into seven, and this is where he had his ah-hah wine experience. He told me all Sommeliers have a moment when their paths are created. His was in 2001 with a 1998 Bran Caia Blu, a Sangiovese Merlot blend with a lot of oak. “It was the best thing I’ve ever put in my mouth, and this is what I’m doing for the rest of my life,” Craig thought.

He reluctantly went back to Texas A&M to finish his degree in Public Relations and Communication, then went to work for a distributor in Houston. From there, he worked his way up and studied for the Master Sommelier exam, which he passed in 2011. Now he is the Italian Portfolio Sales Manager for VINTUS and lives in Austin, TX with his wife, April, and two children.

What can we learn from a Master Sommelier?

“No one can tell you you’re wrong if you say you don’t like a particular wine,” Craig said. This was a huge takeaway from our conversation. He went on to say, “I want to instill confidence in you when you taste wine. It’s your palette, and who am I to say what you like and what you don’t.”

This was really the theme of our chat. No matter where you are on the knowledge scale, you can enjoy wine because it’s about what tastes good to you. He shared a few tips and tricks about wine with me, and you can read the questions and answers below.

Sawgrass Country Club VINTUS Wine Dinner

Brittany: Do you have a favorite wine under $40?
Craig: That’s a hard question! It’s not about my favorite wine, it’s more about what I want to enjoy today. It depends on the weather outside, who I’m with, what they like, where I am, and what I am eating (if I’m eating). But I can tell you what criteria I use to rate wines.
Authenticity. I want it to be typical of the grape varietal it’s representing. If it says Pinot Noir, I want it to have all these Pinot Noir characteristics. I also want it to taste like the place it came from. Tuscany has a flavor to it, the Rhone Valley of France has a flavor.
Value. Whether I spend $20 or $2,000, I need to get value out of it. I want it to be delicious, now and also delicious later. For example, a great wine will taste phenomenal now, but will also taste good in 40 years.

But, to get back to your question, I’ll give you a wine that I really like right now. It’s a 2015 Guigal Cotes Du Rhone costing $15 at Publix that will last 20 years. I know that because I just had a 1978 bottle recently.

Brittany: What do I tell a Sommelier in a restaurant to help them pick a wine for me or my group?
Craig: First, give them a budget. Then, be honest and say what you’re looking for. If you’re in a steakhouse, and the group is craving something bold and dry, let the Sommelier know. If you prefer wine from a certain region because of the flavors present or if you prefer a lighter wine with more fruit or more oak, express this to him or her. These are valuable traits of wines that will help the Sommelier pick the best wine for your evening.

Brittany: Are there any tasting “hacks” to act like we know what we are doing?
Craig: Yes! When tasting white wine, think about this phrase: Lemon and lime all the time, apple and pear is there somewhere. When you’re tasting white wines with your friends, you can definitely pick out these flavors and the rest of the group will most likely agree! Secondly, I always encourage consumers to consider the glass as a tool that makes the wine taste better. Spend per glass what you pay for the average bottle of wine. If you’re an individual who buys on average a $30 bottle of wine, buy a glass that costs $30 per stem. Don’t worry about having “red wine” glasses or “white wine” glasses, just buy one type of glass at a higher quality. The glass will perform better and be a better tool to experience the wine. As for hosting hacks, we use a sharpie to write on the glass for parties instead of wine charms. It works great! And if you like to go for walks around your neighborhood with wine, here’s a tip. Mix 75% Rose with 25% water and make Rose cubes to keep wine cool without diluting it.

Sawgrass Country Club VINTUS Wine Dinner

It was a pleasure getting to speak to Craig Collins, Master Sommelier. It’s safe to say that I will be buying new wine glasses soon!

To close us out, I encourage you to contact Bo Cure ([email protected]), our very own Wine and Spirits Director, to help you choose wines for your next dinner or special occasion. He has a wealth of knowledge, and he can recommend wines that fit your specific event whether it’s for an easy pizza night or fancy Thanksgiving dinner.

“Girls Just Want to Have Fun” at 80’s Night!

80’s night at Sawgrass was a blast! Dinner, dancing, and on-point costumes made this event a night to remember.

The 80’s were a decade of fast cars, amazing T.V. shows, rock n’ roll classics, high rollers, and high-waisted denim! Bright colors, big hair, baggy clothes, and blue eyeshadow ruled the fashion scene. While I was young at the time, I still wanted to wear the latest trends. I remember making my bangs a mile high with a pound of hairspray. And I had the coolest washed out overalls, which are strangely making their way back in style! Why did we ever think we looked cool?!?

Sawgrass decided to honor all the fun 80’s traditions and throw a HUGE 80’s party! The decor was awesome! They had gigantic Rubik’s cubes, bright banners, Rock band logos, and big Pac Man decorations! The staff even dressed up along with all the members. Oh man, there were a lot of tutus and fish net accessories! Our friends went all out! 

Gretchen and Ben Stamper dressed up! He was going for a “Saved by the Bell” look.

And Perry…oh my…the Slash look really suits him!

The DJ was playing all the 80’s hits! We danced to Prince, Michael Jackson, Queen, Madonna, and so many more!


When was the last time you “snapped into a Slim Jim?!?!” I loved that they had classics like Airheads, Slim Jims, Ritz crackers, and Stouffer’s French Bread Pizza. It really added to the atmosphere of the event! The chefs at Sawgrass prepared a great combination of savories and treats that had a hint of 80’d flare and were delicious!

Appetizers – Spinach dip and bread bowl, deviled eggs, buffalo chicken wings, stuffed potato skins, sausage cheese balls, mini sloppy joe, cheese display with ritz crackers, broccoli cheese bites

Mains – steak & ales kensington club steak, chicken pot pie turnovers, bennigan’s mini monte cristo, mini sloppy joe’s, french bread pizzas

Dessert – pineapple upside down cake, crème brulee, pudding pops

We had such a great time reminiscing, laughing, and dancing! Make plans to attend the next big theme dinner, Sawgrass Oktoberfest, on October 12th! 

Sawgrass Women’s Club Happy Hour – Wine Tasting with Fess Parker

I love a good wine, don’t you? If you have the right wine paired with a delicious meal, every aspect of the experience is amplified. For a novice wine drinker like myself, it can be tough to tell the differences between wines, especially two that are similar, like a Syrah and Merlot. To a seasoned wine professional, like Bo Cure, our resident sommelier, telling the difference between these might be like describing peach pie to apple pie. It’s noticeable. Yes, they are both pie with fruit and a sweet flakey crust, but one will have a stronger flavor or maybe a more delicate texture.

Wine is something I’ve always wanted to learn more about. So, for our Sawgrass Women’s Club August happy hour gathering, we decided to host a wine tasting. It was so relaxing and fun. Bo and Donna coordinated the event. Bo solidified the wines and Donna handled everything else from decorations to food. We selected wines from Fess Parker, a popular collection of wines that are found on our menu at the Beach Club. Many are on the Uncorked list as well. Side note about Uncorked…Did you know that you can sign up for Sawgrass’s Wine Club? It’s called Uncorked, and being a member gets you special privileges like reduced pricing for wine dinners and a special wine menu where all bottles are just $20! Bo can tell you all about it. Reach out to him for more information at [email protected]

Sawgrass Wine Tasting

Wines we tasted

Bo made sure there was a nice variety of wines to choose from. Even though I may not be able to describe the tannins correctly, or taste the pepper or smokiness in the wine, I do know which I enjoy and which I do not! Having the wine experts there from Fess Parker was really helpful as they could say where the wine is from and what to expect when tasting it. We had about eight wines in all to taste. It was a great way to compare and contrast the wines and really nail down flavor profiles that we liked in wines. The snacks helped cleanse the palette and enhanced the flavors of the wine.

Here’s what we tasted:
G.H. Mumm Grand Cordon Brut
Ferrari Carano Fume Blanc
Girard Chardonnay Russian River Valley
Nielson Chardonnay
Jordan Chardonnay
M. Chapoutier Belleruche Rose
Jean-Luc Colombo “Rouge” Cotes du Rhone
Patz & Hall Pinot Noir
Clos de Los Siete Red Blend
Girard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
Born of Fire Cabernet Sauvignon

I had two favorites, which I ended up purchasing after the event, the Girard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (notes of cocoa and raspberries) and the Clos de Los Siete Red Blend (sweet and smooth blend with mostly Malbec as well as Merlot, Cabernet and Syrah). Both were delicious and paired nicely with the meats and cheeses they served.

Safe to say we all had a great time! We had about 15 attend, and it was supposed to be over at 8:30, but we hung around until almost 10! I guess we really needed evening social time with friends!

The next Women’s Club event

Each month, the Women’s Club will be hosting an evening happy hour specifically for us younger women who want to get together in the evening. The Women’s Club offers a way to connect with women in your same season of life and learn and grow (and socialize) together!

Mark your calendars for September 19th, 6:30-8:30. We will be hosting a wine tasting featuring Spanish wines and appetizers.I can’t wait!

Cost is $20++. Sign up by calling the concierge.

Ambassador Program at Sawgrass Country Club

Dinner for four please! Great food and even better company made our Ambassador dinner a SUCCESS! Being an Ambassador is so fun, and it is an honor that Cory and I were asked to participate in the Ambassador Program at Sawgrass Country Club. Honestly, it was an easy decision. I love meeting new people and sharing my love for the club!

With 1,475 member households at Sawgrass, it is crucial that new members are welcomed to the club and introduced to families or couples that are in their same season of life as well as to the various staff members and pros that make our club amazing.

Sawgrass Ambassadors

Cory and I had the pleasure of meeting a new couple to the club, Ben and Greta Stamper. We went to dinner on a Wednesday (Wine Wednesday!), and had a great time! They have two littles (Freda, 6 and Oscar, 3) and they are both in the medical field. Ben is a pharmacist at UF Health, and Greta is an audiologist at Mayo Clinic. They’ve lived in the area for about five years, but joined the club earlier this year. They are loving it so far and have met some great families already!

What is expected from an Ambassador?

For new members, the biggest advantage of having an Ambassador is gaining a familiarity with the club. Ambassadors can help new members use our Sawgrass App and Foretees to reserve spots for dining experiences or to book tee-times for golf. It can take time to learn which Sawgrass dining locations are open when, what days the Tarpon room is open, or what’s on special during happy hour! We’ve been members for about a year and a half, and we still need to look things up occasionally. Sawgrass offers SO MUCH to members, and it really helps to have someone that can show you the ropes in the beginning.

In addition to talking through some of the basics, Ambassadors are also expected to:

  1. Attend Member Mixer events and other programs to engage new members.
  2. Act as an advocate of the club when asked to engage in a social or sporting activity with a new or prospective member.
  3. Be called upon (even with short notice) to be an Ambassador for the club.
  4. Contact the new or prospective member and invite them to a social or sporting activity.
  5. Reserve tee-times, court-times, or dining arrangements with the new or prospective member.
  6. Introduce the member to other members or member groups.
  7. Be available to the new member or prospect for any follow-up calls or E-mails.
  8. Inform the Membership Director of the planned time and date of the activity.
  9. Provide feedback to the Membership Director after the social or sporting activity.

If this sounds fun, keep reading to see how you can be an Ambassador!

How can you become an Ambassador?

If you are a positive, enthusiastic, and an active member of the club, you could be an Ambassador! It’s important that the club has a variety of Ambassadors because not everyone has similar interests or is in the same season of life. Because Cory and I use the Tarpon Room, we were able to give Greta and Ben details about childcare as well as telling them about some of our favorite family-friendly events.

If you’re interested, ask for the Ambassador form at the Concierge’s Desk at the Golf Clubhouse. Or, you can fill out the form on the Member’s Only website. You can also contact Janet Collins at [email protected]

Once you become an Ambassador, you’ll be added to the list of possible Ambassadors for new or prospective members. Mary McGarrigle, the Ambassador Coordinator, will reach out by email when she has a new member that needs an Ambassador. In the email, she will give you information about the new member such as where they work, if they are retired, if they have children and their ages, and what interests they have around the club. It will then be up to the Ambassador to reach out to the new member to contact the new member and invite them to an activity. It could be a round of golf, dinner, or an experience like a Pub Crawl!

Our overall experience as an Ambassador has been fun! We’ve had the pleasure of welcoming several new members to the Sawgrass family and gained some fun and interesting new friends along the way!

Celebrating July 4th at Sawgrass

“My country, ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.”

July 4th at Sawgrass

July 4th at Sawgrass

July 4th brings about many emotions. Thankfulness for all the lives sacrificed to give us these freedoms and joy that we get to spend time with friends and family!

Sawgrass went all out this July 4th! The celebrations officially started on July 3rd and lasted through Sunday, July 7th. With contests, parades, family friendly activities, and amazing food options, there was an event (and a favorite food) for everyone. It’s almost too much to even write about, but I’ll try! Haha!

July 4th at Sawgrass July 4th at Sawgrass July 4th at Sawgrass

We were members last July 4th, and we spent the day at the beach with family. This year, we decided to make reservations at the Big Top Tent, and I’m so glad we did. The boys LOVED it. They got tattoos, loved the bounce houses, and ended up sweaty and dirty from all the running around. They slept so good that night! Us adults loved it too. From lawn games like ladder ball and corn hole to drinks, fireworks, live music, and socializing with friends, it was a great night!

Golf cart parade

Where else can you see golf carts like this?!?! Members went all out this year. They took the their theme very seriously. From Mount Sawgrass to Harry Potter, they decorations were fantastic! There was also a DJ and snow cones!

Winners for Best in Show were:
1st Place – The Iannella (Michael) Family; Harry Potter
2nd Place – The O’Haran Family; Doghouse
3rd Place – Mary Slifer and Family; Legos

Golf Cart Parade Golf Cart Parade Golf Cart Parade

Here are some other pictures from the morning:

Golf Cart Parade Golf Cart Parade Golf Cart Parade Golf Cart Parade Golf Cart Parade

Big Top Tent

We were awestruck walking up to the tent. The food smelled amazing, and the bounce houses out on the driving range captured Will and Wyatt’s attention immediately! First, we found our seats, then we went over to get their face painted and tattoos. They both loved the gray airbrush tattoos and ended up going back for more! I even got a blue and red tattoo on my leg to get into the spirit. Next, their shoes and socks came off, and they took off for the bounce houses! Wyatt’s favorite was beside the rock climbing wall. He was strapped in a harness and flew up in the air guided by these long “arms” on either side. It allowed the kids to jump really high…he basically thought he was Spiderman! The thrill on his face was fun to watch!

July 4th at Sawgrass July 4th at Sawgrass

Will’s favorite was the normal bounce house that you go in and jump until you can’t jump any more! He also enjoyed the rock climbing wall and made it all the way to the top! We loved that the kids could go run and play. “We loved the activities for the kids. It was great that the girls had things to do separate from us and that it was a safe place for them to hang out with their friends,” says Stephanie Sabato. We heard the same praises from many families that night. Sawgrass did a great job of thinking about all age groups. They even had a bounce house specifically for babies under one! July 4th at Sawgrass July 4th at Sawgrass July 4th at Sawgrass July 4th at Sawgrass July 4th at Sawgrass

The camaraderie between older kids and younger was evident. I saw Evan Long teaching some of the younger siblings how to play ladder ball…he was so patient! Evan’s mom, Lindsay Long says about the event, “Our favorite event at Sawgrass is the 4th of July dinner and fireworks. It has quickly become a family tradition. Our kids love all of the activities and we enjoy the band and delicious food!”

Us adults enjoyed playing Ladderball, corn hole, and checkers. When we weren’t playing games, we walked down to the bounce houses and chatted with other parents and watched the kiddos.

The hotdog eating contest was a riot! I tried to get my little guy Wyatt to enter, but he said no…I’m not surprised! 🙂

Hot Dog Eating Contest winners from left to right:
3rd Sean McHale – Member
2nd Ray Gottschalk – Member (grandson of Ray)
1st Andrew Chowske – Guest of Sean McHale

Hot dog eating contest winners

The food

The food was delicious. According to Jennifer Werba, “The 4th of July event is by far our favorite event of the year, and we always plan to stay in town so we can come. The food was incredible, and my personal favorite was the beef brisket! Perry was a brilliant Uncle Sam, and he did a great job with the variety and quality of food this year.”

July 4th at Sawgrass July 4th at Sawgrass

Here was the menu for the Big Top Tent as well as at the Beach Club:

Raging Bull BBQ Station
Beef Brisket PBR, Smoked Chicken, BBQ Pork Ribs, Whiskey Baked Beans, White Cheddar Mac n Cheese, Hawaiian Sweet Rolls

Chilling and Grilling Salad Bar
Green Apple Coleslaw, Southern Potato Salad, Grilled burgers with topping bar, Grilled Hot Dogs with Condiments Bar, Beer Brats with Griddled Onions and Spicy Mustard, Ranch & BBQ House Chips

Kraft Totchos Bar
Crispy Tots with a Beer Cheese Fondue
Add-Ins: Royal Red Shrimp, Pulled Pork Kielbasa, Brisket

Taste of the Sea
Paella Mixta, Mussels, Peel & Eat Shrimp

Sweet Endings
Apple Hand Pies, Cookies, Ice Cream Novelties, Cupcake Salute

My personal favorite was the Kraft Totchos Bar and the Apple Hand Pies…yum! But the brisket was “hands down the best beef brisket I have ever had,” says Stephanie.

July 4th at Sawgrass July 4th at Sawgrass July 4th at Sawgrass July 4th at Sawgrass July 4th at Sawgrass July 4th at Sawgrass

This was just the food at the tent. Throughout the weekend, there was a grab and go menu at the Beach Club as well as special themed dinners in the evening including a Seaside Buffet on July 3rd. Some of the deliciousness included clam chowder, grilled corn, poke bowl station, poached Mayport shrimp cocktail, chile garlic broiled oysters, herb roasted prime rib, beet-roasted salmon, chicken dijonaise with pasta, and garlic roasted broccoli.

The fireworks

Talk about a show! I was not prepared for the level of this fireworks show. Members told me leading up to the 4th that this is the BEST show in the area, and now I agree. Rain was threatening, but it held off! There were lawn chairs everywhere, and golf carts as far as I could see down the golf course! It was absolutely spectacular.

July 4th at Sawgrass July 4th at Sawgrass

“A special thanks to Terri in reservations for helping seat all of our friends close to each other. The kiddos absolutely loved the balloons, face painting, and bounce houses. My oldest was so happy to finally make it to the top of the rock wall this year. The amazing fireworks were the icing on the cake!” – Jennifer Werba

We are all so blessed to experience life here. Not just here in America, but here at Sawgrass. A special thanks to the Sawgrass Country Club leadership and to all the staff for making this July 4th unforgettable!

July 4th at Sawgrass