Summer camp for adults brings tennis and wine together

Tennis and Wine CampEach summer, participants from across the country gather in Walla Walla to pair wines with tennis. A summer camp for adults, Tennis and Wine Camp offers on the court training in the morning, wine tastings in the afternoon, and winemaker dinners in the evenings.

The idea first came to Jeff Northam '88, head men's tennis coach at Whitman College, around 10 years ago. "I started thinking: this is such a great wine community, there's so much good food in town, Whitman has these amazing tennis facilities," Northam said. "It just seemed to me like there was a great crossover market."

Tom Sawatzki, a Walla Walla local who is also an avid tennis player and a partner in Seven Hills Winery - one of the valley's oldest, established in 1988 - helped Northam get the Tennis and Wine Camps off the ground in 2010. From one camp that summer, the program has grown to five camps this year, each with around 20-25 participants.

And though adult camps are in vogue at the moment, this isn't a case of cramming into a dorm room with only cheap food for comfort.

Tennis and Wine Camp"We've done just the opposite," said Northam. "We try to offer the best food we can, try to provide a great wine and food and tennis experience."

Along with Northam, the camp's tennis coaches are John Hein, head women's tennis coach at Whitman, and Greg Patton, head men's tennis coach at Boise State University.

Northam coached with Patton when he was at Boise State, and his former colleague says that "the greatest thing about the camps is that we're playing with kids our own age!"

Having worked with both Patton and Hein, Northam also thinks of the camp coordinators as a "coaching family," which makes it all the more fun.

In the course of the past couple of years, the Tennis and Wine Camps have worked with more than 30 Walla Walla Valley wineries. This year, the winemakers from Tero Estates and Northstar Winery will join that list, as will Whitman Professor of Geology Kevin Pogue, who will lead a tour on the terroir of the Walla Walla Valley.

"On court, the wine, the food, the experience. It's all been phenomenal," Northam said. "And I've met so many great, lifelong friends doing this camp."

The next camp takes place Aug. 7-10. For more details, or to find out more about the camps, go to tennisandwinecamps.com