Celebrity and the Vine

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Celebrity sells, and not only music, makeup, fashion and perfume. Whether it’s as vineyard and winery owners or spokespersons, celebrities have entered the wine business. Does the celebrity factor enhance the wine?

If your treasured alma mater bottled a lovely cabernet sauvignon, would you be more inclined to buy it? The university likely arranged a private labeling with a consistent wine producer that was more than happy to do a custom bottling for the alumni. What about your favorite music artist or movie actor?

Although some political, theatrical and social celebrity involvement in wine has occurred for centuries, many celebrities have moved into today’s wine business. Often it’s because they enjoy wine and the wine lifestyle is something they want to be part of. Their level of involvement may vary, but these oenophiles with financial means and savvy media skills are creating unique, well-crafted wines for the rest of us.

With a commitment to conservation and the environment, Dave Matthews created a winery on a historic property with Blenheim Vineyards, located in Charlottesville, Virginia. Completed in 2000 and constructed from reclaimed wood, the tasting room is lit with natural light and uses solar heating. Dating to 1730, the 9,350-acre property contains structures with archaeological, agricultural and political significance and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. His other line of wines, Dreaming Tree Wines, referencing Dave Matthews Band’s 1993 album, is produced in partnership with Constellation Wines using California grapes and continues his desire to be eco-friendly.

Sometimes a celebrity wants to make a statement or create a legacy with their wine interests without committing to a full-blown vineyard management and wine production facility. This legacy can take the form of endorsement through partnerships even for a single bottling. After selecting the final blend for the bottling, Carlos Santana allowed Mumm Napa, founded by G.H Mumm winemaker Guy Devaux, to create a 2005 vintage, Santana DVX. Santana donates a portion of the proceeds from sales of the limited production Santana series to his family’s Milagro Foundation, which aids under-served children around the world.

Naturally, discussion of celebrity wine includes talk about celebrity food! Pairing food and wine with the spice of notoriety makes these labels very successful for their celebrity namesakes.

Highly successful in multiple media arenas, Martha Stewart creates a perfect pairing with Martha Stewart Wine Company, providing quality white wines, red blends and sparkling wines featuring special recipes for mimosas and wine cocktails. Started in April 2017, the business sources and curates wine from many regions the world over, offering a multitude of blends and single varietals for all to enjoy.

Culinary stars such as Chef Tyler Florence make natural ambassadors for the wine industry. An accomplished author and restaurateur, he adds award-winning winemaker to his list of accomplishments with his Tyler Florence Wine label offered through multiple online wine distributors and featured in chef-paired wine dinners.

Chef Guy Fieri created Hunt & Ryde Winery, named for his sons Hunter and Ryder, located in Sonoma, California, a world-renowned wine grape growing region. Fieri is committed to organic farming, growing pinot noir on the family vineyard. With high-caliber wine experience within footsteps in any direction, Hunt & Ryde’s successful partnership with winemaker Guy Davis produced a 92-point Zinfandel sourced with fruit from three old-vine locations.

In 2012, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie wrapped their arms around the Château Miraval and created a partnership with the Perrin family, a legendary winemaking family in the city of Correns, located in the heart of Provence, France. This historic property continues to produce olive oils and outstanding wines including a 2012 Château Miraval Rosé that scored 90 of 100 points in a blind tasting at Wine Spectator’s New York office.

Accomplished winemaker and French actor Gérard Depardieu is a known wine connoisseur; since his first business foray into wine in 1979, he has provided final approval of any wines being released for bottling and sale from his wineries. He currently owns vineyards throughout France, Algeria, Argentina, Morocco, Spain, Sicily and the United States, producing wines with the Gerard Depardieu Wines seal of approval while continuing his film career.

Geyserville, California, is home to Francis Ford Coppola Winery, created by the famous Italian-American movie director who comes from a long line of family winemakers. Dedicated to sustainability and committed to being much more than a celebrity wine, the namesake’s cinematic prowess is woven through the winery with adventure and entertainment that are paired with signature wines and quality dining options.

Does fan appreciation make these wines any more valuable or of higher quality? Ultimately, all that matters is enjoying what you’re drinking. For most wine lovers, the celebrity bottle of wine is the closest we’ll get to the famous namesake. ■

Sources: blenheimvineyards.com, francisfordcoppolawinery.com, miraval-provence.com mummnapa.com, oregonwinepress.com, ultimatesantana.com and winespectator.com.