Celebrity Wines: Actors, Athletes, Rock Stars, and Icons Become Winemakers in Droves
Be they Ghostbusters, Oscar Winners, Porn Stars, Bond Girls, Icons, Divas, Policemen, Material Girls, Rock'n'Roll Hall of Famers, Race Car Drivers, Golfers, Quarterbacks, or Cy Young Winners, they all have one common bond: Winemaker. Celebrity winemakers come in many varieties with some being oenophiles dedicated to their pursuit of fine winemaking (Sam Neill, Tom Seaver, Terry Hoage) while others are seemingly slapping their brand on yet another product (KISS, Barry Manilow, Elvis). In the interest of celebrity obsession, we combed the internet to bring you the following list of rock stars, actors, and athletes turned winemaker.
Sam Neill - The actor, known for his roles in Jurassic Park and The Piano, started Two Paddocks in 1993 focusing on Pinot Noir.
Dan Aykroyd - Partnering with California's DeLoach Vineyards, Aykroyd's eponymous wine label produces cabernet merlot, chardonnay, cabernet shiraz, sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, and riesling. With a "no snob" attitude towards wine, his wines are priced affordably; a welcome relief in a world where celebrities routinely charge north of $75 for their wine. Gives new meaning to the Coneheads mantra "consume mass quantities".
Lorraine Bracco - In 2008, Actress Lorainne Bracco (Goodfellas, The Soprano's), launched Bracco Wines, a line of high end Italian wines. Of course, it goes without saying that there needs to be a Soprano Cabernet Sauvignon, a big, fat, in-your-face cab (Magnum of course).
Francis Ford Coppola - Perhaps the first celebrity winemaker to "hit the local wine store", Filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola entered the wine business in the late 70's. The Francis Ford Coppola Winery produces dozens of wines and can be usually be found in your local grocery store's wine section.
Savanna Samson - While working at famed New York strip club Scores in the 90's, adult film star Savana Samson met and eventually married Daniel Oliveros, a Manhattan wine merchant. A passion for wine sparked and through her husband she met Roberto Cipresso, a noted Italian winemaker and consultant. Her first wine, an Italian red bland called Sogno Uno (Dream One) drew rave reviews and even received a 91 score from famed wine critic Robert Parker, a score that quickly became the hot gossip of the wine industry. Her second wine is an Italian white called Sogno Due (Dream Two).
Sofia Coppola - Francis Ford Coppola winery produces and distributes a riesling, a rosé, and a blanc de blanc sparkler under the brand name "Sophia", in honor of his daughter Sophia Coppola, the Academy Award nominated filmmaker. Interestingly they also produce "Sophia Mini's", high end cans of blanc de blanc sparking wine aimed at the Sex & the City crowd.
Carole Bouquet - French actress, model, and former Bond girl Carole Bouquet acquired land in the Italian island of Pantelleria, where she produces Sangue de Oro, a sweet, golden white known as "passito".
Gerard Depardieu - In the mid-90's, the French actor was taken so much by an Alain Paret Condrieu that he partnered with the famous winemaker to produce Lys de Volan Condrieu.
Fess Parker - A 50's pop culture icon for his roles portraying Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett, Fess Parker entered the wine business in 1989. His family now farms almost 700 acres on four vineyards in California's Central Coast focusing on Pinot Noir, Syrah, Viognier, and Chardonnay. A bit of movie trivia: The infamous dump bucket scene in Sideways was filmed at Fess Parker however they changed the name to Frass Canyon for the movie.
Marilyn Monroe - Marilyn Monroe's image is as recognizable as the Golden Arches so it isn't surprising to find a Marilyn wine. In production since 1985, Napa's Marilyn Wines produces a range of Marilyn themed wines with clever names like Marilyn Merlot and Sauvignon Blonde. Some older vintages run in the hundreds of dollars.
Rock Stars & Pop Stars
Olivia Newton John - The Australian sweetheart launched a wine company, Koala Blue Wines, in the 1990's and early 2000's focusing on Chardonnay and Shiraz. It's uncertain whether there are any plans for new vintages.
Jerry Garcia - In the early 2000's, Deborah Koons Garcia, Jerry's third wife, partnered with Clos du Bois Winery to produce wine with labels featuring the art work of the late Grateful Dead guitarist. 2006 was the last vintage released but the wines can still be found at many wine retailers.
Sting - In 2009 Sting announced the production of 30,000 bottles of wine from vineyards on his 900 acre Italian estate, Il Palagio. The wines were expected to be released for public sale in 2010 though no "message on the bottle" as of yet regarding the label.
Mick Fleetwood - Entered the wine business in 1998 with the goal of bottling and distributing his own eponymous brand of wines made from grapes from across the globe. Released wines hot and heavy up until the mid 2000's when new releases stopped abruptly. A shame considering Mick seemed to be one of the few celebrity winemakers with genuine wine enthusiasm.
Barry Manilow - Like many celebs, Manilow launched his own line of wines in the pre-recession 2000's only to cease production as interest waned with the economic downturn. Manilow's foray into wine was driven more by marketing than any deep sided passion for winemaking.
Madonna - Madonna's father Tony Ciccone owns and operates Ciccone Vineyards and Winery in Suttons Bay, Michigan. In the mid-2000's he paid tribute with a limited production Madonna wine series - a pinot grigio, cabernet franc, chardonnay, pinot noir, and gewurztraminer- each with labels adorned with original artwork from Madonna's album jackets. While the wines have long ago sold out - no plans have been made for a new series- the wines can still be found online. The best part? Like a true good parent should, Papa Ciccone honored is uber famous daughter with a special limited edition of his best wine offered for sale at a reasonable price, a refreshing story in an age when parents of famous children routinely maximize dollars at the expense of the child.
Dave Matthews - In 2000, jam band icon Dave Matthews established Blenheim Vineyards in his native Virginia, an organic winery with a range of affordable wines available for purchase.
Mariah Carey - At the 2010 Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala, Mariah announced (via Twitter of course) her new line of Angel Champagne (Rosé) by MC. No word on release dates.
Barbra Streisand/Kiss/Rolling Stones/Madonna/Celine Dion/Foghat - Never again will you see these six artists referenced in the same paragraph. Their foray into wine is a pure licensing deal. Celebration Cellars has partnered with these celebs to market some quite nice etched bottles using the star's logo and imagery. They even offer artists specific wine clubs (though you have to be one serious collector to want dozens and dozens of bottles of Celine Dion branded wine). The wine itself is provided by Southern California's Miramonte Winery. The real question is...Foghat? Really? Foghat belongs in the same portfolio as Barbra Streisand, Kiss, the Stones, Madonna, and Celine Dion? Are their really that many die hard Foghat fans out there willing to pay north of $50 a bottle for a Foghat branded Cabernet Sauvignon? Fool for the City indeed.
Vince Neil - In 2005, Neil founded Vince Vineyards, a winemaking venture that produced a 2003 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2003 Sonoma County Chardonnay. He also produces a limited edition Petite Sirah through EOS Estate Winery. No further vintages were released and it appears the Motley Crue frontman has changed the focus of his beverage business interests to tequila given the 2007 launched of his own brand of tequila, "Tres Rios."
Elvis Presley - The heirs to the King's estate have never been shy about licensing his name and image. In the mid-2000's Elvis Presley Enterprises partnered with Signature Wines to form Graceland Cellars, a brand designed to pay tribute to the King (and let's face it, rake in the cash too). The most compelling part of this venture was the creative names: Blue Suede Chardonnay, The King Cabernet Sauvignon, Jailhouse Red Merlot (as opposed to white merlot?), All Shook Up™ California Brut Champagne, Blue Christmas™ Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and the best, Velvet Elvis Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (sold only in 1.5 Liter magnums) which featured a velvet-textured label with an image of Elvis performing his ’68 Comeback Special and came encased in a sleek black and purple velvet-lined box. Who doesn't want a cab with a velvet label? Like many celeb wines, new vintages ceased post-recession but for those fans of the King who missed out the first time, Elvis wines can still be found in the secondary retail market.
Sir Cliff Richard - The "British Elvis" owns a Quinta in Portugal, Adega do Cantor (“Winery of the Singer”) that produces a range of well received wines.
Greg Norman - In the mid 90's the Great White Shark became the Great Wine Shark when he partnered with Berringer Blass to launch Greg Norman Estates wineries. Though Norman neither participates in the making of the wines nor owns the vineyards from which the grapes are harvested, he is apparently quite involved in the venture. His wines are widely distributed and available in most grocery store wine sections and wine retailers.
Ernie Els - In 1999, Els partnered with longtime friend Jean Engelbrecht to establish Engelbrecht Els Vineyards in Stellenbosch, South Africa. In 2004, they opened their own state of the art wine facility. Specializing in Bordeaux style blends, Ernie Els (the wine, not the golfer) easily ranks among the best of celebrity wines.
Luke Donald - Luke Donald's foray into wine is the result of a long time friendship between the top-ranked golfer and fine wine professional Bill Terlato of the family-owned Terlato Wine Group. In 2008 they released their first wine, a Claret-style red wine blend followed by a Carneros Chardonnay released in spring 2009. The grapes used in crafting Luke Donald Claret are 100% Napa Valley fruit, sourced primarily from renowned vineyards in the Rutherford and Stags Leap District appellations, know for consistently delivering wines of exceptional quality year after year. The Luke Donald Chardonnay is classically Burgundian in style and comes from a lovely sloped vineyard facing San Pablo Bay, the coolest part of Carneros.
Jeff Gordon - Like many a celebrity, NASCAR star Jeff Gordon sped full throttle into winemaking as the economy roared in the mid-2000's, releasing a Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Merlot, and a Red Blend. However unlike many celebs, production did not cease as the great recession squeezed the disposable income of many Americans. To Gordon's credit, his venture into wine appears legitimate with the goal to make and distribute good, well-made wines unlike many celebs who simply slap their name on any bottle of plonk. Let's hope we see them take advantage of the rich imagery of auto racing. A "Red Flag Cabernet" or "Victory Lane Pinot Noir" anyone?
Terry Hoage - The former NFL star, Georgia All-American, and Heisman Trophy candidate is a rarity in that he may just end up being more famous for his quality wines than he ever was for football. After his playing career ended, Hoage purchased a 26-acre Paso Robles vineyard and started producing Rhone style varietals. His wines have garnered increasingly more praise among wine enthusiasts including famed wine critic Robert Parker who raved in an 09 issue of Wine Advocate that Hoage's wines "were the kind of wine the Central Coast should be producing more." Georgia fans can rest easy that Hoage has not forgotten his football roots as his wines - "The Gap" Cuvee Blanc, "Bam Bam" Estate Rose, "The Pick" Cuvee, "The 46" Grenache-Syrah, "The Hedge" Syrah 2007, "5 Blocks" Cuvee 2007, and "Skins" Grenache 2007 - all pay homage to his glorious football past.
Tom Seaver - A three time Cy Young Award Winner and a Baseball Hall of Famer, Tom Terrific started his own 3.5 acre vineyard on his 116 acre Diamond Mountain estate in California's Napa Valley in 2002. Focusing on high end Cabernet Sauvignon, Seaver's first release in 2007 garnered positive reviews.
Joe Montana - In the late 90's and early 2000's, Montana partnered with Beringer to produce Cabernet Sauvignon called Montagia. A limited production wine, it was used primarily for charitable purposes. No word if there are any plans for future releases.
Mario Andretti - The Formula One racing legend founded his eponymous Napa Valley winery in 1996. The winery and tasting room is a popular destination spot for wine country tourists.
Wayne Gretzky - "The Great One" launched his own winery, #99 Estates, that produces a series of wines including some award winning Ice Wines. in 2009, Gretzky's Unoaked Chardonnay and Cabernet Merlot were reviewed on IntoWineTV.
Dick Vermeil - In 2009, NFL coaching legend Dick Vermeil partnered with longtime friend and OnThEdge Winery founder Paul Smith to launch Vermeil Wines. Currently they produce a Cabernet Franc, two Zinfandels, a Sauvignon Blanc, a Charbono, a Red Blend and a Cabernet Sauvignon. Unlike so many celeb wines, this endeavor appears to be genuinely about making good wine for people who love good wine. Vermeil Wines even has a tasting room open to the public in Calistoga. An aside: Die hard football fans may recall Coach Vermeil getting into hot water with NFL brass over a bottle of wine. As coach of the Chiefs once told kicker (and fellow wine enthusiast) Morten Andersen that he would give him a bottle of Bryant Family Cabernet Sauvignon (valued at around $500) if he converted the game winning kick. Andersen delivered but NFL executives quickly reprimanded Vermeil as the reward constituted extra compensation and was there fore a violation of league salary rules. Rumor has it the bottle managed to anonymously find its way in to Andersen's locker.
Carmen Policy - As architect of the San Francisco 49ers football dynasty, it's no surprise Carmen Policy eventually moved across the Bay to Napa Valley to pursue winemaking. Launched in 2006. Policy's Casa Piena focuses on small lot Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Currently the wines are only available to Casa Piena club members.
Drew Bledsoe - The former star NFL quarterback returned to his home state of Washington to plant vineyards in both Columbia Valley and Walla Walla. In 2008 he launched how own winery, Doubleback, and in 2010 released the first vintage, a Cabernet Sauvignon.
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