For many celebrities, fame offers a chance to lose staggering amounts of money in a winery. For others, the wine business is paying off. Celebrity wine makers have about one per cent of the American wine market, adding about $42 million per year to their wealth, up almost 20 per cent from last year.
More Acceptable than a Severed Horse’s Head
Francis Ford Coppola, famed movie direc- tor with five Oscars, entered the wine business in 1975 with money he earned from the first “Godfather” film. His Rubicon winery makes a collectible $125 red blend.
His daughter, Sofia, who directed “Lost in Translation” and also won an Oscar, has her name on Sofia Blanc de Blancs, a sparkling white wine in 187-milliliter shocking-pink cans, each complete with its own straw.
Coppola’s wines vary from the delicious to the “why did I buy that?”
The Wine Harper Wouldn’t Like (But I Did) In the months before he died in 2008, Paul Newman released 80,000 cases of Newman’s Own Wines, adding to his extensive line of foods. Newman’s Own has donated over $200 million to charities, because Newman said, “You can only put away so much stuff in your closet.” His main regret: his salad dressing was out-grossing his films.
Remick = Smothers
Tom Smothers, the brother who pretended to be constantly confused, is a dedi- cated wine maker whose business card today simply says “Farmer.”
Tom told me that the original Smothers Brothers Winery became Remick Ridge because, “We were getting ripped because of the name. People were saying it was ‘a fine wine with funny finish.’ The named sounded like Milton Berle Fine Wine or the Three Stooges Cabernet.”
The almost-secret Smothers association means that the quality of Remick Ridge wines is what counts, and they are stunningly good, especially the Remick Ridge Merlot from Marcy’s Vineyard, named after Tom’s third wife and produced in a vineyard that was Marcy’s wedding present.
King of the Not-So-Wild vine
Fess Parker, the television star who played Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, produces admired Syrahs, Chardonnays, and Pinot Noirs near Santa Barbara, where he also owns two hotels. His wines are not filtered through a coonskin cap.
Bruce Cohn, manager of the Doobie Brothers, produces prize-winning, deli- cious wines including marvelous Cabernet Sauvignons at his B. R. Cohn vine- yards. Proceeds from his Doobie Red (three pack for $96) go to the National Veterans Foundation. Fortunately no critic has associated his wines with the Doobie Brothers hit “Black Water.”
Still Presumed Grateful
Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead continues to make wine long after pass- ing into the eternal rock concert in the sky in 1995. J. Garcia wines, with labels featuring his paintings, are produced by Clos du Bois, a winery known for good- tasting wines at acceptable prices.
Stars and the fruits of their grapes:
David Beckham bought a vineyard in Napa for his wife Victoria on her 34th birthday. The vineyard is, of course, Posh.
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have signed a three-year rental agreement for a secluded wine estate in Provence, although for now they are apparently planning to produce children rather than wine.
TV’s Perry Mason, Raymond Burr, didn’t want his lifetime partner to name the vineyard after him. Ignoring the actor’s final wishes, Burr winery produces prize-winning wines 15 years after his death.
Motley Crue’s Vince Neil creates 10,000+ cases of wine a year. While Neil was on tour with Aerosmith in 2003, a vineyard bus followed the tour bus, allowing Neil to visit distributors between performances.
The modest Russian River Valley ranch belonging to actor Fred Mac- Murray, star of Disney’s “The Shaggy Dog” and “The Absent-Minded Profes- sor,” became a winery after his death. It is controlled by the Gallo family.
Indianapolis 500 champion race driver Mario Andretti, who teamed with a former CEO of K-Mart to create premium wines, has a 4,000+ member wine club. In 2007, Andretti’s 2004 Napa Valley Merlot took the gold- medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, beating 3,300 wines.
Graceland Cellars produces an Elvis Presley wine, with a label picturing the younger, thinner Elvis.
When Paris Hilton posed nude for the label of a canned Prosecco, a spar- kling Italian wine, Italians were upset that the wine was in a can.
Lorraine Bracco, who played Tony Soprano’s psychiatrist on HBO’s “The Sopranos,” has a beautiful Brunello and a so-so Pinot Grigio that recalled childhood nightmares for me.
French actor Gérard Dépardieu, with vineyards in France, Spain, Argentina and Morocco, offers a wine named Cyrano. It is said to have a good nose.
Mike Ditka, former coach of the Chicago Bears, offers a Zinfandel- Syrah-Petite Sirah blend called Kick Ass Red.
Golfer Greg Norman, who also markets a line of eponymous sod, has a Shiraz that has been praised, although drinking it before a game may do nothing for your golf score.
Other celebrity wine creators include Martha Stewart; Pixar guru John Lasseter; golfers Luke Donald, Nick Faldo, Mike Weir, Ernie Els and Arnold Palmer; David Frost; Dan Ackroyd; singers/rockers Bob Dylan (who produces a $70 wine), Madonna, Sting, Olivia Newton-John, Cliff Richard, Carlos Santana, Mick Fleet- wood, Simply Red’s Mick Hucknail and Boz Scaggs; figure skater Peggy Flem- ing; quarterbacks Joe Montana and Brett Favre; Robert Redford; Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi; NASCAR mogul Richard Childress and race car drivers Jeff Gordon and Randy Lewis.
At this time, there are no wines produced by Miley Cyrus or Abigail Breslin (“Little Miss Sunshine”), but wine making might be in their future. They just need a little aging.