Gossip and entertainment magazines refer to it as the latest celebrity trend. Many stars have gotten into the wine business, snapping up vineyards, signing their names to labels, and in many cases making the wine themselves. Sure, several stars endorse fashion lines, makeup, and perfume and many have a hand in the design, colour, or scent of the products that bear their names. But there is something a little more awe-inspiring in making wine, a little more august, or noble. It calls upon a specific kind of knowledge; winemakers have to know about soil, and how the air surrounding it, the climate of a region, and other factors affect grapevines from year to year. Some celebrities simply buy the wineries and then sit back and reap the profits while the real winemakers take care of the product. Others take it upon themselves to learn the craft, to cultivate the varietals of grapes by themselves, and get involved in the winemaking process beginning to end. For some it’s just a hobby. For others it’s a lifetime passion. Some of the actors and rock stars who have their own wines may be surprising. For instance, Australian rock band AC/DC has gotten into the wine business, with whites and reds named for several of their songs. Whitesnake has its own Zinfandel, which singer David Coverdale describes as “a bodacious, cheeky little wine, filled to the brim with the spicy essence of sexy, slippery, Snakeyness.” Even the band Kiss has their own “bold and fruity” Zinfandel, which they call “Zin Fire Wine.” Below are a few celebrities who have indulged their winemaking passion.
10 Gerard Depardie
French actor Gerard Depardieu is probably the king of the celebrity wine industry with several wineries in France, Algeria, Argentina, Spain, Morocco, Italy, and the U.S. He’s been in the wine business for upwards of 30 years. Although he doesn’t actually make the wine (he leaves that to his partner, vintner Bernard Magrez), he is an expert taster. And apparently no Gerard Depardieu-owned wines leave the press without his approval. He is behind at least 13 wines of excellent reputation. They have been described as “powerful and modern with intense oak.” That intensity is not to Depardieu’s personal taste, but he recognizes that it’s what people like and want.
9 Jonathan Cain
Don’t Stop Believin’ was probably the first big pop song to put Glee on the map, which did as much for Journey and Don’t Stop Believin’ as both had done for Glee. Jonathan Cain is Journey’s keyboard player and, as he writes on his own Twitter profile, “the dude who wrote Don’t Stop Believin’.” Aside from making songs that age well, Cain also makes wine that ages well. The Marin, California musician has been making wine since 2006. Wine runs in the Cain family; his grandfather, who immigrated from what was once Czechoslovakia, made wine. Cain planted a vineyard on his land some years ago, and partnered with a friend to form the De la Cain Winery. He seems to favour the pinot varietals.
8 Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie
The winner for the best rosé in the world… Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Some years ago Brangelina bought a vineyard in the south of France called Chateau Miraval. Though the estate is already known for its wines, Brad and Angelina have so far brought out only two vintages Cotes de Provence is their first rosé. It’s expected to be in stores and restaurants over the next few weeks, and is described as “charmingly pretty in colour,” “a delicate structure that deepens through the palate,” powerful and elegant, with a “mouth-watering finish.”
7 Dave Matthews
Dave Matthews bought the Blenheim farm in Virginia, because of its historical significance; Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Jefferson had stayed there in the 1700s. A year later he planted some grapevines and founded the Blenheim Vineyard. The main building was designed, in part by Matthews, and several of the wine labels are also drawn by him. The vineyard and several of its wines have received critical acclaim. Fans and wine lovers can go to Blenheim and enjoy tastings and live music, of course.
6 Dan Aykroyd
Dan Aykroyd recently came through Montreal, stopping in at Bell radio stations CJAD and CHOM. Sure, he talked about SNL and The Blues Brothers. But he was there to shill his latest product, Crystal Head Vodka. It’s a corn-based vodka made with glacier water from, of all places, Newfoundland. But Aykroyd has been making wines for a few years, too, having founded the Dan Aykroyd Winery just a few years ago in Lincoln, Ontario in the Niagara region, where so many world class wines are made. His wines are available all over Canada and range from $15 to $100 per bottle.
Sting may have been duped into buying Villa Il Palagio vineyard in Tuscany, Italy. The duke that he purchased it from had him taste some wine which, for Sting, was the closer. It turns out the wine Sting tasted was not made on his newly-purchased vineyard, but imported from France. Not to be outdone, Sting brought in a vintner, and they uprooted and replanted, and the tantric former lead singer of The Police now produces 3 reds, 2 of them named for Sting songs. One of those, a Chianti called When We Dance, has been described by Wine Exchange (www.winex.com) as “a pleasing core of cherry fruit mixed with notes of fresh wild herbs and earthy spice. As with any good Chianti, it is balanced nicely with bright acidity and ripe tannins.” Perhaps he just needed something to do with those “hundred million bottles washed up on the shore.”
4 Emilio Estevez
Malibu, California is not supposed to a great place for producing wine. Still, one day actor Emilio Estevez got it into his head to plant vines all over his property and start making wine. The result is the Casa Dumetz winery. They make their own Pinot Noir (Estevez and his wife, actor-writer Sonja Magdevski, tend the vines themselves), but they bring in other wines from other regions nearby. Their wines range in cost from $28-$35, and have been described as “unbelievable,” “spectacular,” and “absolutely fabulous.”
3 Johnny Depp
Wine, women, and song describe Johnny Depp to a tee. He famously sports a tattoo on his upper right arm that reads “Wino Forever,” edited from “Winona Forever” after he broke up with Winona Ryder. Years later he bought long-time partner Vanessa Paradis a vineyard in the south of France. And it did have winemaking facilities, but at first no wine was made their. None of Depp’s grapes were ever used by local wineries. But Depp did try his own hand at winemaking for a while, crushing the grapes and bottling the wine himself. No word as to whether he still makes wine, or what happened to the vineyard after he and Paradis broke up.
2 Drew Barrymore
Drew Barrymore spent time in rehab as a young girl for a drinking habit that has affected several generations of Barrymores. You would think a recovered alcoholic, especially one who started drinking at the age of 9, would stay as far away from booze as possible. But Drew, who has said she loves wine, has since become a winemaker! Barrymore Wines has produced a prize-winning Pinot Grigio made from grapes that are grown and pressed at her facility in a northern Italian region known for its fruity wines. Perhaps it’s a tribute, or perhaps it’s to thumb her nose at past generations of Barrymore drinkers, but the label on her bottles was designed to incorporate the Barrymore family crest.
Fergie’s sultry voice sings Velvet to you from the homepage of Ferguson Crest Wines. The Black Eyed Peas singer started the winery with her father in California’s Santa Ynez Valley in 2006. Stacy Ann Ferguson has been around wine her whole life, and could even distinguish a few in a blind taste test as a child! Ferguson Crest makes a handful of favourably-reviewed wines, including a red wine blend called Fergalicious, named for another one of Fergie’s songs. It’s been described by the Hollywood Reporter as “lush and exuberant with a mineral freshness that keeps the raspberry and black cherry flavors right on point.” Fergie and husband actor Josh Duhamel have been known to crush the grapes themselves… by foot.