Celebrity wines have been around for as long as I can remember.
We used to showcase an Always Elvis bottle in our San Francisco office in the 1980s. Not sure what kind of wine it was, but it came in a narrow, green Riesling-shaped bottle with the King on the label. Not sure what happened to the bottle, either.
Along the way plenty of famous Hollywood, music and sports stars have gravitated to the wine business.
One of the most famous, and successful, has been Francis Ford Coppola. The filmmaker owns two wineries and is dedicated to making great wines. His Napa Valley property, Rubicon Estate, is in fact the old Inglenook property, and his new, yet unnamed winery in Sonoma (at the former Chateau Souverain facility) promises to make great values.
From Hollywood came comedians Pat Paulson and the Smothers brothers. The late Fred McMurray, who owned land in Sonoma, has a label named after him, McMurray Ranch, made by Gallo.
Marilyn Monroe’s estate has licensed the use of her name and image for her namesake wine label, Marilyn Merlot. And who could forget Fess Parker?
Wine has its allure for racecar drivers, too, among them Mario Andretti, Randy Lewis, Jeff Gordon and Kevin Buckler.
Of late, there’s been a flurry of sports figures and big-name golfers – Arnold Palmer, Greg Norman and Ernie Els, along with a couple of hall-of-famers, football’s Joe Montana and basketball’s Larry Bird. There’s also a label that links skater Peggy Fleming with John Madden.
Let’s not forget musicians. In the past few years we’ve seen labels from Jerry Garcia, Mick Fleetwood and even Frank Sinatra.
The quality of these celebrity wines is, almost entirely, not on par with what these folks achieved in the careers that made them famous.
Montagia is the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon made by Beringer’s Ed Sbragia for Joe Montana. It’s rich and loamy, about what you’d expect from a Sbragia Cabernet. It sells for about $80 and most of the wine is sold exclusively for charity events. A few cases are sold at Beringer.
Mick Fleetwood Private Reserve Santa Barbara Chardonnay and Merlot-based reds. Better not misplace your sticks, Mick. The 1998 red was dull; the 2001 Chardonnay simple.
Jerry Garcia. Both the Sonoma County Cabernet (85 points) and Zinfandel (84) were decent values for $20. His music, even on bootleg recordings, is far superior.
Arnold Palmer. His 2002 Napa Valley Cabernet (85, $15) is solid, like a 250-yard drive straight down the middle of the fairway. Not surprising, since Mike Moone, his friend and golfing buddy, made it at Luna in Napa.
Greg Norman. The Great White Shark knows wine. His 1999 Shiraz South Eastern Australia Reserve (96, $40) made Wine Spectator’s Top 10 in 2004.
Larry Bird. This wine, made and sold under the Cosentino label, is either a brick or air ball. At $80, it’s like buying a ticket to a big game only to be stuck behind a pole.
Sinatra. The 2001 California Cabernet blend (77, $18) was bad enough to turn you away from wine and onto the hard stuff.
Wilson Fleming. The former Olympic skating star has made some nice Chardonnay, rosé and one Syrah from John Madden’s vineyard in Livermore.
Marilyn Merlot. While this has been a much sought-after item among Monroe worshipers, the wine is usually pretty bland.
When it comes to celebrities, it’s best to cling to their memories and not expect too much from their wines.
Sao Anash — Santa Barbara — June 16, 2006 3:01pm ET
Curtis Fox — June 16, 2006 11:05pm ET
David Nerland — Scottsdale — June 17, 2006 3:31pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — June 17, 2006 3:46pm ET
Christopher Dunn — June 18, 2006 1:04pm ET
Bonnie Wertman — California — June 18, 2006 1:11pm ET
Mark Zukowski — Knights Valley, CA — June 18, 2006 11:48pm ET
Steven Haught — Oklahoma City, OK USA — June 19, 2006 9:32am ET
William Newell — Buffalo, NY — June 19, 2006 12:07pm ET
Jeff Banyas — Ellicott City, MD — June 19, 2006 12:46pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — June 19, 2006 12:52pm ET
Scott Cheney — Michigan — June 20, 2006 2:19am ET
John Decarli — Wilmington, DE — June 20, 2006 9:19pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — June 21, 2006 6:00pm ET
Kirk R Grant — Ellsworth, Maine — June 26, 2006 10:00am ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — June 26, 2006 1:17pm ET
Kirk R Grant — Ellsworth, Maine — June 27, 2006 1:18pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — June 27, 2006 2:05pm ET
Tom Glover — The Woodlands, TX — June 29, 2006 4:40pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — June 29, 2006 5:17pm ET
Tom Glover — The Woodlands, TX — June 30, 2006 3:24pm ET
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