Chris Noth may be most recognizable for his roles on Law & Order, Sex and the City and The Good Wife, but offscreen, the Golden Globe-nominated actor is a nightclub owner and a wine lover. Noth, 57, grew up in New York and Connecticut, studying theater at the Yale School of Drama before beginning a 31-year career that has notched him more than 50 acting credits. In 1999, he opened the Cutting Room, a Manhattan rock club, which moved to a new location this past fall.
Noth, who has long focused on environmental charities, recently teamed with California's Beaulieu Vineyard (BV) for its Give & Give Back campaign, which supports outreach for hunger relief in American cities. He recently sat down with Wine Spectator to discuss his favorite wines, how trendiness is endangering the spirit of old New York and why there's so much on-screen wine-drinking on The Good Wife.
Wine Spectator: How did you get into wine?
Chris Noth: You don't have much of a palate at drinking age, so any wine was more of a bacchanalian celebration than anything else. It takes a while to learn. The best way is to have a friend who has good taste. I had one: Hal Irving, one of the biggest liquor salesmen in New York. He had an impeccable understanding of wine. He gave me some Grand Cru Bordeaux that was just like: "This is Napoleonic wine."
WS: Do you normally drink California wine, like BV? CN: I do. But I like French wines too. My background in terms of my father's family is Alsatian. It's difficult with Alsatian wine because it gets really sweet, but if you can find a Riesling that's not a dessert wine—fantastic. I'm getting tired of the whole Pinot Noir thing. I like it, but the hardest thing to do is find a good Cabernet. The other thing I've discovered is Merlot. The biggest lie from [Sideways] is that Merlot is shit. Merlot is a real wine, and it's a good wine. I order Merlot a lot in restaurants.
WS: The new location for your rock club, the Cutting Room, will have a full bar but also a wine list and a kitchen. Aren't rock clubs more of a beer-and-liquor thing? CN: When you have a good bottle of wine, often people will go to it rather than having a round of cocktails. What I don't want is the vodka-and-Red Bull crowd.
WS: Are you a big cook? CN: I make good salads. I love different kinds of olive oil. From the south of France to Greece—I like to experiment with all of them. And at my house in California, I've got what they call the Napa Valley grill, which is the true grill. You've got to start it with coal and then wood on top, and when I grill with that, it really makes a difference. Tastes great with wine.
[In New York] I live near a restaurant on 9th Street called the Knickerbocker. They've got a good wine list, but I've been bringing wine there. It's kind of like the downtown Elaine's. A lot of actors and writers gather there. They have a great steak. It's what we used to love about Elaine's: It was a gathering place. It wasn't just a place to eat and get out. It's part of the spirit of the old New York, which isn't a fast-food mentality. A lot of New York has been death-by-trendiness. We've lost a lot.
WS: You play a lawyer on The Good Wife and there's lots of wine featured in scenes on the show. Is it because lawyers are supposed to like wine? CN: We're always pouring wine. My character is always giving [Julianna Margulies, Noth's on-screen wife] a glass of red before we fight. I think it's more of an adult thing. It requires more to drink wine than just sip a bottle. The Scots, who are enamored of whisky, call vodka a "tasteless, odorless drink for idiots." Wine asks a little bit more of you. Like a good cigar.