Dennis Haysbert, 54, is an actor in both film (Breach, Jarhead, Far From Heaven) and television (24, The Unit), whose distinctive baritone voice can also be heard during television commercial breaks, asking, "Are you in good hands?" on behalf of an insurance company. Most recently, he played South African president Nelson Mandela in the feature film Goodbye Bafana. Haysbert is also a wine lover and collector who takes advantage of on-location shooting to explore new passions. While at home in Los Angeles, Haysbert sat down with Wine Spectator to talk about his eclectic collection, and his process of learning about wine.
Wine Spectator: When dining out or with friends, is there a particular type of wine you're most likely to order or pour?
Dennis Haysbert: Definitely a red. I'm big on Rhône Valley wines and I like Bordeaux. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is an absolute favorite and not just for special occasions, either; I'll pull it out whenever.
I like a lot of wines from Château Beaucastel and Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe, too. I just love deep, meaty, full wines … wines that you'd have with red meat. And there are some red wines I'd have with fish, too, something a little lighter like a Shiraz or maybe a Merlot blend. There was a great wine that I had when filming Goodbye Bafana in South Africa, a Diemersfontein Pinotage, which had an amazing clove finish to it. I'm not sure I've ever tasted clove in a glass before. I loved it so much that I ordered a case the next day and had it shipped back to the States. It never arrived, so somebody out there is enjoying it. [Laughs.] I've had trouble finding a South African Pinotage here in Los Angeles, although I've found other South African wines.
WS: Are there any specific wines that you keep on hand for everyday enjoyment or impromptu guests?
DH: It changes a lot, and what I have in the cellar right now is pretty eclectic. It ranges from 2002 Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve and a 2004 Groth Oakville Cabernet to some Italian and French wines. I really like the 2004 Château Bellevue Mondotte and I've got a 2001 Ceretto Barolo Bricco Rocche. I've also got some 1998 Montecillo Rioja Gran Reserva.
WS: You travel around the globe pretty extensively for movie roles, film festivals and golf tournaments. Do you find yourself bringing home new wines you've discovered, or trying to locate them once you're back stateside?
DH: I'm someone who asks a lot of questions. I'm not afraid to look dumb or to admit I'm not familiar with a wine. Whether I'm out of the country or not, I'll take recommendations from a sommelier or a waiter and if it's great, I'll order it by the case. There was that Pinotage in South Africa, and that's also how I discovered the 2005 Firriato Chiaramonte Nero D'Avola. I ordered a case of it from a restaurant in Pasadena that had it on their wine list.
WS: You grew up in Northern California. Any wines from that area on your radar?
DH: Absolutely. I'm constantly looking for great stuff out of Napa and Sonoma. My best friend from college planned a birthday weekend for me. We [and our spouses] went up to Healdsburg, had picnics and hung out at Lambert Bridge winery where I tried a 2006 Viognier that I liked. It was the "reddest" white wine I've ever had.
My tastes tend to go toward the richer blends. I love the reds coming out of Stag's Leap and Silver Oak, and I particularly like Heitz Cellars' Napa Valley Cabernet, which they say was fermented in a "cauldron of chocolate." [Laughing.] It's both about taste and poetry.
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