Since his days with Chicago's Second City improv troupe and Saturday Night Live, Jim Belushi has branched out from comedy into acting and music. He stars with Damon and Marlon Wayans in the upcoming film Behind the Smile, and he currently has his own ABC sitcom, According to Jim, now in its fourth season. On TV, the Illinois-born actor stars as a Midwestern family man who plays the blues with a garage band. And when he's not in front of the camera, Belushi is entertaining crowds with his real-life band, The Sacred Hearts, or back-flipping with buddy Dan Aykroyd as the Blues Brothers.
Belushi credits much of his fine wine education to his wife, Jennifer, and her winemaking family. Wine Spectator caught up with him as he geared up to perform with his crew this coming weekend at the Grand Award banquet at this year's California Wine Experience in Chicago.
Wine Spectator: How did you become interested in wine?
Jim Belushi: I'm very fortunate because my stepfather-in-law is Robert Sinskey [of Napa Valley's Sinskey Vineyards]. I drink a lot of his wines, and he has quite a wine collection. He brought out some 1985 Château Margaux for our wedding, for all of the guests. That's a lot of Margaux. At his 80th birthday party this year, he broke out a lot of great wine: Margaux, Mouton, Pétrus, some very old Heitz. It was unbelievable.
Many of my experiences tasting wine are also because of James Orr, the writer/director of a movie I did called Mr. Destiny. He picked all of the wine at my first wedding.
WS: It sounds like you have expensive tastes, then.
JB: I can't drink a ton of wine, because I get gout. I don't really care for overly fruity wines. I like more delicate wines. The other day we had a bottle of Newton unfiltered Cabernet. It was really good.
WS: Do you keep a collection at home?
JB: I have a little collection--a lot of Opus One, which is one of my favorites, some Lafite I've been saving for years, and quite a bit of Sinskey Pinot Noir, of course.
WS: Do you spend a lot of time in wine country?
JB: I go to Robert's winery about two or three times a year. Napa is the most beautiful part of California. I've spent a lot of time in the vineyards, learning about making organic wine. This year I was there in the middle of harvest and we tasted the different grapes--and my Lord, each grape tasted like a bottle of wine. ... There were Pinot vineyards where they really stressed the vines like they do in France, and that makes such a difference.
WS: Any favorite wine-drinking memories?
JB: One time, around 1990, I went to the Cannes Film Festival. We went up to the La Colombe d'Or Hotel in St.-Paul-de-Vence, which has an extensive wine and art collection. It's where guys like Picasso used to stay, and to pay their fee for staying in the hotel, they'd leave a painting with the owner. So I told our waiter to bring us a really nice bottle of wine. He brought me a bottle, and I tasted it and I said, "I don't like it." He looked at me like, "You dumb American pig." I said, "Look, all I know is that I don't like it." He went downstairs and came back with a bottle of 1983 Château Moulin-St.-Georges [a Bordeaux from St.-Emilion]. Amazing. I thought I was doing mescaline. It had been so many years since I had done mescaline, but I think he was so pissed off at me he wanted to make sure he sent me on a trip.