Three years ago, actress and singer-songwriter Mary J. Blige wanted to know where the best Pinot Grigio in the world came from, so she asked an Italian friend where to find it. The nine-time Grammy winner and Oscar nominee was led to the Friuli/Venezia-Giulia region in northeast Italy.
“Wine tasting has become one of my passions,” Blige told Unfiltered via email, “and Pinot Grigio is undoubtedly one of my favorite varietals.” With a vision to create a line of wines equal to her passion, she connected with Marco Fantinel, owner of the 700-acre Fantinel estate in Friuli’s Pordenone province. “We worked very well together right away,” Fantinel told Unfiltered. “She’s amazing because she’s on top of every single detail.”
It’s in partnership with Fantinel that Blige has launched her new wine label, Sun Goddess, inspired by her mother's childhood nickname for her. “There’s a lot of Mary’s soul in this wine,” Fantinel said.
“After walking through the vineyards and tasting with the Fantinel family, I felt extremely connected to the place and, more importantly, the people,” Blige said in a statement. “In that moment, I felt the same magical energy I have long tried to capture from the sun and knew this was an incredible opportunity to partner with someone who shared that passion, and together we could try to create something that evoked that feeling.”
And the Sun Goddess debut is no ordinary Pinot Grigio. In the spirit of achieving a truer northeastern Italian expression of the grape, Blige and Fantinel have joined the ranks of Friuli producers reviving the ramato winemaking tradition—a skin-contact method that is not quite rosé, not quite orange wine. “We did skin contact for 12 hours in small tanks at low temperature in order to extract the color and even a little bit of tannins and acidity,” Fantinel said.
Blige was also impressed by the quality of the Sauvignon Blancs at Fantinel, and a more conventionally styled white made the cut for the Sun Goddess lineup as well. The debut 2019s of the Sun Goddess Pinot Grigio Ramato (15,000 cases) and Sauvignon Blanc (5,000 cases) are each priced at $20.