Wine Talk: Carlos Santana

Grammy-winning musician has a new gig--guest winemaker at Mumm Napa
Aug 12, 2005

Musician Carlos Santana soared to national prominence as a 22-year-old at the Woodstock Festival in 1969, and his pace hasn't flagged since. He has made a total of 36 albums (All That I Am is due out soon), surpassed 90 million albums sold and earned 10 Grammy awards. Over the last five years, the longtime California resident has grown interested in wine. This year, he partnered with Mumm Napa Valley, working with winemaker Ludovic Dervin to select the blend for a 1,600-case bottling of its top cuvée. A 50-50 mix of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the 1999 Mumm Napa Santana DVX is priced at $55 and scheduled for release in September, when the winery is hosting a Legends of Rock photography exhibit. For each bottle sold, $1 will be donated to the Milagro Foundation, a charity started by Santana and his wife, Deborah, to benefit underprivileged children.

Wine Spectator: How did you get involved with Mumm?

Carlos Santana: They were interested in creating a champagne with us. As you know, from the beginning, this band has been about celebrating--celebrating the blessing of being alive, of being able to will things to happen, the blessing of God's grace. Whether you're Hebrew or Mexican or Japanese, everyone celebrates key points in their life. So when they approached us, it seemed very normal and natural to co-dream to do something together.

WS: Did you enjoy helping create the blend?

CS: I'm very honored that people who have such passion showed me how they do it, what they do and the meticulous care they take. It's a lot like creating music. In music, we talk about how some things--the Beatles, Bob Dylan--strike a universal chord. So over a whole day I tasted [different blends]. And not strangely enough, but coincidentally enough, [my wife and I] selected the same wines [as Ludovic Dervin] without being in the same room. Out of [three flights of six], we picked the same thing.

WS: How did you become interested in wine?

CS: Around the time of the Supernatural tour [in 2000], we were in Maui and tasted Silver Oak. It was like tasting wine for the first time, even after having tasted it for many years. It was like, "Bam!" And I asked what it was, and they said it was a '97 and there wasn't much around. So later I went to the winery, and they showed me their library. Fortunately, they were very gracious and gave [my wife and me] some.

WS: How often do you visit wineries?

CS: We went to Silver Oak in 2000, '02 and last year. That's what my wife and I do to have quality time. We go to Napa and drive around, stay in St. Helena where they have some beautiful hotels. Basically, we go to the same ones. I need to try other places, but we always end up at Silver Oak. There's something about the mom-and-pop feel. We like that kind of intimacy.

WS: What do you enjoy about visiting wine country?

CS: I guess it's a dreamy, romantic thing about me. It's like going backstage; it's magical. I respect Francis Ford Coppola and the Smothers Brothers and all people who make wine because I believe the main quality that you need to have is patience. You can't say, "Voila!" and there it is. You have to have patience, like making crystal out of sand. When I go to wineries and see how hands-on people are, that is how they manifest their light.

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