He's played everything from a compassionate alien (Starman) to an enlightened slacker (The Big Lebowski) to a wealthy horse owner (Seabiscuit). He's also an accomplished musician and photographer. But one pastime Jeff Bridges hasn't had success with yet is making wine from his own vineyard--though not for a lack of trying. Luckily, his own failed attempts didn't stop him from helping to produce a wine for charity. Bridges teamed up with Sonoma's Ledson Vineyards to create a special bottling to benefit the Harmony Foundation for Children, which benefits at-risk and in-need youth. The 2000 Ledson Harmony Collection Meritage bears the name of Bridges' new album, Be Here Soon, and is on sale for $98 at the winery. Bridges doesn't plan to sell any of his homemade vinegar, but he claims to make "splendid" grape juice.
Wine Spectator: How did you get involved with the Harmony project?
Jeff Bridges: I got involved through [musician] Michael McDonald, who is a partner with me in a record label called Ramp. [Ledson Vineyards owner] Steve Ledson contacted Mike and wanted to make a wine for charity, and to name the wine after Mike's album, Blue Obsession. Then he asked if I wanted to do a similar thing with my new album, Be Here Soon.
I think it's great what Steve is doing with the Harmony Foundation and I was very pleased that some of the money could go to the End Hunger Network.
WS: How did you become acquainted with the Ledsons?
JB: Steve owns the house where we shot Tucker. It's the most gorgeous Victorian piece of property. And Tucker was directed by Francis Ford Coppola, who obviously knows his wine. He brought some of his wines in while we were shooting.
And Robin Williams lives on the other side of the hill from Steve. He sends a great box of wine to me every Christmas. Robin and I have shared some really great bottles that way.
WS: Did you have any input on how the Harmony Collection wine would be blended?
JB: The real drinkers in my family are my brother Beau and my sister Cindy. I enjoy wine very much, but I'm not as much of a connoisseur. So they got involved in the Harmony project as well, and we had a gathering at my brother's house. Steve came down and brought some sample wines, and we tasted them and everyone gave input about what to use in the Meritage blend. It was a lot of fun for the family. A year or so later, we were pleasantly surprised by this gorgeous wine in a bottle engraved with the name of my album.
WS: What style of wine do you prefer?
JB: I like wine with a little smokiness to it, with nuts and berries and chocolate notes. I have a little vineyard next to my house in Santa Barbara that is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. I've attempted to make wine from it on my own, but all I've ended up with so far is grape juice and vinegar. Every year, we throw a grape-picking party at our house and make some splendid grape juice. I'd like to get some assistance at some point or take the grapes to a winemaker and have him teach me how to do it.
WS: What brought you to live in Santa Barbara wine country?
JB: [Laughing] The earthquake, about 10 years ago. It shook us out of Los Angeles and we landed up in Santa Barbara. We feel so blessed because it's such a wonderful place. I'm surprised it took us this long to find it, being so close to Los Angeles.