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Wine Talk: Josh Groban's Pinot Noir Philanthropy

The internationally renowned singer and newly minted Netflix star gets hands-on making wine with a boutique Sonoma producer to help fund his arts-education charity
With a starring role in the new show
Photo by: Brian Bowen Smith
With a starring role in the new show "The Good Cop," Josh Groban is a triple threat: singer, actor, vintner.

Lexi Williams
Posted: September 21, 2018

Note: This interview has been updated from its original version, which appeared in the Oct. 15 & 31, 2017, issue of Wine Spectator, "New York City: A Wine Lover's Guide."

With worldwide album sales surpassing 30 million copies, four Grammy nominations and consistently sold-out shows on some of the world's biggest stages, Josh Groban has been a star vocalist since his teens, with singles like "You Raise Me Up" making him a household name. Since then, he's been adding even more titles to his impressive résumé, including actor, philanthropist … and vintner.

Groban's big wine break came in 2017 when he met Sonoma boutique winery owner Ross Halleck, who offered to make a limited-edition wine to benefit Groban's arts-education charity, the Find Your Light Foundation. Since then, the original 2014 vintage and current 2015 vintage of the Find Your Light Pinot Noir have together raised $125,000 from 250 cases produced.

Groban, 37, now regularly visits Halleck's Sebastopol, Calif., winery himself to learn more about winemaking—and make his wine. In May, he was on hand to help assemble the 2017 Find Your Light blend, made primarily with grapes from the Haas Vineyard in the Sonoma Mountain AVA.

With his new album, Bridges, and Netflix show with Tony Danza, The Good Cop, both set to come out Sept. 21, Groban spoke with assistant editor Lexi Williams about learning the tricks of blending after a few vintages' experience, how he caught the wine bug, and what wine and food sacrifices he has to make on tour.

Lysbett Valles
Josh Groban on a May 2018 visit to Halleck, when he helped blend the 2017 Find Your Light Pinot Noir.

Wine Spectator: When did you first get into wine?
Josh Groban: Uh, when I was 16 years old—is that illegal? No, I'm just kidding. I guess in my mid-20s. I had a lot of people around me, people that I worked with, that were really knowledgeable about wine. I enjoyed hanging with sommeliers and asking them endless questions.

WS: How did you become more deeply involved to the point where you wanted to try actually making wine?
JG: There are a lot of parallels between the wine community and the music community—the attention to detail, the importance of the craft of it and the way in which it's made. I started to connect with [the wine] world just as an amateur wine-loving fan. I would drive up to Napa with my dog and meet with people who were, at the time, [starting] new wineries. And it's fun, because those wineries wind up becoming, you know, Hourglass and D.R. Stephens, and a lot of other places. It's been a lot of fun to learn about wine, to collect, to get involved. It's a passion.

[The Find Your Light collaboration] happened as sometimes the most serendipitous things happen. My manager was talking to a friend, and that person mentioned Ross and his winery. We found out that he was an amazing guy and that he shared a passion for arts education. We reached out to him and asked if there was any way he'd like to collaborate, and he stepped up.

WS: Now that you've had two blending sessions under your belt for the 2016 and '17, do you feel like your winemaking know-how is improving?
JG: The blending this time around was quicker, because we went through such an exhausting blend the first time around, where we had 15 glasses laid out, and we really tried so many different percentages and so many different types of barrels and different vineyards and different lots. I was so interested, [and] because it was my first time doing it, I think I kind of exhausted myself in the process. I was trying to drink it all in, literally and figuratively.

This time around, because of the experience that I've had with Ross and [winemaker] Rick Davis doing it the last time, [we knew] what we wanted it to taste like. [My] palate is a little more knowledgeable. You kind of know what you want to achieve, and you also know what it is you're tasting for—not just what you're tasting in that moment right out of the barrels, but what you're tasting for two years from now.

WS: You're about to embark on an international arena tour in October. Will you have wine stocked on your tour bus?
JG: Right now I'm dreaming of wine and not drinking a whole lot of it. Alcohol just dries out your vocal cords. Cheese is another one! I love cheese, but I can't really eat it while I'm on tour. You kind of have to shelve some of your food and drink loves in order to do your job the best that you possibly can. And then when the tour's over, you go buy as much wine as you want. I think when you give it up for a minute, it makes it that much more enjoyable when you finally get to open that bottle that you've been saving.

WS: Do you plan to pursue wine any further?
JG: That is definitely a goal. One thing that I've learned from working with Ross and meeting so many incredible winemakers and proprietors around the country, specifically around the area where we have made Find Your Light, is that so much goes into it. You need to have not just an excitement for wine—there's an expertise and a passion that takes so much energy to really make great wine.

My quick answer would be yes, it has been a dream of mine to continue to collaborate with great winemakers and continue to learn more … That would be a great way to continue my journey through this love of wine that I have. But it takes a lot of work. So right now, I'm very happy doing this for the foundation and fulfilling a lot of the checkmarks I have inside for the things that I love.

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