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Wine Talk: Michael Lynne

New Line Cinema boss understands that winemaking, like filmmaking, is an art

Eric Arnold
Posted: September 30, 2005

Michael Lynne aims high. A graduate of Columbia Law School, he navigated the world of entertainment law for years. Now 64, he has been at the helm of New Line Cinema, as co-CEO and cochairman, for successes such as the The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Austin Powers films, and this summer's hit, Wedding Crashers. Along the way, Lynne put together a sizable wine collection and became fascinated with the process of making wine. Between 1999 and 2001, he bought three properties on Long Island's North Fork--well-known Bedell Cellars, Corey Creek and the Wells Road vineyard--which together yield 10,000 cases a year of Merlot, Chardonnay and other varieties. In addition to upgrading the winery and adding new staff this year, Lynne has brought another of his passions, contemporary art, to Bedell with the introduction of an artist's label series and a tasting-room display of some of his collection.

Wine Spectator: How did you first become interested in wine?
Michael Lynne: For a long time, it interested me from the point of view of how you enjoy it personally, but also how it happens--how people make great food and make great wine. I collected wine, and knew a lot about it from the experience of tasting wine, but only about 10 or 12 years ago I thought maybe it would be interesting to own a vineyard.

WS: What's in your collection?
ML: I would guess I have about 2,500 bottles. [I've collected] first-growth Bordeaux and other quality Bordeaux wines pretty intensely in the great years, going back to the late '50s and early '60s, and I also had a pretty significant interest in the then-emerging new Tuscan wines. Just as my taste in films is eclectic and my taste in collecting contemporary art is eclectic, so my taste in wine is somewhat eclectic.

WS: Why did you buy a winery in Long Island?
ML: I looked in all the usual places--France, Italy, California. It's not easy to find a winery for sale, because most of them don't like to say they're for sale. I'd given up when a friend of mine took me--this was six-and-a-half years ago--to the North Fork of Long Island. What I was looking at, felt to me, like Napa or Sonoma in a microcosm, but many years ago. We went to about 10 tasting rooms, and I was impressed with the quality of what was there and the potential of what was there.

WS: What changes have you made since you bought Bedell?
ML: We've brought in a wine consultant, Pascal Marty, who came out of Mouton-Rothschild and helped create Opus One, as well as Almaviva in Chile. My intention has always been to try to create, if we could, a truly world-class wine that would be competitive with the best wines of the world. I'm hopeful that's going to happen with the 2005 vintage because he'll have worked entirely on that vintage.

WS: Do you react to wine reviews the same way you do to movie reviews?
ML: I guess yes, in the sense that they're all my babies. But if it doesn't work, unless you're able to move on and refocus on the next releases, then you can't be in [the film] business. Similarly, in the wine business, you have to accept that there are going to be years where vintages won't be as great as others, where the particular, exciting, creative alchemy that has to come together sometimes just doesn't quite come together. It's a risk that you take in the wine business, where you attempt to create something that's special, distinctive, that in fact never existed before, and yet is not totally within your control.

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