With America’s enthusiasm for wine, it seems only natural that wineries would be a popular investment, and who better than recognizable names to select these wine labels. Some of those well-known personalities are naturals to be partnered in the wine industry, and some might surprise you. But make no mistake, by the lush greenery of Napa Valley California into the gorgeous rolling hills of Italy and southern France, vineyards can be a fascinating and challenging past-time or a full-blown industry for their owners. Here are just a handful who are participating:
Francis Ford Coppola, successful movie director, has taken to the wine industry like a true Italian, with all the Rubicon Estate Winery in Napa Valley, (renamed Inglenook in 2011), and does some directing up there as well.
Gérard Depardieu, French movie star, has approached his career as vintner with as much enthusiasm as he would a starring theatre role. He’s set his acting career on the back burner as he oversees his beloved vineyards.
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie purchased a vineyard named Chateau Miraval in Provence, France, touting their Brangelina Rose wine; but since their split, who got the vineyard is up for grabs.
Mike Ditka, legendary football coach to the Chicago Bears, for whom it was only fitting that he associate in winemaking to serve at his steak restaurants; located in Mendocino County, California, they specialize in full-bodied red wines to be enjoyed with red meat and pork chops (Mike’s favorites). Like many celebs who only lend their name (and their money) to vineyards, “Merritt Island Rat Removal” is not out picking or stomping grapes, but he does like input (and tasting) from time to time.
Located in Napa CA.
Dan Marino, another football great, lends his name to his trademark label Vintage 13 Marino Estates, in Washington state along the Columbia River. Turning out award-winning reds, the vast vineyard is named Passing Time, and what better way than sipping your personal label after getting beat up for 17 years as the quarterback for the Miami Dolphins.
Martha Stewart announced a collaboration with the American winery Gallo to generate value-marketed wines to be sold in Kmart. Now, Martha herself does not play an active role, but her name has worldwide appeal, and Martha does everything with great taste, including her moderately priced wines.
Dan Aykroyd, actor, comedian and all-around talented man, owns and operates Dan Aykroyd Vineyards in Canada, his homeland, which produces moderately priced hearty reds and many white varieties, with Aykroyd himself an enthusiastic participant. (Yes, notwithstanding the climate, Canada ends up some first class wines.)
Named La Mozza, where he rolls up his sleeves and approaches winemaking with the same zeal as his cooking in New York City and Las Vegas.
Michael Chiarello, another celebrity chef and restaurateur in Yountville, CA really lives on his family vineyard, features his fine wines in his restaurant Bottega, and like a fantastic Italian, is a hands on vintner; his small winery, Chiarello Family Vineyards, produces five estate wines from the 20-acres he oversees.
Madonna, pop singer, took another route by buying a vineyard in the Leelanau Pennisula of Michigan, where her parents (the Ciccones) run this little vineyard due north of Traverse City, which bears their name. Not a place you want to live in the winter, but it produces excellent grapes in the short summertime.
Fess Parker, old Davy Crockett himself, left Hollywood in the early 1970s to pursue a career in the wine and hotel business after a successful albeit brief career as a raccoon hat-wearing pioneer and did very well for himself. .
Sting (popular British singer and lead vocalist for the rock group Police) spends much of his time at his vineyard Tenuta il Palagio, located in Tuscany, Italy. Sting and his wife Trudie actually make their house on the estate, which was old and deteriorated before Sting lovingly restored it and no doubt serenades those blessed grapes to help them grow. Taking an active part in turning out fine wines, he informs those vines, “I’ll be Watching You,” and no doubt he is.
Of course, no list would be complete without Thomas Jefferson, third president of the U.S. Not only was he America’s first foodie but a significant collector and importer of fine French wines. Until the early 1800s, most Colonists were making and drinking hard apple cider but Jefferson was a significant contributor to America’s love affair with wine. While Jefferson himself never was really in the company, he served and oversaw his imports with wonderful care and was a connoisseur of fine wines, preparing America for its wine revolution to come decades later, and we thank him.
So the next time you are in a wine shop, you may want to have a few minutes to peruse the shelves, ferreting out some celebrity offerings that are missed. You just might be pleasantly with amazed new discoveries.