Once in a while, I set aside my better judgment and try the latest celebrity wine to land in Edmonton. Every single time, I find myself standing in my kitchen, staring down into a wine glass and doing my best Michael Bluth impression: “I don’t know what I expected.”
The latest culprit was a tribute bottle to The Tragically Hip. The label features the bacchanalian cover art from The Hip’s iconic 1992 album, Fully Completely. The back label explains that it’s a co-creation between the band members and Stoney Ridge Estate Winery in Ontario, to commemorate the Hip’s 2014 re-release of Fully Completely. I love that album. I did not love that wine.
Over the last couple decades there have been all manner of celebrity names and/or likenesses splashed across wine bottles, from Hollywood stars and NASCAR drivers to hockey players and rock bands.
Snoop Dogg is a recent example: You can find his wines everywhere right now, under the 19 Crimes brand. I tried the Snoop Dogg Cali Rosé and found it cloyingly sweet. I’d rather have a gin and juice.
Wayne Gretzky has established a Canadian wine empire with his No. 99 line of wines, now made at his flagship winery in Niagaraon- the-Lake. Originally, the wines were made through a partnership with Creekside Estate Winery, and then Peller Estates. I tried them when they first launched and then again recently. They are better now, though nothing remarkable; very easy-drinking and forgettable.
Sometimes a celebrity buys into a winery but doesn’t put his or her name on the label. This is the case with Miraval Rosé, co-owned by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. These wines can actually be pretty good, depending on whom the celebs enlist to actually make the stuff. Miraval is made by Marc Perrin, renowned French winemaker who’s also behind Château de Beaucastel, one of Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s historic estates. It’s quite tasty.
Tribute bottles featuring famous TV shows have become popular. I’ve tried bottles commemorating Duck Dynasty, Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. (Ed note: I have a The Walking Dead bottle, but have not opened it).
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Inevitably, the wine inside these bottles is mediocre at best. After all, the target market is fans of the TV show/actor/musician/hockey player, not connoisseurs. There’s no point spending any extra money on the actual wine inside the bottle; the dollars went into marketing and securing the name rights.
Very occasionally, a celebrity becomes a bona fide winemaker and is involved in the actual creation of wine. I’ve tried a few bottles made by Puscifer/Tool/A Perfect Circle frontman Maynard James Keenan from his Caduceus and Merkin Vineyards wineries. They were all solidly made wines that tell an interesting story. (Keenan is a leading voice in Arizona’s winemaking industry.)
They can be fun to bring to parties, or to accompany your next Netflix marathon, but ultimately, don’t expect much from celebrity wines and you won’t be disappointed.
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