Updated: Dec 2, 2022
While perusing wine articles recently, I came across one about the legendary actor, John Malkovich. He will be addressing the June Symposium for the Institute of Masters of Wine in Germany. Since 2011, he’s been making wine (Les Quelles de la Coste) from vines he planted in the Vaucluse region of France in 2008. Of course, I would love to attend his presentation – but the article sparked a trip down memory lane and curiosity about other celebrities who have partaken in the wine world as either winery owners or actual winemakers.
My most memorable celebrity in wine moment was during one of my tenures as a Wine Director. I always scheduled tasting appointments only on Thursdays, but apparently, I had made an exception and promptly forgot the promise. One Friday afternoon, as I was fighting the printer in my weekly endeavor to print up the 300 copies of the wine list (the Wine Director job is not as glamorous as one might think), the host called me into the office to let me know that my tasting appointment was here. I told her that I didn’t have one, but please apologize on my behalf and tell them that I was very busy. I went back to fighting the printer. Moments later, she calls my office again with the same message. Again, I repeat what I just told her. Her voice drops a bit lower - she reiterates “Your tasting appointment is here”. A bit flustered and annoyed, I march out to the front and am greeted by Kyle MacLachlan, the actor. Stunned, as he is one of my favorite actors and I grew up watching him portray Agent Dale Cooper on Twin Peaks, I tried to cover my embarrassment and shock. I apologized for the confusion, shook his hand, and led him over to the bar top to taste his wine, Pursued by Bear. I was thrilled to get to pick his brain about his wine inspirations, to taste the wine (made in conjunction with the much loved and sorely missed, Eric Dunham – a longtime friend of Kyle’s), and to casually mention that I had met David Lynch the week prior – which sparked a large smile. Kyle, being a native of Washington State, never forgot his roots and wanted to make wine. The name is a reference to the Shakespearean play “The Winter’s Tale”; it’s one of the most famous stage directions in theatre and Kyle had been a theater major at the University of Washington. The delightful wines were given a strong foundation by Eric Dunham, who before his untimely passing, had helped to create the modern buzz around Washington red wines. Perhaps a perfect gift for the wine friend who loves Washington state wines, literary references, and Agent Dale Cooper?
The next involved, albeit indirectly, Fred MacMurray, best known today as the father in My Three Sons. He owned a beautiful property situated in the Russian River Valley. The ranch was the weekend oasis from the hustle of Hollywood and was much beloved by the actor and his family. Years ago, I worked for Gallo – who had bought the property from the MacMurray family, but Fred’s daughter Kate – remained very involved with the winery. One work trip involved an event at the MacMurray Ranch. Bucolic doesn’t begin to describe the beauty and peacefulness of this property - undulating hills filled with vines, redwood groves, and the picturesque log cabin home. Needing to use the facilities, I asked where they were located and was told to look in the home. Left alone to navigate the famous movie star’s old home, I noticed pictures of his old Hollywood gang – Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Barbara Stanwick hung on the walls; my mind couldn’t help but wonder “If these walls could talk”. Toward the end of the event, a woman came up to me and addressed me by name, I didn’t recognize her – but she introduced herself to me as Kate MacMurray. She said that she makes a point to learn who is selling the wine made from the property that her father loved so deeply. Charming and whip-smart, I was honored that she took the time to know my name. The MacMurray wines focus on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and are wonderful gifts for those who haven’t forgotten about old Hollywood.
There are numerous celebrities that have ventured into the world of wine. Sting bought a rundown Italian villa (as one does), restored it with his wife, and has been producing his wines, Il Palagio, for many years. Featuring red wine predominantly, you don’t have to turn on the red wine and can enjoy his white wine, Roxanne. Another musician, Maynard Keenan of Tool, owns a winery called Caduceus and has made the wine himself for decades in Arizona. He comes from a family of winemakers based in Northern Italy. Dave Matthews has a winery in Virginia named Blenheim Vineyards. Of course, there is Miraval, formerly owned by Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt (now, just Brad Pitt) and made by Joseph Perrin (from the Rhone region). The rose hails from the famed estate in France that is not known only for its wine – but also its storied history as the studio location for Exile on Mainstreet by the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd’s The Wall, as well as albums by Sting, Sade, The Cure, and The Cranberries. Need gift ideas for a friend who loves certain musical artists? Maybe it’s a wine from their estate or from the estate where the music was recorded.
Each bottle of wine tells a story, it speaks to the terroir, the winemaker, and the year that the grapes grew on the vine – but some also offer a musical soundtrack, an accompanying movie, or a television show to enhance the experience. Perhaps cracking open a bottle of Pursued by Bear and digging into Twin Peaks, or even his most recent work on Portlandia, if you want to make it a Pacific Northwest night. Or maybe it’s grabbing a bottle of Sting’s wine and singing along to The Police. I think I’m ready to try some of John Malkovich’s wine and happily put on any one of his movies. . .