The Best And Worst Celebrity Wines
1. What happens when you round up 15 wines made by celebrities…
From left to right: Antonio Banderas, Fergie, Dave Matthews, ACDC, Wayne Gretzky, Drew Barrymore, Emilio Estevez, Train, Jeff Gordon, Sting, Mario Batali, Francis Ford Coppola, Kyle MacLachlan, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, ACDC (again), and Natalie Oliveros (aka Savanna Samson).
Some wines we wanted to try were basically impossible to find (what gives, Lil Jon?), but we did our darnedest.
2. …and ask one of the country’s top sommeliers, Michael Madrigale, to ruthlessly evaluate them?
Madrigale is head sommelier and wine buyer for three of Daniel Boulud’s restaurants. He was the 2012 Food and Wine sommelier of the year as well as Wine Enthusiast’s 2012 sommelier of the year. He is, coincidentally, a very nice person.
3. …blind, of course, to prevent any judicial bias.
Honestly, we couldn’t trust ourselves not to root for Agent Cooper.
4. BuzzFeed Food decided to find out.
We’ve chit-chatted about celebrity-branded wine before. But we we had to know: Are any of them actually worth putting in our mouths? Or worth making fun of? SURELY.
5. Several food and celebrity editors joined the taste taste…
…ensuring that civilian opinions were taken into account. While we would love to pretend we have an office where it’s cool to get drunk at 10 a.m., this was strictly a swish-and-spit operation.
6. And here are the results, from best to worst.
7. Most Likely to Actually Be in Your Life: Francis Ford Coppola’s Merlot
MICHAEL’S NOTES: “Black cherry, woody, spicy. Nice color, smells good. Not very tannic. Nice red fruit on palate. Elegant.” ★★★
VERDICT: This Napa Valley red was the Big Winner of our tasting, and far from the most expensive. Not shocking, given that FFC had been in the grapes business since 1975 and is making more wine than films these days.
8. Looks the Least Like It’s Made by a Porn Star: Natalie “Savanna Samson” Oliveros’s Brunello Di Montalcino
MICHAEL’S NOTES: “Sulfury wine. Good balance. Good tannins. Earthy/sour cherry. Strong.” ★★★
VERDICT: It’s not totally clear how involved the star of Savanna’s Anal Gangbang is in the wine production process with partner Robert Cipresso, but this Brunello is legitimately delicious — if you have $55 you’re itching to spend.
9. Best Dad Birthday Gift: Sting’s “Sister Moon” Red Blend
MICHAEL’S NOTES: “Red clay, earth, and mineral. Menthol. Tobacco. Serious palate. Red fruit, dry, and dusty. Good balance. Not bad.” ★★1/2
VERDICT: We all agreed that this dry red would be an excellent STEAK wine. Excellent choice for dads and dad-rock appreciators everywhere.
10. Least-Surprisingly Decent: Mario Batali’s “I Perazzi” Red Blend
MICHAEL’S NOTES: “Earthy aromas. Pencil shavings. Dirty nose, sour palate. High acidity. A little clunky. OK.” ★★
VERDICT: Ol’ Mario and Joe only count as celebrities because of their food and wine exploits, so they’d better be able to turn out a decent bottle. This one’s pretty good and has more personality than a lot of the other wines we tried.
11. Darkest Horse: Jeff Gordon’s Chardonnay
MICHAEL’S NOTES: “Buttered popcorn. Oaky. Full-blast California chard, but not bad. Has a backbone to it.” ★1/2
VERDICT: Given the wine’s NASCAR pedigree, we were surprised at how nice this was. Solid option, although not a bargain.
12. Most Likely to Delight Your Grandmother: Dave Matthews’ “Everyday” White Blend
MICHAEL’S NOTES: “Flowery and peachy. Sweet. Shy and easy and inoffensive, with a metallic finish. Grandmothers everywhere would enjoy this.” ★
VERDICT: Totally pleasant and totally bland. Appropriately.
13. Most Disappointing Wine Made by Agent Cooper: Kyle MacLachlan’s Cabernet Sauvignon
MICHAEL’S NOTES: “Black fruit. Caramel. Very upfront, very fruit-driven. A touch manufactured; can feel the hand of the winemaker. Probably expensive. Too nice, too friendly — who likes people like that?” ★
VERDICT: We at BuzzFeed are ardent Kyle MacLachlan fans, for Twin Peaks-related and other reasons, so we were definitely rooting for this wine — but especially with such a high price point, we were hoping for something that was a little less gentle; more coffee and less cherry pie.
NOTE: Grain of salt: This wine has gotten good scores elsewhere, including a 91 rating from Wine Spectator.
14. Hardest Rocking Sauvignon Blanc: ACDC’s “Hell’s Bells” Sauvignon Blanc
MICHAEL’S NOTES: “Smells like used tires — a flaw in some hot-climate wines. Palate isn’t horrible. Not too sweet, high acidity.” ★
VERDICT: Funky notes in the nose here threw us off a little (“smells like rubber,” “plasticky?”), but it tasted pretty good. And that BOTTLE. Definite statement piece.
15. Biggest Booty: Fergie’s “Fergalicious” Red Blend
MICHAEL’S NOTES: “Sweet baked fruit. Black raspberry with a savory, meaty aroma. Palate is ripe and extremely alcoholic. Hot hot. Lacking structure and tannins. Would be disgusting with food. No.”
VERDICT: This one was so overwhelmingly hot and fruity and glamorous that it’s hard to imagine consuming it with a meal or in the course of normal human life.
16. Best Soft Drink Alternative: Wayne Gretzky’s Cabernet Sauvignon
NOTES: “Sweet nose. Coconut/chocolate, candied, like Almond Joy. Sweet and a touch manufactured. Geared toward the American palate raised on Coca-Cola. Not bad, just like Cool Whip isn’t bad. It’s a dishonest wine.”
VERDICT: Fine, if you like your wine to remind you of candy and Coke. But where’s that hockey-skate EDGE, Wayne?!
17. Most Likely to End Up in Spaghetti Sauce: Antonio Banderas’s Ribera Del Duero
MICHAEL’S NOTES: “Dirty nose. Smells a bit advanced (oxidized). Dirty and sweet palate. Very ripe. Off balance. Not good.”
VERDICT: Something might have gone off with this bottle; it didn’t seem fresh. Sorry, Zorro, TOO FUNKY.
18. Most Like Drinking Canned Pear Syrup: Emilio Estevez’s Viognier
MICHAEL’S NOTES: “Tropical fruit, from a warm place. Very rich and a little flabby. Like canned pears, like eating cake frosting. More of a beverage than a wine. This is a wine drink.”
VERDICT: This was SO sweet and syrupy, to a really sticky, smothery degree. “Straight candy.” Also, there’s no excuse for that label unless someone’s adorable 5-year-old daughter drew it.
19. Best Option for #Teen Drinkers: Drew Barrymore’s Pinot Grigio
NOTES: “Sulfury. Lemon, lime, grapefruit. Like drinking water with lemon in it, super diluted. NO.”
VERDICT: A training wine, basically. It wasn’t unpleasant, but so light that it was like someone had already turned it into a spritzer.
20. Best for People Who Are Already Drunk: ACDC’s “Back In Black” Shiraz
MICHAEL’S NOTES: “Smells cheap. Tastes cheap, with no thought behind it. Gross. DQ.”
VERDICT: We tasted TWO ACDC wines based solely on how much the labels and names made us chortle. The sauvignon blanc was decent; this was not. Pass.
21. Most Flatulent: Brad and Angelina’s (Winery’s) “Clara Lua” White Blend
NOTE: Brangie’s first official release is actually a rosé (which Wine Spectator liked a lot), but given that we couldn’t get hold of a bottle, we decided to scope out another offering from their vineyard.
MICHAEL’S NOTES: “Fart wine. DQ.”
VERDICT: This was SO sulfury that all anyone could smell was butt gas. Underneath that it seemed to be a perfectly nice, citrusy white wine, but it was, uh, hard to ignore.
22. You Guys, It’s Made by TRAIN: Train’s “Calling All Angels” Chardonnay
MICHAEL’S NOTES: “Oaky nose. Brown butter. TOO sweet. Unctuous, candified, stomach-ache inducing.”
VERDICT: Do we regret not obtaining a bottle of Train’s “Drops of Jupiter” red blend in time for the tasting? Yes, of course. Are we sorry we drank this instead of just polishing off Jeff Gordon’s chardonnay instead? Yeah.
Graphics by John Gara.