A number of celebrities — from musicians to filmmakers to athletes — have taken their love for wine a (big) step further by getting involved in the wine business.
In some cases, it has involved lending their name (and money) and creating a brand. Others have gone all in and opened their own wineries, complete with tasting rooms and other amenities.
The list of “celebrity winemakers” grows each year. One of the first to embrace the wine lifestyle was the late Fess Parker, the television and film star (“Daniel Boone,” “Davy Crockett”), who established a vineyard and winery in Santa Barbara County. I’ll never forget being there on the day the winery opened, and Parker was outside greeting the first customers. He also used a gold Sharpie to sign bottles.
Parker played pioneers and was a pioneer among celebrity vintners. Here are 10 (among many others) who have followed in his footsteps…
* Dave Matthews not only has a band named for himself, but also a limited-production winery in Charlottesville, Va. That led to a much larger wine project in California called The Dreaming Tree, in collaboration with a former winemaker for Clos du Bois.
* Jonathan Cain, keyboardist and rhythm guitarist for the legendary rock band Journey, is involved with Finale Wines, which benefit charity.
* Claypool Cellars makes wine under the Pachyderm label. It’s a project of Les Claypool, the lead vocalist and bassist for the rock band Primus.
* Robert Kamen, the man behind the movie, “A Walk in the Clouds,” also has a winery: Kamen Estate Wines. By the way, if you’ve never seen “A Walk in the Clouds,” you should track it down — if nothing else, for the gorgeous vineyard scenes. Kamen also was behind the “Karate Kid” movies.
* Another filmmaker, Francis Ford Coppola, has a winery that features a museum featuring memorabilia from his iconic movies, including “The Godfather.” He also has a second winery through which he has brought a North Carolina wine brand, Virginia Dare, back to life.
* Jeff Gordon, a four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, works with two acclaimed vintners to produce 250 cases of wine each year. Its limited availability is part of its attraction for his fans.
* A famed racecar driver from another era, Mario Andretti, founded his Napa Valley winery 21 years ago. (Geez, that time has gone by as fast as his Ferrari…)
* Charles Woodson won a Super Bowl ring with the Green Bay Packers, but fell in love with wine while playing for the Oakland Raiders — a team that trained in the Napa Valley. Today, his Charles Woodson Wines benefit the Charles Woodson Foundation.
* For former NFL football coach Dick Vermeil — who led the St. Louis Rams to their lone Super Bowl title — owning his own winery represents a homecoming of sorts. He was born in the Napa Valley town of Calistoga.
* No ladders are needed at Yao Family Wines in St. Helena, Calif. It’s owned by former NBA star Yao Ming (7-fot-6), who can tap stacked barrels of wine simply by reaching up.