Norton Safeweb

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Celebrity Wine

Anyone on the production / ownership end of a winery will tell you if you're looking for a place to sink all your time and money a winery is one way and certainly more exciting than many small business opportunities (like, say a Denny's franchise).

Tommy Smothers was one of the first in Sonoma County, and at least, is a down-to-earth guy. The "memory of" Raymond Burr is still here. You can also hear about Mario Andretti, Mick Fleetwood, Francis Ford Coppola, and various ex-ball players. You've got Madonna wine, Marilyn Merlot, and a Jeff Bridges meritage (Jeff Bridges??).

Everyone wants to be part of the life-style, but not the work. I suppose it's the same with being a famous actor, singer, or ballplayer -- sounds like fun because you don't know how much work is involved to get there.

There are "dead celebrity" wineries too, such as MacMurray Ranch. Fred MacMurrary owned land in Sonoma County for decades before his death. Now that he's gone Gallo produces MacMurray Ranch wines.

There is even a Celebrity Cellars "winery" getting juice from God-knows-where and putting labels of your favorite star on the bottle. How about a Celine Dion Chardonnay?

Francis Ford Coppola is probably the most successful. He started with buying the old Ingelnook facility in the heart of Napa. He sunk a ton of money into the place and displayed items from his movies. When crowd control became an issue he instituted a high parking fee on the property and opened a second operation at the old Souverain facility in northern Sonoma County.