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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Celebrities and wine: a bad combination

Most times when I think of movie or TV celebrity-made wines, my palate pictures some soulless stew of second (or third) rate grapes mixed together and thrown into a bottle with the name, or a caricature, of the celebrity in question on the bottle. As a whole, these wines seldom impress -- and they hurt the wallet to a far greater degree than they should.

So I thought to myself, maybe rock stars are different. Maybe, in particular, vintage rock stars or bands with a proven musical track record are somehow better when it comes to making wine, or at least they care more about the products that they ultimately lend their names to.

With these thoughts in mind I decided to try two such wines -- “The King (4th Edition),” a 2005 California Cabernet Sauvignon from Graceland Cellars that features the likeness of a jumpsuit and acoustic guitar-clad (but not played, as was often the case) Elvis Presley on the bottle and boasts a “lush, ripe and juicy” character with “intense black cherry, currant and blackberry fruit,” and the 2005 version of the Rolling Stones “Satisfaction” wine, also a Napa Valley blend centered around Cabernet Sauvignon, that is said to boast aromas of blackberries, black currants, violets and vanilla and offer flavours of chocolate, black cherry, cassis and a hint of mocha.

As I prepared to sample “The King,” I hoped for either something resembling that taut, muscular version of Elvis circa the 1968 “comeback special” and his black leather suited performance (which from a wine perspective would involve a version of Cabernet with firm tannins and maybe a powerful minerality like the Cabernets from Mt. Veeder) or maybe even something resembling the bloated, drug-addled sweaty Elvis of his later days (which in the wine world might be an overly ripe “fruit bomb” of a wine, which while unstructured, offers the wine drinker a delicious up-front blast of fruity deliciousness).

As I raised the glass to my lips and let the wine slide into my mouth, I waited...and waited…and waited.  Nothing! This was neither the bloated, sweaty Elvis, nor was it the taut, focused, yet interesting Elvis.  Instead, there was no start, middle or finish to the wine. It was akin to drinking a glass of watered down grape juice. An Elvis somewhere between skinny Elvis and fat Elvis that might be referred to as a “transitional Elvis,” when Elvis was neither at the peak of his career, when his music was rocking the world, nor at the end of his career, when he was interesting for his late career gunplay and fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches.  In short, this wine is awful.  Bland, uninteresting and hardly worth the $18.95 I paid for it. Similar to all other celebrity wines I’ve had the misfortune of tasting.

This did little to boost my enthusiasm for sampling the Stones’ “Satisfaction,” which I now expected would taste something like Keith Richards’ head band after a 3 hour show.

Knox is a man of valour though, so I decided to give it a whirl. Jumpin’ Jack Flash! It was fantastic! This was no poser celebrity wine where the artist was out to expand his business portfolio. This was a REAL wine. Sure the $30.00 price tag is no meager asking price, but this wine delivered. Fruity, yet structured, with a long smooth finish like that of its higher-priced Napa Cabernet brethren. This wine resembles the Stones at their peak, which like the wine’s finish, lasted a long time (up until about “Tattoo You” after which they reached “sellout” proportions of nearly Biblical magnitude).

Well, 50/50 for two celebrity wines ain’t half bad. Now I have my sights on Dan Ackroyd and his supposedly “snob free” Ontario wines.  Let’s hope his wines are better than his politics.

Posted by Knox Harrington on February 21, 2009 in Food and Drink | Permalink


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