Celebrity Wine & Pizza Craze

By / Magazine / July 8th, 2008 / 2

Is it me or does every has-been celebrity seem to have a line of wines named after them nowadays?

Why so surprised? Celebrities are as good as superheroes — able to leap onto any marketing opportunity in a single bound. Surely if they can blend their own cologne, design clothes and create salad dressing, then thinking they can slap their name on a wine bottle should come without any burden of guilt, right?

That said, it might surprise you to hear that, what with all the new famed-named labels on liquor-store shelves, celeb-endorsed vino isn’t a current trend. Major and minor stars from music, sports and Hollywood have been involved in the industry (at different levels of intensity) for decades.

The original Tinseltown wine guy was comedian Tommy Smothers: he’s been overseeing his Remick Ridge winery in California’s Sonoma Valley since the late 1970s. Both Fess Parker (Disney’s Davy Crockett) and Francis Ford Coppola (of Apocalypse Now and The Godfather fame) have also been hands-on with respective vineyards in the Golden State.

When it comes to brand names, golfers seem to have the best grip on wine. Sure, they may not be pressing the juice, but Ernie Els, Nick Faldo, Greg Norman and Canadian superstar Mike Weir all claim to play a part in deciding the personality of the eponymous juice that winds up in the glass.

So does Saturday Night Live alum Dan Aykroyd: he’s invested some big moolah in a group of Niagara wineries and he claims to taste the final blend of every one of his namesake wines before they receive approval for corking.

Unlike Aykroyd, Wayne Gretzky doesn’t claim any wine expertise — choosing instead to partner with an established Canadian winemaker who does all the real work behind the Great One’s new line of wines.

Next up is Paul Newman, whose Newman’s Own will be joining forces with California’s Rebel Wines to make some vintage varietals. Like Gretzky and Weir, the actor will be donating portions of the proceeds from the sale of each bottle to charity.

Scoff if you will (and I have), but truth be told the majority of these celebrity wines are taking things seriously … that is, until Britney Spears decides to launch her own series — now that would be one mixed-up blend.

I’m crazy about pizza. What wines will pair well with a pie from my local delivery joint?

For a simple five-letter word, pizza sure has its fair share of definitions. That’s especially so here in North America, where the majority of interpretations are coated with cheese and an excessive amount of conflicting toppings.

As you might imagine, the Italians know their way around a pie, showing great restraint when it comes to the thickness of their crusts and the number of edible add-ons.

The lower gentry of eighteenth-century Naples gets the credit for pizza’s invention, when they began upscaling plain dough with tomato sauce and herbs, so I choose to bow to their liquid ideologies even when faced with a slice from my neighbourhood mass-market chain.

A youthful Chianti or a Sangiovese-based red would be their choice, especially with the classically uncomplicated Pizza Marinara (tomato, garlic and herbs). Also, think light-bodied Valpolicella reds from Verona or, keeping things truly Neapolitan, a red made with the province’s Aglianico grape.

Try a lightly oaked Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio, if drink white you must. But stick with red when ordering that extra-large meat-lover’s. Chianti is still my pick, but a berry-infused red Italian made with Barbera, Primitivo or Montepulciano d’Abruzzo will also do the trick.

What about Merlot or Shiraz? Sure, why not. But if you’ve got to go New World, my vote would be for a medium-bodied Malbec from Argentina with just enough spice to give your pizza-night all the right pizzazz.


Fresh, funny and down-to-earth, Peter Rockwell is the everyman's wine writer. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia he's worked in the liquor industry for over 30 years and has written about wine, spirits & beer since graduating from the School of Journalism at the University of King's College in 1986. His reviews and feature articles have been published in Tidings, Vines, Occasions, Where and on Alliant.net to name a few; he has been a weekly on-air wine feature columnist for both CBC-TV and Global Television and his wine column 'Liquid Assets' appeared weekly in two of Nova Scotia's daily newspapers, 'The Halifax Daily News' and 'The Cape Breton Post.' Today Peter's irreverent answer man column 'Bon Vivant' appears each month in Tidings Magazine and his weekly 'Liquid Assets' column is published across Canada in editions of the METRO newspaper. When not drinking at home, and at work, Peter travels the globe looking for something to fill his glass and put into words.

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