High on the Vine: Which celebrity makes the best wine?

Nicki Minaj? Train? Dave Matthews?

Everybody spends excess income in different ways. If you’re a celebrity, owning a winery is one way to do it. People like Drew Barrymore, Fergie, Sting—they’re all producing wine whether you want to drink it or not. The most well-known celebrity label is probably Francis Ford Coppola, the director of The Godfather. And the most expensive celebrity label out there is by Yao Ming, whose 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Family Reserve went for $625 in 2012 (not surprisingly, it was sold only in China and sold out immediately).

Here in Atlanta, we have access to several celebrity labels, all of which I took to Ian Mendelsohn of Vine & Tap to blind taste. Below are the results. All wines are available at Tower Beer, Wine & Spirits off Piedmont road.


Wine #1
2013 Dreaming Tree Chardonnay
Dave Matthews 


Tasting Notes:  The color is a clear, golden hue with a little green on the rim. The nose isn’t very expressive—maybe white fruits, peach, stone. I don’t taste any fruit. I don’t really like this. I’m looking for more balance in my wine between acid and fruit.
How much he’d pay: $10
Actual Cost: $13.25

Wine #2
Miraval Coteaux Varois Blanc 2013
Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie 


Tasting Notes: Again, same as the first. It’s almost a completely flat nose, and I’m not getting any fruit on the palate—maybe unripened lime skins and unripened peach. This is taking me to New World because the Old World just doesn’t make this. If both #1 and #2 were very well chilled, they’d be fun to drink at a bar.
How much he’d pay: No more than $10
Actual Cost: $26.51

Wine #3
2013 Chateau Miraval Cotes de Provence Rosé
Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie 


Tasting Notes: This has great color, like a Provencal rose, with that pink, onion-skin color. On the nose, I’m getting strawberry petals, crushed strawberries, and peaches. I’m thinking lavender and of southern France because it’s bone-dry. This is a delicious. I’ll take another glass. 
How much he’d pay: $15 to $20
Actual Cost: $29.57

Wine #4
MYX Fusions Coconut Moscato
Nicki Minaj 


Tasting Notes: It’s got the nose of Malibu Rum, and it’s making me thirsty for cocktails. Smells like overripe pineapples and peaches, and it’s actually pleasant on the palate. This isn’t a high-quality Moscato, but if it were chilled properly, this would be a great blending Moscato for a cocktail.
How much he’d pay: $10-$14
Actual Cost: $8.15 for a 4-pack

Wine #5
2012 Soul Sister Pinot Noir


Tasting Notes: On the nose, I’m getting bright cherry, a little mocha, violet, and a little raspberry candy. I think this is a Pinot Noir made by a large company. If this has seen oak, it’s oak chips. It’s a decent expression of inexpensive Pinot Noir. 
How much he’d pay: $10-$12
Actual Cost: $9.17


Wine #6
Drops of Jupiter Red Blend


Tasting Notes:  You know that boysenberry syrup from iHop? This tastes like boysenberry pancakes—jammy blackberries, jammy cherries, huge red and black fruits. But the more it’s in your mouth, the more you get a chemically aftertaste.
How much he’d pay: $8-$11

Actual Cost: $9.17 

Wine #7
2012 Dreaming Tree Cabernet Sauvignon
Dave Matthews 


Tasting Notes: This one has richer flavors than the last two with potentially some oak or oak chips used to make it. On the nose, I get a more subtle mocha, chocolate, and red fruits. There are some soft, dry tannins on this. Good fruit but it’s not too expressive. 
How much he’d pay: $15
Actual Cost: $13.25

Wine #8
Merkin Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon
Maynard James Keenan 


Tasting Notes: Huge candied red fruit, cherries, boysenberry, cassis. It’s not as candied on the mouth, but it’s got almost no finish. Fruit wise, I get blackberry, dark raspberries, and overripe plums. I would like this with a cheeseburger on the deck. I actually enjoy this. 
How much he’d pay: $12
Actual Cost: $30.59

Final Thoughts

The clear winner was the Chateau Miraval rosé by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. That’s not surprising since Brangelina enlisted the help of the Perrin’s, winemaking legends who produce the iconic Chateau de Beaucastel.

As for the rest of the lot, I doubt Dave Matthews roams his vineyards with a guitar in hand, crooning to his grapes. Nicki Minaj probably doesn’t even know she makes Moscato. I would imagine that these celebrities are, for the most part, rather hands off during the whole process. And it shows. But it wouldn’t be fair to draw parallels and say that Matthews has the same taste in wine as his ambiguous Chardonnay or that Minaj is as talented as an $8 half-bottle of cocktail juice. They definitely know good wine. They just aren’t in the business of making it. 

Photographs by Caroline C. Kilgore