Beyond the Doobies, there’s a world of rock and rollers who have taken to making their own wines. Most of them have just lent their names to a label… They’re far from the madding crowd of a wine cellar. Can you say “trophies,” boys and girls?
Someone else is doing all of the work, right down to the marketing. I learned that lesson when one of them created a Petite Sirah and I tried to approach them thinking, “How great for us all? As members, we’ll get he word out and the variety will get what’s equivalent to the ‘Colbert Bump,’ from thee guys. And, we’ll give them publicity, too.”
“What was I thinking with that one?” said she, delusionally….
Living my way through the Summer of Love, then the 70s and 80s has provided more than a few great stories in my repertoire; but, the one that connected me to FM radio and finding myself just about living backstage with rock n’rollers is by far the most relevant to this story.
It all began with my repeating a fifth grade habit I had developed. At lunch time, I’d leave St. Patrick’s school yard and head downtown to sit in with the DJ at WLAM radio station. By leaving the school grounds and exploring my home town, I eventually discovered the DJ’s booth. After days of arriving unannounced and just watching him from outside of his booth, his curiosity got the best of him, and he invited me sit in with him. At 10 years old, I was intuitively crafting my future in radio.
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- Kermit Lynch (1972) ~ Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant
- Robert Foley (1977) ~ Robert Foley Vineyards
- Olivia Newton-John (1983) ~ Koala Blue Winery
- Doobie Brothers manager Bruce Cohn (1984) ~ B.R. Cohn Winery
- Boz Scaggs (1997) ~ Scaggs Vineyard
- Mick Hucknall of Simply Red (2001) Mick (of the British pop group) has a winery in Sicily, where he produces a Nero d’Avola called Il Cantante (“the singer”)
- Mick Fleetwood (2002) ~ Mick Fleetwood Private Cellar
- Bob Dylan (2002) ~ Planet Waves wine
- Andy Hill (2002) ~ English sparkling wine Nyetimber, owned by songwriter Hill, who wrote all the hits for Bucks Fizz
- Sir Cliff Richard (2004): Quinta do Moinho, a vineyard in Portugal, Vida Nova and Wells Wines. Richard has owned his land for over 40 years.
- Jerry Garcia (2005) ~ J. Garcia wines by Clos du Bois
- Mötley Crüe (2005) ~ Vince Vineyards (Can’t find any updates of Website. Was it a one hit wonder?)
- Madonna (2005) ~ A joint owner of the Ciccone Vineyard and Winery in Michigan
- Dave Pack of Ambrosia (2005) ~ “Vintage 2005 Napa Valley Friend’s Blend.” (Not for sale; for family and friends, per Mike Nordskog, Wine & Jazz magazine)
- Maynard James Keenan of Tool and A Perfect Circle (2006) ~ He has Caduceus Cellars, Merkin Vineyards and Arizona Stronghold Vineyards and the associated winery, Caduceus Cellars. According to a fan, he’s full on into wine, adjusting his band’s touring schedule around harvesting and anything else he needs to do at his winery.
- Dan Aykroyd of Blues Brothers fame (2007) ~In 2007, it was announced that the Dan Aykroyd Winery would be built someday, on the property that Birchwood Estates Wines.
- Sting (Approx. 2007) ~ Vineyard in Tuscany. He makes a Chianti called Il Serrestori, and began making wines just for friends and family. By 2009, he was selling his 2007 vintage.
- Les Chaney of Primus (2007) ~ His business card simply reads, “Les.” Anyone familiar with Primus (American funk metal band) knows that “Les” means Les Claypool. He sings his heart out, and is now also making great wine under the Claypool Cellars label. His Website claims: Fancy Booze for semi-fancy folks. Les immediately told me, “Life’s too short, you gotta have fun!” This is what I love about rockers… and miss… They live so large and love so hard. Wine happens because it’s there. It’s not the be all to end all, and it’s not for pretension; it’s just to enjoy life a bit more.
- Eric Turner of Warrant (2007) ~ Cheery Pie Red, Napa Valley
- Jackson Brown (2008) ~ In 2008, Jackson Brown publicly contemplated turning his Hollister Ranch home in Santa Barbara, California into a vineyard.
- Queensrÿche front man Geoff Tate ( 2008) ~ Queensrÿche has teamed up with Three Rivers Winery to create a new red wine signature blend called Geoff Tate “Insania.”
- Motörhead (2010) ~ Motörheadwine
- Whitesnake (2010) ~ Whitesnake Zinfandel
- Train (2011) ~ Drops of Jupiter
- Paul Cullen of Bad Company’ (2011) ~ Sonata
- AC/DC (2011) ~ AC/DC Wines (Available through Dan Murphy, Woolworth’s, and BWS liquor stores throughout Australia
- Digital Summer (2013) ~ Paul Hoffman and Victim Entertainment (V.E.) have announced a promotional partnership between national recording artist Digital Summer, and the emerging wine brand Headbanger.
When the ’70s hit, and I was told to listen to this “really groovy radio station” called WBLM (then licensed to my home town of Lewiston, Maine), I connected. The DJs were playing the music I wanted to hear and speaking my language. I thought, “Wow, man, these guys are just like me.” Again, just as I had as a child, I was driven to find the DJ’s booth. Except this time is wasn’t in a downtown building, it was 20 miles away in a trailer on top of a hill in Litchfield, Maine. That didn’t stop me, because now this big girl had a car. I found myself hanging out with several of the DJs, eventually marrying Jose Diaz, the program director. When the radio station needed someone to document their public file, I was qualified and began working for WBLM as their publicist and media rep. This is what led to living backstage when bands would be touring through Portland, Maine.
Jose and I were hanging out with record company legends like Lenny Collins, George Skaubitis, Don Delacy, and Don Masters. They’d come to town with their recording artists, we’d go to dinner with the record guys. and then all head backstage. My pass allowed me to click away, and then I’d submit those images to trade magazines, including Billboard. I also compiled a great portfolio in the process.
By 1992, Jose and I moved to the Santa Rosa, California area, where Jose would continue his radio career. I didn’t want to continue, though. Being in wine country, I saw the potential to reinvent myself, and I segued into wine PR. Working for new legends like Robert Mondavi and venture capitalist Bill Hambrecht has all be very gratifying. By 2001, I starting Diaz Communications, with Jose also leaving radio and joining me… But still, the memories linger as the days of wine and roses have marched on. After Jose’s 25 years in radio, it’s impossible to not still connected in some way to our past; and so, I’ve been watching rockers who are also wine segueing into the life of Wine, women, and Songs.
DETAILS: Original Opening Act Early Pioneers to Today’s Rockers Gone Wine….
Don’t let these “opening acts” fool you. The following careers are nothing but headliners. These people simply arrived first and foremost.
Kermit Lynch (1972)
As far as history goes, Kermit Lynch was the first opening act to segue into wine. California native based in Berkeley, California, Kermit Lynch of Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, recorded and released an album in 2006 of his own songs entitled “Quicksand Blues.” This was a collaboration with Boz Scaggs, Alvin Youngblood Hart, and members of Bonnie Raitt’s band.
Wine legend Lynch abandoned his 1960s-era San Francisco Bay Area garage band, moving on to become a wine importer, author, and French winery owner. After meeting Boz Scaggs at a wine dinner in Berkeley and then meeting again at Lynch’s Provence home, the pair teamed up to transform the old garage tapes into “Quicksand Blues.” Meanwhile, Lynch has been in the wine business since 1972, when he opened a retail wine shop and later began importing and distributing nationally. In 1998, Lynch purchased the historic Domaine Les Pallières in Gigondas in partnership with his friends, the Bruniers of Vieux Télégraphe.
Robert Foley (1977)
In the late 1960s, Bob Foley and his friends created a high school band, which still continues to perform at wine events, with Foley on lead vocals and guitar. In 1969, while still in high school, Foley tasted the 1968 Charbono at Napa’s historic Inglenook winery (Guess they didn’t card him back then.) This was the defining moment that led to his becoming a winemaker.
Today, Bob makes his cult Charbono at his Robert Foley Vineyards, on Napa Valley’s Howell Mountain. He also has achieved high acclaim for his Bordeaux-style reds at Napa’s Pride Mountain Vineyards, Switchback Ridge, and Hourglass. They all share his trademarked Foley style: flavors of intensity, aromatic density of finely tuned wines.
Although Foley’s career has led to the Robert Foley Vineyards performance, there were many prior acts worth noting.
In 1977, Foley graduated from UC Davis graduate with degrees in both enology and viticulture. His first job was at Heitz. A year later he moved on as the founding winemaker at Markham Vineyards, a position he held for 15 years. In 1993, Foley became the winemaker at Pride on Spring Mountain, but as of January, 2008, he became their consulting winemaker only. He’s also taken on winemaking duties at Hourglass and Switchback Ridge. Now, with his Robert Foley Vineyards he’s truly pulling a solo.
Olivia Newton-John (1983)
Yes! There’s a woman to “represent!” Koala Blue Winery produces Chardonnay and Shiraz. Koala Blue, founded by Olivia Newton-John and Pat Farrar, captures the unique “flavours and colours” of Australia. Crafted for Olivia and Pat by Great Stone Wines, the building block of Koala Blue wines is the high quality grapes grown in Great Stone Wines’ own Limestone coast vineyards. Their winemakers work side by side with the vineyard managers to ensure that grapes are grown to the highest standard, and each vintage produces quality consistent with the best of the previous vintage.
Doobie Brothers (1984)
Bruce Cohn is not only founder and proprietor of B.R. Cohn Winery, but he also managers The Doobie Brothers; two careers, both led with passion. Taking directly from his Website:
Founded by Bruce Cohn in 1984, B.R. Cohn Winery is located in the heart of Sonoma Valley. Bruce Cohn bought the land now known as Olive Hill Estate Vineyards in 1974. The small family operated winery is surrounded by the 90-acre Olive Hill Estate Vineyards, where soils warmed by underground natural hot springs and gentle ocean breezes create a unique microclimate resulting in ideal growing conditions for ultra-premium Cabernet Sauvignon. B.R. Cohn also produces Merlot, Pinot Noir, SyrCab (a unique blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon), Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Cabernet Port, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. These award-winning wines have placed B.R. Cohn among the leaders of great California wine producers.
Boz Scaggs (1997)
In 1997, Boz Scaggs and his wife Dominique bought land in the Mayacamas mountain range that divides Napa and Sonoma counties. By 1998, he planted just over two acres of Mourvedre and Grenache, and a small amount of Roussanne, working with Rhone varieties. The grapes are farmed organically, but not with the intention of going through the lengthy process of having the vineyard become certified. His Website as yet doesn’t have any wine vintages on it, but from an earlier article in the San Francisco Chronicle, there’s intent.
Bob Dylan (2002)
From 1974, the Planet Waves album segued into the 2002 Planet Waves wine. The wine label was created by Italian brand Fattoria al Terrazze of Le Marche, a wine region on the Adriatic coast of Italy. Like all things with Bob Dylan… hazy and shaded by what is and what it could be, Bob’s signatrure appears on the back label of the 2002 Planet Waves Table Red. Today, Le Terrazze is operated by Antonio Terni. Antonio is an avid Dylan fan who’s also former nuclear scientist. Doesn’t it all make perfect sense? Antonio created a first wine dedicated to Dylan, 1997 Visions of J (for Visions of Johanna). By 2002, it all came together to at least get that Dylan signature for the back label.
Mick Fleetwood (2002)
Like cuts on an LP (okay, CD, but these are all rockers of the 60s and 70s, remember), Mick Fleetwood is crafting a unique riff for each of his cuts on this current CD offering.
Working with established brands/partners in the Santa Barbara area, Mick chose Lucas & Lewellen Vineyard in Buellton, California to produce an interesting 2002 Cuvée: 25 percent Cabernet Franc and 75 percent Merlot grapes (grown in Santa Barbara County). Aged for 30 months in French oak casks and 18 months in the bottle for optimal flavor development and structure, this wine earned the distinction of Mick Fleetwood, Private Cellar 2002 Cuvée.
Looking for a bright crisp wine, Mick Fleetwood also chose to work with Casa Cassara Winery & Vineyard, producing his 2005 Sauvignon Blanc. These grapes were sourced from the eastern Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County, California, another Mick Fleetwood Private Cellar 2005 Sauvignon Blanc.
He’s also chosen Winemaker Mike Brown to blend 25 percent Cabernet Franc and 75 percent Merlot grapes from Westerly Vineyards in Santa Ynez for his Mick Fleetwood Private Cellar 1998 Cuvee
Click here for a walk down memory lane with some great Fleetwood Mac!
Jerry Garcia (2005)
Greatful Dead’s late singer Jerry Garcia’s art inspired Clos du Bois winery to launch J. Garcia wines featuring his art on the labels. The initial release included three wines: 2002 Sonoma County Chardonnay, 2000 Sonoma County Merlot, and 2000 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon. There’s also a 2001 Zinfandel out there. The Jerry Garcia Website that used to support these wines has been pulled from the Internet; however, the wine is still being offered through on-line retailers. Christopher Sabec, the chief executive of the Jerry Garcia Estate L.L.C., controlled by Mr. Garcia’s heirs, is responsible for expanded the Garcia company into Jerry’s art being displayed on the Clos du Bois wines.
Mötley Crüe (2005)
Not a band that would be considered “wine country” fodder, it’s written that when frontman Vince Neil sang about “Fine, Fine Wine” on his 1993 solo album, he was actually talking about sex. Neil has since released a Napa Cabernet and a Sonoma Chardonnay ($20 each) under the Vince Vineyards label… An interesting segue, n’est pas? Don’t look for the Website, because it’s not functioning, however, here’s an image of the label, and off you go! Jerry Shriver of USA Today quotes John Ott of Alder Fels, “We weren’t sure if it was going to be a big deal or a small deal when Vince’s agents approached us, but it’s been fantastic,” says John Ott, president of Adler Fels winery in Santa Rosa, CA, where the wines are made.
Lil Jon (2008)
Hip-Hop artist Lil Jon launched Little Jonathan Winery. For me, just looking at a package makes me want to go there, because this one rocks! It’s classy… Just well done…
His wine brand started much the same many new wine brands start… by producing a few cases of wine to share with friends. I’ve learned from some vintners that seeing their own name on their own bottle of wine is an extension of themselves. It plays to their egos; the core of who they are. A well balanced ego should produce a well-balance wine, and so-far so good from those I’ve met. Someone with an already established reputation isn’t going to throw it all away with plonk wines. RULE #1 of marketing when you already have a reputation: You can’t risk it, Biscuit! Do it right the first time. RULE #1 of ego, make it as good as you possibly can, and Lil Jon’s done that.
KISS: Joakim Perani, managing director and partner of Rewine ~ a wholesale company, and KISS partnered to create Zin Fire Zinfandel in 2011. It was launched in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, The Netherlands, and the UK. (They also launched Destroyer Beer, just for the record.) From their Facebook page: “This isn’t just something we put a label on. We wanted wine and beer unique to KISS and we got it, said Paul Stanley of KISS. “This stuff will set your taste buds on fire.” … “If you love beer and wine, this one is for you!” said Gene Simmons of KISS.
BAD COMPANY’S PAUL CULLEN: Wine, food, and song all do it for Paul Cullen. With 30 years of music experience, including his gig with the English rock band Bad Company and three solo records, in the 1990s Paul Cullen was the base player for Bad Company. While he’s still a musician (now a guitarist who plays his own genre of music referred to as “Jazzy Cool”), Paul recently founded a company called Unplugged and Uncorked. This company combines his background as a musician with his expertise in wine and food. Through Unplugged and Uncorked, Paul launched a new wine label called Sonata. Because of his expertise in wine and food, Paul was also recently named the food editor of Delaware’s Coastal Style magazine. More information about Cullen’s private wine label, Sonata, can be found at PaulCullen.net/wine. Cullen’s wines are Sonata Bianco (Pinot Grigio) and Sonata Rosso. Both sell for $12.41 on the Boutique Wine Room. Cullen’s Italian mother inspired his culinary interests; today he’s also considered a culinary expert. Having signed on with Maryland’s Coastal Style magazine as Food Editor, Paul shares his recipes and is also producing cooking videos, available through an online version of the publication.
AC/DC: The bad boys of rock are now making wine… who’d thunk that one…
Australian rock band AC/DC is also now on my list of rockers who have launched their own wine brand. Their Australian collaboration is with Warburn Estate for the release of their AC/DC Wines. AC/DC wines are named after some of their biggest hits; this includes Hells Bells Sauvignon Blanc, Highway to Hell Cabernet Sauvignon, Back In Black Shiraz, and You Shook Me All Night Long Moscato. The wine is sourced from vineyards in the Barossa and Coonawarra regions in Australia, and the Marlborough region in New Zealand.
HEADBANGER: Paul Hoffman and Victim Entertainment (V.E.) have announced a promotional partnership between national recording artist Digital Summer, and the emerging wine brand Headbanger. “This joint venture will focus on the growing interest in wine among all people worldwide that also have a pure love of rock n’roll,” according to Paul. . V.E. Founder and Digital Summer vocalist Kyle Winterstein and H.F.C. owner and winemaker Paul Hoffman share a love of music, wine, and innovation. “Over a few glasses of Headbanger Zinfandel at dinner, Paul and I recognized the similarities of our entrepreneurial experiences — building companies in terrible economic conditions and the successes we have had thus far,” shares Winterstein. “We agreed that there is a huge opportunity to take the platform and reach we have as entertainers through live performances and social media and apply that energy to help build a global brand. This is the same philosophy each band mate has embraced to build Digital Summer. ”
UPDATE: July 12, 2013 ~
DAVE MATTHEWS: Dreaming Tree Wines