Celebrities can do anything, or so it sometimes seems. Though they may be known for acting or directing or singing or the like, if they’re well-known enough, they can turn their attentions and lend their names to almost any enterprise — clothing lines (Reese Witherspoon, Rihanna), perfume (Lady Gaga, Pharrell Williams), athletic shoes (LeBron James, Lionel Messi), food products (Jeff Foxworthy, Maria Sharapova), restaurants (too many to mention)….
And then there’s alcohol. Over the past few decades, countless film, TV, and music stars have bought vineyards or invested in spirits brands. One of the earliest examples was the pianist, composer, and onetime prime minister of Poland Ignacy Jan Paderewski. He bought two ranches in Paso Robles, California, in the late 1910s, planted grapes, and made wine — though he didn’t put his name on the label.
In more recent years, people like Fess “Davy Crockett” Parker and the TV comedians the Smothers Brothers got into winemaking. So did ice skating star Peggy Fleming and her husband, who recently retired from the winery venture.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and her husband own a six-acre Napa Valley vineyard, but they sell the grapes instead of making their own wine. The most famous celebrity name attached to a winery, of course, is that of Pelosi’s nemesis, Donald Trump. Trump, who doesn’t drink, bought the Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyards near Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2011, renaming it for himself. (Though he has claimed to own the property, a disclaimer on the Trump Winery website states “Trump Winery is a registered trade name of Eric Trump Wine Manufacturing LLC, which is not owned, managed, or affiliated with Donald J. Trump or any of his affiliates.”)
Wine is still a popular beverage for celebrities to get involved with, though some prefer to lend their names and investment dollars to vodka (Trump tried that in 2006, but the brand tanked), whiskey, and tequila.
The first celebrity-backed tequila, in fact, goes back many decades. Though they didn’t brand it with their names, legendary crooner Bing Crosby and his friend the comedian, actor, and singer Phil Harris (best-known today for voicing Baloo the bear in the animated version of “The Jungle Book”) discovered Herradura tequila in Mexico in the 1940s, and arranged to have it imported into the U.S. For years it was the only 100% blue agave tequila in the country. These days, some of our own generation’s musical celebrities are adding to the tequila shelf. These are America’s 40 hottest new music stars.
It’s difficult sometimes to divine just how much input celebrities have with their brands. Some clearly own the companies that produce them in whole or in part, and most of them claim to be involved in taste tests, marketing decisions, etc. Some of them might actually know a little bit about distilling liquor or making wine, and some of what they produce might actually be pretty decent — here are 11 ways to decide if a wine is actually really good.
Whatever these famous names may know about producing alcohol, one thing is sure: They certainly know a lot about keeping their names in the public eye.