Carpe Vinum: Drinking with the Stars

The wine market is flush with celebrity wines.  They’re everywhere.  But are we supposed to take these wines seriously, or are they just another celebrity branding trend?

A quick search of the web turned up a mountain of celebrity wines (and this is just the tip of the celebrity iceberg).  Just to be clear, I’m using the phrase “makes wine” very loosely.

  • Brad & Angelina’s Chateau Miraval Rosé — it feels like everyone is talking about this one.
  • Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler, make wines in Tuscany.
  • Jason Priestly Brandon Walsh makes a Bordeaux style blend at Black Hills Estate Winery in Canada.  Having spent the better part of my college years watching 90210, I really need to get a bottle of this one!
  • Jeff Gordon makes a Chardonnay.  This one scares me a little.
  • AC/DC makes a Sauvignon Blanc.  This one scares me a lot.
  • Mario Batali makes an Italian red blend.  I really hope it has an orange Croc somewhere on the back of the label.
  • My Three Sons actor Fred MacMurray has a namesake winery in Sonoma.
  • Dan Aykroyd makes an Icewine in Canada.
  • Leo Messi makes Malbec in Argentina.
  • Kathie Lee Gifford makes a red and white wine from California’s Central Coast.  Do they come with crazy straws?
  • Antonio Banderas makes a Ribera del Duero in Spain.
  • Dave Matthews makes wine in Sonoma (DreamingTree) and also owns Blenheim Vineyards here in Virginia.
  • Drew Barrymore makes a Pinot Grigio.  Yes, that happened.
  • Donald Trump owns Trump Winery in Virginia.

The list goes on.  And on.  So Carpe Vinum decided to try to assemble a small assortment of celebrity wines and put them to the test.  Will they be pleasure . . . or plonk?

Here are the wines we tasted, and our food pairings.  The food titles are links to the recipes.

Trump Sparkling Blanc de Blanc 2008 ⭐⭐⭐/84
This is from Donald Trump’s eponymous winery in Virginia.  100% Chardonnay, made in the méthode Champenoise.  Fermented in stainless steel.  Aged on the lees for 36 months.  Fresh baked bread on the nose with flavors of green apple and pear.  I think Wine Spectator was a little harsh with its rating of 81.  Granted, it’s a little shy and lacks complexity, but it’s totally drinkable, especially for $24.

Paired with Truffle and Parmesan Popcorn.
There is no movie on the planet that you can’t sit through if you’re eating this popcorn.  It’s otherworldly.  Fair warning:  Don’t make this if you aren’t prepared to eat the entire bowl.

The Pairing 👍👍
This pairing makes me happy happy happy!!  Popcorn + Bubbles = Magic!


Miraval Rosé 2013 ⭐⭐⭐⭐/90
This is Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s entry into Celebrity Wines.  I’m not a fan of Brangelina, and as such, I really wanted to hate this wine . . . but I loved everything about it.  A blend of Cinsault, Grenache, Rolle and Syrah.  The pale color is beautiful.  Fresh strawberries and cream on the nose.  Dry and crisp, a little thread of minerals runs throughout.  Even the bottle is gorgeous.  I’m soooo buying more of this one.  $20.

Paired with a Charcuterie Plate
I can make a meal out of a Charcuterie plate any day, and my girlfriend assembled a doozie! Marconas almonds, quince paste, Bresaola, Rosette de Lyon, Serrano ham, Brie cheese, Kerrygold Vintage Dubliner Irish cheese, St. Agur French Bleu, Spanish olives, Cornichons.
Yum . . . just yum.

The Pairing 👍
Rosé goes with just about anything . . . Charcuterie is another great dance partner.  This is the kind of pairing that makes you linger . . . and linger.


Dreaming Tree Chardonnay Central Coast 2012 ⭐⭐⭐/85
This is Dave Matthews’ California label (he also owns Blenheim Vineyards in Virginia).  100% Chardonnay.  Aged 9 months in oak and stainless.  Tropical and citrusy on the front end, followed by vanilla and apple pie spice notes on the back end.  Not terribly complex, but enjoyable nonetheless.  $16.

Paired with Fromage Fort
Fromage Fort means strong cheese.  It was originally created as a way to use up leftover cheese ends and bits.  It couldn’t be easier — you just process the cheese bits (my girlfriend used gruyère) with white wine and garlic.  Oh, man!  This is Cheese Fondue on toast!! LOVELOVELOVE!!  I am now going to eat myself to death.

The Pairing 👍👍
Wow!  That’s all I need to say . . .


Casa Bianchi LEO Malbec 2010 ⭐⭐⭐/87
Leo Messi can play football, but can he make wine?  100% Malbec.  Love the soccer ball on the label.  Some barnyard funk on the nose.  Very smoky and pretty acidic, with flavors of plum, black pepper, black olives and licorice.  Begging for food (luckily, we have some).  $30.

Paired with Empanadas Chilenas
Yes, yes.  I know this is an Argentine wine and I’ve paired it with Chilean food.  But I’ve been craving my girlfriend’s Empanadas, and she’s Chilean.  I’m told the essential difference between Chilean and Argentine empanadas is the onion to meat ratio. Chilean empanadas have twice as much onion as ground beef.  My girlfriend gave me her blessing to use the Goya Empanadas discs, so I got a free pass on making pastry.  I was pretty proud of the way these turned out — easy and delicious!

The Pairing 👍
The wine is pretty acidic, and the empanadas really help tame that acid.  It ends up being quite complimentary.  Repeat the mantra:  Pair ethnic food with ethnic wine.


MacMurray Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2012 ⭐⭐⭐/84
This is Fred MacMurray’s (My Three Sons) namesake winery.  Today, it’s owned by E&J Gallo, and MacMurray’s daughter, Kate, serves as the winery’s ambassador.  100% Pinot Noir.  A little thin, perhaps.  Slightly floral nose, I keep thinking lavender.  There’s not a lot of the funk I like in a Pinot.  Red berries seem to be the focus.  $24.

Paired with Meat-Stuffed Cabbage Cakes
I never get to eat cabbage at home (my family hates it), so I was really looking forward to this dish.  And it didn’t disappoint.

The Pairing 👍
The earthiness of the cabbage and meat medley (veal, Italian sausage and bacon) adds a little funk back into the wine.  I’d love to try these with a Syrah.

All of the celebrity wines we tasted were pretty good, some even quite excellent.  There were no stinkers in the bunch.  But then again, we didn’t go into this trying to buy bad celebrity wines.  Plus, I doubt many celebrities would be willing to put their name (their brand) on a product that was truly horrible.  At the end of the day, I suspect celebrity wines are just like “regular” wines — some are good, some are bad . . . and some are ugly.

Have you ever tried any celebrity wines?  If so, what did you think??

Later this month, Carpe Vinum will be taking a field trip to Albemarle Cider Works to celebrate Virginia Cider Week (November 14-23).



  1. I’m down to try some of that 90210 wine myself!! If only Dylan was in on it too.

    I’ve heard great things about Brangelina’s wine…personally, I’m really indifferent to them, so I wouldn’t bother to pick up their wine just because they’re making it, but I wouldn’t shy away either. I know Wine Spectator really raved about them in their feature issue.


    1. That Miraval is fantastic. My fave find of the year. Fess Parker wines are pretty good, too. But you have to be of a certain age to know he was an actor. The one I really wanted to try is Sogno Uno. I think Robert Parker gave it 92 pts. The wine maker – adult film star Savanna Samson.


  2. I was just going to mention the Fess Parker one- I guess that puts me at a certain age 🙂 There is also Smothers Brothers wines, too and that one really puts you at a certain age!


  3. I’ve had the dreaming tree and some of the MacMurray wines, but I’m really going to look into the miraval rose. Rose is so perfect to serve at times. It’s a must for me at Easter. Thanks!


  4. Sparkling wine and popcorn? Who are you, Olivia Pope? Ha! I have heard the Miraval Rose is very good. I look forward to trying it. I’ve had Dreaming Tree and MacMurray wines, both reds. They were both drinkable wines. I would love to try Blenheim! Love me some VA Wines!


  5. Thanks for this post and all the pairing tips. Love to cook so they sound fun to try! Reposted out to our audience…they’ve got to experience this too! 🙂
    Miki “This is the Life” Winer


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