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Wednesday, March 4, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 10.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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How to pick wines made by the stars
Celebrity vin

Credit:Joe Rocco

Celebrities think they can do anything. Models get delusions they can sing, actors are convinced they can be politicians, and directors believe they're artists. But the worst offense might be when famous folks think they can make wine.

Inflicting one's own personal brand of grape juice on a fan base that's loyal to the last drop seems to be de rigueur these days for everyone from Madonna to Dave Matthews, Drew Barrymore to Antonio Banderas. Most of this celebrity plonk is terrible -- except for the wine from former porn star Savanna Samson, who bizarrely makes a stellar Brunello. Now, why a porn star can make great wine while others fail is the subject of a different column altogether. Although, singer, yogini and Tantric sex practitioner Sting produces good wine too, so maybe the secret is flexibility?

Kind-of-famous people seem to pull off the switch from a previous career to winemaking better than megastars: Note Maynard James Keenan from the band Tool, whose Caduceus Cellars in Arizona has made waves, or musician Hank Beckmeyer (Half Japanese, Mo Tucker) of La Clarine Farm, who is now one of the leading lights of American biodynamic winemaking. But the rest of them, why do they do it? You know how you loved Fergie a little less after smelling her fragrance Outspoken? Try drinking her wine.

But then a curious thing happened this past year. Brangelina released a rosé that received high marks from critics. In fact, it sped up the wine charts to become a top 100 hit.

I finally tried the Miraval rosé ($25) blind a few weeks ago, and it had all the characteristics of good Provencal rosé. It was dry, salty and delicious. When its identity was revealed, I was impressed that Pitt and Jolie would make something that doesn't jibe with the typical mass-market, sweet, big flavor profile.

The not-so-secret to their success is the level of their involvement in the project. Pitt and Jolie have sunk $60 million into purchasing an entire valley in Provence and are working with the famous Perrin wine family. As Pitt told Wine Spectator in a recent interview: "I'm a farmer now."

Well, so much for the experience of making wine helping a celebrity sound less out of touch. Still, maybe we shouldn't snicker at the fact that Pitt is trying. What if more celebrities pushed good juice to grocery stores? How much better might the country's drinking level be?

Pitt and Jolie are following in the footsteps of the most successful celebrity-to-vine crossover, Francis Ford Coppola, who has been making quality wines since 1975. If you're in the grocery store and just absolutely have to purchase wine made by a famous person, pick up Coppola Merlot ($18). It tastes like wine, not fame.

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