From clothing lines to watch brands to kitchen gear and beyond, celebrities love to dabble in getting their names out there on all manner of products.
The drinks world, of course, is no exception — the world of wine, beer and spirits has seen all manner of famous and familiar faces and names grace bottles for years.
While for some it’s just a marketing ploy, some take their ventures quite seriously. Sam Neill, for example, is best known to most as Dr. Alan Grant from the Jurassic Park movie franchise. But these days his main line of work is as owner of Two Paddocks winery, whose wines are solid examples of what can be done with Pinot Noir and more in New Zealand. (Until recently, Two Paddocks wines were available at La Boutique Del Vino.)
From athletes to actors and beyond, here are five lines of drinks — mainly wines — sporting well-known names for all manner of palates…
Jay-Z — Armand de Brignac, Champagne, France
There are plenty of musician/drink ventures out there, but rapper and business mogul Jay-Z is at the top of the heap. Jay-Z, born Shawn Carter, built the Armand de Brignac (also known as Ace of Spades) brand from the ground up, and it quickly became the bubbly of choice for a new generation — one that previously would have opted for the swanky (and expensive) Louis Roederer Cristal. In late February 2021, Mr. Beyoncé sold 50 per cent of Armand de Brignac brand to LVMH — which also produces Louis Vuitton merchandise and Hennessy cognac, as well as Moët et Chandon, Krug, Veuve Clicquot and Dom Pérignon champagnes — for what is reported to be hundreds of millions of dollars. Is the champagne any good? This taster hasn’t the bank account to try it, but a recent tasting done by critics at wine magazine Decanter gave the range of wines, which start at $361.99 in Manitoba (available at Liquor Marts), between 90 to 96 out of 100 points.
Sarah Jessica Parker — Invivo X SJP, Marlborough, New Zealand
Sure, Sarah Jessica Parker’s best known for sipping on cosmos, but the Sex and the City star partnered with New Zealand’s Invivo (who also make wine with Irish TV host Graham Norton) for her own Sauvignon Blanc and rosé from the Marlborough region (the former is available in Manitoba at De Luca Fine Wines). How involved was Parker in the making of the Invivo X SJP? Well, maybe not getting her hands dirty in the vineyard, but a video on the winery website (invivoxsjp.com) does show her working with Invivo winemakers Rob Cameron and Tim Lighbourne in an online blending session to help shape the final products. Like former NHL superstar Wayne Gretzky, Parker has used her venture to provide for the less fortunate — in her case, donating 300,000-plus school meals to hungry kids in New York City.
Francis Ford Coppola — Francis Ford Coppola Winery, California
Like Sam Neill, Francis Ford Coppola is the real deal when it comes to wine. Back in the mid-1970s, the director of the Godfather franchise bought California’s Inglenook Winery in Geyserville, making wine as Niebaum-Coppola, Inglenook and his namesake estate. He’s made a name for himself among wine lovers and critics, and now owns a second winery in California called Virginia Dare, as well as an Oregon winery called Domaine de Broglie. Coppola’s cinematic output has dropped off, leaving him more time to advance his viticultural undertakings, which are best known for big, bold reds. A few of Coppola’s reds are available at Liquor Marts (the Director’s Cut Zinfandel is particularly big and bold), while others (including those from Virginia Dare, as well as Sofia, the sparkling wine named after his director daughter) are available at private wine stores.
The reality star
Kaitlyn Bristowe — Spade & Sparrows, California
Best known as a contestant on The Bachelor, the lead on season 11 of The Bachelorette and the winner of the most recent iteration of Dancing With the Stars, Leduc, Alta.-born Kaitlyn Bristowe looked south of the border for her Spade & Sparrows line of wines. All four of the Spade & Sparrows wines — the Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio and rosé — were recently available in Manitoba via De Luca Fine Wines, although some have sold out. A February Zoom hosted by the Portage Avenue wine store saw dozens sign up to taste the wines and enjoy a quick virtual visit from Bristowe herself. The wines, made in California, are consumer-friendly and don’t require excess contemplation — sort of like the shows on which Bristowe made her name.
Wayne Gretzky — Wayne Gretzky Estates, Ontario, B.C.
While Canada’s greatest hockey export has been out of the game for a while, Wayne Gretzky has iced an impressive lineup of drinks bearing his name. He’s come a long way from the days of Pro Stars cereal; there are 18 Wayne Gretzky Estates products currently listed on the Manitoba Liquor Marts website alone, including ales, whiskies, cream liqueur and wines from both British Columbia and Ontario. Products range from $3 for the beer to $99 (obviously) for the high-end wine/whisky, with plenty of solid reds and whites falling in the $17-$20 range. Gretzky’s winery and distillery in Niagara-on-the-Lake (complete with ice rink) is home base for the venture, a partnership with Andrew Peller Limited, while he’s also got a facility in Kelowna for the B.C. crowd. But Gretzky’s not just in it for the money — a portion of proceeds go to funding the Wayne Gretzky Foundation, which helps less-fortunate youth get access to hockey programs.
There are plenty of other celeb-backed drinks out there. In Manitoba you’ll likely find Ryan Reynolds’ Aviation Gin, Snoop Dogg’s 19 Crimes Cali Red, Dave Matthews’ Dreaming Tree line of wines from the Golden State, the Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie Côtes de Provence rosé Miraval, Jon Bon Jovi’s French rosé Hampton Water, Casamigos tequila (formerly owned by George Clooney) and more.
And remember — just because it’s got a famous name/face behind it doesn’t mean the product is necessarily any good. Bottoms up.
Literary editor, drinks writer
Ben Sigurdson edits the Free Press books section, and also writes about wine, beer and spirits.