Many famous names are breaking out of their professions and into the business of winemaking. The combination of the two can be seen in these ready-for-the-limelight vinos.
Andy Warhol once said that “in the future everybody will be famous for 15 minutes.” Once their 15 minutes arrived, they would presumably get to wear Jean-Paul Gaultier and take turns dissing each other in Interview. Unfortunately, the future has come and gone several times since Warhol made his prediction and I’m still waiting for my quarter-hour.

One of Warhol’s astute observations was about celebrities. He defined a celebrity as someone who is “famous for being famous.” These include all those people with titles from countries nobody has ever heard of, those whose 30-room retreats on Mustique have appeared on the cover of Architectural Digest, and anyone who has been divorced from Donald Trump.

In between these two Warholian extremes of the almost famous and the overly famous, there are the truly accomplished people whom we call stars. Most of them are workaholics, overachievers whose work — whether it’s acting, cooking, or driving race cars — is just another form of play. When you like what you do, you tend to be good at it. A few of them, in addition to their lives in the public eye, also have serious hobbies ... such as winemaking. It takes a confident person to get into winemaking as an avocation. It’s one pursuit that demands a lifetime of commitment and attention. As will be apparent when you taste them, these three bottles represent real star power.
NEILL 1999 PINOT NOIR TWO PADDOCKS, CENTRAL OTAGO, NEW ZEALAND ($32)
New Zealand actor Sam Neill has been chased by velociraptors in Jurassic Park, sucked into a black hole in Event Horizon, and compelled to engineer pure evil as Damien Thorn “the spawn of Satan” in Omen III: The Final Conflict. OK, fine; but what does a guy like this do for kicks? He makes wine, actually. Neill is the proud owner of the Neill Winery in Central Otago, New Zealand.

The winery is dedicated to Pinot Noir, a rising-star varietal on the New Zealand wine scene. Neill calls the wine Two Paddocks because the grapes come from two distinct vineyards. The first, called One Paddock Gibbston, was planted in 1993, and a second, Alex Paddocks, was purchased in 1998. Neill is now in the process of planting a third plot, known as Redbank Paddocks, which is also the source for a commercial lavender oil. The 1999 Two Paddocks is crisp, bright, and tangy with edgy acidity and lively fruit.

EMERIL'S CLASSICS 2001 WHITE MENDOCINO ($13)


Emeril Lagasse is a culinary star, a sort of Escoffier for the SUV generation. You can find his tall toque popping up just about everywhere that food is mentioned. He owns three restaurants in New Orleans, two in Las Vegas, one in Orlando, and is developing two new restaurants, another in Orlando and one in Atlanta. His programs on the Food Network bring him into 75 million of our kitchens every day (at least that’s where I watch him). He’s also sold more than 2 million copies of his cookbooks.

I’ve known Emeril since he was getting blisters peeling crawdads at the Commander’s Palace, and I’ve always had enormous respect for his ideas about food. He recently released two wines that will carry his name — a red and a white. They’re made by Fetzer Vineyards in California and are geared to go with Emeril’s feisty signature cuisine. The 2001 white, a Chardonnay-Viognier blend, is smooth and ripe with varietal aromatics and lush mineral and spice components.


ANDRETTI WINERY 1999 SANGIOVESE, NAPA VALLEY ($18)


Racing legend Mario Andretti was born in Montona, Italy. Arriving in the United States at the age of 15, he started racing on a dirt track near his home and eventually went on to win the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500, the Pike’s Peak Hill Climb, the Formula One World Championship, and the Indy Car Championship (four times!). Mario was named Driver of the Century in the year 2000. The Andrettis evidently come from a high-octane bloodline: Mario’s two sons and grandson are also race-car drivers.

When Mario retired from racing in 1994, a special 1991 Cabernet was bottled in his honor, a wine which became the beginning of a line of Andretti wines. In 1996 Mario built his own winery, set in a 53-acre vineyard in Napa Valley. The wines are made by winemaker Bob Pepi, who was already well-known in Napa for his association with his family’s Robert Pepi Winery. The 1999 Sangiovese, an appropriate variety for a vintner of Andretti’s heritage, packs bright and racy (pun intended) flavors with lots of berry fruit and tangy acidity.

BUYER'S GUIDE


Neill 1999 Pinot Noir Two Paddocks, Central Otago, New Zealand ($32)
www.twopaddocks.com
Bright and Tangy
Great with rack of lamb

Andretti Winery 1999 Sangiovese, Napa Valley ($18)
www.andrettiwinery.com
Fresh and Racy
Serve with Itnalian food of when watching the Indy 500

Emeril's Classics 21001 White Mendocino ($13)
www.emerils.com
Ripe and Spicy
Serve with Cajun jambayala