Winemaking as a second career.
By Louis Marmon
Gazette Newspapers September 21, 2005
Some say the way to make a small fortune in the wine business is to start with a large one. Subject to the vagaries of weather, insects and capricious consumer tastes, winemaking appears to be a guaranteed way to lose money. Despite these issues, many people who have become successful in other endeavors find the lure of making and selling their own wine irresistible.
Golfer Greg Norman became enamored with wine in the 1970s while playing in Europe. In 1999, he partnered with the conglomerate Fosters Wine Estates to produce wines from Australia and California. Featuring a multicolored shark on the label, Greg Norman Estates has a broad portfolio ranging from Chardonnay and Syrah to a sparkling Chardonnay/Pinot Noir blend. Norman leaves the actual winemaking to professionals, but offers stylistic advice to ensure the wines remain food-friendly and moderately priced. Norman Estates Limestone Coast Shiraz 2003 ($16) has slightly spicy plum and blackberry flavors, while the Norman Estates Limestone Coast Shiraz Cabernet 2001 ($16) has berry and currant notes with great structure. With spicy blackberry flavors and good body, the Norman California Estates Petite Syrah Paso Robles 2003 ($17) also has a nice finish. Equally good is the Norman Estates Lake Country Zinfandel 2003 ($15), with balanced raspberry and spice flavors.
Among those in the entertainment business who have become successful winemakers is Francis Ford Coppola, who produces both value-prices wines as well as more expensive prestige bottlings. The modestly priced Coppola Shiraz California Rosso 2003 ($11) has cedar, berry and slight herbal flavors. Another example is the Coppola Diamond Series Merlot Blue Label 2002 ($17), with blueberry and vanilla notes. Produced as a tribute to his grandfather, the Neibaum-Coppola Edizione Pennino Zinfandel 2002 ($35) has earthy cola, berry and nutmeg flavors and a smooth finish.
In 1973, Italo Zingarelli, who made his fortune producing spaghetti westerns, bought a 14th century farm in Italy’s Tuscany region to establish his family’s winery. Over several decades, he bought other estates in the Chianti Classico area and Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico 2002 ($16), a blend of 95 percent Sangiovese and 5 percent Merlot, is a fine example of that region’s wines. Also very good is the food-friendly Rocca delle Macie Rubizzo 2001 ($12) that has nice berry flavors and a great finish.
Actor Fess Parker, best known for portraying frontiersman Davy Crockett, is another California wine producer. The Fess Parker Viognier Santa Barbara 2003 ($20) has apricot and orange notes with a touch of spicy oak, while the Fess Parker Santa Barbara Bien Nacido 2003 ($45) has intense cherry jam and raspberry flavors with a gorgeous finish.
As a further affirmation of wine’s health benefits, some physicians are also winemakers. Thomas Fogarty M.D., a medical device inventor and Professor of Surgery at Stanford, established his eponymous winery in 1981. For something different, try the spicy tangerine and pineapple flavored Fogarty Gewurztraminer Monterey 2003 ($15) with Chinese food, and the black cherry and vanilla flavored Fogarty Santa Cruz Mountains Sangiovese 2001 ($25) with a favorite Italian dish.
In 1986, pediatric surgeon Al de Lorimier and his wife, Sandy, started a winery in California’s Alexander Valley. Two of the best wines are blends: the de Lorimier Spectrum Sauvignon Blanc that also contains Semillon and Viognier, and the de Lorimier Mosaic Meritage made mostly of Cabernet Sauvignon, with varying amounts of Petite Verdot, Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. A real treat is the dessert wine ‘‘Lace” made from botrytised Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc.