The fine art of turning the grape into a fine wine has been around for centuries. But these days, the wine business is seeing many new faces. Famous figures from the gridiron to the red carpet are hoping to score big in the vineyard.
"I gave up this pigskin many years ago, and now I am involved with the grape skin," said four-time Super Bowl champion Joe Montana.
After visiting a Napa Valley auction, he teamed with wine master Ed Sbragia of Beringer vineyards to make their own vintage.
"What made me want to get involved is not the process of making wine but the consumption side," Montana said. My wife, Jennifer, and I both love red wine. It was something that I always wanted to do,"
Sbragia, a wine master at Beringer for 30 years, was a fan of Montana, who made his name as a quarterback with the 49ers in nearby San Francisco.
"When he came up, I was truly impressed, and finding out that he's like a real person who enjoys red wine and was impressed by what I had done, I was really humbled," Sbragia said.
Their collaboration resulted in a bold red wine they named Montagia -- a combination of their last names. The cabernet sells for a little less than $100.
"We always have a great time with the blending. We laugh about each other's wines sometimes between the three of us -- Jen, Ed and myself. I think it is just a great mix," Montana said.
The Tongue and Nose of Celebrity
Wine is a $24 billion a year business. Celebrity wines account for just a fraction of that. But a big name endorsement can bring a lot of attention to a label.
"A lot of people when they buy wine do not have a basis for choosing it because there are so many. Maybe they never heard of it, but they might well have heard of that celebrity's last name and that's a comfort factor," said Andrea Robinson, master sommelier.
The celebrity wine trend started in force at director Francis Ford Coppola's vineyard in Napa Valley. Since then, dozens of celebrities have established their own labels, from singer Bob Dylan to race-car driver Mario Andretti to actress Lorraine Bracco.
Bracco's label is one of the newest, and it's getting a lot of attention. The "Sopranos" star selects her own blend.
"It's not an endorsement. It's something that I own and I play a big part in. I go to Italy. I go to all different vineyards. I taste different wines and I came out with a selection," she said.
Bracco hopes that shoppers will recognize her name on the label and that familiarity will make selecting a wine a little less daunting.
"I mean it's all kinds of names that we can't pronounce and regions we don't know. This way it's easy and women don't have to be intimidated going into a wine shop and, hopefully, I've taken a little of the stress out of it," she said.
"You know, when I first heard about celebrity wines, I have to admit I was a little skeptical. But as I tasted them I realized that so far the celebrities that are doing this have had incredible judgment and focus on quality," said Robinson.