Why Hollywood status, brand creativity, and marketing innovation have made for spirited synergy

By Tali Dalbaha

A-list Makers
Kyle MacLachlan (seen here), aka agent Dale Cooper of Twin Peaks, has been making wines since 2005 at his Pursued by Bear winery in Washington State (where he grew up). Pursued By Bear Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve is a blend, with small quantities of Merlot and aged in 100% new oak for approximately three years. The last release was the 2013, and only 262 cases were made (one barrel!) A powerful wine, with elegance, just like Kyle, with expressive black fruit and a velvety texture ($79.99). MacLachlan’s Baby Bear Syrah 2013 is wonderfully tasty, juicy and spicy, and goes perfectly with a summer burger. $54.99

Version 2

Meanwhile, Jon Bon Jovi, long a devotee of the Hamptons, launched this year a winery inspired, as he describes, by summers spent on the East End of the island. Together with his son, Jesse, and winemaker Gerard Bertrand, they have released Diving into Hampton Water Rosé ($19.95), which not only rides the tide of rosé fascination, but does so with crispness and complexity.
And, though Brad and Angelina are no more, their $60 million winery remains, and produces another rosé worth considering. Chateau Miraval’s Cotes de Provence Rose, 2016, is lightly spicy, full of crisp red fruit, and a remarkable buy at $21.99.

You may say I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one…”
John Lennon wrote that about world peace, of course, but it can also (though admittedly less exaltedly) apply to the world of winery and distillery ownership. It all sounds terribly glamorous to we consumers, seeing Diddy and Clooney and Angelina glistening through press appearances and tasting their elixirs in a firestorm of photo flashes, but the celeb/spirits association ain’t just savvy marketing. According to industry analytics company Thoroughbred: The Spirits Consultants, typical startup costs for a distillery (by far the less expensive option versus establishing a winery) are between $4 million and $5 million, by the time first year property and equipment, salaries, sales structures, advertising, and other marketing efforts are accounted for. Early returns are also almost always low, not least because whether you are making wine, bourbon, or rum, aging processes and patience are as necessary as quality ingredients.

More Big Deals

In short, it helps to be rich, and to have an already institutionalized PR engine at your disposal, which makes celebrity involvement with wine and spirits an often winning synergy. The best of the new owners, like Ryan Reynolds (seen here, story below), have a vision past canny branding and inject artistry into the proceedings.

Ambassador SPREAD

Super Buy Rite Wine & Liquor, 575 Manila Avenue, Jersey City, buyritewines.com

Movers & Shakers
Since 2007, Sean Combs and Sean Combs Enterprises have taken the lead on all brand management decisions for Ciroc vodka. The multiyear collaboration, which calls for a 50/50 profit split, has been worth well in excess of $100 million for Combs.

George Clooney, for his part, made a spirited exit from his Tequila Casamigos Company in 2017 when he sold it for $1 billion!

And if you thought Jay-Z (seen here) would settle for champagne alone, let him pour you a glass of D’Ussé. In 2014, he, with partner Bacardi, approached Château de Cognac to create a new brand that would push the cognac flavor profile for new markets.

In that same year, Justin Timberlake collaborated with Beam Suntory to produce Sauza 901, made of 100% blue weber agave. “He set out,” as Sauza explained, “to embody his hardworking yet easygoing lifestyle.”$29.99

Finally, Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds purchased in February a stake in Portland, Oregon’s Aviation Gin, and acknowledged in a statement that he’s just tried it for the first time a year ago.

“Since that day, I’ve spent my time finding some way to infiltrate the company,” he said. “But I can assure you, there are smarter, more reasonable people in charge.