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Friday, December 29, 2006

What Do Baseball Great Tom Seaver, Musician Carlos Santana and Porn Star Savanna Samson Have in Common? Hint: It's Red, White and Rose

Take a walk down the aisles of some wine shops and you feel like you are reading Page 6 of the New York Post or you've stumbled into Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum.

You will find crooner Frank Sinatra, golfer Arnold Palmer and race car driver Mario Andretti. Rocker Mick Fleetwood, chef Emeril Laggase and actress Marilyn Monroe are there, too.

There are wines that are clearly marketing ploys, like the KISS This Red and Elvis Blue Suede Chardonnay. You might laugh at labels turned out for The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Madonna, Bob Dylan and Savanna Samson, but keep in mind that collectors are spending thousands trying to get complete sets of Marilyn Merlot. Fans hunt down bottles carrying the name of NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon, the late Dead front man Jerry Garcia and NFL Hall of Famer Mike Ditka with little regard to the liquid inside.

There are some celebrity winemakers that are truly winemakers. Tom Seaver works the fields at his new California venture. Director Francis Ford Coppola, golfer Greg Norman and actor Fess Parker (the guy who played Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone) are heavily involved in their wine labels. Actor Gerard Depardieu comes from a French winemaking family.

The list of the famous with a hand in making wine -- or at least wanting to appear to be involved in wine making -- includes Soprano's psychiatrist Lorraine Bracco, NFL coaches Bill Walsh and Dick Vermeil, golfers Ernie Els, Nick Faldo and Mike Weir, F1 driver Michael Schumacher, NASCAR team owner Richard Childress, Olympic skater Peggy Fleming, musical artists Vince Neil, Sting, Barbara Streisand and Olivia Newton John, tennis star Lleyton Hewitt, and Hollywood's Sam Neill, Steven Seagal, Carole Bouquet, Dan Aykroyd, John Lasseter, Tom and Dick Smothers and Sofia Coppola. Some, like NFL great Joe Montana and musician Carlos Santana license their names for wines that help raise money for charities.

I'm pretty certain that 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide had little to nothing to do with the making of the chardonnay that carried his name and likeness turned out by New York's Millbrook Vineyards to mark the gelding's unlikely rise. (Funny Cide also has a beer, hot sauce and ice cream among his stable of products.)

It's hard to imagine who might end up on a wine label next. Donald Trump has his own vodka. There is a beer with the mythical Bigfoot on the label. Can Rosie O'Donnell Rose be far behind?

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