Saturday, December 03, 2011

Celeb Alcohol Roundup: Yao Ming, Dave Matthews, Hanson

An NBA star and folk singer get down with the vineyards, while 1990s pop darlings go from MMMbop to MMMhop (their words, not ours)

Celebrities are getting their hands in the alcohol game quicker than we can keep up with them. Rock bands, movie stars, and everyone in between are turning their love of wine toward their audiences. This week, not just one but three new celebrity alcohol products have hit the market: wines from Dave Matthews and NBA star Yao Ming, and beer from Hanson.
Yao Ming has stepped onto the scene with a 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, the first offering from Yao Family Wines. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Yao revealed that he was introduced to fine wine by his former teammate Dikembe Mutombo, and it’s a passion that has stuck with him throughout the years. His first wine outing is sourced from vineyards throughout Napa Valley and aged in French oak barrels, and will be distributed through Pernod Ricard SA for the Chinese market in early 2012. It’s a savvy choice – demand for fine wine in China is booming, and at a 1,775 yuan ($289) price point, Yao’s Cabernet is certainly a luxury.   “Basketball gave me the opportunity to live in the United States and discover many wonderful things in America,” said Yao in a statement to the press. “Now I look forward to bringing great wines from California back to the Chinese people.”


Dave Matthews has been a prolific songwriter throughout the years, and his expedition into winemaking is equally prolific. The singer has just debuted a suite of three wines under the label The Dreaming Tree in conjunction with Sonoma-based winemaker Steve Reeder. “I just want to invite people in and there’s something about Steve that has that same quality,” said Matthews of the partnership in a press release. “There’s a mutual respect that doesn’t entirely lean on my knowledge of wine or Steve’s knowledge of music – we both have our own audiences and that’s an interesting challenge.” The three wines available from Matthews and Co. are a 2009 North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon, a 2010 Central Coast Chardonnay, and a 2009 “North Coast Crush” blended red. Unlike Yao’s luxury-priced wine, every bottle in Matthews’ The Dreaming Tree line has an affordable MSRP of $14.99. There’s also an Adrian Grenier-reminiscent emphasis on eco-friendliness, with lighter wine bottles and labels made of recycled craft paper.
Last but certainly not least, Hanson has completely bucked the celebrity wine trend – instead, the trio of brothers announced that they have their eye on the beer business. During a concert and talk at Oxford Union in the UK, Zac Hanson mentioned that they will be releasing an India pale ale early next year (very trendy choice on the beer type, boys). “We of course make records – they are fundamental to what we do,” said Zac. “But we wanted to create a brand so that our fans have a greater experience… in fact, we are soon going to be selling our own beer – I’m not even joking.” The beer will reportedly be called MMMhop IPA, because of course it is.
Are all of these an earnest attempt to share a personal passion, or a great way to cash in on instant brand recognition? It’s probably a little bit of Column A and a little bit of Column B. But no matter what the motives are, the results sure are fun to talk about. 

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