Andaz San Diego: Hotel Bar Lifts Celebrity Spirits

San Diego's Andaz pours wines produced by the stars like Drew Barrymore, Dave Matthews, Francis Ford Coppola

The Andaz Hotel in San Diego promotes celebrity wines

As the opening of more hotels downtown San Diego puts pressure on properties to come up with new ways to attract guests, the Andaz is raising a glass to celebrity wine makers.

The Hyatt-owned boutique hotel chain has launched a tasting program promoting 11 wines produced by actors like Drew Barrymore, director Francis Ford Coppola, musician Dave Matthews, the group Train, golfers Arnold Palmer and Ernie Els and former NFL Philadelphia Eagles coach Dick Vermeil.

Each label is featured inside the Andaz Wine Bar’s high-tech wine dispensing machine that holds 88 bottles and enables guests to select various amounts of pours – from an ounce, considered a taste, to a full six-ounce glass – themselves. Guests put money on a card, provided by a bar tender before selecting their wines. Similar machines are offered inside high-end wine stores.

The Andaz came up with the celebrity angle when it saw how the Andaz West Hollywood was pouring “Drops of Jupiter” by Train, named after the title track of its 2001 album.

“When we learned of that great relationship, we said, let’s take advantage of our system because it’s unique,” said Rusty Middleton, general manager of Andaz San Diego.

“If you’re a novice, you can enjoy the system,” he added. “If you’re a wine expert, there may be a label you haven’t had a chance to try. It’s a good icebreaker; a conversation piece.”

It’s also a good marketing tool for the celebs featured at the hotel, with the Andaz promoting the wines across its social media platforms, and hosts at the property introducing the dispenser to guests when they check in.

There is also a wine flight card listing four of the celebrity labels. The dispenser has signage with tasting notes and price per bottle – the hotel has a license to sell unopened bottles to guests to bring to their rooms.

With San Diego operating the only wine dispenser of any Andaz property nationwide, since 2009, managers there saw the “red-carpet collection” as a way to stand out from other bars in the area and put a spotlight on the hotel, itself.

The number of A-list wines and varieties to choose from caught Middleton off guard. For example, Barrymore produces a pinot grigio, Dave Matthews’ “The Dreaming Tree” is a red blend, while Train’s “Drops of Jupiter (named after its song) is a petite sirah blend.

“When we first started looking into it, I was very surprised that from any genre of musicians, movie stars, sports folks, that there were this many options,” he said.

But that worked to Andaz’s advantage because it “wanted to be diverse like our customers,” and ensure there were celebrities represented across various genres, according to Middleton.

Because of that, the celebrity wines are expected to remain available for some time, with the hotel evaluating whether to replace certain labels with new selections depending on their popularity.

Still the timing comes as the Andaz is seeing stiffer competition from the opening of new hotels like the massive Hilton, Marriott and Hyatt on the bayfront nearby, the Omni, Kimpton’s Solamar and Palomar boutiques, the W Hotel, the always busy Hard Rock Hotel or the revamping of existing boutiques like the Keating – all competing for tourist dollars in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter. More are underway.

The Andaz has turned up the star wattage in the past, hosting star-studded rooftop parties for FX, Fox Home Weekly and Maxim during Comic-Con, and hosted Daniel Craig, Adam Levine, Robert Downey Jr. and Olivia Wilde in its suites during the fanboy fest.

But the new wine program is “a chic and affordable way for consumers to interact with some of their favorite musicians, actors and sports legends through these exciting wines,” Middleton said. “It’s fun and that’s one of the core competencies of this property. Here’s just one more unique attribute that this property has to offer while another property down the road may have a more generic wine program.”