He may be one of Hollywood’s most macho stars, but Kurt Russell also blends a masterful pinot noir. Over 50-plus years in showbiz, the actor, currently starring in “Furious 7,” has gone from Disney teen heartthrob to action star to seasoned tough guy.
Russell has long decompressed from filming movies like “Backdraft” by nurturing an interest in wine, a passion that deepened as he and longtime partner Goldie Hawn biked around grapevine-intensive regions like France, Italy and the Napa Valley. “I started to notice especially the Burgundy area and the grand crus. I feel in love with pinot,” Russell says. “I was sort of fascinated with the dialogue I would have with the people in the vineyard.”
But it wasn’t until Russell shot Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof” in the Santa Rita Hills north of Santa Barbara that he started tasting with an eye toward someday making his own wine. After meeting Peter and Rebecca Work of Ampelos Cellars, he was inspired by their organic and sustainable biodynamic farming methods.
Following production of his first bottle of pinot, he ran into Wolfgang Puck, who demanded a taste. “You’re serious about this! You should continue,” advised the celebrity chef. With that endorsement, he borrowed his childhood nickname to launch Gogi wines at Ampelos in 2007, soon adding Goldie chardonnay to his beloved pinot. “I wanted to make a very Burgundian-style pinot,” Russell says, explaining his wines have a more Old World character than most California pinots.
Many celebrities go only as far as picking a design for their personal wine labels. But Russell does it all, walking the field and blending alongside Peter Work in the winery. “I’m his apprentice,” Russell says.
Part of the fun, of course, is sharing his bottles with collaborators like Tarantino, who served Gogi wines at a “Hateful Eight” cast dinner recently in Telluride and likes having fine wines in his screening room. Russell returns to a favorite metaphor to describe the connection between acting and winemaking. “It reminds me of moviemaking,” he says. “The varietal is the genre of movie, the care in the winery is much like the casting, the editing is the blending.”
Russell’s pinot noir and chardonnay can be sampled at the Wine Saloon in the 1880 Union Hotel in Los Alamos, and they’re served at several Los Angeles-area restaurants including Spago, Soho House and Petros.
Gogi wines will be featured at the Grand Wine Dinner with Kurt Russell at the Bacara Resort on April 18. The dinner is part of the Santa Barbara Food and Wine Weekend, which benefits the Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts.