Barrymore Uncorked: The Actress Opens Up About Her Wine Label

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barrymore1Photo Credit: Courtesy Of Barrymore Wines

Drew Barrymore is many things. She is one of the world’s most recognizable actors who has been melting hearts since starring as a six-year-old in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. She is a mother of two young daughters, Olive, 5, and Frankie, 3. She’s a producer with over 20 credits to her name, including hits like Charlie’s Angels and, most recently, the Netflix zombie comedy Santa Clarita Diet. With her signature tousled mane, bright green eyes and full-lipped pout, she’s a quintessential California girl who also happens to be a beauty mogul (her Flower Beauty and Eyewear lines are sold at 2,000 Walmart stores nationwide and, with 7.1 million Instagram followers, Barrymore has become a social media influencer who often shares instructional makeup application videos directly with fans). She’s a burgeoning publisher, as well, just announcing a large format magazine, Flower Press, to be printed twice a year. However, on the night that we meet at the tenth annual Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival, the 42-year-old is a partner in a three-year-old winemaking business in collaboration with Carmel Road Winery. Quite simply, she’s a young vintner hoping the thirsty masses will take a liking to her label―albeit a very glamorous and well-known young vintner, and the only bonafide celebrity amongst a sea of people.

At the two-and-a-half-hour reception, hundreds of savvy food lovers and wine aficionados sample bites and sips from 23 world-renowned chefs and 200 wineries. The walk-around tasting is set up throughout the Inn at Spanish Bay’s many event spaces. It is a dizzying array of indulgence. In one area, chef Fabio Viviani is plating fried savory dough stuffed with mozzarella cheese and wrapped in prosciutto. In the next room, there are ice buckets filled with champagne—the Pol Roger, Louis Roederer, and Charles Heidsieck is flowing. It’s impossible not to be swept up in the wave of guests crowding around chef Daniel Boulud in the grand ballroom, as he delicately garnishes shot glasses filled with vibrant green cucumber vichyssoise with charcoal sable and pickled Buddha’s hand. Next to him, the Restaurant at Meadowood’s Chris Kostow is serving cauliflower custard with caviar. While spooning the deliciously light and creamy mixture into our mouths, we notice that Boulud is, in fact, not the most popular table in the room. There’s a table across the way that is so packed with people, the leader cannot be identified.

Barrymore and winemaker Kris Kato
Barrymore and winemaker Kris Kato

Photo Credit: Courtesy Of Barrymore Wines

As we move closer to investigate, the air is thick with excitement and cell phones. Everyone is holding their mobiles high in an attempt to get a photo. Who is it? Who is causing this unfiltered chaotic frenzy? In an instant, we see a glimmer of shiny golden hair and the friendly smile of Hollywood royalty. It’s Barrymore, mingling with guests and pouring white wine alongside winemaker Kris Kato. While celebrity-endorsed spirits aren’t anything new—Francis Ford Coppola’s been making wine for years and George Clooney’s tequila is insanely popular—none of these celebrities, including Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (who make an excellent French rosé), are serving their libations themselves at food festivals like Pebble Beach and the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. That’s what makes Barrymore and her wine so special. It’s a product that she stands behind 100 percent, so much so that she’s willing to stand behind a table in a packed ballroom on a Thursday night and fill glasses with it.

Barrymore’s label currently consists of three different types of wine: a Pinot Grigio, a rosé of Pinot Noir, and a red blend of Pinot Noir with grapes sourced along the Central Coast. Barrymore Wines is a partnership with Jackson Family Wines―the grape-growing empire founded by Jess Jackson in Sonoma County in 1982―produced under its Carmel Road label, whose vineyards are located in Southern Monterey County. In terms of California winemaking, the cool-climate region has stayed relatively under the radar and is best known for its unique and affordable wines, under which Barrymore’s selections fall. With price points ranging between $16 and $28, they are approachable enough for novice wine drinkers, but also interesting to more advanced wine lovers looking for inexpensive everyday bottles.

bm3Photo Credit: Courtesy Of Barrymore Wines

Although she initially started winemaking in Italy, Barrymore quickly realized that her California background meant she should keep her new wine project close to home. “I was on Highway 101 coming from Montecito, actually, driving back to Los Angeles. My business partner, Chris Miller, was talking about making wine in Italy and we went on a journey there,” Barrymore tells Haute Living the following afternoon, while sipping a glass of her rosé on the patio at Restaurant 1833. “It was really informative for me because I love Pinot Grigio, but he’s like, ‘You’re a California girl. What are you doing making wine in Italy?’” From there, she started to look for a local winery to partner with. Carmel Road Winery stood out because it’s a family-operated business that distributes wine nationally.

Barrymore explains the partnership like this: “It was sort of destiny in the way the Carmel Road team and I wanted [the same thing]. I said, ‘Can we stick with Pinot Grigio? That’s what I know and so I’d like to start with that and then continue to learn along the way.” Carmel Road believed the best place to make it was Monterey, so they introduced her to Kato, the new winemaker at the winery. “It was a great education for me. It’s wonderful for me to work in the state I love [that] is my home,” Barrymore says. “It was a whole new journey and lesson to learn Monterey grapes and cold coastal wines.” A year after the Pinot Grigio debuted, Barrymore released her second wine, Drew’s Blend, a Pinot Noir under the Carmel Road label. The third release, the Barrymore rosé, came out last summer. “I kept pitching rosé. That was several years ago,” she says. “Now we’re in our second year… and it’s just the most rewarding thing.”

wine

With one new release per year, we can’t help but wonder what is next for Barrymore’s wine journey. Are there plans to release a fourth varietal? “I want to do another one, but we’re happy with what we have right now and to continue to introduce these wines out into the world,” she says with a smile. “But… we are trying to be diverse, because I think we drink diversely.”

Thanks to her many ventures, Barrymore travels the globe constantly and is always on the hunt for her next favorite―be it Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, or rosé. “It’s summertime, the weather is turning nice. Nothing gets me more excited for our rosé than trying every other rosé,” she says, twirling her hair in one hand. “I love Sauvignon Blanc. I go through phases. I’m really picky.”

Although she hasn’t participated in formal winemaking courses, she’s thrown herself into researching varietals of the world, taken classes, and immersed herself in all things wine. The most proactive way to learn about wine is to drink it, after all―and Barrymore is a focused student. She collaborates with Kato to make each wine smell, taste, and look exactly how she wants it to. “Kris and I develop the wine together and he is the master maker,” Barrymore explains. “We talk about every aspect of notes, flavors and color.”

barrymore2Photo Credit: Courtesy Of Barrymore Wines

The two are in constant communication; Kato pulls barrel samples, hops on a plane, and brings them to a hotel lobby for Barrymore to taste. Any time she finds a flavor profile or notable aroma, she texts Kato with messages like, ‘I really love this Malbec from Argentina. I love the character of it. How can we put that into our next wine?’ Kato then translates her directions into the bottles. “He would take that inspiration and go another round,” she says. “Then we meet again and have many different options… But we always narrow it down and then [we would know] where we needed to go from there. So it’s constant finessing.”

She also sought out artist Shepard Fairey to design the labels, while she writes the winemaking notes herself. On the Carmel Road website, she describes the 2016 rosé as “irresistibly refreshing” and says “it reminds me of times spent with friends and family gathered around a long table, sharing food and laughter on an endless summer day.”

Barrymore recalls the first time she tried the new rosé at home, with her daughters nearby, as one of her most memorable moments in 2017 thus far. “Opening [it] and tasting it for the first time―that was really, really important and epic. I just had a glass while I cooked my daughters dinner. I made them steak, butter noodles, broccoli, and mango. It was such a lovely evening, one of my most pleasant.”

To her, the wine isn’t as important as the company. “I’m always impressed by a very fancy wine, of course. But I don’t make it rain in the wine store.” Instead, she prefers to uncork one of her own bottles or a recent find from a wine-researching adventure. Her next trip will be to Mexican wine country. “I had a whole Tijuana wine trip planned and I couldn’t go at the last minute because of work. I was just so bummed. I had the whole thing mapped out. But I’ll get back down there ASAP.”

Barrymore by Carmel Road - Drew Vineyard (Main Publicity Photo)Photo Credit: Courtesy Of Barrymore Wines

In the meantime, she is very clear on what she wants in a wine and gravitates toward fruity, easy to drink, lighter styles. In summer, she enjoys drinking reds like Lambrusco, Beaujolais, and Pinot Nero, slightly chilled. So how does she pick out a bottle when she shops? “Color, label, trust of knowing the wine and it being familiar, or wanting to be adventurous and try a new one to see if it will become one of the ones I love,” she says. “I think there’s a really nice balance of staying true to what you like, and then constantly researching.”

Barrymore’s approach to her own winemaking process is entirely hands-on, which is why she was at the Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival: so she can personally connect to her consumers. “We go to Aspen too, and then we travel the country a lot talking to sales teams,” she says. “It’s so that we can personally convey what our journey has been, what our intentions are, what the story is.”

She sips a goblet of the Drew’s Blend and the discussion lulls as she savors it. There’s a relaxed and alluring glamour to her demeanor, feminine with an ethereal glow and incredibly down-to-earth. She’s Drew Barrymore―exactly who we thought she would be, but better. No wonder the crowds were gathering around her table at last night’s festival opening. Spend just five minutes with her and it’s easy to see why she’s one of the world’s most recognizable movie stars capable of conquering anything she sets her sights on, including the wine industry. Spend 15 minutes with her, observing her warm smile and the mischievous glint in her eyes, and you’ll wish you could be in her inner circle.

Barrymore and Kato toast
Barrymore and Kato toast

Photo Credit: Courtesy Of Barrymore Wines

Hanging out in a long-sleeved chiffon maxi dress, she discusses how wine tells a story―similar to films, but in a way that more directly impacts daily life and makes long-lasting memories. “Both require a lot of focus and energy and just doing all your homework and putting all the effort in,” she says. “They’re both businesses, but wine is so pleasurable. Film is communal too, it’s a connective experience, a collective experience… but [with] movies, you experience them, you don’t talk. With wine, you have conversations and build memories and sit around the table, and I think that’s the way they’re very different.”

So what does she love most about being in the wine business? “I think it’s a very luxurious, deluxe entity. It’s the highest form of pleasure in life,” she says, considering this further. “I guess I’ve always been drawn to it. I love food so much. I love flavors and ethnicities and tastes and spices and really learning geography through food. I think wine is the same thing. I love when I drink a Châtillon wine and I’ve been there and I understand the region. It’s a great blessing of a lesson.”

Having spent a career concentrating on the cinematic arts, Barrymore sounds thrilled to be branching out into a new creative pursuit. “Art and many things out there are about opinion and what you personally really love,” she says. “However, I do think there is obviously such an amazing art to  making wine. I’m just happy to be a part of that aspect.”

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