In the old days, celebrities wanted to own big cars and Hollywood mansions. These days, they want to own a winery.

 

          Movie and TV types (Francis Ford Coppola, Fess Parker) have them. Golfers (Greg Norman, David Frost) have them. Even ex-Cowboys kickers (Glenn Carrano) do.

 

          Which raises the question: Is any of this wine worth buying, or are they just selling their name on the label?

 

          The answer is usually yes, it is worth buying, but keep in mind that celebrity wine sometimes plays into the snob marketing that is plaguing the wine business, and especially the California wine business. That’s the approach that says that if a bottle of wine costs $100, it must be good, instead of charging $100 because the wine is good. But that’s a column for another day.

 

          Consider these celebrity wineries:

 

� Francis Ford Coppola (Neibaum-Coppola Winery). Great movies, but very ordinary entry-level red and white blends, the Rosso and Bianco (each $10 or so). To be fair, the winery’s best labels are said to be as good as California wine gets, but they’re so exclusive one doesn’t discuss price. Count on the signature Rubicon wines starting at $100 a bottle.

 

� Greg Norman (Greg Norman Estates). This Australian winery joint venture is part of an empire that includes athletic turf, apparel and real estate development. The wine is usually first-rate, since one of Down Under’s top winemakers is in charge of the program. But it’s pricey ($28 for a Chardonnay and Merlot); comparable wines can be had for 10 or 15 percent less.

 

� Fess Parker (Fess Parker Winery). The man best known for his coonskin cap is a long-time aficionado whose wines are well regarded (especially the Pinot Noir) and are in the $30 range. Every once in a while, though, the winery will turn out a more affordable entry-level bottle, like Frontier Red ($9), a sturdy blend for pizza and barbecue that includes a picture of Parker as Daniel Boone on the label.

 


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