Actress Drew Barrymore was a mere six years old when she stole the hearts of a generation through her portrayal of Gertie in Steven Spielberg’s 1982 mega-hit “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” She subsequently became one of the most popular child stars of her time and has grown into adulthood as a versatile and successful actress and producer in a wide range of film projects. Now the mother of two daughters of her own, she has matured into a highly respected member of the film community and has branched out into other business ventures, including cosmetics and accessories.
Appropriately enough, Barrymore was born in Culver City, the site of several major movie studios where hundreds of the most-loved films of all time were produced. She began acting at a tender age: one story says she worked in a dog food commercial at the age of 11 months. Hers is a storied lineage in the world of show business, as her father was John Drew Barrymore, son of the legendary John Barrymore. Barrymore has recently entered the wine business, partnering with Carmel Road in Soledad (a division of Jackson Family Wines). She has worked with winemaker Kris Kato to craft three varietals: Drew’s Blend Pinot Noir, Barrymore Pinot Grigio and Barrymore Rosé of Pinot Noir. “When I came to work at Carmel Road a couple of years ago, Drew was already talking with the Jackson team,” Kato says. “She really wanted to partner with a family owned, California-based company.” Should anyone think that Barrymore wines are simply the vanity project of a Hollywood luminary, Kato puts that idea to rest.
“She’s a very down-to-earth, real person. I was skeptical at first, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Drew spends time in the vineyards and we do blending sessions. She comes to the winery or if she’s on the road, I’ll travel to her and we’ll blend in a hotel room. Drew is very adamant about being hands-on, but always in the context of partnership and collaboration.” Carmel Magazine recently caught up with Drew Barrymore to learn about her passion for wine and winemaking.
Carmel Magazine: The Barrymore wine brand has been in existence for several years, and you collaborated with an Italian firm to produce a Pinot Grigio. Most any wine producer would have been pleased to partner with you on a line of wines. What was it about Jackson Family Wines and Carmel Road that made you choose to work with them?
Drew Barrymore: I first started making wine out of Italy about eight years ago, and it was an invaluable learning experience. The first wine that I fell in love with was Pinot Grigio, so to spend time where some of the finest Pinot Grigio is grown and made was an incredible education for me. I was excited to apply all of that knowledge stateside in partnership with Jackson Family Wines. What excited me about working with Jackson Family Wines was our similar vision: to be prolific and make lots of different varietals. We have launched three wines since our partnership began in 2014: Barrymore by Carmel Road Pinot Grigio, Drew’s Blend Pinot Noir and just this year, our Barrymore Wines Rosé of Pinot Noir.
CM: Carmel Roads winemaker Kris Kato told us that you’ve been quite hands on during the creation of the three wines that bear your name. He said you were quite passionate about it. Can you elucidate what it is about the winemaking process that excites you the most?
DB: Kris and I have really loved our process and he is the best partner! We have similar palates. Whenever I’m traveling and find a wine that I like, I’ll send it to Kris. We go back and forth a lot when it comes to getting the wines just right. We both really care. Every aspect of making wine with this whole group is a true pleasure!
CM: You are involved in several business ventures, including Flower Beauty, Eyewear and Films. What is it about the wine business that attracted you?
DB: Wine was always something I loved, but I didn’t know the business side like I do now. I have learned so much. Applying yourself to things you love makes you love them more. And if you can do in life what you love, then you are blessed beyond belief. Wine is a tough business. It always inspires me to hear what the sales teams have to say— what’s working and what’s not. I love conveying our story to them. Our motto is “from our family to yours” and I really love the feeling of having my wines at the table during those special timeless moments.
CM: Is there anything specifically about California grapes and wines that informed your decision to work with Jackson Family/ Carmel Road?
DB: As much as I loved working in Italy, at the end of the day, I’m a Cali girl. Was born here. Raised here. Live here. It just made so much sense to make wines here in California too. The Carmel Road Winery’s location—the combination of being inland from Monterey’s coastline but still close to the ocean—creates wines that are full of vibrant colors and flavors. They really are special grapes. And family is so important to me—whether it’s biological or the people you choose to invite into your life and call your family. And from the first meeting with Jackson Family, there was zero doubt that this was a family business. Every person that works with Jackson Family is truly part of their family.
CM: Can you pinpoint a moment in your life when the lightbulb went off in regards to wine? A certain gathering, a certain wine, a certain pairing that made you realize that you had a passion about wine and wanted to take the further step of wanting to produce your own?
DB: It wasn’t one specific memory, but more the combination of all the times I had spent with my best girlfriends gathered around a table and drinking wine. My real honest foray into wines was Pinot Grigio with my girlfriends on Sunday afternoons or early evening weeknights. We also drank a lot of Rosé. I remember buying Santa Margarita at Trader Joe’s for $7.99…and now its $26 dollars—insane.
CM: Please tell us about the label design.
DB: I found my grandfather’s crest and brought it to amazing artist Shepard Fairey. I wanted a gentleman’s business card design, which is counterintuitive for Pinot Grigio because it’s so feminine. Most of the people I know who drink Pinot Grigio tend to be ladies. But if the design is more masculine or at least neutral, I thought that maybe it will be something that doesn’t turn off men, or something that you can present as a housewarming gift that’s really classic and clean. I hope Shepard and I really achieved that.
CM: If you’re somewhere where your wine isn’t available, what are your go-to wines? No need to name names: we’re interested in varietals/ flavor characteristics.
DB: I’m obsessed with Beaujolais. And the St-Émilion region. I have loved Argentinian wines and Italian wines. But I am defiantly roaming France right now.
CM: Aside from wine, any thoughts and/or comments on visits to the Monterey Peninsula? You were here for the 2016 Pebble Beach Food & Wine, but do you visit otherwise? If so, what do you enjoy about the area?
DB: We recently launched our new rosé this past summer at Pebble Beach Food & Wine. I love going to the Carmel tasting rooms and working on new and fun food pairings for the collection. I have spent time at the vineyard as well as the Jackson family estate in Sonoma. You must spend time in the places you work. It brings a better understanding and inspiration as well as a personal connection.
CM: What’s next for Barrymore Wines?
DB: A red for our label. I know that Merlot is something I have really been exploring; although it is still not on trend, I love it. I also love Lambrusco and a sparkling Rosé to complement our latest varietal. Barrymore wines can be tasted and purchased at the Carmel Road tasting room on Lincoln between Ocean and 6th in the Pine Inn in downtown Carmel. To learn more, call 831/624-1036 or visit online at www.carmelroad.com.