What Drew Barrymore Loves Most About Wine
Drew Barrymore has been an actress for almost her entire life. So when you sit down with her to chat about her wine business, you can expect to hear a few Hollywood-inspired metaphors.
For example, when describing her relationship with Barrymore Wines winemaker Kris Kato, the Golden Globe winner explains, “He’s Oz, I’m the man behind the curtain,” referencing the classic The Wizard of Oz.
While Oz may have been more bluster than actual magician, Barrymore and Kato are conjuring up some success in the wine industry. Last year, in a partnership with Jackson Family Wines, Barrymore released her first rosé—and it sold out quickly after a fairly limited production run. This year, a 2016 vintage generated a higher production run at just under 8,000 cases and is expected to sell strongly as well. With Jackson, Barrymore has also produced a Pinot Grigio and a Pinot Noir. They retail between $14 and $28 each.
“Pinot Grigio and rosé were always what I would sit around with my girlfriends and drink on a Sunday afternoon,” Barrymore told Fortune in a recent interview. “They say you should start with your first love, something that is very true to you. I never want to do anything that isn’t something I practice in my own life. I think everything in life you have to make it personal.”
Barrymore is one of many celebrities to enter the alcohol beverage category. When a public figure backs a wine or liquor brand, the alcohol can get a sales boost by benefiting from free press when those celebrities go on talk shows or promote their brands to millions of fans on social media platforms. One common criticism, however, is that the celebrity isn’t actually too involved with the day-to-day business.
For Barrymore, that isn’t the case. “I hate name slapping, I won’t do it,” she says. “I was apprehensive to put my name on it. I think if you can talk about the journey and you are educated, invested and involved, you can gauge who really is there.”
My conversation with Barrymore meandered through many current wine trends that prove she’s an astute student of the industry. She referenced a recent New York Times story that touted the revival of Beaujolais. Lambrusco, Barrymore claimed, is “having a moment.” And the actress thinks Frosé—that’s frozen rosé—is actually quite tasty. “I made my first Frosé with our rosé and it was so amazing!” Barrymore exclaimed. “I couldn’t believe it. It was as good as I hoped it would be.”
Barrymore also referenced the well-known industry belief that the 2004 film Sideways is the reason why Merlot hasn’t performed too strongly for over a decade now. In that film, a main character speaks disparagingly about Merlot, and since then, the red wine style hasn’t really ever recovered. “There are some really beautiful Merlots out there,” says Barrymore. “I want to bring Merlot back. The question is: Will I ever get a chance to do that? I don’t know. It is a weird pipe dream of mine.”
The actress says that her wine business does pay attention to industry trends as it develops new wines. Rosé, for example, has been a strong seller that has far outpaced the broader wine industry. “We are happy to follow trends, as long as it is what we generally like ourselves,” says Barrymore. She describes her version of a rosé as incorporating notes of apricot, fruits like watermelon, and some light citrus. But Barrymore hasn’t yet tackled California Cabernet Sauvignon, saying “If we come up with the perfect California Cab and we love it, great. But I don’t want to do it because it is the number one seller in the market.”
Barrymore says that while she loves wine, it isn’t the only alcohol she’ll enjoy. Her favorite cocktail is a Pink Greyhound and one of her favorite beers is Tecate. “I’m very simple when it comes to beer,” she says, adding she’s not into craft styles. “A Coors Light is fine for me.”
But for now, wine is where Barrymore is making her money. She’s been acting since she was 11 months old but as Barrymore got older, she says she realized she was passionate about both art and music—but didn’t have the necessary talent to pursue those skills. Wine, however, felt like something she could learn more about via her constant traveling. “Take the business side out of it, we always talk about how we create memories at the table,” Barrymore said. “Wine is something that brings people together. It is very congregating.”
Her wine-making partner Kato says Barrymore is more involved in the business than most would imagine, pointing out she helps make all decisions as it relates to the completed wine vintages and labeling. Barrymore also meets with the company’s sales team, doing what she calls her best “Willy Loman”—a reference to the fictional traveling salesman in the Arthur Miller play Death of a Salesman.
But what’s Barrymore’s favorite part of being in the wine business? Her simple reply: “Drinking it.”