He has his own cereal, his own salsa, and his own steak sauce, and now Paul Newman also has his own wine. Last month, the philanthropic foodie introduced a 2006 Chardonnay and a 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, each priced at around $16, in partnership with the Rebel Wine Co. Like all Newman's products, all the profits and royalties after taxes are donated to charity.
I was curious. Producing a decent jar of marinara is one thing; a bottle of wine is another. Would Newman's be any good?
I decided to hold a tasting with the staff of my favorite Brooklyn wine bar, Donna da Vine.
We tried the Chardonnay first. Made with grapes primarily from Santa Barbara and Monterey, it was surprisingly well-balanced with only a tiny hint of oak. The nose was quite lush and fresh, and there were flavors of green fruit and a bit of vanilla on the finish. The bartender pronounced it "more French than California," and the chef added that it was certainly decent, especially for the price. I thought it would make a great "compromise" wine-- a Chardonnay for Sauvignon Blanc drinkers.
Next we opened the Cabernet, which is made with grapes from Napa, Sonoma, and San Luis Obispo. We found it to be very tannic and almost exceedingly dry-- the kind of wine that can feel like a headache in a glass. While it wasn't at all fruit forward, there were notes of black cherry and a strong oaky taste. While the server declared it "fine," he also noted that it didn't standout in anyway. Ultimately, we decided that it tasted like a pretty good version of a wine you might get in a place where your only choices are Red or White.
In the end, I would say pass on the Cab but definitely try the Chardonnay-- it has the potential to a real crowd pleaser. It would also make a great "everyday" easy-drinking wine. Put on a movie, pour yourself a glass, and pair it with some popcorn.
About the author: Lucy Baker is a graduate student in the writing program at Sarah Lawrence College. Before returning to school to pursue an MFA, she was an assistant cookbook editor at HarperCollins. She lives in Brooklyn and is currently obsessed with all things fennel.