Lorraine Bracco, famous for pushing Tony Soprano on HBO's mob series, is now pushing wine.
She is one of several celebrities, including Joshua Adam Garcia, known as JAG, a finalist in season three of The Next Food Network Star, and musician Sergio Mendes, who will be on hand for the second Tampa Bay Wine & Food Festival. The festival is May 15 to 17 at the Don CeSar resort in St. Pete Beach.
Bracco will spread the word about her label and serve as a celebrity judge at the May 16 "Titanium Chef Competition." (For tickets and information, go to www.unleashyourpalate.com.)
Bracco knows acting. But does she know wine?
"It's hard to bring in a new wine and people don't know it," says Bracco, who launched Bracco Wines in 2006. "I think once people know the real story, they realize I'm not just slapping the label on. I have a lot of control over it, and I don't put out anything that I don't love."
She recently chatted with the St. Petersburg Times about winemaking. Here are excerpts.
How did this venture come about?
Living in France for 10 years, I learned a lot about eating and drinking. Some friends had said to me, ''You know, that would be a really cool thing for you, Lorraine.'' I thought, ''This is something I can do well, instead of selling more hair products or makeup or perfume."
How much of your role is production, and how much is just publicity, putting a face and voice to the wine?
I own the company, I go to Italy, I taste the wines, I decide what wines we're buying.
Tell us three Bracco Wines that people need to know — one for beginners, one for people of moderate wine knowledge and one for oenophiles.
On the inexpensive side, the pinot grigio. Single vineyard, very crispy, $12, $13 a bottle. One that's not very well known to the American public, but I love anyway is the old vine Primitivo. It's out of the Puglia area near Bari, and it's kind of the original red zinfandel grape. And then for connoisseurs, people who really like wine, the Amarone. And that is what we call the bomb.
Contact Jay Cridlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.