Q & A With Adam Carolla: His Sledgehammer Wine, Jimmy Kimmel's Pizza Oven, "Mangria" + Where to Eat Pie
It only took him 35 years, but Adam Carolla finally learned to stop worrying and love wine. Well, at least the part about loving wine is true. The Manny Pacquaio-bashing, Antonio Villaraigosa-hating comedian, budding podcast entrepreneur and notorious complainer recently declared Sledgehammer, a brash North Coast wine that pairs perfectly with Black Sabbath's "Master of Reality," the official wine of The Adam Carolla Show.
That means 46-year-old Carolla, who only started drinking wine about 10 years ago, gets plenty of free cases -- the best reason to sign any endorsement deal. (If only the pie fanatic could snag Marie Callender's as a sponsor.)
Carolla is honest about the fact that he knows little about wine. He'll be the first to admit he couldn't tell the difference between a $10 and a $90 bottle, but he loves drinking the stuff. Sledgehammer, which produces a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Zinfandel that "are literally a hammer blow to your taste buds," (ouch) is betting that Carolla's audience is natural fit for their target demographic of dudes who just upgraded from Two Buck Chuck.
Carolla took time out of his busy podcasting and wine-tasting duties to talk about his love for pinot noir, Jimmy Kimmel's pizza oven, his recipe for "mangria," his proposal for wine bottle standardization and even indulge in a round of "What Can't Adam Complain About" with his own wine. Turn the page...
Squid Ink: What did you drink during the Super Bowl? Were you drinking Sledgehammer?
Adam Carolla: Yeah, I was going back and forth between my red wine and my beer. I was over at Jimmy Kimmel's, and he had a bottle of it over there. I would drink a bottle of imported beer then a bottle of wine. I don't know if that's bad, if that makes me an alcoholic.
I think the older I get the more I like the red wine. I didn't drink a drop of it before the age of 35 and now not a day goes by that I don't drink a couple drops of it.
SI: How did you get into wine?
AC: Honestly, I've always had difficulty relaxing, unwinding and going to bed -- that kind of stuff. At some point I realized a glass or glasses of wine in the evening when I was done with whatever I was doing, it just started to relax me. It put me in this mellow mode that vodka or beer didn't seem to achieve. Then I just started enjoying it. I just started going, "I like this brand. Wow, this is good." Or "This isn't good." I don't claim to know anything about wine, I just know that somewhere around the age of 35, I started having a couple glasses and I've never slept better.
SI: What have you learned about wine?
AC: I haven't learned much. Basically, I've learned I can't tell the difference between a $12 bottle of wine and an $80 bottle of wine, nine times out of 10. The super expensive stuff is wasted on me. But I think people do that more for the thought of it anyway. We're celebrating, so here's something that doesn't have a screw top. I can't tell the difference myself, so my feeling is whatever the cheapest wine is that you like, find the stuff and if it's a good deal, buy it.
SI: How much does a bottle of Sledgehammer cost?
AC: I don't know. I think it's like a $10-15 bottle. Its not the cheapie $6-7 stuff, but it's the next level. It's good stuff. I don't even know what it costs, because they give it to me. Everyone who works with me seems to enjoy it as well. [Ed. note: It costs $14.99/bottle.]
SI: So that's why you took on a wine sponsor for the show.
AC: That's not the first thing you consider, but it is the second thing you consider. This show doesn't advertise douches and bedazzlers because who the hell needs that? But it's really nice for me, who will end up going through a few bottles of wine over the year. It's like if you're a race team, you need a tire sponsor. And it's nice to have someone else pick up the tab.
SI: How did the deal come about for the wine?
AC: I give them and my sales team all the credit. They're sort of fledgling and cool and hip and nice, and I think they wanted to do something that was an alternative to terrestrial radio or commercials. I guess they figure "we're funky" and "Adam likes red wine." I don't know who reached out first, but it has been a marriage made in heaven. I just got back from Napa, where I played a theater up there and took a tour of one their vineyards.
SI: What's the name of the vineyard?
AC: I guess I should have boned up on it. I don't even know. They have several over there in wine country. It had a French name, but, shockingly, I got drunk so I forgot the name of the place. I woke up at the airport and went to Reno.
The whole winemaking science, you don't appreciate it at the liquor store. You've got to take the tour to appreciate it.
The people who make the wine will explain that the oak from our barrels comes from a certain region in France, and we contract with a special forester at a special place in France that harvests the oak that goes in our barrels to make our wine.
Wow, now you're getting specific.
SI: What did you learn about wine on your recent trip?
AC: I learned that no matter how much someone talks about the oak in the barrel, I still can't figure it out. All I can do is go "I like that one" or "I don't like that one."
I love the detail [of winemaking.] I just love that we're a country that has that kind of time. It's this huge plot of land and the time that is dedicated to this. Other countries that aren't doing as well don't have that kind of time or space. If they're doing something, they're making munitions or silos or something else. They're not messing around trying to make an $80 bottle of wine.
It makes you realize, human beings aren't all bad. It's inspiring. You turn on the news and see people beating the crap out of Anderson Cooper. Maybe they should open wineries in Egypt. It couldn't hurt. It's nice to see a whole bunch of super passionate people care about something that doesn't matter.
SI: What are your favorite wines? Aside from Sledgehammer.
AC: I like a pinot noir, but it doesn't much matter who makes it. If it's a pinot noir, I'm usually down with it. The Coppola stuff is pretty good. There's no particular brand I like. I just don't know enough to be that invested. I'm glad because I'm one of these guys who goes to In 'N Out and goes, "This is an awesome burger." If I had a more sophisticated palate, lunch would cost me $50 and I would have to drive half an hour.
SI: Is it incongruous that one of the hosts of "The Man Show" is putting his name on a wine instead of a beer?
AC: I didn't think of the implications. You probably do the beer in your 20s and early 30s, and at some point you mellow into the wine. It's more of a progression than it is an altering of the course.
SI: What kind of beer do you like?
AC: If you said, "Go ahead, and pick whatever you want," I'd grab a Sam Adams or a Sierra Nevada, but an occasional Foster's is nice as well.
SI: You prefer red wine to white wine?
AC: I do. Quite a bit. But there is something nice about that daytime wedding/white wine buzz. That sort of thing where the sun is shining and you're attending someone's whatever, and you realize you're getting buzzed and it's not even noon. It's nice.
SI: It sounds like you're a fan of big fruity reds?
AC: I don't like the stuff that's that dry. I like the fruitier stuff better. And pinot noir seems to be the best for that, but I didn't even know what it was 5 or 8 years ago. I would probably grab some cab.
Ultimately, the guys who make the wine (at least the ones I've met) just go: Whatever you like, drink it. I think the snobs are a little less secure about it.
SI: Indulge us in a round of "What Can't Adam Complain About?" Any complaints about Sledgehammer?
AC: Well, yes. The bottle. It's too thick. It's a really thick heavy bottle, and it's dark so it's that thing where you don't know how much wine you've drank. It's night in the kitchen, and it's heavy, so you pick it up and think, "Oh there's still a half bottle of wine." You start to pour what you think is your 3rd glass of wine when it's actually your 5th. You're fooled by the heft of the bottle. I think all bottles should weigh the same.
I also don't like that some of them are flat on the bottom and some of them are indented 3 inches. If the bottom has that weird indentation, you don't have a glass left. But if it isn't, you might still have a full glass in there.
Standardize the wine bottle sizes, their weight and the way the bottoms are made, and you would probably know how much wine you had left down to the ounce.
SI: What is "mangria" and what's your recipe for it?
AC: Well, I'm not proud of this. It was a late night and I was having a little red wine when I went to get a second glass and realized I barely had any left. Maybe just a quarter cup, enough to splash the bottom of the glass. So I took vodka and dumped it on top of the red wine. It was a 50/50 red wine to vodka ratio. It's certainly good for catching a buzz, but surprisingly it tasted all right. I just invented mangria.
I wouldn't go to a bar and order my mangria, but if you're ever at home and you find yourself without enough wine, this will definitely give you a good buzz.
The good thing about mangria is that it's like an army jeep. It will run on anything. Vodka seems to work nicely but cough syrup could be dumped into it.
SI: Now that you've done a wine endorsement, are you going to do a pie endorsement?
AC: Oh, man. If we could get Marie Callender's. If we could just get that bitch. I don't even know if she's alive. If we could just get that or House of Pies or somebody.
I don't think I've ever seen pie advertised. That's how you know it's good. They advertise ice cream and other desserts. They advertise the bejeeezus out of yogurt, but I haven't seen one pie commercial. It's Iike advertising heroin or cocaine. You don't need to. It sells itself.
SI: Where are you favorite places to eat pie?
AC: Any place other than the supermarket. The store-bought ones are bad, and once in a while when people stray into some funky crap like pineapple, it's bad.
SI: What's your favorite kind of pie?
AC: If I had my druthers, I would probably end up with pumpkin. That's my go-to pie.
SI: Most places only serve it for a month or two during winter. A friend of ours always wonders how come no one ever just busts out a pumpkin pie in the middle of July?
AC: I would like to meet and subsequently date this person you speak of. I've had that thought many, many times. Come on, make pumpkin pie! Why do we have to wait for Thanksgiving? Pumpkins can be grown year round. It's not like they're apricots or something.
SI: Does Jimmy Kimmel still have his pizza oven? Did he make pizza with it for the Super Bowl?
AC: Yes, he does. And yes, he did. He actually fired it up to make this really cool flatbread stuff that he made pulled pork sandwiches with. It's massive. It's outdoors. He's had a few [pizza ovens], but this one's the best.
SI: You're a big car buff and now a wine enthusiast. Do you ever worry about mixing your two passions?
AC: My wine consumption is always at the end of the day, the end of the night, the end of the week, when I'm sitting around in my bathrobe and letting my cares melt away. It's never like I'm going to drink my wine and go to work. It's always an end of the day activity, so I never have to worry about driving. Once in a blue moon, someone will open a little wine, and we'll sip it while were doing the podcast. I'm all right drinking a glass of red wine and then performing or doing a podcast, but I'm probably better having a cup of coffee in me than a glass of wine.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Los Angeles dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.