Drew Barrymore perks up when we start talking about Baja's wine country — a topic that seems to be on everyone's lips since Anthony Bourdain declared it the new Tuscany. “That sounds so cool!” she says excitedly on the other end of the phone. “All I do is sit around and research what food adventures I can go on, and that one sounds like a really good one.”
Barrymore has always been a culinary thrill-seeker, downing piles of sushi with her famous godfather, Steven Spielberg, even when she was young child. Get her talking about octopus, tacos or a patty melt and she practically coos. It's that love of food and the communal experience of eating and drinking that inform her latest venture: the launch of Barrymore Wines. It's a humble foray into the world of winemaking, currently producing just Pinot Grigio with a label that bears her family crest, done up by friend and famed street artist Shepard Fairey.
A self-proclaimed winemaking neophyte, Barrymore is taking it slow. Ultimately, she'd love to produce more varietals, and perhaps even open a wine bar somewhere in the city. For now, though, there's just the one bottle, and for her, that's all anyone needs to set the right mood.
Turn the page to read our interview:
Squid Ink: Do you have any particular food memories from growing up here in L.A.?
Drew Barrymore: I remember my godfather had me eat sushi when I was 7 years old, which in 1982, it was just sort of really coming into fashion. He ate all sorts of really crazy, exotic stuff. I think he liked freaking people out with food in really fun and entertaining ways.
I remember eating octopus when I was like 6 or 7 years old, and it's still, to this day, one of my very favorite foods. That chewy, rubbery, yummy consistency that I think is super repellent to some people and is so desirable to others — it's a real divider. I remember being on Ventura Boulevard at Teru Sushi eating octopus until I couldn't eat it anymore, and I love it still to this day.
SI: Are you still a pretty adventurous eater?
DB: Semi, semi. Because I was raised very vegetarian — very California '70s — there was a lot of meat I didn't eat growing up, so sometimes when I taste them now they're still extremely gamey to me. I really love beef and fish, but sometimes when I get into the gamier meats, I don't feel like it's for me. And I hate goat cheese more than anything in the world.
SI: Wow, really?
DB: It's on everything, it's in everything. It's so funny. But I think for the most part I'm adventurous. I love all different ethnicities, and I think that's what I loved about growing up in L.A. You could eat sushi one day and really gritty, gritty tacos the next day, and then go to the Source on Sunset and have wheat burgers and stuff like that. I liked how the food was like the architecture [of that area] — there was a Spanish, a colonial, a modern and a Tudor on the same block, and it shouldn't have worked, but it did. I always thought this city was sort of messy and eclectic in all the right ways.
SI: Are there restaurants that you gravitate toward today when you're in town?
DB: I love to go to Square One for breakfast and get the Eggs Benedict. God, I love Square One. It's just cozy and has such a good feeling, and is absolutely delicious. I love, love, love tacos anywhere. Anywhere I can get tacos — it's still my favorite. I just ate at Cactus the other day on Vine, stuffing my face until I didn't feel great. [Laughs.]
I still love a good Matsuhisa. That was the 1980s place that hasn't varied or changed. I love it. Its flavor combinations have stayed the exact same and it's still consistently good. I find I get cravings for that.
I love eating all around town — going to ink. and Baco Mercat, the Spice Table and Picca and Red Medicine. The Animal and Son of a Gun guys are my favorite. I love to get a good patty melt down at Nick's Restaurant, or this incredible place in Pasadena my guy takes me to that I can't remember the name of.
I love high and low. To me, it's so much about atmosphere. There's some really sexy restaurants and some that are, like, sit on the sidewalk and eat with your hands. Where can I be cozy?
SI: Switching gears to wine, considering you've been in show business your whole life, both in front of and behind the camera, why wine now? What inspired this new venture?
DB: Well, I love spirits. I've always loved beer. Going somewhere and cracking a beer is part of that sort of yummy feeling of an experience. It's the same with wine. I don't really feel that way about hard alcohol. Breaking out a bottle of vodka doesn't really have that same feeling, though I do love a good cocktail, don't get me wrong. But I feel like there's a very specific place for cocktails, whereas beer and wine — you know, people take wine and have a picnic. I can't remember the last time I had a picnic so I won't pretend that I do, but you can go on Saturday nights to Hollywood Forever Cemetery and everyone brings their wine. It's very communal. I've taken wine to a waterfall with a bag of sandwiches.
I've always loved Pinot Grigio, too. It's the thing I've drunk since I started drinking wine. It's been sort of foolproof for my tastebuds. I wanted to do a wine that's something I've always loved. I'd feel like a total fake if I started presenting things to people that were new to me. I wanted it to be authentic and something I really loved myself, and have for a long time, so I can speak about it in a way and experience it in a way that's very true to myself. I'm very bad at pretending. It's ironic that I'm in the business I'm in, because I'm not good at that.
SI: We read that you grow the grapes for this wine in Italy. Has Italy informed this process for you in any way?
DB: I love Italy. Talk about the food — my head explodes over there. I love the food, I love the culture, I love everything about it. I've been going there since I was 7 years old. It's one of my favorite places on the planet, and one of the places I continue to go back, and back, and back to, and to many different areas of it. I know that if you want to see the world you have to keep moving, but still I keep going back to Italy.
I love Italian wine — I always have. And I love to use this [venture] as an excuse to take more journeys and meet more people, and traverse through more land. Wine is such a cool — it's something you break out and drink with a bunch of people. And I'm a novitiate to the temple of wine. People who are serious about it, where it is their whole lives, it's such a lifestyle. I just like having a little bit of that lifestyle in my life because it is so romantic and fun and it tastes good, and it's communal.
SI: Do you ever go wine tasting in California?
DB: I recently did in Santa Barbara, and it was so much fun! Also wine is in tandem with food, and anything that gives me the excuse and the freedom and the privilege — and it is a privilege [to eat]. But it's also luxurious and fun. My friend Kent, who I do this wine venture with, got a little wine-glass harness and wore it like a Saint Bernard. And we just laughed all day, and drank wine and ate food and talked to people.
It's funny too, wine tasting is one of those things where — and this is how I feel when I watch movies to study because that's one of the most important things to me, and one of the things I want to continue to pursue in my life — you're like, I will never finish. I will never get there. And it's kind of a fun feeling. No matter how hard I try, no matter how much I experience, I'll never see every movie. I'll never taste every wine. There will always be a group of people that are snobby, awesome aficionados and I will never measure up, and it's so fun. [Laughs.]
SI: Do you have any plans to open a tasting room in California anywhere?
DB: Oh God, I would love nothing more than to open a cozy wine bar that serves great food. Everyone tells me the restaurant business is the most difficult and miserable to go into. And it's so funny because our city is so ripe for that right now. We're dying, dying for that. We went to our friend Dustin [Lancaster] at [Bar] Covell who just opened that oyster bar that everyone is just flocking to [L&E Oyster Bar], and I feel like, if you build it they will come. Obviously in the right way, but I think the more that this city provides little secret, yummy, cozy places to people to enjoy themselves, they will go. I don't have any plans to, but if it comes to a wall, a wine and a food, I'm there.
Turn the page to discover how Shepard Fairey became part of the project.
SI: How did Shepard Fairey get involved in designing your wine label?
DB: I've know Shepard for years, and I started working with him on potential movie poster endeavors. For me, I love album art and jacket covers for books, and movie posters used to have such amazing art, and I feel like they've changed into something more commercial and not as artistic.
I love those art forms so much, and I thought, 'How can we keep seeding that and keep that alive?' I've known Shepard and his wife, Amanda, for years, and they're just lovely. He's quintessential L.A. and I know this wine is Italian, but I want to go all over the place. I don't know famous Italian artists, but I know and love and respect Shepard.
We found my grandfather's crest and we brought it to him. I wanted to do something with the label that was really clean. I wanted to do something that was really modern, but I also wanted to do something that was — I kept saying, “gentleman's business card.” You know when you get that card and it's a thick stock and well-embossed? Again, another dying art — business cards. So we just talked about all that kind of stuff and got to where we got, and I really like the label. It's also fun to do it with people who you do respect. I was, like, “Can we put your name on the label? Can we talk about this? because I'm so proud to have done this with you.”
SI: You're certainly a creative person who's been in a creative field your entire life. Is wine making a creative process for you as well?
DB: It's very tactile and creative and fun, and I think I'm just really into making things right now. I think right now there's just a part of me that doesn't want to go out and go to an event. I want to sit around and discuss wine.
I'm just really into being quiet and under the radar and making things. And if that's what my life is for a while, then I will be really happy.
SI: What experience do you hope people have with your wine?
DB: I hope they do that…”mmmm!” [Laughs.] That would make me really happy. Also, I think it goes well with lots of different foods. I think it's a really nice, light wine. I like a wine you can drink over several hours and not feel, you know, a little bit off. There are these earthy, delicious, amazing glasses of wine that you have over dinner and you're like, “I can't drink this all night because it's so amazing and so intense.” So I think wines can provide something different. I love a good, deep, earthy glass of Malbec wine, but I wouldn't be able to drink that all night or I'd be passed out on the floor. I do like a wine that can carry you through, and I think this one is very refreshing and delightful.
Also, I hope that I get to explore more wines. I'd love to come out with a red and a rosé, but again, over time. I really tasted this wine over and over. I really compared it to the whites that are my go-to whites. I was really thoughtful about it, and time and again I thought, “This is a really lovely wine.” And it's all opinion. Two people can drink the same glass of wine, and one spits it out, and one keeps drinking it. And I love that. Hopefully people like it.
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