Powerhouse vocalist, superstar songstress, country music icon…Martina McBride is all of these and more—specifically, an oenophile. She’s had plenty of cause for toasting, thanks to the runaway success of her critically acclaimed latest album, Eleven. Wine Enthusiast recently sat down with the country star to learn more about her love of wine.
Wine Enthusiast: What was your first wine experience?
Martina McBride: Well, my very first wine experience was drinking Tickle Pink by Boone’s Farm while riding around the Kansas dirt roads with friends listening to Def Leppard or Journey. Luckily, my wine tastes have evolved since then! Still, if I was offered a night of riding around listening to ’80s rock and drinking Tickle Pink now, I would not turn it down!
W.E.: What wines do you enjoy drinking at home?
MM: I enjoy drinking a nice Chardonnay in the spring and summer—Newton Unfiltered is one of my favorites. I love California Cabernet, with Robert Mondavi, Beringer, Far Niente and Caymus being among my go-to labels. I found a really interesting Pinot recently from Twomey Cellars. I also love Italian reds and French Burgundies…but who doesn’t?
W.E.: Obviously, you’re a tremendous entertainer. Please share some tips for entertaining at home.
MM: Entertaining at home is something I wish people would do more often. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming or intimidating. It’s best to start small and then take on more complicated parties and ideas, the more experience you get. The most important thing is to make people feel comfortable and at ease. I make lots of lists and try to see what I can do ahead of time. Planning ahead helps you be more relaxed as a hostess, and that makes everyone more relaxed. I always try and have lots of candles (unscented at the table), low light and fresh flowers. I like small nosegays with one type of flower, like cream-colored or deep red roses. There are all kinds of ways to entertain—everything from a small, casual supper to a formal dinner party to a fun cocktail party. It’s good to find your style and what is easiest for you. And then, just put a little effort into it to make it feel special. Whether it’s an unusual place setting, a festive cocktail, fresh flowers, music that matches the mood…guests just want to feel like you have put some thought into it and that you really want them there.
W.E.: What do you like to serve guests on the home front?
MM: I like to have Champagne on hand. I usually serve Veuve Clicquot. Everyone recognizes it, and it’s available at a good price point. I serve both white and red wine. I try and have two types of each. A [New World] Chardonnay and a Montrachet, for example, and a Cabernet and a Pinot. I like to serve different wines with different courses if I am having a more formal sit-down dinner.
W.E.: Name one of your most memorable wine experiences.
MM: One of my favorite wine experiences was visiting the Ornellaia estate in Italy. My husband and I were invited to spend the afternoon and evening. We were treated to an amazing lunch, and I can still taste the panzanella salad and the melon with prosciutto. Everything was so fresh and simple. We then toured the vineyard and had a private tasting with Winemaker Axel Heinz, where we also tasted their delicious second wine, Le Serre Nuove. I learned so much about winemaking at that tasting! We were then treated to a lovely dinner, but the real fun began when my husband, John, brought out his computer and started taking music requests. All ice was broken, and we listened to music and drank wine until 3 am. It was a beautiful experience combining fantastic wine, delicious food, great music and new friends. Perfect.