Zac Brown Gets Knee Deep in the North Coast

Zac Brown performing in Denver, Colorado
Zac Brown performing in Denver, Colorado / Photo by Andy Sapp

Zac Brown, the Grammy-winning country singer, producer and bandleader, is also a passionate wine and food lover. His collaboration with Napa’s Delicato Family Vineyard on a North Coast Cabernet and a Proprietary Red Blend is just one of the ways he’s bringing his tastes to his fans and beyond.

Tell me about your personal interest in wine.

I opened my first restaurant [Zac’s Place] 10 years ago. Food is about connecting people together, from family to friends, and that segued later to wine and wine pairing. [Master Sommelier] Kevin Vogt is an incredible friend, and I started going to meals where he was pairing wine with every course that we had.

And it became a long-term interest?

[F]ood and wine and all of that, was like HD for me, and really falling in love with wine—and trying to figure it all out—was a rabbit hole. I’m not saying by any means I’m a wine expert, but then you can never try even 1% of all the wines in the world.

Zac Brown enjoys the fruits of his labor / Photo by Andy Sapp
Zac Brown enjoys the fruits of his labor / Photo by Andy Sapp

How did Z. Alexander Brown develop?

We took meetings with several companies and people, and when we met with Black Stallion and the Delicato family and saw their level of excellence and expertise, we knew that’s what we wanted to do, to go the extra mile to make the wine as excellent as we can. We knew it was the right fit.

What tasting profile or style were you targeting with the brand?

I like distinctive wines that have recognizable components. Something with a real identity where you know what you’re getting … accessible, but also just complex and refined enough to where a real wine drinker would like it. … [This approach is] like how I do with our music: I like a deep person to get into the layers, but at the same time, I want to be accessible to someone who isn’t a learned listener.

How does the collaborative process work?

In my wine journey, I found characteristics that I really liked in a glass of wine. So once I explain something I like to the winemaking team, they bring me six samples based off of what I described, all the mixing elements. I’m hands-on with all of it.

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The label design for the wines is very distinctive. What’s the significance of the owl and who designed the art?

I designed the labels myself. And the shipping boxes and everything, I did all that myself. The owl has a lot of different meanings. It’s almost a mystical creature. When you see an owl somewhere, it’s a special moment, a special thing. What it means to me is wisdom, the unknown, what’s beyond the surface.

So you’re involved in all aspects of the project.

It’s a dream for me, because part of my job now is tasting and blending wine, and coming up with a unique presentation and marketing for them, and getting to toast people and to make their teeth turn purple. I love the partnership we have with them and would absolutely plan to keep working with them. We’re working on a white wine for release next year.

You’re known for bringing your own chef on tour and staging dinners for fans on your 18-wheeler at the venues. How did that start?

When I sold my first restaurant, I missed feeding people. So I thought, how do we deliver food to people that they couldn’t get in the finest restaurant in that city, but outside in a parking lot or at a venue? I said to Rusty Hamlin, our executive chef, “If you help me deliver this level of food to my fans, I will help you get your name out there and help you get the love that I believe your personality and talent deserves.” We’ve been doing that for seven years now.

What wines are you drinking and liking right now?

I’ve been on a little bit of white kick recently. I’ve been after some Verdelhos. Also, Black Stallion makes some incredible Sauvignon Blancs that I really have been enjoying lately. And Hundred Acre Cab is one of my favorite wines, period. I love that big, complex, cherry kind of note. That’s one of the wines that inspired my Cabs. From Australia, [I’m] drinking Mollydooker Velvet Glove…it’s big, dark, dry, smoky, crazy. I love that.

You tour and travel a lot personally. Any favorite travel destinations for wine and food right now?

When I’m traveling internationally, I’m all over the local wine. We went to Argentina, did some fly fishing in Tierra del Fuego, and I tried all the Malbec there that I hadn’t tried before. And traveling to Australia, I’ve been a few times and stayed and walked around some incredible vineyards. My wife and I spent some time traveling around Italy and I found some wines that were unbelievable. I think going to Chile would also be amazing. I would love to try more local Chilean wine.

Are there any other projects you’re excited about that you are working on?

Camp Southern Ground, my charity, is a cancer and research facility and sleep-away camp for kids [with special needs, and their families], with support for military and veterans. There’s a lot of incredible work being done there by our team. We’re working on building one of the lodges later this year, and we’re finishing the dining hall. We’re going to have a good wine party there to open up it up.

Do you think there’s a connection between making music and making wine?

Just getting to taste the labor of someone else’s love, it’s the same thing as getting to hear a song that someone had to live through to do it. They had to dedicate their life to music to be able to present it in a way that makes you really feel something. It’s the same with wine.

Published on December 14, 2016
Topics: Interviews