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Inspiration from a cold one

Actor Paul Newman’s new Chardonnay took influence from his true love — beer — a fellow winemaker says.

February 28, 2008|By Sue Thoensen

Paul Newman and longtime friend and business partner author A.E. Hotchner used to mix batches of their homemade olive oil and vinegar salad dressing in Newman’s basement, pour it into old wine bottles and give them to friends as Christmas gifts.

These days, Newman’s wine bottles are filled with wine, and Newport Beach diners will have a jump on the rest of the country as Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar is offering the latest additions to the actor and philanthropist’s Newman’s Own line.

The wine won’t be available to retailers until March, but Fleming’s locations nationwide were chosen as the official launch site.

A 2006 Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, bearing labels with the Hollywood star’s image, were introduced at a wine tasting dinner Tuesday in the restaurant’s private wine cellar room.

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The Hollywood-themed dinner, coming on the heels of Sunday’s Academy Award show, began with a red carpet-welcome out front.

A group of about 60 guests was escorted downstairs, where the evening began with appetizers, a Sofia Coppola Blanc de Blanc champagne and a mini-screening of “The Color of Money,” featuring Newman’s 1986 Academy award-winning performance as pool shark “Fast Eddie” Felson.

Because Newman has released only two varietals, Fleming’s also included wines from director Francis Ford Coppola to pair with its special menu.

Charles Bieler, founder and co-owner of Rebel Wine, met Newman through a mutual friend — a chef at a restaurant in Connecticut.

While Newman had never really thought about adding wine to his product line, Bieler said that over the years, when it came to new food items, the actor has always reacted to what was in front of him, and creating a new wine was no exception.

“Paul’s original thought was about making a wine for the restaurant, then maybe for Connecticut, then the Northeast, and from there he just decided to take it national.”

Any new product added to the line has to feel right to Newman, Bieler said, adding that although Newman is a wine drinker, his true love is beer.

“Our role was to realize Paul’s vision from the start, which was to make a wine that he loved. Since Paul loves Budweiser, the Chardonnay has a brighter, lighter flavor than some of the more heavily oaked Chardonnays on the market.”

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