Sammy Hagar has a secret. While he has spent his life earning the trappings of a Hall of Fame rocker—including a fleet of Ferraris, a mantle full of Grammy and MTV Video Music awards, and a streak of legendary birthday bashes down in Cabo—he also happens to be a serious wine aficionado and collector.
This is no midlife crisis or a sudden affectation. Hagar may still party with the best of them, hate to drive 55, and turn out albums. (His latest, This Is Sammy Hagar Vol. 1—When the Party Started, made its debut a few weeks ago.) But he really knows his vino. He is one of the few people I’ve ever met who can casually discuss the pros and cons of various 1947 Bordeaux first-growth wines as easily as you or I would discuss our favorite episodes of Game of Thrones. Sure, the ’47 vintage is his birth year and he is, of course, Sammy Hagar. But the man has been a serious wine collector and student for decades.
In the 1970s, he began visiting California wineries before it was the thing to do. “I always bought a case and I didn’t drink much,” he says. “I still have got some of the first wines I ever bought.”
Perhaps best known for helping to put premium tequila on the map with his Cabo Wabo brand (which he founded in the 1990s and later sold for a small fortune), Hagar now spends much of his time promoting his Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum and planning the launch of his new tequila/mezcal hybrid called Santo Mezquila.
But he has spent most of his adult life, including his time famously playing with mega-band Van Halen, nosing, swirling, and sipping wines from around the world. While he wasn’t much of a drinker during his early career, a friend in London turned him on to vintage port in the 1970s. “It knocked my socks off,” he remembers. That first love led him down a road to fine wine.
“When I went on tour, at the peak of my career, where you get anything you want, I would order five first growths of the newest releases,” he recalls. Did he drink the highly collectible Bordeaux before he performed? No. “I would put them in a case and ship it home,” he explains. Unfortunately, it didn’t always work out. One night famed concert promoter Bill Graham opened all the bottles in his dressing room thinking Hagar wanted to serve them. He was less than thrilled when he found his prized bottles uncorked.
Hagar’s collection, which now includes more than 10,000 bottles, is made up of mostly reds, and the bulk of it is housed in a small room in his Marin County, California, home. (His tequila, rum, and other spirits are stored in a large closet and in a bar area off his kitchen.) Most of the wines are kept in stacked ceramic sewer pipes, an idea he picked up in the early 1970s from Robert Mondavi’s tasting room.
While Hagar has (incredibly) a bottle of 1929 Château Latour, he holds a special affinity for wines from 1947, including the Latour pictured here. He also owns several magnums of Cheval Blanc and a bottle of Petrus from that same year.
Hagar’s wine cave is so packed you need to turn around very carefully. While there are cases and cases of rare wines, there are also several empty bottles. “Just some of my favorites,” he says. “I’d throw them away, but there are certain ones you go, ‘This was so damn good.’” It’s no surprise that the bottle for the incredibly rare 1982 Château Mouton Rothschild, with a label decorated by director John Huston, was one he held onto.
This 1977 Stag’s Cabernet Sauvignon looks nearly brand new and is a rare get, since just a few years earlier the winery had been in the historic Judgement of Paris that pitted California wines against French ones. How did the Americans manage to win? “It was a bum Bordeaux year!” Hagar jokes.
Santo Mezquila—roughly half tequila and half mezcal—is Hagar’s latest brand and will launch soon. His partner in this venture? None other than Maroon 5’s frontman Adam Levine. It’s a personal project: The brand’s logo is even partially based on a tattoo on one of Hagar’s forearms.
Hagar prefers rum made from fresh sugar cane rather than the more popular molasses-based versions. “I’m really into it,” he says. “I’m not bullshitting my way through it.” He has been experimenting with aging his white rum in a small wooden barrel for about a year, a process that gives it a whiskey note. At one point, he used some of his spirit to shake up his signature rum-based Margarita.