“This is not a vanity project,” Jon Bon Jovi tells me almost as soon as we sit down to taste his new rosé wine Diving into Hampton Water, which he created with his son Jesse Bongiovi and French winemaker Gérard Bertrand.
In fact, his world-famous name isn’t even featured anywhere on the bottle’s front or back labels. When I bring that fact to his attention, he’s quick to brush away my concern. “You’ll know that I’m involved just as Jesse and Gérard are involved. But there’s no need to whore out the Bon Jovi name,” he says. “We won’t be doing Bed of Roses Rosé. Believe me that conversation has happened at some point in the world. I would never do something like that.”
Unlike many other celebrity liquor ventures, Bon Jovi seems to take real joy in the winemaking process and working with his partners, especially his son. “We all committed to this like it’s my only job,” he says. “Although, I have another job that I have to deal with…”
Later that night at a launch party for the wine, which took place at Gianni Versace’s former home in Miami, Bon Jovi spoke passionately to the crowd gathered to hear him play an acoustic set about working with his son. It was Jesse, who recently graduated from Notre Dame, that actually came up with the idea for the wine brand about two years ago.
The family was connected with Bertrand whose wines they had enjoyed. Bon Jovi, in fact, only drinks wine. “That’s my drink of choice,” he says. “I don’t drink hard alcohol. Red, whites and rosé are all I ever drink.” (Although, for the record, he doesn’t drink wine before performing. How about afterwards? “I’ll be standing next to the bottle,” he jokes.)
Bertrand hosted Bon Jovi and his son in France and helped them come up with the right blend of varietals. While there are certainly a number of ways to make cheap rosé, Diving into Hampton Water, is made with an expensive blend of grenache, cinsault, mourvèdre and syrah grapes. To round out the wine and to give it a long finish it was also aged in French oak barrels. “We didn’t make a rosé to make another rosé,” says Bertrand. “We have created a super-premium rosé.” The name he says tries to tie together the posh lifestyles of the Hamptons and the South of France. The wine, which has been selling very quickly, goes for around $25 a bottle.
“$25 for a bottle of rosé is a good price because we need to see people enjoy it and we also need to over deliver, which is important,” says Bertrand. “Because when you deliver more than the price you make people happy.” I don’t think that will be hard given that the wine is refreshing but has real depth and complexity with a long finish.
In fact, some of the stores around New York City have been selling out their supply. Is it the family’s name driving the popularity? “I don’t think it was the fan base,” says Bon Jovi. “This wasn’t online. This is Jesse walking into the Plaza Hotel and the Four Seasons with Gérard’s sales team. These are guys that would have certainly, I think, thrown him out on his ass if we’d gone in there with some schlocky wine.”
The brand is also designed to draw in people who might not be traditional wine drinkers. In fact, they started with producing rosé, since it’s “a lot more relatable,” says Jesse. “It’s a lot easier to pick up and enjoy. That’s what makes it so much more attractive to this new audience.” The bottle, of course, has an Instagrammable label of a woman diving into a sea of rosé and a fancy glass stopper.
“When Gérard first proposed the glass top,” remebers Bon Jovi, “he said ‘it’s for when you don’t finish the bottle. You can put the glass top back on.’ I said ‘who does that?’ There’s never anything left. Who the hell puts the top back on?”