Ask any wine lover what got them into wine and you’ll likely get an interesting answer — and probably an interesting story to go along with it.

Celebrity oenophiles are no different. They got started any number of ways — through a family member, in college or maybe from dinners with wine-loving friends.

For Kathie Lee Gifford, co-host of the third hour of NBC’s “Today,” wine calls to mind happy times with family while growing up in Europe and Maryland. Today, it’s a source of income and fun for her as an owner of Gifft wines.

“You know what they do in Europe — and people get crazy about it here,” Gifford says. “My parents never said, ‘What would you like, merlot tonight?’ No, they’d let me have a little, teeny sip and they’d put it on their finger. Or when we lived in Germany, my daddy would let us have a tiny, little sip of his beer — suds. And I equate such lovely, wonderful memories with being a happy family. Nobody was ever drunk but we were celebrating all the time.

“Wine has been a part of every culture since the caveman,” she continues. “I got a feeling the caveman had a wine cellar in there. And it’s such a part of all of literature, poetry, and everything in life is sweeter to me when you celebrate and have a beautiful glass of wine to go with it.”

And for Gifford, that wine would preferably be white.

“I’m a white girl,” she says. “I love the red wines that we put out but if I had my preference, it would always be a very dry, light chardonnay or pinot (grigio).”

Former NASCAR great and current FOX racing analyst Jeff Gordon is also owner of a line of wines, Jeff Gordon Wine. His is more a case of interest by immersion, having grown up in California wine country.

“I’m from Vallejo, Calif., which is the next town over from Napa,” he explains. “And as a kid, just driving through the vineyard area and wondering what it was all about and just being kind of in awe of the beauty in that area and then later in life, getting the chance to enjoy some great meals and some great wine. And a good friend of mine in the business who was handling our PR at the time was into wine, and he said, ‘Hey, have you ever thought about doing your own wine?’ And he kind of talked me into doing it and so we’ve been doing it since 2003-2004 and have enjoyed.”

For Gordon, blends are where it’s at.

“I like a really good blend with a cabernet sauvignon base and maybe a little merlot/syrah blend in there,” he says. “But some of the best wines in the world are blends even though we don’t always know it and they don’t always say that on the bottle, even some of the top bourdeaus. I mean, I definitely love cab but I prefer just to mix it with a little bit of something that you can blend it with that just kind of smooths it out and really creates great balance.”

Another sportscaster, former FOX baseball analyst Tim McCarver, didn’t invest in a vineyard but he did buy a house in Napa Valley. He got turned on to wine during his playing days in the 1960s and ’70s and he continues to enjoy the grape today.

As for whether that would be a red or white wine, McCarver responds with a “Yes” and a hearty laugh.

“I like cabs. I like chardonnays also,” he says “I like the big chardonnays of France. You know, it’s such a blending world now, almost like the people who drink it. There are blends of grapes and people.”

Posted by:George Dickie