From the San Francisco Chronicle
Stacy Finz, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, July 4, 2008
It’s been a year since legendary rocker Sammy Hagar sold an 80 percent interest of his Cabo Wabo Tequila company to Gruppo Campari for $80 million. Now, with international distribution and a marketing strategy created by Campari’s San Francisco subsidiary, Skyy Spirits, Hagar and his new partners plan on doubling production and taking his premium Tequila global.
The 60-year-old Mill Valley singer-songwriter and former Van Halen front man says he discovered Tequila during his early days in music. Back then, he says, “it was the rotgut stuff.” But in the early 1980s he took a trip to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico, where a friend gave him a drink of 100 percent agave Tequila.
“It changed my life,” remembers Hagar. “I had never had anything like it.”
By 1995, the music man known as the Red Rocker decided to make his own to sell at his Cabo Wabo Cantina in Cabo San Lucas. He started small with 37,000 cases produced by agave farmers near the town of Tequila in Jalisco. Just as authentic Champagne and Chablis has to come from those
French regions, Tequila has to be produced in either Tequila or a handful of other municipalities in Mexico, in order to qualify as genuine.
Hagar had planned to keep production of his Cabo Wabo Tequila low-key. But
famed spirits writer Anthony Dias Blue changed that, says the singer. He
had a sip while visiting the bar, naming it “one of the top three Tequilas
in the world.”
“The phone started ringing off the hook,” says Hagar, who realized that
there was more to the Tequila thing than he had originally thought. Before
he knew it, he was exporting Cabo Wabo to the United States.
Recently we talked to the musician about his love for Tequila, his life as
a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and about his lesser-known passion – wine.
Not everyone knows that you’re really into wine. But we understand that
you have quite a collection. How many bottles are in your cellar?
I have 10,000 bottles. And all of them are good wines, nothing cheap.
What got you interested in wine?
I discovered wine in the ’70s, back when I was in the band Montrose
touring in England. My old elementary school teacher, Ms. Osbourne (no
relation to Ozzy), was living in London and looked me up. She and her
husband had me over for dinner. Her husband opened a 1927 Martinez Port
and a 1961 Chateau Latour. It was a big night. I drank the Port with a
Stilton cheese and the Latour with rack of lamb. While the Latour blew my
mind, it was the Port that I fell in love with. It was sweet, like candy.
So were you hooked?
A: Yes. When I came back to Northern California I immediately bought six
bottles of 1973 Mondavi Private Reserve and six bottles of the 1974
vintage to start a collection. It was the beginning of my quest.
Besides the Mondavi, what else did you begin collecting?
A: I started with sweet wines. I was really into Sauternes. But that only
lasted about a year, then my palate started to change. I’ve actually been
considering swapping out some of my Sauternes, but have resisted because
they’re worth a lot of money.
What are some of your favorite wines?
A: After my sweet phase I moved into Bordeaux. I also love Italian wines –
Barolos and Chianti. But my favorite is probably La Tache, from Domaine de
la Romanee-Conti. I’m also into Vega Sicilia.
Those may be your favorites, but what are you drinking most right now?
A: I like Penfolds Grange Hermitage. But they need the age, at least 1990s
and back. They’re hard to come by, though. I do like a good Sauvignon
Blanc over a Chardonnay. I’m particularly fond of Cloudy Bay from New
Zealand. It’s like fresh cut grass. I prefer Chablis over a Montrachet.
It’s the same grape, but they don’t wood them.
If you could share one bottle of wine with David Lee Roth, what would
Cold Duck. I don’t think he would appreciate fine wine. We don’t get
along with each other. It has nothing to do with Van Halen. I just don’t
like the way he dresses or the way he acts.
What did you drink on the night you were inducted into the Rock and
Roll Hall of Fame?
Emeril Lagasse, his wife and Kenny Chesney were at my table. We had two
bottles of Cabo Wabo Uno Tequila. I don’t think it had been released yet,
so I brought it with me. Everyone kept coming to the table asking, “What
are you drinking there?” Both Keith Richards and Annie Leibovitz had
Did Emeril say “bam?”
Twenty-five to 30 times.
Have your drinking habits changed since the late ’70s and ’80s, back in
your Montrose and Van Halen days?
I drink less now. I’m a little more in control. I don’t like to be
drunk. The last thing I like is having a hangover. I drink now for
pleasure, especially with a meal. There’s nothing better than having a
margarita with Mexican appetizers.
E-mail Stacy Finz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared on page F – 3 of the San Francisco Chronicle