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Friday, February 02, 2007

Da red. Da white.

Chicago Sun-Times: Nothing says wine like . . . Ditka?
Mike Ditka is on the crisp and dry side, a tad spicy and best when chilled.

Mike Ditka Pinot Grigio, that is.

Da Coach has partnered with a California winery to produce five wines shipping to retailers this week, all bearing the unmistakable doodle of his slick-haired head.

The highest-end bottle in the line: a zinfandel-syrah-petite sirah blend called Mike Ditka Kick Ass Red.

"One word: powerful . . . with a nice, pleasant pepper finish," said Bill Hanson, Midwest region vice president for Costco, which will carry the wines.

Good palateAlthough his tough-talking, cigar-chomping demeanor might scream Budweiser, "Looks can be deceiving," Ditka said. "I've drank red wine my whole life. There's no wine ever made that I didn't try."

And he has a "good palate," said Paul Dolan, partner at Mendocino Wine Co., which is producing the Ditka wines.

In June, Ditka, chef Tom Kenny of Ditka's Gold Coast restaurant, and Steve Diebold of Promark, the West Chicago brokerage firm that oversees Ditka-licensed products, spent two days at Dolan's vineyard in Ukiah, Calif., putting the blends together.

Will cost $10 to $50Besides the Kick Ass Red, which will cost between $40 and $50, there is a chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon in the $15 to $17 range, and a merlot and pinot grigio, priced between $10 and $12.

The pinot grigio was a must, Ditka said. "My wife only drinks pinot grigio."

Ditka isn't the only famous face on a wine label. Golfer Greg Norman and actress Lorraine Bracco are among a growing number of celebrities with their own wines.

You gotta be careful not to choke on Norman's wines...(sorry).

Celebrities "live a lifestyle that very often includes wine, food, entertaining, all those good things, so there's a natural affinity there," said John Gillespie, founder of Wine Opinions, a consumer research firm.

'Very user-friendly'While some celebrity wines, including Norman's, have been well-received by critics, the quality of others is "all over the board," said Barbara Hermann, wine buyers for Binny's, who describes the Ditka wines as "very user-friendly" with "a lot of fruit."

Besides Costco, Binny's in Highland Park and Chicago area Dominick's stores will carry the wines. Ditka's restaurant at 100 E. Chestnut is serving two of the wines by the glass and should have the full lineup later this month, Kenny said.

Ditka's name is on frozen pork chops, barbecue and steak sauces, and a cheese spread and will soon be on cigars, also to be sold at Costco.

How could you root against a wine named Kick Ass Red?

Chicago Sun-Times: Ditka's wine does just fine against big boys
Sales of Mike Ditka's Kick Ass Red wine are strong at Da Coach's namesake restaurant in the Gold Coast, and Bears fever "definitely has helped," general manager George Laftsidis said.

But does the Kick Ass Red really kick ass?

We put Ditka's $45 red wine, released in November, up against a $100 red and asked four Sun-Times columnists -- Mark Brown, Elliott Harris, David Roeder and Paige Wiser -- for their winning picks.

We didn't tell our panelists which wine was which until the tasting was completed. One taster complained he was automatically at a disadvantage.

"As a sportswriter, I don't know what a $100 bottle of wine tastes like," Harris said.

In the end, the panel was split on the wine they liked best (Wiser and Harris picked Ditka) and which one they thought was more expensive (Brown and Roeder guessed correctly).

Roeder, a twice-a-week wine drinker, said Ditka's wine "has less impact than the New Orleans Saints when he coached them."

Due to time constraints, we now move to further action.

MIKE DITKA'S KICK ASS RED ($45.99)

Brown: Oh, this is really good [coughs]. . . . My first sense was that it was watery. But then it kind of kicked in like Mad Dog 20/20.

Wiser: It's going down really easy. . . . It tastes clean to me. It's round, it's well-balanced in fruit tannins and body.

Roeder: It's a bit more acidic, but to me it seems less distinct as a flavor. There's not that much to this.

Harris: Then again, less distinct may also mean more subtle. But then, subtlety is not the hallmark of Ditka.

CHATEAU MONTELENA CABERNET ($99.99)

Brown: This seems like a more serious wine to me.

Wiser: This one is more robust. The bouquet was more acidic -- am I crazy?

Roeder: Tawny. Seems to have quite a nose to it. Depending on the person's taste, it might be a little bit too much but I like it. It's got a smooth aftertaste to it.

Harris: Tastes like it might go well with pork chops from a restaurant. Probably one where a former Bears coach has his name on it.

FINAL SCORE: Ditka 2, Chateau Montelena 2

THE PANEL
• Paige Wiser: Planet Paige goes with Da Coach.

• Mark Brown, Page 2 columnist: Picks the "more serious" Chateau.

• David Roeder, investment expert: Puts his money on the "smooth" Chateau.

• Elliott Harris, Sports columnist: Perhaps tasting his first $100 bottle, sides with Ditka instead.

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First of all, the word is SEX, not GENDER. If you are ever tempted to use the word GENDER, don't. The word is SEX! SEX! SEX! SEX! For example: "My sex is male." is correct. "My gender is male." means nothing. Look it up. What kind of sick neo-Puritan nonsense is this? Idiot left-fascists, get your blood-soaked paws off the English language. Hence I am choosing "male" under protest.

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