When Snoop Dogg (Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr.) exploded on the scene in the early ’90s, one of the young rapper’s first major hits was an ode to gin and juice, among other things.
But as the rapper nears his 50th birthday, the multiplatinum artist has developed a more subdued drinking habit.
These days, Snoop’s passing over the hooch in favor of fine wine. Of course, it’s not enough just to sip it — the media mogul craves his name on the bottle.
In April, he went even one step further and placed his famous face on a label. A multi-year partnership with Australian wine brand 19 Crimes resulted in Snoop Cali Red, the label’s premier California entry.
The collaboration summoned the singer up to Northern California, where he enjoyed an active role in conceiving the final blend.
Primarily a combination of Petite Syrah and Zinfandel — with a splash of Merlot — it’s surprisingly soulful for a $12 offering.
Then again, Snoop is full of surprises at this point in his career.
His unexpected kinship with Martha Stewart blossomed into two seasons of “Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party” — a refreshingly earnest reality TV show that ran on VH1 from 2016 to 2018.
With over 35 million albums sold, he has little left to prove musically, yet he remains as prolific as ever, releasing five studio efforts over the past five years.
Through his wine, he’s found an alternative form of expression. It was hardly happenstance.
19 Crimes takes its name from the full list of infractions that would result in automatic exile for an 18th century Englishman. The offenders were famously sent to sea, destined for a continent on the opposite end of the Earth. Once reviled criminals, they would eventually be celebrated as founders of Australia.
Snoop — who ended up in jail several times as a youth for narcotics possession and a string of misdemeanours — is another master of reinvention and a vocal proponent of rehabilitation. For folks with troubled pasts, he embodies the notion that past mistakes don’t have to prevent future success.
And, as a rap-star-turned winemaker, that each passing day is another opportunity to define yourself, on your own terms.
Q & A with Snoop
In an exclusive interview with CNN, Snoop confirms that he’s every bit as complex as the red blend that now bears his name. The following has been edited for style and brevity:
Where have you been holed up for most of this lockdown period?
I’ve been in LA.
How long have you been a wine drinker? And how did you develop a taste for the liquid?
I didn’t grow up a wine drinker. Wine was foreign to me in my neighborhood, so I’ve probably been drinking wine for about 15 to 20 years. I was a hard drinker.
Old Age, Gin & Juice, Hennessy, but once I started getting intellectually together, wine started to enhance my thinking and my thought process. You want to go with whatever you are or wherever you’re at — and as I got older, I wanted to age like fine wine.
You are what you drink.
Was there someone in particular that got you into it?
My homeboy Warren G popped some shit on us called Merlot. It just sounded expensive so we started drinking that kind of red wine and we fell in love with it because it made us feel some kind of way about ourselves.
Even the glass that you’re drinking it out of, the way that you hold the glass, your posture, your conversation … all of that comes with the feeling of drinking wine because it is all in one glass.
Are there any similarities there with cannabis?
The wine community is just about as good as the cannabis community. Because it is always a great conversation, peace and good food. It is very social at the end of the day.
How did this partnership with 19 Crimes arise? Did they approach you? I’m sure you get asked to work with brands all the time. What about 19 Crimes, specifically, stood out?
For one, it’s the brand’s first California Red, and I was born and raised here so I had to rep the West Coast.
19 Crimes represents and celebrates second chances. We all have a past which is part of the journey and builds character.
I wouldn’t be who I am without my past, and I appreciate celebrating folks who have reinvented themselves along the way. I’ve been able to impact others not just through my music, but through other important projects like getting our youth off the streets and using my voice to create change which is most important.
Is there anything about the brand and its founders that resonates with you and your philosophies?
When I partner with a brand, it first of all has to be something that I like, an everyday part of my life, and something that feels good to me. If it feels good, it must be for me. So when 19 Crimes reached out to me, it just made sense.
What was the development process like for Snoop Cali Red? Did you go to any vineyards and taste any of the liquids that went into the final blend?
The wine is from Northern California’s Lodi region with a smoky taste. 19 Crimes allowed me to come up with the perfect blend for me. Strong, bold and incredible — just like the D-O-Double-G. I was involved in the tasting process and just knew from the first sip, everyone was gonna love it.
We know you enjoy your gin with juice, but what’s the ideal pairing for your wine?
It definitely goes with a filet mignon steak and fettuccine. It also goes really good with spaghetti from my cookbook “From Crook to Cook.” Ground beef, Italian sausage, your favorite kind of cheeses. It’s a good combo with food.
And how is it best sipped? Describe the scene.
That’s easy: you just gotta sit back, relax and enjoy! Ya hear me!