“It’s not fancy, but neither am I!”

~ Diane Keaton

Photo by Jesse Stone

Renowned actress, director, producer, author and singer Diane Keaton says it like it is. Her slogan is a perfect fit for her personal wine label, ‘The Keaton.’ It’s hard to imagine a wine label embodying the persona of its founder, but The Keaton does just that. There’s an attitude that speaks to all that’s fun-loving and easy-going, being yourself and rising above anything that others may think. It’s a warm, welcoming voice glowing of energy with a heartfelt undertone. It’s a presence that welcomes all, inviting you to kick off your shoes and just relax, because in Keaton’s realm, everyone is on an equal playing field. 

The Keaton may be a celebrity wine label, but it’s a far from the posh, showy brands one might associate with such a big name. The Keaton, like its namesake, is all-encompassing.

First debuting in 2015, The Keaton is available as a red and a white, both blends. A number of factors back up the brand’s accessibility and carefree nature, but two truly rise to the top. First, both wines retail for around $15 and can be found across a number of major retailers.

Second, Diane encourages consumers to drink her wine the way that she would: over ice.

Wine, over ice? Such a statement would typically cause sommeliers across the globe to sound the alarms, and restaurant beverage directors to simply silence themselves and shake their heads in disbelief. But this is not your typical wine, conceptualized by not your typical wine aficionado. 

“Drink it the way YOU like it!” exclaimed Diane Keaton. “Who cares what anyone else thinks!”

She’s become quite accustomed to defending her preference for wine over ice. The habit originated in the 1970s, when Keaton was living in New York. Her apartment didn’t have air conditioning, so she would retreat to her balcony to cool off. One day she simply thought about trying a glass of wine on ice to help with the process, and the practice stuck. 

Drinking wine on ice indirectly fueled the naming of the wine label as well. As Keaton explains, ‘The Keaton’ isn’t entirely focused on the wine itself, but rather the style in which it’s consumed.

“It all started on The Ellen Show,” Keaton said. “[Ellen] likes to tease me about drinking my wine on ice. She always [brought] me a chilled glass of wine with lots of ice and one time she surprised me with an engraved glass with ‘The Keaton’ on it. Then I heard that people would go into bars and order a ‘Keaton’ and it was known to bartenders that that meant wine on ice. I’m grateful to Ellen and the rest is history.”

Keaton is also quick to note another one of her wine’s favorite features: the twist-off cap.

“Easy access!” Keaton exclaimed, and went on to discuss how she aims for her wine to be geared toward the fun of life. “Who doesn’t love the social element around enjoying a great bottle of wine, whether with friends, co-workers or even after a long day of work alone!”

And while Keaton didn’t exactly grow up in the wine business, she was fortunate to meet with a number of seasoned professionals who helped her realize her vision, such as Bruce Hunter, Managing Director of Shaw-Ross International Importers.

“We were fortunate to meet Bruce and he understood how I felt about wine, and creating a wine that would taste great on ice or without ice,” Keaton said. “To be honest, I enjoyed the creating of the label the most, since I’m a visual person.”

To create the perfect blend, Keaton made her way to Northern California, where she worked with winemaker Bob Pepi, owner and winemaker at Robert Pepi Winery in Napa Valley. With more than 40 harvests of experience, numerous 90+ point ratings, two Wine Spectator “top 100 wines of the year” recognitions and a “Cellar Selection” designation, Pepi’s expertise helped bring The Keaton to life, with plenty of entertainment along the way. 

“He knew I wanted wine that was more on the “sweeter” side, but apparently that is an incorrect way of saying what I truly wanted,” Keaton said. “We had fun taste testing until we finally had the perfect blend for me…or for us!”

The Keaton Red combines Zinfandel, Syrah and Petite Sirah, all sourced from North Coast California. Tasting notes consist of strawberries, raspberries, plum and baking spices. Tanins are rich but restrained, with a lingering finish. 

The Keaton White blends Verdelho (Paso Robles), Pinot Grigio (Sonoma Valley) and Riesling (Mendocino). The nose is largely floral with a touch of spice, while the palate is full-bodied, slightly off dry, and contains a good balance of acidity.

To manage the day-to-day for the wine’s production and marketing, Keaton works with a small team. She describes them as “Passionate about wine, which makes for great collaborating.” 

But of course, Keaton does a great job of marketing her wine herself. Among many PR splashes, Keaton made a big one when she whipped out a bottle of The Keaton Red on Jimmy Kimmel Live and took a swig straight from the nozzle. 

Revisiting her tagline, Keaton was adamant about The Keaton being an everyday brand that was within reach for a broad range of people.

“I wanted [my wine] to be accessible with no frills,” Keaton said. “And we successfully accomplished that. Both of the wines have a big taste without a big budget. Now that is what I find attractive!”

She took the same stance in discussing her target customer, which doesn’t come with many limitations, as it would with most other brands. 

“You, me, everyone!” she said. “I get lots of requests on my Instagram from people in Brazil and London. I guess it’s not that easy to get wine over the state lines. I wish it was easier!”

She’s also adamant about her use of all-caps in her branding—She claims that she’s not looking to emphasize tone or emotion, but rather she just prefers the way that capital letters look.

Another critical driver of The Keaton is its charitable component. A portion of the proceeds from The Keaton go toward the Alzheimer’s study at Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.

“My mother suffered with Alzheimer and my father had an inoperable brain tumor,” Keaton said. “Obviously both were huge losses for me, and both are indirectly brain related. I support all doctors that are trying to get rid of these horrible brain diseases and hopefully one day we will find a cure.”

Of course, wine isn’t the only thing that’s on Keaton’s plate [or rather, in her glass]. At 73, she holds an active lifestyle that includes no shortage of commitments, with a mindset constantly looking toward creating something new and different. The Keaton, however, remains a priority and she strives to promote her wine brand whenever possible. 

“I would drive my car all over this country if I could to promote the wine,” she said. “But it isn’t that easy. Honestly I would love to see it expand into more markets.”

International expansion is certainly a hurdle to cross, and whether The Keaton will end up on shelves in London, Brazil or any other markets that have expressed demand is up in the air. Regardless, when it comes to the future of her wine label, Keaton wants it to be as universal as the customer it’s intended for, with the potential for additions to the line. 

“[I want The Keaton to be] Everywhere possible!” she said. “Grocery stores, poured at your local bar, more restaurants, you name it. And maybe even some newer wines under my label. What do you think about La De Da Rose next? On ice, of course!”

The Keaton remains an intriguing case study in wine and marketing, and at four years strong, a proven example of how reaching the masses with an everyday product can bear as much fruit [and often more] than the elite lines with price tags to match. Keaton could have easily gone the other way, and that wouldn’t have been a bad thing. It just wouldn’t necessarily have been ‘her.’ Because some people aren’t afraid to crack open a wine with a twist off cap and pour it over ice. 

“It’s up to you! Don’t listen to anyone. Enjoy it the way you like it…PERIOD,” Keaton said.

There’s the all-caps again. Thanks to Keaton, far more people are willing to take the plunge and try the unconventional practice themselves, Keaton’s instructions being the perfect excuse to fall back on. And as the peak of summer approaches, a number of patrons are undoubtedly enjoying The Keaton, over ice, as they escape their air conditioning-deprived apartments and overlook the sweltering city from their balconies.