Rocker Jon Bon Jovi turns winemaker, teaming up with son to make a French rose

Jon Bon Jovi and his son Jesse Bongiovi with their French rose, made with the help of winemaker Gerard Bertrand.
Jon Bon Jovi and his son Jesse Bongiovi with their French rose, made with the help of winemaker Gerard Bertrand.PHOTO: NYTIMES

The rocker teams up with his son to make Hampton Water, a French rose

NEW YORK • In real life, Jon Bon Jovi's hair is as lush, buoyant and poofed into rock-star messiness as you would hope it to be.

This was revealed on a recent afternoon as his stylist puffed his grey locks into perfect disorder at his US$18-million (S$24.4-million) Greenwich Village apartment.

Bon Jovi's office is sparsely decorated, except for what might be considered rocker tchotchkes: a spine-worn copy of Johnny Cash's 1975 memoir, Man In Black; a photo of Bon Jovi posing with Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney and Billy Joel; and a large, framed work by Shepard Fairey that shows a finger pressing the tip of a grenade that is releasing a mist - or is it hair spray?

Bon Jovi and his son, Jesse Bongiovi, 23, had gathered there to discuss their new product, a French rose made with the help of winemaker Gerard Bertrand. It is called Hampton Water and retails for about US$25.

The father and son are entering the market at a time when rose sales are on fire, having increased 64 per cent since last year, according to Nielsen.

Earlier this spring, Bon Jovi, 56, achieved a career milestone when his band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But now, his focus is fully on rose.

"Pre-season's over," he said. "It's game time."

Much of the marketing is being handled by Bongiovi, a former cornerback for the University of Notre Dame's football team.

He was headed out later that day to pour samples in the Delta Sky lounge at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The bottle's label features an illustration of a woman diving into pink water. Her name, the website tells us, is Pink - no relation to the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter.

"Our girl sure knows how to get the party started," the website says of Pink. "When you're with our girl, you never know when day might turn into night… and night into day."

So how did two guys from Jersey make a Hamptons rose?

Bongiovi: It started about two years ago. It was one of those late nights and the running joke out in the Hamptons is that rose is the water of the Hamptons.

Me and my buddies had been drinking rose all summer and doing the Hamptons thing and living the life out there.

One late night, I was sitting out on the porch and Dad here offered me a glass of "pink juice".

I said, "Listen, you're here out in the Hamptons. You're not drinking 'pink juice'. You're drinking Hamptons water". And the lightbulb kind of went off.

Bon Jovi: My experience comes in with marketing. Every good idea needs to be fleshed out and this is a good idea, but it needed to be fleshed out.

I went into several liquor stores and said, "What do you think of a wine with that word?"

Which word?

Bon Jovi: The word "Hampton".

And how did people respond?

Bon Jovi: People were very pro-the-word. But then we also knew that our favourite roses were from the south of France. So we were ultimately bottling a lifestyle.

And is it the lifestyle in the south of France or in the Hamptons or both?

Bon Jovi: Both. It's Hampton Water, so it's our own place.

Interesting. So it's not plural.

Bon Jovi: You see, that's where the mastery comes in. It's kind of a New York thing.

Is a rose an unusual choice for a football player and a rock star?

Bon Jovi: I'm a wine guy.

How did that happen?

Bon Jovi: I got older. Tequila shots, I've been there, done that.

Are we done with New Jersey? Are we all New York and Hampton and Hamptons?

Bon Jovi: Our house is in the Hamptons. Our wine is called Hampton. My licence is still New Jersey. But I have primarily lived here for 10 years.

I went through the website and read about Pink. Pink is the name of the woman on the bottle?

Bongiovi: Uh huh.

Tell me about coming up with that concept.

Bongiovi: Well, we really wanted a label that would jump off the shelf. You look at so many roses, and also alcohol in general, and so many look alike.

We came up with the diver. Pink has really turned into our mascot.

We've put her on T-shirts and hats and we're trying to make her our Nike swoosh.

We thought it was something unique and no one else was going to have anything that looked even vaguely like it.

What about what it says on the website? I notice you called her a girl, which stuck out to me. Why a girl?

Bongiovi: That's an interesting question.

Bon Jovi: That's The New York Times and she just jammed you. She just cut you, Tell her why you didn't want it to be overtly sexy.

Bongiovi: We wanted to do something eye-catching, but we wanted her to be athletic and to be more than just something sexy, per se. We wanted her to be, you know, more like an Olympic diver than a cute girl in a bikini.

She does look athletic.

Bongiovi: That was a conscious decision.

Bon Jovi: Classic and timeless are always what I do. Classic and timeless.

What are the grapes?

Bongiovi: Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah and Mourvedre.

Bon Jovi: You're creating your own wine. It's like collaborating on a song, everybody's one line is what brings it together.

How is it to work together as father and son? Does Jesse get to be in charge in ways that he doesn't get to be in charge at home?

Bon Jovi: All my kids get to be in charge of their own things. We never have stifled their creativity, nor did my own parents.

I still hear, from grown adults, "My kid wants to go into the music business, it's the worst thing I've heard."

And I think, "Really? Why would you stifle your kid's creativity?" And as a parent, how could you not be excited to work with your kids?

How is it to work with your dad?

Bongiovi: It's a good time. It's definitely been very educational. It's definitely good to have him around to bounce ideas off.

And it obviously doesn't hurt, at the end of the day, not just having my dad - but also Jon Bon Jovi.

It helps me walk into the door of a lot of places that wouldn't otherwise give me the time of day. I'm very acutely aware of that advantage.

Bon Jovi: Until the liquor salesman says, "But where is Jon Bon Jovi?"

Bongiovi: That is true. I do often get asked the question of, "How many cases do we have to buy for your dad to come in?"

I say, "What do you mean? You have me. I'll come in whenever you want."

Tell me a couple of songs - of yours, of your dad's - that fit the Hampton-in-the-bottle lifestyle. What Bon Jovi should we listen to while we drink it?

Bongiovi: I think that's got to be up to the drinker. Our wine is very versatile.

It got a lot of great reviews from a lot of high-end, legit publications.

It's in high-end, really impressive French restaurants.

Bon Jovi: Are you saying my music wouldn't be played in those restaurants?

It's sort of a dumb question that I asked anyway.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2018, with the headline 'Bon Jovi stops to smell the roses'. Print Edition | Subscribe