I was 18 years old when I first saw a Marilyn Monroe film. I was familiar with her image and had seen her face on all sorts of souvenirs, from t-shirts to purses to coffee mugs. But that was all I knew of the starlet until that day when I turned on the television and saw her on the screen. I was mesmerized by the way she moved, her powder white hair, her doe eyes and coy voice. The movie was Some Like It Hot and I watched it in awe, laughing like crazy as she and her two cross-dressing co-stars, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, got into outrageous shenanigans!
Ever since, I’ve been hooked on the blonde bombshell. I’ve read many biographies, seen most of her films and have become a collector of Monroe memorabilia. So, it’s only fitting that I start my journey of becoming a Marilyn Wines connoisseur. In celebration of what would have been her 96th birthday on June 1st, I’m reviewing three wines I tried from the glamorous brand. Cheers!
The Wine Company
Marilyn Wines made its grand debut during the 80s with the 1985 vintage, Marilyn Merlot. Founders Bob and Donna Holder gave a case to an auction where it was a hit. Then, a friend of theirs reached out to Marilyn Monroe estate to inquire about licensing rights to use the name and photographs of the icon on the bottles. Access was granted and the rest is Hollywood history. Since 1997, the wine has been crafted using purchased grapes and made at Napa Wine Co. in Oakville, Calif.
I learned about the wine company when I went to a Marilyn Monroe exhibit nearly a decade ago at The Hollywood Museum. There was a display case filled with various bottles and my interest was piqued. However, I haven’t tried any until now, so I was excited to pick a few to taste.
There’s a vast selection available on the website and there are different sets, such as Red Dress, Blonde de Noirs, and Marilyn Cabernet, to name a few. I really want to purchase from the Velvet Collection, which is a series featuring pictures from the risqué nude photoshoot she did in 1949. Most of the items are sold out, though, and the least expensive is $500. Regarding price, newer wines start at $25 and go up to thousands of dollars for older ones.
To get a well-rounded taste of the wines, I selected a rosé, white and red. They are a 2017 Marilyn Monroe Rosé, a 2015 Sauvignon Blonde and a 2020 Norma Jeane Merlot.
The Wine Tasting
2017 Marilyn Monroe Rosé
Alcohol content: 13%
I love a good rosé and this one contains Grenache from Paso Robles, Calif. The image on the front of the bottle is a rendering of the famous scene in The Seven Year Itch where the actress stands on top of a subway grate and her white dress blows up, exposing her marvelous gams. On the back is a lovely quote that reads:
“I feel that beauty and femininity are ageless and glamour cannot be manufactured.”– Marilyn Monroe
I put the wine in the fridge to chill for a few hours. Pouring it in a glass, I noticed its light blush color. The smell was slightly sweet with hints of berries and cinnamon. Upon taking the first sip, I tasted apples. I swished the liquid around in my mouth to get a feel for the texture. It was tarte, effervescent and went down smoothly with a long, bright finish.
Now, wine is interesting because it changes as it hits room temperature. The tartness and sweetness became further pronounced, and the aromas blossomed like a flower the more my husband and I swirled our glasses. I even got a touch of saltiness on the tongue. It’s definitely an easy-sipping summer rosé that would pair well with the Mexican dish pozole blanco (white) or verde (green). It’d also be great to have while eating enchiladas suizas because it would nicely cut through the thickness of the cream sauce. I also want to make a Marilyn Monroe movie recommendation to go along with this. I feel its light-hearted character makes it perfect to drink while watching How to Marry a Millionaire.
2015 Sauvignon Blonde
Alcohol content: 13%
The name of this wine is a wonderful play on words. It’s a sauvignon blanc, and when it comes to white vinos, this varietal is one of my favorites. On the label is an image of Marilyn on the beach, donning an ivory bathing suit taken from a shoot she did with photographer Sam Shaw. It’s certainly a libation that’d be great to enjoy by the seaside.
I also placed this one to chill for a couple of hours. Initially, it had a clear color when it was cold, and a faintly fruity fragrance, which was a blend of nectarines, honeydew and peaches. The flavor was surprising. Sauvignon blancs I’ve had from other vineyards tend to be on the citrusy side, but not this one. It coated the tongue with a light film and reminded me of chardonnay. I’m not a huge admirer of chardonnay, but the hints of it I was getting weren’t bad, just unexpected. Jammy notes also came through as I continued drinking.
At room temperature, the hue turned golden yellow, and it was more flavorful. The taste was sweeter and fruit-forward at the back of the tongue. For this type of wine, there’s not much acidity, but it is bright and refreshing and would be a terrific brunch beverage. White wine is usually recommended with seafood, and shrimp scampi, ceviche and agua chile are some meals that come to mind. Serving it alongside light pastas with a pesto or tomato sauce, fresh berries, or the Mexican breakfast dish chilaquiles might complement it too. And hands down, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes should be watched with this selection.
2020 Norma Jeane Merlot
Alcohol content: 13.8%
Before transforming into Marilyn Monroe, the silver screen goddess went by her birthname, Norma Jeane. This series is dedicated to her youth and is a collection of younger wines. The photo on the bottle is from her first session with Milton Greene in 1953. She sits against a tree, wearing a white blouse and floral skirt with a gentle smile on her face, looking innocently into the camera.
To allow the aromas and flavors to open up, I served this in a red wine glass, which is large and bowl-shaped. Unlike rosés and white wines, reds should be aerated for a bit, either in a decanter or by uncorking the bottle and letting it air out. I have a spout that attaches to the bottle and aerates the liquid as it pours. The libation smelled very fragrant and was deep burgundy in color. I got whiffs of fresh fruit jam when I stuck my nose into the glass.
The initial sip went down smooth with a lingering finish. I let the second drop settle in my mouth for a few seconds before swallowing and picked up more minerality and a tingling sensation on my tongue. The third dose was a nice balance of all the previous elements. When I moved on to my second glass, the wine had been airing out for 30 minutes, which allowed it to open up even more. I could smell tannins, cherries and dried fruit. The flavor was smoother and more fruit-forward, and because it hadn’t aged long, there was a touch of ruby-like candy. I’m not implying it was sugary, but there were notes of dark berries.
Since red wines are fuller bodied, they can be an acquired taste for some people. This one is quite mellow and because it is a young red, I think it’s a good introduction for someone wanting to ease into drinking more of these types of vinos.
Let’s talk about what dishes would complement this merlot. Reds are known to stand up against meaty, bold cuisines, so think beefy, fatty and spicy foods. The fruitiness and acidity of this wine would lighten up a meal containing red sauce enchiladas, braised oxtail, carnitas or short ribs. I eat mainly poultry, so I’d like to try it with grilled chicken.
My motion picture selection for this wine is Don’t Bother to Knock. Marilyn Monroe’s role in it is unlike any she’s done in her body of work. It’s a dark tale that embodies film noir and unravels the main character’s mysterious past. Trust me when I say the qualities of the movie match the wine superbly.
Well, there’s my review of this delightful trio! I am incredibly happy with my first experience drinking Marilyn Wines and I can’t wait to try more. The bottles are definitely keepsakes and I plan to put them on display in my home. I’m obsessed with reds, so the Norma Jeane Merlot was my favorite, but honestly, each one had something special to offer. Interestingly, Marilyn Monroe was not a red or white wine drinker. She preferred Champagne, so I’m curious if the brand would ever consider featuring a sparkling wine.
To learn more about the old Hollywood icon and to shop the selection of vinos, see the links below.