Wine has long been a part of Kathie Lee Gifford’s life, and perhaps, now more than ever. Since becoming co-host of the über-popular 4th hour of the Today Show eight years ago, Gifford and co-host Hoda Kotb have become legendary for their on-air imbibing (“we really don’t drink all that wine!”) as they dish about celebrities, fashion, “favorite things” and pop culture. While Gifford has already achieved legendary status for her roles as TV host, actress, spokesperson, author, playwright, singer and songwriter, this always inspiring and ever creative lady has recently added “vintner” to her lengthy list of credentials.
The GIFFT wines were created through Gifford’s partnership with Scheid Family Wines of Monterey, California. The family’s eponymous winery was established in 1972 and presently consists of 4,200 acres of estate vineyards. The GIFFT name is derived from Gifford’s last name combined with her steadfast belief that friendship, love and laughter are gifts to be cherished. She freely admits, “I’m not a wine expert but I know what I like!” and her primary goal was to create a line of delicious, quality wines at an affordable price. The proof, my friends, is in the bottle! The GIFFT portfolio currently consists of a 2012 Estate Grown Chardonnay and a Merlot-dominated 2011 Red Blend which includes 10 different grape varieties. A Rosé of Pinot Noir will be released later this Spring and made its debut alongside the rest of the GIFFT wines last weekend at the 2015 Boca Bacchanal, a food and wine extravaganza which benefits the Boca Raton Historical Society.
At Saturday night’s Vintner Dinner, held at the home of philanthropists Bobby and Barbara Campbell in Boca Raton, the GIFFT/Scheid wines were expertly paired with the cuisine of featured Chef Darek Tidwell of George’s at Alys Beach. Gifford was in attendance along with winery Senior Vice President, Heidi Scheid to promote her wines to lucky revelers. During her stay in Boca, I had the opportunity to speak with Gifford about the inception of her wines as well as her longtime love of Florida:
GG: Has wine always been a part of your life?
KLG: My father was part of Eisenhower’s staff so we lived in Post-WWII Paris and some of my sweetest memories growing up were of family meals in France and then later Germany. Dinner usually involved wine and my father would always say, “You don’t drink wine, you sip it!” He really savored his meals and took forever to eat but wine was a big part of the culture there.
GG: How did you end up partnering with Scheid Family Winery?
KLG: Our longtime friend Andy Cohan said to me, “You need to be in the wine business and I know the perfect partner!” And I said, “Where have you been all my life?” So we met the Scheid family and visited their wonderful boutique winery where they’ve been making phenomenal wine for over 40 years. They farm 4,200 acres and all their wines are estate grown, estate harvested and estate everything! The quality was excellent which was very important to me because I can’t sell something I don’t believe in.
GG: Did you know what type of wine you wanted to make?
KLG: I’ve always been a fan of Chardonnay, the way it was in the mid-1970’s, smooth, crisp and fresh, but I had stopped drinking it because it had gotten too heavy, too oaky and it didn’t pair well with food anymore. I had even switched to drinking Pinot Grigio so when it came to our wines, I explained to the Scheids I wanted to make a Chardonnay that was light and delicate without being sweet, as well as a red wine that was smooth, luscious and easy drinking.
GG: Were you very involved in the process of making and selecting the wines?
KLG: Yes and it’s been so much fun – we were just out for harvest in September! Initially, my friend Christine and I went out to sample the wines and [the Scheids] had 5 whites and 5 reds for us to try. She loves red wine and I love white so we agreed that she would pick her favorite red and I would pick my favorite white. As luck would have it, she loved the white I chose and I loved the red she chose which just so happened to be the Scheids’ favorites too! These wines are also bicoastal, they’re made in Monterey, California and we live in Connecticut on the Long Island sound and our favorite place to entertain is our gazebo which is pictured on the label.
GG: Are there any particular dishes you recommend to pair with your wines?
KLG: I published a book last year called “Good Gifts: One Year in the Heart of a Home,” which is a celebration of love, life, laughter, food and faith. We used our stylists from the show, Andy and Elvia, and it’s a beautiful book which features alot of our favorite family recipes and also celebrates God’s abundance. With our GIFFT Chardonnay I really love Andy’s Frutti de Mare (recipe below) or the Chilean Sea Bass with Orange Marmalade Sauce; and with our Red Blend I like Joanie’s Spaghetti or the Grilled Salmon Fillet with Sun Dried Tomato Topping.
GG: You and your family spend alot of time in Florida, what is it about our state that drew you and your family here?
KLG: When I was a spokesperson for Carnival Cruise Line twenty years ago we were spending alot of time in Miami. While we loved it, we really needed a place to get away from the paparazzi and we eventually discovered the Ocean Reef Club. It was so down to earth, family friendly and not snobby at all and we just fell in love with it. We hang out at places like Alabama Jack’s which is so laid back and they even serve the GIFFT wines now! It’s so much fun to watch people taste our wines there.
For information on or to purchase the GIFFT wines, please click here. The GIFFT Rosé will be available later this Spring and will be announced in my weekly newsletter. To sign up and stay up to date on all the latest dish, please click here.
Many thanks to the gracious Kathie Lee Gifford for taking the time to share her insights on family, friends, food and, of course, wine!
“Andy’s Frutti di Mare “
From “Good Gifts: One Year in the Heart of a Home”
Makes 4 servings
1 16 oz. box linguine
1 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 whole garlic heads, finely chopped
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 8 oz. bottle of clam juice
1 cup fresh finely chopped parsley, set aside 2 Tablespoons for garnish
2 dozen medium size littleneck clams
3/4 lb. rock shrimp or squid cleaned and deveined
5 lbs. Manila clams or cockles, thoroughly cleaned
4 plum tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup white wine
salt and pepper to taste
1.) Cook linguine as directed and set aside
2.) In a large deep roasting pan (can be cooked on 2 burners of stovetop or on an outdoor grill), heat pan to medium heat and add olive oil. Heat 2-3 minutes.
3.) Add garlic, stirring frequently until aroma begins to release (careful not to burn).
4.) Add 2 Tablespoons of butter and melt, stirring frequently
5.) Add clam juice and salt and pepper to taste, incorporate, and bring to boil.
6.) Add 1/3 cup of parsley and stir
7.) Add littleneck clams into the pan over the heat and cover with foil. Cook for 3-5 minutes until clams begin to open. These will take longer than the Manila clams and shrimp. Stir them around to give equal cooking time.
8.) Add shrimp to center of pan and cook for 2-3 minutes, covered.
9.) With a slotted spoon, stir all clams and shrimp, and add remaining Manila clams. Cover and cook for another 8-10 minutes. When all clams have begun to open, add tomatoes and remaining parsley. Stir to incorporate all ingredients, cover and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Then remove from heat.
10.) In a separate sauce pan, add 2 cups of broth from clams and bring to a boil. Add remaining butter, wine, salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat and simmer until mixture has been reduced to half. On larger platter, place linguine first and seafood over the top. Sprinkle with remaining parsley and serve immediately.