This story first appeared in the Feb. 1 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Here's a little-known fact: Before Stacy Ann "Fergie" Ferguson was a diva, she was a geek. Maybe it's more accurate to say a wine-geek-to-be.
The Black Eyed Peas singer traces her earliest wine memories to childhood in Hacienda Heights in the San Gabriel Valley, around the time she was a budding talent on Kids Incorporated. Her parents devised a wine-themed parlor game for guests.
"They'd pour some wine with the bottle covered," says Fergie, "and there'd be a sheet of paper with 10 descriptions on it. You'd have to match whatever you were drinking with the description." Fergie says she loved to sneak a sip or two and compare her notes with the printed ones.
Her background is one of the motivations behind Ferguson Crest, the singer's new wine venture with her father, Pat Ferguson, in the Santa Ynez Valley, just outside of Solvang's bustling town center. Father and daughter grow syrah grapes on six acres of chalk-laden hillside, a half-mile as the crow flies from Ballard Canyon, where some of the greatest California syrahs originate. As they roll out their first vintages from grapes on their estate and purchased sources (and consider opening a tasting room), the two have chanced upon a remarkable place to grow grapes, and their inaugural releases show immense promise.
Pat, it seems, was born for the role. He grew up in Santa Ana, Calif., surrounded by fruit orchards, some tended by his father, who instilled in his son a passion for growing things. Ferguson went on to raise his family in Hacienda Heights, where he was a high school teacher and football coach, but every spare moment was devoted to his small backyard plantation of fruit trees and vegetable patches.
"He spent hours on end in his garden," says Fergie, whose parents are long divorced. He took the greatest pride in a small grove of subtropical fruit trees, including mango and papaya.
When the time came to retire, Pat Ferguson moved to Solvang. When a six-acre parcel came up for sale in 2006, he asked his daughter whether she'd make the investment. For Fergie, whose music often has cast a nod to wine (see the lyrics to "Velvet" for proof), that was an easy call.
Ferguson Crest makes about 1,000 cases of wine annually, all crafted by longtime winemaker Joey Tensley of Tensley Wines in Santa Ynez. The 2011 syrah and the 2011 viognier reflect a cool, mineral-inflected style; they are balanced and structured with an edgy bite and, in the case of the syrah, a peppery finish that hints at the northern Rhone Valley, where syrah thrives.
If there's a "bling wine" in the group, it would have to be -- what else? -- Fergalicious, the family's 2011 blend of syrah, merlot, grenache and cabernet sauvignon that's lush and exuberant with a mineral freshness that keeps the raspberry and black cherry flavors right on point.
$22.50-$35, fergusoncrest.com or at The Wine House, 2311 Cotner Ave., Los Angeles