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From Sex to Sangiovese: Adult Movie Star Savanna Samson

Savanna's love of wine came from her father, who made wine as a hobby
© Welcome Books | Savanna's love of wine came from her father, who made wine as a hobby
In "Celebrity Vineyards," author Nick Wise meets vineyard-owning actors, race-car drivers and composers. But as this excerpt shows, he was most intrigued by a less conventional celebrity.

"Can a porn star make a decent red wine? Now there’s a question I had never before pondered.

The topic arose after I read an article about Savanna Samson, an actress in adult films, who was making wine in Brunello, one of my favorite regions of Tuscany. I learned that critic Robert Parker had rated her wines in the low 90s, an accomplishment indeed. Instantly, I knew I’d be travelling hundreds of kilometers to find out if it was possible to mix Tuscan wines and adult films.

I realize that women who work in the adult film industry have always been harshly judged. I’m the first to agree that pornography is one of the most exploitive, damaging, and dangerous vocations for a woman. However, there are a small percentage of women who’ve used the industry as a fast track to fame and fortune. From leading celluloid favorites such as Traci Lords, Jenna Jameson, and Linda Lovelace Boreman to extremely wacky politicians such as La Cicciolina to who-knows-how-many-others, there’s no doubt the industry can launch an unknown, sexy woman into the big leagues. Few, if any (at least that we know about), have used the industry as a springboard into the elite world of winemaking. Thus, Natalie Oliveros (Savanna Samson is her film name) holds a unique place in our world of celebrity vintners.

One of America’s most successful adult film stars, Natalie Oliveros may also be the least known but most interesting and driven of all the vintners in our book. As Savanna Samson, she starred in some 90 sexually explicit films. Twice she won the title of Best Actress from Adult Video News and had a huge hit starring with Jenna Jameson in the steamy award-winning (for Best All-Girl Scene) remake of the New Devil in Miss Jones. Recently, Natalie decided to leave the industry and pursue her personal passions, one of them being the production of superb high-quality Brunello in Tuscany.

Forthcoming, with a warm personality, Natalie Oliveros is a particularly astute, clever, and savvy businesswoman. Did the stuffy and snooty world of winemaking give her a hard time when she initially broke into the trade? Camps were divided. For most she was an injection of fun and glamor into such a staid environment.

La Fiorita Vineyard; Savanna's Sogno Due label
© Welcome Books | La Fiorita Vineyard; Savanna's Sogno Due label

'When I first launched in 2006 with Sogno Uno 2004, I knew I’d be questioned and even mocked, but I couldn’t wait to prove the notoriously stuffy trade all wrong,' Natalie admits. 'In fact that’s why I really wanted to make a wine—to bring some life, sensuality, and excitement to a world that can be so stuffy.' On her entrance Natalie enthralled wine geeks, which is no surprise. Others, however, were not so convinced, and she surprised even herself when she decided that her self-image as a viable vintner needed some fine tuning.

Yes, she is personally ambitious but she is also quite clever in her understanding of marketing, publicity, and sales. (Her entry into winemaking garnered a slew of television interviews that can be seen on her website.) Though her wine was not the best we tasted in Italy, we were quite pleasantly surprised by the quality and originality of her cuvées. Also impressive is the absolute confidence she exudes in her venture. At the end of the day, her life story is about reaching for seemingly unobtainable goals and making them come true, a lesson we can all take to heart. From Natalie, we learn that unexpected success can happen when generated by a winning combination of unwavering self-confidence, hard work, and ferocious ambition.

Savanna’s Wines

In the center of the table, two bottles stand out from the rest. Their jet-black labels are accessorized with bright colors—one trimmed in aqua blue and the other in hot pink. Taking center place on the label was the very sexy Savanna Samson with her long blond hair, wearing a swimsuit and stiletto heels. “Savanna” in script was scrawled along the side of the label.

I never judge a book by its cover, nor a wine by its label. I’ve tasted wines in the past that sported absurd labels—some featuring bionic cartoon frogs, kung fu fighters, or gun-toting hit men—but were superb to drink. No matter how strange a bottle may look, it’s always what’s inside that counts. Furthermore, who doesn’t want to look at Savanna Samson while drinking wine? Does it sound sexist to say that a picture of Savanna is way more interesting to me than a sketch of yet another chateau? Please don’t answer that last question.

Finally, the time came to taste for myself what this feisty woman and [winemaker Roberto] Cipresso had created. At the time of this writing, her portfolio—even though small in size—consisted of quite unusual indigenous blends of grapes. The small quantities of these quickly disappearing indigenous grapes are now difficult to cultivate and expensive to source. Although once they were just cheap alternatives, these grapes are now sometimes even more expensive than the noble varieties commercially on offer. I am certain this very factor tempted the inquisitive and adventurous Cipresso to agree to experiment with Natalie’s unusual blends.

From Sex to Sangiovese: Adult Movie Star Savanna Samson
© Savanna Samson

Now, however, since the acquisition of La Fiorita by Cipresso and Natalie from the original owners, it seems as if the pair have agreed to concentrate on the main cuvées the winery releases—the brunellos and a new red super cuvée named the Laurus, a serious red made from sangiovese and merlot grapes that come from a vineyard sitting on the other side of the river Orcia. The terroir is very similar to that of the Poggio al Sole vineyard’s.

From its exotic name to its ornate, fantastical, yet modern-styled wine labels the La Fiorita winery successfully promotes a very classy, upscale winemaking operation. Now that Natalie has given up her career in films, I wanted to know if she planned on working fulltime on her wines, and asked her later, by phone.

'Fulltime?' she exclaimed with a laugh, 'that word makes me cringe! Why do you think I went into the adult film industry? So I wouldn’t have to be a fulltime anything but Mother! Now I need to work fulltime to make this thing work and it scares me! Throughout my life, I found myself wearing many shoes (most of you use the word hats but I say shoes). Mommy shoes, stripper shoes, porno shoes, workout shoes, shopping shoes, dinner shoes, theatre shoes, and now BOOTS!

'I never claimed to be an expert and I have so very much to learn. I go to Tuscany often and need to spend weeks at a time there to really understand the business, but my job, going forward, is to be the ambassador of La Fiorita New York. It will be right up my alley, presenting the wine, doing tastings and wine dinners. . . . Parties!!!'

So, we left La Fiorita that autumn afternoon realizing that a star of adult films can indeed make a decent red wine, as well as a crisp white. The partnership between this unlikely pair appears to be working splendidly.

'I feared I would become a fallen star,' Natalie writes on her website. 'Stuck in a box from which it would be hard to escape. Wine enables me to express my femininity and emotions. To reinvigorate and foster the growth of an established brand together with Roberto fills me with excitement and a healthy dose of trepidation.'

Natalie’s dreams—Uno, Duo, and Tre—are not only being realized, they are now available for import."

* "Celebrity Vineyards: From Napa to Tuscany in Search of Great Wines," by Nick Wise, can be purchased from Welcome Books or Amazon priced at $35.

 

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