'King' of wines? Vintner's labels target Elvis-lovers

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Elvis is being sighted these days in the wine aisle.

Private-label winemaker Signature Wines, Hayward, Calif., has begun rolling out a line of Elvis Presley wines in 23 states via 25 distributors. With names such as Presley Pinot Noir, Jailhouse Red Merlot and Blue Suede Chardonnay, each bottle features a label with an illustration of the King.

"Elvis has the biggest affinity group in the world," said Scott Cahill, CEO of Signature Wines, which specializes in producing wine with labels customized for universities, the Sierra Club and even individuals via the Internet. Although Elvis lovers aren't especially thought of as wine lovers, Mr. Cahill said he expects that some of the millions of Americans who have visited Graceland and those that own Elvis memorabilia will buy the wine, priced at $8.99 to $9.99 at retail.

Anniversary editions

Since its rollout early this year, Signature Wines has sold out 1,000 cases of numbered wine bottles celebrating the 50th anniversary of the King's recording of "That's All Right," considered the first rock `n' roll number. Overall, Mr. Cahill expects to sell over 10,000 cases of Elvis wine this year, and "we're just ramping up," he said. The brand has proved so popular, in fact, that it's going to be featured in a U.K. TV program, even though it is not sold overseas.

Elvis isn't the first star to find posthumous life in a wine bottle. Nova Wines Partners has been selling Marilyn Merlot since 1983, and has augmented the line with labels such as one for a younger wine called "Norma Jean." Last year, Allied Domecq's Clos du Bois winery launched J. Garcia, a $16-plus line of wine featuring art works by the Grateful Dead musician. "The first release of 22,000 cases sold out in 30 days," said Kelly Keagy, a spokeswoman for the vintner.

Vic Motto, founding partner, MKF Group, a St. Helena, Calif., wine consultant, said he applauds any marketing concept that sells wine. He didn't think the King himself was all shook up over wine, however, and wasn't sure Elvis fans are inclined to prefer wine over beer.

"It might be fun to serve an Elvis wine to your guests," he said, "but the question is when to serve it, and how often."

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