“Great wine is part of great living,” William Shatner booms over the phone, and you don’t disagree with a man who’s helmed the Starship Enterprise and taken it, boldly, where no man has gone before.
“I love great wine and I love great beer,” the 84-year-old actor continues. “I’ll tell you a wine story. A friend of mine who had owned a winery sent me a bottle of wine for my birthday. And he said, ‘This is a gift from me to you, and it’s very expensive, so make sure you drink it on a special occasion.’”
Shatner weaves this chestnut with patience and grace.
“We were throwing a party,” he continues, “I think it was a Thanksgiving party, and I grabbed a bottle of wine from the wine rack and opened it. And only after opening it and before pouring it did I see the price tag on the bottle.”
He says this slowly to emphasize it – “$2,500!”
“Twenty-five hundred dollars!” I reply, intending it to sound like “Oh my God, was the bottle made of Faberge egg?,” but instead sounding more like, “Oh my God, I’m talking to Captain Kirk and I will elicit all the necessary sounds to make this moment continue.”
“So I immediately corked it back up,” he continues. “I put it in the refrigerator lying on its side. And it was a red!”
The star of Star Trek, TJ Hooker and Boston Legal says this with a knowing laugh, as if aware of the internal anguish of wine lovers everywhere as they read that sentence.
“The next day, I went to see how it was reacting, and there was a tiny puddle of red on the fridge shelf below the wine, indicating that the cork had leaked, but was no longer leaking,” he says. “I left it there, and I didn’t get back to it for a month.”
Mr. Shatner’s personal anecdote has turned into a stomach-turning tale of betrayal, anguish and loss.
“A month later, four of us went out to a restaurant, and I brought along the bottle of wine,” he says. “And I made it an occasion. I said to the server at the restaurant, ‘Bring us four glasses. I don’t know how this is going to turn out. I’ve had a red… in the refrigerator… uncorked… for a month.’
He emphasizes this point. “And you know what? It turned out to be the best wine I’ve ever had.”
This begs the follow-up question. Mr. Shatner, do you recall the name of this wine? Our readers would love to know.
“No,” he guffaws. “I don’t.”
William Shatner ‑ actor, recording artist, author, film director, producer, judo champion (probably) and wine enthusiast – cherishes wine.
In 2010 his wife Elizabeth teamed with Elk Creek Vineyards in Kentucky and released Faire Game White, a blend of Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.
“We worked with a vintner to create something that was entirely to Liz’s taste,” Shatner says. “It was totally her thing.”
Interviews include So You Think You Can Dance creator and judge Nigel Lythgoe, who compares wine to American Idol. “Describe the wine in tap dance terms,” Shatner asks Lythgoe.
“As well as legs, it’s got good body to it,” Lythgoe says, without skipping a beat. Then he gets up and dances.
“It’s en pointe. In American Idol terms, it’s Kelly Clarkson. It hits all the right notes.”
And the wine? A bottle of 2011 Martinelli Zinfandel from Russian River, Calif.
Another episode includes actor Wil Wheaton who, in his spare time, brews beer (Belgian-style dubbel, for one). And he plays Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: Next Generation.
Yes, back to Star Trek. A classically trained Shakespearean actor, for decades Shatner was abashed about the glut of his fame coming from a science fiction television show. He made his peace with his Star Trek fame only recently, while filming The Captains, a 2011 documentary he directed in which he interviews Patrick Stewart, Scott Bakula, Chris Pine and other actors whom have portrayed captains in the multibillion-dollar entertainment franchise.
“I’ve realized, I’m slightly embarrassed by Star Trek,” Shatner admits early in the film.
But Stewart, also classically trained, speaks to him about his pride in being associated with the popular franchise, and in The Captains’ transformative moment, Shatner abandons his disdain for the role.
Shatner admits he still doesn’t watch the original Star Trek – not because he doesn’t care for it, but because he doesn’t enjoy watching himself on screen.
“I am fond of my association with the franchise,” he says. “I just don’t like to look at myself on film. “Apparently a lot of actors are like that, I thought I was unique in that. I don’t like to watch myself on screen and try to avoid it as earnestly as possible.
“I saw the first Star Trek film by JJ Abrams and thought it was wonderful. I think (new Captain Kirk) Chris Pine is terrific. He’s a wonderful actor who’s got all the physical attributes, and I think he’ll go far.”
In light of these new feelings towards Star Trek, I close our interview asking Shatner a blatantly leading question.
What would you most like to be remembered for, looking back on your body of work?
“My body,” he quips.
Former Mr. Universe and 38th governor of California, Nick Lewis has starred in such films as The Terminator, Predator and crowd favourite, Jingle All The Way. A chronic liar, he lives in Vancouver where he wrangles megalodons for sport. Find him on Twitter @lousywriter.