Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon: A Wine Tasting

Philadelphians have some favorites, right? Grace Kelly, Sir Charles, Pink, the Roots, Jill Scott, the World Champion Philadelphia Eagles… the list goes on. Who else is on that list? Kevin Bacon, that’s who!

The well-known actor and musician grew up in Philly before gaining notoriety from such films as Footloose and Apollo 13, and being immortalized in the game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”. The game was built on the notion that everyone in this small, interconnected world is separated from each other by six people or fewer (i.e. “Six Degrees of Separation”). For Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, the game is to connect other actors to him via movie roles.

So how did Bacon respond to the game? He did what awesome people do; he made a charity of it,

Because I love interconnections and I love wine, I decided to take the concept and apply it to wine! Thus, the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon Wine Tasting. Here, each wine is connected to him in six degrees or fewer. Why did I make a wine tasting out of it? I thought it would be fun! Oh, and we share a birthday!

So, in (hopefully) true James Burke fashion, onto the connections!


Kevin Bacon to Meinklang

In 1988, Kevin Bacon married Kyra Sedgwick. She is also an actor, and she and Bacon acted together in the 2004 film, The Woodsman. Her uncle on her father’s side is the late, Ellery Sedgwick. After graduating from Harvard, he taught classics at his former prep school in New England before moving into the realm of magazines and journals.  One of those journals was the Atlantic Monthly, of which he became the editor, and also owner when he purchased the periodical in 1908. Sedgwick’s tenure there was quite successful, and he introduced the American public to many, new authors; his was the first American publication to print the works of Ernest Hemingway.

Hemingway, in addition to being a short-story writer and novelist, worked as a journalist. He covered the Spanish Civil War – with Republican sympathies – in 1937 and 1938.  There, he met Robert Capa, who is generally considered to have been the world’s best war photographer; he earned the Medal of Freedom from Dwight D. Eisenhauer for his World War II photos.

“Robert Capa”, however, actually entered the world as the nom de guerre of two, separate people: Gerta Pohorylle and Endre Friedmann. These photojournalists and partners were also both Eastern European Jews in an increasingly fascist Europe, who felt that their photos would be better accepted coming from an individual identified as American – thus was Robert Capa born.

Pohorylle, after experiencing some success as part of “Robert Capa”, soon took on her own identity as Gerda Taro. She used this name while covering the Spanish Civil War, during which she died.

Her partner, Friedmann, continued to use the name Robert Capa the remainder of his life.  His life ended after he stepped on a land mine, in Vietnam, far from his birth home in Budapest – then part of the Astro-Hungarian Empire.  It is precisely on the modern borders of Austria and Hungary that Meinklang is found.

The Wine: Meinklang Sziklafehér, Hungary 2015

Meinklang is owned and operated by the Michlits family, who have lands in both Austria and Hungary. This wine comes from the Somlo region in the Hungarian portion of the farm. The grapes Olaszriesling, Harslevelü, Juhfark & Furmint make up this field-blend white wine.


Kevin Bacon to Domaine Papargyriou

Kevin Bacon’s father, the late Edmund Bacon, was a famous Philadelphia City-Planner.  He had numerous ideas for Philly, some of which were implemented — for instance Penn’s Landing and Independence Mall – and others which were not. Of the latter, he had big plans for the 1976 Bicentennial, that included hosting a world’s fair. This would have transformed the waterfront, and he envisioned both boat and cable car routes along the Schuylkill. One of the cable-car stops would have been at the Waterworks. That didn’t happen, but the site was granted historic landmark designation.

The Waterworks was the city’s first municipal water supply. In its history from the early 19th century to 1909, it was picturesque, popular, and its water polluted.  Various schemes to ease the pollution were attempted, including purchasing the lands that now comprise Fairmount Park (thank you, city water-planners!). Nonetheless, there remined contamination, including from the deceased occupants of Laurel Hill Cemetery. So, residential filters became more popular, including the Pasteur-Chamberland ceramic filter.

This “Pasteur” is Louis Pasteur, microbiologist and chemist whose name is inextricably linked to the process of killing pathogenic microbes through heating (i.e. pasteurization). He received degrees in Besançon and Dijon before entering the Ecole Normale Superieur, where he earned his Master of Science degree.

Among the many other notables to have attended the school was Jacqueline de Romilly, a classical scholar and fiction writer. Most significantly, she established herself as a leading expert on Thucydides.

Thucydides lived in the 5th c BC and is best known for his historical work: The History of the Peloponnesian War.  That war pitted the city-state of Athens – from which Thucydides came –  and its Delean League allies against Sparta and the Peloponnesian League. The war was eventually won by Sparta.   As a result of that defeat Corinth, an ally of Sparta, wanted Athens completely destroyed and all of its inhabitants enslaved, which the Spartans did not do. Corinth is the origin of our Domaine Papargyriou wine.

The Wine: Domaine Papargyriou, Le Vigneron Grec, Greece 2015

The Papargyriou family founded this domaine in 1978. The body of this “orange” wine is made from Assyrtiko, which sees 10 days of skin maceration. In addition, marc (the juiceless remains of a pressed grape) from Muscat grapes was added to the fermenting juice.


Taxi Racer to Shelter Winery

Among his many movie credits, Kevin Bacon had a small role in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, in which he helps Steve Martin’s character get off to a terrible start by (successfully) out-competing him for a taxi.

Martin is a comedian, writer, actor, and performer. He is well-known for his roles in movies and TV- including hosting Saturday Night Live, but he really got his start writing for comedy shows. One television show for which he wrote for was the Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, which ran from 1971-1974, and was later briefly reprised as the Sonny and Cher Show.

Cher – born Cherilyn Sarkisian – performed in the show with her then-husband, Sonny Bono. Following their divorce in 1974, Cher gained great success for both musical and acting performances. Acting and singing were apparently nothing new for Cher, as it is said she would sing at lunchtime for her classmates at Montclair Preparatory School in Los Angeles.

A host of children of celebrities have attended the school over the years, including Hayley Hasselhoff.  She is a plus-sized model and actress, and the daughter of Pamela Bach and David Hasselhoff.

David Hasselhoff is best known for his Baywatch role, and also for his role in Knightrider.  As it turns out, it is the latter series – with its talking car – that really made him popular in Austria and Germany. His recording career is also most successful there, and while stories of his role in the fall of the Berlin Wall are exaggerated, at best, he did perform on the wall, overlooking the Brandenburg Gate,on New Year’s Eve, 1989, just weeks after its fall.

Germany remains the home of the Hoff’s biggest fan base, which is where Shelter Winery  calls home.

The Wine: Shelter Winery, Lovely Lilly, Germany 2015

Shelter is the product of Hans-Bert Espe and Silke Wolf, who make wine in Germany’s Baden region. “Lovely Lilly” is named for a beloved (deceased) dog, and the wine is made with 100% organic Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder) that was hand-harvested. It is barrel-aged before bottling.


Walter to Broc Cellars

We already mentioned that Kevin Bacon acted in The Woodsman. So, too, did Benjamin Bratt. Bratt grew up on San Francisco and attended Lowell high school. Attending that school at the same time was Geoff Emberling, whose acting career is limited to a single role in Escape to Witch Mountain.  Geoff would further his education at Harvard, where he would eventually meet his wife, Amy.  Amy Emberling is a managing partner of Zingerman’s Bakehouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Amy recently appeared in a article by Micheline Maynard, Tahini Breaks Out Of Middle Eastern Cuisine To Become A Growing Food Trend, about the popularity of tahini and its use in baked goods at Zingerman’s. Also appearing in that article were Amy, Jackie, and Shelby Zitelman, the founders of SOOM tahini. SOOM is based in Philadelphia, where Shelby was recently inducted into its chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International (Amy Emberling is also active in Les Dames). In that same class of inductees was me – Jill Weber. I do use SOOM tahini, and I also am a colleague of Geoff Emberling, with whom I have worked on the archaeological excavations at Tell Brak, Syria. Geoff brings us full circle to San Francisco, on whose Berkeley outskirts Broc Cellars are to be found.

The Wine: Broc Cellars, Valdiguie, California 2015

Chris Brockaway makes wine at Broc Cellars with grapes sourced from biodynamic and sustainable vineyards in California. The Valdiguie comes from Solano County vines that average ca. 60 years of age. Native yeasts are used in fermentation.


Ren McCormack to Craven Wines

The first Kevin Bacon movie I ever saw was Footloose, for which Kenny Loggins wrote and performed the theme song.  Loggins, the “King of Soundtracks” created tunes for several other movies in the 1980s, including Caddyshack and Top Gun. His popularity coincided with the severe famines in Ethiopia in the early 80’s, which had resulted in fundraising efforts like the UK’s  Band Aid hit “Do They Know it’s Christmas”.  American artists followed with “We Are the World” – written in 1985 by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie. Loggins was asked to participate in the recording of the song, as was Ritchie’s collaborator Harry Belafonte. Belafonte, the “King of Calypso”, was best known for his recording of “The Banana Boat Song”, and his inclusion of “Hava Nagila” at the end of his shows. Belafonte was also a social and political activist, demonstrated musically in his collaboration with South African singer Miriam Makeba, who he helped introduce to American audiences; the two recorded an album highlighting the effects of apartheid on black South Africans, which earned a Grammy. Makeba, also known as Mama Africa, took part in the 70th birthday tribute for Nelson Mandela, which helped advance awareness of both apartheid, generally, and his imprisonment. Mandela had been sentenced to life in prison in 1962, and ended up serving 27 years – 18 of those imprisoned at Robben Island – before becoming South Africa’s first black leader in 1994.

Robben Island is now a tourist destination and living museum just off Capetown – South Africa’s wine capital – from which the Craven Wine comes.

The Wine: Craven Wines, Stellenbosch Syrah The Firs Vineyard, South Africa 2017

Mick and Jeanine Craven started Craven Wines in 2011 in Stellenbosch. The vines are farmed sustainably, and the wines are made with minimal intervention. The 100% Syrah was aged 10 months in barrel before bottling.


*“Six Degrees” image modified after: Laurens van Lieshout (GNU Free Documentation licensed)