Jeff Fischer is a winemaker. Jeff Fischer is an actor. Jeff Fischer is a character on American Dad! All three of these Fischers are the same man. Fischer, pretty much all the manpower of Habit Wines, recently agreed to an email interview--as he could work that in while he was on set. About his two day jobs he admitted, "It's pretty insane. I honestly don't sleep much, my brain is either thinking about auditions, worried about getting a job, or the winery, grapes, bottling etc. all the time. I try to never miss an acting job due to wine as that pays the bills and allows me to continue to make wine, but as I've grown in size from 50 cases in 2008 making just two wines, to over 2000 cases in 2013 making seven different wines, the wine business has gotten pretty serious. So basically my day is divided between the two. Luckily with technology, I can be on the road and audition, as well as ship wine and keep up with the business from L.A. or the winery."
Currently Habit sells a rosé and pinot noir, but also recently had now sold out sauvignon blanc, chenin blanc, grüner veltliner, and a red Bordeaux blend. You can also order it at fine restaurants like Connie and Ted's, ink., Lucques, Providence, and Ray's and Stark Bar, among others. His wines tend to be low alcohol and very food friendly. "As an actor, for years I waited tables, and the last restaurant I worked at was La Cachette in the late '90s," Fischer relates. "The food was amazing and they had a wine list to match. It was mainly old world and that was about the time my palate changed from wanting to drink big cabs to wines from France, especially the Loire and Burgundy, along with Austria and Italy. I felt like those wines had so much finesse and grace. They also seemed to go better with food and not hammer your palate."
Small producing winemakers are often labeled garagistes, and it turns out Fischer actually did make his first wines, a mere 10 cases, in 1995 in his garage. "It was a tough thing, as I only had very basic lab equipment. I used to keep the entire freezer filled with frozen water bottles to control fermentation temperature and wake up every four hours and change them out of the must for weeks," he recalls. "Then we would press in a tiny old basket press in the driveway. Some years the wines won some nice awards and others I made a lot of people in my neighborhood very happy as I would push cases onto the curb and give it away. Today, I work out of Curtis Winery, now run by Andrew Murray, who has been making great wines for years, and it's been a huge step up. I've been working with Ernst Storm for the last few years, who has his own label Storm, and is one of the most gifted winemakers in the world. So I really do have incredible mentors."
And surprisingly, his two seemingly separate callings inform each other. "Without a doubt, one of the things about being an actor is learning how to deal with rejection," says the sought-after voice actor, who in addition to American Dad! might be best known for voicing MC Cobra in the Jackie Chan Adventures. "Also, you essentially are always selling yourself; that has certainly translated into being able to talk to people and helps make selling wine seem very natural. Acting for the most part is lots of hours spent auditioning, rehearsing, and every so often you get lucky enough to get a job. I have always had a very strong work ethic and that has certainly carried over into making wine. I never knew if I would sell a bottle when I first started, but the craft of winemaking is very much an art form that I am fascinated by and trying to get better and better every year doing."
As for how winemaking helps his acting, he quips, "Drinking wine helps dull the pain of constant rejection. But seriously, yes, for me, it was so important to find something in my life outside of the business. The ups and downs really started to mess with me and for my sanity, I'm very grateful to be able to do another thing that I love."
Now, Fischer has just finished his sixth harvest with Habit and says, "It's still a labor of love--I have yet to take a dollar out of the wine business." So here's hoping American Dad!'s Jeff Fischer makes it back to earth someday, or at least keeps having adventures so that actor Jeff Fischer can continue to support winemaker Jeff Fischer. As for what wine AD! Fischer would order, winemaker Fischer exclaims, "That's an easy one! Pot wine of course! Pot Rosé to be even more specific. And he would almost certainly pair that with some Baja style grilled fish tacos."