SALT LAKE CITY — Georgia, Handsome Dan, Curly and other pit bulls rescued from Michael Vick’s dogfighting operation are getting a shot at fame as stars of a line of boutique red wines.
The Vicktory Dogs Wine Collection features colorful portraits of 22 dogs confiscated from Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels that now live at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in southern Utah.
“As a signature collection, it’s through the roof,” said Matt Hahn, co-owner of Carivintas Winery, a Southern California company that combines wine selling and philanthropy.
Each bottle includes a portrait of one of the dogs on the label. On the back, instead of a description of the wine, there’s a brief story about each four-legged friend.
The pit bulls have been living at Best Friends since January while handlers try to reverse the mental damage done at Vick’s 15-acre estate in southeastern Virginia. Vick, a former NFL quarterback, is serving a two-year prison sentence in connection with the dogfighting operation.
Artist Cyrus Mejia, one of the founders of Best Friends, began painting the dogs after they arrived at the sanctuary. Gone in the portraits are any signs of snarling beasts fit for a fight ring. Instead, there are cocked heads, soulful eyes and floppy ears.
“I think he’s been able to capture the real personalities of each of the dogs,” said John Polis, a Best Friends spokesman.
Hahn and his small winery based in Buellton, Calif., jumped at the chance to use the portraits in creating the Vicktory Dogs collection. He said the goal was to show the dogs in a positive light.
Television viewers have come to know many of the dogs through the National Geographic Channel show “DogTown: Saving the Michael Vick Dogs,” which chronicles their life after being rescued.
“Everybody has their favorite and people are buying for different reasons,” Hahn said. “Some people will drink the wine, some will never open the bottle.”
The entire set, including 22 bottles and two others commemorating Best Friends’ 25th anniversary, costs $672. The set can also be split and each half sells for $380. Individual bottles go for $40.
Ten percent of each sale goes to Best Friends. The money will be used to oppose dog fighting around the country and to fight laws that target specific dog breeds, Polis said.
Hahn is also hoping the wines, which went on sale last month, are a starting point for people to talk about dogs and protecting animals.
“We really use these things as a way to push the discussion further,” Hahn said.