Rapper Lil Jon Trades Crunk Juice for Winemaking

It turns out Lil Jon drinks more than crunk juice — the larger-than-life producer and rapper has started his own wine label, offering selections including chardonnay and merlot.

"It kind of came out of nowhere," Lil Jon told The Associated Press of his new venture, Little Jonathan Winery. "We were just going to do some private label stuff (for parties) and we did it, and people was like, `Hey, it's pretty nice."'

Lil Jon acknowledges that he's no wine connoisseur. "I'm not no `drink wine every day' kind of dude," he said in a telephone interview. "I'm not like an expert, so don't ask me no questions ... I just like the taste."

And he knows what he likes, including white wines and dessert wines (winemaker Alison Crowe is responsible for the label, made in California).

Little Jonathan Winery is not Lil Jon's first venture into the drink market: He launched Crunk!!! Energy Drink a few years back: The concoction took its name from the rap style he made famous. But he is treating his venture into winemaking with a more serious approach, which is why he decided against using his stage name for the label.

"My full name is Jonathan," the Atlanta-based artist said. "The wine is more nature: I wanted to not just have a direct connection, but make it just a little bit more upscale than regular 'Lil Jon.' ... This is not no ghetto Boone's Farm; this is some real wine."

Lil Jon has more time on his hands these days for winemaking and other ventures: While he continues to produce hits, he hasn't released an album since 2004's best-selling "Crunk Juice" with the Eastside Boyz. It may be a little while longer before fans hear new music, since his label, TVT Records, recently went bankrupt.

Lil Jon said he has an album ready to go — he's just waiting for the TVT situation to resolve itself.

"I want to get it out asap, but TVT has to figure out their business, and that's about all I can say," he said with a laugh.