Wine to me is passion. It's family and friends. It's warmth of heart and generosity of spirit.
Robert Mondavi

Friday, September 25, 2009

Athletes & Wine: The NFL

Wine Spectator recently ran a column, Are You Ready for Some Football (Wines)? , that is certainly right up many NFL fans’ alley. They highlighted some of the former players that have taken heavily to a wine lifestyle since retiring. It is surprising to see some of the names involved and hopefully this list continues to grow.

For those of you who doubt that an NFL player can make great wine, don’t think that they are going it alone. They have enlisted great winemakers to either mentor or partner with them in their journey. Winemakers such as Thomas Brown (of Schrader), Chris Figgins (of Leonetti), Rob Lawson (of Ghost Block) and the legendary Ed Sbragia (of Beringer), highlight the wealth of winemaking knowledge involved. This should not be surprising as great players realize the importance of having a great team (both on and off the field).

Unfortunately, current NFL rules forbid active players from discussing/promoting alcohol (it is simply an endorsement situation, the NFL just wants to be in control of it). Just imagine the active role wine has in many of these players lives, be it well-developed cellars, part-ownership in restaurants and wineries, and possibly as part of their investment portfolios. I look forward to hearing more as the years progress.

A couple weeks back I wrote a piece about current NBA player Zaza Pachulia’s recent purchase of trendy Atlanta wine restaurant Eno. As I alluded to then, any time an athlete embraces the wine lifestyle, I find it very appealing. Athletes have a way of appealing to most casual wine drinkers in a way that Robert Parker, Jim Laube and Hugh Johnson simply cannot. If you said “who?” to the names just mentioned, then I have proved my point. There is the potential that this type of exposure to non-wine drinkers will hopefully convert a few new wine lovers to our side.

I encourage you to read the Wine Spectator piece; it is a nice synopsis of former greats that have succumbed to the allure of the vine.

Listed below is a condensed list of former NFL personnel that are now involved in winemaking:

Charles Woodson (Current Green Bay Packer CB) – TwentyFour Wines
Rick Mirer (former Seattle Seahawk and Oakland Raider QB) – Mirror Wine
Drew Bledsoe (former New England Patriot and Buffalo Bill QB) – Doubleback Winery
Joe Montana (Hall of Fame quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers) – Montagia
Dick Vermeil (Legendary NFL coach) – Vermeil Wines
Mike Ditka (Hall of Fame player and coach) – Mike Ditka Wines
Carmen Policy (Former San Francisco 49ers president) – Casa Piena

Image Sources:
Charles Woodson -
Drew Bledsoe -


  1. I've been to and tasted wine from the vineyard
    that is now owned by the heirs and assigns of
    former 49er coash Bill Walsh. Sort of a secret, but it is very close to the oldest fine wine vineyard in all of california.

    Also, Norman Braman, former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, had a major stake in in Duckhorn and is rumored to the be the one who forced the sale 2 or so years ago, as the place
    in many of the investors opinions was drastically underperforming.

  2. Did they purchase the vineyard after his death? It sounds like quite the find. Would you mind sharing where this gem is? I am thinking in St. Helena, but that is just a guess.

    As far as the Duckhorn investors are concerned, I would say their opinions are well supported.

  3. Thought I posted this, but it doesn't show up. No, the vineyard passed to the heirs and assigns after Walsh's death. Selling it would have been big news. You have to get your head out of Napa. There are a lot of great wines around California for a lot less than Napa or Sonoma.

    I tend to agree with you about Duckhorn, but finding a pommerol style merlot, as Duckhorn produces in the US is rare. I see you recommend one, I'll have to give it a try.