Football season is here!
And while you know that many of your game-watching friends are now drinking wine — instead of beer — during the games (yay!), you may not have known that a few NFL players and coaches are actually making wine when they’re not on the field.
Many of their wines are not large productions and you really have to hunt them down if you’re interested, so we did that work for you. The best part is that these guys all have foundations and charitable arms so, for some, a piece of the bottle price goes to a good cause. That alone is a score so be sure to check out their sites.
1. Drew Bledsoe, Doubleback Wines
Bledsoe spent 14 seasons in the NFL, playing for the New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys.
Back in 2003, while he was still with the Bills, he and his wife bought property in Walla Walla, Washington, where Bledsoe grew up, and planted grapes.
Bledsoe retired in 2007 but all along, his grapes — Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot — were growing, fermenting and being watched by his childhood friend Chris Figgins.
He named his wine Doubleback, because he said he “doubled backed” to the place where he started from.
His Doubleback Cabernet landed on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list in its very first year.
2. Mike Ditka, Mike Ditka Wines
You may know Mike Ditka as the Chicago Bears (very) short-tempered coach. But that short temper got him to three Super Bowls — once as a player and two times as a coach. He is a member of both the College Football and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
He retired from coaching in 1999 and started making wine, in the mid-2000s, with friend Bill Terlato of Terlato Wines. In 2012, launched a line of wines that honor him as “The Player” Merlot, “The Coach” Cabernet Sauvignon, “The Champion” Coach’s Blend, and “The Hall of Famer” Chardonnay.
3. Terry Hoage, TH Estate Wines
Hoage’s NFL career spanned 13 seasons with six teams: the New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, San Francisco 49ers, Houston Oilers and Arizona Cardinals. He retired in 1996.
In 2002, he and his wife, Jennifer, purchased a 26-acre vineyard on the west side of Paso Robles, CA, and began their label, Terry Hoage Vineyards.
With his wife as winemaker, they partnered with Justin Smith of SAXUM Vineyards and together they create Rhone-style wines, which are basically blends of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre grapes, that have received critical acclaim.
(If you are a beer drinker and feel like a road trip, click here for The Pour’s Best Fall Beer Fests.)
4. Dick Vermeil, Vermeil Wines
Vermeil was a former head coach for the Philadelphia Eagles (1976–1982), St. Louis Rams (1997–1999) and Kansas City Chiefs (2001–2005).
He started Vermeil wines as a personal project in 1999 but in 2007 decided to turn it into a business. He now produces everything, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Rosé and Sauvignon Blanc.
And since Vermeil can’t have wine without football, his Napa Valley tasting room is filled with sports memorabilia and photos from his NFL career, in addition to his family’s winemaking history which dates back to the early 1900s.
5. Charles Woodson, Charles Woodson Wines
The Heisman Trophy winner spent 18 years in the league, playing for the Raiders, the Packers and then the Raiders again.
He fell in love with the wine world back in the summer of 1998 when he arrived in Napa Valley for the Raiders training camp.
He collaborated with a few of Napa Valley’s greats and now produces a limited production of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. You can even get a signed bottle if you want.
Tracy Byrnes, former FOX Business Network anchor and host of “Wine with Me” for Foxnews.com, is editor-in-chief and chief contributor of The Sip.