More and more pro sports figures have been getting into the winemaking business, including several big names with New England connections like former Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe.
Bledsoe (at right in photo) has returned to Massachusetts frequently to promote his wine, Doubleback, which is produced in Washington's Walla Walla Valley, and Bledsoe is also appearing at the Statehouse to lobby for a change in Massachusetts law that bans out-of-state shipments to Massachusetts residents.
While many sports figures lend their name to charity or promotional wine label, several others are involved in the real business of winemaking. Scroll through the gallery for a look. Next
In sports: Quarterback Drew Bledsoe played 14 seasons in the NFL, including his first nine seasons with the Patriots. He passed for more than 44,000 yards and 251 touchdowns. He was an all-American college player at Washington State.
In wine: Bledsoe launched Doubleback in 2008 with winemaker Chris Figgins of Leonetti Cellar and Figgins Enological. Doubleback's wines are made with fruit from vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley in Washington. Next
In sports: Seaver was a pitcher for the Mets, Reds, White Sox and Red Sox from 1967 to 1986, and he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992. He won 311 games and struck out 3,640. He was the rookie of the year in 1967 and a three-time Cy Young Award winner.
In wine: Seaver opened Seaver Vineyards in Calistoga, Calif., and produces 400-500 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon each year. The vineyard released its first vintage in 2005, and, according to business manager Karen Seaver, its Cabernet Sauvignons have been rated in the mid-90s by both Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate. Next
In sports: The "Great White Shark" had 91 career golf victories, including 20 on the PGA Tour. He won the British Open twice (1985 and 1993) and held golf's No. 1 rank for 331 weeks. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2001.
In wine: Norman turned himself from golf champion to business entrepreneur as CEO of Great White Shark Enterprises. While his business has expanded beyond wine, it is the wine that he initially set out to do business with. His label debuted in 1998 with the "Shiraz Reserve," which has never scored below 91 points on the Wine Spectator 100-point scale. He doesn't make the wine himself, nor does he own the vineyards—but no product gets released without his approval. Norman's company has an arrangement with Foster's, Australia's largest wine company, in a joint venture that gives Norman an equity stake in the wine produced. Next
In sports: Vermeil coached three NFL teams—the Eagles, Rams and Chiefs—and won a Super Bowl with the Rams in 1999. He also led the Eagles to the 1980 NFC Championship, and has a career record of 120-109, according to Pro Football Reference's web site.
In wine: Vermeil Wines is based in California's Napa Valley, and the winemaker is Paul Smith (at left in photo). "Vermeil was raised in Napa Valley and his initial dive into the wine world is impressive. It goes against the rule-of-thumb that celebrities rarely achieve anything special in the world of wine," wrote wine critic Robert M. Parker Jr. Next
In sports: Among Ernie Els' more than 60 career golf victories are two US Open and two British Open titles.
In wine: Ernie Els Wines features a variety of wines from his home country of South Africa. He partnered with proprietor Jean Engelbrecht to create four wines, including the "Ernie Els Stellenbosch" and the "Engelbrecht Els Vineyards." Ernie Els Wines is considered to be one of South Africa's premier wineries, and has won international acclaim, including a Grand Gold Award from Canada's largest wine show, Selections Mondiales des Vins 2007. Next
In sports: Mario Andretti's name is synonymous with driving fast. He won the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500 and a Formula 1 world championship, and is the patriarch of a family filled with race-car drivers, including son Michael and grandson Marco .
In wine: Andretti Winery is based in Napa, Calif., and was founded in 1996 by Andretti and his friend Joe Antonini, the former CEO of Kmart. Bob Pepi is the winemaker, and the label includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio varietals, among others. Next
In sports: Former Celtics forward Larry Bird was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1998 and won championships with the Celtics in 1981, 1984, and 1986, as well as an Olympic gold medal in 1992.
In wine: Bird partnered with winemaker Mitch Cosentino to produce the Legends line of wine in California's Napa Valley. The line includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Meritage, Merlot and Chardonnay. Next
In sports: Golfer Mike Weir played professionally on the Canadian Tour before joining the PGA Tour in 1998. He won the Masters in 2003 and was third at the US Open the same year, and has eight career PGA Tour wins.
In wine: Mike Weir Wine, based in Canada's Niagara region, launched in 2005. "Wine has always been part of my life," Weir says. "My grandfather was a proud Italian and he made his own wine and insisted that we try some." The winery ships 30,000 cases annually, and in 2008 partnered with Chateau des Charmes, a centuries-old Canadian wine making company. It was the first Canadian winery to win a gold medal at the VinExpo in France. Next
In sports: David Frost joined the PGA Tour in 1984 and had 10 career wins. His highest finish in a major championship was tying for fifth at the 1995 Masters and sixth at the 1986 U.S. Open. He is now on the Champions Tour.
In wine: Ernie Els isn’t the only wine-making golfer from South Africa. Frost purchased a 300-acre vineyard in the Paarl region of South Africa in 1994 and partnered with a California-based wine maker, Jason Fisher, in 1998 to release seasonal wines from both South Africa and Napa. Next
Charity or promotional labels
Former Dolphins QB and Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino is among the many athletes and sports figures who have lended their names in the name of charity or promotions. Marino's was called Vintage 13. Other athletes to allow their names to be used on wine labels include Red Sox Curt Schilling, Manny Ramirez, Tim Wakefield, David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, and Kevin Youkilis, as well as the Yankees' Jorge Posada. Back to the beginning
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