A Winning Evening: What It’s Like To Drink Wine With NFL Great Drew Bledsoe

 

Haute Wine Society and Wine Access joined NFL great Drew Bledsoe and his Bledsoe Family Winery CEO and winemaker Josh McDaniels for an afternoon of revelry, fun and, of course, wine. Learn why and how this NFL Hall of Famer got into the wine business, and discover some truly amazing wines from his hometown of Walla, Walla Washington.

FOUNDER DREW BLEDSOE

Drew BledsoePhoto Credit: Mark Vandonge

Drew Bledsoe is a former American football quarterback who played fourteen seasons in the National Football League (NFL). Bledsoe is best known as the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots from 1993 to 2001. He also played for the Buffalo Bills and the Dallas Cowboys. During the 1990s, he was considered the face of the Patriots franchise.

The first overall pick in 1993 NFL Draft, Bledsoe helped improve the fortunes of the Patriots, who had fallen on hard times. Under his tenure as starting quarterback, the Patriots ended an eight-season postseason drought, qualified for the playoffs six times, and made one Super Bowl appearance. In his second season with the team, he was named to the 1995 Pro Bowl and was the youngest quarterback to appear in the NFL’s all-star game at the time. Bledsoe then retired in 2007 after short stints with the Bills and the Cowboys. For his accomplishments in New England, he was inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame in 2011.

For Drew, owning a winery has been a longtime aspiration that allows him to combine his passion for fine wine and love of the Walla Walla Valley, his hometown. Drew returned in 2007 to plant his original estate vineyard, McQueen, on the southern end of the Walla Walla Valley AVA. The following year, Drew, and his wife Maura, launched Doubleback, an estate-focused winery with the goal to produce world-class Cabernet Sauvignon. Since the very first release, the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Doubleback has received numerous accolades including a spot on the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 List. Drew’s vision, brought to life by CEO and Director of Winemaking Josh McDaniels, remains to be a premium wine experience completely focused on quality. The team is committed to using only the most sustainable, superlative viticulture and winemaking practices to ensure that Doubleback will be one of the best bottles of wine you will drink.

Since starting Doubleback, Drew and Maura had been waiting for just the right moment of growth to launch Doubleback’s sister-project, Bledsoe Family Winery. With Doubleback consistently earning high scores, a new winery construction project completed, and with new vineyards going in the ground, in 2018 the timing seemed perfect. Bledsoe Family Winery has allowed Drew and Josh to realize new varietals and utilize incredible vineyard contracts across the Walla Walla Valley to craft new high-quality wines to offer. Bledsoe Family Winery is an exploration of Drew and Josh’s beloved hometown, Walla Walla.

CEO & WINEMAKER JOSH MCDANIELS


Drew BledsoePhoto Credit: Mark Vandonge

Josh McDaniels was born and raised in Walla Walla and at an early age fell in love with the wine industry. He in fact started his own winery during his high school years here in Walla Walla. It was at Leonetti Cellar that he first toiled and witnessed the hard work and beauty that goes into creating a premium wine. The wine industry captivated him from an entrepreneurial and wine standpoint and prompted his formal education from the Institute of Enology and Viticulture in Walla Walla while, at the same time, continuing to work under his long-time mentor, Chris Figgins of Leonetti. To further his education, Josh took extension courses through Washington State University and U.C. Davis and also interned in Argentina at Paul Hobbs’ Vina Cobos Winery. Josh has been named a “Game Changer of Washington Wine”, a “Washington Prodigy”, and a “Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers of America” from Wine Enthusiast magazine. He is also the current Board President of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance.

THE WINES

DOUBLEBACK 2018 CABERNET SAUVIGNON

 

DoublebackPhoto Credit: Bledsoe Wine Estates

You’ll find notes of: crème de cassis, black currant, blackberry, wafts of dried cranberry, a hint of wet gravel after a fresh rain and pencil shavings. The richness of this wine is a love affair- chewy tannins and a long, long finish.

BLEND PROFILE
90% Cabernet Sauvignon
5% Merlot
5% Malbec
APPELLATION
Walla Walla Valley
WALLA WALLA VALLEY VINEYARD SOURCES
McQueen
Lefore
Figgins
BARREL/AGING PROGRAM
New and second-fill French oak barrels and puncheons, and Italian concrete
67% new French oak
PRODUCTION
Cases Produced: 3,077
CELLARING RECOMMENDATION
5 years from vintage year or up to 15-20 years

BLEDSOE FAMILY WINERY 2019 HEALY ROSÉ

Bledsoe Family WineryPhoto Credit: Bledsoe Wine Estates

You’ll find notes of: lemon rind, honey dew, and the smallest hints of lavender and thyme— reminiscent of some great spring and summer cocktails. Great, ripping acidity that finishes with a fresh texture, weight, and intrigue— an interesting combination of citrus and melon.

Walla Walla Valley

BLEND PROFILE

Proprietary

VINEYARD SOURCES

Flying B

Kenny Hill

Mill Creek

Los Oidos

BARREL/AGING PROGRAM

Slowly fermented at cool temperatures and aged 6 months “sur lie” in 50% neutral French oak and 50% stainless steel.

PRODUCTION

Bottling Date:

January 2020

Release Date:

Early Spring 2020

Alcohol:

13.3%

Retail Price:

$35

Cases Produced:

1,189

BLEDSOE FAMILY WINERY 2018 STOLEN HORSE

Bledsoe Family WineryPhoto Credit: Bledsoe Wine Estates

You’ll find notes of: blue and red fruits combining together with a smoked meat, and savory thread. There is great texture, depth, balance and a fantastic richness to this wine.

APPELLATION
Walla Walla Valley
BLEND PROFILE
96% Syrah
4% Viognier (co-ferment)
WALLA WALLA VALLEY VINEYARD SOURCES
Lefore
Kenny Hill
Loess
BARREL/AGING PROGRAM
Aged for 17 months in 20% concrete “tulipes”, 500L puncheons, and small French oak barrels.
PRODUCTION
Bottling Date: January 2020
Release Date: Fall 2020
Alcohol: 14.1%
Retail Price: $58
Cases Produced: 800

CHECK OUT THESE HIGHLIGHTS FROM OUR TASTING AND CONVERSATION!

Drew Bledsoe
Drew Bledsoe and Josh McDaniels

DREW: So I had the great privilege of growing up in Walla Walla, Washington. It’s just this beautiful little town out the rolling wheat fields and the hills up against the blue mountain. It was just a wonderful place to grow up. We had a key to our house; I just could never tell you where it was because we never, ever locked our house, even went on vacation. It was just a safe and wonderful place to grow up. From there, I went to Washington State University for a few years and then I was so privileged to realize my childhood dream. I got to become a professional athlete; I got to be an NFL quarterback for 14 years which was unbelievable; it was it was really truly everything that I hoped it would be. Josh really gets tired of my dad jokes or my football jokes but, but I do tell people all the time, if you can ever get somebody to pay you a bunch of money to throw a football, you should definitely do that — it was awesome. I loved it even when it was hard; trying to get through adversity in front of a lot of people and see if I could whether the challenge and all of those things. But the cool thing for me was that while I was off playing ball, there were a number of us that started to get into wine. When guys would come to the house, I would I would tell them, you know just bring a bottle of red wine. So they’d come over, and they would invariably go grab something from Napa or something from Bordeaux. And what we would do is blind tastings at the house: we put all the wines and paper bags but i’m on the counter and just tasted through them and see what we like the best well I would always sneak something from Walla Walla into the lineup. And when I did that — every time we did that — we’d  get to the end and we would reveal our favorite wine at night and every time I did, that it was a Walla Walla cabernet. wasn’t playing for second place, you know — I’d grab some Lionetti or some Woodward Canyon; I mean, I wasn’t trying to lose. But it was just really cool for me to understand that my little hometown that I loved so much growing up was now becoming known as one of the greatest wine grape growing regions of the entire world, and so that’s really where the seed was planted that maybe this this newfound love for wine could actually become a second career. So my last year in football was in 2006, we launched Doubleback in 2007 and sold our first bottle of wine in 2010. Flash forward 14 years, and you know it’s the it’s a vastly different wine company than we envisioned when we started. When we initially launched, we were planning to make just one wine, which is Doubleback, that we’ll talk about later Oh, by the way for any of you that are out there, please go ahead and drink wine.

JOSH: I got into the wine industry really young; I started my own wine while I was in high school. But at the same time, you know Drew Bledsoe was this mythical God-like figure that every young boy aspires to be — and, like he said — we got to kind of vicariously live our dreams out through him on the TV and bu I got to watch him on TV and it was a cool experience. But I got to be this young wine geek, and going into college, I remember when Drew announced his retirement from the NFL I was with my longtime mentor — the Figgins family — it was a funny kind of decision for me. Drew was obviously a Pro Bowler, a Future Hall of Famer, a NFL quarterback, and seems like a really great guy, but what the hell does he know about making wine? It was really interesting, and to put perspective on it, back in the mid-2000s, there were a lot of celebrity athlete wine projects, but none of them were very good. They were basically like a Nike shoe endorsement, slap your name on the bottle and you’ll find a mediocre juice. But Drew came out and he did everything the exact opposite of what that stigma had become. He bought a great piece of property, hired my longtime mentor, is a great wine maker, and then he continued to build a business that was based on the success of the wine quality. And so, while while I was there — my mentor was the was the original winemaker for Doubleback and that’s where Drew and I met — we kind of hit it off and I took over with the 2014 vintage and it’s been a fun time ever since then. (Drew chimes in): By the way, I appreciate you asking whether Josh and I knew each other growing up because I’m actually old enough to be his dad.

WATCH OUR TASTING BELOW

(AND PURCHASE THE WINES WE TASTED WITH DREW AND JOSH HERE)