It's no secret that pro athletes are loving the Oregon wine scene—just look at NBA stars CJ McCollum, Seth Curry, Channing Frye and Kevin Love. Now, retired NFL All-Pro QB and current Washington vintner Drew Bledsoe (a native son of the Walla Walla Valley wine region) is planting his flag across the Columbia River, snagging an 80-acre property in Oregon’s Eola-Amity Hills AVA with his winemaker and business partner Josh McDaniels. Currently planted to 29 acres of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, Bledsoe and McDaniels bought the property from Hope Well’s Mimi Casteel; it becomes the first Willamette Valley estate vineyard in the Bledsoe Wine Estates portfolio, which includes Doubleback, Bledsoe-McDaniels and Bledsoe Family Winery. The sale price was not disclosed.
"When we started Bledsoe-McDaniels with a major focus on Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, it was obvious to us that at some point we would want to be estate-grown and focused just like we are at Doubleback in Walla Walla," McDaniels told Wine Spectator. "Philosophically, we believe owning the land and working the land yourself is the most unique and personal reflection of how wine is ultimately enjoyed."
Since launching Bledsoe-McDaniels in 2019, McDaniels and Bledsoe have been sourcing fruit from various vineyard blocks in Eola-Amity Hills, and they’ve been happy with the results. A few years ago, they tasted wines with Larry Stone and Thomas Savre of Lingua Franca, and were inspired by their Mimi's Mind bottling. It all came full circle when Casteel, daughter of Ted Casteel and Pat Dudley (founders of Bethel Heights Vineyards), decided to sell the property from which Lingua Franca Mimi's Mind was sourced. Bledsoe and McDaniels jumped on it.
"We were thrilled,” McDaniels said, “and once we got to tour the land and speak with Mimi, it was a done deal for us immediately."
"We are 100 percent committed to Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, and this investment in the future of Bledsoe-McDaniels is another big step in our plans for a greater presence in the Willamette Valley," said Bledsoe. "Beyond premium Pinot, the property holds enormous potential for the winery." Hospitality and production buildings are also under consideration.
"Ideally, we would have a small tasting space that is intimate and by appointment for our mailing list, similar to what we have at Doubleback, as well as a winery on-site that we can allow our customers to also experience," McDaniels said. "There is a perfect hillside that is begging for a cave, but for the time being these are dreams and we want to remain committed to moving slow, understanding the property, building on what Mimi started and doing things the right way."
Nina Dobrev and Julianne Hough's Fresh Vine Wines Debut at L.A. Chargers’ SoFi Stadium
With NFL stadiums back to their pre-pandemic look, Los Angeles Chargers fans will have some new wines to choose from when they head to SoFi Stadium: Fresh Vine Wines, launched earlier this year by Degrassi and Vampire Diaries star Nina Dobrev and choreographer Julianne Hough (Dancing with the Stars).
This marks the fifth pro sports partnership for the celeb duo, whose "better for you" category wines (read "How Good Are 'Better for You' Wines?") have already appeared at Washington Football Team, Washington Wizards, Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Rays games. Chargers fans can now take their pick from Fresh Vine California Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and rosé at select SoFi Stadium bars.
"Having Fresh Vine Wine at SoFi Stadium provides an inclusive, guilt-free option for all fans, regardless of lifestyle choices," Hough told Wine Spectator via email. "We are extremely excited to provide the health- and wellness-conscious fans a delicious variety of wine choices that haven’t been available at past sporting events."
Dobrev and Hough, who cheered on the Chargers at the team's first home game on Aug. 22, believe that "better for you" wines, which are typically lower in alcohol, sugar and calories, have an increasing presence in a sports culture that historically stayed away from wine in general. Dobrev added that their market research showed sports fans were looking for alternative options to beer.
"There is this stigma that all sports fans drink heavy beers, and we knew that wasn’t the case," Dobrev said. "Consumers want options, especially options that are low-carb, low-calorie, gluten-free and vegan-friendly, and we are so excited to provide fans with what they were searching for."
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