For NFL Super Bowl champ Will Blackmon, wine has become more than a passion: It's the heart of his new career, a multi-faceted business whose clients range from the biggest gridiron stars to everyday fans of on-field and in-glass excellence. In 2019, the former safety with the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants, and current "NFL wine guy," started The Wine MVP, which offers a playbook of services including wine-buying consultation, education and a monthly wine club.
Blackmon developed his wine savvy under former teammate and now-vintner Charles Woodson, as well as with Doug Fabbioli of Fabbioli Cellars in northern Virginia's Loudoun County. There, Blackmon would spend time in the vineyards, learn viticultural techniques and pick up wine business know-how after offseason training sessions during his stint with the Washington Redskins. With great mentorship and a few sommelier certifications from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) program in his back pocket, Blackmon got motivated to share his love for wine in a different way than most other NFL wine guys.
"I started as a concierge service because I had my athlete buddies and celebrity buddies who wanted access to high-end wines and someone to buy it for them," Blackmon told Unfiltered. "So I ended up being that guy."
He built out private cellars for Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, former All-Pro running back Reggie Bush and two-time Super Bowl champ Justin Tuck. But Blackmon wanted to bring his services to the folks in the stands as well, so he partnered with local retailer Wine Exchange to create a wine club, offering a selection of two bottles each month for $80. Blackmon took the sports theme a step further, making wine trading cards with a picture of the bottle on the front and stats on the back, like producer, vintage, grape, region, and his tasting notes and suggested pairings.
For his next play, Blackmon is looking to add luxury travel to The Wine MVP's services. He recently teamed with two aviation industry veterans to create J3 Jet, a partnership with private jet company JSX, to fly wine lovers straight from Orange County to Napa wine country.
"The whole idea is to bring high-end customers to Napa," Blackmon said. "There's a good amount of people who want to go to Napa here [in Orange County], but it's a pain in the butt to get there." The project is still awaiting approval from local agencies.
Don't miss the NFL-turned-wine star when he joins us for our Instagram Live series, Straight Talk with Wine Spectator. On Thursday, Aug. 13, at 7 p.m. ET, he'll be going in-depth on wine and his latest projects with senior editor James Molesworth.
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