AMITY, Ore. — A former NFL player and his winemaking partner have purchased an 80-acre vineyard in the Willamette Valley to get in on Oregon's growing wine industry.
Drew Bledsoe was a star at Washington State University before playing quarterback for 14 seasons in the NFL, most of which he spent with the New England Patriots. After retiring in 2007, he returned to his hometown of Walla Walla, Wash. and founded Doubleback Winery.
He partnered with winemaker Josh McDaniels, who now serves as CEO and director of winemaking for Doubleback. There, they specialized in Cabernet Sauvignon.
Doubleback's first vintage earned a spot in Wine Spectator's Top 100 List.
After making a name for themselves as successful winemakers in Washington state, Bledsoe and McDaniels' new joint venture in Oregon will be all about Pinot Noir.
But why Oregon?
"I guess we'll start with the fact that we probably drink more Oregon Pinot Noir in the house than anything else," Bledsoe told KGW.
He admits that he couldn't do this venture alone.
"Josh has to do all the hard work. He and the team, they make the wine and then I get to help with the blending trials and do a lot of consumption," Bledsoe said.
The 80-acre vineyard they purchased is in prime territory for Pinot Noir: the Eola-Amity Hills area.
"I think I'm just looking forward to looking to having a home base," said McDaniels. "We've been working down there for a few years now and then, finally, to go back to Willamette and actually a place we can call home, I think will be a pretty good feeling."
Bledsoe isn't the only celebrity who has invested in Oregon's wine industry.
Portland Trail Blazers star CJ McCollum recently purchased a vineyard to produce his own Pinot Noir.
"I'm excited about CJ first of all, huge fan," Bledsoe said. "But second, just to have someone who's passionate about what they're doing here in the Northwest is really really cool."
Former Blazer Channing Frye has also gotten into Oregon's wine scene. He founded Chosen Family Wines last year, and the Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love, a Lake Oswego native, has since become a partner in the business.