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Ex-NFL Star’s Astonishing Wine Empire: Inside the Phenomenon

After concluding his illustrious 14-year NFL career, Drew Bledsoe decided to return to his roots in Walla Walla, Washington, to embark on a career in winemaking. Bledsoe’s journey from the gridiron to the vineyard has been extraordinarily successful. This former quarterback, renowned for his stints with the New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, and Dallas Cowboys, boasts a remarkable football career record, including four Pro Bowls, enshrinement in the Patriots Hall of Fame, and ranking within the top 10 for various quarterback statistics upon his retirement in 2007. It’s no surprise that his transition from the football field to the world of wine was destined for success.

Drew and his wife Maura initially established the McQueen Vineyard in Walla Walla, a region gaining recognition for its high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon in 2007. Subsequently, in 2008, they launched Doubleback, an estate-focused winery specializing in this variety. The winery’s name pays homage to Bledsoe’s return to his hometown. Their wine-making decisions consistently prioritize quality, which serves as their guiding principle. Over time, Drew’s friend and renowned winemaker Chris Figgins, from Leonetti Cellars, crafted the first eight vintages for Doubleback. However, in 2016, Drew appointed Josh McDaniels as his partner and winemaker, who at just 26 years old, joined the venture. McDaniels currently serves as the CEO and director of winemaking for Bledsoe Wine Estates, encompassing Doubleback, Bledsoe Family Winery, which offers a wider variety of styles at more affordable price points, and Bledsoe McDaniels, a newer label producing Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley and Syrah from Walla Walla. Drew’s wife Maura and Josh’s wife Kim also play crucial roles as partners in the business, with Drew and Maura acting as the board of directors. Josh manages the day-to-day operations of the business.

Since their initial vineyard planting in 2007, Bledsoe’s wine portfolio has significantly expanded. A year ago, the group acquired the 20-acre àMaurice Vineyard in Walla Walla’s Upper Mill Creek area, known for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. In 2021, Bledsoe and McDaniels purchased 80 acres, including 29 acres dedicated to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Chenin Blanc, in Oregon’s Eola-Amity Hills AVA. This acquisition marked an exciting development for Bledsoe McDaniels, known for its Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. Josh and his team applied the same meticulous approach to craft exceptional wines from this new vineyard.

McDaniels appreciates the diversity offered by working with different varieties across state borders, where Walla Walla’s hot and dry climate contrasts with Oregon’s cooler and wetter conditions. He highlights the unique geological connection between Walla Walla and Willamette Valley, as both share historical ties in the geological formations of their regions. Bledsoe emphasizes the importance of owning and controlling their vineyard lands, which enables them to maintain high-quality standards and practice responsible, sustainable agriculture. Their portfolio of vineyards provides diversity in wine styles, allowing them to create blends that reflect the best of each unique vintage.

Furthermore, Bledsoe McDaniels has expanded its hospitality offerings by opening two new tasting rooms, one in Washington and one in Oregon. These tasting rooms, located on the Schafer Estate in Walla Walla Valley and the Coulee Estate in Willamette Valley, provide exclusive opportunities for limited production wine tastings with picturesque views of their estate vineyards. Reservations are required, with priority access for members of the brand’s allocation list. This expansion marks another milestone in Bledsoe’s growing wine empire.

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