In 2007, the former NFL quarterback returned home to Walla Walla, Washington, where he joined vintner Chris Figgins with one goal: creating an ultrapremium Cabernet from local grapes. And it worked: Their Doubleback Cabernet has been scoring points with aficionados since its first release.
The NASCAR driver, who ordered the sweetest wine on the menu as a teenager racing in England, has evolved. Now she’s both a collector of cult Napa Cabs like Harlan Estate and a Napa vineyard owner. In 2012, she bought 80 acres near Howell Mountain and brought in vintner Aaron Pott as a consultant.
Founding Ernie Els Wines in the Stellenbosch region of his native South Africa in 1999, the former World No. 1 golfer has teamed with Winemaker Louis Strydom to create a strong portfolio of wines. Selections range from a pricey Bordeaux-style signature blend ($93), to an inexpensive Chenin Blanc called The Big Easy, Els’s nickname ($16).
The 10-time PGA Tour winner bought his first set of clubs with money he made picking grapes in his dad’s vineyard in South Africa. In 1994, he returned to his roots and bought a 300-acre vineyard in the Paarl region, becoming the first pro golfer to take a swing at the wine business. David Frost Wine still thrives, offering a range of reds and whites.
You won’t find No. 99 on NHL jerseys—the “Great One’s” number was retired league-wide in 2000—but you can find it on the labels of Gretzky Estates Wines. The bottlings hail from regions as diverse as the Niagara Peninsula, the Okanagan Valley and Sonoma County and include, fittingly, a $99 icewine.
Curvature Wines is a label that the 18-time LPGA winner and aspiring future sommelier created in collaboration with Pride Mountain Vineyards to benefit breast cancer research. The wines not only do good, but also get high praise for taste and craft: Curvature’s 2007 Cabernet was served at the White House in 2012.
In 2011, the Chicago Cubs ace, who survived a bout with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma five years earlier, partnered with Charity Wines to release his own label under the Longball Cellars brand. Proceeds from sales of CabernAce benefitted Seattle’s Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, where Lester was treated, to support the development of targeted immunotherapies.
The Chicago Cubs manager and MLB trendsetter has helped make thick-rimmed glasses cool in dugouts again. He once told ESPN that his idea of misery was “No red wine.” Among the California reds he enjoys uncorking post-game: Merryvale, Silver Oak, Opus One, Joseph Phelps Insignia.
Dan Marino & Damon Huard
During their time playing for the Miami Dolphins, Hall of Fame quarterback Marino taught his teammate Huard to appreciate fine wines. More than a decade later, the duo called on Avennia Winemaker Chris Peterson and cofounded Passing Time Winery in Woodinville, Washington.
When the 37-year-old Minnesota Vikings defensive back half-jokingly told teammates that he owed his football longevity to Pinot Noir, the entire secondary began to consume quality reds. Now, safeties and corners compare bottles they’re sampling via a digital huddle of group text photos.
The San Antonio Spurs coach is a devotee of Burgundies and other Old World wines. His 3,000-bottle cellar is made of yellow stone—the color of Château d’Yquem, one of his favorites. “Pop” is also co-owner of Oregon’s A to Z Wineworks, which produces a well-regarded $19 Pinot Noir as well as a private Rock & Hammer Pinot Noir.
Roberts, who took over as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers this season, and his friend, former San Francisco Giants infielder Rich Aurilia, met John Micek at a Malbec tasting in 2007. That fateful meeting eventually led the three to create Red Stitch Winery. In a nod to that seminal event, each of Red Stitch’s highly regarded Napa cabs, beginning with the ’07, has included Malbec grapes.
Cam Ward & Tim Gleason
Among the hockey-themed releases from Vineyard 36, the Napa-based wine venture of Carolina Hurricanes goalie Ward and his former teammate Tim Gleason, are UnMask, a Zinfandel blend, and Cross Check, a Syrah and Charbono blend that features a picture of Gleason’s bleeding head on the label.
The likely future Hall of Fame defensive back got his first whiff of the wine world while in Napa for training camp with the Oakland Raiders in 1998, and soon after teamed up with Mondavi’s Rick Ruiz and Gustavo Gonzalez to produce a 2001 Merlot for charity. Woodson’s label is in its 10th year of production with a sparkling reputation.