Football Legends Team up at Passing Time Winery
By Jeff “Wick” Wicklund
The annual, gradual transition from summer fun in the sun (which this year has afforded us a glorious abundance) to that first hint of crispness in the air signifying the autumnal shift, is one of my favorite times of the year. Fall always conjures up for me fond memories and anticipations of gatherings with friends and family for hearty meals, fine wine and football!
There seems to be a positive correlation between some retired NFL Field Generals and passion enough for wine to create, brand and launch their own wineries.
That statement couldn’t be more true than with what Damon Huard and Dan Marino have accomplished with their phenomenally successful “Passing Time Winery.”
The Huard family name has become something of a legend, particularly among University of Washington Alumni, as both Damon and his younger brother, Brock, enjoyed great success as UW quarterbacks and played professionally for many years.
The inspiration for Passing Time Winery bloomed some 3,000 miles away from where the winery is located today in Woodinville, WA when Huard and Marino were teammates with the Miami Dolphins. Marino had cultivated a love for Washington State wines after discovering some of the best wines our state had to offer and shared that passion with his new, younger protégé.
Branding a winery is so essential in today’s highly competitive market and this wineries brand is as simply brilliant as the quality of the wine they’ve bottled over the past decade.
“The secret of life is enjoying the passing of time” – James Taylor.
So, beyond the obvious quarterback reference as Marino said, “When it’s fourth down in the red zone and you’re down by six with seconds left, it’s passing time,” it’s also a metaphor for the quality passage of time with friends and family over a great bottle of wine. Not to be outdone by his cross state rival, Washington State University standout quarterback, Drew Bledsoe preceded Damon Huard with launching Doubleback Winery with his close friend, Chris Figgins (son of Leonetti founders, Gary & Nancy Figgins) in 2007. Bledsoe enjoyed a storied NFL career and led the New England Patriots to the Supper Bowl in 1996. Bledsoe also owns the distinction of being the quarterback that was replaced after injury by Tom Brady who many consider the GOAT (greatest of all time) although, to the best of my knowledge, Brady doesn’t have his own winery so, there’s that.
To the south of Washington State there’s another wine region that has also garnered some attention over the years and has been the launching and crushing pad for other former NFL QB’s winery visions – Napa Valley. A couple of other NFL Hall Of Fame quarterbacks (along with Dan Marino), John Elway of the Denver Broncos fame and Joe Montana who scorched defensive backfields as a San Francisco 49’er. Elway started “7 Cellars” along with Iconic Napa Winemaker, Robert Mondavi, Jr. “Seven” signifying Elway’s number he wore during his entire career as a Denver Bronco. 7 Cellars wines are produced in partnership with ONEHOPE Vineyard and winery, which is based in Napa and aspires to marry great wines with great philanthropic causes.
Joe Montana partnered with Ed Sbragia, Head Winemaker at Beringer Vineyards, to make Cabernet Sauvignon under the “Montagia” moniker.
But for my money, the best wines being made by former NFL QB’s are being made right here in Washington State.
Here’s a review of a few of my favorite wines from Passing Time and Bledsoe Family Wineries:
Passing Time 2021 Chardonnay – Gracefully touched with a hint of new French oak with the balance aged in neutral oak and stainless steel, this product of two of the most prestigious vineyards in the state (Bacchus & Boushey) is stunning. Honey sweet apple, peach nectar, orange peel and a hint of vanilla on the nose and palate. One of the best chardonnays from Washington I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy.
Passing Time 2020 Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon – 92% Cabernet and 8% Merlot, this a stunning example of the best of what the Horse Heaven Hills AVA can produce. Beautifully textured with classic blackberry, herbs, dark chocolate and cassis. Approachable in its youth with decanting but, this beauty will reward patience for many years to come.
Bledsoe Family Winery 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon – A blend of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 7% Malbec and 6% Petit Verdot, this wine boasts flavors of black cherry, cassis, plum, and savory baking spices delight the palate, the soft, rich mouthfeel and supple tannins carry through to a lengthy finish. Bold and elegant, this wine is perfect for all occasions including a good football game!