I have mixed feelings. It seems buying a winery has become salve for a small handful of midlife crises. Owning three Ferraris, an island, and six children just does not cut it anymore. Brangelina, Drew Barrymore, Dan Ackroyd, Dave Matthews, Sam Neill, Coppola, Johnny Depp, and more have dipped their gilt toes into wineries with various success.
And then there are football players: people we imagine crushing six packs of Bud into their foreheads. Yet some -beneath that sweaty, helmeted, shoulder-padded facade- actually drink wine. Mike Ditka, Drew Bledsoe, Dan Marino, Charles Woodson, and Terry Hoage own wineries.
I had never heard of Terry Hoage. Then my mother-in-law shows up with a red and white. A night later, someone at a bar pulls out their own bottle to share. The universe was telling me something (that or I spend way too much time with alcohol).
Hoage played as defensive back through the 80s into the mid 90s. But he hated his second career in finance, so, in 2004, with wife, parents, and uncle in tow, built a 3,000 square foot winery and purchased a 26 acre organic vineyard in Willow Creek AVA Paso Robles, California. Luckily, Justin Smith of SAXUM Vineyards made a few vintages and taught Terry and wife Jenn his trade.
Today, they keep it modern but simple: no racking, fining, nor filtering. Oxygen is the enemy of fruit. Their mono-varietal wines and blends include what Paso does best: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and a rarely planted Picpoul Blanc.
A wee two acre plot of limestone provides Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and Picpoul Blanc for Hoage’s white blend, The Gap: named for the cooling Templeton Gap, without which, white grapes would loose all acidity.
TH, The Gap White, Paso Robles, California 2015 $40.00
The appearance looks a clear, mild, bright golden hay color, with thick waxy legs. Plump, pleasant aromas include fresh honeydew melon, creme fraische, toasted vanilla bean, and almond. The palate feels fat, round, soft yet dry, with fine bright acidity, and notably warm viscous alcohol. Moderate flavors carry the aroma, again with honeydew melon, lemon, and roasted vanilla of medium plus length.
TH’s The Gap is crisp enough, thanks Picpoul, yet round and melon-driven because of the Grenache. But I smell French trees. The oak though annoys me. It takes this pleasant, perky little white and tries to makes it complex, serious, modern, American, and well oaky. Still, The Gap is very good 4 of 5.
Terry Hoage, The 46, Paso Robles California 2014 S40
Hoage named The 46 after the Highway the winery is on and a football defensive play. He blends 48% Grenache, 40% Syrah, and 12% Mourvedre. So classic GSM, Rhône ranger stuff here, with a touch of pigskin:
The appearance looks a clear but deep purple, with a short clear, ruby rim and washing legs. Proud aromas of cracked pepper, kindling, bourbon, alcohol, dried vanilla, subsume a black cherry, and berry pie nose. The palate feels dry, quietly acidic, soft, with fat tannins, hot 15.6% alcohol coals, and a full body. Flavors punch with dense, dried blackberry jam, followed by toasty, bourbon barrel flavors that last a medium plus length.
Well, TH’s The 46 ’14 is very good (4 of 5). Again, one must dig through new oak to get to great, chunks of blackberry pie and spice. But it is clean, modern, and big. Not bad for a footballer.
Can celebrities make good wine? For sure. Since we live in a world where one must pay to play, where land is so expensive, it seems better at least to have independent, passionate people create their own wine, rather than large conglomerates with branding committees deciding our choices.
The myth of the weather-worn peasant hand-selecting each grape for his family’s wine is dying. And maybe the beast created its own problem. When the rich and famous got involved in wine, ever-willing to pay ever-inflating land prices, it drove wine as agriculture into wine as lifestyle. But at least even a footballer like Hoage can stick to the basics and keep this industry alive and dynamic.
What do you think about celebrity wines?