Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hoage rewrite #2: the winemaker profile

Terry Hoage
Terry Hoage played defensive back in the NFL for 13 seasons; now he's a grape farmer and winemaker in Paso Robles.

He played for Buddy Ryan, known for his ultra-aggressive defenses, on three different teams: the Philadelphia Eagles, Houston Oilers  and Arizona Cardinals.

Hoage played for other coaches too, but he never stops talking about Ryan, whose goal was to hurt and terrify the opposition. He even named his top-end $50 Rhone blend wine, "The 46," after Ryan's defensive scheme.

"It was fun to see the fear in the quarterback's face," said Hoage, who recalled that for one particular game, his orders were on the first five plays, no matter where the ball went, to hit wide receiver Michael Irvin as hard as he possibly could. "He didn't show up the rest of the game," Hoage said.

So how did a defensive back become a winemaker? Hoage has a degree in genetics from University of Georgia, so he's no tackling dummy. He and his wife Jennifer, a New Orleans native, weren't looking to get into the wine industry at all; they just wanted a farm community where they could raise their kids, but both spent enough time in cities that they wanted nearby urban pleasures like good restaurants.

Hoage played for the 49ers in 1993 and liked California, but didn't see himself in Napa or Sonoma. One day he was driving through Paso on his way someplace else; he stopped for lunch, and liked the feel. Soon he was asking around about property, and found a spread that included 5 acres of Syrah that had been planted for John Alban.

Paso is still a small enough community that Hoage already had friends; one was Saxum's Justin Smith, who promised to mentor Hoage in winemaking if he bought the property.

Shortly after buying it, Hoage was offered a coaching job in Tennessee by Jeff Fisher, who had recently become head coach of the Tennessee Titans. "Football is transient," Hoage said, not wanting to follow Fisher around the country from job to job as he had Ryan when he was playing.

Ironically, Fisher is now in his 16th season in Tennessee, and the coach who accepted the position Hoage turned down is now defensive coordinator. And Hoage is out working in the fields. I hope he's loving it; he seems like he is.

So how is his wine?

"We want our wines to be fruit-forward," Hoage said. "I don't see the point of making a wine that doesn't taste like it was made from grapes."

Terry Hoage Vineyards "The 46" Paso Robles 2007 ($50)
is a 50-50 blend of Grenache and Syrah that's so ripe that it smells sweet, although it doesn't taste it. It's a straightforward palate blitz of ripe black plum very much in the New World style, but it's also eminently drinkable. You can order it here.

No comments: