When Alabama native Terrell Owens’ NFL career started with the San Francisco 49ers in 1996, wine wasn’t in his playbook.
At one of Owens’ first team dinners, 49ers fullback William Floyd told him to try some red wine, but it wasn't love at first sip. "It was really dry … so that's what I always remembered of wine," Owens told Wine Spectator. "But over the past few years I've tried to expand my palate."
Owens says he stayed away from alcohol during the season, but San Francisco’s proximity to Napa Valley was bound to have an impact, and now the NFL Hall of Famer has joined a growing list of NFL veterans in the wine business. (Among those fellow NFL stars now winning at the wine game is Charles Woodson, who appeared on the Getcha Popcorn Ready with T.O. and Hatch podcast last year to talk about transitioning from the business of football to the business of wine.)
In 2016, Owens was presented with the opportunity to partner with Paso Robles–based Lasorda Family Wines, founded by baseball legend Tommy Lasorda, who passed away this past January. Over the next few years, Owens would consult with winemaker Terry Culton to create his own Paso Robles Cabernet label, called Eighty-One. There were 400 cases of the 2017 vintage made, priced at $40 a bottle.
"It's been somewhat like my career—unexpected, and then me taking advantage of opportunity—and that's what I did with this. It kind of describes me in a sense,” Owens laughed, “I was big. I was bold. But I definitely wasn't dry!"
Owens says his wine project reflects not just himself but also the legacies of Lasorda and longtime friend Kobe Bryant, who were passionate about wine and had deep influences on Owens.
Last month, Owens checked in on the 2018 vintage with Culton in Paso Robles—it’s a special vintage for Owens, and he says the bottling will commemorate the year he was inducted to the NFL Hall of Fame.
"He's been there since day one, going through the blending process with us, tasting different lots of Cabernet and playing around with adding back some Syrah into the blend," said David Lasorda, Tommy’s nephew and managing director for Lasorda Family Wines. "I think we nailed it."
But can Owens nail a wine pairing with popcorn? "In my opinion, the perfect match for buttered popcorn is a Chardonnay," Owens tells us, "but I prefer to pair it with a Riesling. I think you'll find that Eighty-One goes well with everything."
Courtesy of Winespectator.com
Text: Shawn Zylberberg