On a stretch of land seemingly not close to much of anything, a game of patience is playing out. The man in charge is a pro at surveying the field — though the desired results are far different than this former NFL star could have ever imagined.
We here in New England know Drew Bledsoe as the former Patriots quarterback, but as a winemaker, he is on top of his game — quarterbacking a growing team of vineyards and wineries.
"It is a bigger deal than we thought it was going to be when we started," said Bledsoe.
He says his taste — and passion — for wine date way back to his time in Foxboro.
"It was when I was playing in New England, we started getting into wine, and I discovered my hometown was turning out some of the best wines in the world," Bledsoe said.
This is how Bledsoe ended up returning to his roots as a winemaker.
Bledsoe is from Walla Walla, Washington, and his town, about a four-and-a-half-hour drive southeast of Seattle, is fast becoming a mecca for winemakers and wine lovers.
"It has been cool to see the town evolve and grow," he said. "There were five wineries in 1990, when I graduated high school, and now, I think there are 140-150."
In that huddle of wineries, it's Bledsoe's growing team that is fast becoming a fan favorite. Bledsoe has teamed up with Josh McDaniels — yes, McDaniels has heard the jokes, and no, he is not related to the former Patriots offensive coordinator and current Las Vegas Raiders head coach.
"I was apprehensive about what he was going to do in the wine industry, because there is a lot of mediocre celebrity wine projects and he came out and he wanted to make great wine, from estate vineyards, and build a real business," said McDaniels, CEO and director of winemaking for Doubleback. "I think that set him apart."
It is a game plan that seems to be working, with a lineup that includes Doubleback, Bledsoe-McDaniels, and Bledsoe Family Winery in the mix.
In addition, Bledsoe and McDaniels recently bought an estate vineyard in Oregon, with plans to stretch the field even more.
"We always joke, quarterbacks have big egos, but a very down-to-earth guy, he understands what he doesn't understand," McDaniels said.
Bledsoe, who played in the NFL for 14 years, just entered his 15th year of winemaking. He credits his mentality from his playing days with helping him win over skeptics in an industry crowded with big names, but often not great wine.
"Our intention was to never make it a hobby, we really wanted to try and be great at it, but the way it has evolved, that has been somewhat unanticipated," Bledsoe said.