Former NFL greats serve up wine with a kick


Dick Vermeil’s site:

Ditka wines:


What pairs well with your couch, a bowl of popcorn and the Super Bowl? How about a wine with a genuine pigskin pedigree?

Sure, beer may be the first beverage that comes to mind when you think about football. But it turns out plenty of football fans like to drink wine — and quite a few NFL legends like to make it.

Take Dick Vermeil, who coached the 1980 Eagles to their first Super Bowl appearance and later, after a 15-year stint as a broadcaster, took the St. Louis Rams all the way to victory in Super Bowl XXXIV.

These days he’s an expert on a different type of field as partner of Vermeil Wines in the Napa Valley. And unlike some celebrity vintners, Vermeil is a hands-on guy who has been known to take a predawn tractor ride or two, pulling gondolas of charbono grapes.

“You’d be surprised how many people come in and they don’t realize that it’s THE Dick Vermeil,” says Mary Sue Frediani, who is the tasting room manager and wife of winemaker Paul Smith. Frediani also is a co-owner of her family’s Frediani Family Vineyard, which provides much of the fruit for Vermeil wines.

Vermeil was born and raised in the Napa Valley town of Calistoga. His great-grandfather retired to Calistoga and grew grapes — the Fredianis now own and farm that land. So, Vermeil’s move from gridiron to grape in 1999 wasn’t a huge stretch. He has a cabernet sauvignon named after his great-grandfather, Jean Louis Vermeil.

Maybe you’re looking for a wine brand that comes with “Attitude. Character. Enthusiasm.” Somehow, it’s no surprise this is a project involving Hall-of-Famer “Iron Mike” Ditka, who coached the 1985 Bears to a Super Bowl championship.

Made in partnership with the Mendocino Wine Co. in Northern California, Mike Ditka Wines feature a chardonnay, a pinot grigio, a merlot, a cabernet sauvignon and the flagship red blend, Kick Ass Red.

San Francisco 49ers fan? Sbragia Family Vineyards in the Sonoma County town of Geyserville is selling 2007 Montagia Cabernet Sauvignon, a project between Ed Sbragia and former San Francisco quarterback Joe Montana, the player nicknamed “Joe Cool,” for his ability to stay calm in clutch situations, who led the 49ers to four Super Bowl victories.

Montana took part in the blending sessions that went into making the wine and the label carries his and Sbragia’s signatures.