Terry Hoage ##Photo provided

Q&A: Terry Hoage

Former NFL player talks winemaking

Terry Hoage was a professional football player whose career began at the University of Georgia, where he was a two-time All-American, Heisman Trophy candidate and 1984 SEC Athlete of the Year. His NFL career spanned 13 seasons with six teams, including the New Orleans Saints — where he met his wife, Jennifer — Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, San Francisco 49ers, Houston Oilers and Arizona Cardinals. Upon retirement, he and his wife purchased a 26-acre vineyard on the west side of Paso Robles in 2002 and began their label, Terry Hoage Vineyards, now called TH Estate Wines.

Q: How did you first become interested in wine?

In college at UGA, I was a beer drinker. But in New Orleans, my first date with my now wife (who did the dining, wine and entertainment section of New Orleans Magazine) was at Flagon’s Wine Bar in New Orleans. She had wine; I had beer.

Inevitably, that would change with my move to the Philadelphia Eagles and my friendship with restaurant owner George Perrier at the Michelin three-star Le Bec-Fin. I used to stop by to say hi to George, and his sommelier would start pouring wines for me and my agent, Jim Solano. The pours were endless; and the education I received unparalleled, specifically with regards to the training of my palate. After that, I drank more wine than beer.

Jennifer and I started out our life in Paso not intending to join the wine industry, but with the imminent friendship of Justin Smith (Saxum) and his willingness to mentor me and my wife, we took the plunge two years after moving to the area. That was 17 years ago. A very busy 17 years

Q: What is your approach/philosophy in the winery? In the vineyard?

I like to let nature take its course in most aspects of life and try to only intervene when something goes amiss. We typically dry farm in years it is practical, and we do very minimal spraying with organic products if feasible. The health of the vineyard and the quality of the grapes are paramount, so we strive to have healthy, well-balanced vines to produce the quality of fruit we desire. In the winery, we are minimalists as well, but experiment with all kinds of techniques and protocols, always looking for something new, old or different that might help us improve our wines.

Q: Why Rhône varieties? Which of these wines most intrigues you?

Rhône — because I enjoy the flavor profiles. I never really enjoyed Bordeaux flavor profiles, but once I got turned onto Rhône wines, I knew those were the wines I wanted to drink. I was seduced by Syrah but have fallen in love with Grenache. I enjoy everything about Grenache, from the bright red fruit notes to the soft, elegant tannins we get from the Grenache on our place. Our 46 is a really easy drinker that combines the best attributes of Grenache and Syrah — although our customers really love our Syrahs, too.

Q: Your thoughts on Rhône-style wines from Oregon?

I am embarrassed to say that I have not had the opportunity to taste through Oregon Rhone wines, but I do enjoy the Pinots.

Q: What are some of the shared attributes of a successful football player and winemaker?

Hard work. Persistence. Hard work. Luck. Hard work. And, maybe a little bit of talent. Maybe.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about Must! Charities?

Several years ago, there was a group of Paso Robles residents and winemakers that really wanted to help focus philanthropic efforts in our area in ways that were not being done at the time. Our idea was to convince businesses to leverage the goodwill of their company to generate charitable money from sources outside of Paso Robles. The end result was the founding of MUST Charities, and it has gained considerable traction in our area. The structure of giving is different for each donating entity, but for example, TH Estate Wines donates $1 for every bottle sold DTC (direct to consumer). In the seven years since its launch, MUST has made almost $2 million of grants in support of our philanthropic community.


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