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Still tasting success

Bledsoe tackling wine after football

DREW BLEDSOE Scores with cabernet DREW BLEDSOE
Scores with cabernet
By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / May 13, 2010

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NEWTON — Retirement is good, Drew Bledsoe says, and it’s hard not to believe him.

Looking tanned and trim, the former Patriots quarterback was here at a wine store yesterday during rush hour, perched on a stool and greeting fans.

Only they weren’t all Patriots fans; some were fans of great wine more than football. For Bledsoe the businessman and vintner, those were the fans he was hoping to hook.

Bledsoe is back in Massachusetts this week for the first time in several years to promote the inaugural vintage of his Doubleback winery cabernet sauvignon. It has taken seven years for Bledsoe to get to this point, where he is able to offer samples of his creation to consumers, but in the true style of a man who was once the first overall pick in the NFL draft and helped usher a moribund franchise toward the top of the football world, he wants his wine to be the best.

“We’re trying as hard as we can to be one of the best wines in the world and we won’t cut any corners to get there,’’ he said.

He is off to a good start. Famed critic Robert Parker of The Wine Advocate gave Doubleback a rating of 91-94, which is “outstanding’’ on the newsletter’s scale. Ever the competitor, Bledsoe said somewhat under his breath that his group believes the rating was a bit low.

Still, it was an impressive debut.

“You can’t retire at 35 and go play golf every day; it’s a recipe for disaster,’’ said Bledsoe, now 38, when asked why he went into winemaking. “This and a few other things get me out of bed every morning.’’

His Bledsoe Capital Group entered into an agreement to purchase interest in an industrial wastewater-treatment company and also invests in technology and real estate, primarily in the Pacific Northwest, where Bledsoe was born and raised and lives now with wife Maura and their four children. He also has a foundation that aims to promote good parenting techniques.

But it is the winery that he seems most passionate about. He always had an interest in wine, he said, but as his 14-year NFL career began to wind down, he began looking into new ventures.

When he retired in 2007, after nearly 200 games and more than 44,000 passing yards, it was “the right thing at the right time,’’ Bledsoe said. “It was a decision to quit football, it was a decision to move on to the next phase of my life. I had already started making plans [for the winery].

“This is one passion I’ve had — I’ve always enjoyed great wine — and it’s so multifaceted. You’re a farmer first, and there’s production, distribution, marketing . . . It’s really fun. I’ve learned so much in the last two to three years.’’

A native of Walla Walla, Wash., Bledsoe grew up in the Yakima Valley, which has become a hotbed for vineyards. Maura Bledsoe is heavily involved as well, primarily in marketing. Yesterday she stood watch as her husband warmly greeted those who approached, signing all manner of memorabilia, from old jerseys to footballs to a picture with Tom Brady on one side and Bledsoe as a member of the Bills on the other. In neat script and punctuated with his No. 11, he also signed the sleek black bottles for those who purchased his wine.

The couple gets to spend more time together now, and travel together on business trips. That’s a stark change from Bledsoe’s playing days, when Maura said she attended just one road game.

Bledsoe does and “always will’’ miss football, he said, and called it “really cool’’ to be back in New England. On Tuesday night, he held an event at Patriot Place for Doubleback, and got to spend time with Brady and other former teammates.

Bledsoe, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, defended Brady’s choice to spend much of the offseason in Los Angeles rather than Foxborough, saying, “He’s the last guy anyone has to worry about.’’

While he clearly enjoys his new ventures, some things are never far from his memory.

As one fan departed after getting Bledsoe to sign a few items, he quipped, “I hate Mo Lewis.’’ Replied Bledsoe, “You and me both.’’

Shalise Manza Young can be reached at syoung@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.

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