Earlier this fall, I gathered some of my friends together.
The goal: sample some of Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson’s wine.
If you don’t know the story, Woodson owns a winery in Napa Valley — TwentyFour Wines. Woodson got into wine and bought the vineyard when he played for the Oakland Raiders, hence the name — Woodson wore No. 24 when he played for Oakland.
Woodson began making wine in 2001 and released his first wine in 2008. He’s released three vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon (2005, 2006 and 2007) and a limited run of Cabernet Franc (2007).
Of course, you won’t hear anything about this from Charles because the NFL forbids players to endorse alcoholic beverages, even if they are legitimate winemakers.
We were lucky enough to sample TwentyFour’s 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, which was released in late summer, thanks to Rick Ruiz, TwentyFour Wines’ director of operations.
I can tell you I enjoyed Woodson’s wine, but I’m certainly not the foremost authority. Fellow Packer fans and wine enthusiasts Sean Brennan and Peter Bothe, on the other hand, can speak with authority.
Here are Peter’s thoughts.
“It’ll taste better if you share it with your friends.”
Those are the words uttered by someone much wiser than I, when I first started drinking wine. Nearly 15 years of excessive drinking and obsessive spending (all in the name of “collecting”) later, the words still hold true. So when Monty invited me to participate in a tasting of Charles Woodson’s TwentyFour cabernet sauvignon, I jumped at the chance. Not only was I interested in seeing if the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year had a decent palate (seems he does), I was also curious to experience a bourgeois Total Packers event since they usually involve some combination of whiskey, women, Iron Maiden and cracking jokes at the expense of the Minnesota Vikings (turns out this one did too — stupid damn Vikings fans).
We tasted the TwentyFour Cabernet alongside a W.H. Smith Piedra Hill Purple Label Cabernet ($50) and Charles Smith’s Chateau Smith Cabernet ($20). Bill Smith, owner of W.H. Smith, has a long history of making some of Napa’s best and most coveted, though not necessarily most expensive, Cabernets and Pinot Noirs. Charles Smith (no relation) is a bad ass winemaker in Washington state. His wines are affordable, eminently approachable, and downright drinkable. Both wines delivered as promised, which allowed us to experience TwentyFour with some semblance of context.
My first impression of TwentyFour was, “Hot damn. That is a gorgeous bottle.” From the crepe paper wrapper to the heavy duty bottle and elegant label, it is abundantly clear the team responsible for the art and packaging of this wine had their act together. Of course, like a book, you shouldn’t judge wine by its cover. After decanting the wine for a few hours, we poured and tasted it.
Here are my tasting notes:
Tons of dark fruit on the nose and palate. Firm tannins, moderate acidity, and high alcohol content suggest that the wine will benefit from several years of bottle aging. Secondary components such as spice, cedar, cassis are present, but the fruit forward nature of wine makes them less obvious. I suspect they will become more evident over time. Finish is shorter than anticipated.
If you’re a non-wine person, those words probably mean very little to you, and may in fact inspire you to kick the shit out of me for being such a wine snob.
The fact of the matter is that TwentyFour Cabernet is a thoughtful, good wine. My lone criticism is the price point ($150 per bottle, $250 signed by Charles Woodson), since it makes it unfeasible for many of Woodson’s greatest supporters — the good, hardworking people of Wisconsin — to afford it.
Having said all of this, I believe there are three scenarios where buying this wine makes sense:
(1) You’re die hard Charles Woodson/Green Bay Packers fan and want a very unique and classy collectible that encapsulates how unique and classy Woodson is.
(2) You’re a collector of Napa Cabernet and want to add this to your cellar simply for collecting’s sake.
(3) You buy a bottle with the sole purpose of laying it in a dark, cool place with the promise of opening it the next time the Packers win the Super Bowl.
Regardless of why you buy it, when you open it up, be sure to share it with friends. I promise it will taste better.
Here are Sean’s thoughts.
“Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.” – Benjamin Franklin
The very same thing has been uttered where I am from, but instead of wine, it’s Green Bay Packers football. In Green Bay, football is a religion, with multiple deities, historical eras, various geographical sects, accords and compacts, sacrifices and one unmistakable holy site and Mecca of professional football: Lambeau Field.
Being a Packers fan is an endeavor of passion and if you are like me, you enjoy the occasional adult beverage (sometimes to excess). My passion for food and drink is a great fit for watching the greatest team on Earth, and being a California Packers fan it’s easy to learn to be passionate about wine.
If you love wine, traveling to Napa is like the pilgrimage to Lambeau: an experience everyone should have at least once and replicate as many times as possible.
I started drinking wine many years ago while living in enemy territory: Minneapolis. My employer and wine mentor at the time had decades of excellent wine from around the world in his cellar, but he had very little opportunity to drink it. I was just a rookie then, maybe 22 years old, and I asked him “what are you going to do with all of that?” tn which he replied “what do you think I should do?”
Silly question to ask a kid from Green Bay. “Drink it.” And so we did. Every weekend he would grab a couple bottles and the education would begin. This experience changed my life for the better, as not many people from my neighborhood were lucky enough to learn about wine so young. The most important thing I learned was that wine was for everyone and that there is nothing snooty or elitist about it. You can’t always say that about the people drinking it, but wine as a pure pleasure is almost unrivaled.
When Monty told me we would be trying some of Charles Woodson’s wine, my head was swimming. You mean mix two of my greatest passions all at once? Yes, please.
Although it’s current price point of $150 a bottle puts TwentyFour Wine’s 2007 Cabernet in the company of some of the best cabs in Napa, it held its own. We drank it with Piedra Hill Purple Label Cabernet ($50) from Napa and Charles Smith’s Chateau Smith Cabernet ($20) from Washington.
Here is what I thought of it:
Tight on the nose initially, but after decanting you have intense blackberry and nutty aromas that are quite pleasing. Firm tannins on the mid and back palette with a flavor profile of plums, cedar, with hints of chipotle dark chocolate. You are reminded of cherry Big League Chew, which is a good sign. The acidity coats your tongue and doesn’t quit right away, much like our man Charles Woodson. A young wine with nearly harsh tannins that will evolve over time. A chewy wine very indicative of classic California cabs, enjoy with a medium rare rib eye. Decant for an hour while you enjoy your first Old Fashioned (I like rye). Overall, an excellent effort well worth it’s Napa pedigree and worthy of a hall of fame Packer and fans alike.
While expensive, it is the perfect wine to open after the Packers win the Super Bowl. The good news is that the wine will be good to drink if that dream is not realized for years to come.