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Original Issue

Smashingly Subtle

Once accustomed to crushing ballcarriers, Terry Hoage now crushes grapes for his much-sought-after vintages

TerryHoage's transformation from highly regarded NFL safety to highly regardedvintner began like a bad joke: "A guy walks into a bar. . . ." In 2000the guy, Hoage, moved with his wife, Jennifer, and two children from Phoenix(his 13-year career with six teams had ended with the Cardinals in 1996), toCalifornia, eventually landing in Paso Robles, a burgeoning wine center twohours north of Santa Barbara. Hoage stopped by a local watering hole and hit itoff with a group of thirtysomethings who happened to be oenophiles--"thewine geniuses of Paso Robles," he calls them. Under the guidance of his newfriends, Hoage bought a 26-acre plot, where one of the geniuses, Justin Smith,helped him plant vines and provided him with the facilities and equipment tomake his wine. Within a few years Hoage had his own 3,000-square-foot winery;his first vintage, in 2005, produced 100 barrels.

Hoage doeseverything from marketing his product and leading tours (with Jennifer's help)to fixing the tractor. He produces roughly 2,000 cases a year of wines thatbear sly names like The Hedge Syrah, referring both to a pruning technique andto a fabled feature of the stadium at Georgia, where Hoage was an All-Americaboth on the field and in the classroom. (He graduated with a degree in geneticsand a 3.8 GPA.) Far from being an aspiring Mondavi, Hoage has capped hisproduction and says he's happy to remain a boutique winemaker. For him thebusiness is less a moneymaking venture than a means to challenge himself."I tend to get bored pretty easily," he says. "But here I get to bea scientist, an engineer, a marketer--I even taught myself to weld. I can bekilling gophers in the afternoon and leading a wine tasting at night!"




Hoage markets, leads tours and even repairs the tractor.