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Woodson’s New Playing Field is the Vineyard

By Nora Heston Tarte | Photos courtesy of Charles Woodson

Charles Woodson likes to win. The only primarily defensive Heisman Trophy recipient and 2011 Super Bowl champion has a storied career of coming out on top over 18 seasons in the National Football League (NFL). But his 2015 retirement didn’t signal the end of his achievements. Today, Woodson owns the clothing line Charles Woodson Apparel, which he calls a celebration of his fans, and the company Charles Woodson Intercept Wines, aptly named, considering Woodson racked up 65 interceptions over his NFL career—and 13 touchdowns, too, but who’s counting? “The name Intercept is a nod to my career, but also a reminder that during every moment of your life, the possibilities are wide open,” says Woodson. “You just have to go get it.”

When he isn’t on the ESPN set, Woodson spends a good chunk of his time in Paso Robles, meeting with Intercept’s Head Winemaker, Amanda Gorter, to create a lineup of high quality, affordable wines with O’Neill Vintners & Distillers that represent Woodson’s personal tastes. “The entire lineup represents my ideal style of each varietal,” says Woodson of the fruitforward cabernet sauvignon, the full-bodied and complex red blend, the balanced chardonnay, and—the favorite—a medium-bodied pinot noir with a smooth finish. “I focus on what my fans are asking for and put countless hours into industry research to create the absolute best for them,” says Woodson.

Woodson sees a lot of parallels between football and wine. “When you watch a game on Sunday, you just see the final output of all the time us players put in, the week before, maybe even the summer before. It’s the same with wine. You buy a bottle of wine, you drink it, and, hopefully, you’re satisfied with what you’re getting,” he says. For most of his life, Woodson’s behind-the-scenes effort was put in at the gym and on the field, preparing for game after record-breaking game while playing with the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers as a cornerback and free safety. “You get to enjoy the final product but don’t necessarily see all the work that went into it. The weather, the terroir, the blending, and everything else that affects that bottle,” he says. Woodson decided to start Intercept Wines after he developed an appreciation for the beverage in the late 1990s, while playing for the Oakland Raiders (his first round on the team, to which he later returned in 2013). The team held its training camp in the Napa Valley, and every year, Woodson noticed more and more of his teammates deepening their interest in wine. “On road trips, we would bring bottles and break bread together. It was an experience that bonded us and made me realize how unifying wine can be,” he says.

Just as Woodson sees similarities between his careers as a football player and as a wine company owner, he feels that football also prepared him for entrepreneurship in general. He has some new projects in the works, but for now, he’s staying mum. “I enjoy honing my strategy, going over plays, exploring new opportunities. Entrepreneurship is a different field, but I find myself using a lot of the same discipline and collaboration,” he says. “If I have learned one thing in my career, it’s that there’s no substitute for hard work. Quality is always my top priority.”

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