Like most people, I guess, people frequently ask where I am from, but there is no easy answer: I was born in Ohio; lived in Kentucky; spent most of my school years in Michigan; went to college in Maine; studied in France; worked in Maryland, New York, and California; lived in Philadelphia for almost two decades; and now live in Texas.
So not so easy.
Since I lived in Philadelphia for the longest period of my life, though, I now provide it as the answer to that oft posed query.
As just about anyone who follows the National Football League knows, last year the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl, and I was ecstatic. OK, “ecstatic” might be a bit of a stretch, but I was certainly happy. While I have not been an Eagles fan since birth, I adopted the team as my own fairly early into my tenure living in the city.
There is little doubt that Philly fans are some of the most passionate in the country and they love (and often love to hate) their Eagles. They seem to remember all the players who have donned the midnight green and white, no matter how long the tenure.
Terry Hoage played for six different NFL teams over his thirteen year career, but five of those seasons were in the city of Brotherly Love, so he is considered by many in the city to be an Eagle. Although he left Philly (and the NFL) long before I arrived in the city and adopted the team as my own, I was excited to visit his winery in Paso Robles.
After retiring from football, Terry considered coaching in the NFL, but his wife, Jennifer, already had had her fill as a player’s wife (and moving six times) and the prospect of being a coach’s wife (and more uncertainty) was a non-starter. Eventually, they found some land in Paso Robles and, with the help of Justin Smith of SAXUM, planted a vineyard in 2002.
Originally called Terry Hoage Vineyards (but had to change the name after a challenge by Hogue Cellars in Washington), TH Estate Wines has 26 total acres and sells almost all of its 3,000 cases direct to consumer (Jennifer also sells 750 cases of her own brand, Decroux, which she named after Étienne Decroux under whom she studied mime in Paris in her teens).
Upon arrival at the property, Jenn led us on a tour of the vineyards and the facility. Slight in stature, but high in energy, Jenn seemed to be the antithesis of Terry, who eventually met up with us just before tasting the wines.
It would be too easy to state that the couples’ individual tastes in wine match their statures, it is apt. Terry is 6’2″ with a square jaw, vise-like handshake and a piercing eyed he prefers the bigger and bolder wines on the Rhône Valley (which is why they planted their Paso Robles vineyards with the same varietal proportions of Terry’s favorite producer, Beaucastel). While Jenn is as thin as a rail with delicate features but a contagious chattiness—no real surprise that she prefers lighter, more acid driven wines such as Pinot Noir.
Tasting through the wines, it was easy to see why Wine Spectator listed TH Estate Wines as one of their top wineries to watch.
2017 Decroux Pinot Noir Rosé Santa Rita Hills: Retail $38. Strawberry, melon, a bit of cherry, and plenty of wet rock. Light on the palate but good tartness. Solid flavors and really well done. I am not usually a fan of saignées, but this is lovely. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2014 TH Vineyards The 46 Reserve: Retail $88. 50% Syrah, 38% Grenache, 12% Mourvèdre. Like all of Terry’s wines, the name has a double meaning: his long-time coach Buddy Ryan’s 4-6 defense and Route 46 that runs through Paso Robles. Rich nose of deep red fruit with chocolate and coffee. Very rich and chocolatey. 28 months in “special” barrels. All French and particularly chosen for the wine. Very nice. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
2014 TH Vineyards The Hedge Syrah Reserve: Retail $88. 89% Syrah. 6% Mourvèdre, 5% Grenache. Named for a particular type of trellising (that they don’t use) and the hedges at the University of Georgia’s football stadium (Terry played his college ball at Georgia). Deep red fruit with spice and depth. Whoa. Really lovely fruit, reserved power, and spice at the back-end. This is not what I think of when I think Paso Syrah. Whoa. Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
2015 TH Vineyards Three-Four Syrah: Retail $88. 100 Syrah. Planted by John Alban (yeah, that John Alban) in the 90’s. Terry’s jersey number (34) and a defense (3-4) in football. Meter by meter high density planting. Three feet by four feet planting. 20 months in barrel. Block designate with own rooted plants. Dark fruit with plum and blackberry. Mocha. Richest so far with intense fruit, brilliant acidity. Whoa. Outstanding. 94-96 Points.
As I mentioned above, it was harvest and Terry had to race off to bring in more fruit. Besides, he did not seem as the “chatty” type, so there was not much time to talk football. But as I climbed into the van, I saw a large bird of prey fly over the vineyard. It was likely a hawk, but it didn’t matter, I had already seen an Eagle.