Intercept Wine, Created by Black NFL Player Charles Woodson, Now Available Across the US

Charles Woodson is the only defensive player ever to win a Heisman Trophy, and now he has achieved another triumph. After launching Intercept Wine in partnership with O’Neill Vintners & Distillers in 2019, Woodson was confronted by an issue which many producers in the wine industry face – trying to get wine distributed in more than just a few states.  In the beginning Intercept Wine was only available in 15 states, but now it has achieved full national distribution through its partnership with O’Neill Vintners & Distillers.

Charles Woodson with his wine brand, Intercept

This makes Super Bowl champion, Charles Woodson, the first black NFL player to gain full US distribution with a wine brand. Named “Intercept” wine as a connection to his football career, Woodson currently offers four different wine styles: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and a Red Blend, all at a suggested retail price of $19.99. They can be purchased in stores across the nation, or online at his website, where it is available to be shipped directly to consumers in 28 states, with more to follow.

Line-up of Intercept wines

“In light of what is happening in the US currently and the worldwide uncertainty, I am in awe of the reception that Intercept has achieved in less than one short year,” said Woodson. “I have always thought that wine was universal – that it brings people together – and I can’t be more grateful for the response we have seen from distributors, retailers and, most importantly, wine fans.”

Charles Woodson in the vineyard

Breathless Winery Wins “Rising Wine Star Winery of the Year” Award

In less than 10 years since it opened, Breathless Wines has already won multiple awards, including the San Francisco Wine Competition, American Fine Wine Competition, Wine Enthusiast, among others. This time, it is awarded by LuxeSF, a luxury marketing organization, as their “Rising Wine Star Winery of The Year”, after a tough competition with 74 other nominations across 5 award categories, selected by a 14-person panel of respected industry veterans.

Have you tried Breathless Wines yet? They are currently offering a special duo Blanc De Noir and Brut Rose pack at $60 including shipping this week until September 18. Better yet, you could visit their winery in downtown Healdsburg and try a flight of 4 wines for just $16 in their outdoor patio, or join their Friday Bubbly Happy Hour, or try a Breakfast at Breathless Breton Crepe paired with their sparkling on September 27. For more options, check this page out!

Breathless Brut in their flutes.
Lady on a Flying Cork, a poster from 1920s, used as Breathless Wines Logo.

Ferrari Cars Celebrate With Ferrari Trento Sparkling Wines

Two iconic Italian brands come together in Florence on September 12 and 13th to celebrate the 1000th Grand Prix. The famous Ferrari car company partners with the historic Ferrari Trento sparkling wine company for this special occasion.

Photo Credit: Ferrari Scuderia and Ferrari Trento Sparkling Wine

For the first time in its history, the Mugello Circuit will host a FIA Formula 1 World Championship™ class race, and its coinciding with the important milestone of Scuderia Ferrari –the only team present in all of the 70 editions raced till now – has created the perfect occasion for celebrating in style in Florence with a Gala Dinner in the Sala dei Cinquecento inPalazzo Vecchio. The Ferrari Trentodoc bubbles will welcome the guests as they enter the venue.

This collaboration represents a bond between the two symbols of special magic from Italy. Both are emblems of the story of two visionary men, two dreamers, two entrepreneurs – Enzo Ferrari and Giulio Ferrari – who were perfectionists obsessed with the details and research of excellence that have made unique the products they were capable of imagining and creating. These two dreams today still live on in anyone who pronounces the name “Ferrari”, one of those words that speaks of Italy and that fills the heart with passion.

The Ferrari Team. Photo Credit: Ferrari Scuderia

About Ferrari Trento Sparkling Wine

Founded in 1902 in Trento by Giulio Ferrari and since 1952 run by the Lunelli family, Ferrari is Italy’s leading traditional method winery and a symbol of the Italian Art of Living. 

All Ferrari labels are Trentodoc, bottle fermented sparkling wines produced with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes cultivated with passion and respect following the principles of sustainable mountain viticulture in Northern Italy’s Trentino. Ferrari is the toast of Italy par excellence and accompanies the most important moments in culture, sport and entertainment. Ferrari Trento was named “Sparkling Wine Producer of the Year” for the third time at the 2019 Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships.

Ferrari Trento Sparkling Wine. Photo Credit: Ferrari Trento

A Legacy Sparkling with Personality

Hailing from a pioneer winemaking family in Napa, Paula Kornell is a Napa native who has seen the region’s rise from idyllic countryside to a world-renowned premium wine destination. Paula has acquired decades of experience throughout the wine industry, having held management positions at Mondavi, Phelps and other wineries. She has been a member of the Board of Napa Valley Vintners and served a term as its President, and has also chaired the famous Napa Wine Auction several times.

Paula Kornell serving her wines at home.

Meeting Paula Kornell and Tasting Her Very First Vintage

Now, Paula is carrying on her family legacy, having launched her own line of methode champenoise (traditional Champagne method) wines last October with Vintage Wine Estates. I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet Paula and experience her great hospitality over a cordial wine lunch at her eclectic St. Helena abode and learn about the many colorful stories behind her brand.

Paula opening her bottle of Blanc de Noir

Kornell Family Legacy

The Kornell family history is interwoven with the Wine Country, starting with Paula’s father, Napa wine pioneer Hanns Kornell. Originally from Germany, Kornell studied winemaking at Geisenheim Enological Institute in the 1930s and applied that training working for French and Italian wineries. After a narrow escape from Dachau Concentration Camp, he arrived in America with $2 in his pocket. Hanns worked in wineries until he was able to purchase the historic Larkmead Estate, one of California’s oldest wineries, which was established by Lillian Hitchcock Coit in 1884.

The historic Larkmead Winery. Credit: Napa Wine Project

Paula’s Wine Beginnings

After college, Paula’s adventurous spirit led her to a brief period working in vineyards around Europe and studying winemaking at Geisenheim, as did her father. Later, she did a stint selling Burgundy wines for the famous New York wine merchant Sherry-Lehmann. Although she enjoyed filling orders for celebrities on Madison Ave, her father eventually persuaded her to fly back to California on a one-way, first class ticket to work for Kornell Cellars.

The iconic Sherry Lehmann on Madison Ave.

The Difference Between Sparkling Wine and Champagne

While sharing her Brut, an elegant blend of Central Californian Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Paula noted how American consumers were unaccustomed to the “sparkling wine” definition initially. “Champagne” was perceived as better, but consumers increasingly understand why the change in nomenclature was made. International laws restrict the Champagne label to wines made only in this French appellation, even though many premium sparkling wines are made elsewhere using the same method. Her family has long used this traditional Champagne winemaking method in making their California wines.

Kornell Brut in a bucket.

Paula’s Blanc De Noir

Paula also opened a bottle of her inaugural 2017 Blanc De Noir, made with 98% Pinot Noir from the classic Mitsuko’s Vineyard in the Los Carneros area, ideally situated to catch breezes from San Pablo Bay. Remarkable was how it tasted like a more aged Champagne: complex, with toasty notes and a crisp hint of zesty citrus. It was an absolutely delightful pairing with her homemade galette made with fresh vegetables from her yard.

Our wine pairing lunch.

How the Wine Started

Paula’s own wine brand came into being when she was approached by long-time family friend and CEO of Vintage Wine Estates, Pat Roney, who wanted to boost their premium boutique wine portfolio with great sparkling wines. The winemaker behind Paula’s wine is Robin Ankhurst, who has worked harvests from Burgundy and Languedoc to Marlborough and Barossa and now directs winemaking for several esteemed Napa wineries. I noticed the beautifully etched Riedel glasses with her logo, which she explained was the Men of Canaan – the same logo used in years past by Hanns Kornell Champagne, denoting Israelites carrying grapes to the “Promised Land,” which for her family was California.

Paula, her Blanc de Noir and me.

Staying Positive and Resilient

It’s not only Paula’s great wines and the history that stand out, but also her resilient and jovial spirit. To be sure, lockdowns caused by the current pandemic will pose challenges for wineries needing to sell excess inventory, but she sees pockets of opportunity for those who build relationships and continue to get involved. Despite the current pandemic, Paula has managed to progress with building partnerships through Zoom calls.