BY BEN BEDDOW
Walla Walla, Washington wasn’t on the world wine map until 1978 when a cabernet from Leonetti Cellars was
named the nation’s best cabernet. Local boy Drew Bledsoe, now owner of Doubleback and Bledsoe Family Winery, turned 6 that year—far away from his first sip of wine and further from the beginning of his National Football League career.
“Walla Walla, when I was growing up,” said Drew, “was not very winecentric. I think when I graduated
high school there were five wineries here.” Once he began playing in the NFL, Drew found himself trying more and more wine, tasting wines from around the globe. “After trying all these wines that everyone knows,” said Drew, “from Napa, Bordeaux, Argentina, and Burgundy, I discovered that my little hometown was actually making some of the best wines in the world. That was really when the seed was planted.”
But, Drew didn’t want to produce just any mid-range wine. As he describes it, he wanted to “start a wine business that could make wines that could potentially stand up on a world stage.” His last year in football was 2006, and Drew and his wife, Maura, purchased a piece of property on the southern edge of the Walla Walla Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area) and subsequently launched Doubleback as an estate focused winery.
“Our mission statement doesn’t have the word wine in it. […] We make wines that we like and we hope that if we enjoy what we’re doing that other people will enjoy it along with us.”
The name for the wine, Doubleback, comes from simple origins. It is named so because Drew grew up in Walla Walla, left to play football, and then returned home. “The town really raised me, and raised everyone that grew up there,” Drew explained. “So, being back there and having an impactful business in my hometown, first of all feels really cool. But, secondly, it also lends some additional importance and pressure to what we do. We’ve got to perform well and represent well, because not only are we representing our family, but we’re also representing this hometown that we care for deeply.”
Josh McDaniels, also from Walla Walla and the CEO and Director of Winemaking at Doubleback and Bledsoe Family Winery, has been named a “Washington Prodigy” and a “Game Changer of Washington Wine” by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. He spent a decade under the mentorship of the Figgins family at the famous Leonetti Cellars.
Growing up in Walla Walla, Josh describes Drew as “kind of a mythical God-figure that every young boy aspired to be.” When Drew returned and launched Doubleback, Josh thought, “What the hell does he know about wine? Celebrity or athlete projects have never really had a good track record. It’s a lot more about that person than it is the wine.” “But,” Josh said, “Drew came out and did everything the right way.” When Drew offered Josh the job at Doubleback and Bledsoe Family Winery, Josh asked him, “Is this a vanity project or a wine project?” Drew answered that he wanted to build a business that was based on the success of the wine’s quality—“so, I left Leonetti and took
over,” said Josh.
“Our mission statement doesn’t have the word wine in it,” explained Drew. “Our mission statement is ‘to create genuine happiness for our customers and ourselves.’ We are a little bit selfish in what we do. We make wines that we like, and we hope that if we enjoy what we’re doing that other people will enjoy it along with us. And, so far that’s been the case.”