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NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino and former University of Washington star Damon Huard have been close ever since Huard backed up Marino on the Miami Dolphins. Years after leaving the league, the pair are teaming up again to toss around grapes instead of pigskin.
Marino and Huard have partnered to launch a boutique winery they call "Passing Time," and they're as serious about it as they were about their football careers.
"It's something I've wanted to do for a long time," Marino tells KIRO Radio's Dori Monson Show. "And when I wanted to do it, I wanted to do it with people I wanted to be around."
Huard, a Puyallup-native who played behind Marino in Miami from 1997-2000, has become a wine aficionado since retiring from football. But Marino takes credit for first introducing him to wine back in their playing days with the Dolphins.
"Damon was drinking beer and rum and cokes," Marino laughs. "I said, 'Damon, some of the greatest wine in this country is made in Washington right out in your backyard and you're not drinking it.'"
The pair talked for years about forming their own winery, and finally decided several years ago to partner, Huard says.
While some celebrities simply lend their names to a project like the winery, Huard says the pair are intimately involved with all aspects of the new business. And they've put together an all-star team of sorts to produce their inaugural Washington Cabernet Sauvignon.
Their winemaker, Chris Peterson, is celebrated for his work with acclaimed Woodinville winery Avennia and previously with DeLille Cellars in Woodinville. He was recognized as a "winemaker to watch" by Seattle Magazine.
Huard acknowledges it won't be easy.
"It is the single most competitive consumer product in the world. There's over 800 wineries here in Washington and it can be a grind," he says. "There's so many moving parts to the wine industry and I've learned a lot along the way," says the self-professed "cork dork."
"I've also learned that it starts and ends with the fruit. And we've got some incredible fruit we've sourced from some of the best vineyards around the state," he says.
The first vintage from Passing Time will be released next Spring in a limited 500-case offering. The winery is taking reservations now at its website. A 750ml bottle will sell for $75.00. Huard says he can hardly wait to show what the pair can accomplish off the field.
"He was a big brother to me that I never had. And here we are with this relationship making wine all these years later, continuing our friendship, it's a lot of fun," Huard says.
While Huard was a relative latecomer to the wine world, Marino says his family gave him his first taste early on when his "Uncle Chucky" and other family members would make their own concoctions. Suffice it to say the NFL legend and his new partner are aiming for something a little more sophisticated.
"Ours is going to be a lot better than that," Marino laughs.