Pro football linemen start Three Fat Guys wine label
Evenings filled with food, wine and friends tend to produce ideas that seem great at the time, but often are as appealing the next day as dirty plates left in the sink.
Occasionally, though, an idea survives the night, as perky and shiny in the morning as the minute it was born. Such was the case for three former Green Bay Packers offensive linemen, who decided that making their own wine would be as almost as much fun as drinking it.
From that, Three Fat Guys wine was created, “a flavorful collaboration of life, love and laughs — just like us,” according to the label.
“We’re not in it to retire or get rich,” Daryn Colledge said. “We’re in it to enjoy it.”
So far, so good.
The Three Fat Guys — Colledge, Tony Moll and Jason Spitz — all were drafted by the Packers in 2006. They all are offensive lineman, and together they weigh almost 1,000 pounds.
They’ve all moved on to other teams now: Colledge signed with the Arizona Cardinals last year. Spitz is with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Moll joined the San Diego Chargers a year ago.
But they are still together as friends and business partners, and Three Fat Guys soon will come out with its third vintage of Napa Valley Cabernet sauvignon.
It started small in 2008 and has stayed that way. The initial objective was to produce enough wine to stock the three fat guys’ homes and for them to give away as presents.
Only 126 or so cases are produced each year, so it’s more than a novelty but less than a full-time business.
“Right now, it’s manageable with three guys doing part-time work,” Spitz said. “The last thing we want is a second job.”
Their greatest fear now is not that the operation will go under, but that it will grow too fast and consume too much time.
The players see the humor in that, because they weren’t long out of college when the idea of becoming winemakers was hatched.
As rookies in 2006, the rookies were thrown into Green Bay’s starting lineup and into friendship. They enjoyed dinner at each other’s houses, ate together on road trips and watched as their lives were changed by marriage and children.
Moll fancies himself a chef, Colledge said, so dinners often were held at his house.
“He thinks he’s the next Bobby Flay,” Colledge said. “He’s part Italian. Depending on what day you catch him on, you’ll get a different percentage. Some days, it’s 50 percent. When he’s cooking, he’s like 90 percent Italian. He thinks he can whip it up.”
The fat guys entered the wine business in 2008, with the help of Packers cornerback Charles Woodson, who has his own wine label, “TwentyFour,” and Woodson’s winemaker, Rick Ruiz.
All were at Moll’s house for a party after a game that year, and Moll, who is from Sonoma, Calif., told Ruiz, who is from Napa, Calif., to feel free to open any bottle in the house.
“I dipped into his inventory,” said Ruiz.
The next day, Ruiz and Woodson held a wine tasting and “boom,” Ruiz said, “I had all three fat guys in front of me.”
So, Colledge asked, if we wanted to produce our own wine, what would it cost?
Ruiz gave them a figure, a reasonable amount the players prefer to keep private.
“It was the price of a used car,” Spitz said, “and not a great used car. If it all went to (expletive) tomorrow, none of us would lose any sleep over it.”
So the players each wrote a check. And they came up with a name. The details of how “Three Fat Guys” is as murky as squeezed grapes.
“Tony believes he came up with it,” Colledge said. “I believe my wife (Megan) and I came up with it. Jason’s pretty sure he doesn’t know who came up with it.”
Uh, wait, check that.
“I like to think I coined the phrase,” Spitz said.
All agree on this: “We’d had a few drinks, a huge dinner and we were all talking about being fat,” Colledge said. “Somewhere the idea of the wine name came alive.”
Using grapes grown on a Napa farm, the first vintage was released in 2010.
It’s available in three states: California, Wisconsin and Idaho (Colledge played at Boise). The wine can also be ordered and delivered to doorsteps, and the players would like to expand, at least they think so.
Moll is the dreamer of the group. If it was solely up to him, Three Fat Guys would have five varietals instead of just the one.
Spitz is the conservative one and Colledge is “at the mid-level of Tony’s clouds and my dirt,” Spitz said.
Together, it works.
Colledge and his wife handle most of the books and other paperwork, and along with Ruiz, make sure all the licenses are in order, etc. “None of want to go to prison for a hobby,” Spitz said, dryly. “I want to make a movie about it if I go to prison.”
Moll spends his off-seasons at home in wine country, meeting and greeting potential customers and business contacts. Spitz does a little bit of everything.
There is no grand business plan, and the fat guys aren’t betting their retirements on the label. Ruiz thinks the business could grow whenever the players wanted it to.
If they want it to.
“There is a fear that one day it will be more than it is,” Colledge said.
Ideally, Colledge said, the label could expand into other varietals and produce a less expensive product than its current wine, which wholesales for about $28 a bottle.
There is talk of producing a “skinny” chardonnay in honor of the three wives, who are slender and enjoy white wine more than their husbands.
At the very least, the fat guys would like to expand the business enough to form a wine club, hold their own wine tastings and allow them to continue to get together for more dinners and wine.
“This is something we wanted to put a little bit of money into, a little effort and have some fun,” Colledge said. “We put enough in that we’ll pay attention to it, but if it went belly up, we’ve got a lot of wine in our fridges and we’ll be O.K.”
For more information, go to www.threefatguyswine.com or follow on Twitter at @3FatGuysWine.