Will Blackmon lost count of how many glasses of wine he consumed that November night in Minneapolis long ago, but he remembers that the name of the restaurant, a steakhouse downtown, was Seven.
It was 2008, his third season in the NFL, and Blackmon, then a cornerback and return man with the Packers, was in town to play the Minnesota Vikings. Kickoff was slated for noon the next day, so the Saturday evening activities commenced with dinner among his fellow defensive backs. Charles Woodson, Nick Collins and Tramon Williams were all in attendance around the table. One glass led to another, and dinner led to a walk upstairs to a club, where wine continued to flow.
By the time the quartet retired to the team’s hotel, Blackmon’s eyes were glassy but he felt coherent. He awoke the next morning “feeling like garbage,” and considered his rejuvenation options, like an IV, Red Bull or pre-game workout.
But at the stadium, his partners in wine looked no worse for the wear. First, Woodson picked off a pass. Then, Williams poached one. Collins took back an interception 59 yards for a touchdown. Finally, Blackmon returned a punt 65 yards for a score.
“It’s the craziest thing,” he says. “All four of us played super well that day. Since that day, I didn’t get wasted, but I would have a glass or two while studying my game plan, watch the Saturday night games before bed.”
Blackmon, 35, went on to win a Super Bowl with the Giants in 2012, and now, after a dozen seasons split among six teams, he is a certified sommelier. An entrepreneur in transition, he brands himself as The Wine MVP, keeps a tasting journal and explores all angles of winemaking, from soil to sales, amid the coronavirus lockdowns. His business is twofold. One end is as a private concierge, which involves him curating wines for clients, and the other is a subscription service that includes him picking two wines from known brands and shipping them to customers for $79.99 per month. His client and collaboration lists reach back to the sports world, ranging from Reggie Bush to Dwyane Wade, and his bona fides include academic study at Sonoma State University’s wine business program, as well as a Level 1 certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers. To branch out beyond the vine, Blackmon, a partner in J3 Jet, is exploring opportunities in private aviation as well. He is currently awaiting word on a bid to build a second fixed-base operation at Napa County Airport.
“I just want to be one of the main guys in the world that people can look to for wine,” he says. “It has been wild, man. I’m so immersed, so obsessed.”
He identifies neither a collector nor an investor. He buys to try, and whatever wine he gains access to he will drink it that year. He does not have a cellar, but space is becoming short in his Southern California