To anyone who loves sports, Coach Dick Vermeil is a true legend and, more specifically, an icon to all Philly sport’s fans. His many accomplishments as a coach on every level throughout his football career are well known, including being named Coach of the Year in high school, college, and twice in the NFL. No other coach achieved all three at any time, and Philly loves and reveres Coach Vermeil. “Coach” as he is simply known, took UCLA to the Rose Bowl on January 1st, 1976, beating undefeated and top ranked Ohio State 23-10. And we enjoy reminiscing over and over again how Vermeil went on to coach the Eagles in Super Bowl XV, finally winning XXXIV with the St. Louis Rams.
But what we may not know about Coach is his prowess off the field, specifically his affinity and penchant for great wines. What’s known is Coach doesn’t give anything less than his best. Vermeil coached with a tenacity like no other, and he values and produces wines that way. His commitment to excellence shows both on and off the field, including his wines.
In 1936, Richard “Dick” Vermeil was born in Calistoga, CA. Yes, that Calistoga. The place where the “nectar of the gods” has as much respect in the world’s best production of grapes as Coach Vermeil did coaching at football’s highest level of X’s and O’s. Now, following the fame and fortune achieved by the likes of Ernie Els, Greg Norman, Francis Ford Coppola and others, who subsequently lent their name, and/or bought into the wine business, Vermeil was practically born into it. Long before good fortune was realized, Coach was surrounded by, arguably, one of the best appellations in the world. Those early years proved powerful, and brought Coach back to his roots where his “hobby” of winemaking turned into yet another Super Bowl, only this time it was the Super Bowl of winemaking in Napa’s appellation.
It was during Coach’s formative years in Calistoga where he learned his incredible work ethic, taught by his father, Jean Louis, who operated an automotive garage in the valley known as Owl Garage. Louis taught Coach much, but primarily three things: fast cars, football and wine, and not necessarily in that order.
A family friend, Jeanne Frediani, and husband Eugene, farmed grapes not far from the Vermeil household. Jeanne also babysat young Dick Vermeil for the family while assisting Gene during the harvest. Not foreign to Coach was a willingness to earn some additional money working the annual Frediani harvests, pruning vines and helping out with the wind machines. This was Coach’s formal introduction into wine production and the grape growing business.
Fast forward to today, and you’ll find that Coach put together yet another strong team. Forming a strong partnership with the Frediani Family, Mary Sue Frediani-Smith and vintner, Paul Smith, the team runs the day to day operations, and together with Coach Vermeil, are proving to be as formidable as the Eagles were in 1980.
Still considered to be a small winery with a total production of around 2,000 cases, Vermeil produces many different wines for such small lots. However, Coach is more concerned about quality over quantity. No surprise there, right?
The winery is located in the middle of the Spring Mountain District, which has limited public access, but there are two different wine tasting fronts that serve as the face of Vermeil Wines. One of those tasting rooms is located in Calistoga, which opened in 2002 under the label OnThEdge Winery, but renovated and reopened in 2009. The other is in downtown Napa, opening recently in 2013. Both have outdoor seating providing a more enjoyable tasting experience.
Much of the Vermeil grapes are produced through a leasing arrangement with the Frediani Vineyard, just south of Calistoga and off the Silverado Trail. Some of the grapes produced for Vermeil Wines are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, as well as dessert wines which are also sold. Additionally, the Charbono grape, an unusual varietal uncommonly found in the Napa Valley is produced, and needs hot days and cooler evenings to thrive. Moreover, the Jean Louis Cabernet Sauvignon is one of Vermeil’s flagship wines, named after both of Coach’s great grandfathers. A very nice touch, and quintessential Dick Vermeil.
Coach Vermeil continues to excel at everything he does, including off-the-field ventures, such as Vermeil Wines. This is indicative of the many 90-plus ratings bestowed upon his wines from the likes of Wine Enthusiast, and gold and silver medals awarded to Vermeil Wines at the American FineWine competition, to name a few.
Given his insatiable appetite to win, and his drive for personal and professional excellence, does it astonish anyone that Coach Vermeil, with his award winning wines, is once again, at the pinnacle of something very special? For all of us who marveled at his coaching greatness for so many years, we can still feel connected to Coach Vermeil by investing in another one of his incredible passions: Vermeil Wines.
Vermeil Wines are available at Total Wine, Traino’s Liquor Store, PA State Stores and others, or you can order directly from www.vermeilwines.com