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Bledsoe Family Winery set to open tasting room in Oregon
Drew Bledsoe and his wife, Maura, decided to raise their four children near Bend, Ore., before the Walla Walla standout announced his retirement as a National Football League quarterback in 2007.
On Thursday, the Bledsoes will sink more roots in Central Oregon when they open the doors to a tasting room for Bledsoe Family Winery in Bend’s Box Factory development. It will be the first satellite tasting room in Oregon for the Bledsoes, and the second retail location for the Bledsoe Family Winery brand – a second label for their iconic Doubleback Winery.
“We are thrilled to be able to share our passion for wine with a community that has created so many wonderful opportunities and memories for our family,” Drew Bledsoe stated in a news release. “Bend has long been a beer and outdoors town, both of which have become interwoven into the fabric of the town. And we felt that the timing is right to pair great wine with the area’s beloved outdoor-oriented culture, too, and to do so in a way that is both unique and fun. This has long been a dream for us.”
The Bledsoes will be the second vintners from the Walla Walla Valley to operate a tasting room in Bend. Justin Wylie opened a satellite tasting room for Va Piano Vineyards in the Old Mill District, not far from Box Factory, in the spring of 2016.
This week marks the second significant construction project in two years for the Bledsoes. In April 2018, they moved Doubleback and their acclaimed homegrown winemaker, Josh McDaniels, into a 14,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art production facility and appointment-only tasting gallery along Walla Walla’s storied Powerline Road.
In Bend, Bledsoe Family Winery’s tasting room features roll-top doors for patio seating and walls lined with barrel staves used in the Doubleback/ Bledsoe Family programs. A large barn mural is a tip of the cap to the Bledsoe family’s Flying B ranch in Ellensburg, Wash. The 3,593-square-foot tasting room includes quartz countertops and a mezzanine for private tastings and events. The Bledsoes describe the overall experience as “elegant, refined, industrial and rustic.”
A formal grand opening for the 555 NW Arizona Avenue retail spot, which will be open seven days a week, is planned for early September.
“The Bledsoe Family Winery tasting room is designed to be open and accessible for all to enjoy,” McDaniels said. “We want our guests to be able to enjoy a great wine in a beautiful space, while at the same time creating a welcoming, comfortable atmosphere, a hallmark of both Bend and Walla Walla.”
Bend location to pour only Bledsoe Family tier
The focus of the Bend location will match that of the Bledsoe Family Winery tasting room on Main Street in downtown Walla Walla, keeping that brand separate from the high-end Doubleback tier. The tasting rotation at the Box Factory location will span the Elizabeth Chardonnay, Healy Rosé, Stolen Horse Syrah, Flying B Cabernet Sauvignon and the Bledsoe Family Wine Red Wine.
McDaniels, who holds the titles of president and director of winemaking, and the Bledsoes have created a $20 tasting fee that’s refunded with any bottle purchase. Club members receive six complimentary tastings per month, a 20% discount off wines by the glass or bottle and access to the new 2017 Lefore Vineyard Estate Syrah and the 2017 Pinot Noir from Ridgecrest Vineyards – a historic site on Oregon’s Ribbon Ridge planted by Harry Peterson-Nedry.
Bledsoe, a standout at Washington State University, was the first pick overall in the 1993 National Football League draft by the New England Patriots. When he retired, he was seventh in NFL history for career passing yardage (44,611 yards). Bledsoe was named by the Patriots as honorary captain for the 2018 American Football Conference Championship Game, which New England won 24-20.
Doubleback came to life in 2007, the same year Bledsoe announced his retirement from the NFL. He and Maura, who met at WSU, launched the brand with a WSU grad and longtime friend – Chris Figgins of Leonetti Cellar fame. McDaniels, a product of Walla Walla Community College’s enology and viticulture program, spent seven years working for the Figgins family prior to taking over the winemaking for Doubleback in 2015.
The Bledsoes purchased Lefore Vineyard in 2018 from Portland-area businessmen George Killian and Bob Lewis. (Killian is CEO of Killian Pacific, which has spearheaded the Box Factory development.) Lefore, a 28-acre site in The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater, became the Bledsoes’s fourth estate vineyard, following the McQueen and Healy plantings in the renowned SeVein development in the hills above Milton-Freewater, Ore., and the 2016 establishment of Flying B, which surrounds the Doubleback facility.