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"That's it," he said, "Private Reserve."
"Eleven bottles Private Reserve," Hart muttered. "One bottle injured reserve."
What do the oenophiles drink the night before a championship? When the San Francisco 49ers beat the Dolphins in the '85 Super Bowl, Bill Walsh scripted his plays on Saturday night, accompanied by a 1980 Mo�et & Chandon Brut Imp�rial Champagne, courtesy of the Amfac Hotel, in Burlingame, Calif. Two years later, when the Niners met the New York Giants in East Rutherford, N.J., in the NFC playoffs, the Sheraton Meadowlands supplied Walsh with an '85 Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay-not bad, but certainly no Brut Imp�rial. A bad omen. The Giants beat the Niners 49-3.
"In '65 we were all assistants at Stanford," says L.A. Raider quarterback coach Mike White. "We used to go up to the Napa Valley all the time. At first we were kind of wild and unruly. We'd go to the mineral baths at Calistoga, and we'd be diving in and doing handstands. All the people who were there for medicinal purposes would stare at us.
"Then we started learning a little. We started picking up the buzzwords of wine, like acidity and tannin and balance. Bill loved that. He'd go back and use the right language and have 'em all buffaloed."
The Napa Valley grapevine has recently been abuzz with rumors of Montana's entry into the profession. He looked at some vineyard property last year and then decided to hold off on entering the business until his playing days were over. But he still enjoys trips to the valley with his wife, Jennifer, and the kids. "Always very quietly, though," says his buddy, Tom Rinaldi, the winemaker at Duckhorn Vineyards in St. Helena. "He doesn't want to make a circus out of it."
Some of the NFL's wine aficionados have gotten into the game through their families. A few years ago I was shopping at Calvert Woodley Wine & Spirits in Washington, D.C., when the manager came over and asked if he could be of assistance. I checked him out—gigantic frame, little Kewpie-doll face. I had seen only one person in my life who looked like him.
"He's my brother," said Marc Ortmayer, who has since begun a Burgundy importing business and has made wine lovers of Steve and his wife, Merilee.