PASO ROBLES, Calif. - After a decade-plus in the NFL, Terry Hoage wasn't sure what was next. He said, once it became clear his playing days were over, his wife made him a big breakfast with all his favorite foods ... and placed the 'Wanted' ads on the table as well.
"I really didn't know what I was going to do," said Hoage.
The former Georgia Bulldog all-American defensive back was done with a decorated career, that included a national championship in college under coach Vince Dooley and a Super Bowl win in the NFL. His next move, however, had hints of indecision.
"I actually build houses for a couple years in Phoenix," said Hoage.
Hoage enjoyed that job, but wanted something else, deciding to move his family to California's Central Coast. They almost moved again when then-Tennessee Titans head coach Jeff Fisher called to offer a job, but that would've been too much strain.
Hoage says the family decided to move to California, "more to give our family a fresh start.
"We ended up settling here, we've now been here 17 years, and 15 years of that we've owned a winery."
That's where you'll find him today, though where in the Paso Robles, California winery is anyone's guess. If he's not sampling wine out of barrels during their aging process, he might be talking to workers in the field, signing an autograph for UGA fans who stopped in to buy wine for their Rose Bowl tailgate or maybe chasing his dog Lexie across the large property. That's the life of someone who grew the business, now called TH Estate Wines, largely from the ground up.
"I would drive the tractor, I would get off the tractor and do a wine tasting, might have to make wine in the afternoon, pay some bills, deal with compliance," said Hoage. "My wife and I do every aspect of this business."
Hoage maintains a deep connection to his time in Athens -- he says his customers are often either from California or Georgia. He doesn't, however, get back to many Bulldogs games, since his winery is harvesting grapes and making wine during the fall. He and his wife Jennifer decided to incorporate his football past and influences into the names for their different wines.
"The first wine we made we called 'The Hedge,' after the hedges at the University of Georgia, and I dedicated that first vintage to Coach Dooley," said Hoage, noting 'hedging' as also a type of pruning process used in wine growing.
'The Hedge,' a syrah, is far from the only football/wine mash-up finding its way onto his labels: "46" is another wine, paying homage to the 46 defense patented by Hoage's former NFL coach Buddy Ryan and the name of the road running through Paso Robles' wine country; "5 Blocks" uses grapes from five different blocks in the vineyard and is the number of field goal and extra point blocks Hoage had at Georgia.
Perhaps the biggest surprise in the wine-making business is how the Hoage family has found themselves woven into the community more than they could've imagined. Hoage says he got his start making wine with the help of acclaimed winemaker Justin Smith who is based out of Paso Robles, and now Hoage is the one giving back. He takes perhaps the most pride in providing jobs, and being part of a wine renaissance in the region which has brought in more businesses and tourism.
"Not only have Jennifer and I created this entity which now 7 families at least depend on, we've also created a way for people to help heal the community in areas that needed help," said Hoage.
So the transition from football to fruit in the field was as winding as one of Hoage's vines, but the decision was sweet.
"So many great memories are made around dinner tables and wine and people's stories, getting together," said Hoage. "It's nice we get to be a part of that."