May 11, 2016
Dozens of fans lined up early and often for a chance to meet and chat with former Heisman Trophy winner and University of Michigan defensive back Charles Woodson Wednesday night during a wine tasting at Plum Market.
Guests of a VIP meet-and-greet had the chance to receive autographs, take pictures and chat with the 18-year NFL veteran about wine, football, being back in Ann Arbor and more.
For Woodson, having the chance to bring fans together with his wine serves a dual purpose.
“We take great pride in what we’re doing and we take pride in the product that we’re introducing to the customers,” Woodson said. “And it’s always great to come back to Ann Arbor of course.
“A lot of people don’t know I have a wine or haven’t tasted it, so to have them come out, try the wine and give you feedback, that’s huge for us.”
The event was held at the Plum Market on Ann Arbor’s north side at the store located at 3601 Plymouth Road.
Along with meeting Woodson, guests could sample the 2010 and 2011 TwentyFour Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon wine that Woodson is behind while also receiving a signed bottle of the 2010 wine to take home.
“People hear the name and associate me with football and they come for that reason, but I want them to come for the wine,” Woodson said.
John and Connee Cross of Kalamazoo made the trip to meet Woodson because the event offered something they were both interested in.
“He gets to meet his favorite player of all time and I get to drink wine,” Connee said with a laugh.
Although he considered not making the trek across the state to meet Woodson, John eventually realized it was a chance he couldn’t pass up.
“He’s my favorite player ever and like she said ‘how many opportunities are you going to get to meet your favorite player?'” John said.
“I told him, I said ‘you’re going to be kicking yourself of Thursday if you don’t do this on Wednesday,'” Connie said.
Rhondi Keller of Windsor, Ontario Canada said she’s been a fan of Woodson’s since attending U-M around the same time as Woodson. Having never met him before, she said the night was fantastic because of how everything was pulled off.
“He’s such a nice man and the wine is delicious,” Keller said. “He’s incredibly personable. Really down to earth. Really interested in talking to the people that bare coming here to taste his wine. It’s been a wonderful experience.”
Keller’s husband, Phil Ouellette said he was impressed with the wine and with Woodson.
“I’d never had the wine. But we’re actually enjoying the wine quite a bit,” Ouellette said. “But the wine isn’t quite as good as the human being is. He’s a great man.
Prior to the VIP event, Woodson signed bottles for two hours for customers who bought the wine. He’ll be hosting another bottle signing Wednesday at the West Bloomfield Plum Market, but there will not be a VIP event.
Woodson’s foray into the wine business began during his pro career when he was playing for the Oakland Raiders. Because he spent so much time in Napa Valley, Calif. during training camp each year, he began to appreciate the process of making wine and what comes along with it.
“I fell in love with wine in Napa Valley,” Woodson said. “I fell in love with the culture and the restaurants and the way the wood tastes when you’re drinking wine.”
Woodson has been hosting events like this all over the country over the last couple weeks including stops in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Green Bay. Now that he’s retired from football, he plans on being even more involved with the business than he already is.
He’s already in touch daily with the president of the company Rick Ruiz and both say they have some exciting prospects on the horizon for the brand.
“I put a lot into it. I see it going on for as long as I’m around,” Woodson said. “It wasn’t something I got in to for it to be a fly-by-night process,”
“I’m having a lot of fun with it. I’m meeting a lot of great people and eating a lot of great food.”