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March 22, 2013

Ex-quarterback Bledsoe lobbies for wine sales

BOSTON -- Former number one draft pick Drew Bledsoe once thrilled New England football fans on the gridiron as the quarterback of the Patriots. Now he just wants to sell them wine.

In his first day as a lobbyist, Bledsoe traveled to Beacon Hill to encourage lawmakers to end the ban on direct shipments of out-of-state wine to Massachusetts consumers.

Since retiring from the NFL, Bledsoe has moved back to Oregon with his family and owns the Doubleback winery in Walla Walla Valley in Washington.

“Quite simply, I’ve got a lot of wine fans and all the football fans that literally contact me on a daily basis asking where they can get the wine, and I have to tell them, ‘Sorry, I can’t ship it to you,’” Bledsoe told reporters outside the State House after spending the morning meeting with House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Rep. Theodore Speliotis, a Danvers Democrat and sponsor of a bill to legalize direct wine shipping.

Critics have long raised concerns that direct shipping could make it easier for minors to access alcohol. Distributors have also argued that changing the law would hurt their businesses and that of package stores that sell wine.

Massachusetts is one of 11 states that does not allow out-of-state wineries to ship their products directly to customers in Massachusetts. Bledsoe said the state is the 7th largest wine consumer in the country, and called the bill (H 294) “fair and right” for consumers, wineries, package stores and distributors.

When Bledsoe bottled his first vintage in 2008, his successor on the Patriots, Tom Brady, wanted to purchase some of the wine. Bledsoe set aside the 12th bottle he ever produced for No. 12, and direct shipped it to Brady’s parents in California since he couldn’t send it to Boston. Brady’s father drank it.

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