Many pro athletes, upon retirement, move back to their hometowns. Maybe they work for the family business. But not everyone’s family has a century of experience growing wine grapes.
Partnering with two former Green Bay Packers teammates — Jason Spitz and Daryn Colledge — Tony Moll launched Three Fat Guys in 2009 in honor of their hefty physique, in Sonoma, California, the town where Moll was born and raised. The three wore Packers jerseys between 2006 and 2009.
“The desire of the brand is not to sit in the ‘celebrity style’ of wine,” says Moll. “That’s why we decided to keep our names off it.”
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In consultation with his winemaker Jim McMahon, whose ironic name is not lost on Moll, he produces 1,500 cases of Chardonnay, Rosé, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon, sourcing grapes from esteemed regions like Napa Valley’s Rutherford, Carneros (Sonoma County) and the Sonoma Coast — with some distribution in Wisconsin.
“We can call [our winery] something comical, but the wines are dead serious,” says Moll, “With the Three Fat Guys name, people [at the tasting room] are letting their guard down, and are blown away at how good the wines are.”
Moll says when you pull in to the winery you’re greeted by a small shack, because you can’t see the large backyard. Inside, framed photos of Moll, Spitz and Colledge playing football hang on the walls.
“We get huge sports fans coming in — the husband’s choice — and they want to talk football,” says Moll. “I have no problem doing that. It’s fun.”
Despite the pandemic crippling travel to wine country this fall during harvest, coupled with wildfires ripping through the region, ample outdoor seating at the tasting room keeps visitors coming. Sometimes they are former Packers players. “We have a handful of guys who are part of the [wine] club,” says Moll. “Jordy Nelson came through with his wife last year.”
For now, business is mostly word of mouth — among Packers fans but also friends of Moll’s family, who are known among locals for their expertise in farming wine grapes.
Moll works and lives in Sonoma while Spitz is studying for a master’s degree in finance and Colledge joined the U.S. Army. Moll returns to Wisconsin seven or eight times a year, he says, to sell and promote his wines.
For fans who can’t get to the winery, hour-long virtual tastings are free with a wine purchase.
“The best part of ‘Packers Nation’ is they’re everywhere,” says Moll. But Wisconsin holds a special place in his heart. “When I go back there, I’ve got friends in Door County and a couple of buddies in Oconomowoc.” He also plays in the annual Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation Golf Classic in Wisconsin each spring.
What does he miss about Wisconsin? “The long summers. I miss the beer more than anything,” says Moll. “It was easy for me to enjoy my time in Green Bay because it was similar to what I was used to [in California]. Everything was built around the community, instead of commerce, like a financial district. I’m a farmer. There’s a large number of people in Wisconsin who feel the same. They love working the land.”