Jim Nantz Wine Slideshow

It’s Friday afternoon in Patriot Place, the upscale shopping mall in the shadow of Foxborough’s Gillette Stadium, where the New England Patriots are getting ready to play, on Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts in Brady-versus-Manning the Elder, Part 13.

Emmy-award winning CBS sports commentator Jim Nantz, who will call the game, has spent all day doing his homework, watching practice, and talking individually with Patriots coach Bill Belichick and his key players. He has also finished his chart of players, positions, and stories. Now, he walks the few steps to Davio’s restaurant to meet up with his partner and have a glass or two of wine.

No, not his broadcast partner —– ex-NFL quarterback Phil Sims —– but his partner-in-wine, importer Peter Deutsch (right). I have come to Foxborough to talk with the two men for an hour or so and drink their just-released chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon. It may surprise some to realize that for over more than a decade, sportscaster Nantz has dreamed of establishing a serious California icon wine brand —– but not as a vanity project.  He spent years researching everything from growing grapes to distributing wine made from those grapes. Then Jim met Peter.

A couple of days later, Nantz was having dinner at Valbella in Greenwich with his fiance (now wife), Courtney, along with his family attorney. "My lawyers first cousin is Marvin Shanken, the publisher of Wine Spectator, and he had arranged a meeting for me with Marvin in New York the next day to say hello," Nantz says. "Then I look up and see this smiling, 6' 4" figure hovering over me!" "I was sitting at the next table with my girlfriend when I noticed Jim," Deustch says. "She said, 'You are not going over there!'" But he did. Call it fate, call it serendipity, call it Kismet, call it dumb luck. Jim Nantz, who says he achieves just about everything he sets his mind to, and Peter Deutsch, who with his father made Yellow Tail the biggest selling wine in America but who never produced a wine with the Deutsch name on the label, exchanged phone numbers. After due diligence and several phone calls to make sure they had a shared vision, the two formed Deutsch Nantz Alliance DNA.

Here’s the deal they set up. "I asked Jim if his name had to be on the label," Peter says. "I said if it helps, certainly," Nantz says, "but I would have been happy being a silent partner." Eventually they named the wine The Calling. "Everyone has a calling," Nantz says, but he believes not enough of us act on our dreams. California veteran Marco DiGiulio was enlisted to be winemaker, and arrangements were made with well-known vineyards Dutton Ranch in the Russian River Valley to supply chardonnay and Rio Lago in Alexander Valley cabernet sauvignon.

Heres what they produced: As we talk we have in front of us the two entry level wines 2010 The Calling Dutton Ranch chardonnay ($30) and 2009 The Calling Rio Lago cabernet ($35). Coming soon are Jewel Vineyard chard ($40) and Our Tribute red blend ($60). I ask Deutsch to describe the chard. "Very Burgundian in style," he ventures, "almost like meursault not too much oak, not too ripe in fruit, not too crisp." Nantz adds, "Its not a facsimile, but the style is like rombauer." I add that I like the light tannins, notes of citrus, and traces of bar bitters around the edges. We move onto the cab, and I mention how much it is quintessential Alexander Valley good fruit, chalky, very smooth, and Margaux-like. "Thats what were looking for a wine that is authentic and true to its place," Nantz says. "And wines that will overdeliver quality for the price," Deutsch adds. Next, they are considering producing two pinot noirs, most likely sourced from Dutton.

One final question: When did the two pull a cork on a finished bottle and celebrate their new "calling?" A big smile crosses Jim’s face. He seems to be a sponge for information and a fountain of facts and figures. "It was May 23 at Al Biernat's steakhouse in Dallas where we had our first sales event," he says. "I still have the cork in my briefcase." "You do?" Peter asks incredulously at his partner’s thoroughness. He does — and finds his briefcase and produces it.

We adjourn inside where about 50 New England distributors have assembled to meet Nantz and Deutsch and to drink wine and to eat some of Davios famed appetizers.

After about 30 minutes, the crowd is brought to order and looks at a short film of production meetings not in the TV production booth, but at the winery and vineyards in California. Nantz grins and picks up one of the two side-by-side mikes one for him, one for Deutsch and asks, "How do I use this thing?"

As we sit in the late afternoon sun on Davio’s deserted terrace, here’s the story they tell: "Jim and I lived about 10 minutes from each other in Greenwich [Conn.] for years, but amazingly we never crossed paths," Deutsch says. "Then one day I was in Barnes & Noble, and I saw Jim’s book at a two-for-one table." That would be Nantz’ best-selling Always by My Side, his story of his dad, Jim Nantz Jr., who died of Alzheimer’s Disease three years ago. Deutsch bought the book and read it over the next week.