In the rolling hills of Napa Valley, there are few things that connect the beauty of the countryside to the battle of wills that occur inside of the Octagon. It is a region that is world-renown for the wine it produces, addition to a cuisine that is nearly as versatile.
Aside from tastings and tannins, the subtle grace in Napa is its artistic community. That’s where I found the link between wine country and mixed martial arts.
In a place where being extraordinary is a seasonal requirement, there are few projects that are as unique as what Hill Family Estates and UFC middleweight Jared “The Messenger” Hamman came together to produce.
HeavyMMA was on hand for the celebration where we spoke to Hamman about the experience of releasing his own wine and how the event came together.
“Vladimir Matyushenko, who was at my fight against Rodney Wallace, met a woman who explained to him what the Hill Family does with their creations. They collaborate with professional athletes to do a special wine staining project. Then Vladimir suggested they should stain my shorts because I always wear white.”
“I always prefer to where white shorts whenever the UFC allows me to because it’s like having a football uniform where you can see the wear, tear and damage. On white shorts blood usually shows up more. From that conversation we developed a relationship with the Hill family and they used wine to stain my shorts to convey that. They also paired it with a signature wine called “The Messenger.”
The entire experience has just been rad. It’s a cool thing to see your name and picture on the bottle. Are you kidding me?”
Hamman also discussed the details surrounding the wine’s release.
“The wine is in line with the entire project. For instance, a previous project involved a surfer where they used wine to stain the surfboard and then released a limited edition wine called Barrel Blend. For me they used my shorts and then the wine accompanies it.”
“There is going to be an event today where they will open up the wine, display the shorts and a lot of different people who are in the wine industry will be there. This isn’t an industry that you can easily put together with MMA so that is what makes it so cool. It’s great to mix these different cultures and I’m really looking forward to introducing MMA to this world. Hopefully I won’t make the sport look bad.”
Ryan Hill of Hill Family Estates, who has gained notoriety in the region for his artistic projects involving wine staining, chose Hamman as the perfect match for his next endeavor. On September 17th, at the Tomato Festival, the collaboration was unveiled in the form of a signature wine aptly labeled “The Messenger”. In conjunction with the wine, also on display was Hill’s creative vision of the fighter’s battle as he used his wine staining talents on a pair of Hamman’s fight shorts.
“MMA shorts are made to not have anything absorb or get through the material so it made it challenging. In past projects like the ones I did with the guitar or the surfboard, those surfaces are porous and the stain sat in immediately. The shorts have taken two weeks to harden and are now going into a case so we can display them. We made two pair of shorts and they are going on display in the tasting room but the wine will be available for purchase. The shorts are more to celebrate the project.”
Hill also explained the process of how “The Messenger” wine was created.
“When we made the wine we looked at several key aspects. Jared is a hard-hitting dude so we wanted a hard-hitting wine. What we found is our Syrah blended with our Cabernet Sauvignon, which is kind of like Ali and Joe Frazier, to use a boxing analogy. But they both really complement one another.”
“It took awhile for them to come together in the final blend but once they did, it was very powerful. “The Messenger” has blackberry and a lot of bright fruit but it’s backed with 16 months in oak that really added the flavors to make it a three dimensional style wine. It is one of our featured wines and today marks our release party. We tied it into our wine club event and we already have a sold-out crowd coming.”
Additionally, Ryan Hill discussed previous projects and why Hamman was such an interesting subject.
“I love the term “passion projects” because I think of them as a dream factory. Once the idea is presented and we can stain it, then we can make it happen. Jared’s shorts were the biggest challenge we’ve had by far because of how they are manufactured to be resistant. “
“My father allows me to do one project a year otherwise my ADD gets the best of me,” Hill joked. “We select one entity that has nothing to do with wine, create a project and then stain an object to commemorate the event. Then we release it to our Hill Family Estates Club members.”
While the day was based around the collaboration between Hamman and Hill Family Estates, we still took time to slip in a little MMA talk.
Hamman is fresh off an impressive middleweight debut where he survived a tough start against C.B. Dollaway, only to bounce back and finish the TUF alum in the second round.
“Anytime you get a win it’s a good feeling. Against C.B. in Milwaukee it was a hard first round. It had been almost a year since my last fight so I trained and trained to compete and win how I like to win. I’ve told people for years that when you get K.O.’d you can say that you were caught by a lucky punch. Or if you are submitted, you can say you were caught in a submission. With a TKO there are really no excuses. It’s basically, you got beat up and the ref had to stop the fight. That’s how I like to win and I was able to get it done that way. It felt amazing.”
“I always like to take time between fights to become a better version than my last time out. I’m already back in the gym and working hard. I want to fight sooner than later and I definitely do not want to wait as long as I did last time. It’s very beneficial to work on skills and not only do I want to compete, but I want to be as strong and as fast as possible. Plus this is how I make a living and you never know how long a career is going to last in this sport.”