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'I'll have a glass of Ryan Nelsen:' Toronto FC manager also runs wine label

09/11/2013 12:39 EDT | Updated 11/10/2013 05:12 EST
TORONTO - It's been a trying season for Ryan Nelsen so you can forgive the rookie Toronto FC manager if he opts for a glass of wine after work.

The 35-year-old Nelsen, a former New Zealand international soccer player, knows his grapes. He has his own line of wine back home.

Mention his wine and Nelsen's face creases into a smile, before he launches into a plug for RN Wines' Pinot Noir.

Apparently the critics agree.

"Quite a lovely aromatic nose with bright cherry and light thyme and spice notes," said New Zealand's Independent Wine Monthly.

"Aromas of plums and strawberries with a hint of spice, attractive red fruits, a finely structured backbone and a lively, textural, long finish with a lingering aftertaste," enthused the Otago Daily Times.

RN Wines also offers a Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.

"Ryan Nelsen's hugely successful football career has given him the honour of representing New Zealand on the world stage," according to his wine website. "With a passion for his home country and a love of wine, he has partnered with wine industry legend, Jeff Poole to craft fine New Zealand wines for the world."

The website says Nelsen's love for wine was encouraged by his sister, a vigneron in Australia.

The wines are not yet available in Canada yet — Nelsen says taxes and duties are an obstacle.

Nelsen's wine label brings in elements of his family crest with a shield said to represent leadership and defence — "Ryan's key roles in his footballing career," according to the winery website.

The former New Zealand captain is donating $1 from each bottle to New Zealand's Football Foundation.

Asked earlier this season if he missed playing, Nelsen said no. The body was getting creaky and he enjoyed having a guilt-free glass of wine at night, he explained.

The former centre back, who played his last game in England on Jan. 29, still looks like he could do some damage on the pitch. Nelsen often lines up with TFC players and fellow coaches for a game at the end of practice.

Nelsen joins fellow athletes Mario Andretti, Drew Bledsoe, Valeri Bure, Ernie Els, Nick Faldo, Jeff Gordon, Wayne Gretzky, Greg Norman, Arnold Palmer and Mike Weir in having his own wine line.

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www.rnwines.com

Follow Neil Davidson on Twitter at @NeilMDavidson

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