Joe Montana lives in wine country, but he has become a whiskey guy.
That began when the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback entered the venture capital world in 1998. He met Isaac “Yitz” Applbaum, the current founder and partner at MizMaa Ventures.
A world traveler, Applbaum has built a large collection of alcoholic spirits and enjoys introducing beverages to Montana, a frequent lunch companion.
“He’s the one that got me started down this road,” Montana exclusively shared. “He would always bring something or try something different, and that kind of got me going.”
And it eventually led to Montana releasing the Joe Montana Whiskey Collection in conjunction with the Gold Bar Spirits Company.
Gold Bar Whiskey, the official whiskey of the 49ers, began discussing a formal partnership with one of Montana’ agents about a year ago.
“This was kind of a natural fit,” said Montana, who spoke from the Gold Bar Whiskey Distillery’s new visitor center and tasting room in San Francisco.
A less natural fit in the Bay Area was Trey Lance.
The 49ers traded three first-round draft picks to select Lance No. 3 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. After he struggled to make an impact, the 49ers traded the quarterback to the Dallas Cowboys in late August for a fourth-round pick.
“It’s good for both,” Montana said. “There was a lot of pressure on the 49ers to play him because of all the things they gave up, and there was a lot of pressure for Trey to plan in an offensive system I don’t think he fit.”
One of Lance’s best attributes is his running ability, and because of that, Montana thought he would’ve been perfect in Baltimore’s system as a backup to Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Lance, though, ended up in Dallas, and that trade further cemented Brock Purdy as the 49ers’ starting quarterback for 2023.
Montana has met Purdy and Lance twice. He has done autograph signings with Lance and saw Purdy, who went undefeated as a regular-season starter and whose understanding of the offense Montana praised, at the Super Bowl.
Lance now plays for Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy, one of Montana’s former offensive coaches when he played for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Montana said playing under McCarthy will be a good situation for a player he described as a “great kid.”
“Mike will do the right thing and he’ll give him every opportunity to learn and put him in some good positions,” Montana said. “Mike will spend a lot of time with him.”
Gold Bar spent a lot of time crafting two different blends for its collection.
Exclusive to Northern California, Blend No. 273 will be released in mid-September. The No. 273 represents the total number of touchdown passes Montana threw during his career.
A triple casked American whiskey with a three grain mash bill of corn, rye and barley, it costs $59.99 and is bottled at 82 proof. Double casked in red wine barrels and then triple casked in cognac barrels and raked over toasted oak staves, the whiskey has deep notes of fruit, deep spice and berries.
Blend No. 117 will be available nationwide later this fall, and 117 represents Montana’s number of victories as a starting quarterback. The 16-year-old whiskey (in honor of his jersey No. 16) is 90 proof and also triple casked in cognac and raked over oak staves but has more of an apricot taste and costs $149.99.
In addition to the taste of the bottles, Montana praised their look.
Blend No. 117 will have a neck tag that has a Montana patch with an embedded communication chip. By tapping the patch with one’s phone, the chip digitally directs one to unique content, including an instructional video of Montana preparing his signature cocktail, “The Golden Joe.”
“The packaging is awesome,” Montana said. “When you see it, you’ll go, ‘Oh my gosh!’”
The artwork of the Blend No. 273 bottle is highlighted by a 49ers throwback logo, Montana’s signature and an illustration depicting his touchdown celebration in Super Bowl XXIV.
In his four Super Bowls — all victories — he threw 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, Montana shies away from comparisons to the current crop of NFL passers.
“I just watch them. Everybody has a different style,” he said. “I don’t go, ‘Well, that guy looks like me.’ That never comes off my lips anywhere or even in my mind. I just enjoy the guys for what they do and how they do it.”
Many observers, though, have pointed out the playing style of Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, who starred in a Guinness commercial with Montana, resembles the Hall of Famer because of their accuracy, poise under fire and even “Joe Cool” moniker.
“Not a bad person to be compared to,” Montana said.
Though Montana prefers not to compare himself to current NFL passers, he welcomes consumers to weigh in on his upcoming whiskey collection.
“I’m looking forward to getting feedback from everyone out there,” he said, “and sharing this with not only 49er fans but other fans around the country.”