“When you retire at 34, you’ve got to do something with yourself,” says former Notre Dame quarterback Rick Mirer (MARK ’93), who was picked second in the 1993 draft by Seattle and played 12 seasons in the NFL before leaving football in 2004. He had a few conditions. He wanted to be at home in San Diego to drive his sons—now 14, 12 and 9—to school, as well as coach their teams. But he also wanted his kids to see him working on something. “We’re Midwest folks that are hanging out in sunny Southern California,” he says, “trying to raise the boys like they’re growing up in Indiana.”
Back when he played professional football in the Bay Area (San Fransisco and Oakland 2000-03), Mirer collected wine. “I was always drawn to the small producers, especially those who had interesting people involved,” he says. “I liked to meet the owners and get to know them. It’s so much more personal when you know the people and understand their story.” When a winemaker told him about two cabernet vineyards that mirrored each other across Napa Valley and suggested a partnership, Mirer felt like the opportunity was too good to turn down. Now his days are full of running the marketing side of the endeavor. So far, so good. The Mirror Wine Company launched in 2008 and has a portfolio of three artisanal wines. Its newest cabernet was introduced last October and sold out by November.
The twist on this story lies in the way Mirer has found ways to connect his business to the philanthropic efforts of the Mirer Family Foundation. At the end of the year, for instance, he offers a limited quantity of huge, six-liter bottles of each vintage to a select group of people for $1,500. “Don’t write the check to the business,” he tells them. “Write it to the foundation.” Since 1996, the foundation has contributed more than $500,000 to charities in the areas of children’s health and education. Over the years, Mirer and his wife, Stephanie, have also provided scholarship assistance for more than 20 Notre Dame students. “It feels good to say we’ve helped 20,” he says. “but I’d like to say we’ve helped 200.”