Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino and his onetime Dolphins teammate, former Husky star Damon Huard, are together again at Woodinville's Passing Time winery.

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IT WOULD BE easy to dismiss Passing Time as another vanity winery run by a couple of retired professional athletes.

Until you taste the wine. Then you’d realize this is something serious.

Last year’s debut release of Passing Time’s 2012 cabernet sauvignon turned heads from Seattle to Miami and was considered among the most remarkable Washington wines of the year.

Big score with big cab

Passing Time 2013 cabernet sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $75: The follow-up to the stunning 2012 cab is a remarkable red with aromas of black olive, cocoa powder, plum and black currant, followed by elegant flavors of black raspberry, black licorice and tea. It’s all backed by elegant, approachable tannins.

Passing Time is a Woodinville winery owned by Damon Huard and Dan Marino. Huard, a star Huskies quarterback, was Hall of Famer Marino’s backup for the Miami Dolphins in the late 1990s. Ironically, Marino was a bit of an expert on Washington wine, while Huard — born in Yakima — knew nothing about his home state’s wines (“I was a rum-and-Coke guy.”).

After they finished their football careers, they decided to get into the wine business together. They aren’t alone. Former Washington State great and Super Bowl champ Drew Bledsoe owns Doubleback in the Walla Walla Valley, and former Seahawks quarterback Rick Mirer owns a Napa Valley winery.

One of the first things Huard and Marino did when they launched Passing Time was hire a great winemaker, and they got one in Chris Peterson, whose own wines for Avennia have been impressing since the inaugural 2010 vintage.

Then they went out and found some great grapes, focusing at first on the Horse Heaven Hills of Eastern Washington. A lot of their fruit comes from Discovery Vineyard, as well as famed Champoux Vineyard. They also get a bit of Klipsun Vineyards on Red Mountain.

The first vintage was 450 cases, and even at $75 per bottle, the wines quickly vanished, thanks in no small part to the owners’ athletic fame and Peterson’s winemaking prowess.

The 2013 vintage also will be about 450 cases, and it will be released April 16 at the Woodinville tasting room. It is 97 percent cabernet sauvignon from Discovery and 3 percent cabernet franc from Champoux.

A year from now, expect more Passing Time wine to be available, as production for the 2014 vintage will ramp up to 1,500 cases. Huard will offer three cabernet sauvignons, one each from the Horse Heaven Hills, Red Mountain and the Walla Walla Valley. While the Horse Heaven Hills wine will stay with Discovery, the Red Mountain example will use grapes from Klipsun and Quintessence, and the Walla Walla Valley wine will get fruit from three famed vineyards: Pepper Bridge, Seven Hills and Leonetti.

Want to get in on one of the most exciting new wines in Washington? Join the Passing Time mailing list. You might even get to shake hands with a couple of football stars.