Wine has become very popular among NBA players, and some have even gotten into the business of making it.
We sampled four wines produced by NBA players: Pinot noirs from C.J. McCollum and Channing Frye and Kevin Love, and Cabernet Sauvignon from James Harden and Kevin Love.
All were good and unique, but Wade's really impressed with its big, bold flavor.
In recent years, NBA players have gotten increasingly into wine.
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While some players simply boast about their impressive collections and tastes, others have gotten into the wine business itself.
With the help of Vivino, we taste-tested and reviewed four wines backed and produced by NBA players.
Our wines included: CJ McCollum's Heritage 91 Pinot Noir, Channing Frye and Kevin Love's Chosen Family Pinot Noir, James Harden's J-Shed Cabernet Sauvignon, and Dwyane Wade's Wade Cellars Three by Wade Cabernet Sauvignon.
Dear reader, I am not a wine expert and probably not qualified to be tasting and reviewing wine.
I do, however, have a basic understanding of wine. I have been to a few tastings and have what some (read: me) might call an exquisite palate. So, I tried in earnest to identify what was happening in each glass.
I also relied on Vivino reviews to see what other casual wine-drinkers thought of each wine.
Being that there are two different types of wines here — pinot noirs and Cabernet Sauvignon — it's not entirely fair to compare them directly to one another. These are scored simply by what I enjoyed.
First up: McCollum's Heritage 91 2019 Pinot Noir.
McCollum is at the forefront of the wine movement in the NBA. Heritage 91 launched in 2020, and McCollum bought a 318-acre vineyard in Willamette Valley in Oregon.
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The wine is a partnership with Adelsheim Vineyard.
McCollum's pinot noir poured a lovely clear, ruby red. The smell was delightful, perhaps with a hint of cherry and vanilla.
The taste was a bit different than the smell — a tad bitter, dry, and light-bodied. I got a hint of cranberry and raspberry. I enjoyed it more as it aerated.
Vivino users give it a very strong 4.5. Here's what some reviewers said:
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F Chen wrote: "Medium ruby, complex nose of cranberry and raspberry, soft cedar, floral notes of rose, earthy, leather and mushroom. Concentrated fruit on the palate with finesse and elegance, and a long velvety finish. 4.25"
Laurence Mulliez wrote: "Light ruby colour. Aromas of blackberry, raspberry, oak, vanilla, cedar. Palate is medium+ acidity, medium + alcohol, medium body, tannins are soft and integrated, balance is good, finish is long. An easy to drink, well balanced wine in a partnership of CJ Mccollum (an old Oregon wine family) with Adelsheim. Very nice"
Pinot noirs aren't my favorite wine, and ultimately, I felt a little differently than Vivino users. My rating: 3 stars!
Next up was Chosen Family's Pinot Noir — a collaboration between former Cleveland Cavaliers teammates Kevin Love and Channing Frye.
Though Chosen Family makes their wine out of Oregon, this particular bottle was made in Sonoma County, in collaboration with Salty Goats.
A post shared by Channing Frye (@channingfrye)
A wax seal around the cork (that I made a mess trying to remove) temporarily halted my progress, but alas, I persevered.
Once opened, the wine poured a darker, cloudier red than McCollum's pinot noir. Its smell was earthier, with a bit of a smoky, woodsy scent (though still fruity, too).
True to its smell, this pinot was a bit more earthy, fuller-bodied, and less bitter than Heritage 91. I tasted a bit of plum.
Vivino users gave it a 4.2. Here's what some reviewers said:
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Megan Kirby gave it 4 stars, writing: "Very stern and high quality pinot. Strong earthy cherry & ash nose. Dry, dark red and black fruit cedar and quick acidic finish. Go cavs!!!"
Luke Salas gave it 5 stars: "Black cherry plum raspberry earthy mushroom. Delicious. Balanced medium body with a hint of depth considering the fruit. Even a tick of raspberry."
I enjoyed this one and found myself wanting to drink more — 4 stars!
Armed with a light buzz, I moved onto the Cabernets. Up next: James Harden's J-Shed.
Harden's approach to his wine was refreshing. A press release on Vivino said the wine was for casual drinkers and aimed to be accessible, rather than impressive to oenophiles.
When opening the wine, the sweetness was evident right away. It had a grape jelly, flowery smell. It had thicker legs, which can be seen in the photo.
And that was not deceiving: This wine was startlingly sweet, with a jammy, fruity, dessert-like taste.
Vivino users felt similarly to me, giving it a 3.6 stars.
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Alex Samia gave it 3 stars, writing: "I had this wine that I swore I liked before I started liking wine. It was called Jam Jar. There [sic] essentially the same thing. It's super sweet berries with a light, smooth finish."
Jason Phipps gave it 4.1 stars: "A fruit forward delight. This Cabernet has big notes of chocolate combined with loads of blackberries and dark cherries."
Alex Melo was not a fan, giving it 1.5 stars: "Extremely sweet off puttingly so."
I can appreciate what Harden was going for with this wine: It's very sweet, accessible, and tasted like something you might find at a casual dinner party. It grew on me over time, but the sweetness was a bit much and foretold a nasty hangover if you had too much. 3.5 stars!
Finally, it was onto Dwyane Wade's "Three By Wade" Cabernet.
Wade Cellars was founded in 2014 in Napa Valley, California, with renowned winemaker Jayson Pahlmeyer.
Wade has said in multiple interviews that it took him a while to get into wine and he wants to help the industry be more accessible and diverse.
Upon opening this wine, it struck me as immediately different than the previous three wines: It was the darkest of the four, with a smoky, almost bourbon-like smell.
Sure enough, this was a big California Cab, which I tend to like. It was full-bodied, with dark fruits like black cherry, and a bit smoky and boozy. One of my notes on this wine simply says, "Yup."
Vivino users gave it 4 stars.
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Terry Hogan gave it 4 stars, writing: "Solidly good Napa CS. Classic flavours of blackberry, stewed plum, cassis, black raspberry, licorice, chocolate. Supple tannins. Will improve with age."
Nick Altomare gave it a 4.4: "Shocked that a celebrity wine came out this good. Credit to him and his producer for turning out a luscious and easy to drink Napa cab. The oak is well balanced and the notes of red and black fruit really shine."
Quincy Flowers gave it 3 stars, writing: "Royal black fruit in the glass—prunes, dates, black currants and vanilla. Full body. High alcohol. Curious to check this again in a few years, and wondering if this can hold up in the bottle for a decade. If so, this will be nice then."
Indeed, this was my favorite of the four — 4.5 stars!