Basketball Great Charles Barkley Launches Wine Label

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Charles Barkley at Epic Steak
Charles Barkley at Epic Steak

Earlier this week basketball legend and outspoken sports commentator Charles Barkley was in San Francisco to launch his new wine label, CB Vineyards. Barkley partnered with winemaker Chris Cameron of Broken Earth Winery and the Regal Wine Company to make the wine. Cameron oversees the estate grown grapes in Paso Robles and uses them to make three varietals—a Chardonnay (the first vintage is 2015) and two red blends (2014 vintage), one lower end and a second reserve label. Regal will distribute the three bottles and 100 percent of the proceeds of the wine sold will be donated to charity. Barkley and friends gathered at Epic Steak to taste—and toast!—the new venture. He posed for pictures before standing in front of the crowd to discuss the wine project; Haute Living was on the scene.

Barkley's Chardonnay
Barkley’s Chardonnay

How did Barkely come to be a wine man? Donald Kowalski, a long time wine industry vet and Barkely fan, convinced him to get into the business. “So, I meet this guy 26 some years ago and he’s in the wine business at that time and I don’t drink wine,” Barkley said. “We’re in Lake Tahoe and I was playing golf with Michael Jordan. And Don gives us four of the best cigars in the world. And I said, ‘You know, we should do something for that guy.’ So I said, ‘Hey man, give me your card. I’m going to get you tickets when we play the Warriors.’ So I get his tickets and then I think those are really good cigars. I should do that again.” Barkley and Kowalski developed a friendship with Barkley giving him tickets to games in exchange for those excellent cigars.

Kowalski and Barkley
Kowalski and Barkley

As he mentioned at this point in his life, Barkley didn’t drink wine. Kowalski said to him, “I’m in the wine business. Do you drink wine?” Barkley’s reply? “I do not drink wine.” He continues, “I grew up in Alabama. We were undefeated my junior and senior year, and we used to go to the local store and steal two bottles of Ripple and two bottles of Commodore. Wine sucks.’ And Don says to me, ‘That’s not wine.’ It is in Alabama.” Kowalski decided to make it his lifelong goal to get Barkley to like wine. Now, almost three decades later, they are starting a wine business together.

The Analyst is a reserve red blend
The Analyst is a reserve red blend

“I’m excited about this venture, really excited. When we first started talking about it, I said ‘I don’t want to put my name on something just to make money.’” Barkley said. “That would make me Shaq. So he said, ‘No, I’ve got a great company and we’ll make sure the wine is great.’ So we spent the last year tasting wine. He’s like, ’it’s almost there.’ I’m like, ‘this tastes pretty good.’ He’s like, ‘oh no, we got to keep going.’ And we tried more wine in the last year than I’ve had in my whole 54 years of existence.” The resulting wines have been well-received and were flowing at the event.

A Barkley-signed bottle
A Barkley-signed bottle

Barkley was quick to highlight that he’s not making wine to make money. “I don’t get a dime. The money goes to charity. I didn’t just put my name on something to make extra cash. I think I’m good,” he said. Although he wasn’t able to name which charities would benefit from the wine sales, he was adamant that he wouldn’t receive a profit. “We got to figure out how we want to distribute from the charity aspect, but I want to make it perfectly clear to everybody that I don’t get a dime out of this.” Look for Barkley’s wines—CB Vineyards 2014 Red Blend, CB Vineyards 2015 Chardonnay, and CB The Analyst 2014 reserve red blend—on shelves in a store near you soon.

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