NBA Legend Turned Vintner Dwyane Wade Talks Wade Cellars, His Dream Wine ‘Date’ & More With Wine Access

By now, we’ve safely established that fine wine in the NBA is a “thing.” So much so that it has evolved enough that just as the game of basketball itself, the wine game within the world of basketball, too, has vets and rookies. One of those illustrious vets, both on and off the court, is none other than Dwyane Wade, or Kaav’s Dad, if you will. The now retired, 38-year-old basketball great has grown significantly since his banana boat crew days and has taken his passion for the gilded grape to a new level; he himself has become a vintner with his own successful wine label under his belt. Not only has Wade Cellars made a name for itself inadvertently due to its namesake, but it’s gained significant notoriety within the wine world as a whole for another reason, as well: it’s really, really good. Plus, it’s an authentic, organic progression for Wade. It’s not just another celebrity liquor brand with a name and face slapped on the label; rather, Wade really knows his wine and has been fortunate enough to taste and know the greats, and in turn, know what it takes to grow and taste the greats, too. Here, Wine Access Head of Wine and one of only 53 Masters of Wine in the U.S. Vanessa Conlin had a virtual chat with the former Haute 100 honoree, whose wine knowledge and responses were just as smooth as his 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon. Check out some of the highlights from their conversation here and watch the video in its entirety at the bottom of the page. Also, click here to discover and/or purchase his three wines available now on Wine Access.

Dwyane Wade x Wade CellarsPhoto Credit: Wade Cellars

ON HOW FORMER TEAMMATE ALONZO MOURNING INTRODUCED HIM TO WINE

I’m 38 years old…I didn’t start drinking wine until roughly 27 or 28 years old. I’m a decade into the wine process, I’m a baby still when it comes to understanding the industry and understanding wine in general. My first experience of wine came from a [former] teammate of mine, Alonzo Mourning. The veteran guys in the NBA are so important to your growth and your understanding of the world and how to be. Alonzo introduced me to my first glass—[from] a bottle of Flowers. I thought it was the worst thing I’ve ever tasted! I come from drinking lemonade, orange juice, cranberry juice—all about the sweets. Alonzo was trying to introduce me to something that I found out now is incredible, but I wasn’t really ready for it at the time. But I kept trying, kept trying, kept trying until I found a Reisling wine that was very sweet. I can’t remember the name, but it reminded me of what I normally would drink. That was the beginning.

 

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𝐶ℎ𝑒𝑒𝑟𝑠 𝑡𝑜 𝑀𝑒𝑚𝑜𝑟𝑖𝑎𝑙 𝑊𝑒𝑒𝑘𝑒𝑛𝑑! @dwadecellars

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ON THE YOUNGER NBA GENERATION GETTING INTO WINE & LOOKING FOR WINE GUIDANCE FROM HIM

Guys like myself and Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul—who are friends of mine—we share a passion for wine. The younger guys coming into the NBA [are] hearing about us talking about wine, [and] they start at a younger age than even we did at drinking wine. I definitely have a lot of younger guys reaching out to me about certain wines. I have people, now that they know I have my own wine, reach out to me like, ‘I love pinot noir, what [are] the best ones?’ … just different questions I get all the time…There’s stuff I know and there’s stuff I don’t know. This wine journey into the business for the last six years has allowed me to say, ‘Hold on, I’ll get right back to you.’ And then I’m able to reach out to a few people to kind of help guide me in the direction to help guide others in. It’s cool to be part of the conversation, it’s cool to be able to introduce someone to wine, it’s cool to be able to take that early passion and turn it into something, like Jimmy Butler has turned it into an obsession now. [laughs]

ON MEETING JAYSON PAHLMEYER IN NAPA & PARTNERING ON HIS PASSION PROJECT, WADE CELLARS

The first meeting I set up was with Jamie Watson, who is now my partner…but at the time, [he] had just gotten into the Pahlmeyer family; he had married Cleo Pahlmeyer….I told him I [didn’t] know a lot about [wine] but I’m very interested in doing it, so from there, it was like, ‘Hey, why don’t you come out to Napa, meet Jayson Pahlmeyer and the family, and let’s just take the conversation from there.’ And I did that. Around 2014 I went around harvest time…I got to walk through and just be amazed by the process of wine, and just talk to [Jamie and Jayson] about what it would look like if we started this off and did a passion project together. It started with the Wade Cab 2012…and now it’s hopefully grown into a respectable, small young brand.

Dwyane WadePhoto Credit: Wade Cellars

ON THE REASONING BEHIND THE DIFFERENT WINES IN HIS WADE CELLARS PORTFOLIO

I have to give the biggest love and shout out to my winemaker, John Keyes out of Napa Valley. [He’s] one of the best winemakers there is. For me, as a young wine drinker, I had to lean on and I still lean on the experts, and I don’t get in the way of someone else’s expertise. But what we were able to do is collab on my palate and what I wanted to see…because my name was going to go on this wine. So even going back to the first wine, the 2012 Cab, when we sat down to talk about it, he said, ‘Let’s have this wine represent who you are and you as a player.’ So, we felt that right there represented me as a basketball player and as a man, this combination that was powerful with finesse. We always try to make a story out of each…I got into this wine industry not to become wealthy. I got into it as a passion, but also to introduce to my community—the African American community—introduce them to wine. It’s not something we grow up really being educated about or really knowing about. Starting with the 2012 Cab, that’s a $95 bottle and it deserves to be that. But I spoke to the team about making something that we could sell to the masses, that was more affordable, and in the reach of most people. And the 2016 Three By Wade…that was a $35 red blend that was easier to drink…we felt was lighter but still gave you that luscious, amazing taste that something with a higher price would get. So, the Three By Wade brand [wines] are priced at a reasonable price. The red blend is $35, the Chenin Blanc is $20, and the Rosé is $15. So, everything we wanted to do with that label was make sure it was something that was reachable and affordable for the masses and especially for my community.

Wade Cellars
Three By Wade Chenin Blanc

Photo Credit: Wade Cellars

ON WHO HE’D LIKE TO HAVE A BOTTLE OF WADE CELLARS WINE WITH

The person who is no longer with us who I’d love to sit down with, with my wine, is Martin Luther King [Jr.]. Growing up in the inner city of Chicago and trying to learn about our history, Martin Luther King [Jr.] was somebody I respected so much. I didn’t know at the time that once I got the chance to have a voice [and] to use it—not the way he used it—but in a way to stand up for my people…that’s so relevant now today. [Also,] I like this next individual so much for his talent and what he stands for…Denzel Washington. I would love to sit down with Denzel Washington, and I would love to have my wine, my Chenin Blanc, my white wine, and I [would] eat something along the lines of scallops or something light, like snapper. Just to sit down with someone that I respect like that and just have something that I’m proud of—I’m proud of my Chenin Blanc.

ON SHIFTING THE WINE CONVERSATION TO BECOMING A MORE INCLUSIVE ONE

I don’t want people especially in my community, the African American community, to get turned away by what wine seems to represent. Understand that it’s something for all of us, and it’s an unbelievable time and an unbelievable family to be a part of.

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