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Basketball superstar Dwyane Wade learned premium winemaking from one of Napa Valley’s best, Jayson Pahlmeyer. Photo courtesy Wade Cellars
Columns Taste of Wine

Taste of Wine: NBA stars give boost to Black presence in winemaking

Sometime during the 2019 season, with my Boston Red Sox struggling, my love of baseball sunk into the San Diego sunset just as my love of NBA basketball rose like a fireball when LeBron James came to Los Angeles to play for the Lakers and San Diego State alum Kawhi Leonard was performing his heroics for the Toronto Raptors before he, too, headed to L.A.

Quietly, Black stars who were making it happen in the NBA were becoming premium wine drinkers who, in their off weeks, met around the world’s capitals to compare wines and wishes of ownership in Napa Valley vineyards.

One of the NBA’s brightest stars for 15 years and a headliner for the Miami Heat for most of that time was the recently retired Dwayne Wade. With a dream of his own winery in Napa Valley firmly in his sights after basketball, Wade, 38, forged a strong friendship with Jayson Pahlmeyer, a leading Cabernet Sauvignon winemaker for over 30 years.

The dream turned to reality when, under Pahlmeyer’s wing, Wade’s passion for fine wine helped create Wade Cellars. Something personal and profound in Wade’s life was bottled in his first release, a Wade Cellars 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, launched in Napa Valley in 2015.

Today known as the NBA’s most prolific wine star, Wade is currently seen daily on social media, hanging out in the world’s capitals on a boat or a Parisian bar with basketball star buddies, tasting the latest French classic wines from Bordeaux.

Wade can be seen in Paris, sipping and rapping on Instagram with the likes of current stars Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler, Carmelo Anthony and the King, LeBron James. Several expensive French bottles can be seen, including the current Petrus from The Right Bank of Bordeaux with a price tag of $2,000 each.

Wine Spectator published a recent interview with Wade on how he went from being a wine lover to a wine vintner with the Pahlmeyers. Here is an excerpt:

“It wasn’t like I woke up one morning and declared I want to make wine. It kind of organically happened, and I got to meet the right people who urged me to think of it as a business. I didn’t want to just lend my name to a big winery. So I went to Napa and talked to some hands-on wineries and fell in love with Jayson Pahlmeyer and his family. We both agreed there was good synergy. This was 2014. A year later I had my own wine, the 2012 Wade Cab.”

The latest wine, and Wade’s personal favorite, is the 2016 Wade Cellars Three by Wade Red Blend for $29.95. This wine is a medium-bodied yet flavorful expression of the vintage, which all agree was a banner year at harvest in Napa. Visit at

Charles Woodson has made Twenty Four wine in Napa Valley since 2001, then Intercept, a value-priced wine launched just a year ago and made from Central Coast grapes. Photo courtesy Wine Spectator
The NFL’s Charles Woodson scores with winemaking

Charles Woodson played for the Oakland Raiders and the Green Bay Packers, and was the only defensive player in college football to ever win the Heisman Trophy as the best player in the country.

He also made his first barrel of wine in 2001. In the latest issue of Wine Spectator, the article on Woodson points out that over the past two decades, he founded two wine labels. The first, out of Calistoga in Napa Valley was labeled Twenty Four, his football uniform number.

More recently, Woodson launched his new $20 wine bottle with grapes from the Central California coast, labeled Intercept. The label offers a Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Red Blend and Pinot Noir. Woodson says, “The greatest reward as a vintner is seeing someone order and enjoy one of my wines.” Visit

Wine Bytes

San Diego’s Best Readers Poll awarded Vineyard Grant James of Ramona their Favorite Local Winery. Owner and winemaker Susanne Sapier reminds all that the winery is open Thursday through Monday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The winery’s big harvest is Sunday, Sept. 27 starting at 6 a.m. and Vineyard Grant James needs you as a volunteer to help pick grapes.

Harvest will be followed by a brunch and lots of wine for the pickers. Bring clippers, gloves, hat, sunscreen and 5-gallon buckets if you have them. The winery will be following COVID-19 protocol, so wear your mask and social distance. If you can’t make it at 6 a.m., come anyway … they can always use the help. RSVP so they can make sure to have enough food. Call 760-789-2733.

Reach Frank Mangio at [email protected]