3-time NBA champion; Finals MVP; Shooting guard, Miami Heat; Partner, Wade Cellars
What were your initial steps getting into the wine business?
First was getting down to experience Napa Valley. It was my first time there when my wife and I met with the Pahlmeyer family, and had this conversation about starting this wine. Then it was going out and drinking every wine we could find. We also had the opportunity to spend time with the Pahlmeyer family, go into the vineyard and learn from Jayson about how they make their wines, what years are the best. We were also able to walk through the vineyards and pick some grapes, touching and feeling the project.
So you are letting your passion and curiosity lead your business moves?
I’ve been blessed and very successful in basketball and some of the things I’ve done off the court. If I’m going to do anything now at this age, it has to be something I’m really passionate about and something I want to spend time doing, not because it’s cool or it’s a check. I’m finding passions that I didn’t even know were inside of me.
Are wines popular with NBA players these days?
In the circles that I am in, they are. I think enjoying wine comes with age and sophistication and a certain kind of maturity. All of my friends that are 30 and up, a bottle of wine is what we go to when we sit down and have a conversation. When you’re younger, you’re totally different. Your conversations are different. Now, we sit down and drink wine and talk about investments.
“I don’t think a lot of people understand wine… I want to educate our culture, and hopefully, it takes off more.”
Back to your label. It first launched in China, right?
Yes. We went this past summer with Jayson to Shanghai and Beijing. It was very good for our brand. We understood China was this emerging market in wine, and it was great to bring something different than just my sneakers there, to really show them that I am expanding my brand.
What about America?
Like I said, we didn’t expect it to happen this fast, and when we released our first wine in China, we got calls from the U.S. asking, “What about us?” So far, we’ve started slowly with an online presence, so you can order wine through my Web site, DWadeCellars.com. Hopefully we do way more than we’ve done now, but we have to make sure we do it the right way.
How many wines do you have now?
We have the first two. The one released in China first was a Cab just called Wade. The second is called Three By Wade, and it’s a blend. I like wine that’s not too hard when you first drink it, so these are pretty smooth and fruitful—and I’m not just saying that because my name’s on it! [Laughs.] Jayson has done a great job with the wine we’ve picked.
Wine is also an emerging part of African-American culture. Was that on your mind, too?
That’s another part of the plan. Obviously, as an African-American being into the wine business, I looked at that as well, and this is an avenue and a lane I want to own. The one thing is education. I don’t think a lot of people understand wine. We have hard liquor and vodka pushed in our faces all the time. That’s all we see, but wine hasn’t been shoved in our faces, so we’re not educated as such. I want to educate our culture, and hopefully, it takes off more.
You should check out the Central Coast. I live in Santa Barbara and review like 200 wines a month down here.
Sounds like I should come intern with you.