Professional basketball player C.J. McCallum talks about wine, basketball and how they met for him in Oregon.
After winning third place in the competition as the NBA’s 2015-2016 season MVP, it’s no surprise that C.J. McCollum has been drawn into the wine: The Portland Trail Blazers shooter appreciates things that start well and get better with time. He channeled this passion into Legacy 91, a wine produced in the vineyards of Adelsheim, in the Cahalem Mountains in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. Volume 2018, the first volume, was published in September. We met Mr. McCollum, who told us where his love of wine began and how it fits into his holiday gift plans.
Photo courtesy of McCollum Legacy
You already told me that your fiancée introduced you to the wine. Was it a certain bottle that really knocked you out?
I can’t even remember the bottle. It’s been a long time since we were in college. For your information: We were 21. Of course you did. I didn’t really like it back then. I started drinking, and as I started learning more about wine, I got to know Pinot and Taxi. I fell a little bit in love with her. Then the other part was that she liked it. So I should probably find a way to stop drinking wine. And I think I’ve really gotten into the stuff.
When you moved here, did you know you’d be near such an incredible wine region?
I had no idea. I didn’t really know until I got here. I didn’t know how to tell Willamette Valley. I didn’t say it right for a year and a half. And then I started doing some research and visited several wineries, I think Stoller [Family Estate] was one of the first wineries I visited here. And then I started visiting other vineyards, visiting different places and tasting. That’s when I realized I was living in a gold mine. And apparently, Kevin Love [Cleveland Cavaliers basketball player] was born here. He told me more about Oregon in particular. Channing Frye was here this summer. Many people have already enjoyed the wine. I just listened to what they had to say, got around early, checked with friends.
How did you get to work with the boys in Adelsheim?
They gave me an excellent opportunity to focus on education and sustainability, of course. As far as I know they are LIVE [Low Input Viticulture and Oenology] certified and do not really believe in chemicals, but in sustainable development.
They believe in the right way to make great wines. That’s what really caught my attention. I felt like they would give me a chance to learn while I was producing a great product, and the winemaker Gina [the chickens] did a great workout, the rest of the team did a great job to turn this collaboration into a partnership.
In other interviews, you said that you like wines made from grapes grown on volcanic soil. What are the other features that appeal to you?
I like sweet wine. I think that’s one of the reasons why I fell in love with Oregon, because there are so many different varieties that are smooth, that look like cedar and cherry. With the Adelseheim wine we have of course harvested the best fruit from the different parts of the vineyard, so I had the opportunity to combine these things … And volcanic soil always has something to do with volcanic soil. Even if I do blind tastings in different wineries, I can usually distinguish between volcanic and sedimentary soils.
Do your teammates share your love of wine?
Yeah, a lot of my friends like wine, especially this team. In recent years, Evan Turner and I [formerly Blazer Trail, now Minnesota Timberwolves] have been drinking wine. Our head of security, Rick, is a great wine lover. And Melo [Carmelo Anthony, in Tropical Blazers] loves wine, so we went to some wineries. So I have a pretty good collection of people around me who even work in the state. Our head sports coach, Jeff Clark, is a big, big wine lover.
He took me to his favorite vineyard here in Oregon so that we could really, you know, just coexist, share different wines and enjoy wine. In general during the holidays, especially at Christmas, I get a normal wine, because I know everyone likes a good red wine or a good white wine, I somehow like what everyone likes. It was great to have so many teammates who like so many different things, and it allows me to be exposed to so many different things.