Bad Boy Isiah Thomas Scores Good Champagne

Also in Unfiltered, Prosecco picks up a Unesco nom and star chef Joachim Splichal cooks up a new project: rosé wine
Bad Boy Isiah Thomas Scores Good Champagne
Isiah Thomas has a new reason to celebrate: Champagne bearing his name. (Carlos Osorio/AP Photo)
Feb 9, 2017

NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas sprayed a healthy dosage of Champagne around the Detroit Pistons’ Palace arena after he led the “Bad Boys” to back-to-back championships in 1989 and 1990. This week, he returned to uncork a new bubbly—his own. Following a brief and decidedly more dry spell as the head coach of the New York Knicks, Thomas founded Isiah Imports and announced last year that he’d be carrying Cheurlin Champagne; now Pistons fans can sip on the new Cheurlin Thomas Black Label selections in the stands (or at least, in the suites). “This is an honor and a great privilege to present Cheurlin Champagne to the Motor City,” Thomas said in a press release. “I am truly grateful for the continued love and support of my Pistons family, our fans, and of course, to be back on the Bad Boys court.”

Cheurlin is a historic house in the Aube region dating back to the 18th century, but the rookies in the lineup are the Cheurlin Thomas Célébrité Blanc de Blancs, a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc, and the Le Champion Blanc de Noirs, 100 percent Pinot Noir. Both are extra brut, but the occasion was bittersweet: Thomas was in town to bid a final farewell to the court where his greatest victories played out, as this marks the last season the Pistons will play at the Palace before relocating to a new arena in the city. But perhaps it also heralds the beginning of a new basketball-Champagne rivalry with the Cleveland Cavaliers’ cuvée of choice, Moët and Chandon “Ohio City.”


Prosecco Picks Up Unesco Nom

Sales of northern Italy sparkler Prosecco have been soaring in the U.S. over the last few years, approaching 4 million cases imported in 2015. Much of that stuff is inexpensive, friendly fizz, but not all Prosecco is created equal. The Conegliano Valdobbiadene subregion, with its vineyards on picturesque rolling hills, is considered among the most superior sites for Prosecco and was elevated to D.O.C.G. status in 2009. Last month, the Italian National Commission put forward Conegliano Valdobbiadene's candidacy for Unesco World Heritage Site. If successful, it would join a rarefied group of wine regions to hold the honor, including Tokaj, Alto Douro and, as of 2015, Champagne and Burgundy’s Côte d’Or.

Prosecco’s campaign for inclusion began in 2008 and cleared its first hurdle in 2010 when it made it onto the Tentative List for Italy. "This candidacy confers added value to the beauty of this region, which has expressed its potential for several centuries now in various fields of expertise: viticulture above all, but also winemaking, art and architecture." said Innocente Nardi, president of the Producers’ Consortium for Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore D.O.C.G. in a statement.

Unesco is expected to announce the final decision in July 2018. In the meantime, WineSpectator.com members can brush up on your knowledge of this growing region.


Chef Joachim Splichal's New Hue: Rosé

Having already created a culinary powerhouse in Grand Award–winning restaurant Patina in Los Angeles (he is no longer an owner but remains a consultant), star chef Joachim Splichal is now turning his sights on another passion: wine. Realizing his lifelong dream of opening a winery in Provence, France (where he learned to cook), Splichal purchased Domaine de Cala in 2015 from a family that had been producing rosé for more than 60 years. Splichal continues the winery's tradition of family with his twin sons, Nicolas and Stephane, as partners in the operation.

“Food and wine have played a huge role in my life,” Splichal told Wine Spectator, adding that wine is as much a part of his personal life as it is his professional one.

Guided by consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt and winemaker Bruno Tringali, the winery currently offers two rosé blends, Domaine de Cala and Domaine de Cala Prestige, with reds and whites on the horizon. The 2016 vintage will make its debut in the U.S. in March.


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