As the NBA remains under a prolonged timeout, players are using quarantine life to indulge in basketball's favorite hobby: wine. And now some are taking to social media to gab about it. Portland Trail Blazers star Carmelo Anthony and Miami Heat guard Jimmy Butler were social distancing last week as they discussed wine on “What’s in Your Glass?” the weekly Instagram livestream between host Melo and wine lovers around the world. For the hour-long conversation, Anthony selected a 2011 William Fèvre Chablis, and Butler brought out a Sassicaia 2010.
As Butler's on-court star has risen, he's also reached the elite enophilia tier attained by the likes of Lebron James and Dwyane Wade. He told Melo and viewers that it all started in 2013 when his pal Mark Wahlberg invited Butler to the set of Transformers, which was being filmed in Chicago; Butler played for the Bulls at the time. Wahlberg gave Butler his first sip of wine that day: the Sassicaia 2010. He liked it so much, he now has between 500 and 600 bottles of the super Tuscan in his cellar. (Bordeaux's Château Lynch-Bages is a close second-favorite, he said.)
“The reason that I enjoy wine so much is … you can never know everything about wine," Butler told Anthony on the episode. "And every person has their story and every bottle of wine has its story, so it’s interesting to me that the more you learn about it, the more you realize how much more you have to figure out and learn. It’s infinite.”
Butler made a pilgrimage to Bolgheri in June 2018 to taste Sass vintages in the cellar, including the 2015 that would earn Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year honor a few months later. “My colleagues were particularly impressed by the enthusiasm, friendliness and modesty of this great champion and of the people accompanying him,” Sassicaia owner Priscilla Incisa della Rocchetta told Unfiltered.
Anthony described “Two-Bottle Sundays,” a dining ritual among his onetime New York Knicks teammates that tipped off his wine game; nowadays, he's taken by the 99-point 1986 Mouton-Rothschild.
In other baller wine news, New Orleans Pelicans up-and-comer Josh Hart has teamed with online retailer Wine Access to create a cellar of personal bests like Bordeaux's Pontet-Canet and Napa's Harlan. “Josh told us who some of his favorite producers are so we started to introduce him to similar producers that we thought he'd like,” Wine Access head of wine Vanessa Conlin told Unfiltered. “He loves Bordeaux and Napa especially, but also white Burgundy, so we helped him delve deeper into those regions.”
And a few weeks ago, Anthony paid a visit to none other than Oregon's own Domaine Serene to tape a message of solidarity to his fans amid the NBA lockdown.
Soon, Melo may be able to post up in his own tasting room. He shared with Butler that a wine project is forthcoming, “something from France that’s top-notch." And Butler is already dreaming of trading his basketball kicks for hiking boots.
“I have to have my own winery,” Butler said, sketching plans for retiring to Italy's winelands. “Outside of my love for basketball, it’s wine and it’s real.”
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