Bordeaux's all-star bottles weren't hard to come by in the NBA Bubble for New Orleans Pelicans shooting guard Josh Hart. Throughout the abridged, quarantined late 2019–’20 season, basketball's biggest wine connoisseurs, from Oregon specialist CJ McCollum to Burgundy maven and Pelicans teammate JJ Redick, ordered cases of wine and turned hotel rooms into personal cellars for bottles they couldn't live—or play—without.
For Hart, 25, that meant classic Left Bank Cabernets. Although a member of the new guard of young baller-enophiles, he credits his two years playing alongside LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers for spoiling him with access to the most expensive bottles out there on team trips. Now, Hart has an Instagram account dedicated to his own cellar favorites; his in-Bubble lineup included a 2003 Mouton-Rothschild, 2009 Latour and 2005 Montrose, along with several Burgundies gifted from Redick, who has nudged him toward Pinot Noir. Hart recently made his biggest purchase yet: a 1995 DRC La Tâche, which he plans to open for his 30th birthday.
"I've always liked steak and I was told that a red wine would go well with it, and I tried it around my junior year of college," Hart said of his rookie days in wine. "But a year or two later, my taste buds changed and I grew to like it."
Hart has now partnered with online wine retailer Wine Access, announcing the Diversity in Wine Scholarship Program in September, which will give 100 members of the BIPOC community the opportunity to earn a Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) certification through the Napa Valley Wine Academy. The NBA star spoke with editorial assistant Shawn Zylberberg about his five favorite bottles, his new scholarship initiative and his own winemaking ambitions.
Wine Spectator: How did your time with the L.A. Lakers influence your love for wine?
Josh Hart: LeBron [James] and [Rajon] Rondo are big on wine. I will always hate them for the beginning part of my wine journey because obviously they kinda f----d me up—because usually people start off with Caymus or Duckhorn, but they started my ass off so high, and I was so spoiled. It was terrible. My fifth bottle of wine I ever had was an '09 Harlan. They had Mouton-Rothschild on the plane, which is my favorite producer. When I got shipped out [to New Orleans], now I had to go out and buy all these goddamn expensive bottles, when LeBron would just bring them. Wine is a fascinating thing and bringing several bottles on away-game trips with people asking questions is really fun in that way.
WS: What are some of your favorite bottles?
JH: My top five wines are '96 Margaux, '05 Mouton-Rothschild, '94 Harlan, '95 Lafite and '06 Vega Sicilia Unico. I love Sassicaia, but haven't had too much, and Ornellaia as well. JJ [Redick] loves Barolos so I'm definitely looking forward to exploring other regions, and that's the one thing about wine: There's great wine popping up all the time and so many great producers out there.
WS: How do you see yourself playing a bigger role in the wine industry down the road?
JH: I had a brief conversation with Dwyane Wade about it, and I've mentioned it to [second-generation Napa vintner] Will Harlan, on getting into winemaking. It's very premature now, but once I'm in a better spot to do that, I'll have him [Harlan] show me the ropes. It's something that will probably happen in the next 10 or so years. It's always something I wanted to do. I started a partnership with Wine Access with launching a scholarship for 100 people to get their WSET [Level] 1s, so I'll be involved with getting that certification. We wanted to help minorities get into that space a little bit more. I wouldn't have gotten into wine if it wasn't for other people, so we want more people to have more access to wine and the understanding and knowledge of it, and to see if they want to find a profession in it.
WS: What changes do you hope to see in the wine industry to promote inclusivity?
JH: It's not like the wine industry is racist at all, but sometimes it's just about accessibility. For younger Black men, wine wasn't as cool, but now you're seeing LeBron, who's a great role model, and other athletes getting into it. Why do these guys like it? It's a trickle-down effect. It's becoming more accessible to minorities, and I think that's an amazing thing. The beauty of wine for me is how it just brings people together, and that's priceless.