Whether it's a glass of Don Julio 1942 or Opus One, football star Kareem Jackson wants to drink something that isn't too harsh at this stage of his career. The 33-year-old Denver Broncos safety is entering his 12th season in the NFL, and recovery just seems to take a little longer.
Jackson played college football at Alabama, and was drafted in the first round by the Houston Texans in 2010. He was traded to Denver in 2019. Over the past few years, Jackson has become a student of wine, enjoying a glass or two after practices and building strong connections with wineries in Napa Valley. But his playing style is Old World. "I'm a physical guy," Jackson said. "I like to knock the hell out of a lot of people and if my playing style were a wine, I'd be a Bordeaux or super Tuscan."
Jackson took a break from re-stocking his 100-bottle cellar to chat with assistant editor Shawn Zylberberg about his developing passion for wine, visiting Napa during the pandemic and why the NFL has a long way to go to rival the NBA's elite wine circle.
Wine Spectator: How did your passion for wine start?
Kareem Jackson: It started about five or six years ago. The guy who does my suits, Devon Scott, introduced me to Malbec when I was at Fashion Week with him in New York. My palate has expanded since then, and now I'm familiar with different wines and it's a necessity a few days a week for me. It relaxes me.
I do wine during the week after practice, and I'm a tequila guy as well, but I try not to drink that during the week. That tequila is so harsh sometimes, so a nice Pinot or red blend that's not too full bodied is great, and the next morning you feel fine.
WS: What are you drinking these days?
KJ: I usually order Opus One and Caymus by the case every other month. I try to visit Napa a couple times a year so I can explore other stuff too. I've been able to make a lot of connections there. Opus just sent me a gift certificate for rare wines, and I was able to access the special selection cellar, so I was able to get a 2008 and 2015 bottle. I'm sitting on those until something special happens. I got them this off-season. Maybe I'll have them after my 12th season.
WS: What other wine region would you like to visit?
KJ: I was on the Road Trippin' podcast with [NBA stars] Channing Frye and Richard Jefferson. Frye told me I needed to go out to France and do that whole wine scene. He said Napa is cool but over there it's a different level, so I'll have to check that out one day.
WS: Do any of your teammates enjoy wine?
KJ: Justin Simmons is into wine as well. In the past two years we've been growing to love it, along with Bryce Callahan.
WS: Will wine ever be as big in the NFL as it is in the NBA?
KJ: The thing about the NFL is there's always turnover. There's not a lot of guys in year 10, 11, 12, but a lot of young guys in the league and they're not drinking wine. We go to dinner on DB [defensive back] nights and we order wine, and young guys start tasting and maybe they'll learn to like it. Once you get older, your body changes and you can't go out and drink that tequila every night, so you need something smoother and relaxing. Wine does that. But I think the NBA will always be ahead of us because they have a lot more veterans than we do.