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Unfiltered Special: Cleveland Cavs Visit California Cab Country

Our inside look at the Napa wine-touring vacation LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Love and the rest of the ballers took last week
The Cleveland Cavaliers learn the Mayacamas Caberniers playbook.
Photo by: Courtesy of Mayacamas
The Cleveland Cavaliers learn the Mayacamas Caberniers playbook.

Posted: January 5, 2018

How does your basketball team deal with a bit of a drought? If you're the Cleveland Cavaliers, you grab your Riedels and go wine-tasting! Last Thursday, the entire NBA team took a massive group field trip to visit Napa Valley wineries, and we talked to the folks at Mayacamas, Brand and Macauley to get the scoop on how it all went down.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Love and company may well be the biggest enophiles in sports, so when they had a rest day on the West Coast, the destination was obvious. By the looks of some of the players' social media posts that day (cough cough, Channing Frye), the Cabs—er, Cavs—went hard in the paint.

First stop of the day was Mayacamas, where a rep from the winery tells us the entire Cavaliers organization—about 60 people total—spent about an hour and a half on the property, touring the facility and tasting Mayacamas' two current vintages, the 2013 Cabernet and the 2015 Chardonnay, as well as the 2003 Cabernet for comparison. The occasion was particularly poignant because the Cavs were the first group the winery hosted since the October wildfires destroyed the Mayacamas tasting room. Jay and Joey Schottenstein, who assumed full ownership of Mayacamas in September, invited other Napa vintners to come and pour their wines for the Cavs fam as well: Staglin Family Vineyard, Realm Cellars, Kerr Cellars, Continuum and Fantesca were all poured at the estate. According to the Mayacamas rep, the teammates had "a lot of good questions" about the wines and winemaking process, and were fun to be around.

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The crew then headed over to Pritchard Hill to taste at Brand Napa Valley. According to owners Deb and Ed Fitts, in addition to finished wines, the Cavs also sampled wines still in barrel; Brand also broke out a unicorn white blend of Italian varieties aging in clay amphorae for the players. Stoking the team's competitive spirit, the Fittses then divided the group into teams to see who could create the best blend to match the winery's Brio Bordeaux-style red. (No word on who won.)

Unfiltered's elite social media sleuthing skills (aided by certain Cavs' obsession with Snapchat) led us to determine that at least some of the teammates also stopped by Maisonry Napa Valley and Macauley Vineyard. JP Havens, director of sales for Macauley, confirmed that he hosted a few of the players at the St. Helena winery. (Maisonry reps declined to comment.)

"We had a great time," Havens said. Though he did not reveal exactly which players came for a tour, he did divulge the wines they tried. "They really enjoyed the 2016 Chardonnay and the 2014 To Kalon."

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that a meal at Wine Spectator Award of Excellence–winning restaurant Goose & Gander rounded out the day. After returning to work, James told the paper about his trip. "You guys see us every day. Just imagine that, with a lot of wine."

Though it seems like a total LeBron move to have a birthday extravaganza in Napa (he turned 33 on Dec. 30), or a DWade effort to bond with his new teammates (he is a California vintner himself, after all), the wine adventure was apparently head coach Tyronn Lue's idea, to give his ballers some R&R. But the good times couldn't roll forever; the team was spotted running drills (and sweating out all that alcohol) during practice in the St. Helena High School gym the next day.

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