LeBron James is a wine snob. Just ask him.
Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue arranged for a team tour of Napa Valley on Thursday, one day after they play the Sacramento Kings and two days before they play the Utah Jazz to end a road trip.
This could be good news for the Jazz, depending on how good a time the Cavs have in wine country.
“Steve Kerr came up to me before the game (on Christmas) and was like, ‘Man, I heard you guys are going to Napa. That’s really great,'” Lue told reporters from shootaround on Wednesday. “And it’s a great time to do it. The grind of the season is long. And it will just be something special for the team.”
James considers himself somewhat of a sommelier, regularly posting pictures of expensive wine to his Instagram with captions like, “No games being played in this cellar,” and, “This is what I mean when I say I’m in my bag! #RealVinoPeopleKnow” because the only thing people like more than someone talking about what great wine they drink is that same person saying how little you know about it.
Saturday also marks LeBron’s 33rd birthday, so surely the wine will be flowing in Napa on Thursday. The topic became a central part of LeBron’s shootaround session with the media on Wednesday, and the superstar let us in on the history of his passion for wine. Here are a few of my favorite snippets:
“I was not a wine guy,” said LeBron. “I didn’t drink wine at all. It kind of started around when I turned 30, actually. I wanted to learn about it. Everybody was talking about how great it is and the different regions, not only here in America, but also obviously Italy and France and so many different places. So, I started to do some research. I started tasting different wines, and it took a while for my palette to actually give in to it, because your first time drinking wine is not a very, very lasting taste.”
LeBron has mastered wine in three years. Pretty impressive. The Institute of Masters of Wine “takes a minimum of three years to complete, although it may take longer,” so he must have been researching a lot. I also like how he refers to drinking wine as “research.” I might have to use that line tonight.
“The last few years I’ve been learning a lot about it and the different types of grapes, the different types of vines they be on, the different types of regions, from red to white and blends and things of that nature,” added LeBron, “so it’s great to be in wine country.”
There are lots of different types of grapes. There aren’t really different types of vines. And there are definitely different types of regions. My favorite part of how much LeBron has learned about wine is the all-encompassing “from red to white and blends and things of that nature.” That pretty much covers it. I like red wine. I like white wine. I like blended wine. And I like things of that nature.
And what wine is LeBron most looking forward to in Napa? “Every last one of them,” he said.
That’s a great answer. It’s also a great answer if you don’t know how to answer the question. I’m not saying that’s why he answered that way. I’m just saying that’s how I would’ve answered if I didn’t know how to respond to a question about what wine I’m most looking forward to drinking in Napa.
Is LeBron aware of the health benefits of wine’s antioxidants? “I heard it’s good for the heart,” he said. “I heard about that, but as far as healing powers, I mean, listen, I’m playing the best basketball of my life and I’m drinking some wine pretty much every day, so, hey, whatever it is, I’ll take it.”
This is good to know. Here I was thinking LeBron was incredible at basketball because he’s 6-foot-8, a chiseled 250 pounds, works out incessantly, and hones his craft like few others in the sport’s history. But nope. It’s the wine. I will now be crediting my incredible writing to some daily wine consumption.
What NBA players know the most about wine? “I have no idea,” said LeBron. “I don’t talk [to them about it]. We have our team, and we love drinking wine, but I don’t know. I know what I’m about. I know how genuine I am about it, and I don’t just talk about it — I actually know about it as well.”
Oh, cool. What’s your favorite region? “Nah,” he said, “I can’t give that up.”
Yes, of course, you don’t want to share your favorite wine region, out of fear someone else might actually get some enjoyment out of it. Or maybe he’s afraid there will be a rush on his favorite wine region, the land will dry up, prices will skyrocket, and an influx of tourists will make it much more annoying to visit. It’s definitely not because he doesn’t have a favorite wine region. Definitely not.
Maybe he likes Pinot Noir from Oregon? “Oregon Pinot is some of the greatest wines you can find in America,” he said, “and maybe not even America, but the world.” Someone’s been watching “Sideways.”
Maybe we can get a better feel for LeBron’s taste in wine from his Instagram. Let’s take a look:
Last night was mad real, fresh out of Advil- Jesus grab the wheelSheesh!!! You had to be there to truly Understand. Even though I wish you were there so u could. #VinoChronicles P.S. don't talk to me about wine like u know it if you really don't know what you're talking about. Seriously! Thank you! ♂️
A post shared by LeBron James (@kingjames) on Nov 26, 2017 at 9:14am PST
This definitely looks like the reserve of someone who hand-selected these from his extensive three years of research and not someone who was told these expensive vineyards, varietals and vintages were the best of the best. How do we know this? Because of the caption, of course. “Don’t talk to me about wine like u know it if you really don’t know what you’re talking about. Seriously! Thank you!”
This is my favorite kind of wine drinker. The “don’t talk to me about wine like u know it” guy is a blast. Picture it now. J.R. Smith says something like, Hey, LeBron, this one is pretty good, right? and LeBron says, It’s full-bodied, with some coffee notes and a hint of red courant, and the finish is to die for.
And the vintner responds, “Um, this is a Chardonnay, guys.”
And, yes, I realize this snark makes me sound just as pretentious. It’s what we wine drinkers like to do.