The project is the culmination of the basketball player’s 26-year journey learning to appreciate wine.
Celebrities launching their own wine brands is nothing new. Some, like the wines of Francis Ford Coppola, have become industry standards. Others, like the wines from the band Train that are named after Train songs, are more geared toward fans. But with some of these wines, it’s not entirely clear who the target audience is – and that’s part of their bizarre appeal – like CB Vineyards, the new wine brand from none other than NBA star-turned-commentator Charles Barkley.
“Sir Charles” – who is best known for his stints with the Philadelphia 76ers, the Phoenix Suns and the Olympic Dream Team, as well as his current TV gig with TNT – isn’t the first NBA player to have his own wine label. Dwyane Wade famously got into the wine game a couple years back… but that’s also Dwyane Wade – a bit of a suave dude who spent most of his career in the party hub of Miami. Barkley was always a bit more of a bruiser; not necessarily the kind of player you’d think of as a fine wine guy. And in fact, he admits he wasn’t into wine before he met his eventual wine brand partner Donald Kowalski 26 years ago.
According to Haute Living, during the CB Vineyards launch party, Barkley said that when Kowalski asked him if he drank wine, the former Auburn player explained, “I grew up in Alabama. We were undefeated my junior and senior year, and we used to go to the local store and steal two bottles of Ripple and two bottles of Commodore. Wine sucks.” From that day, Kowalski apparently made it his mission to get Barkley to appreciate wine.
The first fruits of that journey are a 2015 Chardonnay and two 2014 red blends, one lower end and one reserve, which were crafted with the help of winemaker Chris Cameron of Broken Earth Winery and the Regal Wine Company using estate grown grapes from Paso Robles. Though on first glance, the labels might resemble any California brand, a second look reveals an obvious basketball theme. All three feature a little orange basketball in the center of the label, and the names are equally straightforward: Rebound Chardonnay, Auburn Red Blend and The Analyst Reserve Red Blend. Across the bottom, it reads, “A Charles Barkley Selection.”
But Barkley is proud of these selections in more ways than one. First, he truly vouches for the vino. “When we first started talking about it, I said ‘I don’t want to put my name on something just to make money,’” he said during the launch. “So [Kowalski] said, ‘No, I’ve got a great company and we’ll make sure the wine is great.’ So we spent the last year tasting wine. He’s like, ‘It’s almost there.’ I’m like, ‘This tastes pretty good.’ He’s like, ‘Oh no, we got to keep going.’ And we tried more wine in the last year than I’ve had in my whole 54 years of existence.”
But second, Barkley also says that all profits from CB Vineyards will go to charity. “I don’t get a dime,” he was quoted as saying. “I didn’t just put my name on something to make extra cash. I think I’m good.” Yes, perhaps the only thing more unexpected than Charles Barkley launching his own wine brand is that it’s totally a passion project.