CJ McCollum Scores Big with Vines

The NBA star buys 300 vineyard acres In Oregon.

CJ McCollum
Photo: Justin Tucker

A member of that all-star team of NBA players who love wine, CJ McCollum wasn't satisfied with just collecting bottles. In 2020, he launched his own McCollum Heritage 91 label, coming out with a 2018 Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir from Oregon's Willamette Valley that sold out faster than a Finals game. The name pays homage to his family name and to his own vintage year — McCollum was born in 1991.

McCollum was introduced to wine in his early twenties by his then girlfriend, now wife, Elise, but then the Portland Trail Blazers drafted him, putting his second career in motion. "My fortuitous move to one of the top wine regions in the U.S. took my existing passion for—and knowledge of—wine to new heights," McCollum says.

The basketball star (who now plays for the New Orleans Pelicans) is part of an expanding community of Black athletes who've started their own wine labels, among them Dwyane Wade with Wade Cellars and Channing Frye with Chosen Family Wines. This movement in turn is helping build Black representation in wine overall, a needed development: Consider that there are roughly 10,000 wineries in the U.S., and fewer than 1% of them are Black-owned or led by a Black winemaker.

CJ McCollum
Salini Perera

In essence, through both advocacy and ownership, McCollum is helping to drive diversity in an industry where it is sorely needed. A year after launching Heritage 91, he also participated in the One Barrel Challenge. For it, seven Oregon wineries are using 100% of the proceeds from a barrel of wine each (300 bottles per winery) to help fund initiatives that create more access for people of color to join the industry. "The most incredible thing about wine is not the varietal or the terroir, but the way it brings people together. And the last several years have reaffirmed my devotion to showing up and providing a platform, both on and off the basketball court," McCollum says.

McCollum is also aware that, as a leader, you are only as great as the people around you, hence his partnership with the Willamette Valley's acclaimed Adelsheim Vineyard for his wine. He notes that by working with the team there, he could learn about the business side of wine from experts as well as develop his palate. "We share similar beliefs about wine: It should taste great, it should be approachable, and it should be enjoyed with those you love. I wouldn't have been able to bring McCollum Heritage 91 to life without the expertise I received."

Heritage 91 may be small right now, at least in terms of how much wine McCollum is making, but the brand stands to become a lot bigger. In late 2021, McCollum purchased a 318-acre property in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, making him the first NBA player to take the step of buying vineyard land—but probably not the last. McCollum says, "I'm thrilled by our new vineyard site. It's a property with a great deal of potential, and, as we immerse ourselves in the land and terroir, I'm excited to see how we can expand upon my vision for it. Plus, it's been incredible to have my wife, Elise, join me on this journey. Since she served as the catalyst for my passion for wine, it's going to be one more venture we share."

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