While it was undeniably a challenge for everyone involved, the NBA bubble turned out to be a pretty big success. Although the Portland Trail Blazers didn’t lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy, CJ McCollum also made an impact in Orlando. The guard’s efforts, however, went beyond the basketball court.
Given that hundreds of NBA players were trapped in the Orlando bubble with nowhere to go, there was quite a bit of drinking going on at Walt Disney World. That worked out well for CJ McCollum, who turned his hotel room into an unofficial wine cellar.
CJ McCollum has grown into a legitimate NBA talent
When you think of professional basketball, Portland, Oregon probably isn’t the first place you think of. The Trail Blazers, however, have some legitimate talent on their roster in the forms of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
Although McCollum initially seemed too small to star on the basketball court, he made a name for himself by the end of high school. He took his talents to Lehigh University and, over the course of four seasons with the Hawks, turned into a legitimate star.
After graduation, McCollum entered the 2013 NBA draft and joined the Blazers as the tenth-overall pick. While his professional career didn’t get off to the best start—he suffered a foot injury as a rookie and didn’t see much action as a sophomore—the guard’s talent eventually shone through.
During the 2015-16 season, McCollum took his game to the next level, averaging 20.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game; he was rewarded with the NBA’s Most Improved Player title at the end of the campaign. Since then, his star has only continued to rise.
Breaking into the wine game
While Oregon might not be the country’s top basketball hotbed, the region does produce some pretty good wine. That suits CJ McCollum just fine.
Like many other NBA players, McCollum has developed taste for fine wine. He’s such an oenophile that he even created his own label, McCollum Heritage 91, in partnership with Oregon’s Adelsheim Vineyard.
The guard isn’t just a silent partner slapping his name on a generic red, though.
“In the early days of Heritage 91’s development, McCollum blind-tasted several wines with Adelsheim winemaker Gina Hennen and was immediately drawn to flavors from volcanic soils,” Wine Spectator explained. “The resulting Pinot Noir is a blend sourced from three contiguous estate vineyard properties. ‘[CJ] is so engaged in the entire process and genuinely wants to learn everything he can about the business,’ Hennen said.”
CJ McCollum turned his hotel room into an unofficial wine cellar
While there was plenty of business to take care of in the Orlando bubble, there was still some fun to be had in Florida. Thanks to CJ McCollum, there was plenty of wine to drink.
“Like a lot of people in lockdown in the outside world, players spent their free time inside the bubble drinking,” Taylor Rooks reported for GQ. “And seemingly at the center of it all was CJ McCollum of the Portland Trail Blazers, who became something of the NBA’s unofficial source for wine. McCollum stacked his hotel room with cases of his own Pinot Noir blend, McCollum Heritage 91, keeping the thermostat at a cool 65 degrees. He gifted dozens of bottles to players, and CJ’s wine became a hot-ticket item—a bubble grail.”
Based on Rooks’ reporting, McCollum’s wine proved to be a hit among his peers.
“Kawhi Leonard once stopped CJ to ask questions about the Pinot Noir and say he was a huge fan,” Rooks wrote. “I got the endorsement from Mr. Leonard!’ As was Anthony Davis, who, according to McCollum, stood next to him at the free-throw line during a Round 1 playoff game to tell him: ‘Thanks for that wine. That s–t was good.” Blazers teammate Damian Lillard also believed that McCollum’s wine as a good luck charm, helping him carry the through the postseason.
During his time in Portland, CJ McCollum has proved to be quite the player. Should something happen to his basketball career, though, it sounds like he’s got a solid Plan B in the wine industry.