How stars like Dwyane Wade and Josh Hart are driving a more equitable future for the wine industry.
"I love wine now, but if I hadn't been a Laker, my being in the wine world probably wouldn't have happened," Hart said, reflecting on his time with Los Angeles' team. "As an NBA player with a platform, I can help minorities who don't have the resources, or who are nervous or hesitant, to get into the wine space."
Beyond awarding a WSET Level 1 course to 100 recipients, Hart's program will sponsor five students in Level 2 and three students in Level 3; those top three will get to travel to Napa with Hart for a wine-filled weekend. "My dream is for people in the program to further their pursuit of a career in wine," Hart said. "Hopefully we keep this program going, and in 10, 15, 20 years, there will be a winemaker in Napa who first started with the WSET from this partnership."
In the more immediate term, Hart hopes to influence the perception of wine itself. "I'm trying to change the stereotype around wine as something for old, rich, white men," he said.
Other players, like Wade, share this goal. "One of the reasons I got into the wine industry was to change the common misconception of wine as pretentious," Wade said. "I didn't grow up knowing what wine is. Wine was perceived in this really uppity kind of way and I wanted to be a part of showing that it's not that—of respecting what goes into making one simple bottle of wine."
In 2014, Wade created his own wine brand, Wade Cellars, in partnership with Napa's Pahlmeyer winery. The next year, while on vacation, Wade was photographed sitting on a banana boat and toasting with red wine with LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Paul. The group became known as the Banana Boat Crew, and that moment ignited a wine frenzy within the league. Ever since, Wade has been a role model for others looking to get into the business.