Stop it; this is not a ‘celebrity wine’ piece you read in Forbes. I mean yes, the focus is on Wade Cellars, owned by NBA star Dwyane Wade, but the ‘baller’ aspect is just a sliver of this wine brand's story.
While I knew Dwyane’s wines existed, I hadn’t tried them until our Black Grapes event in February 2023. The event featured the Wade Cellars 2021, Three by Wade Rosé. I went in with no expectations when trying the wine at the event. Still, I found myself contemplatively nodding at first taste. The wine was highly approachable and highly quaffable.
That Black Grapes experience kept my ear to the ground to be aware of the releases and news related to Wade Cellars, and a few months later, I got the chance to sit down to a structured tasting of Three by Wade wines.
At the tasting, Dwyane and the brand's international ambassador, George Walker, walked us through the series of wines the brand had on offer in the market. We tasted their Chenin Blanc (yes, you read right), their marquee rosé, and two Cabernet Sauvignons.
While we’ll get into the wines later, we must first talk about the entirety of the brand. As the title of this article suggests, Wade Cellars is much more than what you get in a bottle.
As I sat at the tasting and listened to the anecdotes and stories shared by Dwyane and George, it was clear that the brand takes its role seriously and recognizes it holds the responsibility to speak to the demographic its NBA owner was born out of.
When I asked Dwyane about his passion for wine and what he does in this sector of his life, he shared that he developed a genuine love of wine through travelling and experiencing wines on a regional basis. Then, when he met the Pahlmeyer family, he realised that his dream of making wine could be a reality. But it was once Dwyane was heavily immersed in wine as a business that he started to see where his wines could be more than just another SKU: “Once I got in it, I didn’t see none of me, and that’s when I realised I was here for a reason. I have a responsibility”. Dwyane's responsibility has been to build a more inclusive space around wine, develop the 'wine curious' and the 'wine talented' peoples of colour, and include consumers of colour in his wine journey by making approachable and accessible wines.
Wade Cellars hosts a National US-based dinner series called 'When We Gather', which celebrates black chefs, from all backgrounds, through a multi-course dinner paired with wines from the Three by Wade portfolio. This is just one example of the brand's commitment to accessibility and inclusion. In addition to the ‘When We Gather’ tour, the brand fundraises for the Roots Fund, a US-based, nonprofit organisation focused on securing a pathway for the BIPOC community in wine.
The conversation with Dwyane and George was beyond comforting. Not only were we tasting their incredibly affable wines, but we truly got to see how the brand puts its money where its mouth is in supporting diverse spaces in the wine community.
Now the Wine
The Wade Cellars project started as a partnership between Dwyane Wade and the Pahlmeyer family eight years ago. Dwyane, struck by the wine bug, wanted to get into the space and said he found the perfect partner in Jayson Pahlmeyer, of Pahlmeyer Wines in Napa Valley.
The first wine from Wade Cellars was the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon. It was initially introduced to the Chinese market in 2015, given Dwyane’s prominence and recognition there. He felt that his wines would find acceptance in China more easily than in his home market of the United States. When they saw the accolades the wine received in China, they felt they were ready to introduce the wine at home. The Mandarin symbol for the number three on the label now makes sense!
Since that first vintage, the Three by Wade wines have grown in offerings, and have developed a style of its own which continues to morph as the brand gains more experience and consumer feedback. Grapes are now sourced from several choice parcels of land in Napa and Sonoma.
2021 Three by Wade Chenin Blanc
Great bouquet of honey and white flowers. On the palate, it was Chenin through and through; medium + acidity and full mouth feel of golden delicious green apple and pear. This is an enjoyable Chenin Blanc, and a delightful surprise from the Wade Cellars profile.
2022 Three by Wade Rosé
I call this the iconic wine in the lineup because of its consistency and crowd appeal. This wine is a blend of mostly Grenache, with some Cinsault, and Mourvedre. It’s slightly reductive on the nose, just enough to get you curious about the palate. This is a balanced wine with bright acidity, and bright red fruit on the palate, and can be easily paired with food.
2020 Three by Wade Cabernet Sauvignon
Due to drought and intense heat, 2020 was a rough year for many in California. Given this, it was vital to scour both Napa and Sonoma to find grape growers with premium grapes and enough of them. As a result, the grapes for this wine were sourced from the Bedrock Vineyard in Sonoma. Typical blackberries on the nose, herb, and noted florality.
2019 Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon
By all rights, this is the big kahuna of the Three by Wade lineup. A wonderful and complex nose, and bright black and blue fruit coupled with herbaceous notes, including fennel. An excellent sipper on its own, and a knockout with food.
After that incredible and eye-opening tasting, I got George to talk a little about his winemaking philosophy, given his influence on site selection and what happens in the winery. “Restraint… attention to farming is what’s most important. … As long as you are being more attentive to sustainability and leaving as low a carbon footprint on the earth”.
Dwyane Wade now sits on the board of UC Davis, a selfless and deliberate move to bring grant more access to the rich research and overall educational factor that is UC Davis. Moreover, he’s just joined a team there to do a 2-day wine bootcamp with hopes that it will bring more cognitive diversity to the space. In fact, proceeds from the bootcamp go towards the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology's ‘Broadening Horizons’ program, an effort that focuses on continuing to build and support a diverse student population.
Everything about the Wade Cellars blueprint encourages us to raise a glass to the change the brand is making in the industry, internationally.