Chateau LeBron | NBA star James and Ningxia wine in Beijing

Kobe Hou and Alex Chen. And wine. Lots of wine.

By Jim Boyce | LeBron James is seen by many as not only the planet’s top basketball player but also, within the NBA, as having swish taste in wine. The Cleveland Cavaliers star’s Instagram feed features the likes of Opus One from Napa Valley, Pontet-Canet from Bordeaux and Sassicaia from Tuscany. (See here for comments on his picks by top sommeliers.)

James’ mansion in Miami also includes a sweet wine cellar. And he’s been to known to make wine-centric bets, like this one with fellow player Draymond Green that cost him USD2,500 worth of Silver Oak.

“LeBron has been showing off his taste for wine ever since he was kicking it down in South Beach with former Miami Heat teammate, Dwayne Wade—who has also shown patterns of being a wine enthusiast,” states this Cavs site. In fact, Wade launched his own brand in China two years ago. A couple of photos from a 2016 tasting he led in Beijing:

Given all this, it’s no surprise James might want to try some Chinese wine during his own Beijing visit this week. Alex Chen, from U.S. wine importer and distributor Alexander Wines, teamed with perfectly named sommelier Kobe Hou to create a lineup of U.S., Australian and Chinese wines for James and his team. I chipped in from the bench by securing two Cabernet-driven wines from Kanaan and Silver Heights in Ningxia. Here’s the menu they sent me:

This wouldn’t be the first time an NBA star tried Silver Heights. In 2014, veteran winemaker Tom Hinde visited Ningxia for a three-day tour. Hinde has stints at Flowers in Sonoma and Kendall-Jackson in Napa to his credit and now handles the wine brand of former NBA star Yao Ming. On his last night, he traded a bottle of Yao Family Wine for Silver Heights’ The Summit and later told me Yao enjoyed it. Here is Hinde making the exchange with Silver Heights’ Emma Gao in Yinchuan:

As for the tasting in Beijing, I’m told team James finished all of the wines. I’ll update when I get more info but, given multiple bottles of each, there might be some downtime!

Note: I picked Silver Heights and Kanaan because they make quality wines, they have national distribution and are relatively easy to find, and they have good stories. Thanks to Alberto Fernandez of Torres China and Wang ‘Crazy’ Fang of Kanaan for providing the wine.

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