Fans around Rip City know that Portland Trail Blazers’ shooting guard CJ McCollum enjoys his vino, so much so that he has his own wine label and recently acquired a vineyard that abuts the winery property where his McCollum Heritage label is made. In a recent piece on CNN, McCollum spoke with journalist Jeremy Harlan about his growing wine ventures. Harlan acknowledged that McCollum is more than one kind of trail blazer.
“As far as players, I think I’m the only one,” McCollum says when asked if any others in the league own their own vineyard. “My love for wine has continued to grow, to being interested in all phases of wine — from the process of making it to the business side. And we now have a blank canvas. We can build it out the way we want.”
McCollum recognizes what he can do in the industry.
“I’m in a position now as a Black male who has influence. My role is to continue to figure out ways to make this approachable, to make it diverse and create equity and inclusion. We need to figure out ways to expand and bring in new backgrounds from new places.”
“In basketball, you need coaches, you need staff, you need players. And the same goes for the vineyard,” says McCollum. “You need a farm manager, you need operations, you need all these people who specialize and can be stars in their roles. And that’s what we’re doing, we’re building a dream team.
“But we also have talked about ways to provide opportunities and channels from a mentorship and internship standpoint to learn about all aspects of the wine business, not just physically making the grapes, but learning all the behind the scenes of the business.
“There’s a lot of people out here in the Willamette Valley aligned with trying to make this space more diverse. They understand the bottom line is that, not only will you bring more people into the wine space, but you’ll get a better product from it.”
For McCollum, this work is an important part of his legacy.
“It’s more about how we treat people, empower people, put people in a position to succeed. I think all those things are more important than me just shooting a basketball.”
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