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Wade Cellars is on a mission to make wine more accessible

The NBA star Dwyane Wade’s When We Gather series celebrates Black excellence in food and drink

Champagne and French fries. Merlot and milk chocolate. Sauvignon Blanc and goat cheese

These are some of the typical food and wine pairings wine enthusiasts recommend trying at home. While the combinations may seem unusual, the contrasting flavors elevate the texture of the wine on your palate. NBA champion and wine proprietor Dwyane Wade, who has made a well-known investment in wine production, has been running a series of events this year to create a different kind of combination, a coast-to-coast tour that – unusual for the wine business – focuses on the creativity of Black chefs, sommeliers, and restaurant owners.

“We’re on a mission to make wine more accessible, and for us that’s not just about the value of the juice in the bottle,” Wade said. “Instead of partaking in the expected wine experience, we’re partnering with other people of color to share our wines that not only celebrates Black culture, but other cultures of color as well.”

Dwyane Wade toasts the crowd at 1010 Wine and Events in Inglewood, California.

Haley Murray Robinson

Since 2014, Wade Cellars has partnered with the Pahlmeyer family to offer quality wines that are approachable and affordable. From everyday sippers such as Three by Wade chenin blanc and Three by Wade rosé (both available for less than $20) to the special-occasion-worthy Wade Oakville cabernet sauvignon (retailing at $110), the Wade Cellars portfolio is modest, yet offers wine lovers of all levels a taste of Napa Valley.

“I’m a big fan of our Wade Oakville cabernet sauvignon paired with any of the dishes my family and I had in Italy,” Wade said. “From vitello tonnato and tagliolini in the northern part of the country, to the cacio e pepe in the south, the wine takes the richness of the dishes to a whole new level.”

From left to right: Tammie Scott, owner of Nostalgia Wine & Jazz Lounge in Cincinnati, George Walker III, the National Brand Ambassador for Wade Cellars, and singer-songwriter Lauren Eylise participate in a panel during a When We Gather event held at the lounge in September.

Simion Collins

George Walker III, the National Brand Ambassador for Wade Cellars, wanted to ensure that the beauty of Black culture through both food and drink remained center stage in this gastronomic experience. Since September, Walker has co-hosted When We Gather, a series of wine dinners and tastings in Black-owned establishments. “Highlighting the uniqueness of so many subsets of the African diaspora is essential to our preservation of culture through foodways,” he said.

Walker encourages pairing “like with like” in food and wine combinations and ultimately choosing pairings the diner enjoys. “If you have seared scallops with freshly squeezed lemon juice on top, I’d suggest finding a wine that has nice acidity and notes of lemon — something like a sauvignon blanc from Sancerre,” Walker said. But he also likes to get creative with pairings. “One of my favorite unique pairings within the Wade Cellars lineup is actually our chenin blanc with a Harold’s five-piece meal, fried hard with extra mild sauce,” Walker said. “The mild sauce has a tanginess while the fried chicken is nice and crunchy. Together, they highlight the chenin’s beautiful, bright notes and bring out the fruit of the wine.”

Sisters LeAnn and Leslie Jones own 1010 Wine and Events in Inglewood, California, which was the tour’s first stop. “As the only wine bar in Inglewood, California, we strive to bring people together over delicious food and wine while also celebrating and highlighting Black-owned wine brands,” said Leslie Jones. Dishes served included charbroiled oysters paired with the Three by Wade chenin blanc and a grilled peach and prosciutto salad paired with the Three by Wade rosé.

Chef Erick Williams prepares items from his Southern American cuisine menu at Virtue Restaurant & Bar, the eatery he owns in Chicago.

Cheyenne Banks

For the Chicago stop, James Beard Award-winning chef Erick Williams opened Virtue Restaurant & Bar in Hyde Park and paired Wade Cellars wines with items from his Southern American cuisine menu. Williams wanted to participate in the event series because gathering is essential to all things related to food and drink. “I admire Dwyane Wade’s approach to living out loud. His brand displays his vulnerability and challenges while spotlighting his journey to success,” he said. “Wade Cellars is one of his many undertakings that expounds that idea.”

At Graft Wine Shop in Charleston, South Carolina, owner Femi Oyediran collaborated with chef BJ Dennis to spotlight dishes unique to Gullah Geechee culture. “Collaborating with BJ [Dennis] made this easy. The food he creates tells a story and links us with our heritage,” Oyediran said. “The wine brought us together, the food was delicious, nourishing, and informative. To me, that is the greatest pairing.”

A When We Gather event was held at Virtue Restaurant & Bar in Chicago.

Cheyenne Banks

The last stop on the When We Gather tour for 2022 will be on December 2 in Miami Beach, Florida, but 2023 tour dates are forthcoming. Chef Richard Ingraham, the personal chef to Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union-Wade, will curate a special menu to celebrate Art Basel. Wade and fellow NBA legend Ray Allen will be on hand to co-host the experience.

When We Gather is an embrace of what organically happens when our community gets together for a family gathering or celebration,” Wade said. “Looking ahead to 2023, you can expect more dinners and tastings that combine art and music at various restaurants and wine shops across the country, but there will also be some surprises and unexpected experiences.”

Chasity Cooper is a Chicago-based writer and wine culture expert. Through storytelling and cultivating community, she aims to make food, beverage and travel more accessible and relatable for all.