After a decade in the NFL as a cornerback and safety, Will Blackmon will forever be able to call himself a Super Bowl champion. Now, he’s working on a different title: The Wine MVP.
Blackmon is one of a slew of athletes, both active and retired, who have developed a passion for wine in recent years. Dwyane Wade’s D Wade Cellars might be the most well-known athlete-owned label. Carmelo Anthony, the NBA’s unofficial wine ambassador, has a YouTube series called “What’s In Your Glass?” and graced the cover of last month’s issue of Wine Spectator magazine. Jimmy Butler, Chris Paul, LeBron James and Damian Lillard are also known oenophiles. Unlike their predecessors, this new generation of athletes isn’t satisfied with just slapping their name and face on the side of a bottle — they truly care about the grapes.
“Athletes are now diving way more into the details of what it means to make wine and grow grapes,” Joe Harden, a winemaker and former basketball player who now runs Nickel & Nickel winery in Napa Valley, told The Athletic. “Especially when guys are retiring, they have that Type-A personality and I think there’s so many things that kind of tie in with sports and wine. There’s a grind that comes with winemaking and grape-growing that is very similar with high-pressure athletes and guys who perform at a certain level.”
But Blackmon’s commitment to wine has reached an entirely new level. He studied in Sonoma State University’s wine business program and achieved Level 2 certification from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, completing the Level 3 course and achieving Level 1 certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers. He also founded The Wine MVP, a concierge service in which he curates bottle selections for clients.
“This is not a hobby, which is why I’m going full-fledged with this thing,” Blackmon told The Athletic. “I definitely want to keep going as high as I can to continue to teach wine at a higher level, but I also want to continue to educate myself as I continue to educate those who want to know more.”
He developed a taste for wine early in his NFL career and credits former Packers teammate Charles Woodson with inspiring him to pursue wine at a higher level. After retiring from football in 2015, Woodson started Intercept Wines in 2019. During their playing days, Woodson would take teammates out to dinner and teach them about the wines they ordered.